When it comes to the best pedal amps, you have far more choice than you may have first thought. Some people would have you believe that the pedal amp revolution has been happening for over a decade now. In reality, that ‘revolution’ – where guitarists have forgone traditional heads and combos in favour of a guitar amp that can easily fit into their gig bag – only started to find its footing in the last few years.
There’s no question that leading guitar pedal and amp makers all over the world have been directing a lot of energy towards this area for some time, so you’ll see some familiar names in our round-up of the best pedal amplifiers below. And thanks to the advancements made by these companies, we’re now seeing floor amps that can finally hold their own against traditional heads.
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Best pedal amps: Guitar World’s choice
As mentioned above, there’s already a huge variety in this market, so you can pretty easily find the best pedal amp for your guitar. Our top recommendation is the Strymon Iridium Amp & IR Cab Simulator, which offers an impressive range of amp and cab combinations. If you’re into that warm true-tube sound, the BluGuitar Amp1 Mercury Edition has you covered, and it’s one of the most versatile around right now.
If you want to really explore tone potentials, the sophisticated Hughes & Kettner Black Spirit 200 Floor is the best pedal amp for you. On the flipside, if you’re just looking to dip your toes into the world of pedal amps, the Orange Terror Stamp and the Mooer Baby Bomb 30 are both great, simple offerings.
Best pedal amps: Product guide
When it comes to finding the best pedal amp that strikes just the right balance, look no further than the Strymon Iridium Amp and IR Cab Simulator. Not only does it offer a range of amp and cab combinations with versatile EQ controls including room ambience, it’s also compact and easy to use.
Of course, a pedal amp has to sound good, and the Iridium does a great job of modelling some classic amps and cabs. With amp settings Round, Chime and Punch you can convincingly replicate Fender Deluxe, Vox AC30 and Marshall Super Lead amplifiers. The nine speaker cabinet pairings, meanwhile, are not only realistic but highly-responsive – something many of its simulator/emulator peers have struggled with. Furthermore, you can upload your own impulse responses (IR) with the Strymon software.
Ultimately, the Strymon Iridium Amp and IR Cab Simulator is a great all-rounder for guitarists, whether you’re looking to mobilize your live rig, to practice quietly at home, or expand your recording tools.
When it comes to getting realistic amp sounds from your pedalboard amp, it’s hard to look past the BluGuitar Amp1 Mercury Edition. While many of its peers rely on digital modelling, the Amp1 is mostly analogue, with a solid-state preamp driving nano designed micro tubes for an incredible 100-watt class D amp output. So what you get is effectively a powerful four-channel tube amp packed into a stompbox.
While that’s a big win in itself, the BluGuitar Amp1 Mercury Edition is also highly responsive. Custom control can be used to enhance the best electric guitar pickups, including humbuckers and single coils alike, which is a boon for Fender Stratocaster players who have previously struggled to find suitable products in this market.
Featuring three drive channels and a versatile EQ setup, you can conjure up authentic tones from bluesy overdrive to full blown metal (especially when plugged into a 4x12 cabinet). And it’s in this area that the BluGuitar Amp1 Mercury Edition is truly hard to beat. Nothing else of this size packs such a punch, making it one of the best pedal amps by a country mile.
Seymour Duncan has been making a name for itself in the pedal amp market with its PowerStage range for good reason – the company has created some of the most powerful yet simple to use products out there. The PowerStage 200 is a class D solid state amp that boasts an impressive 200-watt output.
This is one of the reasons why many guitarists looking to downsize their rig look to the Seymour Duncan PowerStage 200, as there’s just so much headroom on offer here. While it works best when paired with a decent sized cab, the cab simulator option is pretty decent and means you can plug straight into the house PA and still get a great, full sound.
Though comparable to the model below this, the PowerStage 170, the PowerStage 200 makes for the better pick as the cab sim and headphone output control make it a much more all-round option.
If our list of the best pedal amps was based on appearances alone, this would easily take the top spot. And while that is one of the best things about it, Milkman Sound’s The Amp has more to offer than just good looks. A class-D, solid-state power amp with 12AX7 preamp tube, it offers between 25 and 100 watts of power.
As a result, it offers a respectable amount of headroom as well as some great, warm tube tones, making it a good choice for players who have struggled to find that balance in other gizmos. Milkman Sound’s The Amp also runs on variable power, making it a much more user friendly option for those looking for a road-friendly power amp.
In terms of functionality, this pedal amp can be plugged straight into a passive cab as an amp head, as a tube preamp, as a practice amp through your headphones or as a DI amp for your DAW. In fact, this might be one of the best uses for The Amp, as it offers a lot more natural and warms tones than most emulators.
The icing on the cake is the excellent built-in tremolo and spring reverb pedal effects that help give this already unique piece of equipment a bit more color and personality.
The Hughes & Kettner's Black Spirit 200 Floor sets out to create a transportable version of the acclaimed Black Spirit 200 Head and Combo, and it does this relatively well while also offering a host of benefits unique to this unit. Featuring a digitally controlled analogue solid state preamp, the Black Spirit 200 Floor offers four channels: Clean, Crunch, Lead and Ultra. It’s also packed with high-quality digital effects, meaning this unit doubles as a multi-channel amp and cab simulator, as well as a multi-effects pedal.
The list of controls and features is too long to dissect for this best pedal amps guide, but the Red Box cabinet simulation is one of the clear standouts and makes it a perfect choice for recording direct or going straight to a PA. Another great feature is sagging control, which enables the Black Spirit 200 Floor to mimic valve amplifier dynamics. It’s those sorts of details that put this unit in the top tier of power pedal amps.
While it is on the larger size in terms of dimensions, and not exactly ’board friendly, the Black Spirit 200 Floor is incredibly lightweight all things considered (8.9lbs/4.1kg) and could effectively replace a lot of equipment in your existing rig.
One of the newcomers to the scene (released in the latter part of 2020), the Orange Terror Stamp could be seen as both the most portable and affordable way to get that renowned Orange sound. Bearing in mind Orange seems to have made this a mission of sorts since releasing the hugely popular Micro and Tiny Terror ranges, it’s about time they made their mark on the best pedal amp market.
Thankfully, the Terror Stamp delivers in style and is based on the Micro Dark, with a single shape knob responsible for your overall tone. While that may be limiting for a lot of guitarists who prefer to have more control over their bass and treble, those used to this simple setup will know the range of voices that can be found here.
The real star of the Orange Terror Stamp, as you might expect, is the gain control, and users can expect this to cover pretty well the full spectrum. While it might not fulfil those with ultra high gain needs, it does take pedals well.
There’s also a switchable master volume that can effectively work as a boost if you need to take it up another level, though we think this feature could have been spared in place of a more versatile EQ setup. Still, this is a hard pedal amp to beat in this price range.
Read our full Orange Terror Stamp review
For something containing a wide range of classic amp/cabinet combos (eight cabinets, eight microphones and three power amp tube simulations), the NUX Solid Studio IR & Power Amp Simulator is actually simple to use. NUX has really tried to cram as much into this box as possible, leading it to look complex and sophisticated. That said, you should find it fairly straightforward once you get your head around the layout.
Featuring simulations of all the big name cabs, including AC30, Twin and Deluxe Reverbs, and Bassman, and so on, as well as all the key mics and placement options, there is so much scope for tone sculpting here. The NUX Solid Studio IR & Power Amp Simulator also features USB inputs to enable users to import their own impulse log in case any of the other options weren’t enough.
As far as amp simulators go, it’s certainly realistic enough to gig with. But given the amount of cab and mic sim options here, it’s no wonder the IR & Power Amp Simulator found its best use as a studio tool, helping guitarists record realistic mic’d up cabinet sounds without needing a seasoned engineer on call.
One of the mainstays in the best pedal amps market, the Tech 21 SansAmp GT2 Amp Emulator Pedal’s popularity is well-deserved. Not only is this an affordable and easy fit for your pedalboard, it offers a heap of tone options for its size.
With three different tube amp sounds (modelled on Fender, Marshall and Mesa Boogie), mic placement, and gain settings, you can cover a range of styles and sounds with just this box. While many players talk the GT2 down to a glorified distortion, it’s still an effective amp modeler and does a reasonably good job getting aforementioned amp sounds down.
The Tech 21 SansAmp GT2 Amp Emulator Pedal is, however, the oldest product on this list and the tech used is a bit dated. That’s especially true when you look at something like the BlueGuitar Amp1, which makes the need for tube amp modelers a bit redundant. Regardless of that, the GT-2 is a great option for those looking for a simple yet versatile pedal amp.
If you’re looking for something small and simple to use, pedal amps don’t come any easier and compact than the Mooer Baby Bomb 30. With just a master volume/gain and a warm/bright switch, there’s little that can go wrong with the box itself – not to mention the fact that as a class D amp it has a 30W output inside a micro-pedal chassis.
While this will be a huge selling point, it’s also ultimately the biggest shortcoming if you are looking for something a bit more sophisticated. As such, you will also need to pair the Mooer Baby Bomb 30 Micro Pedal Amp with a preamp to get the most out of it. That means the price point may be a bit deceiving when you factor that in.
However, Mooer also offers a great micro-preamp pedal for around the same price as this, so you can basically have a working rig for $200 that also fits in your pocket.
A very similar product to the Baby Bomb, the EHX 5MM 2.5W Power Amp Pedal only really differs in that it offers a 2.5W output versus the Mooer’s 30, and is 9V DC rather than 24. As you would expect with such a low wattage, getting decent headroom is a rather hard ask, as is dialing in a good clean tone.
Unlike the Baby Bomb, the EHX 5MM has its own personality, adding a distinct colour to your tone. This may be seen as a positive or negative depending on your needs, but if you’re looking to play overdriven and bluesy type guitar at home, then you could do so much worse than this.
Again, very simple to use and space friendly, yet almost half the price of the Baby Bomb. While this may not be so great for live or full band playing, it could prove handy in a recording situation. And for the price you aren’t exactly going to lose out.
Best pedal amps: Buying advice
Firstly, let’s quickly look at what makes a pedal amp itself. The power amp is the final stage of a guitar amplifier before your signal goes to a speaker. Simply put, the power amp is responsible for boosting the strength of your signal to the point that it can drive your speakers. While the preamp stage is responsible for shaping the sound, it’s the power amp that makes it audible.
As you’d expect, power pedal amps are stompbox-like versions of the power amps found in your heads or combos that you can plug directly into a speaker or PA. The main benefit of this is that it enables you to simplify your rig for space and easier transportation. Yet the best pedal amps also have an added benefit of being simpler to use and adjust on the fly, as well as having characteristics unique to themselves.
One thing to be wary of is that a power amp does need to be paired with a pre-amp if you want to get good results. Thankfully, most of the best pedal amps come with their own preamp, but there are products where that’s not the case, which is something to keep in mind when choosing the right product for you.