Whether it’s tube, solid-state, or digital modelling, a combo or head, there are tons of tonal options out there. Check out the best 11 guitar amps of 2020.
Guitar amps come in a few, very established shapes and sizes. From heads to combos the guitar amp sounds different no matter which configuration you prefer.
Since they first appeared almost a hundred years ago, the guitar amp has been a mostly analog technology, featuring tubes cranked until they break up. Nowadays with digital modelling, the amp is a lot more complicated, you can get in the ballpark of any vintage amplifier with a single smaller, lighter unit. Here’s a list of the best guitar amps — of the new and old school variety — out there right now.
Fender Blues Junior IV
Often the go-to recommendation for an intro to tube amplifiers, the Fender Blues Junior IV is a classic. Spotted in pubs and bedrooms around the world, the 15 watt Blues Junior IV is portable, solid, and maybe most of all affordable.
It features a single 12-inch speaker, onboard spring reverb, 3 band EQ, and a Fat switch. This combination lends it to be a great pedal platform, which has just enough headroom for some more intimate gigs and bedroom shredding.
You can read more about the Blues Junior IV on the Fender website.
Mesa Boogie Mark V
What started as a Fender Princeton on steroids, Mesa Boogie released some of the most versatile amps, with people from Keith Richards, to John Petrucci, to Johnny Marr all using Boogie amps. The Mark V comes in either a 1 x 12 combo or head, features 3 channels, and about as many controls as you can get on a guitar amp.
Each channel can be assigned to either 10, 45, or 90 watts, and although the amps come with 4 6L6’s, you can switch over to EL84’s with the flick of a switch. The Mark V is really 9 amps in one and is probably the most feature-packed on this list, including an effects loop, tube reverb, graphic EQ, fan cooling, and much, much more.
Read more about the Mark V on the Mesa Boogie website.
Supro 1696RT Black Magick
Today, Supro is much more established than it possibly could have been due to the fact that they were Jimmy Page’s studio weapon. Nobody knows exactly what model Page was using, but these modern recreations by Supro are about as close as you can get.
The 25-watt 1696RT Black Magick is a rock machine, featuring smooth overdrive and fat mid-range. More similar to ‘50s Gibson amps rather than Fender, the Black Magick gets brighter as it gets louder and includes a master volume for if you need to keep a lid on things. Although not the most versatile on this list, this guitar amp does its thing very well, and with reverb and tremolo included what more could you want?
Read more about the 1696RT Black Magick on the Supro website.
Blackstar JJN-20R MkII
If you’re looking for a modern blues amp, the Blackstar JJN-20R MkII may be the one for you. It’s a 1 x 12, EL84, 20-watt combo that includes some up to date features like a USB output for direct DAW tracking, and scaling the power down to 2 watts for some heavy bedroom practice.
This amp shines when it’s driving, and thanks to the voicing selections, you cover a lot of classic bases. The Bluespower channel engages the full onboard EQ as well as Blackstar’s patented ISF control. The master reverb covers both channels, which you can switch between with Blackstar’s intuitive footswitch.
You can read more about the JJN-20R MkII on the Blackstar website.
Audio Kitchen Big Chopper
There are only so many variations on a valve amplifier, even still, UK-based Audio Kitchen has a distinctive lineup of idiosyncratic, player-driven amplifiers. The Big Chopper is a great example of blending studio and live professional needs without sacrificing an interesting guitar amp.
The Big Chopper is an EL84, 27-watt (switchable down to 15W), class A, 2-channel amplifier. The channels are voiced a little differently: the channel one controls work largely as you would expect, except the Stack switch disables Bottom and Middle, and repurposes Tops as a high-end roll-off. The EQ on channel two includes more cut and boost on both Tops and Bottom.
You can get more info on the Big Chopper and their other amplifiers on Audio Kitchen’s website.
BOSS Katana 50 MKII
Count on BOSS to create the perfect bedroom amp. The Katana 50 MKII includes tons of effects and tones while staying affordable and extremely functional. The Katana achieves this through digital modelling, which is also what keeps the 50 watt 1 x 12 combo at just 11kg.
Past all of the controls, effects, and amp voicings, the Katana features modern connectivity like a ¼” headphones jack, aux in, power amp in, expression pedal control, and a USB type B port. The USB connection allows you to plug the Katana into your computer and adjust the controls through BOSS’ own software. This allows for some deep fine-tuning as there are controls available that don’t appear on the guitar amp.
Read more about the Katana 50 MKII on the BOSS website.
Orange Micro Terror
The Micro Terror is the cheapest and lightest on this list, which it’s able to achieve through the integration of solid-state and valve technology. At 20 watts, the Micro Terror isn’t just a practice amp, although it excels at that thanks to its ¼” headphone out and ⅛” aux in.
The lunchbox sized guitar amp includes two gain stages and sound-wise can go from garage rock to AC/DC pretty quick. This is due to the single ECC83/12AX7 preamp tube, which provides great gain when cranked, on stage or at home. The Micro Terror is a great option if you have a small cab to go with it, or move quickly between the bedroom, rehearsal studio, and stage.
You can read more about the Micro Terror on the Orange website.
Kemper Profiler Stage
Getting right into modelling, the Kemper Profiler Stage has taken one of the most in-depth modelling amps out there and compacted it down into a roadworthy stage unit. This practical piece of hardware offers USB, XLR, ¼”, and MIDI connectivity, as well as 12 footswitches, and a bunch of onboard controls.
The Kemper Profiler Stage is built on running presets, if you’re switching between different tones, effects locked in with tempos, and want the same exact sound every night, it could be the option for you. The modeller allows you to switch between a Mesa Boogie and a Fender tone through a single click, and without the extra kilos of lugging more gear. The amp weighs just 4.6kgs and doesn’t actually only model guitar amp’s but cabinets and effects pedals too.
You can read more about the Profiler Stage on the Kemper website.
Marshall Studio Vintage SV20H
Based on one of the most legendary amps of all time, the 1959 Marshall JMP SLP, this 20-watt head gets you right in that ballpark at a significantly lower price and volume. This amp is Marshall’s response to the vast market of Plexi clones out there, and they have hit the market hard.
The guitar amp features Marshall at their best quality-wise and also feature-wise. Although a vintage recreation, the amp also includes a power scaling button from 20 watts to 5 watts and an effects loop. If you want a great, stage-ready head that sounds like your favourite guitarists while staying functional, this is for you!
Read more about the Studio Vintage SV20H on the Marshall website.
Two Rock Studio Signature
On the boutique end, Two Rock has established themselves for their recreations of the mythical, almost unobtainable Dumble amps. The Studio Signature is one of their quieter heads, although 35 watts definitely still packs a punch.
The single-channel directs this guitar amp to function more as a clean pedal platform, although if you can crank it you’ll definitely get all the drive you need. The Studio Signature includes a reverb, 3-way gain structure switch, effects loop, an extensive control panel, and is driven by a pair of 6L6’s.
You can read more about the Studio Signature on the Two Rock website.
The most famous guitar amp in the lauded VOX stable is, of course, the AC30. This model, however, doesn’t tell the whole story of VOX’s experimentation, especially in the company’s early days. The AC4TV is a new amp that pays tribute to a classic of the era, the AC4.
While the new model takes cues from the old one in terms of its classic look, there have been key updates to suit the modern player. The AC4TV provides you with tones that range from the clean to the characterful, with a commitment to sophisticated simplicity at its core. Plus, you can crank it up enough to get that break up and still keep your neighbours onside.