Let’s face it – there’s barely anything that can come close to the quality of the good old tube amps, though there are a few digital modeling processing units that are getting really close to making this happen. Now, this is open to discussion and it’s currently one of the biggest causes of division among modern guitar players. Axe-FX and Kemper are praised for their realistic representation of various tube tones and their dynamic response, although some would argue that they’re still not, and won’t ever be, as good. Be that as it may, we can all agree that tube-based guitar amplifiers changed the course of rock music history.
What about solid-state amps?
Isn’t it strange how solid-state amplifiers are often looked down upon? Despite lacking in dynamic response and warmth, solid-state amps come with a few advantages. The first and the most obvious one is practicality – you don’t have to worry about replacing worn-out tubes. Then we also have consistency in operation, as solid-state amps will not overheat and change tone over time. In addition to all this, solid-states can achieve full potential at lower volumes. Although not as loud to human ears at the tube amps of the same wattage, you usually don’t need power attenuation to keep the amp’s true tone at lower volumes. Last, but not least – they’re cheaper.
At the end of the day, some guitar players even prefer using solid-state amps due to their tighter and “snappier” tone, both on clean and distorted settings. Interestingly enough, there have been some famous guitar heroes who actually preferred using these over tube amps, including Pantera’s Dimebag Darrell. But with all this being said, tube amps still remain as the most desired pieces of gear in the guitar world.
But worry not, as we decided to do some research and bring you a list of the best solid-state amplifiers with near-tube sound quality. With these amps, you’ll be getting prestigious tones for more affordable prices.
We’re kicking things off with a small, yet very versatile and powerful amp by Yamaha. The famous THR10 got its improved version THR10II. The lunchbox-sized amplifier delivers 20 watts and a whole bunch of options with it. And this is only one of the things that make it superior to its already famous predecessors THR10 and THR5.
A plethora of possibilities comes with 15 different guitar amp models, Bluetooth compatibility, and the option to use it as a USB audio interface for your home recording sessions. What’s more, the amp comes in handy for basses and acoustic guitars with piezo pickups. It’s pretty wild for its price range and size. It even manages to deliver some surprisingly great near-tube tones through its two 3-inch speakers.
Of course, Fender is a brand that’s just impossible to avoid on a list like this one. Here, we included the Mustang GT 100, featuring 100 watts of raw power and one 12-inch speaker. Now, this particular configuration, with just one larger speaker usually gives a bit of a boost to the bottom end and some mellowness to the tone. There are some ways that you can make the Mustang GT 100 get some of those tube-oriented vibes.
But the main idea behind this piece was to have a completely user-friendly guitar amplifier that would come in handy for any level of playing. It comes with a bunch of its own possibilities, even Wi-Fi connectivity with Android and iOS devices using a specialized Fender app. This way, the player can control all the different parameters, shape the tone, and save the desired presets.
Overall, Mustang GT100 is not exactly a high-end piece, but it does manage to surprise us with its qualities.
Just like the one we described above, Marshall Code50 features one 12-inch speaker. Although half the power with its 50 watts, it still manages to bring a solid punch and great tones for both practices and live gigs.
The near-tube quality comes with its simulations of different amps. The fun starts with 14 different preamp models and 4 power amp models, summing up in 56 different combinations. You’ll get classic Marshall tones, including the mighty JCM800, the classic JTM45 clean tone, and the good old Plexi. Along with a bunch of onboard effects, the amp allows you to store 100 presets on it. It’s a pretty fun little thing to use, especially when you consider the USB connectivity option.
Going over to something newer, we have Blackstar with their Silverline series. For the list, we’re including the Silverline Stereo Deluxe, which is a 100-watt solid-state combo amp featuring two 12-inch speakers in it. But what’s different here is that you can use it in the stereo mode as well, which is not that common with guitar amps. The whole feature is enhanced with the company’s so-called Super Wide Stereo technology, giving you tones of surprising quality for a solid-state amp.
The amp also comes with different digital models of famous tube amps. But it’s unlike your average digital processors, as it includes Blackstar’s patented TVP technology that can emulate a few types of power amps and their “behavior” and dynamic response.
The Blackstar Stereo Deluxe is a bit on the higher end for a solid-state amp, but it does bring amazing tone quality for its price.
Orange amps have solidified their spot in the world of guitar with their recognizable crushing fuzzy tone. Speaking of crushing tones, up next we have Orange’s Crush Pro, the 60-watt version called CR60C.
It delivers the same type of simplicity in operation and controls like their other amps. There are clean and “dirty” channels on it, with their individual controls, along with the reverb for both of these channels.
The whole circuit here is inspired by the Rockerverb series. This means that’s it’s a completely analog amp with special attention dedicated to the warmth in its tone. Despite being solid-state, you’ll be able to hear some of those tube-like characteristics in its tone. It’s a straightforward yet exciting piece, but it’s intended for those who are already familiar with the very specific Orange tones.
Peavey is another company that has an abundance of quality stuff in their arsenal. A great example here is their Vypyr Pro 100, featuring some very convincing digital modeling. Anything from bright cleans up to soaring tube-like heavy leads – this amp has it all.
Utilizing its 100 watts of power, there are loads of tones that you can dial in, all thanks to Peavey’s impeccable and very detailed digital processing technology. But the selling point here is their famous TransTube technology that can emulate both classic tube preamps and classic power amps. All of these digital models, an abundance of effects, and valve-inspired tones are packed withing this one simple combo solid-state amp.
As if this wasn’t enough, it also comes with its USB output, making it a great solution for home recording. You can also use its analog output, sort of like an integrated DI box, that comes in handy for direct audio recording or for going straight into the mixer in live settings.
Just like Peavey has TransTube, Roland developed their Tube Logic technology. This is exactly what we can find in the Blues Cube Hot 30.
We’re all mostly familiar with the Cube line of Roland’s amps and their perfect clarity. But the Blues Cube is a little different, as it’s dedicated to those who love vintage-inspired bluesy, jazzy, and classic rock tones.
The dynamic response is something tube-lovers are impressed with, especially if we’re talking about lower gain and softer clipping territories. It’s pretty surprising how convincing the Blues Cube gets with ita emulation of this dynamic response. You’ll get all those “organic” saturated tones within a compact solid-state amp.
Additional features include power attenuation, so you can use its full potential at lower volumes as well. To add to all this, you’ll also get a USB audio interface with it that’s pretty useful for home recording purposes.
Just when the entirety of the guitar-playing world thought that solid-state amps cannot be pushed any further, Boss comes out with their new Katana series. The good old classic solid-state was pushed to new territories, especially with a piece like Katana Artist.
This one features 100 watts of raw power, with an option to attenuate it down to 50 and even 0.5 watts for bedroom playing.
A great deal of tone-shaping comes from the custom 12-inch Waza Craft speaker. Overall, the amp offers really tight bottom ends and a clean channel that comes as a great base for those who love using complex signal chains.
However, the amp also includes five different voicings (essentially amp models), including one that’s designed for acoustic guitars with piezo pickups. But its strongest point comes with the different electric guitar amp emulations, as well as a “cabinet resonance” control that gives three distinct cabinet models. Combining all these options, along with onboard effects and essential controls, there are plenty of ways for you to dial in some tube-oriented tones.
Talking about amps in general, Roland’s legendary Jazz Chorus series is a highly sought-after piece of gear. It’s no wonder that these amps have been around almost unchanged since the mid-1970s. The JC-120 is now basically a “holy grail” of the solid-state amps and is still glorified and highly valued among guitar players of all genres.
It’s a high-end piece, but the price is most certainly justified. It mostly found its main role for studio recordings, especially for clean parts in rock songs. Even the guys like Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield have used it on some of Metallica’s songs. One of its strong features, as the name would suggest, is the analog chorus circuitry, providing some really spacious and vintage-ish slightly muffled chorus tones. What’s more, it is a stereo amp with two 12-inch speakers, giving those soft yet really defined tones.
The JC-120 bears both clean and drive channels with their individual controls. Each of these channels also features a bright switch as well as high and low gain inputs. It’s an old school configuration, but it’s proven to bring great results even in modern music.
If you’re a solid-state lover, this is a top-tier amp that you should have in your collection. If 120 watts sounds like too much for your needs, there are also JC-22 and JC-40 versions.