Gear Of The Year: Best guitar amplifiers of 2019
Where this category would typically only include high-end tube amps, surprise, surprise: there are two digital modellers that we think deserve a place in the list of best amplifiers released this year.
WINNER: Orange TremLord 30
Orange describes the TremLord as “our very British take on the 1950s amplifier”, but the tones on offer are more reminiscent of Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac and the era during which London was swinging and Orange founder Cliff Cooper first opened the doors at New Compton Street.
The TremLord’s vibe is decidedly more vintage than we’ve become accustomed to from Orange in recent years, while the combination of spring reverb and a subtle tremolo throb creates a beautiful fog to get lost in. Two footswitchable tremolo speeds are the icing on an especially tasty cake.
WE SAID Characterful cleans and inspiring reverb and tremolo for creative-minded players.
Boss Katana MkII 50
Three years since Boss launched the Katana, the second-gen models have arrived. That includes this small, portable and affordable 50-watt 1×12 combo: the Katana-50 MkII. The main advances are in tonal flexibility: there’s now a ‘variation’ option for each of the five amp types, effectively giving you 10 to choose from, and the effects section has been redesigned so you can use up to five at once instead of three.
WE SAID This baby amp kicks out some seriously grown-up tones.
Marshall Studio Series SV20H
The two-channel, non-master volume SV20H head is based on the Marshall 1959 model – better known as the 100-watt Super Lead or ‘Plexi,’ due to the original’s Plexiglas front panel. It succeeds in channelling the spirit of a vintage Marshall head in a lower-power format and it delivers big-box Marshall tone at volume levels that are better suited to modern gigging and recording environments.
WE SAID Once you get your head around the controls and link the channels, this is a very convincing low-wattage take on a high-wattage classic.
Supro 1696RT Black Magick Reverb
The 1696RT Black Magick Reverb is based on the 6973-loaded Supro that Jimmy Page acquired in 1974 and later loaned to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame museum. Not exactly the right era, perhaps, but a good indicator of the sort of Supro amps he was into during his Zeppelin days.
WE SAID Inspiration beats versatility all day long, and for plug-in-and-play vintage rock tones with all the effects you really need, we can think of few better options.
Carr’s amps are fêted for their genuine point-to-point wiring, mid-century modern styling and above all, fantastic tone quality. The Telstar ticks each of these boxes, but its unique selling points are thin-wall cabinet construction and mismatched power valves. It provides an impressive range of clean and driven variations on a defining theme that is full, harmonically rich and sublimely touch-sensitive.
WE SAID Meticulously built, with unique tones, real-world attenuation and fine reverb
Supro 1812R Blues King 12
At just £599 and packing in expensive-sounding tones in a cool, compact and affordable package, Supro’s Blues King 12 may just be the Blues Junior killer we’ve been waiting for.
WE SAID Expensive-sounding tones in a cool, compact and affordable package.
Blackstar Silverline Stereo Deluxe
There are no tubes in sight in Blackstar’s newest amp, the Silverline Stereo Deluxe. Rather, a high-performance SHARC floating-point processor and the brand’s own proprietary tech simulates the whole valve-amplifier signal chain as accurately and viscerally as technologically possible.
WE SAID An amp for big rooms with valve-like punch and gloriously immersive stereo effects.
Rift Amplification Aynsley Lister Signature
The British bluesman’s signature amp takes the form of a 1×12 valve guitar combo amplifier with solid-state rectification and spring reverb made by boutique UK amp builder Chris Fantana.
WE SAID An inspiring and versatile boutique combo with tones that turn heads.
Two-Rock Studio Signature
Two-Rock describes the Studio Signature as a lower power version of the Classic Reverb Signature, but it’s downsized, more portable and produces 35 watts from a pair of 6L6 output valves.
WE SAID A sophisticated, superior-sounding pedal-platform amp with gorgeous reverb.
Blackstar HT-20R MKII
Versatile, affordable and hard to beat for small gigs and home practice, this 1×12 combo replaces Blackstar’s HT Studio 20 but adds a few bells and whistles. These include footswitchable alternative voicings for each channel and a switchable power output to facilitate driving the twin-EL84 power section hard at sociable volumes.
WE SAID Versatile, affordable and hard to beat for small gigs and home practice.
Check out all the Gear Of The Year 2019 categories here.