Best Amps 2017 – Top Brands and Reviews
If you play an instrument, listen to music, or watch movies, amps are a necessity. Amplifiers give power to a sound input designed to push out through a speaker or multiple speakers. There are tube or valve amps, solid-state amps, and hybrids, and all are designed and optimized for specialized purposes, from instrumentation to multi-speaker systems. We understand it can feel overwhelming choosing the right amp, so we’ve put together guides to help you find the best amp for your needs.
Best Headphone Amp
Standard headphones typically don’t need an amp, but high-end headphones can benefit greatly from the use of a headphone amplifier. When paired with a great amplifier, great headphones, which essentially act as a miniature speaker system, will provide you exceptional clarity, range, and detail that you can’t get from headphone alone.
Listeners who have never used a high-quality amp with headphones have said it was like listening to a whole new musical collection. You may even hear a more complete sound via headphones than over a large speaker system.
If you’re looking to upgrade your headphone listening experience, we can help you identify the best factors and features to find the right headphone amp for your needs.
Best Guitar Amp
Amps are designed to enhance the electrical signal and sound from a
connected instrument. If you play an electric, acoustic, or bass guitar, you’ll need to invest in a guitar amp.
There are two main types of guitar amplifiers; those that operate as standalone units require a separate speaker cabinet, but some units are “combo” amplifier, containing the amplifier and one or more speakers in a single cabinet. Amplifiers can also be engineered to produce specific effects such as distortion and reverb.
Guitar amps range in power from beginner and practice amps up to large combo amps powerful enough for larger venues. We’ve done research to help you navigate the large market of guitar amps to find the best guitar amp for you.
Best Practice Amp
In order to become the best musician you can be you have to practice, practice, practice. It’s not always possible to get the sound of a live performance, but you shouldn’t have to sacrifice quality for practice sessions.
We understand that you need to sound your best when you practice so that you’ll be encouraged to practice even more. When you’re looking to buy a practice amp, it’s best to look at models that incorporate other helpful practice features, such as a tuner or metronome.
Practice amps range from inexpensive, no-frills amplifiers to workhorses that include Bluetooth and USB compatibility in addition to mobile device connectivity. There are practice amps perfect for any guitarist, home or professional. We can help you find the best practice amp that has the features you want and need.
Best Solid State Amp
There are a few different types of amplifiers on the market; most utilize vacuum tube or solid-state technology, or some combination of the two. Although a slightly outdated term, solid-state amps are sometimes referred to as transistor amps.
Modern solid-state amps create a sound close to that of tube amps while also being a little more reliable than fragile vacuum tube systems. Solid-state amps are typically more cost-effective and easier to maintain than tube amps, but choosing the right solid-state amp depends on the sounds you’re looking for.
We’ve put together a guide for how to decide if you need a solid-state amp. Also, you’ll learn about what features to consider before buying a solid-state amp.
Best Bass Amp
Playing bass guitar requires you to own a bass amp head and a bass speaker cabinet. The amp head comprises all of the main electronic components of the amp and is divided into the preamp and the power amp.
The preamp receives the input signal and is capable of making significant and noticeable changes in the sound output. Preamps are designed to work with specific instruments to make the musical properties of that instrument sound great. Power amps simply amplify the signal received from the preamp and drive it to the speaker cabinet.
Unless you’re interested in buying a bass combo amp (combination of amp and speakers), you’ll need to buy your bass amp and speakers separately. It can be hard to navigate the differences between bass amps, so we’ve done research to find the best bass amps on the market.
Best 4-Channel Amp
If you’re installing a multi-speaker sound system, a 4-channel amp is a must-have. These amplifiers are the perfect choice for car audio systems or surround sound systems.
Depending on your system’s needs, you may want a bridgeable amplifier, which will allow you to combine output channels – necessary if you want to plug into a subwoofer. For car systems, you’ll experience a noticeable difference in sound quality if you add a 4-channel amp to your stereo.
Amplifiers improve sound quality and detail while providing power to new or preexisting speakers. A 4-channel amplifier can make a major impact on your daily aural experience, so we’ve done the work to find the best 4-channel amp.
Best Tube Amp
As opposed to a solid-state amp, tube amps work by using vacuum tubes to increase signal power; valve amplifiers are also known as valve amps. Tube amps have been largely replaced by transistors in most applications but are still the preferred construction by serious guitarists and audiophiles.
Essentially, most musicians say that you get a better tone from tube amps – more of a “warm” sound than you get from solid-state amps. It’s important to note that you get the best sound out of a tube amp when the tubes are saturated with sound; you may want or need a lower wattage amp depending on where you play.
We understand your need when it comes to finding the best tube amp, so we’ve done the research to find the best amps to provide that irreplaceable sound.
Best Acoustic Guitar Amp
For many musicians, amps are about boosting distortion and compression to get the best out of electric guitars. Amps for acoustic guitars are built differently and designed with the acoustic guitar in mind.
The right acoustic guitar amp will give you the clean, accurate tones your instrument needs. Some amps will include a microphone input, perfect for acoustic guitars that don’t have pickups.
We’ve looked at amps that support acoustic and electric acoustic guitars to help you find which one is right for your need and to help you find the overall best acoustic guitar amp.
Best Small Guitar Amp
When you’re looking for a great amp for home and practice use, it seems like a logical choice to go with a small, portable guitar amp. However, we understand that it’s important to find a high-quality amp that still provides a great sound.
Small amps can sometimes sound a little thin, so know the importance of getting a true sound without breaking down the walls (or your neighbors).
For those who have limited space, a small amp is the way to go. We’ve put together information on the best small guitar amps and brands to ensure you find the best one for your needs.
Best 5-Channel Amp
When you’re making a big investment like a new car stereo system or a surround sound system, it’s important to get the best amp available. 5-channel amps have four discrete speaker channels and one channel specifically for a subwoofer.
If you’re planning on building a system that includes a subwoofer, a 5-channel amp is the way to go. Some 4-channel amps can allow you to plug into a subwoofer, but a 5-channel amp will allow you to maintain four separate channels for speakers.
We understand it can be complicated choosing the right 5-channel amp, especially with so many on the market. We’ve done research to help you find the very best 5-channel amp for your needs.
Best Modeling Amp
When it comes to guitar amps, you’ll see tube amps, solid-state amps, hybrid amps that employ a combination of those two technologies, and modeling amps. Modeling amps are designed to replicate the sound of specific type of amps.
It’s not uncommon to see modeling amps designed after classic amps; through modern electronics and computer tech, modeling amps can replicate classic sounds and even mimic the tones you get from valve amps.
Modeling amps are generally lightweight, inexpensive, and are more reliable than tube amps. However, that doesn’t mean you should skimp on quality and get the cheapest amp you can find. It’s important to find the highest quality amp without breaking your budget, so we’ve done research to help you find the best modeling amp.
Best Tube Amp Under $500
Tube amps offer the best sound but are notorious for cost and maintenance. It can be hard to find an affordable tube amp that provides the right balance of quality and budget.
Smaller tube amps are also a great option if you’re in the market for a lower-wattage amp to fill a small space. Tube amps work best when you crank up the volume and saturate tubes; you can easily blow out a smaller space if you have a high-wattage amp.
With so many brands and products on the market, we want to provide you with the best information so you can make an informed decision. Read on to see some of the best tube amps for under $500.
Best Tube Amp Under $1,000
Finding the right tube amp is equivalent to finding a great treasure – a tube amp can offer a chance to form your unique sound, so it’s important to find the right one for you.
If you plan on playing in larger spaces but don’t want to sacrifice that special sound, finding the right larger-wattage tube amp is invaluable. There are tube amps designed specifically for blues, metal, and more.
Depending on your style of music and your guitar, it can get complicated finding the right stage amp for your needs. The less time you have to spend researching amps, the more time you’ll be able to spend practicing.
Best Bass Combo Amp
Arguably, bass is the most important part of the musical family. The bass provides the foundation upon which the rest of the band sits, so it’s important to have the right equipment to have the right output.
The amp is what give you power, and is what pushes your sound to the speakers. A combo amp houses both the amp and speaker (or speakers) into one unit, which saves you time loading and unloading for shows.
Bass requires a specialized low-frequency output to give you the clarity of sound you need. There are bass combo amps designed for different music types, so we’ve done research to find the best combo amp for you, depending on your musical style and budget.
Best Mini Amp
It can be an amazingly fun time to practice hard and loud, but your neighbors might not feel the same way. Mini amps are a great way to practice late at night, or even while just at home casually sitting on the couch.
Mini amps are fantastic! They are infinitely portable, inexpensive, and are compatible with headphones, giving you the sound detail you need without overtaxing your space. Some mini amps can even fit in your guitar case or bag for ultimate portability.
There are also different mini amps designed to mimic the sounds of larger amps, so we’ve looked into the brands and styles of mini amps on the market. Check out some of the best mini amps here.
Best Amp Simulator
Amp simulators are either devices or software that are designed to emulate to sounds and effects of particular amplifiers, such as electric or bass. Amp simulators are essential if you want to try a new sound without investing in new equipment, and simulators can help you produce sound quickly for recording purposes.
Amp simulators also digitally recreate the sound of specific vacuum tube amps models, giving you an affordable alternative to tube amps. There are a lot of amp simulators available today, and there are dozens of options to simulate different effects to achieve British or California guitar sounds, for example.
We know what to look for when evaluating amp simulators; we can help you identify what you need to know about finding the best amp simulators.
Best Combo Amp
Standalone amplifiers contain the preamp and power amp necessary to power sound output to speakers. You may imagine a stage full of powerful amps and speakers, but most of us mortals don’t need that type of equipment.
Enter: combo amps. Combo amps house the amplifier and speakers in one single unit. Combo amps are great because they eliminate the need to have separate equipment, making transport much easier.
With so many combo amps available for sale, finding the right one can be tricky. We understand the important features in a great combo amp, so read on to learn more about combo amps and how to find the best combo amp for your needs.
Best DAC Amp
A DAC stands for digital-to-analog converter and is either a built-in or standalone device designed to convert digital audio signals from a computer into analog audio signals.
If you play audio directly through your computer, you hear that sound as a digital output, but if you want to hear that sound through headphones, a DAC amp is required. Most computers have a built-in DAC and amp, but for higher-quality sound reproduction, you may need to invest in a standalone DAC amp.
You’ll need to invest in a DAC amp is you have a standalone DAC or if you are experiencing significant headphone interference like buzzing. We can help you identify if you need a DAC amp and how to find the best one.
Best Keyboard Amp
If you play an electric keyboard, organ, or synthesizer, getting the right amplifier is a requirement. Quality keyboard amps enhance your sound and allow your audience to hear the nuances of piano or synthesizer music.
Investing in an amp specific to keyboards is important. Guitar amps, for example, are optimized to amplify a guitar’s range of frequency, not a piano. Pianos and other keyboard instruments have a huge range of sounds and tones, so it’s critical to get an amp that supports and enhances those features.
Keyboard amplifiers are more portable than PA systems, and if you play in a band, it’s easier to blend your sound. Seemingly small changes can make a huge difference in your sound detail. Don’t get left behind – check out the best keyboard amps.
Best Fender Amp
There’s nothing quite as classically American as the Fender brand. Synonymous with rock n’ roll, Fender guitars and amps are the perfect choices for beginners, hobbyists, and professional musicians.
That being said, a ubiquitous brand means there are a lot of choices, and we understand it can be difficult to find the best amp. We’ve done research to find the best Fender amps, whether you’re a beginner, a collector, or you’re simply looking for a quality amp head from a reliable brand.
Check out our list of the best Fender amps and how to decide which amp is the right one for your needs.
Best Amp Sim
If you’re on a budget, one of the best ways to mimic the unique sounds of tube amplifiers is by using an amp simulator on a computer. Enter the modern era by plugging into your computer and producing sound that you may not expect.
There are free and paid amp sims, and some may require additional equipment. With current technology, amp sims can supply a realistic sound and quality comparable to the real thing. We know what’s important when it comes to choosing the best amp sims.
Amp sims can help you achieve specific guitar sounds, but you may even experience the unexpected with a digital amplifier. We’ve sorted through the many amp sims available on the market today to help you identify the best amp sim for your needs.
Best Amp for Metal
If metal is your thing, you already know the crucial importance of having a powerful amplifier. It doesn’t matter what your focus is, be it thrash, speed metal, death, or Goth, the amp is the key for defining the articulation you need out of your guitar work. Finding the right amp ensures that you’re getting the right tones, which is key for achieving that sinister metal sound.
It can feel frustrating to practice and not feel like you’re getting a quality sound. Whether you’re looking for an amp head or a combo, we can help you identify the best amps for stage or home practice. We’ve done research to help you find the best amp for metal.
Best Amp for Subs
If you already own subwoofers, it’s important to match with the right amp. Make sure you own subs of the same coil type and impedance, as there might be an imbalance in power otherwise. In addition, you need to make sure the RMS rating of the subwoofer matches the power of your new amp.
If you are looking to invest in both an amp and a sub, you’ll need to decide what kind of power you’d like to achieve and how many subs you want in your system,
We understand what you need when it comes to pairing subwoofers and amps and can help you dig through all of the amps on the market to find the best amps for subs.
Best Marshall Amp
Marshall Amplification, out of England, boasts high-quality amplifiers and speaker cabinets with a reputation for excellence. Marshall guitar amplifiers are known for their signature sound and have been praised by such legends as Jimi Hendrix. The sound is known as the Marshall crunch.”
The amps were originally designed at the behest of several guitarists, including Ritchie Blackmore and Pete Townshend, as an alternative to Fender amps. Marshall amps are available as classically constructed tube amps, solid-state amps, and hybrids.
Like other brands of amps, there are Marshall amps designed for specific sounds, so we’ve put together the best information to help you choose the best Marshall amp for your needs.
Best Blues Amp
Blues guitarists need two things: serious tone and some deep feelings. Finding the right amp for blues will help you achieve both. Finding the right amp for playing the blues will help you nail that gritty sound you’re looking for.
Well-known brands such as Marshall and Fender produce outstanding amps for blues, but there are many other fantastic options.
The right blues amp can provide both clarity of sound and distortion at just the right time, so you don’t need to fiddle with amp adjustments. There are as many opinions on blues amp as there are blues guitarists, so we’ve put our heads together to find the best blues amps on the market.
Best Car Amp
If you’ve spent time in your car or truck listening to tunes, you may have noticed significant distortion when you crank up the volume. This distortion often sources from the built-in amp in your car’s stereo system.
You may be looking to simply install a more powerful amp, or you may be looking to install a new system, but you’ll need to consider the number of speakers in your system and if you want to install a subwoofer.
There are 4-channel amps available, as well as 5-channel amps that support subwoofers. Don’t get bogged down in the sea of car amplifiers; we’ve done research to find the best car amp to meet your needs.
Best Low-watt Tube Amp
Don’t let your budget stand in the way of big sound. Tube amps are the classic choice for most guitarists, as they provide a whole, unique sound that is difficult to replicate.
That said, tube amps can run a little pricey. High wattage tube amps work best when they are saturated with sound (i.e. loud), but you shouldn’t let those factors keep you from owning a high-quality amp.
Low-watt tube amps are a great option because it provides the quality sound you need at a lower price. Not only do you have a lower power draw but you don’t have to sacrifice great sound when you’re practicing at home. Low-watt amps are available as amp heads or as standalone amp/speaker combos. We’ve found the best low-watt amps on the market.
Best Subwoofer Amp
Subwoofers offer the best result if you’re looking to boom low-frequency music. Subwoofers accentuate the bass line in a way that standard systems simply cannot. Subwoofer amps are a must if you have passive, or non-powered, subs, and are often seen either in car or home theater systems.
Passive subwoofers require external power provided by an amplifier, so it’s important to make sure the amp’s power output matches the subwoofer’s requirements without draining your power supply.
Finding the right subwoofer amp can seem difficult, especially with so many choices on the market, so we’ve done research to help you narrow down your choices to one of the best subwoofer amps.
Best Amp Wiring Kit
If you’re looking to wire your own amplifier, or if you’re looking to add a second amp to your system, finding the right amp wiring kit is important. There are different kits available, and we’ve done homework to find the best wiring kits available.
Wiring kits are sold based on wire gauge and can include a range of items, such as power and ground cables, fuses and fuse holders, speaker wire, clips, and cable ties. Fuses come in different amperages and cables are available in different lengths – it’s important to plan accordingly.
We can help you identify what you need in a wiring kit, kit standards, and the best brands and kits on the market.
Best Monoblock Amp
Monoblock amps are amps that operate on a single, non-bridgeable channel, as opposed to stereo amps that encase both channels on the same system. Monoblock amps are advantageous in that they can output to multiple subwoofers, have a higher rated power supply, run more efficiently, and limit interference across channels.
If you have room in your budget, monoblock amps are great for producing high-quality audio without excess “chatter.” If you’re serious about building a home theater, installing monoblock amps for discrete speakers is the way to go.
Whether you’re new to the audio world or you’re looking to learn more, we have the best information on how to choose the best monoblock amps for your system.
Best Amp for Pedals
If you’re a musician, you often spend most of your time practicing and tinkering with sounds. Usually, regular practice is enough, but sometimes you need a punch of flavor.
Pedals can provide the extra effects you were looking for and can bring a new, unique sound to your music. The right amp will provide a clean sound, allowing you to clearly hear any of the effects coming from the pedal.
We can help you identify the features you need in an amp for pedal use, as well as point you to the best amps for pedals available.
Best Beginner Guitar Amp
Beginner guitarists need a lot of equipment that they’ll be using regularly, so you’ll want to make the right investment in the proper gear, but you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get good gear.
The best beginner guitar amp is portable and affordable while still providing high-quality sound. You don’t need to invest in specialized amps when you’re just beginning, so we’ve identified some of the best all-around amps for beginner guitar players.
Best Amp for Telecaster
The Fender Telecaster was one of the first commercial solid-body electric guitars. The elegant design has become a classic representation of guitar music. The Telecaster, also known as the ‘Tele,’ was groundbreaking in its sound and form. The commercial success of the Telecaster has contributed to its constant sales and production since the 1950s.
There are amps optimized for certain styles of music, and there are even amps designed to optimize the sounds of a Fender Telecaster. Depending on the style of music you’re playing, there are a few amps that will work great with a Telecaster. From blues to country, we’ve found the amps that best enhance the sound of a Telecaster.
Best Mono Amp
Mono amps are more efficient than stereo amps, as they allow you to connect more than one subwoofer or single channel speaker. Mono amps are designed specifically as single channel amps to support low-frequency speakers.
As opposed to multi-channel amps, mono amps are more stable and support parallel speakers. Also, you’ll experience clearer sound with amps powering discrete channels. We have all the information you need about mono amps and how to choose the best mono amps for your car or home system.
Our Final Thoughts
A quality amp will provide you with the sound you need. Whether you’re a guitarist looking for a beginner amp or an audiophile building a new home theater, it’s important to find the right amps. With our guides you don’t have to worry about getting bogged down in a sea of information – all you have to do is rock out!