My Go To Guitar Amps

When it comes to guitar tones, there is more to choose from now than ever before. From guitars and pickups to amps and pedals, there is so much variety in what you can choose. Some of what you might choose comes down to style and some of it might come down to how much you’re willing or able to spend. In this article, I’m going to pick a few amps and modelers that I’ve owned over the years and talk about why I like them. This is by no means a comprehensive list of every great or important guitar amp ever made, but instead just a few of my personal favorites in no particular order. Hope you enjoy!

1. Fender Mustang

The Fender Mustang combo amp is the most affordable amp on this list. It’s a great tiny practice amp that’s good in small places. It’s a modeling amp which means that it mimics the sounds of other famous guitar amplifiers. It also comes packed with a variety of other guitar effects like chorus, phaser, flanger, delay, and reverb to name just a few.

While today there are many modeling amps on the market, the Fender Mustang does a surprisingly good job for its size and price point. I often recommend new or beginner students look in to some variant of this amp. If you happen to see one in a store, give it a test run. I think you’ll be surprised how much you enjoy this amp.

2. Marshall JCM 800

If you’re a fan of rock, then you’ve undoubtedly heard the sound of a JCM 800 before. It’s punchy tone and clear distinct high end from it’s distortion have made it a staple. Artists such as Slash, Dave Grohl, Billy Joe Armstrong, and Tom Morello all run through this amp.

Compared to some amps, this one is really simple to use. It mostly has your basic controls from gain and master volume to your classic EQ controls. This does mean though that you’ll be on your own for even the most basic effects including reverb. It’s the most expensive amp on this list but its famous for a reason.

My go to when using this amp is to pair it with a Keely modded Ibanez TS9 tube screamer distortion pedal. Having just a little bit of that extra saturation on the front end helps increase your sustain and allows your leads to cut through the mix just a little better.

3. Vox AC30

The Vox AC30 is a Swiss army knife of an amp. It’s been used in so many genres of music I don’t know what this amp can’t do. Newer models come with more built in features than the originals from the 60’s. Some famous examples of the Vox AC30 being put to use include U2’s Edge, Queen’s Brian May, and REM.

New users of the amp will likely notice the strange arrangement of inputs to this amp. Using different inputs allows you to run through different circuits. Personally I’m a fan of the high input ‘Top Boost’ setting. The AC30 also famously does not include a mid knob on its EQ panel. Instead, the mid level is adjusted by either raising or lowering the Treble and Bass knobs in a particular direction.

For me, what makes this amp a lot of fun is playing with it at the edge of breakup. When I get it dialed in just right, I can simply switch from distortion to clean by switching pickups.

4. Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier

The Dual Rectifier is so iconic not just for it’s look, but it’s impact and sound. It’s been used on some very popular rock and metal albums including Soundgarden’s Superunknown, Dream Theater’s This Dyiing soul, and Ramstein’s albums. Metallica also famously uses Rectifiers when playing live.

These amps come loaded with three channels. Each channel has its own custom EQ and gain as well as various switches for other tonal adjustments. As far as options go on an amp, this one is loaded with them.

If you want even more options you can get the Mesa Boogie Road King. The Road King is the LX package of dual rectifiers. It sports an addition channel, an additional loop out the back, two more tubes which can be enabled or disabled, and the the ability to switch between different speaker cabinets.

6. Matchless Avalon 30

I don’t have much to say about this amp except this was the best clean tone I ever had in my life! Seriously, I sold this amp years ago and I have been regretting it ever since. It is especially beautiful on single coil guitars.

On paper it doesn’t make sense to me considering this amp uses EL34 tubes which are not usually known for providing great clean sounds. However hearing is believing and that is what I am with this amp now, a believer.

These amps are neither common or cheap but if you happen to run into one, do yourself a favor and plug a stratocaster or a telecaster into it. You will not regret it.

7. Fractal FM3

This entry could easily be substituted with any of its other current generation models like the Axe-FX 3 or FM9. I own the FM3 model which is the weaker of the models so anything this can do the other models can also do plus probably more.

The FM3 is on the cutting edge of Amp Modelers. It replicates the sound of many of the previous amps I listed with a high degree of accuracy. In fact, Fractal is notorious for offering even more options that the original hardware offered. In addition, they also have an astonishing level of effects that are not just generic creations but also faithful adaptions of various pedals and companies.

All of these setting can be saved in various presets which can then have different combinations of settings saved within that preset called scenes offering huge versatility on the fly.

The biggest downside to this though has to be the learning curve with such an overwhelming amount of options. It’s an amazing piece of hardware but it comes at the expense of a lot of time invested to really know how to program and get the most out of it. It also requires you amplify it whether that’s through another speaker or guitar cabinet.

Does it have presets that it comes with out of the box? Yes, but those are meant to be mostly a launching point for you to customize to your hearts content.

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