For all the talk about how “tone comes from the fingers,” amplifiers are still critical. Just ask any musician who’s been told, “You have to use our backline to cut down on soundchecks. Don’t worry – our gear sounds great!”
Do you really want to play on amps that have been set up according to someone else’s personal style and taste? You may still be finding and refining your guitar sound, but you know what sounds bad, and you want to find that tone that will make your music soar. With that in mind, here are some of the best amps on the market for the styles you play.
For metal: Peavey 6505
Based on amps created for Eddie Van Halen during Van Halen’s glory years, these amps have been carried forward by Peavey and have only gotten gainier. If you like to chunk and shred, the first 10 seconds of this demo should have you convinced. That tone could strip paint… and the clean tone isn’t half bad, either!
For (electric) jazz: Roland Jazz Chorus
The cleanest of the clean, the venerable Jazz Chorus also pumps more volume than you’d ever need out of a combo amp, and the sweet onboard chorus is beautiful.
For alternative/modern rock: Mesa Triple Rectifier
This rig has a tone that’s miles deep, and this demo shows just how much crunch and gain can be had with almost zero noise. Listening to this takes one back to Stone Temple Pilots and conjures up memories of Lollapalooza.
For pop: Matchless Avalon 30
In today’s pop music environment, the guitar often takes a supporting role. As such, you might be called upon to work around a prominent vocal, rhythm track, or keyboard riff. A clean-as-a-whistle, low-gain sound is a must, as you can layer effects on top to achieve whatever sound is called for. The Matchless not only looks awesome, it’s also noiseless and completely flexible.
For country: VOX AC30
Modern country music is not for square dancing. Today’s country axe-slingers need power, volume, and the option to saturate the tone with some overdrive. These VOX amps cover all of those bases and will fill pretty much any other need you have for other genres as well. Just ask Queen’s Brian May.
For any genre if you’re broke: used Peavey Classic Tube
Of course, all of the above come with a hefty price tag, new or serviceably used. For an amp that boasts a broad range of onboard tones, sweet tube overdrive, and dual twelve-inch speakers, check out the bulletproof Peavey Classic 50, a true budget great.
Next up: 6 Bass Amps You Can't Go Wrong With
Jesse Sterling Harrison is an author, recording artist, and part-time farmer. He lives in Massachusetts with his wife, three daughters, and a herd of ducks.