The Best Solid State Guitar Amps (Budget Section)
If you’re looking for a respectable solid state amp that won’t empty your wallet, check out the affordable options below. These amps are a solid addition to your rig. While they’re not going to blow anybody’s mind, when you consider the price point they occupy their performance is impressive.
Acoustic is a lesser known brand that build good quality amps, one of which is the Lead Guitar Series G20, a 20W 1 x 10" solid state combo amp rated highly for its tone and simplicity. And while the brand name is Acoustic, this is actually designed for electric guitars, with a button that lets you switch between two channels - Lead and Rhythm.
The Lead channel comes with a gain knob for adding overdrive, while both channels have dedicated volume controls. Tone shaping is done through its 3-band EQ, with the addition of a "mid-shift" button that transforms the way the mids behave. This mid-shift button expands the sonic flavors that you can get out of this seemingly simple amp. Other features include aux input and headphones out.
- 20 Watts
- 10" Speaker
- 3-Band EQ with Mid-Shift
- 2 Channel Lead and Rhythm
- Aux Input and Headphones Output
This amp continues to get five stars for its ease of use and great tone. Many are impressed with its overdrive, exceeding the expectations of many given the amp's price. Many are also pleased with how the amp does high-gain tones via the Mid-Shift button.
There are a few users who feel that the amp is not as loud as they want it to be, but since it only has a 20W amplifier, it's more of an actual limitation than an issue.
If you're looking for a budget-friendly solid state amp, then check out the Acoustic Lead Guitar Series G20 amplifier.
Orange Crush 20
While Orange amps do offer amp modelers, the company's line of streamlined solid state amps continue to rate significantly higher. One of which is the Orange Crush 20, a combo amp with 20W of power and a single 8" speaker packed in a combo package that's distinctively Orange.
But it's not just about looking the part, because this amp is well received for sounding like its premium counterparts, thanks to its solid state 4-stage preamp. With an optional footswitch, this compact amp lets you between clean and dirty. It also comes with a 3-band EQ for basic tone shaping, along with a gain knob and dedicated volume knobs for each channel. Finally it comes with Orange' CabSim circuit, which emulates a 4x12" cabinet when using the amp's line/headphone output.
- 20 Watts
- 8" Speaker
- 3-Band EQ
- 2 Foot-Switchable Channels
- Cabsim Output Line/Headphones Output
Response to this amp is overwhelmingly positive, with most users commenting on its ease of use and great tone as its best traits. Some also mention that for a small amp with basic controls, there are a lot of in-between tones that can be conjured. Many also appreciate its distinct Orange appeal, while others compliment its overall build quality, especially when compared to other amps in the same price range.
Users have few complaints other than a small number who wished that it had more tone and effect options.
With its killer looks and tone, this wallet-friendly solid state amp will make a great addition to your gear.
Orange Crush 20RT
There's just no mistaking an Orange amp, especially those that follow their signature picture frame design. The Crush 20RT comes in this familiar form factor with built-in Reverb effect and Tuner - hence the label "RT".
This amp also features line-out emulation which replicates the response of a miked 4x12 cabinet when used with either headphones or a P.A. This means that the amp retains a lot of the character that other amps lose when you plug headphones into the them, making it worth serious consideration if you’re looking for a silent practicing amp.
- 20 Watts
- 8" Speaker
- 3-Band EQ
- Overdrive Channel, Reverb, Tuner
- 2 Foot-Switchable Channels
- Cabsim Output Line/Headphones Output
While aesthetics definitely gets a lot of thumbs up, the Orange Crush 20RT is well loved for its overdriven tone, thanks to its specially designed 4-stage preamp which reproduces the quintessential Orange sound in a compact and portable form factor. Many describe the amp as being fun and musical, while others just feel that the tone is more alive, compared to others in the same price range. According to reviewers, the amp's built-in reverb meshes well with its tone, while others appreciate the practicality of having a tuner on the guitar amp itself.
Some users are not as impressed with its clean tone, while others are not too happy with the amp's reverb feature.
With its killer looks and tone, along with its extra features, this wallet-friendly solid state amp will make a great addition to your gear.
The Best Solid State Modeling Amps (Budget Section)
Fender Champion 20
There’s not much to be said about Fender that hasn’t already been said. They are well known for their bright clean tones and bluesy grit, both of which are well represented in the Champion 20. But this amp is more than just basic clean and overdrive tones because it comes with various voicings that are inspired by famous amps.
In addition, it comes with essential effects like reverb, chorus, and delay, complete with tap tempo functionality so you can match the speed of your effects with the music. Finally this amp is dressed in a familiar combo amp profile.
- 20 Watts
- 8” Speaker
- Different voicings that allow you to dial in a variety of tones (Fender, Vox, Marshall, metal tones).
- Auxiliary Input.
- Headphone Out
The Fender Champion 20 continues to be among the highest rated amp modelers in the market, but it's not because of versatility - rather it is because of its ease of use. Users find that it is much easier to get good sounds with this amp with its intuitive control setup, and for this reason it ranks better than Fender's Mustang series, which has more digital sound processing features. There are also plenty of compliments pointing towards its build quality. As expected, many commend this amp for its clean tones, it also helps that it looks similar to vintage Fender amps.
For some, the Champion 20’s greatest strength, which is its simplicity, is also its weakness. There are users who wish for more features like effects and amp models.
If you want a good value amp that gives you enough features without overcomplicated controls then this is for you.
Fender Mustang I V2
Fender continues to develop and produce top rated modeling amplifiers, case in point is the Fender Mustang I V2, an affordable all-in-one 20W combo amplifier, modeler and effects processor. This one goes all out in terms of features, with 18 amp models and 37 effects that give you quite a lot of tones to work with.
Given the size of the amp, the physical controls are a bit limited, but Fender equipped their Mustang series amps with USB connectivity that gives you in-depth control over more parameters. It even allows for direct USB recording, giving the amp the ability of a USB audio interface. Other nifty features include headphones out, aux input and it comes with its own chromatic tuner.
- 20W Modeling Amp
- 1x8" Speaker
- 18 Amp Models and 37 Effects
- Onboard Chromatic Tuner
- Headphones Output
- Aux Input
- USB connectivity
- Bundled with Ableton Live 8 Fender Edition
- Weight: 17 lbs.
While there are other amps that offer similar functionality, the Fender Mustang I V2 stand out with its versatility. So much so that most users credit the amp for making their guitar playing experience more enjoyable. The amp's clean tone gets a lot of positive feedback, even from experienced players who own more expensive Fender amps. The amp's various effects also gets a nod from those who are into customizing their tone. I for one bought a Mustang amplifier for my son, and so far, we have only good things to say about it.
There are some users who are not too happy with its high-gain tones, but this maybe more of a preference or setting issue.
It's hard to find fault in this super-affordable and super-versatile amp, highly recommended for those who want more functionality per dollar.
The Best Solid State Guitar Amps (Mid-to-High End)
As stated in the sections above, there are a ton of great sounding solid state amps available. The best solid state amps, many of which are included in the list below, will give you a tone that rivals any tube amp while being both more affordable and easier to maintain.
Orange Crush 35RT
The no-frills Orange Crush 35RT is a 35W combo amp that continues to rate highly. It does away with the bells and whistles that other amps offer, but makes up for its lack of features with its 4-stage preamp. This results in tones that many people appreciate, especially when driven hard.
The preamp section has two channels, clean and dirty, with the dirty section being its strong suit. Tone shaping controls include basic EQ along with volume and gain knobs. As the "RT" label implies, this one comes with Reverb and Tuner built-in. Finally, this guitar amp is housed in the familiar picture frame like cabinet that's unmistakably Orange, along with its 10" speaker.
- 35 Watts
- 1 x 10" Speaker
- Band EQ
- Built-in Reverb
- Aux Input
- Headphones Output
Positive reviews continue to pour in for this amp, most of which credit its greatness to its overdriven tone. Guitar heavy music styles like rock and blues are what most owners use this amp for, be it for practice and even for small venue gigs. Chris Gill of Guitar World shares a similar sentiment in his review, concluding that "The Orange Crush 35RT is perfect for players who want an affordable classic-style amp for practice that can also hold its own during gigs".
Since this amp sounds best when driven hard, getting it to sound great at lower volumes can be a challenge. Some users recommend playing with the EQ knob to get it sounding better in settings where you can't crank it.
The Orange Crush 35RT is best if you're looking for an affordable and easy to use rock and roll friendly amplifier.
Roland JC-22 Jazz Chorus
Andy Summers, Jeff Buckley, Larry Coryell and Albert King are just a few of the many guitarists who utilized a Roland Jazz Chorus. And their good opinion about the amp is shared by many users, making the Roland JC amps a popular clean tone choice for various styles of music, from rock to funk.
The JC-22 in particular is a more compact member of the Jazz Chorus family, a 30W combo amp with two 6.5" speakers. The dual speakers allow for the amp's signature stereo features including stereo input, stereo reverb, stereo effects loop and of course it comes with Roland's Dimensional Space Chorus effect.
- 30 Watts
- 2 x 6.5" Speaker
- 3-Band EQ
- Stereo Chorus, Reverb Effects
- Foot-Switchable Chorus and Reverb, Stereo Effects Loop
- Stereo Input (2 x 1/4" - left/mono, right)
Being part of Roland's JC amp series, expectations are quite high for this relatively small amp. Thankfully, the Roland JC-22 exceeds the expectations of many users, as seen on many reviews. Many are happy with its overall voicing. In addition, many are surprised by how loud this amp can be, with some users reporting having gigged with the amp from small to big (with the amp miked) venues. Durability and reliability are also commended often.
While there aren't any complaints about existing features, there are a few who wish for aux input. There are also some reports of the amp does not working well with distortion pedals.
If you're looking for a lightweight, great sounding and reliable solid state amp for your clean tone needs, then check out the JC-22.
Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus
The Roland JC-120 is the flagship model of the Jazz Chorus amp line, and it continues to be in demand long after it was first released back in 1975. As such, this amp commands a premium price, but it is still something that many are happily and willingly paying for.
Rated at 120W, with a pair of 12" speakers in tow, this combo amp is loud enough to handle the volume requirements of most venues. And it does so while faithfully reproducing the amp's distinctly clear sounding clean tone. Interestingly, this particular model comes with a dedicated channel with built-in distortion, although that's not what most users will buy or use this amp for. Wrapping up its features are stereo inputs and 3-band EQ for each channel, built-in reverb and chorus, and dedicated footswitch ports for the reverb, distortion and chorus effects.
- 120 Watts
- Two 12” Speakers
- 3-Band EQ Per Channel
- Two Channels (Normal/Effect)
- Chorus, Vibrato, and Tremolo
- Headphone Out
- Line Out
Market response continues to be positive, with some users going as far as claiming that the Roland JC-120 is the best solid state amp for clean tone. Despite its lack of modern DSP features, there are many who commend the JC-120 for being versatile, in that it accepts different pedals well, and works with a variety of musical styles. Some even commend it for non-guitar instruments like keyboards and synthesizers. There amp's chorus effect is also praised often. Finally, as a testament to its road worthiness, there are reviewers who still give top scores even after decades of using their JC-120.
It goes without saying that this amp is heavy and is a bit too loud for many guitar players. It is also bit limited in feature compared to modern amplifiers of the same price range.
If you want a tour ready solid state amp with great sounding cleans, then this should be high on your list.
The Best Solid State Modeling Guitar Amps (Mid-to-High End)
Well known for their guitar pedals, Boss injected their brand of versatility, quality, durability and intuitive control into their line of Katana amp. In particular, the Katana-50, a 50W 1x12" combo amp with built-in power attenuator and effects, is making waves in the entry level market.
This amp comes with built-in Boss effects, which are developed using the same technology found on their guitar processors. Up to 15 of them can be saved on the amp from a total of 55 available, all done via USB connection. There are also five amp voicings, which include the usual clean, crunch and lead, along with brown voicing (high gain '80s rock sound) and acoustic (emulates acoustic amplifiers). Another cool feature of this amp is its attenuator, which lets you switch between 50W, 25W and 0.5W to make it easier to drive the amp at lower volume levels. Finally The Katana-50 has the same minimalistic and sturdy appeal as their pedals, while having enough sonic flexibility.
- 50 / 25 / 0.5 Watts
- 12" Speaker
- 3-Band EQ
- Up 15 Effects Saved, 55 Total Effects Selection
- 1 Foot-Switchable Port for Channel Select or Expression Pedal
- Software Control via USB
Most reviewers attribute their high ratings to the amp's versatility. There are reports of it being used to great effect in various music styles and venues of different sizes. It even works well for low volume practice, thanks to its 0.5W attenuation setting. With its flexibility, many users feel that they are getting much more for the money they spent, some even proclaim that the Boss Katana-50 is the best value guitar amp in its price range. It also gets a lot of thumbs up for its sound, even from those who have minor complaints can't help but compliment its sound.
Even with so many features on board, there still a few customers who wish for extras like more user presets, and more control options on the amp itself. Speaking of controls, there are some who feel that the amp is too dependent on a computer for tweaking.
With its built-in attenuation, effects and amp voicings, the Boss Katana-50 is a true all-in-one amplifier that any guitarist will appreciate.
Fender Champion 100
Rated at 100W with dual 12" speakers, the Fender Champion 100 is quite a catch in its price range. It has more than enough juice to handle medium to large venues, while still priced below other similarly spec'ed amps. More importantly, it carries with it the old school Fender Blackface clean tone, matched with classic aesthetics.
The amp's second channel gives you 16 different amp voices to choose from, with varying flavors of overdrive up to high gain distortion. There are also 16 effects to choose from to further taylor your sound. And like other Fender Champion amps, all these features are easily accessible via intuitive knobs instead of having to go through complex menus.
- 100 Watts
- 2 x 12" Speaker
- 2-Band EQ (Channel 1) / 3-Band EQ (Channel 2)
- 16 Effects and 16 Amp Voicings (Channel 2)
- Two Button Foot-Switch included
- Effects Loop, Headphones Out
Many reviewers are simply blown away at how loud and good sounding this amp is, describing this amp as a great buy. Being a Fender amp, expectation for its Blackface clean tone is high, thankfully it meets the expectation of most users. Surprisingly, there are even players who are impressed with its amp voicings and effects. Other compliments point to the amp's build quality, old school appeal and relatively lighter weight for a 100W amp.
There are a few who are not too happy with its high-gain tones, while others feel that some of the effects are of lower quality compared to others. User requested additions include a dedicated reverb knob, and an extension speaker out.
The Fender Champion 100 is a 100W amp that combines modern versatility and classic Fender cleans. An easy recommendation for those who are looking for a budget friendly and gig-ready amp.
Roland Blues Cube Hot 30
Roland is one of the biggest names in digital music for a reason: they have a level of understanding digital instruments and accessories that far eclipses its competition. They’re constantly pushing the boundaries of digital equipment, and there’s no better reflection of this than the Blues Cube Hot 30.
This amp features Roland's “Tube Logic” technology, which combines analog circuitry with digital technology to better reproduce a tube amp’s response. Another noteworthy feature is its built-in power attenuator, which lets you lower the power rating from 30W, down to 0.5 W, so you can drive the preamp even at lower volumes. Other features include EQ, reverb and a boost function that can be controlled via footswitch.
- 30 Watts
- 12” Speaker
- Three-Band EQ
- Foot-Switchable Boos
- USB Output for Recording
Sound quality is consistently complimented in reviews. Some even comment that the Roland Blues Cube Hot 30 is the most tube amp sounding solid state amp that they have tried. Even experts like Nick Guppy of Music Radar have a similar sentiment, concluding that the amp "sounds and responds like a top boutique valve amp, with none of the valve drawbacks". Build quality and reliability also gets a lot of positive mentions. The amp's built-in power attenuator is also well appreciated.
While it does come with reverb, there's not much else to play with. So this is not ideal for those who want sonic versatility.
Solid state technology has come a long way in terms of sound quality, and the Roland Blues Cube Hot 30 is a great example to test out.
Things to Consider When Buying a Solid State Guitar Amp
A commonly held belief is that tube amps are louder than solid state amps, and while that is sometimes true it’s not a guarantee. This belief is held because when solid state amps are turned up they “hard clip”. Hard clipping is a more aggressively distorted sound, like what you’d get with a distortion pedal but a bit less musical. Tube amplifiers “soft clip” which is a bit more musical sounding.
There are also other factors which can influence volume, chief among them being the efficiency of the speakers. The majority of components in an amplifier have a part in changing the tone and volume you get. With that being said, as a rule solid state amplifiers are generally going to be quieter than their tube counterparts. Just keep in mind that the best solid state guitar amps are built with quality components, so the difference in volume between a high-end solid state amplifier and a high-end tube amp isn’t going to be overly dramatic.
With that being said, for budget minded solid state amplifiers (the Fender Frontman springs to mind here) you’re going to want to make sure you have at least 100 watts on hand. This will give you plenty of head room during a gig, so you won’t have to worry about your amp distorting in a non-musical way.
Because the technology of a solid state amplifier is more affordable, most cheaper amps are solid state. Because of this, solid state technology has gotten a reputation of sounding bad because its generally used in cheaper amplifiers. However, given the prevalence of solid state amplifiers in a variety of different musicians’ rigs they obviously can’t sound bad all the time.
Imagine a situation where you had two amplifiers that were essentially the same, with one being a solid state amplifier and one being a tube (obviously this isn’t really possible, so it’s just a hypothetical). The main difference you’d experience in this situation is that the solid state would have a quicker response. Notes would feel like they were literally leaping out of your amp. The tone you’d get would also be very articulate and clear. A tube amp wouldn’t have quite as much immediacy in its attack, but the notes would have a higher representation of overtones and a more organic flavor. This would of course be at the expense of some articulation.
Tube amps also tend to handle distortion better, but this is also more of a generality than a hard and fast rule. If you’re using pedals to get your distortion, odds are you’re going to get just as good of a tone out of a high-end solid state amplifier that you’d get from a tube amp.
Speaker size is a metric you can use to get an idea of the response an amp is going to have in different frequency ranges. A smaller speaker (6-10”) is going to have a clearer voice that emphasizes treble frequencies, while a larger speaker (15”) is going to be more bass heavy. Most amps are in the middle at 12”, because a 12” speaker is generally considered to have a pleasing response across the board.
However, the size of a speaker isn’t the sole factor that decides the frequency response of an amplifier. Frequency response, just like overtones and volume, is influenced by every component in your amp.
Do Built-In Effects Matter?
If you want an amp with a lot of built in effects you’re going to want to go with a modeling amplifier. With that being said, the only built in effect you’re really going to need is reverb. Most solid state amps don’t have the best distortion/overdrive circuits built in (with high-end solid state amplifiers being the exception), so they’re not really a must have. However, most solid state amps do come with distortion. The distortion you get from these amps generally isn’t going to knock your socks off, but it will be serviceable enough until you get a distortion or overdrive pedal.
And while modeling amps may be cool, they’re not really going to be necessary for most musicians. Their main appeal is their versatility, so if you only really need one core sound you’re not going to stand to benefit overly much from the different effects and amp sims a modeling amp has on hand.
Why Should I Get a Solid State Amp Instead of a Tube Amp?
The main selling point of a solid state amplifier is that they’re more reliable and easier to maintain than a tube amplifier. You can also play them at a quieter volume while retaining good tone. Tube amplifiers, due to the nature of how tubes function, generally need a larger amount of power (which produces more volume) in order to sound their best.
While reliability is definitely a plus, something that a lot of musician don’t know is that the best solid state amps can actually sound pretty good in their own right. If you use a lot of pedals the complex overtones and frequency response of a tube amp has the potential to make your tone muddy and unfocused. This isn’t a guarantee by any means, but it is a possibility.
Think of your tone like a sandwich. You have your bread, meat, cheese, and leafy greens. In this metaphor, your frequency response is like different sauces. A presence of overtones that works toward your desired tone is like putting a bit of mayo and/or mustard on your sandwich. Too many overtones for a given situation is like throwing on mustard, mayo, ketchup, soy sauce, and vinegar. All of those things are good on their own, but when combined they result in an unfocused mess.
Best Solid State Amp Selection Methodology
First published on May 26, 2017 and last updated on May 15, 2019 by Alexander Briones with contributions from Mason Hoberg.
Solid state guitar amplifiers is a broad market, especially when considering the many variations that are available. So we limited our scope to only include popular and highly rated combo amps that can be readily bought via major US music equipment retailers.
Even with the said limitation, we ended up with a not so short list of over 40 combo amps. We then analyzed relevant ratings and reviews, including the most recent ones up to May of 2019, summing up to over 10,800 data sources. The Gearank algorithm did the rest, giving us scores that better represent actual market sentiment, which we then used to narrow down the list to just the cream of the crop. Finally, we divided the list by budget, and added a section for solid state amps with built-in amp modeling. For more information about this process see How Gearank Works.