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Rich, classic Fender sound
Beautiful, unique design
Only one channel
No master volume
Most guitarists know well the value of a tube amp—while the technology can feel old and sometimes finicky, there’s really no substitution for the sound of a high-quality tube being driven into rich, powerful overdrive. But most tube amps of old have an unfortunate quality of weighing a ton.
The Princeton Chorus is one of the most storied amps of all time, and Fender’s ‘68 custom update brings the small-amp tube goodness to the modern age. At 12 watts of tube power and featuring a 10-inch Celestion Ten 30 speaker, this is by no means the loudest or gnarliest amp available. But that vintage-inspired circuity gives you plenty of sparkly clean headroom, making this an ideal amp for guitar pedals and for bedroom players.
The hand-wired tube sockets that support 2 6V6 power tubes, 3 12AX7 preamp tubes and one 12AT7 preamp tubes actually do break up a little more quietly than the true ‘68 Princeton amp this remake is based on. That’s because Fender has chosen to reduce the negative feedback to intentionally give true amp overdrive at much lower volumes. And, because there’s a Late-’60s-inspired silver face panel with blue accents and a nice blue jewel indicator light, this amp looks the part, too.
Plenty of volume
Famous Fender tube sound
Two switchable channels
A little pricey
Finicky to repair
When people talk about the vintage Fender tube sound, the ‘65 Twin amp is almost certainly what they’re talking about. A lot of amp manufacturers have attempted to release vintage-emulating options, and many of them are gimmicky, but Fender isn’t one of these. From the Princetons to the Bassman amps, almost all of Fender’s reissues are not only painstaking attempts at recreating the circuitry and tube sound of the originals, they’re just plain cool. The Fender Twin ‘65 Reissue gives you two Jensen 12-inch speakers (hence the “Twin” name) and 85 watts of pure tube warmth all alongside that beautiful sizzle you only get by pushing a fender just past halfway. There are two channels onboard, tube-based vibrato, excellently implemented spring reverb and the classic blackface cosmetics of the ‘60s vintages. It’s an excellent amp if you’re looking to gig on that classic Fender sound.
Tons of volume
Heavy and bulky
Premium price tag
Limited on-board EQ
Next to Fender and maybe Marshall, there’s really no brand that commands as much respect for tube amp technology as Vox, and the AC30 is the one you want, both for history and for sound. Fun fact: The AC30 is the amp that the Beatles were using when they first embarked on their arena touring years and realized that the amp technology of the day was just not loud enough to catch up with the need for their music. But when they tried, it was the AC30 they put their trust in, and that makes sense because this thing absolutely crushes in a rock club setting.
There are three ECC83 tubes in the preamp and four EL84 in the power amp section, giving you an insanely punchy amount of headroom as far as wattage is concerned. And those 30 watts will go a long way because it pumps it through two 12-inch Celestion G12M speakers. Vox has even fitted matching Ruby Tubes to make sure you take full advantage of the entire dynamic range. It also has the standard two-channel Top Boost and Normal Vox setup, so you can pump truly cutting trebles through the mix. And it all comes in a birch-ply cabinet in a retro cream covering for natural high-frequency attenuation and a pretty sweet look.
Four high-quality speakers
Classic vintage design
Warm, tube sound quality
Not very portable
Takes a lot of volume to break up
Limited on-board controls
When you’re looking for an amp fitting enough for a pristine, substantial jazz tone, you’ll need one with plenty of volume and headroom so you don’t push too far into distorted territory when you get to the higher volumes. The Fender Bassman series has been offering guitarists plenty of clean, warm sound for more than half a century. The ‘59 reissue from Fender, just like the rest of their reissues, offers pro-level quality that’s virtually unrivaled by any modern amp maker. It offers 50 watts of pure tube power pumped through four 10-inch speakers. There are US-made GT-6L6 tubes, stepped-up 12AX7 tubes and original spec 5AR4 tubes to make this thing sound as close to the original as humanly possible without having you buy an actual vintage unit. It comes in a finger-jointed pine cabinet with a lacquered tweed covering that looks the part, too. The controls don’t add a ton of bells and whistles (with just volume, gain, presence and EQ), but since the goal is to emulate the original, it’s important to keep things focused.
Classy wood-tone design
Loud enough for small gigs
Handy tilt-back construction
A bit heavy
No included slipcover
Limited on-board effects
Fishman has a lock on the acoustic amplification industry, both with the acoustic amps and the acoustic guitar pickups themselves. The company is constantly coming out with great new iterations on their Loudbox series, but if you’re looking for top-of-the-line premium acoustic amplification, the Loudbox 120-watt Mahogany Limited Edition amp is about as pro as you can get. The 120 doesn’t expand on the smaller amps on inputs (there are still only two), but it does expand on wattage and power handling, as well as versatility.
The two channels each allow you to plug in a guitar/keyboard or a vocal mic, meaning this is a great rig for a singer/songwriter. It offers 120W pushed through an eight-inch speaker and a surprising single soft-dome tweeter, giving you plenty of sparkle and letting the full spectrum shine. Each channel offers separate dedicated EQ and feedback controls, while there’s a separate effects engine to add a little color to your sound with reverb, chorus, flanger and delay. It’s all combined into a balanced output to send it to a larger stage setup (which makes this great a little-dedicated monitor, too). All in all, it’s about as full-featured as you can expect from an acoustic-only amp.
Durable and road-ready
Light, small, and portable
Excellent Orange sound quality
Limited volume for gigs
Simplistic on-board controls
No included speaker cabinet
If you’re talking compact amps, you’re most likely talking about a head, and considering that most players are going to pump their sound through the club system at a gig anyway, why waste your energy lugging a super-heavy vintage guitar amp? Orange’s Tiny Terror line is a great option for those looking for something a little transportable but still all tube. The tube setup offers two EL84s, three 12AX7s and one 12AT7, which gives you a unique concoction of tube sound.
There’s a four-channel preamp that offers you nice, unique control over your high gain sounds, and with 15W of output power, you’ll hit that high output pretty easily. There’s also an attenuation switch that lets you knock this puppy back down to 7W if you’re doing some bedroom jamming. Overall, it’s a simple little amp without a ton of bells and whistles, but that’s totally fine for an amp you’re probably looking to cart around a bit. And because of that carting, Orange will even throw in a gig bag for this.
High-quality Waza craft speaker
Tons of on-board effects
Tube Logic vintage breakup emulation
Heavy for a solid state amp
A tad pricey
Slightly limited control set
Boss’s Katana line is a beautiful example of just what solid state amplifiers can do when you pair them with quality digital signal processing. A lot of solid state amps suffer from dry, sterile sound that doesn't respond well to playing. The Katana addresses that with their Tube Logic design that attempts to recreate the feel of tube amps – arguably the most important intangible quality when shopping for one. But the sound quality here is really interesting, too, because they offer 58 customizable Boss effects and an included Boss Tone Studio editor to dial in hyper-specific tone specifications, no matter what your settings.
It pumps it all out at 100 watts into a custom Waza 12-inch speaker for a totally giggable combo amp with arguably no need for external guitar pedals. What’s cool here is you can also dial in amp and cab emulators to make those effect-altered sounds come across in any amp you want. And you can patch and save it all together so when you’re on-stage you can trigger the patch with one foot stomp and be completely dialed in. It’s a great amp if you’re looking for a one-stop-shop for effects.
Extra features, like Bluetooth streaming
Expandable app control
A bit gimmicky
Somewhat confusing with deep menus
Lacking in volume
Just last year, Line 6 dropped an interesting amp into the market – one aimed at people who want a Bluetooth speaker look and a guitar amp feature set. On some level, this wasn’t a huge surprise because a ton of speaker makers from Vox to Marshall all started offering some sort of Bluetooth speaker option, recognizing that the consumer audio market was possibly more lucrative than guitar-only audiences. This 150W guitar amp offers a five-way stereo speaker setup that’ll fill the room with sound and give you some great body for listening to full mixes. There are some digital modeling options with 200 amps and effects to choose from, meaning that if you’re looking to plug in your guitar, this amp is obviously no slouch.
There are four onboard preset options that let you call back your setups at a moment’s notice, but there’s also Bluetooth and USB connectivity, which is great for listening to music for pleasure and cueing up a mix to play along with on your guitar. But most importantly, Line 6 put a ton of research and development into how this thing looks because they meant for this product to be a real-deal guitar amp and a cool-looking living room Bluetooth speaker. It is a true all-in-one option for the guitarist and music lover alike.
Tons of presets
Light and portable
A little quiet for band play
Somewhat confusing interface
Some presets sound fake and thin
Fender’s amps cover a lot of ground, both historically and in their price range. While you can get custom shop amps that hover north of $2,000, you can also dip into the sub-$200 space for a perfect beginners-friendly practice amp with Fender quality. The Mustang LT25 is the smallest member of Fender’s modeling amp line. It’s perfect for beginners because it’s affordable, sure, but it’s also great because of how many options are loaded in.
Driving the unit, there are 25 watts of solid-state power with a practice-friendly 8-inch Fender-designed speaker. There’s a USB output hack for recording into your computer and a headphone output for quiet bedroom play. But, it’s the digital modeling that makes this truly great for beginners. With 30 preloaded presets that range from “Silky Solo” lead tones to “Classic Blues” breakup, the early guitar player will not be left wanting for sonic inspiration. And, because these presets are made up of 20 distinct amp models and 25 separate effects, you can edit and create your own sounds, beyond what Fender has loaded in.
A little quiet
Lacking bass and punch
Limited control of effects
If you’re an apartment guitar player, you know all too well the constraints that presents in both physical space and noise-sensitive neighbors. When Yahama released the THR series of desktop guitar amps they had this exact issue in mind. These small, rectangular amplifiers are perfectly suited for your studio desk or living room side table.
The Mark II brings an updated design and better quality components. Inside the amp are two 3.1-inch, 10W speakers that deliver a nice well-rounded sound, albeit lacking a little bass and punch. But that’s partly by design because this amp is meant to be a small practice amp, perfect for hashing out ideas or playing some quick riffs on the fly. What’s really cool is how much is baked into the feature set.
There are several amp models built in that give you access to clean, crunchy, or full-on screaming distortion sounds. Additionally, there are modulation effects like chorus and phase modulation as well as reverb and delay. And, because there’s an aux-in, Bluetooth capabilities, and even battery-powered wireless functionality (if you opt for the W model), this little amp is kind of like the Swiss Army knife of practice amps.
Simple on-board effects
Small, portable form factor
Amazing live performance features
No battery power
The category of amplifiers often called “acoustic guitar amps” is a very specific one—often sporting wood-tone designs and some very specific features geared toward live singer/songwriter performances. The Boss ACS Live is a modern example of this, with a ton of useful features. At its core, it’s a 60-watt, solid-state amp with a 6.5-inch woofer and a tweeter to take care of the highs. That small speaker, though lacking in bass, does actually push a respectable amount of sound. There are two channels, one geared toward the acoustic guitar—with an EQ, chorus/delay effect and reverb—and a channel meant for vocals with a built-in harmonizer and reverb. There’s also a built-in looper, that can either be triggered by amp-face buttons or an included footswitch. All of this alone would make this a great grab-and-go amp for small coffee house gigs or busking.
But Boss has put in some very clever features, too. There are independent anti-feedback controls to help with the always-notorious acoustic guitar squeal. There’s also that afore-mentioned vocal harmonizer which actually uses the chord progression and key signature indicated by the chords you’re playing on your guitar to supply upper and lower harmonizer to layer onto the vocals you’re singing into the mic. To underscore how cool this is, just picture it this way: You sing the lead melody and play the chords on your guitar, and simply by hitting a button, you can add two perfectly in-tune background singers that are belting notes in the key you’re playing on the fly. When most harmonizers work in parallel intervals alone, it’s really impressive to see Boss—a brand known for next-level guitar effects—innovating so heavily inside the amp itself.