Ready to get heavy? Our selection of the best amps for metal will keep you chugging whether you’re a strict down picker of the thrash variety, a low-tuned djent riff aficionado, or a slow and sludgy doom merchant. There’s a huge array of options for searing high gain tone these days that range from remortgage-your-house-type boutique tube amps to the latest newfangled modeling machinations, so let us give you a helping hand and guide you through the very best options out there right now.
Of course, any amp can be turned into a metal machine with some pedals, but there’s just something about natural amp distortion that can’t quite be replicated with pedals alone. Specifically designed to be used with extreme, low tunings and frankly egregious amounts of gain, our selection of the best high-gain amps can take your riffs and solos to a whole new level.
If you’re new to metal amps, we’d highly recommend you take a look at our buying advice section to gain some more knowledge before you pull the trigger on a new amp. If you already know your stuff, just keep scrolling to see our top picks…
Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to publications including Guitar World, MusicRadar and Total Guitar. 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.
Best amps for metal: The quick list
Want to see the best amps for metal without scrolling through a wall of endless text? Well here you'll find a selection of our favorites, with links to read more if you wish.
Best tube head
With their own signature sound Orange has fast become the weapon of choice for guitarists seeking heavy tones. The Rockerverb 100 is a simply incredible tube head for metal.
A sleeper hit for metal tones, the Marshall DSL40CR is a supremely versatile tube combo that can do hard rock crunch right through to distorted metal mayhem.
An icon of modern metal, the Peavey 6505 1992 Original takes everything that was great about the first iteration of the amplifier and adds a host of modern features.
Another iconic amplifier, the Marshall JCM800 is perfect for classic metal tones. Whether you like thrash or 80s hair metal, this powerful yet simple amp head will deliver a huge tone.
Small yet deceptively powerful, the Orange Micro Dark is perfect for players seeking massive metal tones on a budget. It's a great gigging amp as well thanks to its compact size.
If you're looking to go the modeling route for your metal tones, you can't get much better than the ubiquitous Boss Katana 100 MKII. Packed with amp models and effects, it's super versatile.
Best amps for metal 2023
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Here you'll find full writeups and reviews for all the best amps for metal. Many of our choices have been personally tested by our writing team, so you can rely on our recommendations.
Best tube head
Despite being a favorite of guitarists from doom and heavy metal bands, the Orange Rockerverb 100 is actually an incredibly versatile amp. As well as your typical monster gain sounds it also does a wonderful Fender-clean impression and even Vox-like chime.
The gain channel is a versatile one, it goes from overdrive right through to distortion, then onwards to full-on high gain. The sustain on it is absolutely incredible, even at lower settings and it delivers a lovely crunch and proper punch you’ll feel in your chest.
The fact that you can also use this amp for bluesy drive and cleans makes it not just a fantastic metal amp, but a great amp full stop. It’s incredibly loud, so you’ll be thankful for the power attenuation options, all of which retain the sonic characteristics of the Rockerverb at full whack.
Read the full Orange Rockerverb 100 review
Best tube combo
Despite what many traditionalists may have you thinking, you don’t actually need a full stack to get a great metal tone. The Marshall DSL40CR is a relatively compact tube combo that’s versatile enough to handle high gain and clean plucked passages with ease.
It’s got bags of that Marshall swagger with a tight and punchy low end that’s reminiscent of the famous EVH brown sound on the Ultra channel. The Classic channel does what you’d expect, delivering that famous Marshall crunch that will get you everything from a hard rock tone to a thrash sound with a little tweaking.
It’s a hugely versatile amp thanks to the two master volumes allowing you to use the two channels as gain stages. It also means you can get usable high gain tones at lower volumes if you need to whilst an emulated out designed with Softube allows you to record at home or go direct when playing live.
Best for modern metal
If you’re after the tight chug of modern metal, there’s not much that does it better than the legendary Peavey 6505 1992 Original. Recently updated with a new transformer and internal switch for international voltages it’s got a huge range of features that make it a touring standard for the modern metal guitarist.
It’s got a huge sweep of gain tones available that take you from classic rock crunch right through to modern metal mayhem, but always staying detailed and responsive. The saturation available is simply astounding, but it always feels punchy and never mushy until it’s pretty much maxed out. It can do glassy cleans as well of course, but let’s face it, most guitarists will be buying this amp for the overdriven sound.
It’s got separate high and low gain inputs and the controls are simple but surprisingly flexible. The EQ is shared by both channels and the separate knobs for pre and post-gain give you loads of tone control. On the back panel, an effects loop, preamp out for slaving another amp, and handy speaker jack out with a switchable impedance selector round out this brilliant amp’s feature set.
Best for classic metal
If you like your vintage metal loud and brash, the Marshall JCM800 is a fantastic choice. One of the iconic amps of rock and metal, it’s a simple amplifier that does one thing really well, which is why the design has changed very little since it first appeared in the 80s.
The sound of a JCM800 is emphasized in the upper midrange, so it’s well-suited to crunchy guitar tones. It sounds its best when pushed hard delivering searing tones that can be coaxed to modern metal sounds with the use of a good drive pedal. This thing is incredibly loud, and not at all suited to home playing.
Traditionalists may bemoan the addition of an FX loop but for us, it’s a nice option to have on the reissue. Simple and to the point, the JCM800 is undoubtedly one of the best options for classic metal tones. If you do want to play or record at home, we’d recommend getting an amp attenuator to get the very best out of it.
Best budget option
The Orange Micro Dark sure is tiny but it's more than capable of tones that will scorch the earth around you, and perfectly voiced for any kind of high-gain, heavy metal hi-jinks.
The setup is simple. It’s a single-channel hybrid amp with a solid-state power section being fed by a preamp that’s got a single 12AX7 tube to give its crunch a nice and juicy dynamic response. The control panel has knobs for volume, shape, and gain, with the shape control running from a predominantly mids-scooped tone at one extreme to a more mids-heavy, punchy tone at the other.
At 20 watts, we found that the Micro Dark is more than powerful enough for band practice or small gigs – cab permitting – and with an emulated headphones output it's ideal for late-night silent practice. Run it clean, run it fiercely, there’s plenty of range on that gain control, and a buffered effects loop on the back for hooking up your pedalboard.
Read the full Orange Micro Dark review
Best modeling amp
The Katana can pretty much do anything. Jazz-funk? Sure. Spanky clean country? Yippee. There are five amp types onboard, which effectively means the Katana is a five-channel amp, with Clean, Crunch, Lead, Acoustic, and Brown amp models. Factor in all the Boss effects and you see what we mean about it being a Swiss Army Knife for tone.
But this is the best metal amp buyer’s guide so let’s just get down to it. The spandex-legged of you might then want to park yourself in the Brown channel, which is lifted directly from the Boss Waza amplifier and will put the E into the VH of your rock tones. The Lead amp, meanwhile, has all the gain you need to turn your signal into something that could slice through steel.
We found dialing in tones a cinch. There is a variable power control so you can switch it down to half-power or a measly 0.5-watts to get super-cranked tones at bedroom level. The amp also features stereo expansion possibilities and an effects loop – but then with 60 effects available via Boss’s Tone Studio software, you might not need them.
Read our full Boss Katana 100 MKII review
The MT 15 Mark Tremonti is a two-channel lunchbox amp powered by a pair of 6L6 output tubes and six 12AX7 preamp tubes.
Similar to the PRS Archon, the MT 15 features five gain stages before the Master for full, lush distortion. And while the MT 15 was designed with heavier players – such as Tremonti himself – in mind, the amp offers a range of tones for guitarists working in any number of styles.
We found that the lead channel offers thick, chunky tones and features controls for Gain, Master, Treble, Middle, and Bass, while the Clean Channel is bright and chimey and boasts Volume, Treble, Middle, and Bass knobs, as well as a push/pull boost on the Treble knob for a bit of old-school crunch.
Additional features include an effects loop and bias adjusters that are accessible from the back panel for ease of servicing, as well as a half-power switch that takes the amp from 15 to 7 watts.
The compact MT 15 comes in an all-steel chassis with a perforated lid and black-matte finish. Additionally, when powered up, the MT 15’s valves are lit by LEDs which glow red for the Lead channel and blue for the Clean. A striking and very cool aesthetic touch.
Read the full PRS MT 15 Mark Tremonti head review
The BE-100 Deluxe takes the well-known build quality, durability, and tonal bliss of the existing Friedman amp range to the next level. As Friedman’s flagship offering, the BE-100 Deluxe delivers 100 sweet-sounding watts of hand-wired all-tube power.
It’s not unusual for the best metal amps to have loads of channels, so the three available on the BE-100 Deluxe are fully justified. They sound great, too – with two overdrive channels catered towards us high-gain merchants.
Channels one and two are beautifully named the 'Brown Eye' and 'Hairy Brown Eye', and offer increasingly joyful and impressive levels of filth which we rolled in like pigs. The third channel – borrowed from their Smallbox amp – offers Plexi-esque tones for the more discerning player.
Whilst being a thoroughly versatile and capable amp, we have to say that it's the gain tones that make this amp shine.
Designed in conjunction with Misha Mansoor of Periphery, the Peave Invective MH Mini takes all the glorious tone of the excellent Invective 120 head and brings the power down to more manageable levels.
If you’re a fan of the 6505 sound then you’ll love the lead channel on this. It’s harmonically rich and fully saturated, making it perfect for searing solo work. If you need a little more control, the ‘tight’ switch does what it says on the tin, making staccato barrages of riffing feel much more stable.
The MSDI tech built into the amp allows you to practice with headphones, or utilize tube tones at much lower volumes. You can also record directly with it, great for getting your ideas down when inspiration strikes late at night.
Read the full Peavey Invective MH Mini review
When it comes to high-gain tone for the discerning player, Revv has certainly got its foot on the G.A.S. The G20 not only packs Revv’s signature harmonically-rich Purple Channel gain into a mid-size lunchbox format (switchable from 20 watts to 4 watts), but it’s full of features too.
The first channel is clean, while the second channel brings the heavy, with three levels of Aggression and Revv’s Wide switch. Don’t let the 20-watt output worry you either, as the G20 includes cab, mic, and power amp emulation from built-in TwoNotes Torpedo functionality – ideal for recording or going direct into a PA if you need more punch. There’s MIDI control and recall, a series FX loop, and it looks the business. A versatile, portable, classy high-gain amp.
Read the full Revv G20 review
Yes, you read that price correctly. With the full-fat VH4 coming in at a tear-jerking $4.5k, we’ve been crying out for an affordable version for what seems like forever. Enter the VH Micro – a 30W solid-state alternative, and get the Diezel tone without remortgaging your house or getting a hernia.
The VH Micro, whilst being a featherweight, creates some ridiculous tones for us gain-obsessives. It’s based on the 3rd channel of the VH4 – the most celebrated – and although there are no tubes in sight, you’d be surprised at the noise this guitar amp can create.
The control layout of the VH Micro will be recognizable to those who know the VH4, with three-band EQ, Gain, and Master volume controls adorning its front panel. Diezel’s famed Deep and Presence controls also offer some more in-depth tonal sculpting, making this VH Micro an impressive, and surprisingly capable studio tool.
The EVH 5150III LBX is the shrunken-down, lunchbox version of the beautifully excessive 50-watt 5150 – and with everyone looking to shrink their rigs for the sake of convenience, this small amp head could be just what the modern metal guitarist needs.
We’ve all heard the tones of the original 5150, and the LBX does a great job of replicating them. With two channels – Crunch and Full Burn – delivering gain en masse, and a three-band EQ offering simple yet effective tonal shaping, our focus wasn't dedicated to endless tweaking to find that perfect tone, and we were able to play to our heart's content. As long as you like gain, this lunchbox head has you covered.
Like most modern tube amps, a power-switching function is included. Taking this all-tube head down to four watts from a not-so-heady 15, obtaining that fat, saturated, tubes-about-to-explode tone got even easier. You’re less likely to disrupt your neighborly relations too – so that’s a win in our book.
Read the full EVH 5150 III 15-Watt LBX head review
The Mark Five: 35 amp head has two independent channels, each with three modes: Clean, Fat, and Crunch on Ch1; MkIIC+, MkIV, and Xtreme on Ch2. A 5-band EQ can be selectable per channel to be on, off, or footswitch-enabled. In addition, there are independent, foot-switchable Solo level controls for each channel, as well as Reverb and a 35/25/10-watt power option.
Sonically, the Mark Five: 35 offers aggressive metal tones in its creamy yet sizzling high-gain settings – all with lots of beating overtones amid string bends – and delightfully malleable sustain and controlled feedback.
Vintage, Eighties-style metal comes from Ch2’s absolutely blistering MkIIC+ setting, while a more modern tightness and thump sprouts from the amp when set to Xtreme. But the Mark Series amps have always been more than just shred machines, and judicious gain settings easily straddle classic rock, punk, garage, grunge, or whatever breed of more restrained dirt your heart desires.
An updated version of the most successful model in Hughes & Kettner's TubeMeister range, the GrandMeister 40 Deluxe is a serious tool with the capability to withstand just about anything a guitarist can throw at it. The GrandMeister has a smart steel case and Perspex control panel featuring nine knobs and a big four-way rotary voice switch.
Aside from the amp's master volume, everything is MIDI-powered. MIDI controls the built-in five-step attenuator, series effects loop, boost voicing, and phenomenal built-in digital effects. Of course, you can also edit and store presets to your heart's content.
The amp's two American-voiced lead channels have massive amounts of gain – which we found were perfect for modern drop-tuned metal – with a wonderfully sculpted top-end that squeals and snarls on demand. The built-in noise gate does a nice job of eliminating the hiss on higher gain settings and the new, thicker voicings sound equally fantastic with regular single coils and PAF-style humbuckers.
The Ultra channel's attack also gets you just about where you need to go for extreme metal. Overall, the Hughes & Kettner GrandMeister 40 Deluxe is a durable, formidable, and practically perfect amp.
Line 6’ Catalyst series puts its Helix-level, HX tones and effects into a trio of combos. If you’re looking for a one-stop solution to tones, effects, and amplification, then the Catalyst 100 might well be it. While not a metal-focussed amp as such, it will definitely deliver with six Original amp designs built on Helix technology, 18 effects spanning modulation, delay, and pitch, plus a dedicated reverb section containing six ’verbs.
It’s got a traditional amp control layout, USB, MIDI, and a direct output for sending your signal to a PA or recording setup, plus there’s an FX loop, and power amp input enabling you to use the cab as a powered speaker. As with the Boss Katana, you get a lot for your money.
Read the full Line 6 Catalyst 100 review
Best amps for metal: Buying advice
With any amp – metal or otherwise – it’s worth bearing in mind whereabouts you’ll be using it most. If you’re going to be shredding a festival main stage, then a Friedman 100-Watt stack might be the best metal amp for you – but if you’ll only be shredding the bedroom stage at practice land, you’ll never get the chance to hear what it can do best. Well, not without damaging neighborly relations.
Grabbing yourself an attenuator is always an option, but rather than spending more money you could save a fair bit if you treated yourself to something at a lower wattage. Not only would it be more cost-effective, but you’d also be able to drive the valves more and hear them truly at work.
How do I get a metal tone?
Also, take a minute to think about the kind of gain tone you’ll be going for with your metal amp, and more specifically the pre-amp valves. EL34s or EL84s will generally offer more of a creamier, British-voiced sound, while 6L6s have generally been associated with Fender’s world-famous compressed cleans and the full-throttle high gain offered by Mesa/Boogie amps.
Other amps – the EVH 5150III for instance – are much better suited to the sharp precision of higher gain metallic thunder, from the EVH-like tones its name would suggest through to Gojira levels of brain-melting. Its clean and crunch sounds are commonly disregarded as being a little bit underwhelming, but if you’re a guitarist who doesn't really plan on spending much time using this amp in its un-driven mode you’ll be just fine here.
Are tube amps good for metal?
Tube amps are fantastic amps for metal guitar players, and one of the most famous heavy guitar amps is the Marshall JCM800, which is a valve amp. Tube amp distortion is famed for its high compression, harmonically rich, and warm tone, sounding fantastic on pretty much any kind of music.
That doesn’t mean that solid-state or modeling amps aren’t great for metal too though. James Hetfield famously uses a Roland Jazz Chorus in his live rig - albeit for clean tones - and many modern metal guitarists are turning to modeling amps for their ease of use and reliability.
What’s the best metal amp for home use?
If you’re wanting to get high-gain tones at home, then power attenuation is a must-have. There are loads of great amplifiers with different power modes now, from the all-tube Orange Rockerverb 100 to one of the modeling greats in the Boss Katana 100 MkII.
In a tube amp, the power amp is still operating at the same level, but the extra signal bleeds off before it hits your speaker. This is a sort of trick that helps you get tube saturation without the traditionally associated noise complaints.
Typically solid-state and modeling amps don’t require this technology, because they should sound the same no matter what volume you’re at. However, you will find power attenuators on larger wattage solid-state and modeling amps, as it gives you more dynamic control with the master volume knob.
What’s the best metal amp on a budget?
Unfortunately in the world of amplifiers, the reality tends to be that you get what you pay for. Cheap guitar amps as such aren’t all that common outside of the spectrum of practice amps or desktop amps, and it’s especially difficult to find tube amps at a low price point.
There are a couple of low-cost choices in this article, with the Diezel VH Micro and the Orange Micro Dark heads which both come in well below the 500 mark. However, you will need a cabinet to go with those, which adds extra cost. If you’re looking for something a little less expensive, then have a look at our best budget guitar amps under $500 where you’ll find plenty of great deals.
What’s the best metal amp for beginners?
If you’re looking to get your first guitar amp and you love all things heavy then you won’t be lacking in choice. We’ve got a great beginner guitar amps article that will give you plenty of suggestions, but if you’re looking for something that purely falls into the metal category, we’d suggest going for a modeling amp.
Modeling amps like the Boss Katana 100 MkII and the Line 6 Catalyst 100 offer you a huge array of tones from high gain to clean, enabling you to find your unique voice in the world of guitar, as well as adding in loads of effects you can try out. Once you’ve established your sound, you can move up to something a little more specific and develop your tone further.
Are there any metal amps with good cleans?
Yes, there are loads of options for metal amps with multiple channels, whether you want those super sterile Metallica-esque cleans or something with a little bit of dirt before you bring back the heavy. Pretty much all the amps in this article have a great clean channel, and we particularly love those on the Revv G20 and the Orange Rockerverb 100.
How we choose the best amps for metal
Many of the writers here at Guitar World are devoted to the art of heavy guitar riffs and we recognize that the right amplifier is the beating heart of any guitarist's setup. When it comes to choosing the best amps for metal, we bring a wealth of experience from live performances, studio recordings, and countless hours spent in pursuit of the perfect metal tone.
Selecting an amp for metal involves a careful balance of factors such as power, tonal clarity, and of course, ridiculous amounts of gain. Our team has rigorously tested a myriad of amplifiers, pushing them to their limits in diverse metal genres to ensure they meet the demanding needs of modern and classic metal players.
Whether you're after the bone-crushing sound of doom metal or the searing leads of thrash, our guides cover a range of amplifiers to suit different tastes and playing styles. From affordable options that deliver raw power to high-end boutique amps each recommendation has earned its place through thorough testing.
Read more about our rating system, how we choose the gear we feature, and exactly how we test each product.
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