What are the best guitar amp brands?
Here’s what many guitar sites won’t tell you. An amp will have more impact on your sound than the guitar itself.
Well, put it like this. A good amp will make a lousy guitar sound better. Yet, you’ll get poor sound through a subpar amp regardless of whether you’re using a $100 or $10,000 guitar.
So, where to start? You’ll need to identify the best guitar amp brands. That’ll make sure you’re not buying a shoddy amp. It just so happens you’re in the right place. We’ve listed the best amp brands to save you time.
In this article, we’ll cover the best guitar amp brands. You’ll find key information on each brand and whether they suit your music style.
The Best Guitar Amp Brands
- Line 6
- PRS (Paul Reed Smith)
The brainchild of Jim Marshall, his first shop, opened on 7th July 1960. It was a request from The Who’s Pete Townshend that changed rock forever.
Townshend requested a loud amp with a larger-than-life stage presence. The Marshall 8×12” speaker cabinet was born and was later developed into 4×12” cabs. This rig is what we now know as the iconic Marshall Stack.
Marshall has since been the choice of rock stars for decades. The brand name is synonymous with Jimi Hendrix, who used a 1959HW head through 1960AHW and 1960BHW cabinets.
Slash of Guns and Roses fame uses heads such as the SV20H and 2525H. Then, there’s Angus Young of AC/DC, who favors the JTM45 2245 head.
The common theme is rock. So, for a timeless classic rock sound, consider a Marshall. Yet, they cast their net far and wide. Their vast catalog of amps accommodates the guitar tones of everybody from Slayer to Lana Del Rey.
But it’s not all Marshall stacks. For beginners, they offer micro-amps for bedroom playing. Plus, the MG Gold series ups the volume for intermediate guitarists.
Marshall has something for every guitarist. Truth is, for the beginner guitarist finding their feet, the sheer number of options will daunt. Yet, if you want the classic rock sound, it’s a good place to start.
British brand Orange came onto the scene in the 60s. Not only great amps, but their striking and distinctive image makes them recognizable.
The bright orange tolex covering has become a trademark of the manufacturer. They mark all dials with symbols, unlike the standard writings.
As an owner of an Orange, I know they’re built to last. The more premium amps are British built. These are the top performers crafted with tank-like durability.
Take the Rockerverb 50 MKIII Combo as an example. It’s proven to withstand heavy touring. A tube amp, the Rockerverb captures a true Orange tone.
But to make Orange amps accessible, they’ve outsourced manufacturing some models to China. With lower labor costs, lines such as the TH series retail at affordable prices.
Yet, regardless of the manufacturing location, the Orange quality remains the same.
Orange amps don’t need elaborate pedalboards. In their purest form, they’ll blast an unadulterated tone. These characteristics have found Orange amps a favorite for fuzzy tones in everything from blues to doom metal.
I’m lucky enough to own a British-built 1972 OR-80. Big, loud, and thick, it’s the epitome of the Orange sound.
You’ll know the guitar manufacturer, Fender. But we shouldn’t overlook the impact of their amplification. It all started with the Princeton, Deluxe, and Professional, each released in 1946.
The principal characteristics live on today with their new builds. You can trace more modern Fender amps back to these three models.
What do Fender amps sound like?
Fender amps cut through a mix with their clear and hearty tone. They have an extensive frequency response. The low end is deep and powerful, while the high-end has crystalline clarity and sparkle.
It’s the sparkling and cutting characteristics that made Fender amps pivotal to the Nashville sound. A Fender amp, fused with another Fender creation, the Telecaster guitar is the crux of the twang. Safe to say, for country music, a Fender is a prime choice.
Many Fenders, such as the Reverb, come with onboard effects. The tube-driven spring reverb is a time-honored embellishment to the Fender sound. Although first created by Laurens Hammond, in 1939, it was Fender who pioneered the first guitar amp fitted with spring reverb in 1963 with the Vibroverb.
Spring reverb is a synthetic reverb that employs coiled-up pieces of metal. The coils vibrate to produce reverberation, resulting in a bouncing effect. Although it does not have the same sound as true reverb, springs are popular because of their nostalgic sentiments.
The tone produced by a tube-driven Fender is as iconic as they come. When playing blues riffs, there’s note definition, while country licks will catch attention with the Nashville twang.
Any guitarist yearning for a traditional clean or mild gain tone should think Fender. Their tube amps are the ultimate antinode if you’re tired of digitized guitar sounds.
Are you looking for an amp to throw out high distortion akin to the nu-metal bands of the early 00s? Look no further than a Mesa/Boogie.
Mesa/Boogie amps are a mainstay in hard rock and metal. Guitarists such as James Hetfield of Metallica and Dream Theater member John Petrucci are a case in point.
A flagship Mesa/Boogie product is the Dual Rectifier amp head. It’s heavy, complete with a shed load of distortion.
Unlike other aggressive amps such as an Orange, the Dual Rectifier has a more contemporary tone. They sound less open and more compressed.
Yet, Mesa/Boogie has stepped out of their comfort zone with the Californian Tweed.
To look at the Californian Tweed, you wouldn’t have it down as a Mesa/Boogie. It’s far removed from the Dual Rectifier resembling the aged aesthetics of a Fender Tweed.
As an amp inspired by a Fender Tweed, you can expect a vintage tone perfect for Americana. This amp proves Mesa/Boogie can cater to more traditional guitar styles.
Will this Mesa/Boogie topple Fender off their throne? Probably not because of the sheer prestige of Fender.
The Californian Tweed is a fantastic amp. Torn between a Fender or this amp? There’s a simple way of deciding. See, the Californian Tweed has more oomph in the gain department. It’s a Mesa/Boogie after all.
The simple catalog of Mesa/Boogie is a breath of fresh air. Their collection won’t overload you with information, and it’s easy to find the right amp for you.
But there’s no denying that rip-roaring distortion is Mesa/Boogies trademark. For the heavy rocker, Mesa/Boogie amps such as the Rectifier and the Crown Series will help you generate a racket.
Not neglecting to mention that these amps are well-built. Safe to say you’ll have a workhorse in your rig.
The earlier guitar amp brands mentioned are household names. Certainly in the house of a guitarist, anyhow. Friedman amps aren’t as famous, but they are great amps nonetheless.
In both visuals and tone, Friedman amps have similarities to Marshalls. But, for the patriot, each Friedman amp is US-made.
Like most US-built guitar equipment, you can expect premium quality. The brainchild of Dave Friedman, he has a hands-on approach to each product leaving Friedman HQ.
Before leaving the factory, he inspects the tubes, plays through the amp, and even signs the chassis.
It’s the peak craftsmanship and premium tone that makes Friedman amps arguably the most desirable available today.
What do Friedman amps sound like?
First, Friedman amps have plausibly the best-distorted tones you’ll experience. A key feature is the sustain. Clean tones are impeccable and the impressive headroom ensures they won’t break at high volumes.
They’re often described as a chewy, more saturated Marshall. Responsive they’ll pick up every fine detail of your playing. So, for beginners who are prone to a bum note, they’re best to avoid.
Friedman amplifiers are for professional guitarists. If you were to see Alice in Chains or The Cult live, you’re hearing a Friedman at work.
The problem, such as with most high-end guitar equipment, such greatness comes at a cost.
For any guitarist on a strict budget, a Friedman is out of reach.
Do you want a Friedman but can’t afford it?
It won’t live up to the real thing. But here’s a hack. Friedman also produces pedals. For example, the BE-OD overdrive replicates the Friedman tone. Placed in front of a Marshall, you’ll get the idea and understand why Friedman are top-of-the-range amplifiers.
EVH is owned by Fender. As such, they build EVH equipment at Fender’s factory in Corona, California.
Do the initials EVH sound familiar?
EVH is an abbreviation for Eddie Van Halen, these are his line of guitar amps backed by the man himself.
How do EVH amps sound?
As you can imagine, when Eddie Van Halen puts his name on any guitar equipment, it’ll recreate his unique sound. True to form, EVH amps are great for modern rock and metal with their sizzling contemporary sound.
Turns out, it’s not just Van Halen who wants these amp characteristics. Other guitarists who use EVH include Andy Sneap of Judas Priest and Jason Hook of Five Finger Death Punch.
They’re the opposite of the traditional design and aged sounds offered by the likes of Friedman. EVH heads are distinctive and modern. Noticeable with a signature see-through grille, you can witness valves at work when you shred.
As you’ll expect from an Eddie Valen Halen amplifier. The sustain lasts for hours, you can hang on a note akin to Van Halen playing. For shredding, these are your amps.
The 5150III series amp heads come with three independent channels. The clean, crunch, and lead ensure you can dial in a full spectrum of tones. Included is a footswitch to toggle between each.
When run through a 5150 cabinet, you’ve got a rig designed for power and show-stopping performance.
BOSS is famous for its pedals. But did you know they create amps too?
The BOSS amp catalog is full of variation. The common theme is they’re pretty affordable.
Their Katana amplifiers are their flagship series. Comprising 13 types of combo, heads, and cabinets.
What makes the Katana amps so unique?
With Katana amps, you have access to 55 BOSS effects. There’s a wealth of effects categorized into boosters, modulation, delay, FX, and reverb.
You’ll need to download BOSS Tone Studio Editor. From here you can save to your amp and recall your amp settings. It’s a fun way to explore different guitar effects.
For the tone freak, you’ll want to try the wealth of effects.
The Katana Series covers all skill levels. Katana-Air is innovative and a top choice for guitarists practicing in their bedrooms. It’s wireless, and it’s the size of a lunchbox. So you can practice without cables cluttering up the space.
Another series of significance is the Acoustic Singers. Acoustic amps are something we haven’t touched upon yet. But, these amplifiers represent a true acoustic tone well.
What’s more, Acoustic Singers come with onboard loopers.
What’s a looper?
Loop pedals record your performance then play it back. During playback, guitarists can overdub extra guitar tracks over the top.
For this reason, loopers are great for developing songwriting ideas. Not just resigned to creating songs, you’ll find many performers using loopers live to layer tracks with different guitar parts. Ed Sheeran used one to great success early in his career.
The traditional guitarist will frown upon such innovation and the less tech-savvy will find them complicated.
But BOSS amps are great for experimental guitarists exploring and creating out-there sounds. There’s one whether you’re an experienced performer or an eager beginner. Whatever your level, you’ll find a rich tone with a BOSS amp.
Founded in 1965, Peavey is a company’s goliath covering all musical and audio equipment.
Their amp catalog is vast. It’s hard to pinpoint a specific genre because they do an assortment of amps. The Classic Series recreates late 50s rock and roll tones. Whereas, the 6505 Plus Metal amps are full-on Kissing Candice metal.
It doesn’t end there either, because whatever your budget, there’s a Peavey in your price range. You can buy a new Peavey for under $100. The first amplifier I owned was Peavey. Mainly for the affordability.
Yet, the Budda Mark Nason MN-100 Head retails at around $5,000. So they’re an amp company difficult to pigeonhole.
Peavey decorates their Budda Mark Nason amps with Italian leather, so as you can imagine their high-grade.
Known as Superdrives, the other Budda amps are also premium quality. Hand-wired and driven by tubes, you’ll get a classic clean tone with hard-hitting classic rock vibes. These are the Peavey amps you’ll find on stage at a Carrie Underwood, Garth Brooks, or Cage The Elephant concert.
It’s these premium amps that are born in the Peavey headquarters in Mississippi. But if you’re starting out, you can’t go wrong with the affordable Audition.
The sheer vastness of options makes Peavey a top guitar brand on diversity alone.
Diezel amps are a premium German-based manufacturer that focuses on high-grade metal amps. Their first amp was released in 1994, so recent, all things considered.
How do Diezel amps sound?
Every Diezal amp is tube driven. Their signature is high gain tones. Prominence in the mid-range and high-octane energy means they’re a staple for metal guitarists.
Many guitarists are wary of tubes, with reliability being the main reason for concern. So, the tube-fault technology on Diezel amps could be for you.
There is no denying tubes die, even the high-grade Diezel tubes. The nightmare scenario is this happening mid-set. You needn’t fear this with a Diezel.
When a tube reaches the end of its shelf life, the power amp removes its circuit. You can continue playing with the other tubes. What’s more, it’ll sound the same, albeit a smidgen quieter.
The construction quality is consistent across the Diezel portfolio.
All cabinets have tongue-and-groove connections with steel chassis. They’re made with touring in mind, however hectic your tour schedule is.
For a metalhead looking for a premium touring amp, Diezel will meet your high demands.
Line 6 is a US musical instrument company founded in 1996. In 2014, they became part of the Yamaha group.
A standout product in the Line 6 catalog is the groundbreaking POD multi-effects unit. The first of its kind, the POD enables guitarists to have a plethora of effects in a single unit.
When venturing into amps, they stay true to their innovative ways. You’ll find amplifiers with plenty of effects and features.
The Spider Jam practice amp is a prime example. With 12 different settings, the Spider Jam recreates the sounds of many amps from clean to insane. The insane setting is the most compressed and high-gain of the lot.
On top of selecting a style of amp, you’ll find seven onboard effects to integrate into your sound. These are chorus, phaser, tremolo, delay with tap tempo, tape echo with tap tempo, sweep echo with tap tempo, and reverb. Not forgetting an integrated chromatic tuner.
Another standout feature is the 100 drum loops which you can play and jam along with.
Safe to say, a Line 6 isn’t your bog-standard amplifier.
From the front, the Catalyst looks stripped back. But don’t be mistaken, it’s a Line 6. On top of the amp are six different amp styles with very different sounds. These are clean, boutique, chime, crunch, dynamic, and high gain, so there’s the freedom to play several genres from country and blues to death metal and hardcore.
Integrated into an app, you can change effects to suit. The app is available on Windows, Mac, iOS, or Android.
Line 6 amps are for the experimental guitarists. While many of their amps cater to all skill levels, for beginners and intermediates there’s a lot of fun to be had.
With so many effects at your disposal, they’re great amps to help you find your sound. While they may confuse the technophobe and irritate the purist, for many guitarists, Line 6 amps let your imagination run wild.
As a musical instrument manufacturer, we often associate Yamaha with beginner gear.
Is that true of amps?
Yes, and no. More on that shortly.
The GA15II is one of the most affordable practice amps on the market. It’s simple to use and with a phone mono jack input, many beginners play along with their favorite songs when learning.
You’ll find the GA15II in schools across the globe staking its claim as a go-to beginner choice.
Then there’s the Yamaha THR series that covers broader purposes.
What do THR amps have in common? They’re modeling amps, so have the power and tonal characteristics of a variety of traditional amps.
What’s amp modeling?
Modeling amplifiers try to imitate more notable amplifiers. It’s a brilliant way to get familiar with popular amp tones at a low cost. Even if they do not quite capture the authentic sense of the original.
The THR amps have modern portability and reliability. On top of this, they have distinct aesthetics and appear like nothing else on the market.
THR amps vary in price, so you can find one suitable for bedroom riffing or one capable of blasting your guitar to a full audience.
With its portability and features, it’s the THR-II that’ll wow beginners. It runs on batteries and has a wireless receiver so you can play without cables. Known as a desktop amp, it allows beginners 15 amp settings and 8 effects in a mighty but small package.
The THR100H dual head is at the other end of the spectrum. This is more of a professional outfit. With five amp voices, there’s a tone for most genres.
Will amp modeling replace the original organic tone? Maybe not. But one thing is for sure if you’re undecided on your tone, THR amps cover most amp types from natural to organic overdrive to modern.
British amp manufacturer Vox has had a monumental impact on music since its introduction in 1958.
During the 60s, with rock and roll on the rise, Vox became the amp of choice for many artists of significance. The rise of The Beatles and Rolling Stones became known as the British Invasion and Vox played a part in that sound.
‘Love Me Do’ by the Beatles, that’s a Vox. Likewise, the guitar tone of Rolling Stones Brian Jones, that’s a Vox too.
You can hear the Vox tone today with artists such as Warpaint, Florence and the Machine, and Wolf Alice.
A Vox could be what you need for a traditional timeless tone. The famous AC30 is a tube-driven amp for authentic vintage sensibilities.
But their catalog stretches far and wide. They do more than professional tube amps.
There’s the portable PathFinder 10 and even battery-powered practice amps for beginners.
But it’s their high-end collection that’ll deliver all the tradition. They can twang like a country stalwart, hence Joe Walsh of the Eagles favoring Vox. At the same time, a Vox does a distinctive crunch tone. For reference listen to Chris Shiflett of Foo Fighters who plays through the AC30.
Vox amps don’t have bells and whistles. But what they do, they do well. For traditional back-to-basic clean and crunch tones, Vox will become the cornerstone of your sound.
Roland is a Japanese musical instrument maker. They have a strong presence in the field of electronic music with a collection of synths. So, sometimes, their guitar amps are disregarded.
Are Roland amps any good?
Yeah, there are great amps in the Roland catalog. The Roland Blues Cube Artist is a gig-ready amp for professionals. A genuine tube sound combines a vintage sound with modern playability and build quality. As the name suggests, the tone is ideal for a blues guitarist.
A master of the clean tone is the JC-120. This is perhaps the most celebrated Roland amp having been in production since 1975. With crystalline sharp tones, it’s become a favorite in jazz.
Another niche Roland has cornered is amplification for buskers.
The Roland Cube Street has busker musicians in mind. It’s a portable PA system to broadcast acoustic or electric guitar and vocals. There’s a handy tuner and instrument modeling on the interface to get the tone for different styles.
It’s all you need for street performers, with no separate PA for vocals or heavy guitar amps. It’s easy to set up and get your music heard.
Roland amps don’t have the prestige of others. But, their practicality is the key.
For guitarists craving, an easy-to-use reliable amp, consider the clean tones of a Roland.
Blackstar is a British company with an interesting story. They’re the brainchild of ex-Marshall employees, Bruce Keir and Ian Robinson who went their own way in 2007.
Robinson was a chief design engineer at Marshall, so they know their stuff.
Since 2007, they’ve been in direct competition with Marshall. Famous users include Phil Collen of Def Leppard, James Williamson of Iggy & The Stooges, Neal Schon of Journey, and Tommy Henriksen of Alice Cooper.
They’ve got a bunch to pick from with just under 100 amps in their catalog. 44 are tube amps.
A pleasant feature on their website is you can navigate the amps by your skill level. Whether you want a beginner’s amp, a gigging amp, or one for home recording, there’s a Blackstar amp, whatever your budget.
What do Blackstar amps sound like?
Compared to their Marshall counterparts, Blackstar amps are less emphasized on the midrange. With more focus on bass and treble frequencies, they sound warmer, darker, and heavier.
To generalize, you could say Blackstar is more heavy metal than the classic rock energy of Marshall.
But the Blackstar selection is diverse from tube-powered to digital. A common favorite feature of Blackstar is the ISF, which you’ll discover on many amps in their collection.
ISF is short for ‘Infinite Shape Feature’. This innovative feature tweaks the characteristics of the amp. When dialed towards 0, the sound becomes tight and percussive, similar to American amps. As you turn the dial towards 10, the sound becomes crunchy and warm, akin to British amps.
So, you’ve got guitar sounds from either side of the Atlantic.
Do you find the Marshall tone isn’t heavy enough for you? Then for heavier rock genres, Blackstar produces versatile amps fitting all budgets.
PRS (Paul Reed Smith)
You’re aware of the qualities of PRS guitars. But in 2009, they also started building amps.
Early PRS amps had vintage vibes with classic circuitry. Since their amp lineup has evolved.
You can put PRS amps into four categories. The Archon, 2 Channel Custom, DG Custom, and HXDA.
Every amp model is tube-driven, but wattage options are available to suit varying purposes.
The Archon and 2 Channel Custom are the more contemporary amps with modernized sound. On the other hand, it’s the DG Custom and HXDA that offer vintage sound and character.
Similar to their guitars, they cover many tones. The Archon, for example, is your heavy metal amp. Its fierce distorted tone grasps the true American high-gain sound.
The DG Custom 30 is a throwback to rival and compete with genuine vintage amplifiers. By re-creating the warmth of 70s amplifiers, a DG Custom 30 appeases the fussiest of vintage tone freaks.
Newer models from PRS are the Sonzera and MT15. A best-seller in the PRS collection is the MT15, a Mark Tremonti signature. One reason for the success of the MT15 is versatility.
For heavy rhythm and articulate lead riffs, it transcends both playing styles. Whatever your style, the MT15 meets demands. Priced around $800, it’s the cheapest in the PRS catalog.
So, there’s the downside, if you are looking for a cheap beginner amp, you won’t find one here.
But we’re talking about PRS here and the PRS name is meaningful. Every PRS amp is made in the PRS factory in Maryland, so you can expect top quality.
There we have it. The best guitar amp brands!
An amplifier is integral to your sound. Such a big decision will leave you confused and often nervous. After all, it’s a big outlay.
When I got my first premium amp, it was a case of trial and error until I found the one that matched my vision.
But this took many failed attempts before I found the tone I demanded.
I want to save you time and stress. Use this list as a framework to discover your amp. The amps featured are top performers.
One of the biggest factors to consider is your genre. You can narrow the search from here. Many amp brands are synonymous with a style as outlined on this list.
Regarding beginner and intermediate amps, in essence, you pay for what you get. Nonetheless, you’ll find great beginner amps out there that’ll do just fine as you learn your craft.
So I hope you now see your amp options loud and clear. Good luck and enjoy!