Parent article: Best guitar amps
QUICK HIT: Which amps are best for those who control most of their tones/sounds with guitar pedals? We highlight amplifiers with a great base clean tone, ideal for letting effects pedals do the heavy lifting. These are the best guitar amps for pedals.
What if you want an amp that just does the basics really well and lets your pedals handle everything else?
You don't want tuners, amp models, built-in effects, or any of that fuss.
Just good, pure, and clean guitar tone that you can tweak and manipulate via your pedalboard. If that's the case, this roundup of guitar amps should help you out. We've targeted the best guitar amps for pedals, focusing on amps that put all their energy and resources into tone quality.
Particularly, we're looking for a high-quality clean tone, leaving distortion to your pedalboard.
As you might have guessed, Fender tube amps have a strong presence in this roundup.
Read more: Best Fender amps
Best Guitar Amps for Pedals (our top 4 picks)
Fender '65 Princeton Reverb
Fender Blues Junior
Mesa/Boogie Mark 5:25
1. Fender '65 Princeton Reverb
The Fender 65 Princeton Reverb is a single-channel tube amp combo that has onboard reverb and no distorted channel. While it doesn't provide a lot of flexibility, it's meant to do two things really well:
- Clean tube tone
- Fender-style reverb
And both of these goals are accomplished without missing a beat. This amp sounds fantastic and puts all of its resources into tone quality and the vintage design we love about Fender tube amps.
For those seeking a more vintage tone, it's a great option for pairing with a high-functioning pedalboard.
IDEAL FOR: Vintage tones and those who aren't as concerned with distortion.
- Simple, single channel setup
- Clean tone quality is hard to beat
- Tube sound is warm and full
- Reverb is some of the best around
- Limited tone shaping options
- Limited i/o
2. Marshall DSL40CR
For a heavier flavor and more flexibility, the Marshall DSL40CR is our next choice. This combo gives you two channels with a tube-driven onboard distortion that can effectively replace your distortion pedal. It also has onboard reverb, which isn't up to the same standard we see in the Fender combos, but still nice to have.
There's also a more advanced back panel with speaker outs, a send/return loop, and even a MIDI input for external control.
The DSL series is one of our favorite amp lines to recommend, and the DSL40CR is one of the most popular variations from that lineup.
IDEAL FOR: Fans of heavier playing styles, classic rock, and those wanting an amp with distortion.
- Onboard distortion sounds great
- Tube circuits provide plenty of warmth with that signature Marshall high-end
- Lots of control on the back panel
- Full spectrum of EQ and shaping options on the front
- Two channels with different gain levels (basically a clean and distorted channel)
3. Fender Blues Junior
The Fender Blues Junior is one of the simplest and most straightforward tube amps on the market. It's only one channel, but you have a volume control, master level control, a three-band EQ, and the coveted Fender reverb.
For those that are primarily concerned with a high-quality clean tone, the Blues Junior is easily one of our top recommendations.
IDEAL FOR: Clean tone fans and those prioritizing a simple setup
- Celestion speaker sounds great
- Clean tone is one of the best around
- Full three-band EQ
- Onboard Fender reverb
- Not ideal for heavier playing styles
4. Mesa/Boogie Mark 5:25
The Mesa Mark 5:25 is the most expensive amp in this list, but it's also one of the nicest. Mesa/Boogie amplifiers are excellent when it comes to providing a solid onboard distortion and a modern bend in a tube-driven amplifier.
You have an all-tube circuit in the Mark 5 with selectable wattage, an internal attenuator (lets you turn off the speaker), a headphone jack, and a send/return loop.
On the front you have a graphic EQ and two channels, each with a full compliment of controls and EQ parameters.
In other words, it gives you plenty of features and some of the nicest clean and distorted tones money can buy. So for those willing to spend a little extra, we highly recommend the Mesa Mark 5:25, especially if you're into heavier styles and more modern tones.
IDEAL FOR: Heavier playing styles, modern tones, recording, direct monitoring, and higher budgets
- Onboard attenuator and headphone jack
- Mesa cleans and distorted tones sound amazing
- Celestion speaker
- Variable wattage
- Full spectrum of EQ and control for both channels
- Super expensive for a small combo
What about solid state amps?
You might have noticed that we didn't recommend any solid state amps in this list. That's not because solid state amps can't work well with pedals, but rather because we've prioritized tone quality instead of features. Generally speaking, tone quality tends to be better with tube amps.
Solid state amps often provide more features and flexibility, while tube amps will offer less features but provide a higher-quality base tone.
If you're bringing your own pedals to the table, we want to target amps that do just a couple of things really well.
Usually that's going to be a tube amp.
Read more: Best solid state amps
Do pedals work with any guitar amp?
In most cases, yes.
As long as you can connect an instrument cable to your amp, you can then place guitar pedals between your electric guitar and the amplifier's input.
So it's not an issue of having to worry about amps that are "incompatible" with pedals, because those don't really exist. Instead, we're trying to find amps that are ideal for guitar players that want to use pedals as their primary method of control.
That leaves the amplifier with the simpler task of providing a high-quality base clean and/or distorted tone.
These four amps are not only great for using with guitar pedals, but they're also just really nice amplifiers for any situation.
Particularly, the Fender Blues Junior and the Marshall DSL series are high-value options that we would recommend in a lot of situations. That goes for whether you're relying on effects pedals or not.
But in general, we'd say target tube amplifiers with less features (the Mark 5 is a bit of an exception to that rule) and a high-quality clean tone, that are built by reputable manufacturers like Fender, Marshall, and Mesa/Boogie.
That will let your pedals do the heavy lifting while your amplifier is left to focus on the single job of providing a great-sounding base tone.
If you have questions about the amps we've mentioned, feel free to drop a line in the comments section below. I'll jump in and help out as much as possible.