Small Wonders: Five Essential 15-Watt Guitar Amps
Let's face it, bringing a 100-watt guitar amp to your average weekend bar gig is a lot like taking a Lamborghini to Shop Rite for Sunday-afternoon grocery shopping.
You simply don't need all that power (Unless Shop Rite also happens to be hosting a Sunday-afternoon drag race).
Which is why several amp manufacturers have spent a lot of time, effort and money developing less-powerful and more-portable (not to mention affordable) amps, namely those of the 15-watt variety. Unlike larger amps, including 50-watters, you can really open up a 15-watt amp at a gig and take advantage of all its features, including that beautiful, natural gain that magically appears at high volumes.
Here's a list of our five essential 15-watt guitar amps. As always, this list was compiled by a group of Guitar World editorial staffers including Technical Editor Paul Riario, the guy who tries out every piece of gear that arrives at Guitar World. He also appears in one of the five demo videos in this story.
As always, the amps are presented in no particular order.
There's nothing hazy about this choice, Marshall's Haze15.
The amp runs on three ECC83 preamp and two 6V6 power amp tubes, providing this two-channel head with a pure-tube pedigree. The amp's traditional EQ section of Bass, Middle and Treble allows massive amounts of control; the Normal and Overdrive channels create beautiful clean and distorted tones — and everything in between.
Turning up the Normal channel volume takes the clear tone and adds tube drive, compression and bite, which can be adjusted through your guitar’s volume control. Engaging the Bright function adds sonic sparkle and an extra cutting edge. Switching to the Overdrive channel sees the amp really start to roar with Volume and Gain controls allowing direct access to your sound.
At low volumes, the Haze15 offers smooth, rich overdriven tones. When it's cranked up, you can look forward to classic, fat, Marshall distortion.
What does it sound like?
Here's our own Paul Riario trying out the Haze15 in a GW video from 2010:
From its humble origins in the back of a small music store in London, Marshall Amplification has defined the sound of rock for generations of guitarists around the world. The History of Marshall Amps: The First Fifty Years by Michael Doyle and Nick Bowcott tells the story of Jim Marshall's remarkable life and documents the many innovations of Marshall amplifiers, from the famous “stack” to the most current offerings. It's available at the Guitar World Online Store.