Whether you’re seeking for an amp to use as a clean pedal platform or want to highlight the natural sound of your guitar with smooth clean tones, having enough clean headroom for your volume requirements is vital.
While many players seek very high gain amps that break up into ear pleasing crunch distortion, others prefer clean amps with enough of “headroom.” A clean amp will allow a player to achieve significantly higher volume levels before breaking up than a high gain amp. This has a lot of advantages, the most important of which being the ability to accept pedals and effects quite well.
Clean guitar amps may often provide some fantastic overdriven tones as well. We’ll look at some of the best clean amps on the market right now in this list. While many of these devices will be tube amps, we’ll try to add some solid state amp alternatives as well.
Table of Contents
Fender 65 Deluxe Reverb
- 22 watts of pure, clean power compresses and overdrives so sweetly when cranked up!
- One 12” 8-ohm Jensen C-12K speakers offer incredible clarity and note separation.
- All-tube Fender reverb and vibrato offers spacial ambience and a legendary array of tones.
The renowned Fender ’65 Deluxe Reverb is first on our list, and it is a true classic and an important part of guitar history. The Fender Deluxe Reverb is a favourite of professional musicians, and it is one of the most recorded amps in the world at that price point, with recordings ranging from country and blues to rock and jazz. It’s an incredible amplifier for getting that classic 1960s Fender sound, and purchasing it allows you to get that guitar speaker sound without having to buy vintage Fender amplifiers from the 1960s or 1970s.
Another reason for its popularity among guitarists is its small size, which is owing to its low power output of only 22 watts. The Deluxe Reverb’s 22-watt output is the ideal size and loudness for recording studios and live events, and because venues will place a microphone on your guitar amp, it’s also excellent for use in large venues.
Two channels with tube spring reverb, tube vibrato, and a tube rectifier are included in the Fender Reissue ’65 Deluxe Reverb. The Fender 65 Deluxe Reverb features a single 12″ Jensen C-12K speaker. Two 6V6 power tubes, one 5AR4 rectifier tube, four 12AX7 preamp tubes, and two 12AT7 reverb and vibrato tubes power the amp.
With traditional Fender textured vinyl and a silver grille cloth, the design is quite similar to the original Deluxe Reverb. Volume, treble, bass, reverb, tempo, and intensity are the simple yet effective control knobs. The amp, as previously said, is relatively light for a tube amp, weighing in at roughly 42 pounds. The Fender 65 Deluxe Reverb is a 22-watt amp, but it’s far louder than most people imagine. The Deluxe Reverb can go much louder than a 22-watt solid-state amplifier, and because it’s a tube amplifier, you can get that signature Fender tube amp overdrive as you go louder. Most indoor venues and small to medium-sized events have enough volume and headroom to play.
When the Fender 65 Deluxe Reverb is turned up to its maximum volume, it generates a truly lovely overdrive tone, which is one of the many benefits of owning a superb tube amp. Even when turned up loud, the amp doesn’t produce a lot of hums or rattles, and the volume, treble, and bass dials alone provide an astonishing variety of tones to pick from.
The second channel includes built-in vibrato/tremolo and reverb effects, which are of incredible quality. The reverb and tremolo effects are incredibly natural and pleasant. Deluxe Reverb is also pedal-friendly, and you can pretty much create a “sweet spot” for any genre by combining the built-in effects and other guitar pedals.
If you want a vintage Fender clean tone, the Fender 65 Deluxe Reverb is unquestionably one of the best options. The Fender 65 Deluxe Reverb has built-in vibrato (tremolo) and reverb, and can provide both a beautiful clean and overdrive tone like modeling amps. Overall, this is the best clean amp in 2023.
Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus 120-Watt Guitar Amplifier
- Legendary flagship of the Roland Jazz Chorus series since 1975
- Historic “JC clean” tone and signature Dimensional Space Chorus effect
- Powerful 120-watt stereo amp with two 12-inch “silver cone” speakers
Although tube amplifiers generate incredible clean tones that are unmatched by digital amplifiers, maintaining a tube amp at the greatest level necessitates a great deal of attention and money. Solid-state amplifiers are frequently considerably easier to transport because there is no risk of one of the tubes breaking or being damaged. When it comes to the greatest solid-state amps for clean tones, the Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus is regarded as one of the best clean tone amps available.
The Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus has been in production since 1975, and it is noted for its crystal-clear and pure clean tone, as well as its characteristic chorus effect. This amp is a monster for a combination amp, with a whopping 120 watts of power. The Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus has been the gold standard in high-end clean guitar amps for almost 40 years, and guitarists all over the world still use it in the studio and on stage.
The Roland JC-120 is a two-channel solid-state guitar amplifier with two sixty-watt speakers each. The JC-120 comes with two massive 12-inch speakers that are at the heart of the amp’s stunning tone. Channel 1 offers a standard clean tone with basic parameters such as volume, treble, midrange, and bass, as well as bright and low inputs and a Bright control knob for the most twangy sound conceivable.
The JC-120 is best known for channel 2, which features all of the standard volume and EQ dials, as well as a variety of effects knobs. You’ll find distortion, reverb, vibrato, and chorus effects, all of which have speed and depth parameters. You can truly get the most out of this guitar amp with these numerous effects, and even without additional effect pedals, you’ll be able to get most of the tones you’ll need.
The Roland JC-120’s basic clean tone has made it popular among elite guitarists since the 1970s, and it was developed to meet the needs of electric guitarists who needed a varied clean tone for genres including country, jazz, gospel, bluegrass, and RnB. The Roland JC-120 is currently primarily utilised by rock and pop guitarists, and you can hear legends like Sting, Andy Summers of The Police, Metallica, Joe Walsh of The Eagles, and Joe Perry of Aerosmith using it.
The JC-120 is frequently used to create the signature clean guitar tone heard in many 1980s rock and pop bands. As a result, the JC-120’s clean tone can be defined as a “hi-fi” clean tone produced by a solid-state amplifier. Although the JC-120 is most known for rock and pop, it is also suitable for jazz, blues, funk, and country; nevertheless, the control panel is not as well suited to these styles as some of the other tube amps on this list.
The JC-120 is also known for its chorus effect; in fact, the JC-120 is credited with popularising the chorus effect. The JC-120’s chorus effect became so popular that BOSS created the first chorus effects pedal. Guitarists still consider the JC-120’s chorus sound to be the gold standard for chorus effects.
During Roland’s 30+ years in the guitar business, the JC-120 has proven to be one of the best amps for clean tone, as well as one of the best solid-state guitar amps that altered the game when it was initially released in 1975. The Roland JC-120 offers some of the most traditional clean guitar tones, as well as a great assortment of effects including distortion, chorus, and vibrato, thanks to its 120-watt output. Overall, the JC-120 is still one of the most popular guitars among rock and pop players today. Overall, this is the best clean guitar amp in 2023.
VOX AC30C2X Guitar Combo Amplifier
- 10 Watt tube combo offering the classic VOX Top Boost tone
- EL84 power tubes; 12AX7 preamp tubes
- Custom 10" VX10 speaker made by Celestion
The Vox AC30 is one of the most iconic clean amps of all time. First introduced in the late 1950s, the AC30 has been the foundation of countless classic clean guitar tones across a wide variety of genres.
The AC30 gets its legendary clean headroom from the push-pull EL84 power amp tubes and quartet of 12AX7 preamp tubes. This all-tube design delivers 30 watts of power, making it loud enough for both studio recording and live performance.
The AC30 is famous for its jangly, sparkling clean tone. Treble-heavy EQ voicing with tight lows and scooped mids produces the signature Vox chime. Two 12″ Celestion Alnico Blue speakers provide crisp note definition even when the amp is pushed. Reverb and tremolo effects round out the classic Vox clean experience.
Iconic guitarists who famously used AC30 amps to craft their clean tones include Brian May of Queen, The Edge of U2, Brian Setzer of the Stray Cats, Johnny Marr of The Smiths, and many more. The Beatles also used the AC30 to record their hits at Abbey Road studios.
While pricey, a modern AC30 hand-wired amp represents the pinnacle of clean guitar tone. From smooth jazz comping to jangly indie pop, the AC30 is often the first choice for players seeking top-tier clean chime, jangle and shimmer.
Fender Blues Junior IV
- 15 Watts
- Celestion 12" A-Type speaker
- Preamp circuit modified for increased fullness
Another extremely popular clean amp is the Fender Blues Junior, which is arguably one of the most popular tube amplifiers on the planet. The Blues Junior is small, adaptable, and has a beautiful tube tone that is among the best in its price range. The Fender Blues Junior doesn’t have the same long history as the Deluxe Reverb or many other renowned Fender amps from the 1950s and 1960s.
The Fender Blues Junior, on the other hand, has become the go-to gig and recording amplifier all over the world since its introduction in the 1990s. Fender has improved and upgraded the amp over the years to meet the needs of the players of the time period. The amp was upgraded to the new Mark IV specification by Fender in 2018, and the enhancements included Celestino’s superb A-Type loudspeaker.
The Fender Blues Junior IV is a 15-watt, 1 x 12″ combo with a single-channel input and a single-channel output. The amp uses high-quality tubes, including a pair of EL84 power tubes and three 12AX7 preamp tubes. Any Blues Junior owner will tell you that this amp sounds far louder than 15 watts, and that it has some of the most beautiful clean tones. The old blackface design is still present, with black textured vinyl and an aged silver grille cloth. The controls have a new design, with a white-on-black textured display and ivory pointer control knobs replacing the mirrored chrome knobs.
Treble, Bass, Middle, Master, Reverb, and Fat Switch are all control knobs that do exactly what you need them to do. The addition of a Celestion A-type speaker is the most important change in the 2018 version of the Fender Blues Junior IV. The Celestion A-type speaker is great with pedals, and the extra headroom is great for higher-output pickups. The A-type speaker was created to produce classic American tones that pay homage to the sounds of old Fender tube amps.
The sound is still typical Fender tube amp tones, and one of the most appealing features of a Fender Blues Junior amp is its extraordinary adaptability and surprisingly large sound for its small size. You may easily get a variety of tones, such as clean rock tone, jazzy & warm tone, tight and crispy funk tone, and smooth RnB clean tone, even without any additional pedals. Gorgeous overdriven guitar tones are at your fingertips simply enabling the fat switch and dialling up the volume while keeping the master down. You can obtain a reasonably loud and gritty tone by turning the volume all the way up to 10, but for hard rock or metal tones, you’ll need the help of an additional pedal or effect source.
It has the power and sound to fill anything from a small café to a mid-sized venue for a tube amp that weighs only 30 pounds. It’s also ideal for miking through a PA system. The amp’s freshly improved preamp circuit gives it greater power and headroom, as well as a lot of middle presence and tight highs. You received a superbly balanced tone with dazzling highs and lush mids when you combined the new Celestion speaker with it.
The Fender Blues Junior IV is the best clean guitar amp for the money, and the recent enhancements just add to its appeal. It’s the ideal amp for any musician looking for a portable amp with a superb clean tone, from beginner to professional. The overdrive tones aren’t awful either, and dialling in your clean tone on this amp makes it a great base for using pedals for distorted tones and effects. Overall, this is the best clean amps in 2023.
- 10 Watt tube combo offering the classic VOX Top Boost tone
- EL84 power tubes; 12AX7 preamp tubes
- Custom 10" VX10 speaker made by Celestion
The Vox AC15 Custom has a distinct vintage chime and sophisticated grind that sets it apart from other best clean guitar amps, and it is commonly referred to as the “British sound.” Except for a few small changes, this Custom reboot of the amp is largely unchanged from the original model. Adding this amp to your armoury would be a terrific idea if you want to follow in the footsteps of legends like Brian May, The Beatles, Tom Petty, or John Scofield.
The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, and, of course, Brian May of Queen, were all huge fans of their amps in the 1960s and 1970s. Vox’s reputation increased as a result of these superstars’ adoration for their AC15 and AC30 tube combo amplifier. Today, we’ll take a look at an amp that lets you experience Vox’s original masterpiece, the Vox AC15 Custom.
The Vox AC15C1 has a 12″ Celestion Greenback speaker, which was initially used in the Vox AC15 amps, however the Celestion Greenback speaker was a less expensive replacement for the Alnico Blueback speaker. The Celestion Greenback speakers, on the other hand, are excellent speakers that produce a powerful and clear guitar tone free of unwanted frequencies. The Vox AC15C1 contains two 12AX7 preamp tubes and one EL84 power amp tube as its major component in terms of tubes. The primary components that give the amp its characteristic Vox tube amp sound are the 12AX7 tubes and EL84 power amp tubes.
The amp has two channels, one for “Normal” and the other for “Top Boost.” The standard channel is simple, with only one volume switch, and most people purchase this amplifier for the other channel. The Top Boost channel is one of the amp’s strengths, adding another layer of high-end clarity and sonic control. The Top Boost channel is one of the features that sets this amp apart from other tube amps in this price range. Other settings on the Top Boost channel include volume, master volume, and tone cut, as well as Bass and Treble knobs. It’s a simple configuration with few knobs, but for most guitarists seeking for a decent tube amp, it’s more than enough, and because the Vox AC15C1 works well with guitar pedals, many guitarists don’t need a lot of extra control knobs.
The Vox AC15C1 features a selection of classic tones to choose from, just like its classic style. The trademark crunch and overdrive tones of the Vox AC15 amps are highly vintage-sounding, and the signature Vox overdriven tones are very vintage-sounding. For the amp’s most characteristic tones, think iconic British rock sounds from the 1960s and 1970s, such as the Beatles, Rolling Stones, or Queen. Vox can also produce an extremely warm, rich, and resonant collection of clean tones in addition to their stunning overdrive tones. The Vox AC15C1 will deliver lush and deep clean tones as well as warm overdriven sounds, whether you’re playing on a Les Paul, Telecaster, or 335-style semi-hollow guitar.
Since the 1950s, the Vox AC15C1 has been one of the most popular tube amplifiers, and there’s a reason for it. The amp’s classic and vintage appearance from the 1950s haven’t changed, and it still produces timeless, vintage clean and overdriven tones. For jazz, blues, and pop guitarists, the Vox AC15C1 is a fantastic clean amp. Overall, this is the best clean guitar amp under $1000.
Fender ‘65 Twin Reverb
- 85 watts of the purest, loudest, cleanest, most legendary guitar tone on the planet.
- Two 12” 8-ohm Jensen C-12K speakers offer incredible clarity and note separation.
- Legendary all-tube Fender reverb offers spacious ambience and surf-worthy splash and crash.
The Fender Twin Reverb has a 60-year history and has been a mainstay of the guitar industry since the 1960s. The Twin Reverb is just as well-known as the Deluxe Reverb and Blues Junior, and it’s best recognised for its crystal-clear clean tone and compatibility with guitar pedals and effects. Many guitarists, including Eric Johnson, swear by Twin Reverb amps, which are a monster combo amp capable of filling small to huge arenas.
It’s one of the loudest combo amps in its class for any guitar player, and the combination of its versatility, exquisite tones, and loudness makes it ideal for live gigs, tours, and even studio recording. It’s been one of the most widely used amps in the show business since its inception in 1963, and it’s been tried and proven to work for countless musicians and guitar players all around the world. Fender put the original circuitry and speakers into the ’65 Reissue to truly capture the vintage sound of the Blackface Twin Reverb amps that were produced from 1963 to 1967.
The inner and outside elements of the Fender ’65 Twin Reverb amp are nearly identical. Fender simply preserved the majority of the characteristics that made this amp so popular in the first place. The amp contains ten tubes in total, including four 12AX7 tubes, two 12AT7 preamp tubes, and two Groove Tube 6L6 power output tubes. This tube combination was the secret behind many classic records in the 1960s and 1970s, and it allows the amplifier to provide the best clean guitar amp sound conceivable. The amp’s speakers contain two 12-inch Jensen speakers, which have been shown to be the best of the best for tube amps, and the two 12-inch Jensen speakers are a crucial factor in the ’65 Twin Reverb’s strong and full sound. Jensen speakers have practically become synonymous with high-end tube amps, particularly Fender tube amps, at this point.
Twin Reverb is a two-channel amplifier with two independent settings for each channel. A Normal Channel and a Vibrato Channel are included, as well as 3-band EQ and volume knobs on each channel. You may control the Reverb and Tremolo (Vibrato) effects on the Vibrato Channel. Additionally, the Bright switch gives for more direct access to the high frequencies, which is very useful if you’re seeking for a piercing bridge pickup tone with humbucker pickups. The inputs and outputs are rather basic, with only a number of input and output options on the front, as well as Power, StandBy, External Speaker out, and a Footswitch input. Unlike modern guitar amps, the Twin Reverb from 1965 lacks features such as an FX loop.
Buying Guide for Clean Amps
You should look for at least 15 watts for gigging or recording situations where you need sufficient volume. However, higher wattages over 40 watts may be excessive just for clean tones, and will limit how much you can push the amp’s volume before it breaks up. Lower watt tube amps (5-10W) can offer great clean tones at lower bedroom volumes, but may not have enough headroom and power to keep your tone clean and uncompressed when pushed to louder band volumes. Evaluate your volume needs.
You should stick to larger, efficient speaker sizes in the 10-12 inch range. Larger speakers enhance your clean headroom compared to smaller 8 inch speakers, allowing you to push volume while maintaining clean integrity. Multi-speaker configurations with 2, 3, or 4 speakers also increase clarity and definition for clean chords and arpeggios by filling in the guitar’s frequency response.
Tubes vs Solid State
Tube amps inherently offer more dynamic clean tones with pleasing harmonic complexity, but require more maintenance than solid state amps. You’ll need to replace tubes every so often and potentially deal with other repairs. Solid state and digital modeling amps provide ultra consistent, reliable clean tones night after night without variation. This makes them better for gigging if your clean sound needs to be predictably the same at every show.
Scooped mids with boosted highs and lows can enhance clean chime and glassy top end. However, completely removing mids can make cleans sterile, so retain some midrange body. Subtle midrange boosts around 500 Hz can give a hint of breakup to edge cleans slightly with a bit more saturation and body. The balance of lows, mids, and highs dramatically impacts the clean tone persona.
Built-in reverb, tremolo, and chorus effects help craft rich cleans with dimension. However, make sure the effects loops on amps with these features are post-preamp, so effects are only applied to the clean signal rather than distorting the preamp stage. Multi-stage effects loops give flexibility for signal routing.
There should be plenty of clean headroom available before the amp starts to break up, compress, and distort when increasing volume. You’ll want to look for amps specifically rated and reviewed for loud, pristine cleans if flexibility and clean headroom are your priorities.
Frequently Asked Questions
What guitar pickup types work best for clean tones?
Medium output single coil and humbucker pickups provide a balanced clean tone. Avoid very hot, high output pickups which can overdrive a clean amp prematurely.
Should I invest in an expensive boutique clean amp?
While premium amps offer exceptional tone, affordable amps from Fender, Boss, Vox and others can still provide quality clean tones on a budget. Upgrade later once you refine your needs.
What wattage clean amp is suitable for performing live?
Look for a clean amp in the 40-60 watt range for gigging with a full band. You want sufficient power to keep the amp clean at loud band volumes.
Should I use pedals with a clean amp?
Quality clean amps don’t require pedals, but effects like reverb, delay and chorus can add creative layers. Overdrives and distortions will distort a clean amp when engaged.
What speakers provide the best clean guitar tone?
Large, efficient 10-12 inch speakers enhance clean headroom. Multi-speaker configurations also improve definition, clarity and clean chime.
How do I make cleans richer without distorting?
Try a subtle midrange bump around 500 Hz. Change pickup position closer to the neck. Use flatwound strings for a smoother attack. Engage the amp’s brightness switch.
What causes a clean amp to start distorting unexpectedly?
Using too hot of pickups, excessive guitar/amp volumes, low output power, insufficient headroom, small speakers, and component failures can cause unexpected breakup.
What types of music utilize clean guitar tones?
Clean tones are essential for many music genres including jazz, funk, blues, country, pop, and classic rock. Iconic clean sounds can be heard from artists like B.B. King, Chet Atkins, Eric Clapton, John Mayer, Brent Mason, and more.