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Best Fender amps 2021: The Big F’s finest tube combo, digital modeling and headphones amp solutions

Fender Twin Reverb against a wooden wall
(Image credit: Future)

When we think of guitar amplifiers and their tonal DNA, three names always spring to mind – Vox, Marshall and Fender. Many other great brands exist, but the big three are fundamental, as though genres unto themselves. Hear the name Vox and we think of trebly chime, The Beatles and Brian May’s harmonically rich overdrive. Marshall? Well, that’s the rock amplifier; the wall of noise behind Hendrix and Townshend. As for the best Fender amps, they’re synonymous with that all-American sound. 

In all honesty, though, today’s Fender amps offer tones from across the electric guitar spectrum, and whichever genre of music you’re looking to play, you’ll have no shortage of options. Here, we round up the best Fender amps, from the vintage-inspired to the cutting-edge.

Best Fender amps: Our top picks

One of the best-selling amplifiers of all time, the Fender Blues Junior IV is loved by amateurs and pros alike. Even that epicurean of tone, John Mayer, has used one. There’s so much to like here – wonderful Fender cleans and a hot-scratch overdrive that sounds so… well, American.

The Fender Mustang LT25 is a budget powerhouse, this little digital modeling combo amp offering a stacked menu of classic Fender tones, plus a load more besides. If you’re just starting out or need a knockabout practice amp, this bargain box is a great choice. 

Best Fender amps: Product guide

Best Fender amps: Fender Blues Junior IV

(Image credit: Fender)

1. Fender Blues Junior IV

There’s so much to like with this best-selling combo amp

Price: $649/£565 | Type: Tube combo | Output: 15W | Tubes: 3 x 12AX7 preamp, 2 x EL84 power amp | Number of channels: 1 | Speaker: 12” Celestion A-Type | Weight: 32lbs/14.3kg | Key features: Op-amp-driven spring reverb, Fat switch

On-the-money Fender cleans
Good pedal platform
Drive is warm and musical
Ideal size and price for many
Lacks clean headroom when playing with a band

Sensibly priced, adequately powered and offering truly exemplary, tube-driven Fender tones, the Blues Junior is a perennial best-seller for good reason. Launched in 1995, it boasts a simple, single-channel set-up, with chicken-head controls for volume, treble, middle, bass, master volume and reverb, plus a very neat Fat switch that does exactly what it says, adding a little tubbiness and meat on the bones.

The single 12” Celestion A-Type speaker is housed in a particle board cabinet, and does a good job of rendering that clean Fender spank and – when you turn it up – hot, bright overdrive. The Blues Junior is not a high-gain amp – that’s not a quality Fender tube amps possess – but it does pack some heat that can be accentuated nicely with your dirt box of choice. Indeed, the Blues Junior makes a fine pedal platform – just so long as you don’t need too much headroom. 

As the name suggests, it specializes in blues tones. Whether partnered with a Strat and a Tube Screamer, or a Les Paul and a boost, there are plenty of sweet spots to be had. Drive it hard and it’ll respond with a raunchy drive that’ll clean up quite nicely with your guitar’s volume control. But it’s not just a blues amplifier. Classic rock, jazz and rock ’n’ roll are all comfortably within its wheelhouse. The reverb is pretty sweet, too.

Read the full Fender Blues Junior IV review

Best Fender amps: Fender Mustang LT25

(Image credit: Fender)

2. Fender Mustang LT25

The best Fender practice amp

Price: $179/£139 | Type: Digital modeling combo | Output: 25W | Tubes: N/A | Number of channels: 1 | Speakers: 1 x 8” | Weight: 12.75lbs/5.7kg | Key features: 20 amp models, 25 effects, 50 presets (30 pre-loaded), chromatic tuner, USB, aux-in, footswitch, stereo headphones output

Super-affordable
Easy to use 
Lots of sounds to experiment with
Compact and portable
Nothing, but larger models in the series are very attractive too

The Mustang LT25 is a home run for Fender. There’s nothing not to like here. Not only does this digital modeling combo pack a ton of interesting tones inside its compact, portable frame, it’s also easy to use and affordable, making it an ideal first amp for beginners.

In truth, players of all abilities will have a blast getting to know its 20 amp models. You can access stereotypical Fender cleans – those skinny mids with the heavy bottom and pronounced treble – or dial in some fire-breathing high-gain tone that’ll help you graduate from Modern Metal Guitar 101.

Should you find yourself coming up with a great musical idea, you can hook the LT25 up to your computer via USB for recording. There’s also an onboard tuner, along with a headphones output for when you fancy a late-night practice session.

Read the full Fender Mustang LT25 review

Best Fender amps: Fender ’68 Custom Deluxe Reverb

(Image credit: Fender)

3. Fender ’68 Custom Deluxe Reverb

The most popular Fender tube combo of all?

Price: $1,249/£1,299 | Type: Tube combo | Output: 22W | Tubes: 4 x 12AX7 and 2 x 12AT7 preamp, 2 x 6V6 power amp, 1 x 5AR4 rectifier | Number of channels: 2 | Speaker: 12” Celestion G12V-70 | Weight: 31.5lbs/14.3kg | Key features: Tube-driven spring reverb, tube-driven tremolo

Top-quality pedal platform
Its versatility makes it many players’ favorite Fender combo
Dynamic response
Lush reverb and tremolo
It’s a serious amp at quite a serious price

If you asked a thousand guitar players what their favorite Fender tube combo was, the Deluxe Reverb would surely be among the most popular answers. It might even top the list. Adequately powered, with sumptuous cleans and a fine, sparkling growl when dimed, it’s an amp for most seasons, equally at home with Nashville twang as it is gritty ’70s US rock. 

This Silverface reissue is the business. It references Fender’s CBS-era amplifiers with its silver and turquoise control panel, matching grille cloth and aluminum drip edge trim, but sets about updating the response with reduced negative feedback to bring on that raunchy overdrive a little earlier. Under the hood, there are hand-wired tube sockets and custom-made Schumacher transformers. 

The two channels – Custom and Vintage – each have dual instrument inputs. The Custom channel is a little more stripped-down, with just volume, bass and treble controls, but if you're in a position where you can get some serious volume going, it delivers a lovely, chewy, tweed-esque overdrive that’ll get rock players excited. Meanwhile, tremolo and spring reverb will provide a truly musical sense of depth and movement to your sound. 

Quintessentially American, quintessentially Fender, the Deluxe Reverb remains as relevant and compelling as ever.

Best Fender amps: Fender ’64 Custom Princeton Reverb

(Image credit: Fender)

4. Fender ’64 Custom Princeton Reverb

The hand-wired boutique option for stage and studio

Price: $2,549/£1,949 | Type: Tube combo | Output: 15W | Tubes: 3 x 12AX7, 1 x 12AT7, 2 x 6V6, 1 x 5AR4 rectifier | Number of channels: 1 | Speaker: 10” Jensen Vintage Alnico P10R | Weight: 32lbs/14.5kg | Key features: Dual inputs, tremolo, tube-driven reverb, two-button footswitch, amp cover

Super-sweet cleans
Hand-wired
Footswitchable tremolo and spring reverb
Records superbly
Suitable for small gigs
Expensive

If you can get onboard with the idea that the Princeton Reverb is quite possibly the best tube combo for studio work – and most gigs, so long as Animal isn’t sitting at the drum kit – then let’s go the whole hog and agree that this hand-wired custom reissue is the best Princeton on the market today. It ain’t cheap, but then neither are vintage alternatives, and this comes with zero road miles on the clock.

The format is familiar. It’s a single-channel affair with two inputs, plus controls for volume, bass, treble and reverb (along with speed and intensity dials to set the tremolo). It sounds like the acme of Fender tone – bright, sparkly cleans with that elastic musicality to them, and a drive tone that’s raunchy and moreish – but needs an external drive box if you’re wanting more saturated sounds.

As for the build, it’s reassuringly excellent. It might be an old design but the simplicity remains a breath of fresh air, and it works nicely with pedals, too. Savoured neat, however, there’s a purity to its tone – place a premium mic in front of it, in an acoustically sympathetic room, and you’ll have a recorded guitar tone for the ages.

Read the full Fender ’64 Custom Princeton Reverb review

Best Fender amps: Fender Tone Master Twin Reverb

(Image credit: Fender)

5. Fender Tone Master Twin Reverb

The lightweight digital Twin

Price: $999/£999 | Type: Digital combo | Output: 200W, switchable down to 1W | Tubes: N/A | Number of channels: 2 | Speaker: 2 x 12” Jensen N12K | Weight: 33lbs/15kg | Key features: Twin tube amp emulation, dual inputs per channel, Bright switch, tremolo, reverb, two-button footswitch, five-way power attenuator, balanced XLR out

You can pick it up without getting a hernia
Digital reproduction of original’s tones is breathtaking
Ample headroom
Ideal pedal platform
More practical than the tube-driven originals
A second amp mode would’ve made it more versatile

There’s a lot to love about the tube-driven Fender Twin Reverb. Over the years, it’s been to clean electric guitar tones what Roger Federer has been to tennis. Its ample power and headroom have made it a popular choice among touring musicians who want their Strat to stay glassy even when it’s loud enough to be heard above the dummer’s cymbals. Its reverb is phenomenal, too, and as a pedal platform it’s tough to beat. 

But, let’s face it, the Twin Reverb can be really loud, and it’s really heavy. What if there were an alternative, with power scaling and a lightweight build that didn’t make the soul leave the body when standing at the bottom of your local venue’s staircase? Thanks to the digital modeling technology of the Tone Master series, there is. For players of a certain vintage, lifting a Tone Master Twin Reverb will make them feel like Lou Ferrigno. It’s incredible. 

And when they plug into one, things will get really spooky. The Tone Master Twin Reverb is uncannily like the tube-driven original. There’s still more headroom than the inside of an aircraft carrier, and yet, thanks to a five-way power attenuator, you can tailor the Tone Master’s response to your playing environment. There’s also a balanced XLR output and a pair of impressive cabinet simulations for recording and going direct.

Read the full Fender Tone Master Twin Reverb review

Best Fender amps: Fender Mustang GTX100

(Image credit: Fender)

6. Fender Mustang GTX100

The best Fender digital modeling combo

Price: $499/£449 | Type: Digital modeling combo | Output: 100W | Tubes: N/A | Number of channels: 1 (with 40A models) | Speaker: 1 x 12” Celestion G12P-80 | Weight: 22lbs/10kg | Key features: Seven-button footswitch, Wi-Fi, Fender Tone 3.0 app, 2 x XLR out, USB, stereo effects loop, 1/8” aux-in, onboard effects (inc. overdrive, fuzz, delay, reverb), Bluetooth, 200 presets, looper

Packed with features and quality sounds
Excellent 1 x 12 combo for the home
Onboard looper
Footswitch makes it excellent for performance
Full control of your signal path
If short on space, there are smaller amps in the series

The Fender Mustang GTX100 might well be one of the best amplifiers you can get for the home. It’s compact and offers a ridiculous wealth of tones to play with at any volume. And yet, while it’s perfect for the living room, it also has enough power to handle gigs. Indeed, if you’re playing small gigs with a different set night after night, the GTX100 has all the options you could want, its seven-button footswitch a convenient and portable alternative to expensive rigs and pedalboards.

You can program up to 200 presets, bring the 60-second looper into play via the footswitch, and, thanks to the USB and XLR outputs, go straight to a sound desk or to your DAW for recording. Deep editing is made easy via the Fender Tone 3.0 app, but while the digital bells and whistles make for a fully featured modern amplifier, they don’t get in the way of what feels like a reassuringly normal amp experience – i.e. this digital powerhouse is perfectly attuned to an analogue temperament.

The quality of the effects is impressive, and so too is the ability to take full control of your signal path when putting together sounds. Indeed, the intuitive design is a huge selling point here, with a clean control panel putting those sounds within easy reach. There’s an auxiliary input for playing along to external audio, a stereo effects loop, an onboard tuner, an electric toothbrush… No, wait, no toothbrush. But still, a sweet deal all in, and we’ve seen many a pro using these at home.

Read the full Fender Mustang GTX100 review

Best Fender amps: Fender Mustang Micro

(Image credit: Fender)

7. Fender Mustang Micro

The best for silent practice, any place, any time

Price: $119/£105 | Type: Headphones amp | Output: N/A | Tubes: N/A | Number of channels: 1 (with 12A models) | Speaker: N/A | Weight: 0.38lbs/0.18kg | Key features: 13 effects, adjustable EQ, oversize volume control, rechargeable, over four hours’ playing time, 270-degree-rotating 1/4” input plug, Bluetooth, USB Bluetooth audio streaming with audio/video

A compact, portable and convenient practice tool
Accessible price
Quality tones from the Mustang GTX series
Can’t adjust level of drive in the presets

The ultimate practice solution for those who have to keep the noise down, the Mustang Micro taps up some of the top-quality digital sounds from the Mustang GTX series and puts them inside a device that’s about the size of an MP3 player, with a 270-degree-rotating input plug that should fit most instruments. You can take this anywhere – all you need is a set of quality headphones. 

There are a dozen amp models available – some Fender classics, some from competitors. Simply pair your amp model with an effects type, adjust the volume using the oversized dial on the front, and away you go. It’s pretty simple. Of course, you can’t perform crazy deep edits on your sound. A Boss Waza-Air set would be more suitable for that sort of thing, but bear in mind that the Boss headphones amp retails for three times the price of the Mustang Micro. For many, the price tag of the Micro will make it the  perfect portable practice solution, especially when it sounds this good.

Bluetooth audio streaming will make playing along with your favorite records easy enough – well, depending on what you’re playing along to – and with a USB output onboard, you can send your signal directly to your DAW for recording. You’ll get more than four hours of continuous playing before you have to charge the unit.

Read the full Fender Mustang Micro review

Best Fender amps: Fender Acoustic 100

(Image credit: Fender)

8. Fender Acoustic 100

The Fender amp for ‘unplugged’ performances

Price: $499/£359 | Type: Acoustic amp | Output: 100W | Tubes: N/A | Number of channels: 2 | Speaker: 1 x 8” full-range whizzer cone | Weight: 17.6lbs/8kg | Key features: XLR / ¼” combined inputs, effects (room reverb, hall reverb, tape echo, delay, chorus, Vibratone, delay plus chorus, delay plus hall reverb), headphones out, stereo XLR out

Perfect all-in-one solution for singer-songwriters
Quality build and design
Nice array of effects
Natural sound
Nothing of note

The Fender Acoustic 100 is everything a singer-songwriter needs to make open-mic night a resounding success. Impeccably built, it has two-channels – one for your instrument, the other for a mic – and, weighing in at just 17.6lbs/8kg, it’s nice and portable too. 

Like all good acoustic guitar amps, the Acoustic 100 places the emphasis on the instrument rather than the amplifier – after all, plugged or unplugged, you’ll want the option of a good, transparent acoustic tone. Thereafter, of course, you can season to taste. There are plenty of onboard effects, with reverbs to add some depth and space, and tape echo, delay and chorus for the more tonally adventurous acoustic player.

A stereo XLR output will let you send the signal directly to the house’s PA system, and you’ll also be able to stream backing tracks via Bluetooth. Furthermore, the Acoustic 100 looks magnificent.

Best Fender amps: Fender ’68 Custom Vibro Champ Reverb

(Image credit: Fender)

9. Fender ’68 Custom Vibro Champ Reverb

Gold metal tube tone from the compact Silverface contender

Price: $799/£809 | Type: Tube combo | Output: 5W | Tubes: 2 x 12AX7, 1 x 6V6 | Number of channels: 1 | Speaker: 1 x 10” Celestion Ten 30 | Weight: 20.4lbs/9.25kg | Key features: Digital hall reverb, tremolo, dual inputs

Small but perfectly formed
Characterful drive
Digital reverb is exceptional
Lacks headroom

New for 2021, and launched concurrently with the ’68 Custom Pro Reverb, this little 5W tube combo is a compelling proposition for studio players, downsizing the vintage Silverface mojo of its larger siblings and making that juicy overdrive available at more manageable volumes. Indeed, as with the others in the series, Fender has revised the spec to make it a little more practical for today’s player. The 8” speaker of the original late-’60s Champ has been upsized to a 10” Celestion, giving its voice a little more width and range, along with a noticeably more serious bottom end.

Of course, headroom is at a premium here, and just as you get going with those classic Fender cleans, you’ll notice a little hair on the tone. But that’s when the Champ shows the other side to its personality – a hot overdrive that’s really quite pugnacious for such a compact little amplifier. 

Altogether, the Vibro Champ is a remarkably articulate and detailed amplifier. The tube-driven tremolo is great, as expected, and while digital hall reverb might not set the pulse racing quite like tube-driven, full-tank spring reverb, this algorithm has its head screwed on, providing some outstanding ambience. 

Best Fender amps: Fender ’59 Bassman LTD

(Image credit: Fender)

10. Fender ’59 Bassman LTD

Old-school 4 x 10” powerhouse of classic Fender tone

Price: $1,799/£1,999 | Type: Tube combo | Output: 45W | Tubes: 3 x 12AX7, 2 x 6L6, 1 x 5AR4 rectifier | Number of channels: 2 | Speaker: 4 x 10” Jensen Vintage Alnico P10R | Weight: 53lbs/24kg | Key features: Dual inputs on each channel, three-band EQ

Classic tweed looks and tones
Big on headroom
Plenty of power for gigging
It’s a beast
You’ll need a quality outboard reverb to do it justice

The big beast in the contemporary Fender line-up has a legendary reputation, and is one of the most influential amplifiers of all time. 

Introduced in 1952 for bassists but soon adopted by guitarists, the Bassman has gone through a number of evolutionary steps. Based on the 1959 version, this reissue is a hefty 4 x 10” combo, finished in lacquered tweed, with two channels and two inputs per channel. For blues, jazz, pop and rock ’n’ roll players, it offers pure old-school tube mojo – touch-sensitivity, with an elastic bounce to the cleans and a forensic level of detail. 

There’s no master volume on either channel, so you’ll have to crank it to get it into overdrive – but once you do, there’s a tubbiness and warmth that feels almost primeval. Don’t let the lack of reverb put you off. Get the best outboard reverb you can find, and you’ll have everything you need for early electric guitar tone. With plenty of headroom on offer, the Bassman will take pedals nicely, and throwing a boost or drive in front of it will help tease out that throaty tweed crunch.

Best Fender amps: Buying advice

Fender Twin Reverb amp on a wooden floor

(Image credit: Future)

A little Fender amp history

Fender’s innovation has changed the course of guitar history many times over, but it started out fixing home audio tech – in the days when it was fixable – and other amplification devices. It was inevitable that the Californian guitar giant would become a heavyweight in the amplifier game. 

The company’s first commercially available amps arrived in 1946. The so-called Woodies – named for their hardwood construction – comprised the Princeton, the Deluxe (or Model 26) and the Professional. They were only in production for a couple of years before the design was revised, with pine being preferred to hardwood. The Dual Professional’s release ushered in the tweed era, and with its innovative dual-speaker design, the combo broke new ground.

The tweed era evolved quickly. Presumably inspired by the popularity of the home television set, TV-front amps went into production between 1948 and 1953. As the popularity of the amps skyrocketed, so new ideas were needed, with the company transitioning to the ‘wide panel’ format in 1952, and ‘narrow panels’ three years later. Amps such as the Twin and the Bassman soon started setting new standards for the company. You might recognize these, as many of the design elements remain in place today, and they’ve also provided reference tones for legions of boutique amp builders. 

The restlessness of Fender design soon birthed new classics. In 1963, the Twin Reverb was launched, winning accolades for its ample headroom and spanky tone. That same year saw the release of the Deluxe Reverb. A revised Deluxe with a spring reverb tank, this tube combo remains the amp of choice for many a Nashville session pro.

Fender Tone Master and beyond

Launched in 2019, Fender’s all-digital Tone Master series has given tube purists food for thought, offering lighter, more practical alternatives to the company’s iconic originals. In many respects, this is where we find Fender amplifiers today – caught in that push-pull between the classic sounds of vintage or vintage-inspired designs and the drive for innovation. The digitalization of Fender’s practice and home amp offerings has introduced a number of new designs, such as the affordable LT and the fully featured GTX series. 

Digital signal processing has enabled Fender’s amplifier line-up to take portability and practice to its logical conclusion with the Mustang Micro headphones amp. For 99 bucks, you can get a compact little unit with a dozen amp models, plenty of effects, and a take-anywhere build that’s ideal for late-night woodshedding.

Which Fender amp is right for you?

Well, whether you’re looking for an all-tube design or a digital modeling amp, there’s a lot of choice. Size matters, of course, and with no master volume on hand, amps such as the Deluxe Reverb, with its 22W output, have too much volume for overdrive in domestic settings. But this power can make perfect sense when playing with a band.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.