It is amazing the kind of choices we have when it comes to guitar amps. Our last article, for example review the best amps for pedals, which is already kind of niche. This week, we will be look at another such niche amp: the solid state guitar amplifiers.
- 1 What are solid state guitar amps?
- 2 Why solid state guitar amps?
- 3 What to look for when choosing a solid state guitar amp
- 4 Best solid state guitar amp review
- 4.1 Line 6 Spider IV 75 Review: Best solid state amp under 500
- 4.2 Randall RG Series RG1503-212 review: Best solid state guitar amp for metal
- 4.3 Roland JC 120: Best solid state guitar amp for live concerts
- 4.4 Best portable solid state guitar amp : ZT Lunchbox 1×6.5 Amplifier Review
- 4.5 Best solid state guitar amp for pedals: Fender Champion 100 Review
- 5 Final words
What are solid state guitar amps?
Solid state guitar amps use semiconductor transistors for amplification instead of vacuum tubes used in tube amps. Traditionally, tube amps are generally favoured due to their revered warmth and smooth overdriven tone. However, over the past decades solid state amps have caught up and developed their own fan base.
Why solid state guitar amps?
Solid state amps are generally more reliable and durable than their tube counterparts. While you need to change the tubes in a tube guitar amp to preserve its sounds, you don’t need to replace any parts of a solid state amp for it to last. Solid state amps are also known to be more sturdy and rugged than tube amps.
Solid state amps are also generally smaller and more lightweight, freeing you from space and transportation worries.
Solid state amps may not produce a transition as smooth as tube amps when being overdriven, but they are capable of producing clean tones preferred by some guitarists, especially jazz players.
Some solid state amps also produce punchier and crispier sounds compared to tube amps.
Solid state amps are not as responsive to variations in picking pressure compared to tube amps, which is desirable in some cases when you may want your tone to stay constant and not vary too much when the pressure from your picking hand changes.
Last but not least, solid state amps are generally cheaper than tube amps, which makes them more beginner- and budget-friendly. Not only are solid state amps cheaper at time of purchase, they also require less upkeep and maintenance, which eases the strain on your budget.
What to look for when choosing a solid state guitar amp
Probably the most criterion in this list: tone. It’s always a good practice to bring your own guitar when choosing an amp. Do this even if you figured the guitar store has a similar model. Only when you try the amp with your own guitar will you know for sure if the tone is what you will want to stick with.
If you are a new guitar player and plan to jam in your room most of the time, you don’t need a 100-watt amp. On the other hand, if you play in a band whose drummer frequently eats up the rest of the band, you’ll probably need at least a 30-watt amp.
Generally speaking, a 30 to 50-watt amp is adequate for playing in a small gig and with a loud drummer. If you want a more powerful amp to play in a concert, an 80-watt or even 100-watt amp will be worth looking into, depending on the size of the venue.
In some situations, built in effects such as reverb, delay, tremolo and chorus might come in handy and save space for additional pedals.
For bedroom and small studio practice, smaller speakers such as 8” and 10” speakers should suffice. More powerful guitar amps often have bigger speakers (12” or 15”).
Given the same wattage, some guitarists might prefer many smaller speakers compared to one or two bigger ones, as the latter produce generally punchier sounds while the latter give a more warm and clean tone.
Number of channels
Most amps have separate clean and distorted channels, which will come in handy when you need both settings for different purposes. Some amps even come with a footswitch, allowing you to go from clean to wicked distortion remotely.
Some amps offer simple EQ options such as two-band bass and treble, while other models give you more options such as low, high and mid controls.
While this is typically not an option that will make or break the deal, it will still be useful to know what tone-tweaking options your prospective amp offers.
If you’re looking for an amp to perform in external venues, a direct output to a mixer or straight into a PA system would come in handy. On the other hand, having a headphone output will make your life easier if you want an amp for quiet bedroom practicing.
Best solid state guitar amp review
Line 6 Spider IV 75 Review: Best solid state amp under 500
The Line 6 Spider IV 75 is a clean and mean solid state guitar amp that gives you that amazing crisp and bright sound without blowing your pocket.
This little fellow also comes with 300+ tone presets to cover your favourite styles from Slipknot and Meshuggah to Steve Stevens. Perfect for new guitarists who want to experiment with different tones as well as experienced players who want to save some time deciding on a right tone to play with.
A built-in chromatic tuner allows you to tune right out of your amp and save some precious time before the show!
This beauty also comes with a whole range of built-in effects such as echo, delay, wah-wah, and reverb, spoiling you for tone choices.
All in all, this baby is perfect for the new guitar player, covering the whole tone and style spectrum and giving you all the right tools to start rocking on the spot!
Randall RG Series RG1503-212 review: Best solid state guitar amp for metal
One thing to note: this thing is LOUD! Giving you an INSANE 150 watts of power, this tone machine is perfect for the most kick*** metal gigs or concerts. If you bring this baby home, be prepared for the ultimate metal bomb!
You may already know guitar legend Dimebag Darrell used Randall amps, and for good reason too! The solid build, insane reverb, and razor-sharp tones will send sweet tingles down your spine.
With three channels ranging from crystal clean to ground-shattering gain, the Randall RG1503 takes you from the crispiest of solid state goodness to an epic metal explosion of pure volume, power and thunderous bass. If a Dimebag Darrel tone is what you dream of, this monster might just be for you. Not recommended for the faint-hearted!
Roland JC 120: Best solid state guitar amp for live concerts
If there is such a thing as a classic solid state amp, the Roland Jazz Chorus 120 would be the most likely candidate.
Boasting two 12” speakers and two outlets of 60 watts each, the Jazz Chorus 120 gives amazing clean and crisp tone unrivalled in the market. Its clarity, brightness and mighty power has been approved by guitar legends such as Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield of Metallica. You know you won’t go wrong with one of these babies.
With a mighty 120 watts, the Jazz Chorus takes care of your big concert needs and makes sure you don’t get drowned by that fiery drummer, ever again.
Best portable solid state guitar amp : ZT Lunchbox 1×6.5 Amplifier Review
If you want tons of volume for a gig but don’t have a crew full of roadies to help you transport that 120-pound precious guitar amp, the ZT Lunchbox is for you.
Combining tone, volume and portability into an extremely attractive package, this little fella is perfect for the gigging musician who needs a compact solution but won’t back down on the tone quality.
Packing 200 watts into a tiny 6.5” speaker, the ZT Lunchbox will please even the most skeptical guitar player. With smooth and sweet overdrive suitable for a range of styles from blues to jazz, and an ultra-low latency circuit that will respond to the slightest variations in your picking, this cute little amp will never cease to amaze.
The ZL Lunchbox is also extremely versatile and flexible. No more worrying over whether your guitar amp will respond well with your effects pedals. Go ahead and plug in your favourite wah-wahs or echos, and the Lunchbox will handle them like a boss!
Standing at 8 inches and weighing a puny 9.5 pounds, this ZL Lunchbox deserves a kudos for making our lives as gigging musicians so so much easier!
Best solid state guitar amp for pedals: Fender Champion 100 Review
Want that clean bright sound but also need room for your sweet overdrive pedal? The Fender Champion 100 is definitely worth a shot!
Boasting 100 watts of power, this amp is loud enough to accompany you on a small to medium rock or metal gig. When you need distortion to kick in, simply switch to the Gain channel on the footswitch or plug in that sweet, sweet overdrive pedal! The Champion 100 will be ready for a ride without sounding mushy, a problem commonly found in many other solid state amps.
Solid state guitar amps can outperform their tube counterparts in certain situations, and are preferred over tube amps generally for their solid build, ruggedness and durability. Choosing the right solid state amp for your guitar, your playing style, and practicing or performance needs should be an informed decision, as it will most likely affect your playing experience in a long run.
Good luck in your playing journey!