What is the best guitar amp for a clean tone? (our top pick)
Fender '65 Deluxe Reverb Combo
For clean tones we'd recommend the Fender '65 Deluxe Reverb. For years Fender combo amps have produced some of the best clean tones on the market, and we think the '65 Deluxe is a top option with a good balance of price and quality.
For years Fender has produced some of the warmest and most pleasing clean tones of any guitar amp. They're known for tube-driven warmth, signature onboard reverb, and have produced several series of combo amps that are focused almost entirely on clean tone quality.
While you could make a case for any of the tube-driven Fender combos (even some of the solid state options), our top pick is the '65 Deluxe Reverb.
We think it's the best guitar amp for a clean tone for several reasons:
- We've actually used and tested it
- It's similar to the old Deville and Deluxe combos
- Houses four different types of tubes and nine tubes total
- One of the best balances between price and quality in the Fender amp lineup
Again, you could make a case for a lot of different Fender amps here and, as you'll see in the honorable mentions section, it's not the only amp brand that does a good job with clean tones. However, there's no question that Fender combo amps are the first thing that comes to mind when you're thinking about a great clean sound.
While we make every effort to speak from first-hand experience and thorough research, these recommendation are opinion, are written by morons, and should be taken with a grain of salt, in consideration of your own situation. Note that we also use partner links (orange buttons) with great companies like Sweetwater in order to keep Guitar Chalk ad free. If you buy through these buttons we may receive a commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your generous support.
Comparison Section and Honorable Mentions
As we mentioned, there are plenty of amps that produce a high-quality clean sound even outside the Fender brand. We've listed a few of our favorites here that allow you to compare pricing and basic specs.
Fender '65 Deluxe Reverb
Fender '68 Custom Deluxe (series)
Mesa Boogie Mark V:25
These web apps update pricing in real time from multiple vendors, allowing you to compare your buying options for the Fender '65 Deluxe Reverb. Note that we do not have the ability to pull pricing from Guitar Center and Musician's Friend, though we recommend checking pricing for the '65 Deluxe on their websites as well.
Multiple Vendor Pricing
Price Alert (tracks with Sweetwater)
Price History (tracks with Sweetwater)
Price History for Fender Vintage Reissue '65 Deluxe Reverb 1x12" Tube Combo Guitar Amplifier
|Current Price||$1,399.99||September 23, 2022|
|Highest Price||$1,399.99||June 29, 2022|
|Lowest Price||$1,399.99||June 29, 2022|
Last price changes
|$1,399.99||June 29, 2022|
What about distortion?
Most amps we recommend for a clean tone are not known for their distortion or what you might call "dirty channels." In the above comparison list (honorable mentions) the one exception would be the Mesa Mark V:25 and the V series in general.
The Mesa Rectoverb amps deserve a look as well.
Mesa is one of the absolute best brands when it comes to amp-sourced distortion, but their clean tones are nearly as good. They're just great amps overall.
Read more: Best Mesa Boogie amps
But the Fender amps - and to a lesser extent the Roland JC series - are not known for high gain.
You can add distortion pedals, but even then it's not really what the amp was designed to do.
These amps are meant for either clean tones or subtle, bluesy overdrive.
What other factors impact clean tones?
We've found that pickups are one of the biggest considerations when it comes to developing your clean tone. Here are some other factors that can also have an impact:
- Pickup magnet type
- Bridge hardware/quality
- Guitar pickup type (single coil or humbuckers)
- Age of guitar strings
- Type of guitar strings (coated/non-coated)
- Amp settings (see below)
- Age of tubes (assuming tube amps)
All of these variables can play a role in your clean tone. But a great amplifier is definitely going to have the most say in the final result.
Start there and then work on the other factors like pickups and strings, to develop your sound. In the end your entire rig comes together to create your own unique tone and playing style.
Read more: How to start an electric guitar rig
Are Blackstar amps good for clean tones?
Blackstar amps sound great and are one of our favorite mid-tier amplifier brands.
Read more: Best Blackstar amps
And while their clean tones are solid (they even have an acoustic series), Blackstar is known more for high-gain and modern distortion sounds. They're definitely not subtle or bluesy.
Blackstar is a great brand if you want to strike a balance between clean tones and aggressive distortion. We generally recommend them as a good alternative to Mesa Boogie or Diezel amps.
They're just far more affordable.
What about Marshall amps?
Marshall definitely has a signature lead tone that differs from the Fender profile. Marshalls are known to be brighter and more focused on lead guitar styles that emphasize the high end and the "squeal" of notes on the higher register.
If you're looking for a brighter clean tone, Marshall amps have a lot to offer. But we just don't like clean tones that lean too bright, which is the same reason we didn't include any VOX amps in this roundup.
At the end of the day it's a matter of taste and preference.
For what it's worth, we'd prefer a lot of amps over Marshall when it comes to clean tone quality.
Again, it's opinion. Don't flame the comments section.
Read more: Best VOX amps
What settings are best for a clean tone?
We've address amp settings in a number of different contexts, including clean tones. Here are a couple resources that go into a lot of detail and can get you going, one from our library and another from Killer Rig:
Keep in mind:
It's an art and not a science.
Take some time to experiment with your own rig and figure out what works best with your particular roster of gear. If you have questions about settings, we can help you out in the comments section.
In the end, the best guitar amps for a clean tone have to do very little. They need warmth, flexibility, and can always be helped by a little bit of reverb. We think the Fender combo amps, particularly the '65 Deluxe, are the best options if this is your priority.
But, you've got to make the call based on your situation.
If you have thoughts or questions, leave them in the comments section below and we'll help you out.
Thanks for reading.