The 10 Best Guitar Amps

Updated December 30, 2017 by Daniel Imperiale

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We spent 39 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top selections for this wiki. Although none of them go up to 11, we are pretty confident that one of the guitar amps on our list will deliver the perfect level of sound and quality of tone for whatever venue or style you need to play. We've ranked them here by their tonal expressiveness and flexibility, durability, control options, and ease of use. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best guitar amp on Amazon.

10. Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus

The separate 60-watt power amps inside the Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus allow the unit to easily create a true stereo chorus effect. It's a popular sound that you're liable to hear on a large number of contemporary indie rock records.
  • great clean tone for jazz musicians
  • bright setting has too much treble
  • distortion isn't that impressive
Brand Roland
Model JC-120
Weight 76.1 pounds
Rating 3.7 / 5.0

9. Vox VT40X Valvetronix

The Vox VT40X Valvetronix utilizes the subtle drive from a vacuum tube multi-stage preamp circuit as the foundation for its impressive modeling capabilities. It can recreate a slew of specific sounds from vintage British rockers, and can easily store user presets.
  • proprietary app
  • 40-watts out from 10-inch speaker
  • may be too complicated for some
Brand Vox
Model VT40X
Weight 24.3 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

8. Fender '65 Deluxe Reverb

The Fender '65 Deluxe Reverb pumps out 22 watts of classic tone with natural, all-tube reverb and vibrato effects that'll reproduce the sounds of your favorite records from the '60s. It comes with a two-button foot switch controller.
  • 12-inch 8-ohm jensen speaker
  • silver grille cloth
  • limited clean headroom
Brand Fender
Model 217400000
Weight 48.4 pounds
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

7. Marshall AS100D

If you play an acoustic in venues that require a little extra push, the Marshall AS100D can give you that and more. It's a 2 x 8 stereo combo amplifier with enough channels and XLR inputs to double for a voice or a mic'd axe.
  • extensive effects options
  • 50 watts of power per side
  • very heavy to transport
Brand Marshall Amps
Model AS100D
Weight 60.8 pounds
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

6. Orange Dark Terror 15

You may be surprised by the warmth of the Orange Dark Terror 15, especially as it comes from a brand whose distortion usually runs to the harsher end of the spectrum. Though you can still dial up some serious, shredding tone with this one.
  • enough power for most live settings
  • built-in effects loop
  • not the most protective housing
Brand Orange
Weight 16.2 pounds
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

5. Marshall M-JVM-205H-U

Quite possibly the most useful feature of the Marshall M-JVM-205H-U is its ability to program channel settings that you can recall with the stomp of a foot switch. If you have songs in your set that each require drastically different sounds, this is a great choice.
  • equipped with seven valves
  • knobs for presence and resonance
  • feeds back a lot in some situations
Brand Marshall
Model M-JVM205H-U
Weight 42.8 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

4. Line 6 DT-25

While usually well-regarded for their abilities to model other amplifiers, the company behind the Line 6 DT-25 apparently wanted this unit to stand on its own, as it offers none of the typical sound profiles of other brands, but has a sweet tone of its own.
  • pentode and triode modes
  • three output impedance levels
  • low volume setting
Brand Line 6
Model 99-021-0716
Weight 36 pounds
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

3. Marshall JCM 900

There aren't a lot of options on the market that are more recognizable than the Marshall JCM 900, as it's been used by the most popular guitarists in live and studio settings for decades. It's incredibly powerful and reliable.
  • reverb controls on each channel
  • three-band eq with presence
  • foot switch included
Brand Marshall
Model JCM900
Weight 48.3 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

2. Vox AC30C2

Easily one of the most versatile and sought-after combo models on the market, the Vox AC30C2 offers high- and low-power outputs on both its normal and top boost channels, giving you significant differences in tone and volume before you even touch the dials.
  • three carrying handles
  • incredible natural warmth
  • smooth tremolo effect
Brand Vox
Model AC30C2
Weight 78.6 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

1. Orange AD30 Twin Channel

Described by some as an amplifier that defies the laws of physics, the Orange AD30 Twin Channel provides you with a pair of tones that somehow perform with both a pleasant warmth and a devastating crunch. Most importantly, however, is that this thing gets very loud.
  • compact design is easy to transport
  • 8- and 16-ohm speaker outs
  • made in england
Brand Orange
Model AD30HTC
Weight 40.8 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

A Boy's First Amp

Most guitarists begin their studies on an acoustic guitar, usually a Spanish-style guitar with nylon strings and a small, lightweight body. The nylon strings are a little more traditional and a bit easier to depress with small fingers for most young guitarists, or for any guitarist who hasn't yet built up the hand strength to handle steel.

He or she might even graduate to an acoustic guitar with steel strings long before ever obtaining an amplifier for the acoustics in question, let alone an electric guitar to plug into it. And who are the heroes of the guitar? For the last 50 years it's been Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, and Tom Morello, to name just a few innovative names. All of these players made their reputations on electric guitars pumping through amplifiers, and at least one of them–or one like them–is likely the reason you picked up a guitar in the first place.

When I started playing, all I wanted was an electric guitar. I got the starter kit with the nylon acoustic and all its trappings, and I hated it. It had no edge, no danger. Then, after a year or so of saving, I bought some Frankenstein's monster of a guitar with parts from a dozen different breeds and a tiny little nameless amp to go with it.

It worked like all amps: the guitar in my hands translated the vibrations from its strings through magnetic pickups into a voltage that traveled through the guitar's wiring and out the main 1/4" cable, then the amp picked up the signal and sent it through a coil of wire around a much larger magnet than those in the pickups, and the vibrations of that magnet shook the cone of the speaker, producing sound. The specific vibrations corresponding to those voltages created specific frequencies of vibration through the air, and my 10-year-old ears were hooked.

No Amp Too Small

If you're getting your amp for the purposes of playing out with a band, it's very tempting to invest in a large amplifier, whether that means a big combo or a half-stack (don't even mention a full stack). I get it; it's what the pros use when they're rocking out at festivals. The reality there is that the vast majority of the time, whenever you see a guitarist with a wall of sound, it's comprised mainly of dummy cabs with no actual speakers. It's for the look.

In reality, arenas and festival grounds are the only places where anything bigger than a half stack would make sense. In smaller venues, the problem is always the same: amps can't be louder then the drums or the vocals. Listen to any good recording of your favorite bands and you'll notice that the kick drum, snare drum, and vocals are the highest in the mix. If you don't replicate this live the songs sound lost and washed out.

Wherever you play you're going to run into one of three sound setups: a full PA, a partial PA, or no PA capacity beyond vocal mics. The PA (Public Address system) is the primary sound system in any venue. A full PA has the board space and amplification capabilities to allow a sound engineer to apply a dedicated microphone to every instrument, amplifier, and drum head, as well as the cymbal spaces.

A partial PA is harder to define, but it's essentially any PA system that doesn't have the capacity to mic your whole band. More often than not, in these situations, mics end up on the kick drum and snare drum for the reasons outlined above. In this case, it does help to have a little extra juice in your amplifier, but try to keep it tamed, nonetheless.

Then, there are the venues where all you get is a vocal mic or two, where you're left to curate your sound all by yourselves. This category accounts for the vast majority of places a young band will play, and if you can hone your tone here you can hone it anywhere. What's most important is that you keep your amps low enough to allow the drummer to play at about 80% intensity. That way, the audience can actually hear all those important vocals, and when your drummer kicks it up to 100%, and you stomp on your distortion pedal, the audience will actually feel a shift.

All this is to say that you don't need to worry about getting your hands on a large amp. Small amps perform better for the overall sound of your band in most venues, and any venue big enough for you to need more volume is going to mic your amp anyway, giving you all the juice you'd need. So, as you look at the amps on our list, you can evaluate them based on their EQ options, their effects, and, frankly, their look.

All Amped Up

Early guitar amplifiers didn't come around until the 1930s, spurred on by developments in electrolytic capacitors and rectifier tubes, as well as by an explosive interest in Hawaiian music and its metal lap steel guitars, which sounded best when miked or amplified.

By the 1950s, guitarists and audio engineers set about altering the sounds of these amplifiers, employing effects, intentionally overdriving the amps to create a natural distortion, and more. In the mid 1960's The Kinks famously took razor blades to the grilles of their amps to create a unique distortion effect.

Solid state systems grew in popularity in the 80s and 90s, as the digitization of audio signals posed a more reliable and less expensive alternative to tube amplification. In recent years, however, many guitarists have been willing to fork over a little extra scratch to get their hands and their ears on the sounds of the past, on the warm tones that the computers can't seem to capture.

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Last updated on December 30, 2017 by Daniel Imperiale

Daniel is a writer, actor, and director living in Los Angeles, CA. He spent a large portion of his 20s roaming the country in search of new experiences, taking on odd jobs in the strangest places, studying at incredible schools, and making art with empathy and curiosity.

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