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Best combo amps 2022: Our choice of the 15 best all-in-one combo amps for every budget

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Best combo amps 2022: Our choice of the 15 best all-in-one combo amps for every budget
(Image credit: Future)

Getting your hands on one of the best combo amps for you can be a tough ask. When you’ve found your perfect guitar amp, even the worst guitars can sound like a million dollars - but if you don’t have the right amp for you, that sound you’ve always been looking for will only ever evade you. The right electric guitar feels like an extension of your limbs, whereas finding a great combo amp can take a whole lot longer - but it’s so worth it.

When we mention combo amps, we’re talking about amps in which the amplifier and speaker are in the same box. This format is ideal for small spaces or where portability is a consideration. A lot of amps on the market are configured as a head and cabinet, meaning that the bit that actually amplifies your signal is separate from the speakers that your signal comes out of.

Some people prefer the versatility of a head and cab, but we feel that combos win on consistency and convenience. Yes, carrying around a larger amp can sometimes be irritating, but never having to worry about how terrible the house cabs are is definitely worth the extra effort.

It’s worth thinking about what you like to play, and how you like to play it. Everyone’s playing styles are different, and all amps respond differently. Do you want ultra clean tones to help you hone your jazz chops? Or do you want endless amounts of gain to downpick your way into oblivion? These are the questions you need to ask yourself. All we’d suggest is that as soon as you find a combo amp you love, never let it go - and that advice comes from painful experience.

In this guide we’ve picked 15 of the best combo amps money can buy, and listed them in price order to make it easier for you to cut through the noise and find your dream combo. You’ll find digital amp modelers that can recreate any amp tone you like, solid state amps that will give you ultimate reliability and a very precise sounding tone, or tube amps that will fight back a bit, and bring a whole new element to your sound. 

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 ‘buying advice’ tab above. If you’d rather get straight to the products, then keep scrolling.

Best combo amps: Our top picks

Honestly, picking our favorites from a list full of great combos is tough. If you’re a guitarist closer to the start of their journey, and looking for an amp on a budget, then we’d say that your best option is the Boss Katana 100 MKII. It’s plenty loud enough for any scenario in which you’ll find yourself, and the different amp characters are seriously impressive. Add in the masses of Boss effects that are included, and you’ve got yourself an amp that’ll do a bit of everything. It’s the cheapest on our list too, which is a huge bonus for your bank balance. 

The Roland JC-120 is another absolute must-have. It’s one of the most iconic clean amps of its generation, and its cult status has guaranteed it a place in guitar history as one of the greats. It’s a 120 watt solid state beast, with two 12” speakers and a chorus effect to die for. Form an orderly line, please.

If we’re talking tube amps, then the ultimate has to be the Marshall JVM410C. It’s got four channels, each with three gain stages, and a super useful footswitch that takes no time at all to program. This simple, yet in-depth tweakability makes the JVM a genuine dream to play. Yes, we know it’s expensive - but we’d say it’s the most versatile amp we’ve heard. 

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

Launch price: $369/£349
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 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 Super Champ X2

(Image credit: Fender)

2. Fender Super Champ X2

A hybrid masterpiece from Fender

Launch price: $399/£412
Type: Tube/Digital hybrid
Speakers: 1x10” Fender Special Design
Output: 15W
Number of channels: 16 amp types
Tubes: 1x 6V6/1x 12AX7
Weight: 24lbs
Reasons to buy
+Unsurprisingly stunning clean tones+USB recording output+In-built effects super tasteful  
Reasons to avoid
-Not the best high gain sounds 

Obviously, a full-tube Fender amp is going to be the pinnacle of warm, rich clean sounds - but Fender’s Super Champ X2 blends that classic Fender tone with the ‘practice amp’ level of affordability we all appreciate.

It does this by introducing digital elements to the tube signal chain, allowing for the use of different voices and onboard effects, making this an extremely versatile amp for playing different styles.

The specially designed 10” speaker accommodates a delightfully balanced tone, full of rich low end - something that a single 10” speaker usually struggles with. With a USB connection on the back panel, recording direct into your laptop or PC is simple - making this amp ideal for a home studio environment, or for when you need to silently practice.

Best combo amps: Fender Mustang GTX100

(Image credit: Fender)

3. Fender Mustang GTX100

I’ll have one of everything, thanks

Launch price: $499/£423
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)

4. Blackstar HT5-R MkII

The perfect all-tube practice amp?

Launch price: $499/£453
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)

5. Fender Blues Junior IV

The iconic choice

Launch price: $599/£570
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

Launch price: $629/£369
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

Launch price: $799/£789
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 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)

8. Orange Rocker 15

Vintage style and vintage tone, without the vintage price

Launch price: $799/£625
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)

9. Marshall DSL40CR

The best Marshall combo under a grand

Launch price: $799/£549
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)

10. Fender ‘68 Custom Princeton Reverb

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

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: Roland JC-120

(Image credit: Roland)

11. Roland JC-120

Cleaner than a clean thing that you just cleaned

Launch price: $1,029/£1,206
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...

Launch price: $1,399/£899
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

Launch price: $1,399/£1,499
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: Supro 1696 Black Magick Reverb

(Image credit: Supro )

14. Supro 1696 Black Magick Reverb

This amp is definitely going to go your way

Launch price: $1,599/£990
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)

15. Marshall JVM410C

The most versatile amp around?

Launch price: $3,149/£1,319
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? 

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 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.

Boss Katana on a shadowy dark Red background

(Image credit: Future)

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.

James Farmer

I’m a Junior Deals Writer here at Guitar World - the ideal job for a gear nerd like myself. I, along with help from the rest of the eCommerce team, maintain and update our buyer’s guides and keep you up to date with the latest and best deals on killer gear. Before working on Guitar World I was a guitar salesman at a local music store, so I know a thing or two about matching people with their perfect instruments. I’ve also worked for online music distributors RouteNote, and toured the UK and Europe with my old band Hypophora. In my spare time, you’ll catch me writing songs, taking my greyhound, Simba, to the beach, or getting very nerdy about coffee.