Gear of the Year 2018: Best affordable electric guitar amplifiers

If you need a proper amp in your life, whether as a gigging sidekick or studio stalwart, this sub-£1,000 quintet will see you right.

marshall origin 20c

WINNER: Marshall Origin 20C

For many guitar players, 2019 was the year that Marshall finally got its mojo back. The Bletchley institution never stopped making great guitar amps, but for some time, it felt that there was a hole in the range for an affordable, gig-ready valve amp with vintage tones and stylings.

The Origin 20C fills that void in some style. With 20 watts of tube-powered Marshall tones wrapped up in the company’s iconic livery, the 20C also offers modern considerations, including an effects loop, power scaling down to 0.5 watts and a surprisingly usable DI out. One of the most important Marshall amps of recent times, this should be on every gigging guitarist’s try list.

Read our full review here or watch our video demo below:

Runners-up

Blackstar 10th Anniversary Artisan 10 AE

Blackstar 10th anniversary artisan 10ae

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Thanks to its excellent master volume the Artisan 10AE is effectively two amps in one. If you’re looking for sweet, boutique-style cleans and classic overdriven tones at living room volumes then this is would be a shrewd choice but what makes £499 seem like a serious bargain is the fact that it can also handle stripped-down gigs and rehearsals, and is a versatile weapon in the studio.

Read our full review here.

Fender Hot Rod Deluxe IV

Fender hot rod deluxe iv

The Hot Rod Deluxe IV brings about some welcome updates to one of the world’s most popular amps. It now features a pine cabinet, which means it’s lighter than its forebear – 1.57kg, to be precise. Other changes include ivory-coloured chicken-head control knobs to compliment the re-textured black control panel, a steel-reinforced strap handle, lightly-aged silver cloth and a single 12-inch Celestion A-Type speaker.

In terms of performance, the Deluxe’s midrange characteristics and smoother drive come closer to the tone and feel of some of the high-priced and hand-made amps you might find in premium guitar shops.

Read our full review here.

DV Mark DV ‘Raw Dawg’ EG

Raw Dawg DV Mark eg

The guitar-head market might traditionally be a conservative place, but the ‘Raw Dawg’ EG has a clear ambition to set a new standard in performance per kilo. A stripped-down head that weighs in at under three kilograms, its solid-state output stage – DV Mark’s own proprietary MPT type – belts out 250 watts through a four-ohm cab, or 150 watts through eight ohms.

This amount of firepower, helped along by a 6205 subminiature valve on preamp duty, should be loud enough for pretty much anyone in 2018.

Read our full review here.

Orange Rocker 15 Terror

Orange rocker 15 terror

The basic principle of this Terror remains true to the blueprint: 15 watts from a pair of EL84s, switchable down to seven watts, in a compact white metal chassis. But it’s a couple of inches wider than its daddy, and the main reason for that is that it’s a two-channel amp. Plus, while the Tiny Terror stripped things right back with just master volume, preamp gain and a single tone control, this model offers a three-band EQ section on the dirty channel for precise tailoring of your overdriven tones.

Read our full review here.

Looking for other gear? Check out our roundup of the best amps, accessories, pedals and electric guitars of 2018.

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