When you spend a large amount of money on a guitar, you probably want to hear how it sounds. Budget amps don’t output the actual tone of the guitar — they compress the sound and lose some of the higher and lower frequencies.
If you genuinely want to hear the actual tone of your guitar, then you’ll have to get a good guitar amplifier1 with a perfect clean setting. While there are plenty of amplifiers with a multitude of effects, and even though you may want to use some distortion, the effect channels considerably change the tone.
In this article, I’m going to review some of the best clean guitar amplifiers. These amps are as close as you’re going to get to the actual tone of your guitar. And don’t worry, some of them offer some effects as well.
The amplifiers on this list are tube amplifiers. These types of amps produce a warm, vintage sound, resembling the sounds of the early years of guitar amplification. They’re not cheap, but cheap amps will never give you the tonal excellence of these amplifiers.
You should consider a tube amp as an investment. If the tube breaks or if you want to change the tone of the amp considerably, you can always replace the tube. If properly taken care of, these amps can last you a lifetime.
Best Clean Guitar Amps — Comparison Table
Guitar Amp for Clean Tone
|Fender '65 Deluxe Reverb 22-Watt 1x12-Inch|
Clean Guitar Amp for Pedals
|Fender '65 Twin Reverb 85-Watt 2x12-Inch|
|Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus 120-Watt|
Great combo amp
|Marshall Amps Guitar Combo Amplifier|
Best Clean Guitar Amps Review
1. Fender ’65 Deluxe Reverb 22-Watt 1×12-Inch — Best Guitar Amp for Clean Tone
- Two channels (clean and reverb)
- Classic Fender tone
- Sounds as good as it looks
- 22 watts
- 1×12 inches
- Tube Fender tone
Few amps manage to sound as good as the ’65 Deluxe Reverb. Powered by a 12-inch Jensen speaker, this amplifier instantly takes you to Fender’s early years with its clean, vintage tone.
The ’65 Deluxe Reverb sounds exactly as you would expect a premium tube amplifier to sound like. The tone is sweet, and the highs are exacerbated in this Blackface Fender model. The bass is crystal clear, and the mids are dialed down to bring you the classic Fender1 sound.
There are two channels in this amplifier, each powered by different tubes. Although they can be used simultaneously, they’re not supposed to. One is a clean channel and where you want to plug in your pedals too, and the other is a reverb channel.
The tube-powered reverb has no noise and a wide-enough range to either bring you a subtle tremolo effect or a hyperactive pulse-like effect. On the negative side, you can’t use pedals with this channel. Or you can, but the brightness cap will severely hinder your tonal performance.
There is no overdrive or distortion switch on this amp. You will need to use a pedal if you’re looking for any fuzz. This is an amplifier for clean sound purists, and it shows.
Does this amplifier have any effects?
This amp has a reverb channel that can give you reverb and tremolo-like effects. There is no distortion or overdrive.
Is this a tube amplifier?
Yes, it is.
Is this an original Fender ’65 amplifier?
No. This is a reissue made with the same specs as the original amplifier. An original Fender ’65 would be way more expensive.
Who this is for?
Sound purists who love the classic Fender tone.
Why I like it?
This amp has no hidden tricks up its sleeve and doesn’t need to — just pure, unadulterated Fender sound.
2. VOX AC30C2 — Best Clean Guitar Amp for Pedals
- Two channels (normal and Top Boost)
- Reverb and Tremolo effects
- Excellent British tone
- 10 watts
- 12AX7 preamp tubes
- EL84 power tubes
Although there is no clear winner, it’s a fact that VOX amplifiers have a very distinct sound from Fender ones. Some prefer Fender, while others swear by the VOX tone. The AC30C2 is the amp for those who prefer the midrange-forward VOX tone.
You see, it’s in the mids where the main difference between VOX and Fender lies. While Fender prefers treble to mids, Vox cranks the mids all the way up and ensures you’ll always be noticed in the mix.
The same goes for treble. While they’re not as aggressive as the mids, there’s plenty of high-end to go around. The same can’t be said for the lower end of the frequency spectrum. Don’t get me wrong — the low-end is perfectly clear, but it’s dialed down and, at times, almost unnoticeable.
This amp also has two channels, a normal one and a “top boosted” one. Just like the Fender ’65 Deluxe Reverb, the VOX AC30C2 also has reverb and tremolo effects, but no distortion or overdrive.
Is it possible to use both channels at the same time?
Yes, you can use the two channels without any problems.
Can you play a bass through this amplifier?
Yes, it is possible, but it isn’t adequate. At higher volumes, there’s a chance of damaging the speaker. Even if that’s not the case, this amplifier doesn’t have the same low-frequency range as a dedicated bass amp would have.
Who this is for?
Players who prefer the mid-end forward VOX sound.
Why I like it?
The VOX AC30C2 gives you an excellent clean, British tone.
3. Fender ’65 Twin Reverb 85-Watt 2×12-Inch
- Twin speakers
- Two channels (normal and reverb)
- Very loud
- 85 watts
- 2×12 inches
- All-tube Fender amp
There are many similarities between the ’65 Twin Reverb and the ’65 Deluxe Reverb, so it’s probably best if we focus on what differentiates the two amps. If you’re just interested in how it sounds, it has an identical tone to the Deluxe Reverb.
As the name indicates, the Twin Reverb has two speakers. Combine two speakers with the 85 watts, and you get a considerably louder experience than with the Deluxe Reverb. While both amps are great for studio recordings and gigging, the loudness of the Twin Reverb makes it difficult to consider as a bedroom amp.
The circuitry of the two amplifiers is the same. There’s no difference between the reverb and the tremolo of the two amps. The major difference is the controls on the amps. The Twin Reverb has a brightness switch and a mind-control knob.
At the end of the day, the Twin Reverb is an improved version of the Deluxe Reverb. You should probably only get it if you make use of the increased loudness. Otherwise, there’s no reason to pay the extra price — unless you really want a mind-control knob.
Who this is for?
Someone who wants a louder Deluxe Reverb.
Why I like it?
It sounds amazing even with the volume cranked all the way up.
4. Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus 120-Watt
- Reverb, chorus, and more
- Really loud
- Excellent clean tone
- 120 watts
- 12 inches
- Two input channels
Besides offering an excellent clean tone, this solid-state Roland amp manages to add a few features which make it a worthwhile buy. While its tone is not on-par with the likes of Fender, the JC-120 still manages to let your guitar shine to its utmost potential.
The JC-120 has two speakers that combine into one. Each of these speakers has a 60-watt potency, which means that the JC-120 has 120 watts of power and that it gets really, really loud.
There are two channels, each with its EQ. The second channel has a few effects, such as reverb and distortion. The most popular effect, and the one that gives this amplifier its name, is the chorus effect. While a good-enough chorus, I find a good chorus pedal to be better overall.
The main reasons to choose this amplifier are its clean tone and the added-on effects. The loudness surely helps as well.
Can you use this amp in mono?
Yes. You can use this amp either in mono or stereo.
Who this is for?
Someone who wants a loud amp with effects.
Why I like it?
The JC-120 has enough settings to customize your sound truly, and they all sound great.
5. Marshall Amps Guitar Combo Amplifier
- Two crunch-able channels for a total of four channels
- Surprisingly good reverb
- Great bedroom and gigging amp
- 40 watts
- Two separate master volume controls
- 1×12 inches
Although it has a single input jack, this Marshall amplifier2 effectively has four channels. It’s a very versatile amp with a classic, and always excellent, Marshall tone.
The clean channel is warm and very bright. To some, it might not be as good as Fender’s, but it’s all a matter of preference. The truth is that the clean channel simply sounds excellent.
The ultra-gain channel, as the name would indicate, has the gain cranked up to the max. Although I don’t really use it, lovers of high-gain sounds will surely appreciate the option. A crunch button will then let you crunch channel one and channel 2, for a total of four channels.
Effect-wise there’s crunch, and there’s reverb. Although not stellar, the Reverb in this Marshall amp is surprisingly good.
At 40 watts of power, this amp doesn’t get overly loud, but it’s quite capable of making itself heard. It’s a good bedroom amp which you can gig with as well — just mind its weight, this Marshall amp is considerably heavy.
Who this is for?
Someone looking for pure, unadulterated Marshall tone.
Why I like it?
It’s great both for bedrooms and gigs and has a stellar sound.
There are plenty of excellent clean amps out there. Besides choosing between them, the main problem is perhaps their price. Although it seems prohibitive, a good amplifier should always be seen as an investment, and it’s definitely worth the money.
I find the best overall amp to be the Fender ’65 Deluxe Reverb 22-Watt 1×12-Inch. This amp has everything you could want in the clean setting and then adds-on to it all the rich, Fender sound.
Regardless of which amp you end up buying, I’m sure you will be thoroughly satisfied with the amps on this list. Keep rocking on.
Bonus. VOX AC15C2 – Test
- Sound pressure for crunch sounds
- Assertive and transparent sound
- Reverb, Tremolo
- Good sound reproduction
- Extension and external speaker connections
First, I connected the guitar to the Normal Input to answer the important question of what happens at the highest volume with undistorted sound. On a single coil guitar (Strat), the AC15 starts to pull slightly in the Normal Channel at a volume setting of about 11 o’clock. However, this only happens when the guitar is played harder, but still sounds very harmonic. We are dealing here with the usual slight overdrive of the input channel.
With the masterfully turned up, I would describe the sound pressure as raised room volume or quiet practice room level. If you need a loud, bright, clean sound for the band in the rehearsal room or on stage, the AC15C2 will push you to your limits quite early. Here, the big brother AC30C2 has a clear advantage. But if you are more into crunching, power amp distortion and compression, you will get your money’s worth. At normal volume at 2 o’clock, the Strat generates a nice crunch sound, just right for blues fans, and with a sound pressure that can easily stink against bass and drums. The amp delights us with rich class A distortion without the singer’s ears ringing, and the sound engineer can enjoy a guitar amp that integrates seamlessly into the PA and doesn’t push the whole band into a corner.
You can hear the maximum gain you can get out of the normal channel in the next example. Here I have connected a somewhat more powerful guitar (SG), and we get a crisp overdrive sound that feels good in all areas of rock. The Greenback speakers release a delightful sound into the open air, powerful and assertive, and even without tone cut controls never with harsh highs.
Top Boost Channel
Now it’s time for the Top Boost channel, which is equipped with tone control and delivers a little more distortion. The equalization works interactively, which means that the bass level drops as the treble control is turned up. We’ll find out exactly what effect this has in a moment. But first, all knobs are moved to the middle position, and that sounds like this:
A beautiful crisp crunch sound with the Strat. Well suited for dirty chord accompaniments á la Chili Peppers. The AC15C2 responds very well to the individual sound characteristics of different guitars or rather has an excellent sound transmission, which the next example proves. With the same setting on the amplifier, the Les Paul is now connected, and it sounds completely different. This is not always the case with amps in this price category!
The mode of operation of the tone control is our next topic. Very striking is the mutual influence of the controls on the treble, as already mentioned. If treble is turned up further, the bass is automatically lowered slightly. This allows for a wide range of sounds, from totally musty to a crisp crunch with moderate bass at the full treble. At 7, 12, and 5 p.m, you hear three different settings of the Treble control. The rest remains unchanged.
If it does sound too sharp, you can use the Tone Cut knob to correct something else. It might sound a bit illogical to turn up the treble and then cut it again with the Tone Cut. But this works and gives you a different sound than just taking the treble back a bit. Why? Very simple. Because the Tone Cut processes a slightly higher frequency range than the Treble control, the sound can be adjusted much more sensitively. Here are four settings with the Tone Cut at 7, 10, 2, and 5 p.m.
For the Top Boost Channel, we also want to explore the maximum gain level and turn both volumes knobs up to their maximum. Here, of course, the two speakers deliver a little more steam than in the Normal Channel. What works exceptionally well is the dynamic response — both in terms of the attack and the adjustment of the volume pot on the guitar. We will hear in the next example. First, the knob is set to 4, the sound is almost clean but already has enough level, then you turn it up to full power, and you have a decent distortion board.
The spring reverb has a rather long reverberation time of over 2 seconds, while the effect sound is pleasantly subtle. Even at higher settings, the reverb does not get in the way of the direct sound, on the contrary. It wraps itself around the dry sound of the guitar and creates a warm reverb sound with a good feel.
Effect number 2 has been inseparably linked to Vox amps for decades, the tremolo. It delivers the typical vintage feeling.
This effect is also very easy to dose and does not flatten the basic sound. Even when Speed and Depth are fully turned up, the sound result is still absolutely usable, and the Tone is always defined.
The Vox AC15C2 impressively proves that 15 watts can be quite an alarm. Especially in the version with the two 12″ Celestion Greenbacks, there is an even rounder and warmer sound with more fullness and pressure in the bass range compared to the 1×12″ colleague due to the double membrane surface. This, in turn, guarantees a higher assertiveness in the band. But no light without shadow, because the amp starts to drag early on and an undistorted, tape-compatible sound at a reasonably usable volume is hardly feasible.
On the other hand, the famous Class A Vox Crunch sound with power amp distortion is available at a volume that won’t upset any fellow musician, sound engineer, or club owner. The AC15C2 offers the complete range from clean to mid-gain rock, with an excellent dynamic response, and with the two official vintage styles, effects spring reverb and tremolo. If you like the classic vox sound, are more into the distorted part of the band, and can do without a loud, clean sound, you should try the AC15C2. The price/performance ratio is perfect.