You might have the most expensive guitar, immaculate technique, and a selection of boutique overdrive and tape delay pedals but all of that counts for nothing without one of the best guitar amps. Your amplifier is the funnel through which your signature sound is channeled, so making sure you have the right match for your playing style is crucial.
The speaker on your amplifier is that crucial apex of tone whether you're playing at home or recording in a high-end studio. There's a huge range of amps out there too, so picking the right one for you can be an uphill struggle if you don't know where to start. To save you some time and effort, we've picked out a selection of our favorites using the decades of collective expertise within our writing team.
We've identified all of the major categories of amplifiers here, but if you're buying for the first time we'd strongly recommend checking out our buying advice section which has loads of useful information. If you just want to see the best amps available today, then keep scrolling for our top picks.
Chris Corfield is a journalist with over 12 years of experience writing for some of the music world's biggest brands including Orange Amplification, MusicRadar, Guitar World Total Guitar and Dawsons Music. Chris loves getting nerdy about everything from guitar gear and synths, to microphones and music production hardware.
The quick list
Want to get to the good stuff and find out what the best guitar amps are for you? Below you'll find our top choices with links to more in depth reviews further down the page.
Best portable amp
Packing a powerful voice into a tiny unit, Orange's hybrid-valve-solid-state micro amp is a fantastic choice for those who need something powerful yet portable.
Best practice amp
Best modeling amp
One of the best selling modeling amps of all-time, the Boss Katana-50 MkII provides a heap of amp models and studio quality effects for the utmost in versatility.
Best pedal platform
For the ultimate pedal platform amp, we'd go for the Fender '65 Deluxe Reverb. Its pristine clean tone and high headroom make it perfect for stompboxes.
Best tube combo
If you want the ultimate in tube tone, it doesn't get more iconic than a Vox. The AC15 C1 delivers that signature chime whilst remaining portable enough for regular gigging.
The best guitar amps 2023
You can trust Guitar World Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing guitar products so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.
Here you'll find full write-ups of our favorite guitar amps. Many of these have been tested and reviewed by our contributors, so you can be sure they're the real deal.
Best portable amp
The Orange Micro Dark is one of the British amp manufacturers' most popular offerings, which is why it’s sitting pretty at the top of this best amplifiers guide. Mixing great tone with compact portability plus some excellent connectivity options, it’s incredible value for money and worthy of a place on any guitarist's backline.
Orange isn’t kidding around with the ‘micro’ tagline, this thing is positively tiny and weighs the same as some practice amps. It gets absolutely dwarfed by a 4x12 cabinet, yet somehow manages to output a sound level that will have audiences running quickly reaching for their earplugs. It’s got that classic Orange midrange in spades with a lovely clean channel and gain that goes from classic rock right through to djent.
As well as outputting the amp through a traditional speaker out, it also has an emulated speaker output so you can DI it straight to the desk, or utilize it as part of your home recording setup. This output doubles as a headphone out too, so silent practice is on the cards as well, completing this brilliant amplifier's comprehensive feature set.
Read the full Orange Micro Dark review
Best practice amp
The Positive Grid Spark has taken the amp world by storm. Integrating the already highly respected BIAS tone engine with some pretty incredible smart technology was only ever going to be a good thing, and it definitely didn't disappoint us.
Onboard, there are 30 amp models and 40 effects. There’s Bluetooth connectivity to stream music, as well as ⅛” aux and headphone inputs. You’ve got USB inputs and outputs too, which enable you to use your Spark as an audio interface for when you need to capture that next great idea.
The Spark is also packed full of learning tools that will help you develop as a player, and have fun while doing it. Those features include ‘Auto Chords’ - which will find chord charts for any song you choose - and ‘Smart Jam’ - which will generate an authentic backing track to accompany you, whatever you play.
Read the full Positive Grid Spark review
Best modeling amp
It’s helpful for learner guitarists to choose an amp that will allow them to experiment with different sounds, and the Boss Katana 50 MKII certainly gives you plenty to play with. It’s not just an amp for beginners though, the built-in effects and connectivity options make it a serious option for more seasoned players too.
The Boss Katana 50 MKII is, in many ways, the perfect ‘first’ or backup amp for most people. It packs in a host of Boss effects, along with a selection of great-sounding amp models, and will easily manage the step up from practice to small gig.
Hooking the Katana modeling amp up to the computer grants you access to deep editing of parameters, while we also loved the way it can record directly into a digital audio workstation via USB. The two channels let you instantly recall your favorite tones, whilst a host of connectivity options ensure it will fit seamlessly into your existing rig.
Read our full Boss Katana 50 MkII review
Best pedal platform
One of the most popular amplifiers ever made, the original Fender ‘65 Deluxe Reverb has appeared on countless records over the years. It’s an iconic amplifier but vintage versions are prohibitively expensive, but this reissue version keeps all that original mojo whilst remaining accessible for the majority of guitar players.
If you want a pedal platform this amp excels, requiring a lot of gain before it hits that sweet overdrive. It’s pristine clean territory that’s super versatile, whether you’re slamming it with fuzz pedals or playing jazz licks with it clean. It’s great for recording too, as you don’t need to crank it as much as a certain classic 2x12 to get usable tones from it.
You get two channels with two inputs each, giving you plenty of flexibility in how you shape your sound. The tube-driven reverb and tremolo sound absolutely sublime, allowing you to dial in tones from subtle to spacious, making this one of the most versatile amps money can buy.
Read our full Fender '65 Deluxe Reverb review
Best tube combo
Launched over 60 years ago, the Vox AC15 is the veteran of the pack in this best guitar amps guide. Yet still, people gravitate towards that famous grille, lured in by the promise of one of the guitar world’s most recognizable tones as utilized by everyone from the Beatles to Brian May.
This amp has a wide tonal range, going from the signature sparkling clean right through mid-heavy compressed overdrive. The highs are complex yet articulate whilst the low-end response is punchy and dynamic, sounding equally great with both single-coil and humbucker-equipped guitars.
The onboard tremolo is particularly delicious, with speed and depth controls allowing you to dial in everything from a slow gentle warble to a more choppy, gated effect. You also get a spring reverb with a single level control, letting you bask your guitar tone in some surf guitar sounds.
Best tube amp head
Mark Tremonti and PRS have established themselves as one of the longest-running endorser/endorsee partnerships in the guitar world. Between them, the pair have offered up stacks of affiliated signature guitar models, but the PRS MT15 marks the first time they’ve collaborated on an amp.
The MT 15 follows the standard lunchbox amp blueprint, packing in two channels and switchable output power to make for an ideal tool for practice, recording, and small shows. It’s clearly geared towards higher gain fans, with the 6L6 power amp tubes dealing up plenty in the way of treacle-thick saturation- a tone we can't get enough of!
It doesn’t just do high gain either, the clean tones are punchy and three-dimensional with an impressive amount of headroom ensuring it will play nice with pedals. The included FX loop is a nice touch, as are the individual EQ controls for both channels, making the PRS MT15 a decent package for the modern-rock tone fiend in your life.
Read the full PRS MT 15 Mark Tremonti Head review
So those are our top picks, but there are still loads more great options for you to choose for your next amp. We've picked out some more of our favorites below.
The EQ profile of Hughes & Kettner's flagship tube heads has always been somewhat controversial. With a tube layout that's akin to a Marshall and a genesis in hot-rodding Marshalls, it's always surprising how much smoother the cleans of an H&K are, even if the gains are fierce.
We found that the TubeMeister Deluxe packs enough power for small gigs, and can even be run all the way down to 0W for true silent practicing. It's got an integrated H&K Red Box DI, which means that either live or in the studio it's easy to get consistent tones.
Finally, it's pretty compact. Not as svelte as the Victory or the Orange, but given that you can pick one up new for two-thirds the price of the Victory, it's good value for money if you like the distinctive H&K sound.
The Marshall DSL40CR aims to give you the classic sound of a Marshall 4x12 in a much more usable format. Tonally versatile and portable, the DSL40CR is an all-tube tone monster that offers excellent value for money for gigging guitarists.
Despite being primarily known for drive tones, the clean tone on this amp is positively sublime. Of course, those drive sounds are great for everything from classic rock to metal, but we were blown away by the clean tone, and it’s one of the most pedal-friendly Marshall amps we’ve come across.
It’s not all harking back to the days of old though, this amp has a couple of modern features like a power attenuation switch that halves the output to a much more neighbor-friendly level. It’s got an emulated speaker out for sending your signal straight to the desk or recording at home. It’s even got MIDI in if you’re running a MIDI rig.
Read the full Marshall DSL40CR review
The Blackstar HT Club 40 MKII has been the standard for mid-priced tube amps for a while now, and the new MKIII takes this stage staple to the next level.
You get separate clean and overdrive tones both with foot-switchable voices. These voices offer an American or British-leaning tonality, meaning you essentially get four amp tones in one! On the gain channel, there’s a dedicated ‘ISF’ knob that lets you find the perfect balance between Brit and USA sounds.
The onboard digital reverb sounds incredible and offers two flavors of tone, with a bright plate and a darker-sounding room setting. With enough power for small shows plus a power reduction option for playing at home, this amp has enough clever touches to ensure it continues to be a best-seller.
Read our full Blackstar HT Club 40 MKIII review
There aren’t many guitarists out there who haven’t drooled at the thought of owning a proper Twin, but the weight and the fact you have to crank it put it out of reach for most. Enter the Fender Tone Master Twin Reverb, which aims to give you all that tube sass without the back-breaking weight or window-shattering volume.
Just like the real deal, in the first half of the volume knob, you get that slightly scooped, expansive clean tone that’s so revered. Once you’ve passed the halfway mark, we get the chime of overdrive creeping into the tone. Unlike a tube-driven Twin, you can actually turn this one to ten when used in combination with the volume attenuation switch.
Despite it technically being a modeling amp, there’s not much in the way of editing, and certainly no companion app here. There is a cab simulation that can give you the sound of a Shure SM57 on the cabinet or a ribbon microphone, which will please sound engineers everywhere. It’s an incredible piece of digital tech, and while the tone isn’t exactly the same as a vintage Twin, it’s close enough for us.
Read the full Fender Tone Master Twin Reverb review
Crafted by a small team in the UK, the Victory V40, despite its small size, can produce some serious noise. It’s a 40-watt, single-channel tube head that is capable of both US and UK style tones, and thanks to its significant clean headroom, is an exceptional pedal platform too - something that's a winner in our eyes.
You might be wondering how this single-channel amp can produce such varied tones - and that’s partly down to the introduction of the Voice and Mid Kick switches. With the voice switch in the Voice I position, the Duchess delivers a distinctly American tone, with a fairly flat frequency response. Switching to Voice II offers up more midrange bark, reminiscent of the British amp tones we all know and love. Knock that Mid Kick switch to the on position for some more midrange aggression - if that’s what you fancy.
If 40W sounds like a bit too much for you, then you’ll be pleased to know that Victory has incorporated a 7W low-power mode in order to keep your family and neighbors happy. This bedroom-friendly wattage means you can afford to crank the volume and achieve tones that can only come from warm glass - making the V40 even more versatile as a home, gig and studio amp.
Read the full Victory V40 The Duchess review
We’ve seen it happen all too often. A guitarist turns up at a small show with a 100-watt tube amp only to never be able to turn it up properly. If this sounds like you, or you just fancy a killer rock amp at a slightly lower volume, then the JJ-Junior is definitely worth taking a look at.
Taking the greatest bits from the original Friedman JJ-100 and cramming them into a 20W setting, Jerry Cantrell’s latest signature amp is capable of doing some serious damage. With AC30-esque cleans and the signature Cantrell gain tone on tap, the JJ-Junior is capable of nearly anything - with special thanks to the JBE switch, which unleashes even more gain into the equation. The FX loop is in series, meaning that your time-based effects still sound clean and precise while you melt faces with your playing.
One of the many special features of the JJ-Junior - and one of our favorites - is the internal load and cab-simulated XLR output, enabling you to send a DI out without having to hide your face with shame. The internal load means you can actually play the amp silently without a cabinet attached - making recording or silent practice not only doable but a walk in the park.
The Mesa Mark V comes in a variety of sizes from the full-tilt 90W head down to a compact 25W offering. Though some features are streamlined or removed, the 25 loses none of the key tricks, while becoming small enough to take on public transport. We think 25 watts is just about enough to gig and record with, and there's a reason why the Mark IV and Mark V have become legendary.
Sure, partly it's about the prestige of Mesa amps in general, but the IV earned its stripes through session players seeking a Swiss Army Knife amp. The tubes used also offer a clue; whereas other Mesa heads like the DC5 used 6L6s for a more rectifier-like tone, the EL84s are a different beast, while the clean channel has a distinctly Fender-like chime about it.
However, with Mesas, the stock tones aren't really the whole story. With a three-band EQ and boost functionality, these can be radically altered into new territory, and the distinctive graphic EQ on the front panel allows for even more drastic tone shaping, making this one of the most versatile guitar amps money can buy.
Kemper profilers have a reputation for delivering an unparalleled selection of guitar tones thanks to their ability to accurately model any guitar amp on Earth. By creating a virtual snapshot of an amplifier, the profiler allows you to take any tone on the road.
The powerhead version of the profiler is exactly what you think – by combining the profiler head edition of the Kemper with a 600-watt solid-state power amp, the powerhead can be used to drive a speaker cabinet, making it all you need for amp duties both in the studio and live.
As well as being able to model your own amplifier with spooky accuracy, there are loads of great 3rd quality profiles you can download too. It also comes packed with a load of effects to help further augment your sound, making this one of the most powerful music-making tools on the planet.
Best guitar amps: Buying advice
Guitar amplification is based on three building blocks at its core – preamp, power amp, and speaker. The preamp shapes the sound, the power amp brings it up to the level required to drive the speaker, and the speaker pumps out the glorious tone.
Should I buy a tube, solid state or digital amp?
First, there's the question of whether the amp is tube, solid-state, or a digital amp modeler. With tubes, you’re getting the benefits of a physical reaction in your playing: genuine electrical artistry spilling from a row of glowing glass tubes. Tubes deliver a rich harmonic warmth and dynamism that people still flock to, despite all of the advances in digital and modeling technology. If you’re driving the power amp section of your amp, playing at stage volume, tubes really come into their own in a way that digital and modeling amps can’t really compete with.
Where modeling comes up trumps is through sheer variety and instant gratification. Modern modeling amps can pack in super-accurate recreations of literally hundreds of different models, from all genres, in a way that gives the user a near-infinite tonal palette. As well as the amps themselves, modeling amps also give you plenty of options to tweak your cabinets and speakers, as well as typically having a whole host of built-in effects. This makes them great options for players in cover bands who need lots of different sounds, as well as beginners who are searching for their signature sound.
The line between solid-state and modeling amps has blurred in recent years, but typically a solid-state amp won’t try to emulate different sounds like their digital cousins. Despite having a bit of a bad rep amongst tonal purists there’s no denying that class D power amps and the like are both small and efficient. They tend to lean towards cleaner tones, which makes them fantastic pedalboard-friendly amps, but very few have overdriven and distorted tones that can compete with a high-end modeler or tube amp.
Do I want a combo or a head?
Combo amps combine the pre-amp, power amp, and speakers in a single unit, whereas heads require external speakers to use. The benefit of a head is being able to run more speakers if necessary, but in an age of venues shut down for noise complaints, where even your local bar has a decent PA, the need for extra volume isn't as relevant. Also if you use a head on the road and don’t bring your own cabinet, you’re at the mercy of the dubious quality of the venue’s own cabs.
Combo amps are great if you want to take your carefully crafted sound out and about on the road with you. You’ll know when you rock up to the show that your exact sound will be pumped out to front of house. However, this comes at a cost, as combo amps are typically very heavy, meaning lugging them up those narrow venue stairs might make you lust after that ‘lunchbox’ head.
Is guitar amp wattage important?
Yes, it is. More wattage, for the most part, means more volume. There is however some nuance to this. The perceived volume of a tube amp is much louder than that of its solid state or modeling equivalent because of some electrical wizardry that we won’t go into here. Put in simple terms, it means that a 10-15 watt tube amp will be equal to its 50-watt digital equivalent. So definitely bear that in mind before you pull the trigger on that 100-watt tube head and 4x12 combo you’ve got your eye on.
How much gain does my guitar amp need?
Finally, you'll want to think about your gain requirements. If you're a pedalboard user, you may well already have an array of overdrive and distortion pedals, and you're just looking for a clean platform to amplify and complement those tones. However, for some players – especially those of a heavier persuasion – there's simply no substitute for a high-gain amp, which produces a richer, more 3D character than many stompboxes. Be sure to bear in mind the number of channels an amp possesses, especially if you're looking to switch on the fly from clean to distortion.
How we test the best guitar amps
How we test the best guitar amps
When it comes to testing, there are a few things we like to do to put an amplifier through its paces. That said, we must first mention that as guitar amps come in various shapes and sizes, how we test them can differ, depending on the amplifier's intended use. For example, volume and projection are massive considerations when it comes to amps designed to be played on stage or in a rehearsal room, but not so much for home use practice amps.
What shouldn't change between home and live amps is the build quality, and that's the first thing we look for. For us, all amps should be well made and sturdy, regardless of their application. In our opinion, guitar amps should feel robust and able to withstand anything you throw at them, and the controls should be smooth, with just the right amount of resistance.
To test the amps out tonally, we'll start where most guitarists start, everything straight up the middle. This usually allows us to hear the amp at its most sonically honest. We'll then dive in and start shaping the sound to how we like it, paying careful attention to the sweep of the EQ controls in particular. We'll also be sure to test the amp at both ends of the gain spectrum, from as much saturation as we can get to as clean as possible.
If an amp has any other features, such as effects or attenuators, we'll be sure to go through them as well, making sure we've tested every last extra onboard.
Read more about our rating system, how we choose the gear we feature, and exactly how we test each product.
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