Valves, digital, analogue with digital control… Every possible form of guitar and bass amp has been covered this year, with great strides being made across the board, from shrinking down classics (Peavey 6505 Piranha) to bigger gig-ready combos (Blackstar ID:Core 100) and mini-valve technology (Vox Nutube).
Here’s what you can expect this year – whatever the next 12 months brings, it’s bound to sound good…
Orange 10th Anniversary Tiny Terror
After 10 years of the lunchbox revolution-inducing Tiny Terror, the amp is set to be discontinued – the 10th Anniversary ‘Shiny Terror’ commemorates its great service, with handwired point-to-point construction and a polished stainless steel chassis, while the cab comes in British Racing Green with 10” Celestion G10 Alnico Gold speakers.
Laney’s new range offers the ability to blend the amount of output section in a guitarist's signal by balancing the amount of preamp distortion vs power amp gain using the master output control – it’s an innovative take on a classic idea.
State-of-the-art Japanese production has allowed Vox to shrink traditional valves to 30% of their original size and consume only 2% of the power.
This 150-watt head is only a prototype, but it sounded rather good on the show floor, we must say.
Blackstar ID:Core 100
Blackstar’s ID:Core line has been a runaway success, so the company has seen fit to release two gig-ready combos: a 100-watt and 150-watt.
Both amps utilise guitar rather than full-range speakers, and add an impressive polyphonic pitch-shifter and fully functioned looper – when the amps hit in May, they’re expected to hit around the £220 and £299 mark. Unbelievable value for money, that.
Friedman Butterslax Bill Kelliher Signature head
Mastodon tonehound Bill Kelliher has unveiled his signature amp head with Dave Friedman: it has three channels, a clear and defined distortion and a $3,899 price tag.
Line 6 AMPLIFi 30
Line 6 is calling this “the world’s most innovative compact amp”, and with a colossal range of tones, phone/tablet integration and a four-way stereo speaker setup, we aren’t going to argue.
Peavey 6505 Piranha Micro Head
A teeny tiny 20-watt head that aims to mimic the crushing output of Peavey’s longstanding metal behemoth, the 6505, all for just $179 – Peavey also launched a fairly niche 6505 subwoofer, which sounds ridiculously heavy in person.
Six different Bluetooth-equipped amps, packing 20 watts of output via one preamp valve and a solid-state power amp, plus clean and overdrive channels? For under $200? Joyo delivers.
Stone Deaf SD50
All analogue valve amps with digital control is the name of Stone Deaf’s game, and the SD50 offers switchable wattage, a pair of channels and up to 32 presets, as well as MIDI switching – we also love the diddy eight-watt version, the SD8, too (below).
Marshall CODE series
Marshall’s latest step into virtual territory sees its pair up with Softube for this Bluetooth-enabled amp range, with models of Marshall’s greatest amps, a USB output and app integration – should be good.
Hughes & Kettner TubeMeister Deluxe 20 & 40
Two new models join the successful H&K TM range, both with completely overhauled voicings, plus a new Red Box AE DI out, which features FRFR technology – the first time such a feat has been achieved in a valve amp.
Orange 4 Stroke 300 & 500
The first Class A/B power amp-equipped bass amps in the Orange line are all-analogue, featuring a four-band parametric EQ with cut and boost, plus line outputs and direct recording capability.
Victory V22 & V44 The Sheriff
A pair of British-voiced heads from the rapidly growing UK company, The Sheriffs offer two channels each, from 60s blues-rock leads to 70s hard rock and beyond.
Blackstar Fly Bass
The world’s finest micro amp gets a bass incarnation, which serves up a compressor, plus a sub volume to enhance low-end feel at low volumes – this should be available from May for £49.
Vox AV series
Also on display at Vox was the AV series, with eight distinct analogue preamp circuits driven by 12AX7-powered preamp and power amp sections, resulting in affordable yet flexible all-analogue valve sounds.
Magnatone Panoramic Stereo
Magnatone’s renaissance goes from strength to strength, with the new Panoramic Stereo delivering true stereo vibrato in a more portable package, bolstered by four EL84s and two 10-inch speakers.
Victory’s stand also showed off the BD1, a black-finished version of Rob Chapman’s RD1, offering 28 watts from a pair of fixed-bias EL84 output valves, with a single channel offering everything from clean to break-up and full-on overdrive.
A combo version of Orange’s well-received OB1 series, the OB1-300 packs a 15-inch Eminence speaker, as well as a distinctive blend circuit for tones that mimic a clean/dirty dual-amp rig.
Line 6 Firehawk 1500
A 1,500-watt (yes, 1,500) combo with six speakers, the Firehawk packs Line 6’s HD models, controllable via the Firehawk Remote app – true stereo sound and compatibility with acoustic guitars make this a formidable onstage proposition.
Magnatone Super Fifty-Nine MK II
Boasting “clean to scream and everything in between”, this 45-watt combo looks the business, and its true pitch-shifting vibrato, tremolo and pair of inputs should ensure versatility from its EL34 power amp.
Blackstar Fly 3 Union Jack
Just to round things off, here’s a look at the limited-edition UK version of Blackstar’s perennially popular Fly 3 micro amp – it’s not for everyone, but pretty cool nonetheless.