The 8 Best Guitar Amps of 2021

Before you head to your next jam session, pick up one of these bad boys

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The Rundown
"There’s really no substitution for the sound of a high-quality tube being driven into rich, powerful overdrive."
"It’s an excellent amplifier if you’re looking to gig on that classic Fender sound."
"This thing absolutely crushes in a rock club setting."
"It offers pro-level quality that’s virtually unrivaled by any modern amp maker."
"A true all-in-one option for the guitarist and music lover alike."
Best for Beginners:
Fender Mustang LT25 at Amazon
"The Mustang LT25 is the smallest member of Fender’s modeling amp line."
"This little amp is kind of like the Swiss Army knife of practice amps."
Best for Solo Performance:
BOSS Audio Systems ACS Live at Amazon
"You can add two perfectly in-tune background singers that are belting notes in the key you’re playing on the fly."

Best Overall: Fender ‘68 Custom Princeton Chorus

What We Like
  • Rich, classic Fender sound

  • Relatively portable

  • Beautiful, unique design

What We Don't Like
  • Slightly pricey

  • 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.

Best for Big Gigs: Fender Twin ‘65 Reissue

Fender Vintage Reissue '65 Twin Reverb 85W 2x12 Guitar Combo Amp
What We Like
  • Plenty of volume

  • Famous Fender tube sound

  • Two switchable channels

What We Don't Like
  • Very heavy

  • 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.

Best Tube: Vox Hand-Wired AC30HW2

Vox Hand-Wired AC30HW2
What We Like
  • Hand-wired quality

  • Tons of volume

  • Stereo speakers

What We Don't Like
  • 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.

Best for Jazz: Fender Vintage Bassman ‘59 Reissue

Fender Vintage Reissue '59 Bassman LTD 4X10 Guitar Combo
What We Like
  • Four high-quality speakers

  • Classic vintage design

  • Warm, tube sound quality

What We Don't Like
  • 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.

Best All-In-One: Line 6 AMPLIFi 150

Line 6 AMPLIFi 150 150W Modeling Guitar Amp Black
What We Like
  • Super-unique design

  • Extra features, like Bluetooth streaming

  • Expandable app control

What We Don't Like
  • 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.

Best for Beginners: Fender Mustang LT25

What We Like
  • Very affordable

  • Tons of presets

  • Light and portable

What We Don't Like
  • 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.

Best Budget: Yamaha THR10II Desktop Amp

What We Like
  • Ultra-portable

  • Intuitive controls

  • Unique design

What We Don't Like
  • 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.

Best for Solo Performance: BOSS Audio Systems ACS Live

What We Like
  • Simple on-board effects

  • Small, portable form factor

  • Amazing live performance features

What We Don't Like
  • A little pricey

  • Somewhat quiet

  • 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.

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