Great guitar tone doesn’t always have to involve tubes and valves. Solid-state amplifiers can be just as good, and digital modelling amps have come a long way since the 90s. Here are our picks of 12 of the best solid-state electric guitar amplifiers you can buy today.
1Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus
The most iconic of solid-state amplifiers is still going strong today, in no small part to the huge list of star players who have fallen for the Jazz Chorus since it was first launched back in 1975. The JC-120 really hit its straps in the 1980s, when hitmakers from all ends of the spectrum relied on the amp’s idiosyncratic, crystalline cleans – from Andy Summers and Robert Smith to Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield.
Retails for under $1,000.
Marshall has produced solid-state and hybrid amps consistently over the decades, but the amp giant took its time getting into the modelling game, not testing the waters until 2016. When the CODE series finally arrived, it came with a selection of classic Marshall tones onboard and a wonderfully simple, user-friendly interface.
The CODE100 combo retails for $449.99.
3Boss Katana Artist
Boss might not have a huge pedigree when it comes to guitar amps, but the Japanese pedal giant has made up for that in recent years with its digital Katana range. The variety and quality of the Katanas’ sounds, combined with their portability and affordability, has made the amps a hit with guitarists of many stripes, but this top-line Artist model utilises Waza Craft expertise in the shape of the fantastic Waza Craft G12W speaker.
Retails for $599.99.
4Blackstar ID:Core Stereo 100
Blackstar’s ID:Core range has quickly become a go-to for entry-level players looking for great tone and versatility on a budget. The ID:Core Stereo 100 takes everything that people loved about the smaller amps – six built-in voices, Super Wide Stereo sound, an array of digital effects, deep editing and patch storage via its Insider software, USB recording and reamping – and put it in a loud, giggable 100-watt combo that’s also remarkably light.
Retails for under $400. Check out our full review here.
5Orange Crush 35RT
Orange’s Crush range represents some of the best bang-for-buck fun in all of guitardom, and over the years, the Brit company has continued to refine and improve the line to ensure the authentic Orange experience isn’t limited to classic looks. The giggable 35RT is a wonderful case in point – offering classic British rock tones, with its built-in reverb and tuner making it an even more impressive proposition.
Retails for under $300.
6Fender Mustang GT 100
Fender’s history with modelling amps goes all the way back to the original Cyber-Twin from 2001, so it should come as no surprise that the company’s current flagship modeller, the Mustang GT, is so impressive for the money. Offering a wealth of modelled amp sounds from inside and outside of the Fender stable, artist presets, app-based control and wifi connectivity to update the hardware, software and add new features, the Mustang GT promises to keep getting better as you do.
Retails for $349.99. Check out our full review here.
It may not look much like a conventional guitar amp, but Yamaha’s THR10 was a revelation when it first appeared back in 2011 and continues to be a hugely popular practice amp today. One of the first truly good-sounding desktop amps, the THR offers impressively rounded and punchy tones emulating classic amps of various types, while the battery-power option and ability to use it as a USB audio interface further cements it as a home-amp essential.
Retails for $299.99.
8Blackstar Fly 3
You might be forgiven for thinking the Blackstar Fly 3 couldn’t possibly be a proper amp, given its barely-bigger-than-a-Coke-can size, three tiny watts of solid-state power and cheaper-than-an-effects-pedal price. You’d be wrong. The Fly’s deceptively powerful three-inch full-range speaker delivers seriously impressive clean tones, while the built-in delay sound fills a room impressively. With a line-in for jamming along to songs and a headphone out that places your guitar sound at the centre of the stereo field, the Fly is the first portable micro-amp that genuinely sounds good.
Retails for under $100. Check out our full review here.
For most guitarists, the dream of digital amps is for them to sound, feel and respond just like a proper valve amp. Kemper’s Profiler is one of the most faithful and convincing digital modelling systems around, and gets its tones by quickly creating profiles of specific amps (even your own) with impressive fidelity, that you can then store and use for your heart’s content. A library of vintage classics at your fingertips, and even more to download online? Why not?
Retails for under $1,800. Check out our full review here.
10Line 6 Firehawk 1500
Line 6’s pedigree with digital amplifiers goes all the way back to the Flextone in 1996, so it should be no surprise that the company continues to be at the forefront of the market. The Firehawk 1500 takes the company’s powerful but affordable Firehawk FX floorboard amp and effects modeller and builds it into a whopping 1,500-watt solid-state amplifier complete with a clever six-speaker system, featuring a central 12-inch cone flanked by five smaller speakers that offer a full-range stereo experience.
Retails for under $1,000.
11Fractal Axe-Fx III
It’s not an exaggeration to say that Fractal Audio Systems’ Axe-Fx has been one of the most significant and important developments in the world of electric guitar this century, bringing high-end digital processing power to the masses and delivering an unprecedented level of control and versatility for the stage and studio, with jaw-dropping tones to match. Version three has three times the processing power of version two, plus a massively improved display to make it even easier to use. For many, it’s every amp and effect they’ll ever need, and more.
Retails for $2,249.99. Check out our full review here.
12Vox Valvetronix VT20X
We might be cheating slightly here – the latest iteration of Vox’s hugely popular Valvetronix series does feature a mixture of valve, solid-state and digital technology in the power-amp section, mixed with a fully digital preamp – but in the finest tradition of solid-state amps, the VT20X is affordable, rugged and portable. With the ability to alter the valve bias to regulate the gain response, models of some of the British firm’s most iconic amplifiers onboard and the facility to deep-edit those tones at component level, the VT20X is a remarkably versatile entry-level combo.
Retails for under $200.
Check out our picks of the best tube amps here.