In addition to being a private violin teacher, Alecia started writing music-related articles 3 years ago and has been enjoying this experience greatly. Loves quilting and scrapbooking in her free time.
Marcus has a vast experience in digital audio and sound design. Thanks to his knowledge, he actively helps musicians with technical problems, improving their audio quality and even promoting their tracks so that thousands of listeners could enjoy some really good music.
Last updated: May 10, 2021
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Playing metal requires crushing tones, often at extremely loud volumes. Packaging all that sounds into an amp requires getting a high-quality product. The best amp for metal needs to be able to push the gain tones high, offer extreme compression, and allow for plenty of distortion and boosting in order to let your sounds make their way into the crowd above the background.
Choosing the right amp for metal music can be difficult, which is why we looked at a ton of features that differentiate these amps. We looked first at the configuration of the amp – whether it’s an amp head or a combo amp – since that determines whether you’ll need a speaker to compliment your amp. We also looked at the amp style, whether tube, solid, or hybrid, since that affects the sound quality, durability, and cost of your metal amp. Finally, we considered the amount of power that your amp draws and whether there are multiple power settings.
We spent many hours researching the best amps for metal by poring over manufacturers’ technical specifications and reviews from experienced metal guitarists. The result is our pick of the eight best guitar amps for metal, highlighted in the table below. Continue reading for detailed reviews of each amp with pros and cons included. Our buying guide covers everything you need to know about choosing the best amplifier for metal. Finally, we sum up our three favorite amps for metal on the market today.
This amp head from Peavey is expensive, but it comes so packed with features that it easily took our Editor’s Pick. To start, the amp head uses the tube construction that most metal guitarists swear by, so you can confidently use this amp for gigs as well as practice. Plus, with 100 watts of power, this amp head is capable of working with massive amp stacks for playing any venue.
Metal players especially loved this amp because of the level of control Peavey affords you over the amp. The number of knobs can be overwhelming when you’re first learning how to use this amp, but users reported that they quickly zeroed in on the sound settings that were important to them. Worth noting is the noise gate dial, which tracks even for songs that start and stop rapidly and give you tight control over the distortion from the amp tubes.
Users were also thrilled to find two effects loops on this amp, which opens up a ridiculous degree of possibility for customizing your sound. That’s something that most amp heads don’t offer, and it sets this Peavey head apart as one of the best tube amps for metal.
This 30-watt combo amp from Laney offers a lot of possibilities for metal guitarists. With six pre-amp tubes and control over the amp’s wattage via a simple knob control, you can quickly saturate the amp and create a deep, fat metal sound. Users loved the quality of the digital reverb on this amp, and a dynamics controller even allows you to modify how the combo amp interacts with the rest of your amp stack for tight control at gigs.
One thing to note about this amp is that it produces sound on the dark side. This dark sound seems to come from the lead channel, and it can be a major advantage for metal songs that require darker tones. However, that flat, ominous sound can leak into your music even when you are playing cleaner, brighter songs, and it can be difficult to get rid of with this amp. Some users noted that changing the tubes may help alter the sound, although this is an expensive modification.
Another issue that users had with this amp is that it’s difficult to switch from a boosted lead channel to an un-boosted clean channel because of the way Laney designed the volume interaction. If you switch with a single foot pedal without the clean channel on high gain, the volume can unintentionally drop out.
However, guitarists noted that these issues were relatively minor and could be fixed with additional pedals or an effects loop. On the whole, they were extremely happy with the sound quality of this amp and the control over your sound – especially for the modest price.
Why did it make our list?
Excellent price point for features
Six pre-amp tubes
Digital reverb and dynamics controller
Very good sound quality
Up to 30 watts, adjustable via knob
What is not ideal about it?
Dark sound in lead channel
Odd volume interaction between lead and clean channels
This mini amp head for metal from Orange provides just 15 watts of power, so it’s mostly suitable for small venues and practice sessions. That said, don’t count this amp out – it has a lot of features that make it a favorite among metal guitarists.
To start, the power is switchable between four settings. Many guitarists actually preferred the switch over a knob controller, since it’s easy to replicate a past distortion effect by switching to the same power level. With a minimum power of just 0.5 watts, it’s possible to create some pretty extreme distortion from the amp’s tubes as well. The effects loop is also buffered by valves, which helps to protect your sound as it travels through your loop.
Another advantage to this amp head is that it’s tiny. At just over one foot long, this is an extremely small and portable amp for metal. That means it’s never a problem to move your practice session around or to take your show on the road.
When it comes to control, you have both clean and dirty levels. The natural channel provides a clean, bluesy sound, while the dirty channel offers excellent low-frequency distortion control. Users especially liked the fatness of the distorted sound coming from this amp given its small size and power rating. There are also two channels to switch between on this amp head and an all-new gain setting that sets it apart from Orange’s other amp offerings.
This amp head from Marshall is the epitome of quality, but that comes at a high cost – this amp is primarily recommended as an upgrade from your current amp for metal, rather than as an amp for first-time buyers.
What sets this amp apart is that it uses a single channel rather than three channels. You have EQ control over three frequency bands, plus control over the saturation of the tube pre-amp so you can most effectively customize the degree of distortion in your sound.
On top of that, this amp offers a whopping 100 watts of power. That’s more than most guitarists will use even at large venues, but it ensures that you can tightly control your distortion levels and that you never introduce unwanted noise into your music. In addition, true bypass switching allows you to seamlessly integrate an effects loop without introducing noise into your amp.
Since the controls on this amp are somewhat limited, you’ll definitely need to take advantage of an effects loop with this amp head. That can make it less of a plug and play solution than something like the Peavey amp head, but if sound quality is the ultimate concern than it’s hard to compete with this amp. Note also that this amp is over two feet long, so it is relatively large and heavy for an amp head.
This small and inexpensive amp head from Paul Reed Smith is a great choice for practice as well as gigs at small venues. The amp is switchable between 15 and 7 watts, which means you don’t have nearly as much control over your output as with the similarly sized Orange amp head. Still, users loved that this amp saturates quickly and offers the screaming metal sound that many classic metal guitarists are trying to achieve. Part of that is thanks to the low power, but the six pre-amp tubes also play a big role in the unique sound produced by this amplifier.
Users also appreciated the diversity of controls on this amp head. They wished that the layout of the knobs was slightly different to make it easier to quickly adjust the clean and lead volumes, but otherwise liked having access to change the EQ of both channels. The clean and lead channels are well balanced by default, making it easy to dial in a good sound whether you prefer a cleaner or more distorted metal effect. Guitarists also noted that the effects loop on this amp is very clean, which is important if you are trying to modify the highly distorted metal sound that the amp head produces naturally.
The amp includes a foot amp and cover. Given the relatively low price of the amp, we were pretty excited to see these extras thrown in.
This combo amp from Marshall made our list because of the incredible value it provides, although it offers more of a rock sound than a classic metal sound. Part of the reason for this is that the amp uses solid-state electronics for amplification rather than tubes, so you won’t be able to achieve the distortion effect that metal is known for. That said, the 40 watts of power offers a compromise between volume and distortion when it comes to using your amp to create a custom sound.
Users loved the tone balance on this amp, which was updated from Marshall’s older combo amps to add gain to the crunch channel. However, metal guitarists noted that the amp is relatively weak on reverb – even though it offers individual reverb settings on each of the two channels – which further hampers using it for true metal. Still, if you prefer a clean, modern metal sound, users note that this amp is more than capable of producing that.
The speaker on this amp is Marshall’s Celestion V-type speaker, which provides incredible sound quality for a combo amp. In fact, this is one of the major selling points of this combo amp for metal guitarists. The sound quality simply can’t be beat as far as combo amps go.
Still, it is a combo amp, which means it’s heavy. At nearly 50 pounds, this amp can’t be transported easily between gigs.
What are our favorite features?
40 watts of power is a compromise between clean tones and distortion
This budget-friendly combo amp from VOX is the only hybrid amplifier to make our list. It features a tube preamp to offer some of the distortion of a classic tube preamp, but a solid power stage to boost your sound. Users found that this combination works relatively well for producing a deep metal sound, although you’ll want to take advantage of the effects or an external effects loop to make the most of your sound.
The 40-watt version of this amp is capable of playing practices or gigs, but if you need a dedicated gig amp it’s worth looking at the 100-watt version. Alternatively, you can save money on the 20-watt model if you primarily need to use your amp for practice. Keep in mind that the distortion effect will be more noticeable on the 20-watt version than the 40-watt amp.
This amp also works well as a modelling amp for medal thanks to the inclusion of 13 onboard effects and 33 present programs. The amp connects to your computer via USB so you can add additional effects and take your sounds to the next level.
Of course, the most attractive thing about this amp is the price point. At just $250, this is one of the cheapest guitar amps for metal and you can get started playing immediately, since it’s a combo amp.
Why are we impressed?
Tube preamp for deep metal sound
Available in three wattages
Includes onboard effects and presets
What negatives must you be aware of?
Requires effects to create traditional metal sound
This cheap combo amp for metal from Fender is a good choice for beginner guitarists and metal guitarists who primarily need an amp for practice. The amp is available in 40-, 100-, and 200-watt versions, so you can choose your wattage depending on your budget, how you plan to use the amp, and what degree of distortion you want at high wattage.
Keep in mind that the main compromise this amp makes to keep the price down is to use solid-state amplification. That means that you’ll want to take advantage of the included genre- and artists-specific presets onboard this amp in order to achieve a metal sound. The amp can also be connected to your phone via WiFi or Bluetooth so you can customize these presets for a more authentic metal sound. There are also slots for 200 presets on top of the ones the amp ships with.
Still, this is a cheap amp for metal. Rather than a single speaker, this amp splits its sound into two small 6.5-inch speakers. Users noted that the sound quality is fine if you’re using the amp at home, but it’s not the kind of amp you would want to bring to a venue for a professional gig. Firmware updates are a surprisingly frequent issue with this amp because of the extra digital features, and controls over the things that matter for your sound – like EQ and lead distortion – are surprisingly scarce.
Choosing the right metal amp can be hard – it’s a major purchase towards your musical career and you’ll need to use it in a wide variety of situations. In order to help you find the best guitar amp for metal for your needs, we’ll take a closer look at why spending the money to get a high-quality amp is so important and what features you need to consider.
Why get a good amp if you play metal?
Every metal guitarist knows that producing sound that will reach out into an audience and drive the music forward requires extreme sound quality and volume. In fact, the vast majority of cheap, poorly built amps can’t actually create the distortion and tone gain needed to produce a distinctive metal sound. The best guitar amp for metal needs to be capable of boosting distortion without losing sound quality.
What does all that mean for you? The short answer is that it’s well worth spending a bit of extra money on your guitar amp if you’re using it to play metal. Still, you’ll have a lot of options and choices to make, so you need to think about how you plan to use your amplifier and what type of metal sound you want to create.
Benefits and drawbacks of solid and tube amps for metal
One of the biggest differences between amplifiers for metal is whether they use solid-state electronics or a tube amplifier to amplify your sound.
Tube amps are the classic guitar amplifier for metal. These amps use vacuum tubes to amplify your guitar’s sound, and these tubes allow you to create a high-distortion sound that many guitarists believe is unique to tube amplifiers. Tube amps are also louder than solid-state amplifiers for the same power input. The main downside to these amps is that they are expensive. In addition, tube amps can be somewhat finicky, so you might want to have a backup amp if you’re playing big gigs with some frequency.
Solid-state amplifiers rely on transistors and diodes to amplify the sound from your guitar with fidelity. The main advantages of these amplifiers are that they tend to be less expensive and more reliable than tube amps for metal. Solid amps aren’t as good as tube amps for making extremely distorted sounds, but if your metal music involves a cleaner sound profile than a solid amp can be an excellent choice.
You can also choose a hybrid amplifier, like the VOX amp, which use tubes in the preamp section and solid-state electronics for the power drive. These amps are typically middle-of-the-road in price, but they are also intermediate in reliability.
Configuration: combo or amp head?
Another major decision you’ll need to make is whether you want an all-in-one combo amp or an amp head, which requires a separate speaker. Metal guitarists have chosen amp heads – like the Marshall, Orange, PRS, and Peavey heads – rather than combo amps for many years. That’s because combo amps simply haven’t offered enough power to use for gigs in the past, so combo amps were always limited to practices and home use.
Amp heads still offer an impressive amount of amplification power for their size, but combo amps have begun to catch up. The Fender amp in particular is available in a 200-watt model, which can compete with any of the amp heads we produced. Still, keep in mind that all that power in a combo amp makes for a very large and heavy unit. So, whether an amp head or a combo amp is better for you also comes down to how you plan to use the amp, and whether you need to travel with it.
How powerful you need your amp to be?
When it comes to guitar amplifiers for metal, power is a tricky question. Having more power available in your amp means that you can play at higher output volumes without oversaturating the tubes and electronics, at which point distortion kicks in. While distorted sound is a staple of metal music, many guitarists also need the option to play clean sounds.
So, whether you need more or less power depends on the type of sounds you need to make and the volumes that you plan to play at. If you prefer to get your distortion from pedals rather than your amp, you may need 100 watts of power or more – like the Marshall and Peavey amp heads provide. On the other hand, if you want to get as much distortion as possible out of your amplifier, an amp head like the model from Orange may be a better option. 40- to 50-watt combo amps like the models from Fender, VOX, and Marshall represent a good compromise for distortion at higher volumes.
One other thing to keep in mind is that some amps, like the Orange amp head, offer switchable powers. This can be extremely important if you are getting distortion from your amp, since you can easily alter the amount of distortion you create at any given volume.
The controls on most amplifiers are similar – you can change the tone, gain, reverb, and often the bass and treble settings. However, some amps for metal go above and beyond when it comes to offering control knobs so you can take full ownership over your sound. Our Editor’s Choice, the Peavey amp head, takes controls to the next level by offering numerous controls for the clean portion of your sound, the distorted portion of your sound, and the frequency filter gate. More controls can be replaced by pedals after market, but having more control is generally better for metal guitarists.
Included effects and presets
Most guitar amps for metal allow you to connect your amp to an effects loop so you can create an endless variety of sounds. But some amps, like the VOX combo amp, come with a handful of presets and effects so you can get started playing around with your sound immediately. Having onboard presets and effects is especially helpful if you don’t have an effects panel to connect your amp to.
Some modern amps like those from Fender come with onboard Bluetooth and WiFi so you can connect to a program on your computer or smartphone. That makes it easy to add presets and keep your amp running smoothly. However, keep in mind that metal guitarists have gotten by without WiFi on their amps for decades, so these extras are truly extra.
Dimensions and weight
Guitar amps, and especially combo amps, can be extremely heavy. That may not be a problem if you only use your amp at home, but keep size and weight in mind when choosing an amp if you frequently travel to gigs. This can also affect your decision about whether to go with a combo amp or amp head.
Warranties on guitar amps for metal aren’t extremely common, but they’re worth looking for. Fender, for example, offers a two-year warranty on the company’s Mustang GT 40 combo amp. Having a warranty can protect your investment in an amp in case anything is wrong – which can be especially important for tube amps.
Most metal guitarists prefer amp heads because they offer more power, or a wider variety of power settings, than most combo amps. That gives you more control over the distortion and volume of your sound, which is essential for playing metal. However, combo amps can save you the hassle of investing in a speaker stack.
If you’re just practicing at home or with a band, amp power is not all that important. In fact, five watts or less can be plenty of power for practicing in a home setting. Keep in mind that if your band includes a drummer, you may need closer to 30 to 40 watts to be heard over the percussion.
If you need an amp to play gigs, you’ll want at least 40 watts of power. Many professional metal guitarists prefer amps with up to 100 watts for gigs, even if they will never actually use the full power of that amp. Make sure that your amp gives you enough volume to be heard over your drummer and to take advantage of the available speaker stack.
Our three overall favorite amplifiers for metal are the Peavey Invective.120, the Laney Ironheart IRT 30-112, and the Orange Brent Hinds Terror. The Orange amp head is the quintessential tube amp for metal, offering four different power settings and a highly saturated, distorted sound. Its extremely small size makes it perfect for transporting between practices and gigs, and the price is quite attractive, too. The Laney amp is our overall favorite combo amp for metal thanks to its impressive suite of controls and the quality of the speaker. While it has a relatively dark sound on the lead channel, this can be an advantage for many metal songs. We feel the Peavey amp head is the overall best amp for metal on the market today. This amp head features a truly impressive array of controls for customizing the distortion of your sound. Plus, Peavey built this amp with 100 watts of power and the ability to accept two effects loops.