Like buying most music gear, the consumer is given an ocean of choices, and guitar amplifiers aren’t immune to this phenomenon either. Here, we’ve chosen a handful of amps that cover the spectrum in terms of functionality and overall adaptability, at prices for everybody (pretty much everybody anyway). Sorry dudes, you’re not going to see Crate amps in this list; if you’re chapped over that, I’m deeply sorry…#sorrynotsorry.
***Note: For each reader’s well being, only high-end brands have been included in this summation. At least in my eyes, maybe not yours. Ok, whatever. ON WITH IT!
Quick Buyer’s Guide
|Amps||Price||Strengths||Where to Buy|
|Fender Hot Rod Deluxe III||$724.32||
1×12-All Tube, Bridge Rectifier Gain Section, Reverb-40W
|Blackstar HT-40 Club||$599.99||
1×12- All Tube, Built in Gain, Reverb-40W
|Orange Crush Pro CR60C||$499.00||
1×12 -Solid State- Reverb, Gain, EQ-60W
|Vox VT 40X||$249.99||
1×10- Modeling Amp, Tube Preamp ,Built in FX/Aux Input-40W
|Bugera V5 Infinium||$199.00||
1×8-All Tube-EQ, Gain, Reverb- Wattage Attenuation 0.1W-5W
This type of guitar amplifier is the oldest style and pinnacle for many guitar-tone purists– Its name is derived from the vacuum tubes (sometimes referred to as valves) used to drive the preamp and power sections.
Named after the solid state electronics used to function, these amps gain their signature tone via the incorporation of transistors in both their preamp and power sections.
Hybrid amplifiers are a marriage of tube and solid state technologies. Usually providing a tube preamp section and solid state power section.
These amps house a digital processor that emulates the tones and sounds of tube amplifiers by mimicking tube configurations & biasing, cabinet sizes and speaker types. In addition, many provide built in effects like delay, reverb, distortion,phaser, flanger, tremolo, etc.
Built in Effects
The best part about built in effects is that it provides a really convenient way for beginners through seasoned players who have little-to-no in experience in the effects game an avenue to explore a variety of sounds without having to purchase additional pedals to achieve the same goal. The end game resulting in you saving a ton of money you would’ve otherwise forked over for a bunch of expensive pedals.
Limitations are the biggest problems with this method. What do I mean by this, you ask? Great question! Unless the built in effects on your amp are equivalent to an Avid Eleven Rack, which most don’t even come close, you’re not going to be able to dial in the exact delay setting, chorus speed, and so on to achieve the sound you’re looking for. If you aren’t an effects pedal elitist, this hitch may not bother you at all, but don’t say you weren’t warned!
Speaker Sizes and Configurations
There are a myriad of options concerning speaker size/configurations that affect the tone of an amp. Larger speakers create more low-end vs smaller speakers who deliver more high-end frequencies. An example of this is a 1×12” will have a better bass response and a 1×8” speaker will generate brighter sounds and more treble. Some combos come with more than one speaker, in these cases the typical arrangements will be two 12 inch speakers (2×12) or four-ten inch speakers (4×10)–the purpose behind this is to create an amplifier capable of generating louder volumes, although some guitarists will argue multiple speakers will also add a different tonal element in comparison to a single speaker.
To make this as straightforward as possible, the wattage of an amplifier basically just determines how loud that amp is going to get; a 15W amp will generally be significantly quieter than a 40W or 50W amp and so on. The power output of the amp really matters depending on the application you intend to use it for: are you practicing in your bedroom with it?; playing in a band?; using it for recording? These are some things to consider–you definitely want an amp strong enough to keep up with a drum set if your intention is to play in a rock band and not so much if you’ll only be using it for solo practice.
Our Top 5 Picks Priced High To Low
Fender Hotrod Deluxe III
The Hot Rod Deluxe III offers excellent functionality, affordability and adaptability all balled into one, giving way to freedom in playability without breaking the bank.
- 40Watts, 1×12 Celestion Speaker
- Three Footswitchable Channels: Clean, Drive and More Drive (drive channels achieved by a solid state rectifier)—Footswitch Included.
- Three 12AX7 Tubes in Preamp and Two 6L6 Power Tubes
- Two Inputs and One Extension Cabinet Jack
- Master/Volume/Treble/Drive/Middle/Bass and Reverb Controls
- Bright and Drive Switches for Presence Control
- Comes With an Amplifier Cover
BlackStar HT-40 Club
To get things rolling, if you’ve never heard of BlackStar Amplifiers, or just haven’t cared to take a closer look, these suckers were crafted by ex-Marshall employees, and let me tell ya, they did a fantastic job utilizing their skills when creating this brand of amps. The HT-40 Club is a prime example of BlackStar’s superb craftsmanship–here are a bunch of reasons you shouldn’t ignore this thing:
- Infinite Shape Feature: A feature so unique it’s actually been patented, this nuance sets it apart from anything else in its class because it allows you to dial in any sound you’re going for by unshackling the tone stack (bass, middle, treble) and frees it to move across the frequency spectrum and mimic specific tones of other amplifiers. With a seemingly infinite range of tones to chase, this thing will keep you entertained for a long time.
- 40 Watts, 1×12” Celestion
- Two Footswitchable Channels
- Clean & Overdrive Voice Switches
- Digital Reverb with Dark/Bright Switch
Orange Crush Pro CR60C
The Crush Pro series is Orange’s first attempt at creating a high quality analogue/solid state amplifier, based off the more expensive Rockerverb series. Don’t let the price tag of the Crush Pro CR60C fool you, just because it’s affordable doesn’t mean they cheaped out on building it. This amp packs classic Orange clean and overdriven tones at a fraction the cost of their more expensive counterparts without sacrificing quality. Key features include:
- 1×12” Voice of the World Speaker, 60 Watts
- Two Channels: Clean and Dirty
- Volume, Bass, Middle, Treble, Gain, Volume and Reverb controls
- Digital Reverb that emulates Spring or Hall Plate Reverb sounds
Vox VT 40X
Out of so many great modeling amps to choose from, the VT 40X consistently seemed to take the cake because of its extensive list of features. Boasting a grip of effects, a tube preamp circuit, and an effects library for venturing through a sea of tones, Vox left little out of the equation with this amplifier. Though it is referred to as a modeling amp, it is also technically hybrid; couple that with its aforementioned traits and you’ve got a practice amp that is very hard to surpass.
- 1×10, 40 Watts
- Valvetronix 12AX7 Tube Preamp
- Tone Room Editor customizes amps and effects
- 11 amp models
- Reverb, Chorus, Flanger, Phaser, Delay, Tremolo effects package
- 3-band EQ
- One ¼” input jack, One Headphones Jack and One USB input
- Footswitchable (footswitch not included)
Bugera V5 Infinium
At first glance, the V5 Infinium looks like a child’s toy, or a starter amp, but don’t underestimate this thing, it packs more punch than it implies. Bugera did an excellent job designing this amp, it is perfect for recording because of its power attenuation settings and has amazing clean tones and warm gain. This lunchbox sized amplifier is all-tube and is ready to be applied to recording, practicing or jamming with others, straight out of the box.
- Infinium Tube Life Multiplier technology endures tubes maintain their quality of tone throughout their lifespan
- 12AX7 Preamp tube and EL84 tube in power section
- 1×8” Turbosound speaker
- Tube Life Monitoring system alerts you when tubes need to be replaced
- Power Attenuation of 0.1W, 1W and 5W
- Gain, Reverb, Tone and Volume Knobs
- ¼” Input jack and ¼” Headphone Jack
There are many guitar amplifier manufacturers and even more makes and models within that spectrum, so it can definitely be overwhelming when trying to decide what to go after. Is this a definitive list? No, but we tried to hone in on combos in every style, at different price points, that are excelling in their respective classes. All in all, it really comes down to what you’re willing to spend, the tone you’re looking for and the application you intend to use the amp for. That being said, we’re confident this list provides you with the ideal combo guitar amplifier you’re looking for, or at the very least, will help point you in the right direction in seeking your Holy Grail amp equivalent.