7 Of The Best Blues Amps for Guitar (under $1000).

What makes for good blues amps? It’s a question with many answers, but  sustain, crunchy overdrive, good clean tone and a certain look are all part of the formula. It’s true that the blues can be played on just about any amp, but here are 7 amps that have what it takes to make for great blues amps – and each is under $1,000.

7 Great Guitar Amps for Blues.

Vox Amps

The most famous Vox amps, the AC15 and AC30, don’t look the part of classic blues amps, but they play the part just fine.

Sure, the Vox AC 30 is renowned for it’s jangly, Beatles vibe and searing treble tone of Brian May, but Brian Jones got plenty of dirty bluesy tone when he used his on Rolling Stones records. And Rory Gallagher paired his with a Dallas Rangemaster treble booster to craft his signature sound.

vox-valvetronix-20w

In short, the Vox AC30 delivers the blues goods, especially when you crank it. But that could be a problem at times because a cranked AC30 (or even AC15) can be LOUD.

Also, the AC30 is expensive, at around $1,200. The AC15 is more affordable, in the $600 range.

But if you’re on a budget or have to keep an eye on volume from time to time, then you should check out the Vox Valvetronix series.

I recommend either the Vox Valvetronix VT20 or Vox Valvetronix VT60. They are essentially the same amp, but the Vox Valvetronix VT20 is a 20w 1×8 combo amp and the Vox Valvetronix VT40 is the 60w, 1×10 version.

Both are solid state, modeling amps based on Vox Valve Reactor technology for true tube modeling realism.

Both come with 99 presets (33 song presets, 33 basic presets and 33 presets with effects.), and a ton of useful features like mp3/AUX in, headphone out, and each is foot-switchable and programmable.

Vox Valvetronix VT20 sells for about $179 and the Vox Valvetronix VT40 sells for $250 and have a timeless black motif to their appearance.

Demo

Fender Amps

Fender Excelsior

The Fender Excelsior is a 13w, 1×15 all-tube combo amp with a unique 1950’s vibe, sound and style all its own.

The Excelsior is powered by dual 12ZX7 tubes in the preamp and dual 6V6 tubes in the power output section and houses a 15″ Eminence Legend speaker.

The Excelsior also has onboard tremelo and a bright/dark tone switch for treble or bass emphasis. It’s one of the great and simple blues amps that takes pedals well and it’s also great for harmonica too.

The Excelsior can also drive an external speaker cabinet, if the 15″ Legend isn’t enough for you.

Oh, and they’re part of Fender’s Pawn Shop series, which means not were made, so they will be collectible.

Here’s the Excelsior amp in a blues style demo

And another:

Comes in four colors and sells for about $299-350 (depending on visual style/color)

fender-excelsior-antique-blush

fender-excelsior-brown

fender-excelsior-surf-green

fender-excelsior-sonic-blue-angled

Fender Blues Deluxe Reissue 40-Watt 1×12-Inch Guitar Combo Amp – Tweed

To many players, nothing says blues amp quite like a Fender Blues Deluxe, in Tweed.

Tweed is just a classic, vintage blues look – and tone.

Fender is renowned for their clean tones, and the Fender Blues Deluxe is no exception. It delivers 40 watts of tube driven tone with plenty of headroom for clean tone and great bluesy breakup when it’s driven. It also has on-board spring reverb, an essential blues effect.

The 12″ Eminence special-design speaker gives plenty of punch and offers enhanced midrange to help you break through any mix.

fender-blues-deluxe-40w

The Fender Blues Deluxe is powered by two 6L6 Groove Tubes output tubes and three 12AX7 preamp tubes. In addition to the spring reverb, the Fender Blues Deluxe also features an effects loop, two-button channel footswitch, classic tweed covering and chicken head knobs on a chrome control panel.

The Fender Blues Deluxe makes a great blues, rock and country amp.

Demo

Fender Hot Rod Series Blues Junior NOS 15W 1×12 Tube Guitar Combo Amp

The Fender Blues Junior NOS is a modern blues machine built to vintage specs and using new, old stock parts.

The Fender Hot Rod Series Blues Junior NOS 15W 1×12 Tube Guitar Combo Amp is an all tube (2 EL84 Groove Tube output tubes and 3 – 12AX7 preamp tubes), 15w combo featuring a single 12″ Jensen C12 speaker. It has a single channel with “Fat” Switch, reverb, and a footswitch jack so you can toggle the Fat switch on/off more easily. It’s got vintage knobs for reverb, master, middle, bass and treble control.

fender-hot-rod-blues-junior

Tweed finish with pinstripe grille cloth complete the vintage blues look.

The Fender Hot Rod Series Blues Junior NOS 15W 1×12 Tube Guitar Combo Amp is a great blues amp for the price, but it’s also good for jazz and classic rock.

Demo

Peavey Amps

Peavey has a reputation for metal amps, but they also make some of the best blues amps around. Just check these out..

Peavey Delta Blues 210 guitar Amplifier with Tremolo

The Peavey Delta Blues 210 is a guitar combo amp with tremolo and reverb.

Peavey-Delta-Blues-210-guitar-Amplifier-Tremolo

This is a great amp for those who dig the Fender sound, but want something a bit different in style or a bit less money. While the Peavey Delta Blues 210 is inspired by Fender, it is its own beast. It handles clean jazz and country tones all the way up to classic rock overdrive.

Packed with 2 10″ Blue Marvel speakers, three 12AX7 and four EL84 tubes and on board tremelo and reverb, the Peavey Delta Blues 210 definitely makes the killer blues amps list.

Demo

Peavey Delta Blue 115 (II) 1×15″ 30-Watt Tube Combo Amp

eavey-Delta-Blue-115-1x15-30-Watt-Tube-Combo-AmpNext in the Peavey blues amps lineup is the Delta Blue 115. It’s a 30w combo amp with a single 15″ speaker. With 3 12AX7 and 4 EL84 tubes, it’s powerful enough for gigging and built for blues with onboard spring reverb and tremolo.

The Peavey Delta Blue 115 also features an effects loop, optional footswitch, and an output for an extension cabinet.

Demo

Marshall Amps

Marshall Class5 – 1×10 Combo

One of my all time dream amps is the Marshall 1962 Bluesbreaker. This kind of sucks though, because at $2,499 it is well outside my budget. (That’s why it’s a still a dream)

But luckily, Marshall has a similar blues amp that fits the budget player much better, coming in at around the $400 mark.

Marshall-Class5-1x10-Combo

The Marshall Class 5 – 1×10 Combo is, as the name suggests, a 5w, 1×10 all tube combo amp that’s perfect for home, studio and small gigs. It’s got a headphone output jack, and Volume, Treble, Middle, and Bass controls.

What you get with the Marshall Class 5 is pure Marshall tone – from bluesy cleans to plexi style crunch, and everything in between. All of that without being a 200lb behemoth, stacked to blow the roof off.

With 2 ECC83 pre-amp tubes, and 1 EL84 power tube, it’s light but powerful enough to get you great tone where ever you are.

Demo

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Comparison: Fender Mustang 1 vs Peavey Vypyr 15.

Fender Mustang 1 vs. Peavey Vypyr 15 – which is the better modeling amp? They are so similar that it may be difficult to choose.

If you’re looking for a new modeling amp and have a budget of $100 you’ve probably asked yourself this question. It’s easy to see why – two of the best selling modeling practice amps at this price point are the Fender Mustang I and the Peavey Vypyr 15. As I write this, each retails for $99 new, and has loads of features. In fact at first glance, they are so similar that it may be difficult to choose one over the other.

Here’s a guide to help highlight the specific strengths and weaknesses of each and help you decide which is best for you.

Features Overview

fender-mustang-i-practice-amp

The Mustang I has 24 total amp presets. They consist of 8 different amp models, each with 3 different effects and mod settings. Each of these presets allows for custom effects and reverb/delay settings as well as EQ volume and gain control.

The Vypyr 15 also provides 24 total presets, modeling 12 popular amps in both clean and distorted channels. There’s also 11 editable post amp rack effects with parameter control.

Both support headphone out, and MP3/CD/Aux input. Both also feature a single 8″ speaker, a tap tempo switch, and peavey-vypyr-15 practice ampUSB port for high speed recording.

The Peavey Vypyr 15 features Peavey’s patented TransTube technology which provides “true analog distortion”. This is meant to simulate tube sound and response in a solid state amp.

The Mustang I features Fender FUSE software that allows for tweaking the living hell out of the amp and the Mustang’s modeling of a vintage tube amp is very close to 100% accurate.

Now with the basics out of the way, let’s dig into the details.

 

Control Panel and Interface

The Mustang I has 5 knobs:

  • Gain
  • Treble
  • Bass
  • Volume (of the amp being modeled)
  • Master Volume
  • Amp Preset Selector
  • Effects
  • Reverb/delay

Even though there is no knob for Middle EQ, the Mustang I is so customizable that you will rarely miss it.

While the Mustang I does not have a separate channel for clean and dirty, you can use any of the presets to store a clean preset and another to store a dirty preset.

The Vypyr 15 has 9 knobs:

  • Stompboxes
  • Amp Preset Selector
  • Effects
  • Pre-Gain
  • Low EQ
  • Mid EQ
  • High EQ
  • Post Gain
  • Master Volume

The Peavey Vypyr 15 is a bit more customizable through the front knobs, but the Fender Mustang I provides much greater customization through it’s software package. More on that later.

Fender Mustang 1 vs Peavey Vypyr 15 – Which is a better 1st amp?

Neither the Fender Mustang I or the Peavey Vypyr 15 really makes a good choice for your first amp if you’re just starting out learning the guitar. This has more to do with modeling amps in general, than either of these specific amps.

If you’re looking for the best amp for beginning guitar players, look at straight, traditional amps and skip the modeling. You can always get an effects pedal to add on later, once you’ve become a better player.

If, however, you already know how to play acoustic guitar and are looking for a great 1st amp to branch out into electric guitar playing or you’re looking to get into a more sound variation with a modeling amp, then the Mustang I is the best choice in my opinion. It’s also a great choice for a practice amp or if you’re looking for an amp to play while song writing.

However, if you’re only interest is Metal or you wouldn’t use the Fender FUSE software and you’re looking for a rock solid modeling amp for Metal that will suit your needs out of the box with no additional effort beyond the occasional turn of a knob, then stop reading right now – the Peavey Vypyr 15 is for you.

Vypyr vs Mustang (general)

Some Peavey Vypyr 15 owners have complained about a lack of “clean distortion” and muddy clean tones. This sort of criticism is limited with the Fender Mustang because you can overcome almost any such problem with the FUSE software.

In my opinion, the Mustang I has better tones – overdrive and clean – and playing dynamics than the Peavey Vypyr 15, which makes the Mustang a much more flexible amp. And that’s before you factor in the FUSE software!

I believe that Fender has raised the bar on modeling amps, while maintaining their fabled Fender cleans. The Vypyr 15, however, missed the mark on delivering a good clean tone.

Still, many Vypyr owners swear by them, but most tend to be heavily into metal. The Peavey Vypyr 15 is a great amp for playing metal or hard rock but if you even think you want to play other styles, then the Mustang I is the better choice.

Fender FUSE

What really puts the Mustang ahead of the Vypyr is the software package that it comes with. The Mustang comes with Ableton Live and IK Amplitude, but what truly makes it rock your way is FUSE. FUSE is where the Mustang series amps leave the competition in the dust.

What you can’t edit and tweak with the top panel control knobs on the amp itself, you can edit to your liking with the FUSE software package, then save it straight to a preset on the amp.

Along with the ability to fully customize your amp’s sound, FUSE also enables you to download presets from the fender site and owner’s forum. There are hundreds of community created and supported presets for a variety of popular bands and musical styles.

FUSE gives you – the owner – full control over how your amp sounds, but it also keeps it fresh: Stuck in a rut? Feel like you just keep playing in the same style? Just download a preset that’s out of your comfort range and experiment with something new. Don’t like it? No worries, just overwrite it with another one, or go back to the factory presets. It’s this ability that makes the Fender Mustang the amp that keeps on giving.

FUSE opens up a world of possibilities and puts you in control of virtually every aspect of the amp.

Fender Mustang 1 vs Peavey Vypyr 15 – Conclusion

Some have said the Peavey Vypyr 15 is a waste of money and you shouldn’t look at anything less than the Vypyr 30. The Vypyr 30 though is about twice the price of the Vypyr 15, so in my opinion if that’s even an option than you should really be comparing the Vypyr 30 and Mustang II amps.

Personally, I think if you need to spend an extra $100 to get “anything resembling good tone”, then you’re probably looking at the wrong product. I say this because the Fender Mustang I truly does deliver good tone at the same price point as the Vypyr 15.

Others have been critical of the speaker choice for the Vypyr 15, saying that 8 inches is too small. This of course depends on what you plan on using the amp for. I’d say it’s definitely too small for performing a gig, but it’s plenty big for practicing at home or in an apartment. The Mustang I has the same speaker size, but few owners complain about it’s volume. I suspect this is because Vypyr 15 owners tend to be looking for a louder sound, while Mustang I owners are looking for better tone and more versatility.

The Peavey Vypyr 15 is a solid amp for metal and hard rock right out of the box, but the cleans are not as good as the Fender’s Mustang I and it lacks the versatility of the Mustang. If you have no desire to play blues, jazz or classic rock then the Vypyr 15 is a good choice. If you’re looking for maximum versatility and excellent tone, then the Fender Mustang I is the choice for you.

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Best electric guitar amp for beginners

Looking for the best electric guitar amp for beginners can be a daunting experience. With so many amps styles and features available it’s easy to get lost. Here’s a little advice I’ve compiled from personal experience and discussions with other guitarists about the best electric guitar amp for beginners.

Skip the modeling amps.

The first piece of advice about finding the best electric guitar amp for beginners is this:

If you’re just starting out and haven’t played a lick of guitar, then you should avoid modeling amps.

Modeling amps don’t make the best electric guitar amp for beginners, because it’s far too easy for an aspiring guitarist to get lost in the effects before learning proper technique. In fact, many of the standard effects on modeling amps today can make a person sound better than than actually are.

To some, this may seem like a great selling point, but ask any guitarist – hobbyist to pro- who’s played around and he’ll tell you that it’s much better to know how to play than to just sound like you know how to play.

Leaning on some effect like a crutch will only limit your playing and shorten you musical horizon.

When looking for the best electric guitar amp for beginners, look at straight, traditional amps and skip the modeling. Modeling amps a awesome though once you know the basics and have developed good technique.

How to Choose Your First Guitar Amp

The best place to start is with a small tube amp. This kind of amp is far less forgiving, leaving you nowhere to hide. It sounds counter-intuitive, I know. You’re looking for the best choice and here I am telling you one that will make things more difficult. But think of it as tough love – forcing you to confront your technique and learn the right way to play a chord or scale progression.

Once you get that down, the sky is the limit and your horizon will open up to a whole new world of effects and styles.

Beside learning the basics, avoiding modeling amps and multi-effect pedals in the beginning will allow you to focus on the few basic effects every guitarist needs along the way – Reverb, Chorus, Delay and Compressor. Reverb is a must, and most amps have onboard reverb effects. Once you begin to get the hang of playing guitar and wrap your head around those basic effects you can branch out to other effects and modeling amps.

I acknowledge the allure of modeling amps is great – they offer a plethora of effects and amp simulation at a great price (often cheaper than a basic tube amp), but that temptation can end up holding you back as you learn to play.

It’s best to stay on the path of developing your skill and technique, rather than getting lost in a wilderness of fancy effects.

Best Electric Guitar Amp for Beginners

Here are some recommended amps that fill the need, and provide a solid foundation for your learning.

Tube Amps.

Vox AC4TV.

The Vox AC4TV is a 4W tube amp available in 2 sizes: ‘Mini’ with a 6.5″ speaker and a 1×10″ speaker version. Each is simple to operate and has a control for tone and volume, as well as a power selector switch that toggles between ¼w, 1w, or 4w. It’s a competent amp that’s plenty loud but not so loud you’ll wake the neighbors.

Vox-AC4TV

Its simple set of controls leaves you to focus on playing, but it also leaves room to grow as you master the basics.

One of the great things about the AC4TV is that it has an external cab out connector so you can hook this little bad boy up to external cabinets. Trust me – 4 watts can sound pretty loud when it’s driving a 2×12 cab!

The 10″ currently retails for around $249 new, 6.5″ is $199.

What makes the AC4TV one of the best electric guitar amp for beginners is its versatility. Here are a few demo vids, to give you an idea of the different tones available and the different styles they fit…

 

Rock demo

 

Pop/Jazz demo:

 

Clean demo:

 

And one last all around demo:

 

Blackstar HT Series HT-1 1W 1×8.

Blackstar-HT-Series-HT-1

Another great practice amp in the running for best electric guitar amp for beginners is the Blackstar HT Series HT-1. It’s a 1W tube amp with a single 8″ speaker. It features 2 channels (clean and overdrive), stereo MP3 / line input and external speaker output. It’s use of dual-triode ECC82 tubes provides the crunch and break-up characteristics of a traditional 100w amp at a much lower volume. It also has EQ, Gain and Reverb settings.

It provides a bit more in the way of controls than the Vox AC4TV and retails for $269.

Here’s a demo of the Blackstar HT-1 in action:

Solid State Amps.

If the tubes are out of your price range, here are a couple of great solid state practice amps without the extra bells and whistles to distract you. 😉

Peavey Solo 12w 1×8 Practice Amp.

Peavey-Solo-12W

This member of the Solo series from Peavey is a 12w 1×8″ practice amp and it features TransTube tube emulation (for a “real tube” sound), Master volume control, Lead gain control, 2 channels – Clean and lead, 3-band EQ, ¼” stereo input jack and a Headphone jack.

What makes this one of the best electric guitar amp for beginners is Peavey’s TransTube preamp technology which provides a realistic tube amp tone and response, with the price and stability of a solid state amp – the best of both amp styles. Loud enough to rock, yet the headphone jack allows you to rock in isolation without disturbing others. The line in lets you plug in a CD player or mp3 player to jam with your favorite bands. It currently retails for $79.99.

Orange Amplifiers Crush PiX Series CR12L 12W 1×6.

Orange-Amplifiers-Crush-PiX-Series-CR12L

This little devil is a 12w amp with a 6″ speaker and is the smallest on this best electric guitar amp for beginners list. It features dual gain controls, 3-band EQ, Master volume and Headphone out jack.

The Orange Crush is all about style and portability. It’s distictive look is due to the Orange basket weave Tolex, woven speaker grille, beading and legendary hieroglyphs (PiX) and of course the Orange signature ‘picture frame’ edging. It’s not as feature rich as other models, but that’s the point. It’s simple, portable and just a good basic combo amp. It’s also available in black (why?) and retails for around $99.

Here’s the promotional video of the Orange PiX line of amps, including the stripped down and portable CR12L:

Conclusion.

I believe that the best electric guitar amp for beginners is a straightforward combo amp, represented by the amps on this list. Avoid the bells and whistles of the fancier, feature-rich combo amps until you’re confident you have a solid set of playing chops. Then you can either move up to a modeling amp, or start adding effects pedals to your rig. The great thing about all the amps profiled above is that they provide a solid base for what ever effects you want to add to the mix later on down the road.

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