10 best modelling amps to buy in 2019
Finding the right amplifier for you can be a daunting and difficult task. Do you want 6L6s or EL84s? What about a combo or a head and cab? You might even be deliberating between a tube amp or something solid state. If you are indeed stuck, or even spoilt, for choice then fear not. Here we’ve rounded up the ten best modelling amps in the biz so you can keep tweaking to find your dream amp tone even after you’ve bought your amp. Although they’ve been the brunt of the industry in the past the modern modelling amp is a thing to behold. Available in variations that suit all budgets, you’re bound to find something that suits your needs.
Image: Fender1. Fender Champion 100XL
Fender has recently announced the new and updated version of its beloved Champion amp. Designed with those in mind that want and need an easy to use amp with a huge variety of amp models and built-in effects. The new Champion includes 16 amplifier tones, from traditional Fender cleans to monstrous distortion, alongside four stompbox effects in the form of compression, overdrive, distortion and an octaver. There’s also 12 classic effects on each channel, ranging from reverb and delay/echo to chorus, tremolo and even Vibratone.
2. Blackstar Silverline Standard
The grab-and-go nature of the Standard seems ideal for rehearsals and small gigs, and with the vast tonal varieties on offer, you’d be hard pressed to find a more versatile amp. It has six Blackstar preamp voices, which range from sparkling clean to seriously mean, while four modulation effects, four delays and four reverbs cater for all your wobble, echo and ambient needs. Meanwhile, switching from manual to preset mode offers a dozen fully customisable preset locations, which can be expanded to 128 using Blackstar’s FS-10 foot controller (£69). Don’t be fooled by the compact 1×10 cabinet, either – there’s a lot of bass on tap from this closed-back unit.
Read the full review here.
3. Boss Katana MkII
Now with added versatility, this compact combo from the second generation of Boss’s effects-laden Katana line is both loud enough and good enough to be your go to gigging amp. It’s small portable and even more affordable, plus it punches out 50-watts. There’s now a ‘variation’ option for each of the five amp types, effectively giving you 10 to choose from and the effects section has been redesigned so you can use up to five at once instead of three. A neat upgrade on the MkI version, this amp ticks all the boxes for a modern modelling amp.
Read the full review here.
4. Line 6 Spider V 60 MkII
Line 6 claims there’s a Spider for every guitar player. While that’s a bold claim, it’s easy to understand why the brand is standing by this statement. With more than 200 emulations of amps, cabinets and effects you’d think that would be enough to achieve your tone goals, but they’ve also thrown in 128 presets for good measure. They also feature an onboard tuner, metronome and drum loops. While this can result in Kemper-like levels of tweaking, it’s also super easy to dial in a tone and simply set and forget. In addition, the models from 60 MkII and up also sport built-in wireless receivers, hence why we’ve featured that model in this list.
5. Fender Mustang GT 100
Fender amps have developed considerably over the last seven decades, going from Woody models to featuring Bluetooth, WiFi and an app controlled Fender Tone Cloud. The GT 100 takes a whole lotta tech from the home to the stage with 100 watts harnessed to a 12-inch Celestion Special Design speaker, as well as neatly integrated handles and recessed control panels, you get 21 newly-upgraded amp models, 46 effects and a clean and easily legible colour LCD display. The Fender Tone cloud is great for editing presets on the fly, with versions contributed by Johnny Marr, Gary Clark Jr and the like. If you’re after Fender tone on a tight budget, this might be the amplifier for you.
Read the review here.
6. Blackstar ID:Core Stereo 100
Over the last couple of years, Blackstar’s ID:Core amps have helped redefine expectations of what a home/practice amp can deliver. The Northampton-based company took all of the clever functionality and proprietary tech it’s developed — six voices, Super Wide Stereo sound, an array of digital effects, deep editing and patch storage via its Insider software, USB recording and reamping — and made it available in loud, giggable box.And you can lift it with two fingers. The company has also introduced an onboard looper (accessible via the bundled two-button footswitch) with unlimited overdubs, undo and clear functions, a polyphonic octave effect and a stereo effects loop. There’s not much that it doesn’t do, really.
Read the review here.
7. Yamaha THR30II
The Yamaha THR-II range follows on from the widely successful THR range, bringing new features – including wireless connectivity and battery power – and a slight redesign to the chassis. Alongside the typical EQ, gain and volume controls, each amplifier in the THR-II range offers 15 amp models, three bass amp models and three mic models for electro-acoustics. A flat voicing allows pedals to speak for themselves, or can be used for neutral amplification of other instruments. The built-in effects on offer are a chorus, flanger, phaser and tremolo, two echo modes and two reverb modes. A tuner, complete with a display, is also present in all models.
8. Marshall CODE100
Fitted with Marshall’s Softube Technology, the Marshall CODE100 is a great option for those looking to find a convincing Marshall tone on a smaller budget. The amp includes 14 x MST Preamps, 4 x MST power amps and 8 x MST speaker cabinets, allowing you to take a vast amount of amps anywhere with you on the road. Add in the 24 professional quality effects built-in to the Marshall CODE100, 5 of which you can use at the same time, and you’re off to a flyer. You can even use it as an audio interface via the integrated USB port and use the Marshall Gateway app to change amp settings from your Android or iOS device.
9. Vox Valvetronix VT20X
The Valvetronix VT20X from Vox is more of a hybrid than a straight-up solid-state amplifier, due to its vacuum preamp tube. It aims to give this small box a more tube-like tone, along with its plethora of modelling options. The VT20X comes with 33 presets, 11 amp models, and 13 effects, with an optional footswitch should you need to switch between presets on the fly. It does suffer slightly due to having an 8” speaker rather than 12”, but this is still a strong contender for those looking for a solid, bang-for-your-buck amplifier.
10. Kemper Powerhead
Kemper is arguably doing for the modelling amp what Fender initally did for the electric guitar. Yes, some would argue that Kemper’s products are more than just amp modellers, but we like to think of profiling as a much more refined and sophisticated version of modelling. The Powerhead does everything that the standard Kemper Head or Rack models are capable of, but adds the power amp that both those options lack. This allows you to plug the Powerhead directly into a speaker cabinet, without purchasing any other equipment. At just shy of £2000 it doesn’t come cheap, but with all the gear it makes obsolete, the price becomes a little more reasonable.
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