Today we are talking about amps that work best as pedal platforms. These amps are great for guitarists that like to get most of their distortion from their pedalboard. The best amp for pedals will have a solid neutral clean tone, plenty of extra head room, and relatively simple controls without a ton of extra features. This approach to a guitar sound can make selecting an amp a little easier because you don’t need to search endlessly for the perfect drive channel or an amp that can give you a particular sound. You can get all those sounds from your pedals. All you need is a good solid base to build off, then you can develop your sound as you grow your pedalboard.
Do I need a big amp to get a big sound?
No, to a certain extent the days of bringing 3 Marshall full stacks to a gig are over unless you are J Mascis. Most venues these days have a solid PA system and they will mic your amp to get most of the sound. So size doesn’t matter nearly as much as it used to. Back in the day most of the guitar sound was coming from the amps on stage because PA systems sounded pretty bad. However, some will argue that a larger amp and larger speakers can give you a fuller sound with a more defined low end. So if that big thick bottom end is a part of your sound you don’t want to go too small. Though I would still argue you really don’t even need a half stack. A larger tube combo amp can really do everything you need.
Do I need a tube amp?
This is a highly debated subject and it really depends on what you are going for. Most guitarists will say that a solid state amp just isn’t going to have the same smoothness as a tube amp when it starts to break up and get distorted. For that reason I say tube amps all the way. Really it comes down to personal preference, go try some tube amps and try some solid state amps and see what you personally like.
5 Best Amps for Pedals and Effects
The Vox AC15 and AC30 are staple sounds in the history of rock ‘n roll. The lower wattage AC15 has that same British style amp sound for a really great price. The AC15C1 is a 15 Watt tube combo that comes stock with a 12 inch Celestion speaker and simple controls (Gain, Master Volume, Bass, Treble, and Reverb). The AC30C2 is a little pricier but has 30 Watts of power and two 12 inch Celestion Greenback or Alnico Blue speakers (the CX2 has the Alnico speakers). Vox amps are known for their Top Boost tone, which makes this amp a great option for players that like a brighter tone. I love the tremolo and spring reverb on these amps and that you can switch them on and off with a footswitch. This button on the footswitch is definetely an important feature missing from Fender amps. This amp is a really great option for people that gravitate towards a brighter but still full sounding amp.
The DR. Z M12 is one of the newer amps on this list and it is designed specifically with the pedal fanatic in mind. It comes as a head or a combo with options for 1×10, 1×12, and 2×10. This amp shares the same tone stack as the well loves Dr. Z Route 66 but with 12 watts of power. The controls on this amp are extremely simple with knobs for Volume, Treble, and Bass as well as a Hi and Low sensitivity switch. It features two El86 output tubes that really have a smoothing effect on pedals even at a brighter amp setting the M12 rarely gets harsh. Options for speakers include a 12 inch Greenback or a 10 inch Z10.
The 60 Watt Fender Deville and similar but more cheaply priced 40 Watt Hot Rod Deluxe are some of the most widely used amps for pedal enthusiasts. Most pedal makers even use a Hot Rod Deluxe amp to test pedals in their workshops. To me these amps are very similar with the Hot Rod Deville having a slight edge with it’s 4×10 cabinet. The Deville does have a ton of headroom and gets very loud so if you want to get that nice tube break up with less volume I’d go for the Hot Rod Deluxe. Both of these amps have a great bottom end and that classic Fender clean tone and reverb. If you like a warmer sound the #2 Low Gain Input on these bad boys is killer. These amps come with relatively simple controls and a drive channel that is a little disappointing. If you stick to your pedals you can just ignore that harsh drive channel and these babies will sing! Plus it’s hard to beat the price on the price on these amps and you will find them in just about every venue/house set-up in the world.
The ’68 Deluxe Reverb is almost perfect as a pedal platform. It has those famous Fender clean tones with some added fullness and low end. It’s definitely darker sounding than the ’65 Deluxe Reverb and adds a good amount of punch. It comes with a great spring reverb, vintage style tremolo, and a stock 12 inch Celestion G12V-70 speaker. A great addition to this amp was the Bassman tone circuit on the Custom channel. This channel was my favorite for running pedals as it had great headroom and low end. Purchased new it includes a two button footswitch and amp cover.
There is no arguing with the legend of Marshall amps. Although, normally these amps are known as anything but neutral pedal platforms. When you think Marshall you generally think heavy distortion with a hard crunch. With the Astoria Marshall has captured a large portion of the pedal enthusiast market by offering a high quality amp with the pedal player in mind. This British modern classic comes as a 1×12 Combo with a Creamback speaker that delivers a ton of punch and clarity. This amp has great headroom and gets quite loud while remaining pretty clean. It’s controls include the standards as well as Sensitivity and Edge controls, which are extremely useful when dialing this amp in. We almost had to knock this amp down to second place just because of the high price point but man it really delivers on sound and presentation. This is a beautiful amp that in many ways takes us back to the original design intended by Jim Marshall when he was hand making amps for Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page. If you can afford it the Marshall Astoria is a dream.
Thanks for checking out our list of the best amps for pedals. I hope this helps you choose the right amp and that these gear guides continue to be useful to the community. If you would recommend a guitar amp that didn’t make the list drop us a comment and we’ll consider adding it. Thanks y’all!