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Every guitarist’s idea of the best amp for clean tones varies depending on their personal preference. Nevertheless, there are some amplifiers that most musicians would agree sound exceptional on a clean setting.
The best clean guitar amps are able to project the natural sound of your electric guitar without adding too much coloration, and offer excellent headroom while retaining the smooth sound of your guitar’s clean tone.
With so many solid-state and tube amplifiers available, the modern guitarist is tasked with searching through the options to find the best clean tone for their style. This process can be frustrating, especially if you already have an idea of your preferred sound.
In this guide, we’ve compiled the six best clean amplifiers for an electric guitar to save you the hassle of trying to navigate the crowded marketplace.
In a Rush Roundup
How We Tested
We tested these guitar amplifiers by carefully analyzing the clean tones they produce. This involved rating their compatibility with a range of different guitar types, such as solidbody and hollow body models.
Then, the amps were tested with a variety of pickup types to see how they interacted with single coils and humbuckers on their clean channel. Finally, we assessed the versatility of the onboard controls, and how well the amps handled a range of effects pedals.
Best Clean Guitar Amp Reviews
The Blues Junior is amongst Fender’s best-selling tube amplifiers of all time. The IV model uses the classic vintage blueprint combined with some modern improvements, which results in an exceptional tube-driven clean tone.
At 15 watts, this combo amp blends power with practicality. Driven by EL84 tubes in the power section, the Blues Junior IV produces American-style cleans which can be shaped to your liking using the onboard 3-band EQ controls.
One of the key improvements that Fender has made to this modern Blues Junior is ensuring that the low-end maintains its power when the volume is cranked up.
This is a result of a slight adjustment to the preamp section, which consists of a trio of 12AX7 tubes. They work together with the power tubes to provide a tight, refined tone.
The Blues Junior IV is a great all-rounder for guitarists who split their time between recording, practicing, and performing live. It responds very well to gain, whether from the amplifier or an external effects pedal.
- 3 x 12AX7 and 2 x EL84 tubes
- 12 inch Celestion A speaker
- Onboard EQ and spring reverb
- Practically sized amplifier
- Classic Fender clean tube tone
- Offers plenty of headroom
- Lacks onboard tremolo
This Custom Series edition of Vox’s classic AC30 offers everything a guitarist could need from a tube amplifier – rich cleans, boost controls, and insane amounts of headroom.
Vox has tweaked the design of the AC30C2 to expand its tonal capabilities, which makes its clean tone even more versatile. You can still easily achieve the classic British tone that the AC30 is known for, but there are also many other options to choose from.
Using the unbeatable combination of three 12AX7 tubes in the preamp section and a matched quad of EL84 tubes in the power section, the Vox AC30C2 has the power to fill even the largest of live gig venues.
Another standout quality of this Vox amplifier is how well its clean channel handles a variety of effects. With onboard reverb and tremolo, you can alter the sound it produces instantly.
Furthermore, this Vox amp has an effects loop with true bypass, allowing you to isolate your pedals and ensure that they are applied directly to the clean tone with no weak spots or noise issues.
- 3 x 12AX7 and 4 x EL84 tubes
- Pair of 12 inch Celestion G12M Greenback speakers
- Effects loop, reverb, and EQ
- Versatile tonality
- Great choice for effects pedal users
- Loud enough for large venues
- Large size may be unsuitable for small spaces
Renowned for its impeccable clean tone, the ‘65 Twin Reverb is one of the finest tube amps ever to be created. Used by many iconic guitarists over the decades, this amp is compatible with any style of guitar, whether you use humbucker or single-coil pickups.
The ‘65 Twin Reverb boasts an incredible 85W of power, which requires a substantial tube assembly consisting of four 6L6s in the power section, and a mixture of four 12AX7s with two 12AT7s in the preamp section.
The amount of clean headroom that this amplifier has in its arsenal is almost unbelievable. Even with the volume cranked almost up, it retains the bright, smooth sound without prematurely being pushed into overdrive.
Fender has kept the design of this amplifier almost identical to the genuine 1965 model, with their classic spring reverb and 3-band EQ installed on the front panel.
This amplifier records like a dream. When paired with a dynamic microphone with high SPL handling, the clean tones will add depth and character to your recordings.
- 4 x 12AX7, 2 x 12AT7 and 4 x 6L6 tubes
- Pair of 12 inch Jensen speakers
- Onboard tremolo and reverb
- Exceptional clean tone
- Great for rhythm or lead playing
- Authentic, vintage Fender design
- This amplifier is heavy and difficult to transport
Boss is best known for their extensive range of popular stompboxes, but this Katana-100 reminds us that they also know a thing or two about designing guitar amps.
The Boss Katana-100 is different from the majority of the options included in our list of the best clean tone amps, for several reasons. Firstly, it has over 60 onboard effects, ranging from delays to distortions.
The solid-state design of this Boss amplifier allowed them to install 5 main amp model settings. This means that rather than only having one clean tone at your disposal, you get a variety, each with different tonal characteristics.
One of the main advantages of using a solid-state amp like the Katana 100 for producing clean guitar tones is that you never have to worry about replacing worn tubes, or putting up with their unpredictability.
There’s also another benefit of digital clean guitar amps – you can connect them directly to your computer or laptop using a USB cable.
This allows you to directly record audio from the amplifier into your chosen DAW, and to download any new updates from Boss straight to the Katana 100 MkII.
- Solid-state combo amp
- 5 amplifier presets
- Over 60 onboard effects
- Offers a selection of clean amp tones
- Wide range of onboard effects and processing tools
- USB connectivity for direct recording
- Contains no tubes
Supro linked up with boutique pedal manufacturers Keeley Electronics to create the 1968RK amplifier, which follows their hugely successful 1970RK Custom 10. This collaboration resulted in a wonderful clean guitar amp.
A high input headroom is necessary for a great-sounding clean tone. This Supro amp doesn’t break up until you reach the peak of its volume, which allows the clean sound to be projected will almost all of the 25 watts of power driven by the Class A power section.
The midrange output of this tube amp is particularly prominent. It sounds thick and warm in that frequency band, which makes it ideal for playing chord sequences and riffs on an electric guitar.
Keeley Electronics’ influence is perhaps most evident with the inclusion of an effects loop, which ensures that your chosen pedals can be used to their fullest potential.
The Supro 1986RK is perfectly sized for guitarists who need to move their gig to different locations. It contains a crisp-sounding G12M-65 Creamback speaker, delivering vintage-style clean tones with plenty of character.
- 12 inch Celestion G12M-65 speaker
- 2 x ECC83S and 2 x 6V6GT tubes
- Effects loop and EQ
- High input headroom
- Works great with dynamic-based pedals
- Warm, smooth clean tones
- EQ only has 2 bands
Blackstar has built a reputation for its powerful, tube-driven clean tones over the years. This HT Club 40 MK II features some new improvements to the older model, which mainly focused on improving the clarity of the clean channel.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about this Blackstar amp is the consistency of its tone when used in a clean setting or pushed into tube saturation. There is no loss of power in the low-end, which commonly occurs when the gain is added to an amp’s signal.
A large part of the HT Club 40 MK II’s tonal quality is down to the innovative “Infinite Shape Feature”. Blackstar uses this technology on many of its modern amplifiers.
This feature essentially adjusts the EQ settings of the amplifier simultaneously, so that you can quickly shape the output to suit your requirements. Turning the knob to the right gets you a classic, gritty British tone while turning it to the left results in a tight-sounding American clean tone.
The onboard reverb marks a significant improvement by Blackstar, as it has been re-designed to sound more authentic.
- 2 x 12AX7 and 2 x EL34 tubes
- 12 inch Celestion Seventy 80 speaker
- Onboard 3-band EQ and reverb
- Blends clean tones and overdriven tones
- Onboard controls are very easy to operate
- Classic American-style clean tube sound
- Large and heavy design
Clean Guitar Amps Buyer’s Guide
A guitarist’s clean tone is the foundation upon which their entire sound is built. It’s so important to choose the best tube amp for clean tones that suits your unique style.
Things to consider when buying:
Consider amp wattage
Not only does the wattage of a guitar amplifier impact its maximum volume, but it also alters the tonal qualities of the clean channel. High-watt tube amplifiers offer more headroom than low-wattage amps, which means they can produce louder clean tones before being pushed into overdrive.
Decide between tube or solid-state
There are pros and cons to using tube and solid-state amplifiers to produce a clean tone. Some guitarists prefer the warm, less predictable sound of clean tube amps, while others prefer the versatility that solid-state amps provide.
Think about size
Although this may seem obvious, it’s very important to choose an amplifier that is an appropriate size for your circumstances. There are plenty of great-sounding small amplifiers that produce pristine clean tones, but lack the power of their larger equivalent.
Consider onboard controls and effects
If you plan to use an amplifier only on its clean channel, perhaps with effects pedals, then you won’t need an array of onboard controls. However, if you enjoy the sound of spring reverb and vibrato, or like to share your sound using EQ, it might be worth looking out for these features.
Essential Qualities of Clean Guitar Amps
Clean guitar amplifiers must have the ability to project the natural sound of your electric guitar without adding too much coloration.
One of the most essential qualities to look out for when choosing a clean guitar amp is headroom, which essentially means how hard the amp can be pushed before the signal becomes distorted.
Guitar amps that offer ample headroom will be able to handle effects pedals better than those that begin to saturate at lower volumes.
Also, having more headroom means that you can play with more velocity while retaining the smooth sound of your guitar’s clean tone.
Tube Amps for Clean Guitar Tones
Tube amplifiers are a popular choice for guitarists who are looking for a killer clean tone. These amps work by heating up a series of electrical tubes to produce a warm, authentic sound.
If you’re a fan of vintage guitar tones from the 1960s and 1970s, choosing a tube amp is probably your best option.
Tube amplifiers respond to the dynamics and velocity of your playing. If you dig and play with more energy, you can push the tubes into overdrive, which will add some saturation to the signal.
The only downsides to tube amplifiers are that they can be more unpredictable than solid-state amps, and the tubes will need replacing after a while.
Solid State Clean Guitar Amps
The alternative to using tube amplifiers to create your ideal clean guitar tone is using a solid-state amplifier. These amps work by utilizing transistor circuits, which convert the signal into an audio waveform which is then outputted through the onboard speaker.
Solid-state amplifiers are generally more reliable than tube amps, but they lack the warm, distinctive characteristics that valves can produce.
One of the main advantages of using a solid-state amp is that your clean tone won’t be adversely affected by any noise issues caused by the tubes.
Manufacturers are able to include a variety of different amplifier settings on solid-state amps, using modeling. Therefore, you can access several different clean sounds on one amp, increasing the versatility of your guitar rig.
Some guitarists feel that solid-state amplifiers produce more of an artificial clean tone that sounds more polished than a tube amp, but for certain styles of playing, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
One of the main advantages of investing in a guitar amplifier that has a great clean tone is that it will also be able to take effects pedals effortlessly.
The clean tone of the amplifier sets the sonic foundation for the effects pedals to build upon. If you like to use transformative effects like delays, reverbs, or modulation pedals, having a great clean tone will allow them to flourish.
Dynamic pedals, like compressors and equalizers, can be used to alter the sound of the amp’s clean tone. Making specific aspects and frequencies more or less prominent.
Tube amplifiers with lots of headroom are likely to be a better choice for guitarists who use a wide range of effects in their signal chain.
Recording With a Clean Guitar Amp
Having a guitar amp that produces a good clean tone is obviously advantageous when performing live, but it will also improve your recordings considerably.
Solid-state amplifiers can be directly recorded into an audio interface, while tube amps are conventionally recorded by placing a microphone in front of the speaker.
Recording your guitar takes clean into your chosen DAW will make it easier to process them using VST plugins and different onboard effects.
Clean Guitar Amp FAQs
What is a Good Clean Guitar Sound?
Each guitarist has different preferences when it comes to their ideal clean tone, but most would agree that a lack of distortion and coloration is essential. It’s also important for a clean tone to be balanced, with no harsh frequencies that stand out.
A good clean amp tone should be suitable for a wide range of styles, and it can be used for playing either rhythm or lead guitar parts.
It’s also important that the clean tone can be used with a variety of different effects while retaining its main tonal and dynamic qualities.
Why is Headroom so Important for Clean Guitar Amps?
Headroom is an essential quality that all clean guitar amps must have in abundance. It will allow you to push the amp to higher volumes before saturation kicks in, which will make the amp sound distorted.
In some musical styles like metal or heavy rock, a lack of headroom isn’t necessarily a bad thing as these genres require a heavily distorted tone.
The more headroom the clean amp offers, the better it will be able to cope with a variety of pedals that you use to alter the clean tone.
Do You Need Compression for a Clean Guitar Tone?
Although it’s not necessarily essential to use a compression pedal to achieve a good clean guitar tone, many guitarists choose to do so. Compression will tighten up the dynamics of your clean tone and make it sound more consistent.
This can help to strengthen the prominent frequencies of your clean guitar tone and prevent it from becoming too loud or too quiet.