Best Blues Amp Buyer's Guide
With so many amps to choose from, getting the right blues amp can be a little daunting. Thankfully modern day amp manufacturers continue to make reproductions of classic amps that iconic guitarists of the past actually used. And since these amps worked for them, you can trust these classics to provide the same sonic quality that inspired you to take up the blues.
Superb note clarity, dynamics and articulation are characteristics that all great blues amps have. The faithful reproduction of nuances allow for a more emotional and organic tone, important trademarks of true blues music. And to get amps with these important qualities, the safest pick is to go for tried and tested classic designs. As such, the blues amps that we have selected for this guide, after reviewing many options, are all ones based on classic amp designs. In fact some of them are arguably better than the original amps they are based on due to superior component manufacturing these days - everything from speakers to tubes are now produced to more exacting specs.
Fender Hot Rod Blues Junior III
Blues amplification starts and ends with Fender amps, thanks to their transparent, dynamic and detailed tonality. So to start off this list is a modest but elegant amplifier, the Fender Hot Rod Blues Junior III. This amplifier gives you that distinctive classic Fender tone, only slightly modified to accommodate contemporary blues. And it does so in a modern and modest package, where bells and whistles are kept to minimum in favor of affordability and portability.
With Fender's undeniable presence in the Blues genre, it is only natural that they to find that their tube amplifiers are varied enough to specifically address particular needs at various price points. The Fender Hot Rod Blues Junior III is one that hits the sweet spot right on, in term of quality, versatility and tone while remaining relatively affordable.
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- Read our full Fender Hot Rod Blues Junior III meta-review below
Peavey Classic 30/112
Behind bands that play pop and other music genres are passionate blues guitarists that are simply waiting to do a wailing blues solo. In a blink of an eye, they can transform their pop and ballad sounds into biting blues tones, thanks to versatile tube amps like the popular workhorse Peavey Classic 30/112.
This amplifier is well known for its versatility, handling anything from ballad, to pop, to hard rock and it will let you seamlessly switch back to blues. Its simply a blues amp hiding behind a seemingly all purpose amp. The Classic 30 can give you that classic breaking clean tone, and its overdrive captures your dynamics and nuances...
Thanks to its elegant look and distinctive Brit flavored tone, the Vox AC30 continues to be one of the most sought after tube amplifier for blues guitar players. This amp has satisfied a long list of artists that include Jimmy Page, Rory Gallagher, John Scofield and Brian May just to name a few. And it has been used in countless tracks that go beyond the typical blues and rock genre usually associated with guitars.
Even today, with so many modern options available, the AC30 continues to serve as a great looking backline for many contemporary guitar players. So Vox takes extra care in faithfully reproducing this classic tube amp while infusing modern technology for improved reliability. With the AC30's gorgeous looks, versatility and its uniquely piercing tone, jaws are surely going to drop when you play. If you're into
Fender '65 Super Reverb
The limited edition Fender '65 Super Reverb is designed to provide the perfect balance of dynamics, clarity, detail and power, that is simply suited for the blues. It is a testament to Fender's dominance in the blues amp demographic - combining impressive classic tones with great aesthetics.
This amp is based on the popular "Blackface" Super Reverb that were widely used in the '60s. It brings back this classic amp with vintage correct specifications and added eye candies for the enjoyment of modern day guitarists. If you play a Stratocaster, then it is imperative that you pair it up with this amp to get the legendary shimmering tone that shaped the sound of blues guitar as we know it...
Marshall 1962 Bluesbreaker
The Marshall 1962 Bluesbreaker amp is a remake of the amp that was designed for Clapton back in the '60s. It moves away from the glassy Texas style tones and inserts some British flavor, resulting in a fatter and "crunchy" tone, which became the basis for Clapton's "woman tone". Up to now, Slow Hand's "woman tone" is still among the most sought after sound for blues guitar players, with many trying to emulate the tone it via pedals. This amp lets you in on the original tone by simply plugging in and some minor tweaking to match the type of guitar you're using.
If you wield a Les Paul or other humbucker-equipped guitars, then this is a great blues amp to pair your instrument with. While the price point can be a bit too much for some, its classy look, hand-wired construction, and great tones will give you a lifetime's worth of blues bliss.
- Get the latest price & reviews at Amazon.com
- Read our full Marshall 1962 Bluesbreaker meta-review below
Detailed Meta-Reviews of the Best Blues Amplifiers
Fender Hot Rod Blues Junior III Amplifier
The Fender Hot Rod Blues Junior III brings the elegant look and classic tones of Fender amps in a modern, compact and affordable package.
It brings that unmistakable Fender tone while stripping off some of the bells and whistles to make it more portable, easy to use and affordable. Since it is undeniable that Fender has a strong foothold on the Blues genre, it is only natural for them to produce tube amplifier models that specifically address the needs of modern blues guitarists. And that is the summary of what the Fender Hot Rod Blues Junior III amplifier can do, and it does it while having a relatively affordable price tag. For a small 15Watt 1x12 combo amp, the Blues Jr III is surprisingly loud, thanks to its 12AX7 preamp and EL-84 output tubes. The tubes drive a 12" Fender "Lightning Bolt" speaker made by Eminence, which is designed to consistently perform in both loud and low volume situations.
The Blues Jr III has a distinctively "fat" midrange tone that can be enhanced further via its "FAT" boost switch. Other basic tone shaping controls include the Master, Middle, Bass and Treble knobs. Reviews of this amp are almost unanimous that its blues friendly, it does a great job of retaining the dynamics and nuances of your playing , which is an essential aspect of blues guitar playing. If you are looking for an easy to operate, portable and affordable tube amp for playing blues, this is a great deal.
Price is usually under $600 - Get the latest price & reviews at Amazon.com
Peavey Classic 30/112 Amplifier
If you are looking for an amp that is flexible enough to handle various musical genres while retaining excellent bluesy dynamics and tones, then this is the amp for you.
The Peavey Classic 30 is a popular workhorse tube amplifier, known for its versatile tones that can handle anything from ballad, to pop and hard rock. But many have discovered that it shines really nice when used for blues music. And more importantly, the blues tones are easily accessible by simply tweaking the settings! With some adjustments, you will find that the Classic 30 has a clean tone that breaks really well, and it has a raw and transparent overdrive that works great for blues riffs and leads. At the core of the amp are three 12AX7 and four EL84 tubes that power a 12" Blue Marvel speaker. This configuration gives it its a vintage vibe that matches its classic looking exterior.
The amp comes with a clean and lead channel, and has essential EQ controls for bass, middle and treble. The lead channel offers a Pre and Post Gain knob which gives you a variety of overdriven tones. Since the Classic 30 is built in the USA by Peavey, it has proven to be reliable and roadworthy. It also offers a wealth of added features including reverb and boost. Last but not the least, the amp can easily accommodate your favorite pedals with its built-in effects loop.
Many bedroom blues wailers and weekend warriors agree that this is a great versatile amp for soulful and tasteful guitar playing. Get the latest price & reviews at Amazon.com
Vox AC30C2X Amplifier
The Vox AC30C2X brings back the iconic amplifier that helped shape the modern British blues and rock guitar sound.
The AC30 has a a long list of famous guitar players under its name, covering various genres and making its mark in Blues music. With the Custom series AC30C2X, Vox brings back this venerable tube amp with modern enhancements and great sounding Alnico Blue speakers. The AC30's incredible dynamics helped it achieve its fame, and it is one of the reasons why many blues guitar players prefer to use this amp over more traditional amplifiers. The AC30C2X amp is equipped with three 12AX7 preamp tubes and four EL84 tubes which deliver 30 Watts of power. The amp powers a pair of 12" Celestion Alnico Blues speakers, which is well received by blues players because of its ability to "break-up" early and beautifully, as would vintage speakers do.
The Vox Custom Series AC30C2X continues the original's legacy of versatility. It has two channels - a Normal and a Top-Boost channel. The Top Boost Channel gives you an edgier sound compared to the Normal channel, it increases the sensitivity of the Bass and Treble controls, allowing for more aggressive tones. Further tone shaping is provided in the form of a Tone Cut knob, which operates in the power stage. Each channel has its own independent Volume control which you can tweak along with the master Volume knob to produce a variety of sounds, from the famous Vox "chimey" sound to a more modern overdriven tone.
Other features of the Vox AC30C2X include high and low inputs for each channel and FX return ports. Built-in effects include a great sounding Tremolo and Spring Reverb - ideal for great sounding blues riffs and breaks. With its killer looks and iconic tones, its hard not to like the AC30. Get the latest price & reviews at Amazon.com
Fender '65 Super Reverb
Fender amplifiers, with their focus on dynamics and details, have undoubtedly dominated the electric guitar blues genre.
The limited edition Fender '65 Super Reverb is a perfect example of why Fender rules the blues demographic - featuring dynamic and powerful tones paired with elegant and impressive looks. The '65 Super Reverb is a modern take on the popular "Blackface" Super Reverb amps that were available from 1963-1968. It is considered by many as a must-have for blues enthusiasts and makes for a great amp for Strat slingers. This amp faithfully reproduces the original Blackface's legendary shimmering tone, clarity and power. The Super Reverb has one 5AR4 rectifier tube, four 12AX7, two 12AT7 preamp tubes and it sports two 6L6 output tubes.
This amp is really loud, rated at 45 Watts, powerful enough to fill stages, and makes it a great workhorse amp for medium to large sized venues. Since this is a limited edition model, the amp comes with enhanced aesthetics thanks to its great looking Wine Red vinyl covering, matched with a Wheat grille cloth. It also features four 10" Celestion G10 speakers that give this amp a unique "English" tone twist. If you're a Strat player and you're looking for a professional tube amp for your blues music, then this is where you should start looking.
Additional features include dual channels (normal and vibrato), tube-driven Fender reverb, tube vibrato, two-button footswitch for reverb and vibrato and a nifty tilt-back support. If you are looking for a great looking amp with raw "warts-and-all" blues tone - you should start saving for the real deal. Get the latest price & reviews at Amazon.com
Marshall 1962 Bluesbreaker
Sometimes the blues are best played with tubes cranked up - and the Marshall 1962 Bluesbreaker delivers!
If you are tired of the "glassy" Texas style blues tones, and you prefer the fatter and "crunchy" British blues variety, then check out the Marshall 1962 Bluesbreaker. This is a great looking and equally great sounding amp ideal for blues guitarists that carry Les Pauls or other humbucking equipped guitars. Back in the '60s, British guitar tones are mostly thin and jangly , Clapton changed all that with the fat "woman tone" that his Marshall and Les Paul combination produced. This historic Marshall combo amp was used by Eric Clapton during his stay with John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, hence the the name.
The modern day 1962 Bluesbreaker is a vintage reissue of the original amp that was designed by Jim Marshall to meet Eric's demand for tone and portability. To reproduce the classic blues tone that helped propel Eric Clapton's career, this blues amp is hand-wired in the Marshall Factory, and it uses special components that match the original design. One notable feature is its GZ34 rectifier tube, which helps the amp achieve its distinctive output stage compression, midrange emphasis and sustain. This literally translates to great sounding leads that can easily cut through a noisy band and sustain well, allowing for dramatic and emotional blues phrasings. This amp features three ECC83 preamp tubes, two 5881 power amp tubes that power two 12" reissue Celestion Greenback 25-watt speakers. Other features include basic 3 band EQ and a foot switchable tremolo effect.
With the Marshall 1962 Bluesbreaker combo amp, you are sure to wow your audience with great looks and killer tones. Get the latest price & reviews at Amazon.com
Although you might say the list above isn't exhaustive, we have deliberately left out modelling amps, and some of the more prestigious boutique amps due to their lack of general availability. If you have a suggestion for an amp we've missed, please post in the comments below - if we get enough requests for a particular amplifier, then we'll look at reviewing it and including it above.
We also suggest you take a look at these recommended electric guitars for playing blues over on Guitar Chalk.
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