Best Valve Combo 
Amp Guide

Valve amplifiers and electric guitars are the original partners in crime. In the mid 20th century, tube technology was the only amp option for projecting the sound of an electric. 

Now we’re flooded with solid-state and modelling solutions. But many a musician would argue valve amps are the pinnacle of tone. Even the alternatives aspire to sound like what came before.

Make sure you get the most out of your valve amp. Despite their relatively primitive tech, each amp is designed to meet specific musical styles. They are, for the most part, a costly investment. So buying an amp with all the necessary features to suit your needs is paramount. 

Combo amps are an excellent solution to tackle the heavy tubes and speakers. They generally cost less than buying a separate head and cab, with the downside being you can’t mix and match the sounds of individual pieces of gear. 

Some of the amps on this list have basic controls, focusing instead on getting the most out of the preamps. Others incorporate modern features such as digital effects and hybrid tech. We’re here to help you in your tonal quest.

Tube amps were first created in the ‘50s for folk and blues. This is the bread and butter of a retro-inspired valve combo.

Blues valve combo amps require less gizmos than any other musical style. These don’t usually have effects loops because they’re great pedal platforms; meaning they take pedals in front of the amp well.

They also have stripped back controls, so you might have to crank the volume to get higher gain breakup. They’re characterised by their warmth, responsiveness and full range of frequencies.

Fender Amps on Andertons T.V.

Valve amps suited to rock can lean either towards the stripped back approach, or incorporate handy modern features like effects, wattage switches, optional impedance loads, bright/dark channels and clean/crunch channels.

Most have both volume and gain dials, so you can achieve heavy tones whilst keeping the family happy. The speaker choices are directed towards a punchier, cleaner sound. 

You’ll also find a mix of open and closed backs. Open lets the sound disperse out the speaker, resulting in an airier, fat tone. Closed configurations focus the sound. These are usually associated with a modern tone.

Hampstead Amps on Andertons T.V.

Metal valve combos are usually the most advanced in terms of built-in effects and technology. All the vintage appointments go out the window in order to get a distorted sound. The preamps are brash and in-your-face, while the speakers are geared towards a powerful bass and midrange.

These amps perform better with a higher wattage, allowing for more headroom to keep your tone transparent.

It’s not all meathead stuff though. You’ll get the likes of speaker emulation for larger venues, two or more channels for sound diversity and an effects loop so reverbs and delays don’t merge into a gloopy mess with the distortion.

Marshall JVM Amps on Andertons T.V.

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