August 25, 2021

The Best Clean Guitar Amps | 7+ Fantastic Tube And Solid State Amps To Compare

Clean amplifiers are great to play certain styles of music. Whether you love sparkling jazzy tones, twangy country, or crystal clear pop music there are certain times you would need a choice of the best clean guitar amps to push your sound to the next level.

Amps that are fantastic on their clean channels also make perfect starting points to work with an external effects chain. You can add your favorite reverb, phase, and other effects and rely on the amp to compliment them.

Whether you're a new or experienced player, there will always be choices to make. Do you decide to stick with a classic tube amp, or do you prefer the modern solid-state amps? It's an interesting topic for debate and the two types have their own varying strengths. Our picks cater to both types of guitarists.

Fender ‘64 Princeton Custom Reverb Reissue

The Fender Princeton amplifier is one of the most distinct amps out there, favored by guitarists around the world. You'll find a Princeton in almost every professional musician's repertoire, including many famous guitarists. This small enclosure has spawned a bunch of different incarnations over the years but it still remains a go-to for the gigging guitarist. 

Owning an original Princeton amp is something most guitarists would dream of because they're rare and expensive items. The 64' Custom Deluxe Reverb is still a luxurious amp, but even with its $2000+ price tag is nowhere near as expensive as finding a vintage Princeton. 

A lot of this amp’s design and makeup is the same as on the original Princeton amp. It has hand-wired hardware just like before and 12 watts of manageable power and boasts a classic American tone.

This amplifier has a 10” Jensen Alnico speaker. This differs from the original ceramic speakers in the ’64 run of these amps. We think it actually sounds really great and might sound a lot warmer and less aggressive than the original. Functionally speaking, it won't matter to many people because what's most important is that the amplifier sounds really clear and warm! 

These amps have a surprising amount of headroom for their size. This makes these amps great for studio work and mid-sized gigs. Bigger gigs will require a microphone with your amp, but you will love the Princeton mic'd up for live or recording. At 32 lbs, these amps are extremely portable and make load in a cinch!

This is a gold standard amplifier, but that means it comes with a gold standard price tag. If you have the budget, this is far and away our favorite. But, we understand that is not an accessible price for everyone.

Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus - The King Of Solid State Amps

The JC-120 is a guitar amplifier with an exceptional clean sound. It's likely the most famous solid-state amp, and for good reason. The clean channel is pretty much flawless and comparable to any tube amp without the cons of using a valve amplifier (changing tubes, burn-in, etc). It features high-quality reverb, chorus, and vibrato, as well as 80’s aesthetics. 

This amplifier has an easy-to-navigate two-channel setup. This means the second channel can be set for distortion or overdrive. Although, the overdriven sound on these amps leaves much to be desired. If you're buying a JC-120, you're buying it for the clean channel. Each channel comes with a three-band EQ as well as controls for depth, speed, and mode selection.

The stereo output through 12” speakers is a feature not often seen from a quality combo amp in its price bracket. It makes it a star for using both the onboard effects or any rack and pedal effects you may like to add.

The 120w output is plenty powerful enough to jam with a band or to use for live gigs. Keep in mind a 120w solid-state amp is not as loud as a 120w tube amp though.

Fender ‘68 Custom Twin Reverb Reissue

We'd like to bring up that this amp isn't completely a jazz-style amp. It's more of a jack of all trades and will suit any guitarist who likes to play everything from hard rock, pop or blues. However, Its sweet-sounding clean channel and twin reverb give it the reputation it needs to deserve its place among our top picks for clean amps.

This amp looks the part of a true '68 model amplifier. It has design elements from classic Silverface Fender amps, which look great in both their retro shelf appeal and function. These included features were otherwise abandoned in the late '60s in favor of simpler, more minimalist designs, so this amp is especially loved by fans of vintage guitar gear.

Compared to vintage Fender amps, the new custom channel is a welcome improvement. It allows global reverb and tremolo settings that let what you play sound more organic because these effects could feel as though they're not being drowned out by any of your other pedals on the naked channel of a vintage '68 amp.

Now our Vintage channel is a little lower in volume, but what it lacks in volume it makes up for in clarity. If you push into low gain territory you get a warm crunch from this channel that sounds absolutely awesome for rock music. The tone this gives you is really, really cool. But if you're all about the clean vibes, turn your gain down and crank up the master controls a little bit more.

The included custom channel boasts some similar characteristics to a tweed amp. This one can also get loud and dirty if you want it to. One key thing to remember when using this amp is to keep the gain down to keep it clean and you will maintain its sparkling, bright, clear tone and avoid the fantastic overdrive this amp is also capable of.

Peavey Classic 30

Why a Peavey in a clean amp roundup!? Peavey amps are synonymous with Metal but the Peavey Classic 30 is one of the finest combo amps in its price range in the market today for the jazz, blues, and rock genre.

It’s a small package but has enough power to cover local gigs with ease. One good thing about this amp is its solid build. Even those who plan on gigging with it a lot will find that their Classic 30 can last for years without the need for costly repairs.

The control panel features a reverb, volume, bass, treble, and middle controls. There are also pre and post-gain knobs to control the overall volume of your effects. On top of that, you’ll find the boost switch that will immediately increase your volume. Perfect for lead lines.

All these controls are carefully balanced between the input and the master output as well as an effects loop for optimal compatibility with all sound systems so there should be no issues when connecting your amplifier to DI boxes.

The Fender Classic 30 features 4 EL84 tubes and 3 12AX7 tubes. It is impressively clean with enough power for most uses at 30 watts. The sound clarity is there, and the single Celestion Midnight 60 speaker does a good job at separating notes for a mono amp.

Fender Blues Junior IV

Fender has outdone itself with this 15-watt tube amp. This amplifier does it all with an incredibly convenient single speaker. It has enough output to keep you from scrambling to mic it up in most situations. Yet, for gigs the single speaker setup makes mic'ing it up a breeze.

The clean channel is the only channel on this amp and is a joy to play through.  It has simple eq controls and a volume knob. You'll have to have some decent pedals if you want to drive this crystal clear amp. That's the thing, it has such a good tone for using with an effects loop. It is one of the best practice size amps for this purpose.

You can engage the gain boost from the preamp, yet that won’t cause much of a breakup in the sound. 

The included Celestion speaker is a great speaker for musicians who want to add depth and richness to their music without losing clarity.

Positive Grid Spark

If you have had any interest in guitars over the last 2 years or so, you definitely will have had a targeted ad about the Spark amp. They spent a huge amount on social media ads and flooded the market with hype for this small but capable practice amp. This is a modeling amp based on the BIAS FX software from Positive Grid. 

This amp has such a huge following and is backed by one of the best music software companies in the world. This means that there is a MASSIVE range of tones available to use with this amp. If you’re after a clean tone, you are able to copy the tone of any of the other amps we mentioned in our top picks. How good is that!?

These amps also come with other software that makes them the greatest to practice with. One such inclusion is an AI drummer. This listens to how your playing and makes a groove as you play. There are even a few different “drummers” that play in different styles.

There is only one major drawback with the Spark amp and that it is only for practice. There is no output to plug into a DI. It is also very hard to mic up as it has quite a few different speakers in its small package to be able to model so many different amps.

If you need something versatile just to practice at home with or don’t want to spend a ton of money on pedals, the Spark is perfect. Just keep in mind you will need to have another amp to jam with others.

Monoprice 611815

If you're in the market for a small to mid-sized amplifier, the Monoprice 611815 is a great choice. It comes with 3 preamp tubes and 2 EL84 power tubes and boasts a Celestion 1215 speaker. An impressive array of inclusions for a sub $400 amplifier! Though the overall output is not a way to wake people up from a coma, this amp lacks nothing in the clarity department.

I've played my fair share of similar clean combo amps (think Fender Mustang), and while they sound okay with just a few crackling notes here and there, they are packed with mud most of the time.

The rear-ported design allows for some additional bass definition too. This small and affordable combo can be a great value purchase for anyone who needs an amp that can take care of almost any Fender-style clean sound they want at a reasonable price.

This amp has extremely low harmonic distortion plus it has a three-band EQ and controls for tone and reverb. This is a single channel example, so you’ll only have one gain control and one master volume level control.

It has a line input to play along with lessons or songs. Though I would not use the amp for that purpose anyway. Play music through your computer or HiFi so you can maintain a clear tone through the amp.

The Best Clean Amp Heads

Orange Pedal Baby 100

Orange's new baby slice of rock is the Orange Pedal Baby 100, a 100W class-A/B amplifier perfectly suited for players who run pedalboards. Overall this is a well-rounded product that packs an immense punch, especially with regards to live performance without breaking a sweat in terms of its compact shape yet sturdy construction. This is another fantastic choice by Orange and a perfect choice for a neutral tone.

Designed to emulate the tonal colors of a classic valve amp with its Class-A front end, the Pedal Baby 100 uses single-ended Class-A circuitry for that distinctive warmth and character. Forget sterile-sounding solid-state amps. The Pedal Baby 100 keeps all of your tone's spice, then adds a little more heat.

Unlike traditional guitar amp equipment, the EQ has a flatter and more neutral sound. Turned to 12 o'clock (normally "midrange"), your tone remains unchanged as this setting allows the signal to pass through so that only your pedals can alter the tone. A bass boost and treble boost control offer the player additional tonal flexibility to allow them to fine-tune their cab for optimal performance.

This thing only weighs 3kg too. So good for load-in at any gigs!

Vox MV50 Clean Nutube

The VOX MV50 is a monophonic all-valve amp head capable of delivering 50W. This miniature valve amp's astounding sound gain stems Nutube 6P1. The 6.3mm jack for left/right connection not only allows multiple amps to be connected in parallel but also makes it possible to connect directly with an external speaker.

With the all-analog pre-amp circuit featuring Nutube, enjoy the same authentic tube tone at a fraction of the size! With advancements in Vacuum Tube Technology, VOX’s engineers were able to design a true miniature tube amplifier.

The pre-amp circuit in the MV50 includes several innovative elements that produce the exact same quality and sound of a traditional tube amp. It pairs that with a Class D power amp, which has been designed specifically for the MV50 to provide efficiency without compromising tone.

The MV50 is the perfect match for nearly any speaker cabinet. The two modes on the back of the amplifier, FLAT and DEEP, are specially designed to adjust specific frequencies depending on what type of cabinet you're using and how big it is.

Special Mention: Vox amPlug 2 Clean Headphone Amplifier

Okay, this isn’t exactly a combo amplifier. That doesn’t mean it is not an amazing practice amp. It is also very unlikely you will annoy the neighbors with a headphone amplifier. 

This is part of the second generation of amPlug: tiny, high-quality guitar and bass amps that sound great and take up no space. The electronic circuit has been drastically upgraded since its first release. This particular model is focused on covering clean sound. A rhythm setting is also provided for bass players. The digital modeling technology ensures a wide variety of amplifier sounds right out of the box, with no special setup required! 

This model has built-in effects. It has three different types of chorus delay and reverb. This makes it pretty easy to dial in a fat boutique guitar tone that suits your style. Given that the amPlug is so tiny, the controls are a little clunky but that’s about the only negative with these little beauties. 

The only other thing we should probably mention is that there is no rechargeable battery. You will need to keep a stock of AAA batteries around for when you run out. Although, the amPlug series is touted to play for 17 hours between battery changes.

Solid State Vs Tube Amps For Clean Tone

Here at Star Bright Music, we are all about tube amplifiers. There is no substitute for the tone of a classic amp. BUT, Innovations in solid-state amp technology have enabled designers to replicate the clean sounds of tube circuits.

More and more manufacturers can better replicate the processes that give tube amps unique tonal qualities, allowing them to make very reliable clean channels in their solid-state designs.

So, modeling amps like the Spark, or high-quality solid-state amps like the JC-120 can create an awesome tone. Even though they are solid-state. 

Solid-state amps provide more control when it comes down to the specific sound you're going for because they are more malleable with tweaking the sound. These amps also tend not to distort as quickly as their tube counterparts. These characteristics help the overall sheen of their clean channels. But, you just won't get that warmth that comes from tube amps.

Most people can't tell the difference between tube and solid-state amplifiers. You need to have an experienced ear for this. So, you could save yourself a lot of money by opting for a solid-state if you fall under this category.


Does My Clean Amp Need A Lot Of Tone Control?

Clean amps often come with reverb or chorus built-in. These are nice inclusions especially on high-end amplifiers that have quality effects.

These are not something you will find on a low amp though. You will likely just have a 3 band eq as the only way to shape the sound. Effects pedals can be used to counteract this. Pedals often have better effects than those included with amplifiers anyway. This is especially true if you’re buying at the bottom end of the price spectrum.

If you want complete control over your sound, something like the Spark amp is probably best for you.


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