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If you’re an experienced musician who’s developed an interest in the blues but can’t quite get the sound right, the right amp could make all the difference. The best blues amps feature preamp and power tubes that create a vintage, complex sound that’s necessary to capture the essential qualities of the genre.
When choosing the products for this review, we looked at some of the most critical factors involved in capturing the true sound of the blues. We chose combo amps, which means they’re housed with a speaker, so you don’t need to worry about buying anything extra. We included amps with wattage as low as 15 and as high as 50, so there’s something here to play an open mic night at the local coffee shop or perform at a larger venue with an ensemble. Inputs and outputs are also important because they determine what other equipment and accessories you can use with the amp. Finally, we looked at dimensions to help you determine how portable each amp is.
Top 7 Blues Amps Review 2020
We spent hours and hours researching these products by reading expert opinions, manufacturer specs, and comments and reviews from the musicians who use these amps every day. The first thing you’ll come to is a table where you can quickly see how our picks compare to one another. Next are in-depth reviews of each amp, followed by a detailed Buying Guide, so you’re as prepared as possible to find the best blues amp for you.
The Fender Blues Deluxe Reissue Guitar Combo Amp is a favorite of blues players as well as rock and country musicians. This vintage-style tube amp has classic features that a lot of musicians prefer to more modern designs. Real tubes have a rich tone that’s unmistakable, and something Fender is known for.
Not only is the control panel loaded with features but the chrome finish adds even more style. Craft a unique sound using the adjustable spring reverb, effects loop, and three-band equalizer that controls highs, mids, and lows.
This combo amp uses an Eminence speaker with the versatility to support any tone, from squeaky clean to dirty. The sound is drive
n by two power tubes backed by 40 watts of power, a great combination for the blues. One thing that this version has over the original is upgraded circuitry which means you get the same sound quality without the intrusive, annoying hum of the original.
While this doesn’t affect the sound quality, we have to mention the classic tweed covering. This vintage look harkens back to the original Fender designs of the 1950s and adds a little something extra to the whole experience.
Overall, users loved the sound but felt that some of the controls were too sensitive. Although there is some improvement from the original, some users felt the hum was a bit distracting.
Uses vintage style tubes
Stylish tweed cover and chrome control panel
Upgraded circuitry for better performance than original
Adjustable spring reverb
Some people felt that the controls were too sensitive
This Marshall DSL20C Guitar Combo Amplifier is a versatile piece of equipment that’s great for a beginner who wants to invest in something that will grow with them. That said, experienced musicians will love it, too.
The all-tube circuit helps create the rich tone that Marshall is known for. It uses a single 12-inch speaker and a semi-open back set up to improve the focus and clarity of bass notes.
There are two different channels, Classic and Ultra. They share the equalizer, so you can adjust highs, mids, lows, resonance, and presence. Each channel has its own volume and gain controls. You can also adjust reverb and use the Tone Shift button to fine-tune your sound. As you can see, this amp gives you a fair amount of control over the music you’re creating.
Another cool thing about this one is that you can choose from full or half power, running the amp at 10 or 20 watts to adjust for various playing locations. It features multiple inputs and outputs plus a footswitch to alternate channels and control the FX loop. The design is stylish and durable, suitable for life on the road. Although there were reports of some interference or white noise, overall, customers were very happy with this amp.
Good fit for players of any skill level
Semi-open back setup
Two channels with separate volume and gain controls
Equalizer to adjust highs, mids, and lows
Can run at half or full power
Some people experienced white noise or interference
Next up is the Monoprice 611815 Guitar Combo Tube Amplifier. This amp uses three preamp tubes, two power tubes, and a Celestion speaker that combine for superior tone quality.
You get a nice amount of control over your sound with this one. The spring reverb is controlled using a convenient foot pedal and the equalizer adjusts highs, mids, and lows. Plus, there’s an FX loop to add effects to the preamp to change up your sound even more.
One of the first things you’ll notice about this amp is how stylish it looks. It features a leather handle, cream-colored textured faux leather exterior, cloth grill, and chrome corners. The rear of the cabinet is ported which gives a little more quality to the lows.
Monoprice offers a decent warranty, too. This amp comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee and is covered by a 1-year replacement warranty. There’s also a technical support team available if you need them. Some users had problems where the amp stopped working after a few months or they received a faulty product but this wasn’t a typical user experience.
3 preamp tubes
2 power tubes
Foot pedal controls
30-day money-back guarantee
1-year replacement warranty
Some users stated their amps only lasted a few months
The Boss KTN-50 12-Inch Katana Combo Guitar Amplifier is a powerful 50-watt amp that’s ready to take the stage but it’s great for home, too. It sounds equally as good at low volumes as it does high.
This amp has five distinct settings: clean, lead, brown, crunch, and acoustic. After you choose, there are 58 additional effects to choose from to customize your sound even more using the BOSS Tone Studio Editor.
The Katana-50 has a dedicated gain and equalizer that adjusts highs, mids, and lows. You can program the amp to store your favorite combinations to come back to them quickly in the future.
Simple knob controls adjust the EQ and power control lets you pull back a bit when practicing at home. There are USB and aux ports to connect your phone or recording device as well as a headphone port for quiet practice.
Some users commented that having to use a computer or app to access some of the features was a lot for someone who prefers to keep things simple. There’s definitely a learning curve and the more tech-savvy you are to begin with, the faster you’ll pick it up.
Great for home or performing
5 distinct settings
58 effects to choose from using BOSS Tone Editor Studio
Some users found this amp was a little complicated to use
Have to be a little tech-savvy to get the most out of it
Our next pick is the VOX AC15C1X Guitar Combo Amplifier. Vox first released the AC15 in the late 1950s and it soon became legendary. It was used a lot until the 1960s when stacks came into fashion and interest started to fade. In 2013, Vox brought it back.
What makes this amp so special? It has two channels, one for normal play and one for a power boost. They share a master volume control and a feature called Tone Cut, which modifies tones between the amp to the speaker instead of during preamp. Each channel has independent volume control in addition to the master volume. Boost mode also has its own bass and treble controls. All of this gives you a lot of control over tone.
Other features include a built-in tremolo effect with adjustable rate and depth as well as spring reverb to create more traditional sounding notes.
This amp is portable but at just shy of 50 pounds, it’s a little cumbersome to lug around. It’s equipped with an output jack for an external speaker and can easily be used to play in smaller clubs or bars.
Most people are very happy with this best tube amp for blues. Some users were disappointed that the case was made of particleboard and wished for an effects loop but people are generally really happy with the sound.
Tone cut feature modifies tones between the amp and speaker
If you’re looking for the best small guitar amp for blues, check out the Fender Blues Junior Lacquered Tweed Amplifier. This one has a lot of cool features but the first thing you’ll notice about it is its cool style. The lacquered tweed covering adds a retro feel and the shiny chrome control panel catches the eye. Plus, it’s durable and holds up well over time, even when traveling.
This one uses real preamp and power tubes to produce a warm sound with a classic feel. The sound Fender is known for. The knobs are easy to use, just turn the dial to modify treble, bass, and mid tones.
Other features include an integrated spring reverb and a FAT switch to boost the mids to add depth and clarity to your sound. Shock absorbers reduce any annoying rattle so you don’t have to worry about unwanted noise, even at high volume. It’s a great choice for blues and rock because it delivers such a high-quality, deep sound.
At only 21 pounds, this amp is easily portable and great for gigs. Some people complained that they had blown fuses after a few months of use, though this wasn’t typical and they still loved the sound of this amp.
Lacquered tweed and chrome vintage styling
Real preamp and power tubes
Some users complained of blown fuses after only a few months of use
Our budget pick comes from one of the biggest names in the business. The Fender Champion 20 Electric Guitar Amplifier delivers a sound that’s worthy of the brand while fitting comfortably into any budget.
While this amp would work for anyone, it’s particularly suited for beginners. It has 17 different preset models so it’s easy to get just the sound you’re looking for. This means you can recreate the sound of old and new amps, US or UK models, or set up a perfect metal sound with the simple turn of a knob. Small lights next to the dials indicate the current setting and voicing so it’s easy to make adjustments.
There’s more. It features different effects, including delay, echo, reverb, chorus, and wah. This is a great way to experiment with different sounds without having to invest in an expensive pedalboard.
This amp won’t give you the sound of a top-of-the-line model but it’s definitely worth the money. It’s great for jamming at home and the basic plug-and-play design gets back to the basics.
Some people felt that, while the amp was great, the speaker in this combo left a lot to be desired. Others felt that the knobs and light indicator system were a little inconvenient.
Good for beginners
17 preset models
Speaker not as good as the amp itself
Knobs and light indicator system can be difficult to use
The goal of finding the right blues amp is to enhance all the things about the blues that make the genre special. Here are some things to consider while you shop.
What makes a blues amp special?
A good blues amp is one that supports the unique qualities of the music. This genre originated in the Deep South way back in the 1870s and sprung from African American spirituals, chants, and rhymes, among other things. Blues is characterized by patterns, most notably call-and-response and repetitive rhythms and bass lines.
So, what does this have to do with an amp? Well, one of the things that all of these amps have in common is they use preamp and power tubes to create a unique sound. It has an almost vintage quality that distorts and clips while building deep layers and adding nuance. These qualities serve the genre well by delivering not only dynamic tones but also the clarity needed to follow the repetitive bass lines, rhythms, and patterns that make the blues what it is.
Features to consider while choosing a blues amp
There are a few specific things to look for when trying to find the best practice amp for blues or one suitable for a performance. Let’s take a look at these qualities in detail.
Type and Configuration
All of the amps we included in our guide are combo amps. That means that a single housing holds both the amp and the speaker. The alternative is a stack which is made up of an amp in its own housing with separate speakers.
Combo amps are very portable and lend themselves to the blues quite well. The compact size produces a sound that’s a little rawer and not as overproduced which lends itself to the nature of this type of music.
Power and speakers
The number of watts varies in these speakers, from the 15-watt VOX AC15C1X Guitar Combo Amplifier to the 50-watt Boss KTN-50 12-Inch Katana Combo Guitar Amplifier. People often think that power simply means volume but that’s not exactly true. Watts are an indication of how the amp responds at high volumes. So, a 15 and a 50-watt amp might be capable of playing the same decibel level (or volume). At a certain point, the 15-watt amp loses clarity and quality while the 50-watt amp still sounds great. So, power is more of a measure of how much volume the amp can handle rather than a measure of volume.
All of these amps have one speaker, which makes sense when considering how they’re constructed. Placing two speakers in what is essentially a pretty confined space wouldn’t benefit the sound at all. Plus, because these amps all use tubes, there isn’t much room to spare.
Inputs and outputs
Inputs and outputs expand the use of the amp. Input jacks let you add foot pedals, headphones, recorders, or other accessories that can take the amp and your sound even further.
Since these amps are designed with a bit of a vintage feel, it’s not surprising that they each feature an analog interface, simple knob controls, and easy-to-read dial settings. While you can use modern recording devices by taking advantage of the inputs and outputs, the amps themselves look pretty old school.
Weight and Dimensions
If you’re planning to take this amp with you to gigs or move it from one room of your home to another, it’s important to consider weight and dimensions. Choose something that easily fits in your space that you can lift on your own.
Warranties are always important, especially when it comes to products like these. Anything with a lot of electronic, internal pieces needs a decent warranty, especially if you’re going to put it in the back of your van and drive from one gig to another. Luckily, these amps all have pretty decent coverage. The Monoprice 611815 Guitar Combo Tube Amplifier and the Fender Blues Junior Lacquered Tweed Amplifier each have a one-year replacement warranty. Most of the others have a one-year limited warranty.
No, they’re two different things. A preamp processes signals from your guitar to the amp. The amp then processes the signal from the preamp and sends it to the speakers. Interestingly, an amp can be used as a preamp in certain setups but not the other way around.
The damping factor is a little difficult to explain. Basically, it shows you how much control the amp has over the speaker. Technically, it’s the output impedance of the amplifier divided by the input impedance of the speaker. Damping factor is a really important thing to consider if you’re purchasing an amp separate from a speaker because you need to know how the two match up. Tube amps like the ones in our list have low damping factors which is one reason that they sound so unique.
Yes, you can. In fact, changing the speaker is an easy way to upgrade the sound of a combo amp. It’s important to choose replacement speakers that are the same impedance as the ones you’re replacing to maintain the damping factor. Your new speakers should also have the same power and matching mounts if possible.
Our top pick for best blues guitar amp is the Fender Blues Deluxe Reissue Guitar Combo Amp. The vintage-style tube design provides the rich tones that Fender is known for. It features a three-band equalizer, spring reverb, and effects loop among other things. Plus, the retro styling just looks really cool.
Next, we recommend the Marshall DSL20C Guitar Combo Amplifier. This amp features an all-tube circuit, 12-inch speaker, and semi-open back. You can adjust highs, mids, and lows for two different channels as well as reverb and Tone Shift. This is a great investment for a beginner and even experienced players will love it.
Finally, we recommend the Monoprice 611815 Guitar Combo Tube Amplifier for best small tube amp for blues. The stylish design features a leather handle, faux-leather exterior, and chrome corners. It uses three preamp tubes and two power tubes and features an equalizer that adjusts highs, mids, and lows as well as an FX loop to change up your sound even more.