Gear of the Year 2018: Best premium electric guitar amplifiers

If you have £1,500 to spend, check out our eight favourite electric guitar amps of the year,

lazy j j10lc
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A rundown of Jesse Hoff’s clients reads like a laundry list of pro players renowned for their taste and tone. The J10LC is an emphatic demonstration of why… A push-pull amplifier combining the preamp of his much-loved J20 with a 10-watt output stage, the J10 – here in its 5E3-sized ‘large cab’ configuration – comes with a 12-inch Celestion Blue alnico speaker and VAC power scaling, and our review model came fully loaded with optional extras, including footswitchable spring reverb and tremolo modules.

We used it for home practice, recording and even gigging, and found it bristling with a plethora of harmonically rich tweed-inspired tones, from haunting cleans to Neil Young-style meltdown. The best amp we’ve played in many years, let alone just in 2018.

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


Supro 1685RT Neptune Reverb

supro 1685rt neptune

Supro isn’t shy about its intentions with this 2×12 combo: the website describes it as “a clear answer to the Fender Twin and Vox AC30”. At 25 watts it shouldn’t be loud enough to match either of its competitors, but that’s perhaps an advantage in this age of box-room recording and PAs that actually work. It’s billed as Class A and the speakers are Supro’s own ceramic BD12s.

Overall, it has a great mix of thumping bass and pretty top-end chime, a tremolo that can only be described as “addictive”, and a finish that’s well worth the price tag.

Read our full review here.

Swart Antares

swart antares amplifier

With really good amps, you can swap between guitars without needing to alter the controls in any significant way – if at all. The Antares is one such amp. Once you’ve it dialled in, it somehow gets on with the job of bringing out the tone of each instrument. Such is its inherent balance, if you do struggle when changing guitars, it might be that the guitars need adjustment rather than the amp.

Read our full review here.

Rift Amplification Hawker

Rift Amplification hawker

Rather than venturing down the well-trodden Plexi path, Rift founder Chris Fantana took inspiration from Selmer, Watkins and (to a lesser extent) Vox circuits for The Hawker. The result is an amp that has all the smoothness, sustain and dynamic response of a well-crafted handmade model. Of course, it has a price to match. It combines a raft of practical features and surprising versatility with a distinctive voicing, and more than holds its own at the top level.

Read our full review here.

Bartel Amplifiers Roseland

Bartel amps roseland

The Roseland is, in essence, the Bugatti Veyron of guitar amps. The finish, build quality and tone are at the very top end of the boutique league, but to own one you will have to pay accordingly. You might be able to pick up pair of very good boutique US amps for this money and, as with all luxury items, the law of diminishing returns applies.

But that said, with just three preamp controls, the Roseland manages loud Blackface cleans, big and medium tweed tones, and classic British jangle and crunch – all in one package.

Read our full review here.

Black Volt Amplification Crazy Horse

black volt amplification crazy horse

We love the Crazy Horse’s complex clean tones and it’s smooth and refined breakup. Despite, or perhaps because of the circuit’s treble and bass controls, it’s not as versatile, gainy or sonically extreme as a similarly sized tweed combo without stompbox assistance. Nevertheless, it’s certainly more practical in bigger rooms and it’s an interesting and lovingly crafted amp that does what it does extremely well.

Read our full review here.

Two-Rock Bloomfield Drive Combo

two-rock bloomfield drive

The Bloomfield Drive is another Dumble-inspired offering. While 6L6-powered 100- and 50-watt heads are available, the 40/20 combo configuration we tested features a quartet of 6V6s and four 12AX7 preamp valves.

While the Bloomfield Drive may be slightly softer, warmer and less intimidating than Two-Rock’s popular Classic Reverb Signature, its punch, extraordinary touch dynamics and subtlety are equally evident and we think the reverb sounds better. In fact, we like the whole amp better… and that’s really saying something.

Read our full review here.

Fractal Audio Systems Axe-Fx III

fractal audio systems axe fx iii

The Axe-Fx III boasts nearly three times the processing power of version II, and with two 1GHz digital signal processors and dedicated graphics and USB processors onboard, it can rightly claim to be the most powerful unit of its kind on the market. This is a serious – and mobile – piece of studio or live equipment capable of providing the tones for any musical project.

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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