Best Solid State Amp Review for Beautiful Crisp Sound 2017

Our Top Pick

Solid state amps get a really bad rep. In most cases, this is totally justified – the market is packed with cheap amps which will never be able to deliver top-notch sound, no matter how many pedals you add. But not all of them suck, and you can find some hidden gems. That’s where we come in.

We’ve read hundreds of reviews, talked to loads of musicians, and spent hours listening to solid state amps, all so we can tell you that if you are looking for a solid state amp, the Roland JC 120 is definitely the one to get.

This is the closest to a “classic” solid state amp around at the moment, and delivers a sound that rivals even the best valve amps. In addition, it comes packed with great feature that will win over even the most demanding purist. If you are looking for an amp that will deliver great sound quality for years to come, get this one.

Editor’s Pick – Top Pick

Product DescriptionUsers Score
Editor choice
Roland JC-120

Roland JC-120

Wow. This is the closest it is possible to get to a classic solid state amp, having built an enviable reputation ...

User Rating: 4 (1 votes)
2 Randall RG1503

Randall RG1503

This is simply a great solid state amp, and represents amazing value. This amp comes with a variety of options ...

User Rating: 4 (1 votes)
3 Line 6 Spider V 120

Line 6 Spider V 120

Line 6 have built a great reputation over the years, and this amp continues that great tradition, whilst also ...

User Rating: 4 (1 votes)
4 Quilter Labs Steelaire

Quilter Labs Steelaire

Quilter labs are newcomers to the solid state amp scene, but this amp is really promising. They have focused on ...

User Rating: 4 (1 votes)
5 Fender Mustang IV 150W

Fender Mustang IV 150W

Fender proudly claim that the Mustang is the world’s bestselling amplifier series, and this is a worthy addition to ...

User Rating: 4 (1 votes)

The Best Solid State Amps for the Money

Model SizeWeightPower
Roland JC 120 30 x 25 x 12 in 150 pounds 120W
Randall RG1503 30.9 x 25.8 x 17.1 inches 21 pounds 150W
Line 6 Spider V120 20.1 x 10.7 x 19.3 in 30.9 pounds 120W
Quilter Labs Steelaire 21 x 23 x 9 in 35 pounds 200W
Fender Mustang IV 150W 26.5 x 10.75 x 21.5 in 47 pounds 150W

What is a Solid State Amp?

Solid State amps get a really bad rep. Experienced guitar players, who think they know better, will always tell newbies that the gorgeous tones of a valve amp are simply not achievable on a solid state amp.

This is because the technology used to amplify sound in solid state amp – electronic transistors, rather than dusty old vacuum tubes – is still regarded as relatively new in the world of guitar amps.

And whilst the complaints about solid state amps might have been justified until a few years ago, things have changed in recent years. With advances in modeling and circuitry, the best solid state amps available today rival their tube cousins in terms of sound quality.

In addition, getting a solid state amp offers advantages over tube amps. The first, and most obvious, is the price – these amps are typically half the price of their traditional competition, whilst still delivering all the noise you need to play even the biggest halls!

Then there is the hardiness of these amps. Vacuum tubes, as we are sure we don’t have to tell you, are fragile. Dropping a tube amp, or having it slide around in your truck, is a sure way to have to spend your hard earned dollars on replacement tubes. No such problem here.

For this reason and others, solid state amps have become a favorite of gigging musicians, who require a reliable amp that will still give them the power required to play gigs.

Our Reviews for Best Solid State Amps

What kind of solid state amp you need, and the features you want it to have, depend on how you’re going to use it. An amp for practicing in your room is quite a different beast to one you can tour huge venues with.

Some of the things to look for in an amp stay the same, though:

  • Power. A lot of people talk a lot about power, as though it was a measure of how good an amp is. Certainly, if you are playing huge venues, or outside, you will need a powerful amp. However, for practice, a 20W amplifier will easily deal with the task. It will still go incredibly loud, so don’t worry about not being heard!
  • Speakers. A common set-up for guitar amps is a 12” woofer coupled with a smaller tweeter, typically 1”. Some amps come with an additional mid-range horn as well, which can potentially improve frequency response and definition.
  • Inputs and outputs. It might sound obvious, but make sure the amp you are looking at has the correct type of inputs, and enough o f them, to accommodate all the gear you want to plug in.

Ultimately, there is no substitute for hearing these amps yourself. Everybody has different preferences when it comes to how they want their amp to sound. But you could do worse than checking out these ones:


1. Editor’s Pick: Roland JC-120

Wow. This is the closest it is possible to get to a classic solid state amp, having built an enviable reputation over the past few years.

This is the amp to point to when the tube purists claim that there is no such thing as a great solid state amplifier. For some people, solid state amps will always be the cheap alternative to vacuum tube amps, but we guarantee that many people will be convinced of the the opposite after hearing this amp.

What really stands out on this amp is the clear tone. If you are looking for a solid state amp which simply delivers the best tone available, this is the one to get. We are not sure how Roland have managed to achieve this tone using a solid state amplifier, all we know is that it sounds great. The clarity, power and brightness of this amp are hard to believe, and no matter what style of music you play, it will faithfully reproduce everything you tell it to.

Roland JC-120

This is the amp to point to when the tube purists claim that there is no such thing as a great solid state amplifier. For some people, solid state amps will always be the cheap alternative to vacuum tube amps, but we guarantee that many people will be convinced of the the opposite after hearing this amp!

Take a listen here.

In addition, it has all the advantages of every solid state amp, plus a few more:

PROS:

  • The power offered by this amp is more than sufficient for any purpose. The 120 model, which is the one we reviewed, gives you two 60 watt channels, with a dedicated speaker for each. The amp, on its own, is more than capable of playing even quite large rooms, and links well with PA systems.
  • The speakers are classics in themselves. Roland’s silver-cone speakers have made appearances on many amps over the years, and always sound great. This amp is no exception – seriously, some of the people we talked to for this review couldn’t believe that this was a solid state amp.
  • The fuzz on this amp is … acceptable. In honesty, you are never going to get an excellent fuzz effect from a solid state amp, but the tone on this amp is OK. Given the price, and the glorious clean tone, this is a small price to pay.
  • The sound options on this amp are great. It offers two input channels, and a dedicated three band EQ for each. This makes it easy even for beginners to achieve precisely the sound they want, and given the price of this amp represents an unparalleled level of adaptability.
  • This amp will last forever. It has become a favorite amongst even the most famous guitar players because it can stand the worst punishment. If you are lucky enough to be flying all over the world to play gigs, it is nice to know that your amp will arrive in perfect working condition, with no broken valves, sounding just as good as it did on the day you bought it.

CONS:

  • In truth, none. If you are looking for a classic solid state amp that will deliver great tone for years, no matter how badly you treat it, this is the one to get!


2. Randall RG1503

picture of Randall RG1503

This is simply a great solid state amp, and represents amazing value.

This amp comes with a variety of options with regard to pairing cabinets to heads, and it is worth shopping around, because if you play your cards right there are some real bargains to be had.

Having a head and cabinet as separates like this allows you to choose precisely which controls you want, whilst always delivering amazing sounds.

Randall amplifiers have been the favorite of heavy metal players for quite some time now, and if you play metal, this is the solid state amp to get. It delivers huge power, and wrings maximum volume from every watt available. Several of the people we spoke to for this review reported that it has the volume to play even quite large halls, even without a dedicated PA system.

Randall RG1503

This amp comes with a variety of options with regard to pairing cabinets to heads, and it is worth shopping around, because if you play your cards right there are some real bargains to be had.

In addition, is has these great features:

PROS:

  • The audio adjustments on this amp are exactly what metal players need! You can get a killer bass boost, or a nice midi scoop, when you need it, quickly and easily. This is why this amp has become such a favorite of heavy metal guitarists.
  • The distortion offered by this amp is amazing. If you are the kind of player who really values crushing sound, this amp delivers it in spades. It rivals valve amp double the price for the sheer aggression that can be produced, whilst also offering all the other advantages of a solid state amp.
  • The incorporated footswitch also sets this amp apart from the other we reviewed. With three input channels, it has more than enough adaptability for even the most demanding guitarist, and the footswitch makes changing between these channels a breeze.
  • The build quality of this amp also makes it stand out from the competition. Randall have built an excellent reputation amongst gigging musicians, who value the fact that their larger amps will put up with even the longest tours. This amp replicates that great quality, and we are sure that it will provide years of reliable service.

CONS:

  • None, for the price. If you are looking for a solid state amp for metal, this is the one. The only disadvantage we can see is that your rhythm guitarist will envy the sound you are producing at half the price of their own amp!


3. Line 6 Spider V 120 

picture of Line 6 Spider V 120 amplifier

Line 6 have built a great reputation over the years, and this amp continues that great tradition, whilst also incorporating the latest features.

This is a modeling amp, and so is a bit different from the pure amps above. Packed with computing power, this amp able to replicate the sound of every classic amp you care to mention, as well as being able to produce some truly original sounds of its own.

Whilst purists will always sneer at this kind of modeling amp, the advantages offered by them are huge. Instead of spending thousands of dollars on a studio set up which includes five separate amps and dozens of pedals, this amp will deliver precisely the sound you need from one unit, and allows you to quickly change between different sounds.

Line 6 Spider V 120

This is a modeling amp, and so is a bit different from the pure amps above. Packed with computing power, this amp able to replicate the sound of every classic amp you care to mention, as well as being able to produce some truly original sounds of its own.

This amp is, in our opinion, one of the best modeling amps available at the moment, and with so many tone options to play with, you and your purist friends will soon forget that it has no valves!

In addition, this amp comes with some great features:

PROS:

  • Unlike conventional guitar amps, the Spider V has the advantage of being equipped with a full-range speaker system. Whilst it is just as good at amplifying guitars as dedicated guitar amps, this extra range means that it can also be used with keyboards, vocals, or even pre-recorded music. If you play other instruments in addition to guitar, this is a great feature.
  • The tone options, like most modeling amps, are almost endless. In addition to loads of great simulations of classic amps, this amp also offers some seriously extreme effects. If you are the kind of player who likes to add some really weird sounds into your tracks, this is the amp to go for.
  • The amp is wireless! We expect that this kind of technology will become standard on amps over the next few years, but at the moment this is one of the only solid state amps to offer this capability. Whilst this looks cool in your practice room, it really comes into its own on stage, where having no wire to get in the way allows you to focus on what really matters – playing.
  • Last but not least, the power of this amp is more than sufficient for most player’s requirements. Whilst it might not be the loudest amp we have reviewed today, it is more than loud enough to play small gigs, and connects to PA systems really easily.

CONS:

  • Very few. Some purists will always look down on modeling amps like this. That is, until they hear the incredible range of tones and effects you can get from this amp.


4. Quilter Labs Steelaire

Quilter labs are newcomers to the solid state amp scene, but this amp is really promising. 

picture of Quilter Labs Steelaire amplifier

They have focused on what really matter in a solid state amp, and delivered it extremely well. The amp sounds great, delivering a clear, crisp sound that is perfect for amplifying acoustic guitars for those small, intimate gigs.

Not that this amp does not have power. At 200W, it is one of the most powerful solid state amps available, and can go incredibly loud when you want it to. This power is delivered through a single speaker, which somehow delivers the frequency response of amps with multiple woofers and tweeters. We are not sure quite how Quilter Labs have managed to achieve this, but we like what we hear.

If it is important to you, and we are sure that it is, this solid state amp simply looks the best of any we tested. Though a new design, it resembles the classic styling of tube amps, and looks great both in the practice room and on stage.

Quilter Labs Steelaire

They have focused on what really matter in a solid state amp, and delivered it extremely well. The amp sounds great, delivering a clear, crisp sound that is perfect for amplifying acoustic guitars for those small, intimate gigs.

In addition, this amp has several big advantages:

PROS:

  • It delivers more than enough power for most players. With 200W of noise, it is perfect for even quite large gigs. If you are playing stadiums, it will easily connect to PA systems.
  • The build quality of this amp is something else. From the moment you receive this amp, you will be impressed with how solid it feels, and we are confident that it will put up with years of abuse without complaining.
  • The clean sound of this amp is perfect for blues players! With plenty of back-up voltage always available, the amp will go incredibly loud with little to no distortion, and even when pushed to its limits the tone stays clean and responsive.
  • A really nice feature of this amp is that Quilter have thought about the equipment storage capability of it. If you are a gigging musician, it is really handy to know that your amp will accommodate all of your gear in a dedicated back panel, allowing you to get on and off stage really quickly.

CONS:

  • Very few. Some purists will never be happy with the sound of a solid-state amplifier, but we think that the differences they hear might just be in their own heads. If you are looking for an solid amp that will last for years, this is the one to go for.


5. Fender Mustang IV 150W

Fender proudly claim that the Mustang is the world’s bestselling amplifier series, and this is a worthy addition to that great heritage! 

picture of Fender Mustang IV 150W amplifier

For half the price of a Fender tube amp, this amp offers the same amazing sound, and sounds great even when pushed to the limit of its 150W power.

We are not sure how they have achieved it, but somehow this amp offers that classic, iconic Fender sound, without tubes. There is clearly some electrical magic going on here, but we don’t mind.

In addition, this amp is extremely adaptable. It comes packed with 100 on-board presets, more than enough for even the most discerning of guitarists. If you somehow get bored of playing in that signature Fender sound, there are an almost infinite number of other options to choose from.

Fender Mustang IV 150W

Fender proudly claim that the Mustang is the world’s bestselling amplifier series, and this is a worthy addition to that great heritage!

Of course, this amp also has several more advantages:

PROS:

  • It delivers more than enough power for most players. With 150 W of noise, it is perfect for either the practice room or small gigs. If you are playing larger venues, it will easily connect to PA systems.
  • The tone options available on this amp are simply incredible. It offers five new amp models over its ancestor, pushing the number of models available up to 17. If you are looking for an amp to form the basis of a home studio, this is the one to get, offering the power and sound of a dedicated guitar amp whilst also allowing you the flexibility to design your own sound.
  • The design of this amp has been fully modernized, so it offers USB connectivity. For the modern guitarist, who often prefers to record tracks at home rather than in the studio, this is a really handy feature.
  • Purchasing this amp also allows you to access the Fender FUSE application, which is a dedicated software interface than can be used with a wide variety of Fender products. If you are looking to make your first foray into the world of Fender amplifiers, then this is a great place to start!

CONS:

  • Very few. If you are looking for that classic Fender sound, but still want the practicality and value of a solid state amp, you could do worse than giving this one a look!


Our Final Thoughts on the Best Solid State Amps for the Money

So which to choose?

Well, your choice of solid state amp is yours alone, of course. Nothing can beat hearing these amps in the flesh, and finding one that perfectly matches the sound you want to achieve. All of the amps we reviewed today offer incredible sound that we are confident will please even the most discerning player.

In our opinion, even the most experienced players have use for a solid state amp. Nothing beats the hardiness of these amps, and it is nice to know that even if your amp ends up sliding about on the floor of your truck on the way to the gig, you will not break a valve!

Our choice, though, is the Roland JC 120. This is the closest to a “classic” solid state amp  around at the moment, and delivers a sound that rivals even the best valve amps. In addition, it comes packed with great features that will win over even the most demanding purist. If you are looking for an amp that will deliver great sound quality for years to come, get this one.

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