What is the Best Guitar Combo Amplifier for Rock?

best rock combo ampNeed a high gain combo amplifier? From Marshall to Peavey, this list is a great starting point for the Rock guitarist looking for a tube combo amp.

The combo amp is pretty standard equipment for guitarists of every music genre and skill level. Their compact and rugged design, and often reasonable purchase price are sure to keep the combo amps going strong well into the future. In this post we will concentrate on combo amps made to play rock and heavy rock. Of course we want the clean sounds to be clear and lush, but the gain, crunch, and distortion are going to be very important elements to this discussion because of their emphasis in this style of music.

The music in this genre also often switches from a clean tone to a heavy distortion and then back again sometimes several times in a single song, and at a moment’s notice. This means that we are probably going to be looking for a two-channel amp (one clean, one distorted), preferably with the ability to switch channels using a footswitch. Because most people would probably agree that tubes sound better than solid state even in a modern rock context, these amps will all be tube amps.

Marshall DSL40C

The Marshall DSL40C is an all tube, a 40 watt combo amp that’s ready to play small to medium sized venues and still do its job in practice. It features a single 12′ Celestion seventy 80 speaker, that’s designed to be detailed, with controlled low-end, aggressive upper mid-range, and subtly increased highs. This Marshall uses four 12AX7 tubes in the pre-amp, and two EL34 tubes in the power section. It has two channels, Classic Gain and Ultra Gain, and a supplied foot switch. Each channel has two modes. Both channels share a five-band EQ: Low, Mid, High, Presence, Resonance (gives the guitar depth). There is also a Mid Shift button for even more tonal flexibility.

Each channel gets its own footswitchable digital reverb and also its own gain and volume knob. The Marshall DSL40C also has a bypassable effects loop, and a standby switch to help with recording. It has two speaker outs for adding additional speakers when playing live. There is also a power reduction switch to toggle between 40 watts and 20 watts, to give you the right amount of power without sacrificing quality. The amp weighs 50 pounds so it’s a little heavy, but still very manageable.

Soldano Lucky 13

The Soldano Lucky 13 is a 50 watt all tube combo amp. It contains two 12′ Eminence Legend V1216 speakers that are known for a British sound, with warm midrange and highs, and tight bass. The Soldano Lucky 13 is powered by six 12AX7 tubes in the pre amp and two 6L6 tubes in the power amp. It amp has two channels: Vintage Clean and Hi Gain Overdrive, and there is an included footswitch. The Vintage Clean channel has Volume, Bass, Middle, Treble, and Reverb controls. There is also a “Bright” switch for a quick boost of high end. The Hi Gain Overdrive channel has Gain, Volume, Bass, Middle, Treble, and Reverb controls. Both channels share the presence control. The reverb is a tube-driven Accutronics three-spring that simulates a more natural ambiance.

One of the most significant testaments to the quality of Soldano equipment is the fact that each amp is handmade from start to finish by one technician, in their shop in Seattle Washington. The amp is a little heavier at 75 pounds, but the dual speakers and 50 watts of tube power can fill a pretty big room, and some of the weight comes from the top quality materials and solid construction practices that they employ.

Marshall JVM205C

The Marshall JVM205C is an extremely versatile amp with tons of tonal options built into a tube-driven combo. Packed with five 12AX7 tubes in the preamp and two EL34 tubes in the power section, it delivers 50 watts of pure Marshall Tone. The tubes drive two 12′ speakers: one Celestion Vintage 30 for a warm low-end, rich mid-range and detailed top-end, and one Celestion Heritage G12H for a tighter bottom end with a boost to the mid-range as well as boosted highs. Together they create a very full and balanced sound. The amp has two independent, footswitchable channels, and each has three footswitchable modes: green, orange, and red, allowing you to get a wide range of tones and crunch.

The included four-way footswitch is programmable, allowing you to store your sounds and take them on the road with you. You can even plug your footswitch into any JVM amp and instantly have your tones. Each channel has its own Gain, Volume, three-band EQ, and reverb controls. There is also a “MASTER” section of the amp that adds Presence, Resonance, and a Master 1 and Master 2 to both channels. The Marshall has an Effects Loop that can be run in series or parallel and you can also use MIDI to control any of the amplifier’s functions.

Blackstar HT Venue Series Club 40

The Blackstar HT Venue Series Club 40 is a 40 watt all tube combo amplifier. It uses two 12AX7 tubes in the preamp section and two EL34 tubes in the power section. The 40 watts is switchable to four watts for a great tone in smaller environments. It uses one 12″ Celestion Seventy 80 speaker for a modern British sound. The Blackstar has two channels, and a supplied footswitch. The Clean channel has Volume, Bass, and Treble controls. The Overdrive channel has Volume, Gain, Bass, Middle, and Treble controls. Overdrive also has something called “ISF” or Infinite Shape Feature, which is unique to Blackstar Amplification and allows for more tone manipulation. Both channels also share a digital reverb with two separate settings, light and dark, and there is also a Master Volume.

There is a clean voice switch, and an overdrive voice switch for even more tonal flexibility. There is a standby switch, effects loop, as well as an auxiliary speaker emulated output (both XLR and 1/4 inch) for easy recording or headphone use. There are external speaker outputs and even a USB out, complete with a USB preamp, bringing this amp into the modern age and adding to its already impressive versatility. The amplifier weighs 53 pounds, making it fairly manageable.

Peavey 6505 Plus 112

The Peavey 6505 Plus 112 is the last amp on this list but it is by no means the least. This is another all tube amp made by a company that has been around a while and knows music. The Peavey 6505 Plus is a 60 watt combo amp with one 12 inch Sheffield speaker. It runs on five 12AX7 tubes in the preamp and two 6L6GC tubes in the power section. This amp has two channels: Lead and Rhythm. Each channel has its own presence and resonance controls. Each has its own three-band EQ and pre and post gain. The rhythm channel has an additional “Crunch Boost” switch. With the optional footswitch you can select between the rhythm and the lead channels and also toggle the “Crunch Boost” on and off. Both channels share a genuine 3-spring Accutronix reverb for an authentic vintage sound.

This amp also features the Peavey MSDI microphone-simulated direct interface for sending the signal directly from the amp to the mixing board. There is also an effects loop for extra control, and an external speaker jack. The weight of this combo amp is about 61 pounds, so it’s somewhat heavy, but still fairly easy to move around.

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