When it comes to the best amps for metal, there’s a boatload of options for searing high-gain tone. Of course, you can turn any clean amp into a metal behemoth with a string of distortion and overdrive pedals, but there’s something about natural amp distortion that just can’t quite be replicated with stomp boxes.
A great metal amp also allows you to simplify your signal path, as these amps are typically designed to be used with lower tunings and extreme gain settings. Many pro guitarists rely on their amps for their main tone, supplementing it with a few pedals for flavor, which means less time tap dancing and more time circle headbanging.
We’ve trawled through the best high-gain amps from affordable workhorses like Orange, EVH, and PRS right through to high-end offerings from Friedman and Mesa/Boogie, to bring you a plethora of metal amp options.
If you need a little more information on what makes a great metal amp, check out our buying advice section at the bottom of the page. If you’re ready to shred then keep scrolling to see our top picks.
Best amps for metal: Our top picks
If you’re after an affordable amp for high-gain metal madness, we’d recommend the PRS MT15 Mark Tremonti Signature Head (opens in new tab). As well as being fantastic value for money, it’s a smaller, lunchbox-type head which makes it easy to carry around, without skimping on the gain.
In the mid-range, you’ll definitely want to check out the Orange Rockerverb 100 (opens in new tab). Orange amps are hugely popular with artists of heavier music thanks to their distinctive voice and outstanding build quality. This amp is a proper fire-breather with a hefty 100-watt output and incredibly low noise floor.
Money no object? Well for the best of the best in monster tone the Friedman BE-100 Deluxe (opens in new tab) is our go-to. This thing absolutely thumps when you crank it, with bags of clean headroom and a gain channel that gives you a delicious Plexi-style grind.
Best amps for metal: Product guide
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
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
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.
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 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
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.
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
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
What to know when buying the best amps for metal
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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.
Read more about our rating system, how we choose the gear we feature, and exactly how we test each product.
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