Worried about buying an amp online without playing it first? You needn’t be. Online music instrument retailers like Thomann, Sweetwater and Sam Ash offer hassle-free returns as standard, so you can purchase an amp, play it in the comfort and privacy of your home and, if it’s not for you, send it back with ease. Check the specific returns policy for your chosen retailer before you purchase, but most offer between 30-45 days to return an item, as long as it’s in original condition.
Buying the best guitar amp for you is pretty much the toughest gear decision any guitarist will make. Finding your next electric guitar is not easy either, but there’s just something about a guitar that lets you know it’s the one. An amplifier? With so much to consider it’s a much harder choice to make.
Finding the right amp for your needs is crucial. Bad guitars can sound incredible through great amps, but a duff amp will make a great guitar sound totally average. Not only that, but an amplifier’s tones and its response can really make the difference with your playing. Our advice? If you find an amp that you get along with, don’t let that thing out of your sight!
In this guide we’ve chosen 17 of what we think are the best guitar amps you can buy right now, listed in price order to help you choose the right amplifier for your budget. You’ll find something for all styles here, for all occasions and in a variety of formats, ranging from high-powered amp heads, to combos and super-portable pedalboard options.
We’ve also compiled some useful buying advice where we look at some of the considerations you should make when choosing your next amp. Hit the ‘buying advice’ button above to head straight there, or keep scrolling to get to our top picks.
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Best guitar amps: Our top picks
We’ve actually got two top picks for best amp right now. The Fender ’68 Princeton Reverb offers some of the sweetest Fender tones you’ll hear. Tune in for pristine, shimmering cleans that break up nicely, with onboard spring reverb and tremolo to sweeten your tone further. It’s ideal for small gigs, recording and manageable enough for the home – especially if your dirt comes via a pedal.
The Victory VC35 The Copper is a single-channel, 35-watt lunchbox head serving up a sumptuous smorgasbord of rock and blues tones – the VC35 has got the sort of performance that invokes the “B” word. With an EL84 power section and a NOS EF184 pentode the flavour is very much British, with that winsome musical chime that calls to mind vintage Vox amps. Lovely stuff.
Best guitar amps: Product guide
Where to start with the Spark 40? Well, it just stops short of cooking your dinner, but it has most other essential functions covered – and a few more besides. Its core centres around Positive Grid’s BIAS Tone Engine modelling tech, which allows it to put together a formidable collection of amp models and cover all bases tone-wise.
Altogether are 30 amp models to choose from, and 40 effects, so it’s punching big numbers already in the context of desktop amp functionality, but with the accompanying app, the Spark offers a transformative experience. It may well change how you think about guitar amplification.
The Spark’s Smart Jam feature allows you to play some chords or a riff and the amp will generate a backing track for you to play to. Who needs friends? Auto Chord allows you to stream music from your mobile device to the Spark and it will transpose the chords so you can play along. As a learning and practice tool, it doesn’t get much better.
There are outputs for recording and silent practice. Sure, it’s 100 percent digital, but it feels analogue, and crucially it sounds great at low volumes. When you crank the Spark, its dual 4” speaker setup fills the room with a sound that has no right to be so three-dimensional.
Early adopters of the Spark have experienced some shipping delays, but things appear to be improving rapidly. Check here for the latest updates on shipping times.
Read the full Positive Grid Spark 40 review
Yamaha’s THR series remains groundbreaking. It looked to dress the guitar amplifier in home audio stylings, pack it with digital functionality that – crucially – was rooted in the feel and response of valve amplifiers, and make it portable.
Well, amps don’t get much more portable than the THR30 II Wireless. It can be operated via the 15V DC power supply, or, alternatively, charge it up and take it out with you to enjoy 15 watts of stereo solid-state power in the park, by the beach, on top of a skyscraper a la U2. Whatever you like.
It is bundled with Cubase AI, has a very respectable complement of onboard effects, and with headphones and USB outputs it is a sound option for home recording and late-night practice sessions. It also looks so good you could leave it in the living room without getting a ticking off.
Read the full Yamaha THR30 II review
When Blackstar launched its Silverline series, it was as though digital modelling amplifiers had grown up, bought their first suit and got a real job. The “B” word was invoked, and with good reason, because the grey-silver on grey designs, the feature-set, the seriousness, make everyone stop for a minute and consider their options.
With the Silverline, there are many. If you like the idea of the Silverline but aren’t looking for a head, the range also includes the 20W Standard 1x10”, the 50W Special 1x12”, the 100W Deluxe 1x12”, and the 2x100W Stereo Deluxe 2x12” combos.
The setup and look on each is similar, with Blackstar's SHARC processing tech under the hood to keep the tones legit. There are effects, programmable settings, and TVP tech allowing you to select the power-tube emulation you prefer. They look and sound like real valve amps, but have all the mod cons that tomorrow’s player needs today. Credible, convincing, state-of-the-art.
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The Katana series has been a front-to-back triumph for Boss, packing a handful of amp models into small formats, loading them up with onboard effects and a heap of contemporary features and making them available at an accessible price.
This Artist MkII combo is the flagship model, and while we’d happily endorse any of the Katana MkII amps, the additional MIDI functionality and an upgraded Waza Craft speaker is a big selling point.
For a digital amplifier, the front panel is reassuringly familiar. Think of it as a five-channel amplifier, with five amp modes, but with two modes on each model it expands your tone options dramatically. This will do bell-like cleans, searing high-gain chug, and all in between, and with Boss’s Tube Logic architecture, it all feels and sounds convincing. The onboard effects are top-grade and you can get more online via the Tone Studio library. There’s a rabbit hole to fall into, but chasing usable tones is a breeze.
There is a reason why the Blues Junior tops the best-seller charts for valve-amp combos. Its USP is putting classic Fender tones into a super-affordable package that’s portable, fuss-free and is tooled for our present moment where we want great tube tones at low volumes and pedalboard compatibility.
But even before you bring your ‘board into play, the tight low-end and sparkling high-end of the Blues Junior will put a spell on you. The FAT switch is an act of modest genius, doing exactly what you’d imagine it would, widening the frequencies and adding a beer gut to your single-coil tone.
The FAT switch is really the only thing you’ll find on the control panel that requires explanation, otherwise the Blues Junior is just a straight-up, fuss-free combo, and, dare we say it, a modern classic. Drive it hard and you’ll enter blues-rock nirvana.
Read the full Fender Blues Junior IV review
Offering plenty of change from a grand, Blackstar’s HR-20R MkII is a mid-priced valve combo that does a very good impression of an amp retailing at two or three times the price. It is a two-channel amp with footswitchable overdrive voicings, and an uncanny ability to play the field tonally.
The clean channel is a simple affair with a solitary tone control and a volume, with modes for scooped US tone – think Fender et al – and a quintessentially British mode with tight mids and treble chime.
You could get lost in the cleans, adding a splash of reworked digital reverb that now sounds studio-quality. But don’t forget you’ve got an overdrive channel with Classic and High Gain voicings that will take you from classic ‘70s rock crunch through to contemporary metal. And all this from one package. It’s loud enough for the stage but you can power down to 2 watts for bedroom shredding. It’s a remarkable feat of amp building.
Read the full Blackstar HT-20R MkII review
Like the best innovations in guitar technology, the Thomas Blug’s Amp1 keeps all the clever stuff hidden from sight, allowing players to concentrate on what is frankly difficult enough – playing the guitar.
But the Amp1 really is clever. It’s the size of a multi-delay unit, you can throw it in a bag and take it wherever, and yet offers you four channels, 100W of Class D power, with some analogue mojo fairy dust by way of a sub-miniature Russian twin triode.
Simply select which channel you want – Clean, Vintage, Classic, Modern – and dial in your tone via the 3-band EQ and volume, master and gain controls. It’s just like a real amp, and that’s the point – it is. This is the shape of amps to come.
Partner it with the Remote1 footswitch you can access all four channels, boost and reverb via MIDI, plus add an ancillary master volume and adjustable power soak. You can save your settings down and use them as you might in a pedalboard. This is a futuristic amp for those squeamish about apps, software and digital sterility.
Read the full BluGuitar Amp1 Mercury Edition review
The Duchess Pedal Amp assumes a similar form to Victory’s V4 series of pedal preamps, but it’s a fully functioning amplifier with a whopping Class D power stage that delivers 180 watts at 4 ohms, and a truly lush valve-driven preamp that makes damn sure you don’t mistake this as just some kind of practical option for the gigging musician.
Sure, it is practical, but it is the tones that will have the hair on the back of your neck standing to attention. Specifically, clean tones, and with a boutique low-gain tone profile like that, it should come as no surprise that the Duchess just loves overdrive pedals.
The enclosure is super-tough, powder-coated steel, with its complement of chickenhead knobs protected by a raised steel kick bar. A single footswitch turns the tremolo on and off. For itinerant players, this could be the ultimate amp.
Read the full Victory V4 The Duchess review
The Fender Princeton Reverb has long been considered the Goldilocks option for those looking for an all-valve combo with manageable volume, but one that’s loud enough for small shows.
There is a reasonable amount of headroom on offer, with its bell-like cleans mother’s milk to blues and country players, and as you crank up the volume you’ll find a gritty breakup that’s warm, musical and addictive.
This ’68 reissue comes with the silver-panel and aluminium grille cloth trim. Under the hood it has been tweaked by Fender so it will take pedals better, with negative feedback reduced to enhance its response and bring on overdrive that little bit quicker. Under the hood you’ll find hand-wired valve sockets and custom-made Schumacher transformers. The tube-driven reverb and tremolo is divine.
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The new-ish AC15 'Twin' retains the all-important dual-EL84, cathode-biased output section of its forebear, but otherwise it's very different. A quick scan across the top panel reveals two inputs for independent access to either normal or top boost channels.
One benefit of the bigger, 2x12 enclosure is that it provides ample room for a full-length reverb tank, housed in the bottom. There's also an in-built tremolo effect, with controls for depth and speed.
But the whole point of this amp is the pair of 25-watt Celestion G12M Greenback speakers. They are the speaker of rock in so many cases and while purists might hope for Celestion Blues, they would add a fair amount to the price; and the increased power handling of two Greenbacks on the end of just 15 watts is quite a tantalising prospect.
It's fair to say that even with the master volume set-up, the magic doesn't really start happening until the amp's lungs are at least half way open, but happily, that's not far from perfect for many of today's pub and bar gigs – it may even be too much for some.
Read the full Vox AC15C2 review
Sometimes you have to split the atom with a saturated level of gain that would violate health and safety in pretty much all other contexts, and that’s an occasion where you’d hope to find the EVH 5150III on the backline.
This amp bears Edward Van Halen’s initials on the front, so take it as read that you can access that harmonically volatile weekend rock tone, but dime the lead channel and you’ll have all the gain you need for contemporary metal too.
And yet, there’s subtlety and complexity to be found here – even at the extremes. The 5150III’s gain is rich in harmonics. It is dynamic, and with the EL34 power tubes it takes on the tonal character of a hyper-trophied Marshall Plexi. This is guitar tone as spectacle, a roman candle of overdrive with a very usable clean channel.
Read the full EVH 5150III 50W EL34 review
The Rocker 32’s secret weapon is its stereo capabilities courtesy of two output stages and a mono out/stereo in valve-buffered effects loop – and it’s this that opens the door to some tantalising effects possibilities. It also features a half-power option incorporated into the front panel standby switch.
The enamel control panel follows Orange’s classic 1970s ‘graphics only’ format, using pictograms to describe the control functions. The Dirty channel includes gain, bass, mid, treble and master volume controls, while the clean Natural channel has a single volume control. The Natural channel may only have a single volume control, but it’s perfectly dialled in to flatter practically any guitar and it sounds wonderful, with a glassy treble giving way to an addictive chime at higher volume levels.
The Dirty channel’s gain control has a very wide range, allowing fine control of moderately driven sounds, with plenty of Dark Terror-approved filth at the top of its travel, making it ideal for everything from classic Brit rock and blues to modern metal.
Read the full Orange Rocker 32 review
You could go through the Victory lineup and find any number of contenders for a list such as this, but there is a timeless British quality to the Copper’s voicings that takes the cake.
The Copper deploys a NOS EF184 small-format pentode in the preamp that’s not dissimilar to the EF86 in early Vox amplifiers, and that harmonically rich treble and sumptuous dynamic response is there in spades.
But the Copper is more than just a throwback to Vox. If the ‘60s pop-jangle is its bread and butter, dialling up the gain finds something very musical that’s ideal for classic rock. Set clean and sweetened by the reverb, it has a quasi-American boutique vibe, and a response that feels just right for blues.
The Copper takes pedals well, it’s portable, and when you compare it to the overheated US market for deluxe amplification, it offers excellent value. The pricier Deluxe version has valve-driven spring reverb and tremolo.
Read the full Victory VC35 The Copper review
For many years, the Marshall Silver Jubilee was the amp that got away. Produced in limited numbers in 1987 to celebrate 50 years of Marshall, the Silver Jubilee is effectively a JCM800 that has been factory-modded to run a little hotter, and it was something of a minor tragedy that it never entered the always-in-production category its performance deserved.
This is the Appetite For Destruction tone, the Slash amplifier, and it’s one of the most rocking amplifiers Marshall has ever assembled. The 2555X head offers it in its original 100w/50w format but the 2525C feels a little more manageable for today’s player. It’s still brutally loud in its full 20W mode, but switchable to 5W, it puts that iconic crunch within reach of the world’s domesticated rock animals.
The gain structure on the Jubilee is something to behold but the Frusciante-esque cleans are not to be sniffed at either. It sounds good with pedals and will definitely stand up to most drummers. At 750-odd bucks, it represents excellent value. It’s a serious rock and metal metal amp.
Read the full Marshall 2525C Silver Jubilee Combo review
Based on Mesa's flagship Mark V, the Mark Five: 25 head is small, perfectly formed and typical of Mesa's superlative design and attention to detail. Two independent channels, each with three very different voice presets, combine with Mesa's iconic five-band graphic EQ for a choice of 12 sounds. You can footswitch between the channels, with the graphic on or off for quasi four-channel operation and preset 25 or 10 watts per channel.
One of the best features lives on the back panel: a CabClone speaker-emulated direct output, with a speaker defeat for silent recording or practice, using the built-in headphone socket. Despite the Mark Five: 25's long feature list, it's very easy to use and its tones are sensational.
The rhythm channel covers the shimmering clean tones of the modern Boogie and the fatter 'blackface'-inspired midrange of the fabled Mark I, while the Mark V crunch voice is so deep and three-dimensional you could record an entire album with it. The lead channel is equally inspiring, with a perfect rendition of the Mark IIC's overdrive tone (arguably the most coveted Boogie sound), along with more modern distortion effects that sound unbelievably good when tweaked with the graphic.
Read the full Mesa/Boogie Mark Five: 25 review
Lenny Kravitz was involved in the design of the 169RT Black Magick Reverb, and at his behest there is treble, there is reverb, and there is master volume. But, still, and Lenny would forgive us, the guitarist we think of when we think of the Black Magick is Jimmy Page, with the original Black Magick a replica of his old Supro Coronado.
Those Led Zeppelin tones wouldn’t just fall out of the box; you had to be generous with the volume, but with a master volume control and treble and bass replacing a master tone control, the 169RT Black Magick Reverb offers you a safer passage to those houses of the holy. Linking the channels opens up a new frontier in gain for this amp.
The tremolo has been improved, offering up to twice the rate of the original amps, while the valve-driven six-spring reverb allows for some subtle depth and space or a weekend’s surfing depending on how you set it.
Read the full Supro 169RT Black Magick Reverb review
Some Mesa/Boogie amps are set up for the inveterate seekers, players who crave options and lots of them, so the California Tweed feels like a change of pace. It is a simple, single-channel affair, with high and low-gain inputs on a simple front panel with controls for gain, presence, reverb and master volume and a 3-band EQ, and it offers instant access to the finest Tweed tones you can buy, all sauced by the sweetest valve-driven spring reverb.
A five-way rotary dial lets you switch up the California Tweed’s output, offering five different power outputs from a full 40 watts, where the headroom is gin clear, right down to 2 watts, where it is a little more squashed, ideal for the home, and full of Billy Gibbons’ Texas crunch when you dime the gain.
The California Tweed is breathtaking, a throwback to a golden era in guitar amplification, but very much built for today. It’d make a fine pedal platform, with a series effects loop and a Jensen Blackbird Alnico that can handle a lot of volume. Exceptional all round.
Read the full Mesa/Boogie California Tweed review
Best guitar amps: Buying advice
Head, combo, pedalboard: which format is right for you?
The question of head versus combo has been complicated in recent years by the dawn of the pedalboard amp – a guitar amp that’s housed in an enclosure the size of a small multi-effects unit, yet often powerful enough to replace your amp head.
With a pedalboard amp, the benefits are obvious. You can throw it in your backpack and off you go. They can also be incredibly versatile, with the likes of the four-channel format of BluGuitar’s Amp 1 offering a lot of tones for its size and price.
But this all depends on how important portability really is to you. The traditional amplifier head, which you would then hook up to an external speaker cabinet, remains a hugely appealing prospect, particularly if you have a speaker cabinet ready to go at home, and if you regularly pay for rehearsal space at a studio they’re sure to have a cabinet ready and waiting.
On the flipside, the combo is an amplifier and speaker all in one package. Size matters here. A small combo with a single 10-inch speaker can still be a significant burden to cart around, but for many of us, the convenience of having an all-in-one setup is too good an option to pass up, especially if it’s mostly going to be kept at home.
Valve amplifiers vs solid-state and digital amps
There will forever be tension between the desire for old-school valve amp tone and the ever-dependable reliability of a solid-state amplifier that uses transistors, diodes and so forth to amplify your signal.
This is further complicated by digital modelling technology that allows amplifiers to mimic the tonal characteristics and response of other styles of amplifiers.
You might well ask why the modelling amp isn’t the no-brainer choice here. After all, valve amps need servicing over time and you’ll invariably need to replace the valves at some stage along their lifespan. Furthermore, to get the valve amp sounding at its best it’ll typically need to be played at the upper limits of its capabilities – bad news for domestic and neighbourly bliss. They’re also heavier.
But then, with most of the R&D hours spent refining solid-state amplifier technology and developing digital modelling processors to replicate genuine valve amp tone, why not go straight to the source? Also, with many low-powered valve amps on the market, you have options for the home.
There is no right answer here, but it is worth bearing in mind that the gap between valve amp and digital tone is getting closer.
We said at the start that finding the best guitar amp for you is tough, and it is. We don’t talk enough about how we need to learn how to play the amplifier either – how to dial in the tones that suit us, and to tailor our playing accordingly for them.
Every amplifier will have its own response. Some amplifiers are unforgiving, with frequencies poking out when you don’t want them to, amplifying your mistakes and punishing sloppy playing, yet those same amplifiers can make an expert player’s chops really pop out.
Our list features amps from both sides of the spectrum.