The Best Guitar Amp Brands with their respective Top Amps
From a fledgling studio that sold second hand music equipment back in the late 60s, Orange grabs the top spot in this list with their highly rated guitar amplifiers. Orange amps are easy to spot with their picturesque design, but what's interesting is how successful they continue to be, while veering away from amp modeling technology. By limiting the features of their amps, they made it easier for users to appreciate their brand of quality and tone, which translates to high ratings. Obviously, the influence of popular artists helps their cause, this includes Jimmy Page, Noel and Liam Gallagher, Billy Gibbons, Chino Moreno and many more. In addition to their distinct combo amplifiers, Orange amps is well known for their lunchbox size tube amps.
Orange Micro Dark
Other Top Orange Amps
Orange Amps is no stranger in our amp guides, the Orange Crush 20RT made it to our Best Practice Amps guide, while the Orange OR15H secured a spot for the company as one of the best low watt tube amps.
With the Orange Terror series, you can have premium high-gain tube tone without having to lug around heavy equipment.
The Orange Micro is among the smallest in the Terror series of amps, following the same streamlined design of its siblings, but with a different "dark" tonality.
This lunchbox amp combines a 12AX7 preamp tube with a solid-state power amp, all packed in a compact and lightweight profile.
- Power: 20W
- Preamp Tubes: 1 x 12AX7
- Effects: None
- Input: 1 x 1/4"
- Outputs: 1 x 1/4" 8 Ohm Output, 1 x 1/4" Headphones
- Weight: 1.72 lbs.
Awesome and amazing are just two of the many favorable adjectives that are used to describe the Orange Micro Dark. Most users find its tone to be convincingly tube like, while others are very impressed with its volume, considering its portable profile. A lot of users also appreciate its ease of use, and it also helps that it looks really good. Bobby Cannon of Guitar Player Magazine described it as "more than capable of delivering all the vicious tones you can dial in, and there’s no shame in going for a super-light amp that does the job..."
There's little negative commentary on the amp, but there are a few who gave it a lower score because of personal tone preference.
If you're looking for a high-gain amp head that's easy to use and carry around, then the Orange Micro Dark is your best bet.
This company is founded by Bruce Egnater, one of the pioneers of utilizing two amps to cascade gain. At first he was modding multi-amp setups for himself, but word got out quickly, so he started working with other musicians, and eventually established his own amp brand. Fast forward to today, stacking/cascading gain is now quite common in amps and even guitar pedals, and Egnater continues to utilize this simple yet effective design change in their amps to good effect. Being a smaller company compared to other more established amp brands, Egnater does not have as many different amp models, but the few that they are offering are getting very high ratings from guitarists.
Other Top Egnater Amps
The following contains advertising links that will take you to Sweetwater.com: The Egnater Tweaker 40 112 combo amp is a well regarded 40-watt option with no need to get a separate speaker cabinet, and then there's the very highly rated Egnater Rebel-30 MKII which is a more powerful tube amp head with 2-channels a lot more in the way of tone control options.
The Egnater Tweaker is a 15-W tube amp head with tone shaping controls that you won't normally find in tube amps. And they achieve this without digital sound processing by utilizing multiple switches that let you toggle tone via tone stacking circuits.
One switch lets you pick between Marshall, Fender or Vox type tones, and this is accompanied by a "vintage / modern" switch which allows the Egnater Tweaker to go from vintage grit to modern high gain - without having to resort to digital technology. Further tone shaping switches include "normal / bright" and a "tight / deep".
- Power Rating: 15-Watts
- Preamp Tube(s): 3 x 12AX7
- Poweramp Tube(s): 2 x 6V6
- Effects: None
- Input: 1 x 1/4"
- Outputs: Main Speaker Out, Extension Speaker Out (for a second cabinet)
- Weight: 19.6 lbs
The overall versatility of the amp, while retaining its analog tube design are the primary reason why a lot of the users rate this amp highly. Users love the amount of control they have over the tone as well as the customizability of the gain response.
There are a few who aren't as impressed with some of the tones. While others caution that the amp's single channel design and the lack of preset tweaking limits the flexibility especially when tone switching is needed while performing.
Even with its realtime control limitations, the Egnater Tweaker is still rated very highly for its tone. It is a great investment for those who want versatile yet genuine tube tones for use in recordings.
Roland has come a long way from its humble beginnings back in the early '70s as a rhythm machine manufacturer. The company grew to produce various other instruments and amplifiers, and is now one of the biggest music gear manufacturers in the world. One of their most popular lines is the Roland Jazz Chorus, as used by artists like Albert King, Andy Summers, Metallica's James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett, Robert Smith of The Cure, Jeff Buckley and many more. These days they have a variety of amplifiers in the entry to mid-tier market, most of which continue to garner great reviews.
Roland Blues Cube Hot
Other Top Roland Amps
Roland's line up of top rated amps include the JC-120 Jazz Chorus, a highly sought after solid state amp, the MicroCube GX, a top rated portable guitar amplifier and the Blues Cube Artist which is a more powerful version of the Blues Cube Hot.
While most amps utilize digital sound processing to provide multiple tone options, the Roland Blues Cube Hot goes the opposite route - focusing its DSP to just one specific vintage-tweed era tube tone. This focus resulted in a sound that many appreciate, so much so that the Blues Cube Hot has become one of Roland's best rated amps.
While sonic options are limited to just a specific tone, the amp does provide other digital features which include having a digital reverb and USB output direct recording. This way you get the benefit of classic tones without the hassle of maintaining actual tubes along with some modern functions.
Another stand out feature of this amp is its built-in power attenuation, which lets you switch from 30 Watts down to 15 Watts and 5 Watts, and it can go all the way down to 0.5W for quiet practice.
- Power: 30W / 15W / 5W / 0.5W
- Speaker: 1x12"
- Amp Modeling: Vintage Tweed-Era
- Effects: Reverb
- Input: 1 x 1/4"
- Outputs: 1 x 1/4" (Line Out)
- Weight: 27.8 lbs.
The Roland Blues Cube Hot continues to appeal to guitarists who prefer the sonic quality and simplicity of plug-and-play tube amps. It gets a lot of praise for its tone, surpassing the expectations of even experienced players who own expensive tube amps. And this positive response to its tone is a testament to how good Roland's digital sound processing technology is. Being a solid state amp makes it lighter and easier to carry around for gigs, and this is reflected in reviews. The amp's versatile power rating options also make it just as good for practice as it is on stage.
Since the voicing of this amp is limited, those who are looking for more overdrive and other sonic options will have to look elsewhere.
If you're looking for a vintage sounding amp with modern sensibilities and practical functions then this is for you.
Established over a century ago as a piano and reed organ builder, Yamaha has since expanded into building other musical equipment. While they are not primarily a guitar amp builder, Yamaha's extensive reach and resources give them an almost unfair advantage over the competition, as exemplified by the success of their THR I and II lines of desktop guitar amplifiers. This line of portable amps combines Yamaha's penchant for student friendly features and modern studio functions that many guitarists appreciate, ultimately securing Yamaha a special spot on this list.
Yamaha THR30II Wireless
Other Top Yamaha Amps
The Yamaha THR10II is a smaller and cheaper version, but without bluetooth or rechargeable batteries, featured in our practice amp guide. And although it didn't contribute to Yamaha's ranking in this list, another highly rated option is their desktop acoustic amp, THR5A, which can be powered by batteries.
Yamaha looked at the changing market and developed an amp that addresses the needs of modern day musicians - that is to have a guitar amp that will fit nicely into their computer based home recording setup. And that is exactly what the THR30II Wireless is all about, desktop friendly amp with digital sound processing, direct recording and wireless compatibility.
Since it is not set on the floor, the THR30II lets you easily make parameter changes right on your desk, and more importantly, the speakers are more in-line to your listening position. This is in no way meant to be a stage amp with its 2 x 3.5", but it does have quite the power with its 30 Watt rating.
Other noteworthy features of this amp are 3 bass amp models, 3 mic models and a flat mode, in addition to its 15 guitar amp models and multiple effects, to cater to multi-instrumentalists.
- Power: 30W
- Speaker: 2x3.5"
- Amp Modeling: 15 x Amp Models
- Effects: Chorus, Flanger, Phaser, Tremolo, Echo, Compressor, Noise Gate, Reverb
- Input: 1 x 1/4", 1 x 1/8" (Aux in)
- Outputs: 2 x 1/4" (Line Out)
- Weight: 9.48 lbs.
Functionality and practicality are the two main things that endear the THR30II to its users. While it can't compete with stage amps when it comes to "moving air", it has created its own market niche and continues to be successful at it - it really showcases Yamaha's creativity and innovation. Guitarists love many of the tone options it provides, and many are pleased that they can also plug-in their bass or mic their other instruments right on the THR30II. Many also appreciate the built-in effects and its wireless streaming capability.
With its small speakers, and compact profile, this is not advisable for those who want a stage guitar amp. Interestingly, there are some who wish for a traditional combo amp version of the THR series that they can take on stage.
The Yamaha THR30II is the one to get if you're looking for a practical amp for home recording and practice use.
#5. Quilter Labs
Quilter Labs was founded by Pat Quilter, an engineer and founder of QSC Audio Products, a very popular high-end pro audio manufacturer. The story goes that Pat wanted to rekindle his love for guitar amps, and brought with him some of their best employees. The result is a line of guitar amplifiers with QSC's brand of pro-audio quality that are rating higher than what you'd expect from relatively new comers. Much like QSC, the amps built by Quilter Labs command a price premium, which some would think is unusual - especially when considering they don't use tubes - still those who invested in their amps have many good things to say about them.
Quilter MicroPro Mach 2 Combo 8
Other Top Quilter Amps
The MicroPro Mach 2 Combo 12 is a very similar amp but with a larger 12” Celestion Classic Lead 80 woofer. An interesting one is the equal highest rated amp head under $200 which comes in a stompbox form factor: MicroBlock 45.
The Quilter Labs MicroPro Mach 2 exemplifies what the brand is all about, providing premium and versatile tones via solid state technology.
For a non-digital amp, the MicroPro Mach 2 offers quite a lot of voicings, all achieved via analog tech, from clean to modern overdriven tones.
In addition to the various amp voicings, it also features dedicated EQ controls per channel, a versatile boost function with different modes, and built-in reverb and tremolo effects.
Even at 200 Watts, this amp is still considered a portable combo amp, with a single 8" Celestion TF0818 speaker.
- Power: 200 W
- Speaker: 1 x 8" Celestion TF0818
- Amp Models: 6
- Effects: Reverb and Tremolo
- Input: 1 x 1/4" (Instrument), 1 x XLR-1/4" Combo (Mic/Line)
- Outputs: 1 x XLR (DI out), 2 x 1/4" (internal/external speakers)
- Weight: 19 lbs.
Normally, you can't have both great tone and portability, but the Quilter MicroPro Mach 2 proves otherwise, with users praising it for having great tones while being easy to carry. The depth of control afforded by the amp is well received by users, from the amp voicings to the expanded EQ and boost functions that allow it to fit various musical styles. Build quality is also well regarded, which many describe as befitting an amp of its price range.
Speaking of price, there are a few who wish that the price was a bit more accessible given its compact size and 8" speaker. And with its smaller speaker, there are also a few who note that bottom end is lacking, they recommend looking at the amp's bigger siblings.
If you're looking for a premium sounding and high build quality portable amp, then this is for you.
Boss is well known for producing reliable and good sounding guitar effects, many of which continue to serve popular guitarists like Eric Johnson, Steve Vai, Marty Friedman and many more. Being a big player in one market doesn't always translate to success in another, but Boss' foray into the guitar amplifier market is proving to be quite successful, as evidenced by the consistently favorable ratings that most of their amplifiers are getting. To be specific, we are talking about the Boss Katana range of amplifiers, which combine Roland's (Boss' parent company) experience in amp building with Boss reputation for quality and reliability.
Boss Katana Head MkII: Head + Combo
Other Top Boss Amps
Similar to the Boss Katana Head MkII is the Boss Katana-100/212 MkII combo amp with it's bigger 2 x 12" woofers which we featured in our guide to guitar amps under $500. The smaller combo Boss Katana-50 MkII is one of the top rated amps under $300.
While it looks and functions much like any guitar amplifier head, the Boss Katana Head MkII is technically a combo amp - with a 5" speaker built-in for low volume playing.
This compliments the amp's built-in power attenuator that can go down to 0.5W, turning this 100W amp head to a practice amp where you can crank the gain without disturbing the people around you.
Everything else about this amp head follows after the Katana format, with five amp models that include: Clean, Crunch, Lead, Brown, and Acoustic, along with the ability to choose from 60 digital Boss effects.
All these DSP features are controllable via the amp itself, and more tweaking is available via software editing.
- Power: 100W (50W, 0.5W)
- Amp Models: 5
- Effects: 60
- Input: 1 x 1/4" (Instrument), 1 x 1/4" (Power Amp), 1 x 1/8" (Aux In)
- Outputs: 2 x 1/4" (Line/Speaker),1 x 1/4" (Phones/Rec)
- Weight: 19.4 lbs.
With its built-in speaker, the Katana Head MkII easily beats out the competition in terms of functionality, and this is the reason why many commend the amp for being a good buy. While the quantity of amp models may be limited, users commend the quality of each one, from the clean tones up to its high-gain settings. And as expected from Boss, reliability and durability is a given.
There's little complaint about the amp, but there are a few who wish for extra features like having a wireless streaming capability and a built-in tuner.
The Boss Katana Head MkII is a powerful and versatile amp head that's very easy to recommend.
Vox's history goes back to the late '40s, where they originally built electronic keyboards. Their presence in the guitar market started in the late '50s when they launched the 15-Watt AC15 amplifier which ultimately caught the attention of many iconic artists - including The Beatles, Queen, Dire Straits, The Yardbirds, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks and many more. These artists helped spread the brand's popularity around the world, but ironically, they were not enough to make the company profitable. This resulted in the Vox brand being owned by many different companies, thankfully Korg took over in 1990 and continues to take good care of the brand up to this day. These days, Vox is still the go-to amp for chimey and jangly clean tones with an extensive line up of amplifiers, interestingly, their line up still includes modern reproductions of their popular AC15 and AC30 combos.
Other Top Vox Amps
At publication time the 30-Watt AC30S1 was the equal highest rated tube combo from $500 to $1000, the AC15C1 was the highest rated combo tube amp up to 15-watts, and the AC4HW1 was second highest rated in the same category.
The AC15C1X is a modern take on the venerable AC15, with improved reliability and built-in effects. Vox's familiar clean and overdriven tone is ever present, courtesy of its three 12AX7 preamp tubes and two EL84 power tubes that drive a 12" Celestion Alnico Blue speaker - a speaker that many Rock and Blues players prefer.
The amp has a dedicated Top Boost input for those who want Vox' distinct jangly tone and it comes with tremolo and reverb effect to add space and texture to your guitar tone.
- Power: 15W
- Speaker: 1 x 12" Celestion Alnico Blue
- Preamp Tubes: 3 x 12AX7
- Power Tubes: 2 x EL84
- Effects: Tremolo, Reverb,
- Input: 2 x 1/4" (Normal, Top Boost)
- Outputs: 2 x 1/4"
- Weight: 48.5 lbs.
As expected, most of the many positive reviews are from guitarists who have love the classic Vox sound. Be it for single coil Telecasters or for humbucker equipped Les Paul style guitars, the Vox AC15C1X gets a lot of thumbs up for its responsiveness and clarity. A good number of reviewers also report that for a 15W amp, it can go really loud.
There are a few who felt that the price is a bit too much for a one trick pony, mostly from those who are not into the Vox tone flavor.
The Vox AC15C1X is a great modern reproduction of the classic British amp, well worth a place in anyone's collection of gear.
Fender has a long history of building amplifiers, so much so that many of the amps we see today still mimic the look and aesthetics of the amps that they built many decades ago. You could also say that many of the amps we have today can trace their roots to the classic Fender amp design. Also impressive is the long list of Fender amplifier users which include Eric Clapton, Jerry Garcia, Brian Setzer, Neil Young, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Eddie Van Halen and many more. For a company with a long legacy and a massive line up of amplifiers, maintaining high ratings across the board is quite the feat, but then again, this is to be expected from the company that helped shape the electric guitar sound that we know today. These days, Fender is well represented in the entire amplifier market, from entry level models with amp modeling, to premium modern reproductions of their iconic tube amps.
Fender Tone Master Deluxe Reverb
Other Top Fender Amps
At publication time the Tone Master Twin Reverb was one of the top rated solid state amps, the ’57 Custom Champ was the highest rated practice amp, the Super-Champ X2 HD was the highest rated modeling amp head under $1000 and the Mustang GTX 100 was equal second highest rated combo amp from $300 to $500.
Instead of utilizing digital sound processing to have multiple amp models like their Mustang line of amps, the Fender Tone Master Deluxe Reverb focus all its DSP to replicate the tone of its name sake.
Given the iconic status of the original Deluxe Reverb amp, this modern solid state recreation has big shoes to fill, yet based on its very high reviews - it is doing its name sake justice.
This modern recreation of a classic tube amp replicates the vibe and feel of the original, from its aesthetics, to its tone and even its controls. Even the original's sound pressure level is replicated with its 100W amp and 12" Jensen N12K speaker.
Going beyond being a straightforward replica, this amp comes with a variable power attenuator that can lower the rating down to 0.2 Watts, a feature that makes this viable for both stage and practice use.
More importantly, it does all this without the maintenance requirements and extra weight that are associated with vintage tube amps.
- Power: 100W (Variable down to 0.2W)
- Speaker: 1 x 12" Jensen N-12K Neo
- Amp Models: Vintage Deluxe Reverb
- Effects: Reverb and Tremolo
- Input: 2 x 1/4", 2 x 1/4" (Vibrato Channel)
- Outputs: 1 x XLR (DI out)
- Weight: 23 lbs.
In the past, amp modeling was usually hailed as being great for versatility, but these days, more and more guitarists are appreciating streamlined amp modelers like the Fender Tone Master Deluxe Reverb, which continues to rake in very high reviews. Reviewers are impressed with the realism of its tone and response, so much so that it has taken the place of their main amp. More importantly, owners of the amp are happy with how it provides great tone while being light enough for actual gigging. And experts like Charles Saufley of Premier Guitar agrees, giving this verdict in his review: "The Tone Master Deluxe reverb is a brilliant, if not revolutionary, concept. It effectively makes what’s arguably the greatest-ever gigging amp into a lighter, more flexible, and convenient version of itself."
For an amp modeler, the Fender Tone Master Deluxe Reverb has quite a hefty price tag, to the point that some recommend getting a second hand tube amp equivalent instead. This is also not advisable for those who are looking for multiple amp models and effects.
If you want nothing less than the highest rated solid state combo amp, then the Fender Tone Master Deluxe Reverb is for you.
With their brand embedded in so many rock guitar albums, concerts and music videos, Marshall Amplification is a company that needs no introduction. They have the most familiar look and rock guitar tone, thanks to the long line of artists that have made the Marshall amp part of their signature tones. These days, Marshall continues to put out various amps, even going for amp modeling, but they still receive more kudos for their crunch tone over everything else that they've produced. Note that limiting this guide to amps priced under $1000 resulted in Marshall obtaining a lower rank in this list than they would have if we included their more expensive amps which the brand is most famous for.
Other Top Marshall Amps
The Origin20C is one of the top combo tube amps under $500 and the Code50 is one of the top amps under $300. And although it didn't count toward Marshall's position in this list, their AS50D has long been one of the top rated acoustic amps.
The DSL1CR is the ultimate Marshall practice amp, it lets you enjoy the iconic all-tube Marshall crunch tone at practice friendly volume levels. With its 1W power rating which can be switched down further to 0.1W, you can crank this amp's gain to your heart's content without disturbing the people around you.
At its core are two ECC83 preamp tubes and an ECC82 poweramp tube, all of which goes through Marshall's circuitry that gives the amp it's unmistakable tone.
The amp drives an 8" Celestion Eight 15, which is quite big for a 1W practice amp, this is to ensure that you get more bass at the low volume levels which this amp is intended for.
Other features include a 1/8" output with speaker cabinet emulation, built-in reverb and an ultra gain channel for those who want modern high-gain tones.
- Power Rating: 1W / 0.1W (Via Low Power Button)
- Preamp Tube: 2 x ECC83
- Poweramp Tube: 1 x ECC82
- Speaker: 1 x 8" Celestion Eight 15
- Effects: Reverb
- Input: 1/4" Instrument, 1/8" Aux
- Output: 1 x 1/8" (Softube Emulated out), 1 x 1/4" (Internal Speaker)
- Weight: 17 lbs.
Market sentiment toward the Marshall DSL1CR can be summarized as this: Great overdriven tone in a small package. Even with so many practice amps that can approximate the sound of a Marshall, there's just no replacing the vibe and feel of a real tube amp - and this is reflected in many reviews. Having the option to lower the power down to 0.1W makes this amp even more viable for those who don't want to compromise their tone even when doing quiet practice.
As expected from Marshall, some users wish for better sounding clean tones. Thankfully, owners of this amp are not buying the DSL1CR for its clean tone.
Get genuine Marshall tube tone quality at bedroom friendly levels with the DSL1CR.
Bugera is just one of the many sub-brands of Music Tribe, a big company that owns music gear brands like Behringer, Klark Teknik, Midas and many more. Bugera's distinct role in Music Tribe is to develop and manufacture budget-friendly tube amps. While they don't have the legacy, or star power of bigger and older brands, Bugera continues to make waves in the entry to mid-tier market, thanks to their accessibly priced tube amps, which allow more musicians to own genuine tube amps.
Another Top Bugera Amp
At publication time the V5 Infinium was the equal highest rated combo tube amp under $300.
The Bugera V22HD Infinium is an affordable 22-watt amp head with three 12AX7 preamp tubes and two EL84 poweramp tubes, with a switch that lets you change tube operation to triode (for a more gentler feel) or pentode (for a more robust feel).
It also features Bugera's Infinium technology which helps prolong the life of the tubes.
It has a two-channel setup that lets you switch between clean and overdriven tones, and comes with tone shaping options that include vintage style 3-band EQ, mid boost and presence.
To better accommodate different guitar types, it also comes with normal and bright inputs.
Other features include built-in reverb and effects loop.
- Power: W
- Preamp Tubes: 3 x 12AX7
- Poweramp Tubes: 2 x EL84
- Effects: Reverb
- Input: 2 x 1/4"
- Outputs: 2 x 1/4"
- Weight: 28 lbs.
Amazing and unbelievable are two adjectives that capture how most users feel about this amp - many of whom are impressed at how good both the clean and gain channels sound. Value for money is also an important factor for many who rate this amp highly, stating that it doesn't look or sound cheap at all, rather it produces tones that you wouldn't expect from an amp of its price range. The amp's tone shaping options are also well received.
There are a few who feel that the amp's low gain tones are a bit lacking, while some point to interface issues like not having an LED channel indicator.
The Bugera V22HD offers all-tube tone at a very affordable price, quite the steal for those with limited budget.
Things to Consider When Buying a Guitar Amplifier
Tube vs Solid-State
Tube technology is very much alive in today's digital age, even with amp modeling inching closer and closer, there's just no replacing the warmth and organic response of tube amps, especially when recording. Still, there are practical drawbacks with this old technology, like requiring more maintenance work and handling care, mostly due to the fragile nature of tubes. Weight and cost of tubes also make them somewhat impractical, unless ofcourse you have a team of roadies that can carry and maintain your tube amps for you.
Solid-state amps on the other hand have less parts to worry about, and are generally considered to be more sturdy and reliable. They are also usually paired with either digital or analog based amp modeling, which allows for a wider selection of tones, albeit without the x-factor that tube adds to amps. Because of this, there are some manufacturers who combine both tube and solid state circuitry in one amp, but at the end of the day, these hybrid amps will require the same handling care and maintenance as a regular tube amp. For this reason, some have chosen to get the best of both worlds by having one of each - utilizing tube amps for recording, and solid state amps for live performances.
Amp modeling is a polarizing topic for some guitarists, but it shouldn't be because the alternative is still widely available. If you feel that amp modeling will just be a distraction then go for a straightforward amplifier. For those who do appreciate the versatility that they offer, there are now many options on the market, from the usual digital recreations of popular amps, to those with analog based amp voicing approximations.
Combo vs Amp Heads
Combo amps come with a speaker built into the amplifier cabinet, making them heavier but more convenient. On the other hand, amp heads are lighter because they don't come with a speaker built-in. The amp head configuration allows you to freely choose the type of speaker and speaker cabinet that you prefer, with the complication of ensuring amp and speaker compatibility. Interestingly, there are now some amplifier heads that com come with built-in speakers that are only good for practice, making them technically a combo amp, but that's another story in itself.
Power rating & Speaker Size
Without going into technical details, the amp's power rating is directly correlated to its loudness. This means that the higher the power rating is, the louder the amp can go. But loud is not always better, especially when considering space and noise level restrictions, this is why even those with big wall of amps have a humble practice amp to play quietly with. Low power amps also let you crank the gain at lower volumes, so you can get to your amp's sweet spot without being a noise nuisance. Thankfully, some big amps now come with built-in power attenuators, which give you the option to lower the power rating when needed. Also note that many tube amps are louder than similarly rated solid-state amplifiers.
Another important factor to consider is speaker size, which impacts overall loudness and tonality. Bigger speakers can push more air and have more low end, while smaller speakers have limited pushing power, while emphasizing the mids. In addition to size, different speaker models and cabinet types also introduce subtle differences to the overall sound.
Reverb is still the most commonly installed effect in amps, but there are some amplifiers that go overboard, to the point that they outdo even multi-effects units. Unfortunately, even those with the most number of effects allow for limited simultaneous use, so no, you can't put 10 virtual pedals together in your practice amp. Also don't expect the quality of built-in effects to match that of boutique pedals, but they can be a great addition to an amp if used sparingly and for appropriate songs.
In addition to the 1/4" input for your guitar, you may want to consider amps with better connectivity features like those with built-in USB output for direct recording, footswitch input, aux input for jamming with tracks, headphone output for quiet practice, and a DI output for getting your sound straight to a PA system. Speaking of headphone out, there are some amps that come with built-in speaker cabinet simulated outputs, this subtly changes the resulting sound much like the amp cabinet would without having to actually use the speaker. There are also a number of newer guitar amplifiers that come with Bluetooth connectivity for streaming audio and for software control.
Among the most common rookie amp buyer mistakes is buying a big amp that's too heavy to gig with, or going the opposite and buying one that's too small. If you're gigging at different places and you don't have a roadie, then consider going with a smaller amp that has DI output so you can go straight to PA with your tone intact. In big venues where big amps are a must, some opt for amp heads because the separated head and speaker cabinet are lighter on their own, although you'll have to move more pieces.
Best Guitar Amp Brands Selection Methodology
The first edition was published during May 2018 written by Alexander Briones and the latest edition was published on September 18, 2020 written by Alexander Briones with contributions from Jason Horton.
We began the process by creating a 'short-list' of brands that have amps selling in the sub $1000 price range with amps that have strong enough ratings to be short-listed for any of our other electric guitar amp guides.
We chose this approach with the price limit to make this guide relevant for newer guitarists as opposed to more experienced players that already have a good idea of which brands they prefer. The effect was that great but expensive brands like Kemper and Mesa/Boogie were excluded while other brands like Marshall are ranked lower than they otherwise would have been if their more expensive models had been included in the data set.
Here are the 36 brands that we short-listed: Acoustic Amplification, Blackstar, Boss, Bugera, California Amps, Danelectro, Donner, DV Mark, Egnater, Electro-Harmonix, EVH, Fender, Fluid Audio, Hotone, Ibanez, Joyo, Laney, Line 6, Marshall, Monoprice, NUX, Orange, Peavey, Pignose, PRS, Quilter Labs, Randall, Rogue, Roland, Sawtooth, Supro, Valeton, VHT, Vox, Yamaha, ZT Amplifiers.
We then updated our ratings for all qualifying amps and used those data to produce an average rating for each brand. We then selected the 10 highest rated brands to present above. 48,608 review and rating sources were analyzed during this process.
For more information about our methods and how we produce our ratings, please read How Gearank Works.