The best amps of 2023 according to the Guitar.com team
From UK-made valve powerhouses to battery-powered digital amps, these are the best amplification solutions we came across this year.
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Despite what the extollants of silent stages might tell you, amps are far from dead: they’re more alive than ever, and rather than an adversarial relationship with digital modelling and floor-based solutions, they continue to integrate modern tech without getting in the way of what we’re really here for: making our guitars louder.
2023 saw no slowdown in terms of innovation, but we also saw some makers return to their roots in one way or another – and this is, really, the best thing about playing guitar in 2023. If you need an amp that does it all, the direct outs, the power reduction, you’re spoilt for choice – equally so if you want a humongous power transformer that’s ready to pummel a speaker cabinet and the audience. Over the last year, the Guitar.com team looked at plenty of excellent amps: here are 10 that stood out.
The 10 best amps of 2023, at a glance:
- Fender Tone Master Princeton Reverb
- Marshall ST20H JTM Studio
- Orange OR30
- Positive Grid Spark GO
- Victory Sheriff 25
- Blackstar Amped 3
- Bad Cat Hot Cat 1×12
- Blackstar Debut 50R
- Boss Katana 50 MkII EX
- Fender FR12
Fender Tone Master Princeton Reverb
Fender’s Tone Master Pro wasn ’t the only outing for the Tone Master range this year – there was also the Tone Master Princeton Reverb, one of the best applications of the tech we’ve played yet. Not only is the small-but-powerful combo about half the weight of its bottle-fed equivalent, the sounds were dead-on, and the digital nature gives you some great low-volume options for at-home playing.
Today’s best deals on the Fender Tone Master Princeton Reverb
Marshall ST20H JTM Studio
Marshall’s latest valve head is a pleasingly retro entry into its catalogue – UK-made, and based on the very first Marshall amp, the JTM. It’s a great mix of old and new – yes, it’s a non-master volume tube head, but there’s an attenuation switch, and an effects loop for slightly easier integration into modern rigs. But the sounds needed no modernising outside of the lowering of the noise floor – it’s got all the chewy Marshall goodness that made the brand timeless in the first place.
Today’s best deals on the Marshall ST20H JTM Studio
In a similar vein to Marshall’s new UK-made amps, Orange’s production returned to these sceptred isles with the OR30 in 2023. The amp follows the format of its OR predecessors, in the sense that it’s a single-channel, no-nonsense beast that’s also window-shatteringly loud. While it’s missing many modern innovations, that’s kind of the point with an amp like this – and for pure, unfettered tube-driven tone, it’s undeniable.
Today’s best deals on the Orange OR30
Positive Grid Spark GO
The Spark GO is amazing: not only is it a portable, battery-powered amp no bigger than a coke can, it’s also good. Punching well above its weight tonally – thanks to similar tech that’s made portable bluetooth speakers sound a lot better recently – it also features a convenient and easy-to-use smartphone app, making it one of the best practice solutions no matter what budget you’re on.
Today’s best deals on the Positive Grid Spark GO
Victory Sheriff 25
Victory’s Sheriff 25 is the lunchbox form of its Marshall-style head. Despite its smaller size and less spine-powederising weight compared to the Victory 100, though, it still offers plenty of British Roar, with both JCM800 and JTM-style tones being coaxed from its tubes – Victory’s hot-streak of excellently-made and excellently-voiced amplifiers continues.
Today’s best deals on the Victory Sheriff 25
Blackstar Amped 3
The lines between what’s an amp and what’s a pedal that’s replacing an amp are ever blurring, but make no mistake, the Amped 3 is an amp – that’s a real solid-state power section in there, just as capable of driving a guitar cab as any other head. And compared to the other Amped units, this is a much more focused deal, in that it comes across as a versatile amp head with three great channels that just happens to go on the floor, as opposed to a multi-effects unit bolted onto a power-amp.
Today’s best deals on the Blackstar Amped 3
Bad Cat Hot Cat 1×12
Across its continuing development as a company, Bad Cat’s latest version of the Hot Cat – for all its idiosyncrasies that might put off the purists – is an awesome amp. Capable of markedly more aggression than the rest of its AC30-voiced litter, it also packs plenty of clean power if you need it. It’s reassuring proof that, even as the company moves away from pure hand-wired manufacturing, it can still make an absolutely stellar amplifier.
Today’s best deals on the Bad Cat Hot Cat 1×12
Blackstar Debut 50R
Starting out on the right amp is important – and, luckily, thanks to things like Blackstar’s latest Debut combo, the days of absolutely terrible sounds for the first 5-10% of your playing career are over. Yes, the Debut may firmly set its goals as being “for beginners” but it’s no slouch, offering awesome overdrive and pedal-friendly cleans at a very approachable price point – and when you’re ready to hop on stage for the first time, it’ll be ready to join you.
Today’s best deals on the Blackstar Debut 50R
Boss Katana 50 MkII EX
We probably don’t need to waste your time by telling you that the Boss Katana is a great amp. Affordable and portable, yes, but also more than powerful enough to actually gig if you need to, and supremely versatile without sacrificing sound quality. The 50 MkII EX expanded the amp’s expression control, and brought some extra features to the 50-watt level that were previously just for the 100-watters and above – making it extra appealing as an entry-level gigging amp that’ll last you.
Today’s best deals on the Boss Katana 50 MkII EX
Yes, we’re stretching the definition of amplifier here to some extent, but hey, it’s still making things louder, and we’d be remiss to not mention Fender’s FRFR monitor that it released alongside the Tone Master Pro. It’s powerful, clean, and did a great job making the sounds from that modeller louder – but most importantly, it looks like a Fender combo, and is therefore one of the very few FRFR cabs to actually look good. You’d be proud to have it on stage with you.