Best combo amps 2023: Our choice of the 17 best all-in-one combo amps for every budget

Boss Katana combo amp on a wooden floor in front of a white brick wall
(Image credit: Future)

From all-valve classics, to cutting edge modeling technology, the best combo amps will allow you to dial in your favorite tones and play with utmost expression. One of the great things about guitar playing is that it’s so personal; you don’t have to love what everyone loves – find what works for you and stick with it!

A combo amp is something that has both the tone generating amplifier and speaker built into one unit. You dial in your sound using the control panel on the amp, and the sound comes from the speaker below it. This is as opposed to a head and cab where the amplifier is separate from the speaker cabinet.

There are pros and cons to both, but we do love a good combo amp for the consistency. You’ve got everything you need to get the same sound night after night in one package – no falling-to-pieces house cabs here! Some combos might be bigger than a head, but they’re seldom bigger than a head and cab combined, so they usually work out more portable too. 

The best combo amps don’t always have to be expensive either. Some players want to get a range of tones and effects from their amp, and there are some amazing digital choices out there that can do this. Of course, others want the warmth and dynamic response that comes from a tube amp – from sparkling American cleans to British-style crunch.

As mentioned, it's all personal, so what’s right for you won’t be right for someone else. That said, we’ve picked what we reckon to be the best combo amps available right now, taking into account different tones that players want, different feature sets, and budget. 

We’ve included some expert buying advice at the end of this guide, so if you need a little more insight into what to look for in a combo amp, then click the link. If you’d rather get straight to the products, then keep scrolling.

Best combo amps: Our top picks

Picking out the single best combo amp is difficult, though considering price, range and quality of tones and versatility then we can’t ignore the Boss Katana MKII 100. Whether you’re just starting out and want a good quality amp, or you’ve been playing a while and want something that has everything from sparkly cleans to crushing overdrive, alongside some studio quality effects, then it has you covered.

If clean tones are your thing, then the Fender Deluxe or Princeton could have everything that you want. They both offer the famous Fender clean tones in slightly different sized packages, and they’re both great pedal platforms. The Marshall JVM410C is also one of the best combo amps out there, doing everything from warm cleans to metal-style distortion, as is the Victory V40 Deluxe, if money is no object and you want to go down a more boutique path. 

Best combo amps: Product guide

Best combo amps: Boss Katana 100 MKII

(Image credit: Boss)

1. Boss Katana 100 MKII

A jack of all trades, a master of some

Specifications

Type: Modeling amp
Speakers: 1x 12” Custom (2x 12" available)
Output: 100W (switchable to 50 and 0.5W)
Number of channels: 5 amp characters
Tubes: N/A
Weight: 32.6lbs

Reasons to buy

+
Loads of features
+
100W is loud enough for anything
+
Great value for money 

Reasons to avoid

-
It’s not the best looking amp in the world 

The Katana series is known by many for being able to do pretty much anything. With versatility at its core, the five onboard amps will cover many - if not all - musical scenarios, with Clean, Crunch, Lead, Acoustic and Brown amp models. Boss has also sprinkled in a whole bunch of fantastic effects, making the Katana a dark horse of a modeling amp for gigging and bedroom musicians.

The 12” custom speaker can shift some serious air, and it needs to. This Katana model is 100W - more than enough for any live performance. It’s not all flapping trousers and bleeding ears though, with an onboard attenuator allowing you to switch down to 50W - ideal for most rehearsals and smaller gigs - and 0.5W - which makes neighbor-friendly bedroom shredding entirely possible. 

Best combo amps: Fender Mustang GTX100

(Image credit: Fender)

2. Fender Mustang GTX100

I’ll have one of everything, thanks

Specifications

Type: Modeling
Speakers: 1x12” Celestion G12P-80
Output: 100W
Number of channels: 40 amp models
Tubes: N/A
Weight: 22lbs

Reasons to buy

+
Capable of more tones than you can shake a stick at
+
Lightweight considering power and size
+
Menu easy to navigate 

Reasons to avoid

-
Some models are a little ‘abstract’ 

Another entry from the big ‘F’, the Mustang amps have been Fender’s go-to amp for reliable, affordable modeling technology. Widely seen as a great practice amp for beginner to intermediate players, the GTX series takes the sheer convenience of having every tone at your fingertips to another level. 

Creating your own presets is a breeze. The signal path on the GTX is entirely configurable, meaning you can reorder the blocks in your signal chain, all at the touch of a button - or change any settings you want from the Fender TONE 3.0 app. If you’re not keen on endlessly tweaking settings, then a massive collection of 200 artist-designed presets should be just right for you.

The 1x12” specially designed speaker boasts a pretty flat tonal response, so whether you’re replicating a Blues Junior, Deluxe Reverb, Bassman or using the Bluetooth connectivity to stream your favorite tracks, everything should sound just right. The included footswitch enables you to change presets on the fly, as well as access the onboard looper - making the GTX100 a pretty versatile amp, and one of the best combo amps you can buy.

Best combo amps: Blackstar HT5-R MkII

(Image credit: Blackstar)

3. Blackstar HT5-R MkII

The perfect all-tube practice amp?

Specifications

Type: All-Tube
Speakers: 1x12”
Output: 5W
Number of channels: 2
Tubes: 1x ECC83, 1x 12BH7
Weight: 31.7lbs

Reasons to buy

+
All-tube rarely comes this cheap
+
Onboard reverb sounds awesome
+
Super portable 

Reasons to avoid

-
Not loud enough to play with a drummer 

Simply put, Blackstar makes some brilliant amps. Their versatility and sheer ability has made a once fringe amp manufacturer one of the world’s most popular brands, and the small-but-mighty HT5-R MKII is proof of that. Designed to be a killer practice amp for those who want all-tube tone at affordable prices and sensible volumes, the HT5-R MKII emphatically fits the bill. 

The layout is fairly simple - one clean channel, and one overdrive channel, and some reverb. Nothing crazy, nothing mental - just great tones. Each channel has a ‘voice’ switch which accentuates some of the high-mid and treble frequencies, giving a slight boost and an extra flavor to your playing. Blackstar’s legendary I.S.F (Infinite Shape Feature) control makes an appearance here too, taking your tone from ‘US’ to ‘UK’ in the twist of a dial.

Blackstar has also included a nice little treat or two for the home studio user, in the shape of a USB output and an emulated output. This means you can choose whether to use the HT5 through your interface, or as an interface. The emulated output can be used in live scenarios too, with 1x12” and 4x12” cab emulations to choose from. 

Best combo amps: $/£501 - $/£1,000

Best combo amps: Fender Blues Junior IV

(Image credit: Fender)

4. Fender Blues Junior IV

The iconic choice

Specifications

Type: All-Tube
Speakers: 1x12” Celestion A-type
Output: 15W
Number of channels: 1
Tubes: 3x 12AX7, 2x EL84
Weight: 31.5lbs

Reasons to buy

+
It’s a Blues Junior
+
Can do more than just blues
+
15W is just enough for most settings 

Reasons to avoid

-
Not capable of ‘modern’ tones 

The Fender Blues Junior has been one of the most iconic small combo amps of the last few decades, and to be honest, we can understand why. The amp we’re talking about here is the most recent mark IV version, so let’s see what Fender has going on under the hood here. 

One speaker, one channel - the Blues Junior IV is truly simple and straightforward to use, and with that simplicity comes great joy. This mark IV variant adds both modified preamp circuitry and a smoother sounding spring reverb - delivering that timeless Fender tone that we all know and love. The 12” A-type Celestion is well balanced and sweet sounding,  delivering crisp highs, a full, warm bass response and laid back midrange. It sounds delightful.

Now, it’s not a 100-watter like some of the amps we’ve seen so far, but don’t be fooled by the lower output. This thing can get loud, and do it very tastefully too. Either ride the input and master volume controls and set it as clean as you can, or dime the input volume, engage the ‘fat’ switch and bathe in the harmonic glow of those ECC83’s. Your call - but it’ll sound pretty good either way.

Best combo amps: Laney Cub-Super12

(Image credit: Laney)
Boutique style for a slightly more sensible budget

Specifications

Type: All-Tube
Speakers: 1x12” HH
Output: 15W (dedicated 1W input)
Number of channels: 1
Tubes: 2x 12AX7, 2x EL84
Weight: 26lbs

Reasons to buy

+
Lightweight and easily portable
+
Looks awesome
+
1W input great for quieter practice 

Reasons to avoid

-
Only 1 channel 

As the company who helped Heavy Metal find its sound, you’d be forgiven for overlooking Laney’s cleaner, more boutique-sounding amps. That doesn’t mean you should though - and in the case of the Cub-Super12, you really should pay attention. 

Laney has stuck to the magic formula here - a 15W, all-tube, single channel beauty - and we’re so glad they did. It’s a basic amp, but capable of some fantastic tones. A 3-band EQ allows for plenty of tweakability and tone-sculpting, and a footswitchable boost allows this single channel beast to essentially become a killer 2-channel amp, capable in practice and even small gig scenarios. Especially useful for practice is the additional 1W input, as you can get those stunning saturated tones without your neighbors kicking the door down. 

The footswitchable onboard reverb is another talking point for the Cub-Super12, using the highly acclaimed algorithm from the Black Country Secret Path reverb pedal. It’s more than just a basic spring reverb, and it’s here where this Laney comes into its own. With an external speaker output and FX loop, there’s not a lot this little thing can’t do. Yes, it’s only really got one channel, and yes, that’s a bit of a shame - but it’s one channel of super cool, boutique-inspired tone - and we like that very much.

Best combo amps: Blackstar HT Club 40 MKII 6L6

(Image credit: Blackstar)
The best combo amp for value

Specifications

Type: All-Tube
Speakers: 1x12” Celestion Seventy-80
Output: 40W
Number of channels: 2
Tubes: 2x 12AX7, 2x 6L6
Weight: 53lbs

Reasons to buy

+
Will do just about any style you want
+
USB output great for recording
+
Dark/Bright reverb switch is handy 

Reasons to avoid

-
Nothing we can think of 

The HT range from Blackstar has been a firm favorite since its release in 2010, with the Club 40 one of the shining stars of the series. After years of R&D, Blackstar has delivered the hotly anticipated Club 40 MKII. But was it worth the wait?

Bluntly, yes. Still capable of virtually anything you throw at it, the Club 40 MKII is seemingly a perfect blend of power, tweakability, simplicity and fancy added extras, all while remaining super easy to use. 40W of all-tube power provides bags of clean headroom, meaning you won’t have to look any further for that pedal platform amp you always wanted. That being said, it’d be a shame just to set this clean and let your pedals do all the work.

The overdrive channel on this tube amp is another hive of capability, with more than enough gain to satiate the majority of players. Pair this with Blackstar’s I.S.F (Infinite Shape Feature) calling card and you’ll go from Petrucci and EVH territory all the way across the Atlantic, to channel your inner Brian May. Power switching functionality allows you to bring the wattage down from 40W to 4W, so you can keep your tubes glowing without too much blood pouring from your ears. 

Best combo amps: Orange Rocker 15

(Image credit: Orange)

7. Orange Rocker 15

Vintage style and vintage tone, without the vintage price

Specifications

Type: All-Tube
Speakers: 1x10” ‘Voice of The World’ Gold Label
Output: 15W (switchable to 7, 1 and 0.5W)
Number of channels: 2
Tubes: 3x 12AX7, 1x 12AT7, 2x EL84
Weight: 29.9lbs

Reasons to buy

+
Compact and portable
+
Looks the part 
+
Headroom/Bedroom switch is a lifesaver 

Reasons to avoid

-
10” speaker can sound a little boxy 

You can always spot an Orange amp from a mile off. They’re, well, bright orange for a start, but they also come accompanied by that signature tone. Orange amps always do things a little differently, and the Rocker 15 is no exception to that rule. 

Behind the iconic basket-weave grill cloth lies a 10” ‘Voice of The World’ speaker, and 15 watts’ worth of assorted glass. Together, they create a harmonious racket that you’d be hard pressed to dislike. The ‘natural’ channel is exactly what it sounds like - completely natural. With just a volume control, it’s one for the purists in the building. Where the Rocker 15 really flexes its muscles though is the ‘dirty’ channel. Delivering swathes of traditional, old-school Orange mojo, this is the channel where we’ll be spending most of our time. 

Thankfully, Orange has included many power switching options in the Rocker 15. With a cleverly named ‘Headroom/Bedroom’ switch to take the whole amp down to 1 watt, as well as a half power option, you can get those iconic driven tones at sensible volumes. The 10” speaker and small cabinet can combine to sound a little boxy at times, but for certain bluesy, vintage-inspired tones, that can work wonders. 

Best combo amps: Marshall DSL40CR

(Image credit: Marshall)

8. Marshall DSL40CR

The best Marshall combo under a grand

Specifications

Type: All-Tube
Speakers: 1x12” Celestion V-Type
Output: 40W (with low output settings)
Number of channels: 2
Tubes: 4x 12AX7, 2x EL34
Weight: 50lb

Reasons to buy

+
It’s a Marshall
+
40W is loud enough for most settings
+
Surprisingly impressive emulated output 

Reasons to avoid

-
FX loop is not the best

If you’re a fan of Marshall, you’ll definitely be familiar with the DSL range. A near perfect blend of quality and value for money, the DSL40CR is one of the best combo amps we can find for less than $/£1,000. 

With ‘classic gain’ and ‘ultra gain’ channels present, it won’t shock you to hear that this amp truly sings when overdriven - but while Marshalls are not especially known for their clean tones, this DSL really pulls something special out of the bag. The 3-way EQ is powerful and exceptionally intuitive, and onboard reverb helps give your playing a bit of breathing room. Dirty, this amp comes to life - and the low output setting provides access to these tones much more easily. 40W of all-tube power is monumental, after all. 

Independent presence and resonance controls allow some pretty in-depth tone tweaking, perfect for studio use. This thing sounds great mic’d up, but when that’s just not possible the emulated output comes to the rescue. Marshall has teamed up with Softube to provide an exceptional emulation of the 1960 cabinet - meaning that you needn’t make any noise at all while laying down your guitar parts. All in all, the DSL40CR is a much welcomed update to the DSL line, and definitely worth looking at.

Best combo amps: Fender ‘68 Custom Princeton Reverb

(Image credit: Fender)

9. Fender ‘68 Custom Princeton Reverb

The sweetest of clean tones for under $/£1,000

Specifications

Launch price: $999/£999
Type: All-Tube
Speakers: 1x10” Celestion TEN 30
Output: 12W
Number of channels: 1
Tubes: 3x 12AX7, 1x 12AT7, 2x 6V6, 1x 5AR4 (Rectifier)
Weight: 34lbs

Reasons to buy

+
Looks amazing
+
An iconic amp in Fender’s history
+
Portable 

Reasons to avoid

-
Not got as much headroom as the ‘65 

The Princeton Reverb has been a staple of Fender’s amp repertoire since 1964, and few amps sum up the ‘Fender’ sound quite like it. 

This ‘68 Custom iteration of the Princeton Reverb pays homage to the iconic look, sound and performance of the ‘silverface’ Fender amps of the late ‘60s, but with a little twist for the modern player. This comes in the shape of a modified tone circuit, which provides you with an earlier onset of overdrive, as well as loads more flexibility with pedals. 

Equipped with a 10” Celestion speaker, the tone you’ll get from the ‘68 Custom is a little more modern and punchy than others. For a single 10” speaker in a small cabinet, this Princeton really outdoes itself, pumping some serious air and serious volume. It’s perfect for Fender fans, with the traditional reverb and tremolo onboard and is by far one of the best guitar amps under $1,000 - but be warned - the circuitry involved here is not that of the more traditional ‘blackface’ amps, but more of a modernisation. A more modern interpretation of the Princeton, if you will.

Best combo amps: $/£1,001 +

Best combo amps: Fender Tone Master Super Reverb

(Image credit: Future)
More groundbreaking than back breaking

Specifications

Type: Digital
Speakers: 4x Jensen P-10R Alnico speakers
Output: 45W (at 2 ohms)
Number of channels: 2
Tubes: N/A
Weight: 36lbs

Reasons to buy

+
Sounds huge
+
Tone Master series are so lightweight
+
It's the classic, iconic look

Reasons to avoid

-
No tubes

The Tone Master series of amps has finally enabled people to access great, authentic Fender tones, without the pitfalls of their standard tube amp range. While the 'original' tube iterations of these amplifiers are still fantastic, the Tone Master Super Reverb takes things to another level - offering killer tones and looks, without the back breaking weight or the lofty price tag.

Now, it's worth noting that this amp is not solid state, but is actually a digital - and super accurate - recreation of the Super Reverb. This means that the vintage, vibey tone of the original is still there - and when you see all of the modern features on the rear panel, it's clear that this amp is suited for anyone, from old school to modern guitarists. The 4x10" speakers provide an exceptional dynamic response, and are capable of kicking out anything from a warm, sweet, tremolo-laden clean tone to some swampy, dirty gain tones.

It's a 45 watt amp, so there's still plenty of headroom if you're someone who likes a pedal platform, and the Tone Master is designed to respond just like a tube amp to anything you put in front of it. If pedals aren't your thing, or you just fancy taking things down a notch, then the Super Reverb also has six separate power modes - meaning that you can coax a world of gain out of this amp at practice volumes.

Read the full Fender Tone Master Super Reverb review

Best combo amps: Roland JC-120

(Image credit: Roland)

11. Roland JC-120

Cleaner than a clean thing that you just cleaned

Specifications

Type: Solid State
Speakers: 2x Classic silver cone
Output: 120W
Number of channels: 2
Tubes: N/A
Weight: 61.7lbs

Reasons to buy

+
One of the industry’s ‘go-to’ clean amps
+
Properly iconic
+
Enough true stereo chorus to bathe in  

Reasons to avoid

-
Distortion channel is worth ignoring

The Jazz Chorus line is Roland’s claim to fame in the world of guitar. This amp has been on seemingly infinite amounts of era-defining records since its introduction in 1975, and it continues to enjoy cult status over 45 years later. 

The JC-120 is so-named due to its all-encompassing chorus and humongous 120 watt output - and it’s this fantastic stereo chorus and masses of headroom that makes this amp so desirable. Essentially the JC-120 has two 60W amps inside, which allows for a ‘true stereo’ chorus. Makes you feel like you’ve traveled back to the ‘80s, doesn’t it?

It’s a fantastic pedal platform amp - as it’s super clean and super loud. The second channel features an onboard distortion effect, but in all honesty we much prefer using a dedicated drive pedal. Chances are though, you’re not buying this amp for the gain. 

Best combo amps: Vox AC30C2 Custom

(Image credit: Vox)

12. Vox AC30C2 Custom

If it’s good enough for Brian May...

Specifications

Type: All-Tube
Speakers: 2x Celestion G12M Greenback
Output: 30W
Number of channels: 2
Tubes: 3x 12AX7, 4x EL84
Weight: 70.99lbs

Reasons to buy

+
Another icon of British rock
+
Looks gorgeous
+
Celestion Greenbacks rarely sound bad 

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the most versatile 

Vox amps have been part of the foundation of rock and roll for decades, with the AC30 being their most iconic offering to date. Favored by guitarists like Brian May and The Edge, there’s a certain personality to the AC30 that keeps us coming back for more and more. 

Pumping a fairly meaty 30W through two Celestion Greenbacks, there aren’t many situations this amp can’t handle. If vintage-style British tones are your thing, then the AC30’s Normal and Top Boost channels will be right up your street. A delectable onboard spring reverb and tremolo top off this iconic piece of rock architecture. 

The AC30C2 can also be employed as a fantastic pedal platform. Clean headroom aplenty, you’ll be able to utilize the true-bypass effects loop to its full potential and populate your signal chain with whatever you fancy.

Best combo amps: Fender ‘65 Deluxe Reverb

(Image credit: Fender )

13. Fender ‘65 Deluxe Reverb

Some pretty deluxe tones are coming your way

Specifications

Type: All-Tube
Speakers: 1x 12” Jensen C-12K
Output: 22W
Number of channels: 2
Tubes: 4x 12AX7, 2x 12AT7, 2x 6V6, 1x 5AR4 (Rectifier)
Weight: 42lbs

Reasons to buy

+
Traditional ‘Blackface’ tone is gorgeous
+
Onboard Vibrato and Reverb will make you cry happy tears
+
Classic look 

Reasons to avoid

-
High gain and the DRRI are not friends 

22 watts of pure all-tube Fender tone is enough to make anyone weak at the knees. All we know is that there’s nothing quite like a Deluxe Reverb. 

With enough power to see you through in the vast majority of live and studio settings, the ‘65 Deluxe delivers warm, soothing cleans - all the way through to bright, old-school grit that has become synonymous with the ‘Blackface’ era of amps. Pair that with the frankly stunning onboard reverb and vibrato, and you’ve got yourself one heck of a tone. 

Unfortunately, the DRRI is not for everyone. Modern players may find the lack of versatility a little limiting, and although it’s no slouch, it doesn’t quite have the tightness of most modern amps. Saying that, it’s a faithful reissue of an amp from 1965 - so what do you expect?

Best combo amps: Victory V40 Deluxe Combo

(Image credit: Victory amps)

14. Victory V40 Deluxe Combo

British and American tones in one (expensive) package

Specifications

Type: All-Tube
Speakers: 1x12”
Output: 42/7W
Number of channels: 1 (2 voices)
Tubes: 2 x 12AX7, 2 x 12AT7, 2 x 6L6
Weight: 49lbs

Reasons to buy

+
Amazing range of tones
+
Plenty of headroom
+
Beautiful reverb and tremolo

Reasons to avoid

-
Heavy and expensive!

A really cool amp, with both British and US-style tones. It’s versatile, with superb full-bodied, warm clean tones and pushed, crunchy classic rock overdrive. You’ve got mid-’60s black-panel era Fender sounds, in the same amp as cranked Plexi tones.

You’ve got a good amount of control over your sound too. Alongside a three band EQ, you’ve got a mid kick switch – great for adding a little more growl to your midrange. You can also control not only the volume of the reverb, but also the tone of it too. There’s tremolo on board, and two switchable voices, with the second voicing offering a little more punch and cut.

It’s really loud, so you won’t struggle with volume, even when running it clean, though you’ve got the option of running it at 7W, making it more manageable in smaller venues or in the studio. It’s not a cheap amp, but it really does do a lot, and it does it all very well. 

Best combo amps: Marshall Studio Vintage SV20C

(Image credit: Marshall)

15. Marshall Studio Vintage SV20C

The best combo amp for authentic Plexi tones

Specifications

Type: All-Tube
Speakers: 1x10”
Output: 20/5W
Number of channels: 1
Tubes: 2 x ECC83, 1 x ECC83 (phase splitter), 2 x EL34
Weight: 35lbs

Reasons to buy

+
A real Plexi
+
The ultimate rock and blues amp
+
FX loop

Reasons to avoid

-
Still very loud even at 5W

The Marshall Plexi is in the upper echelons of guitar amps, however the 100W Super Lead head is heavy and impractical. The Marshall Studio Vintage SV20C is a Plexi in a 20W combo format, with the ability to knock it down to 5W.

It’s very much like the original Marshall amps of the ’60s - there is no master volume, so to get that famous mid-heavy Marshall crunch, you need to turn the volume up to get those tubes working. However, at either 5W or 20W, it’s a lot more usable for modern players. You can get some beautiful clean tones from this, though the amp is famous for its prominent use within blues and rock. 

It’s fitted with a single 10” Celestion V-Type speaker, so it’s relatively portable too - you could carry this into venues with the other hand free for your guitar, no problem. If classic rock crunch is your thing, then this is the real deal. 

Best combo amps: Supro 1696 Black Magick Reverb

(Image credit: Supro )

16. Supro 1696 Black Magick Reverb

This amp is definitely going to go your way

Specifications

Type: All-Tube
Speakers: 1x 12” Supro BD12
Output: 25W
Number of channels: 2
Tubes: 4x 12AX7, 1x 21AT7, 2x 6973
Weight: 39.4lbs

Reasons to buy

+
Developed in conjunction with Lenny Kravitz
+
Bags of vintage mojo
+
Onboard reverb a huge bonus   

Reasons to avoid

-
Vintage tones might not be everyone’s cup of tea 

Supro’s Black Magick Reverb beautifully captures all that is so delectable about old-school Supro amps, while adding in some super useful features for the modern guitarist. 

The 1696 Black Magick Reverb is an update on the award-winning recreation of the vintage Supro amp that Jimmy Page loaned to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum. Developed in collaboration with the one and only Lenny Kravitz, this modernized Black Magick delivers that same iconic tone, but with added extras like all-tube reverb, a 2-band EQ and a master volume knob. 

With two independent channels that can be linked together using the 1&2 input, you can obtain some seriously fat tones from this amp. Supro has also upped the gain for this model, so you’ll notice a fair bit of breakup earlier on in your volume sweep. The speaker, among other things, is a faithful recreation of the original - as to keep the original vibe alive. It’s a vintage inspired amp, for those who live for the classic tones of yesteryear - and it does a good job.

Best combo amps: Marshall JVM410C

(Image credit: Marshall)

17. Marshall JVM410C

The most versatile amp around?

Specifications

Type: All-Tube
Speakers: 2x12” Celestion
Output: 100W
Number of channels: 4
Tubes: 5x ECC83, 2x EL34
Weight: 76lbs

Reasons to buy

+
What can’t it do?
+
A true beast
+
Incredibly versatile 

Reasons to avoid

-
Add 'sell kidney' to your to-do list

Want an amp that can do virtually anything? The JVM410C only stops short of making your dinner. Made in England, the JVM410C is Marshall’s flagship combo - and it’s one heck of an amp. 

An all-tube, 100W 2x12” combo seems pretty excessive, and we’ll be honest, it is for most scenarios. Equipped with 4 different channels, each with 3 gain stages, the JVM410C essentially becomes a 12 channel amplifier. The gain stages, as well as the channels, are all footswitchable. This functionality allows ultimate tweaking power, but also allows the opportunity to play virtually any style. With 2 footswitchable master volume controls too, the possibilities are endless.

Ahh yes - reverb, reverb, reverb. The JVM has plenty. Each channel has its own reverb level control in order to keep things a little easier and more straightforward. One thing you’ll notice about the channels is that they are all the same - making the overwhelming amount of dials and knobs a little easier to get your head around. With a series/parallel footswitchable FX loop and a great emulated line out, the JVM410C is a beast on the road and in the studio. Yep, it might cost you an arm and a leg, but we think it's worth it.

Best combo amps: Buying advice

Close up of reverb controls on Marshall DSL40CR combo amp

(Image credit: Future)

What is a combo amp? 

Why you can trust Guitar World Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

A combo amp is where the circuitry, tubes or digital processors are all in the same box. This all-in-one design is ideal for anyone who’s tight on space, or just doesn’t want to carry around multiple bits of gear to every gig or rehearsal.

Which amp type is best for me? 

Tube amps (or valve amps as they’re known in the UK) are amps that use glass vacuum tubes to amplify the signal from your acoustic or electric guitar pickups. The signal passes through a set of preamp tubes and power tubes, before exiting the amp through your speaker. 

Tube amps are often considered to be ‘the best’ type of amp over digital and solid state amps, and as a result are quite highly sought after. This is because tubes impart a tonal color and influence onto your sound that most digital and solid state amps can’t. 

As tubes are an entirely analog form of signal processing, they all respond differently to the signal you input. Turn up the amp, and the signal will start to distort - turn it down, and it will clean up again. It’s this level of ‘personality’ and sensitivity that makes tube amps so desirable. 

Solid State amplifiers use electronic transistors to process your guitar signal. Unlike tube amps, they don’t overly influence the tone of your instrument, and they don’t start to ‘break up’ or distort as you turn them up. This makes them absolutely perfect for players who want maximum clean headroom at all times. However, with no natural overdrive or harmonic excitement, your guitar can sound a bit brittle or dry.

That being said, there are many artists that love solid state amps - such as Andy Summers of The Police and Robert Smith of The Cure (who used a Roland JC-120 and JC-160 respectively). There’s a higher degree of control over your sound when using a solid state amplifier, as you don’t need to worry about tubes degrading and your hard-sculpted tone changing. Solid state amps tend to be more reliable too, as tubes can be pretty fragile.

Digital modeling amps digitally recreate your favorite tones through good old fashioned processing power. Many brands such as Line 6, Kemper and Fractal have been creating and mastering the art of digital amp simulation for years, and with every technological advancement, digital amps and amp modelers get ever closer to matching the tone and feel of the real thing. 

With most digital amplifiers, you’ve got almost immediate access to any amp you can think of at your fingertips. This makes digital amps - especially units like the Boss GT1000 and Kemper Profiler Stage - absolutely perfect for touring musicians, who likely use many different tones for each song.

Which speaker size and configuration do I want?

There are no two ways about it - the size of your speaker and amount of speakers in your combo amp will make a huge impact on your guitar tone. Take something like the Orange Rocker 15 or Fender ‘68 Custom Princeton Reverb, for instance. Both of these are small amps, each with one 10” speaker. Smaller speakers will have less bass response than bigger speakers, and will usually have a lower power rating than their larger counterparts. This can mean that they’ll struggle at higher volumes. 

Something like the Marshall JVM410C on the other hand - which has two 12” speakers - can not only move a lot more air, but also handle a considerable amount more power. A 12” speaker is a fairly standard choice for guitar amps, as the frequency response tends to be more even across the spectrum. They’re not too bassy, not too bright - a Goldilocks speaker for most amp manufacturers and players.

Gain & Clean Headroom

Another important consideration to make when looking for the best combo amp is gain. If you’re predominantly a metal player, then you’ll probably be after something different to a country player (though something like the Katana can do it all!). How much gain the amp has to offer could affect your decision.

Some amps, like the Fender Deluxe have loads of clean headroom, so they won’t break up until you really get the volume cranked. This makes them perfect for those wanting a clean sound at high volumes, or for those that want to shape their sound further via pedals. Some solid state amps like the Roland Jazz Chorus are known for their clean sound at any volume, again making them a great pedal platform. 

Some amps have a dedicated gain knob that allows you to dial in overdrive to your liking. On some models, this will be subtle and you’ll get great crunchy tones, perfect for blues and classic rock. Others will have more gain on tap allowing you to delve further into the realms of hard rock and heavy metal. Most modeling amps allow you to cover all bases, with various different clean and distorted amp emulations built in, though the quality of tones might not be quite as good as the real thing. 

Do I want a pedal platform, or something that will do it all? 

No doubt you’ll have probably heard the term ‘pedal platform’ bandied around online, and it’s kind of self-explanatory. A pedal platform amp is usually an amp with only one channel or a large amount of clean headroom - meaning they’ll take any of the best guitar pedals especially well. 

The Roland JC-120 is a great example of this. Seemingly endless clean headroom and solid state circuitry means that you’ll get pretty faithful pedal tones from it - as there are no tubes onboard to color your tone in any way. 

Tube amps will work with your pedals too, and something like the Fender ‘65 Deluxe Reverb - with loads of clean headroom - is a great choice. You’d likely need a boost or overdrive to get some real gain out of it at lower volumes, and its clean, smooth characteristics are ideal for your modulation effects and anything else you can think of. Just please, leave the Metal Zone out of this.

If you’d rather live without extra pedals, then you need an amp with a few channels, different levels of gain, and different tonalities. Think about which effects you use the most, and whether you actually need or want anything extra going on. Truth be told, keeping things simple can be the key to a great tone.

If all you want is great cleans and great overdrive, then look no further than the Blackstar HT Club 40 MKII or the Marshall JVM410C. They're both killer amps for metal, both with bags of onboard reverb, and FX loops - just in case.

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