While professional musicians have the ability to use pretty much any guitar and amp and sound amazing, non professionals might have some trouble finding just the right amp for their needs.
Each model offers a slightly different approach to clean and distortion channels, catering to different needs.
However, not every amp is able to deliver a truly good sounding, versatile tone signature.
That’s why I’ve decided to make a simple and concise buying guide regarding the best sounding and most versatile amps which offer the best of both worlds:
Clean and distortion!
Top 5 Amps for Creating Clean and Distortion Sounds
|1.||Orange Micro Terror|
|3.||Peavey Vypyr VIP 1|
|4.||Fender Champion 20|
What Defines a Good Clean Tone?
Before actually looking at different models, let’s first take a closer look at what you’re looking for.
A good clean tone on an amp should be able to easily represent the natural sound of the guitar you’re using.
Whether it’s the different pickup positions, the unique tonewood choice, or the general feel and overall sound of your guitar, the amp must be able to deliver that tone.
An amplifier is just that – a device for amplifying the sound of an instrument. Any coloration, unwanted effects, or similar things like those make for a bad amp, if, of course, default presets are being used.
Depending on the actual situation in which you’re playing, you might need an amp to perform well at lower or higher volume levels.
While low-volume performance depends on the actual type of amp and the power it has to offer, high-volume occasions such as gigs are different.
A good clean tone must stay crisp, clean, and sharp, even when you’re pushing the amp to its limits.
The bottom line is this:
An amp with a good clean channel should have a consistent, natural sounding, and crisp sound, no matter the volume level you’re playing at!
- Different Types of Distortion – Know What You’re Looking for
I remember the first time I’ve come in contact with an electric guitar:
A friend of mine started playing it, but I just felt something was missing. Then, he turned on the distortion, and that was it.
Different types of distortion are used in different styles of playing and genres of music.
From overdrive, classic distortion, to fuzz, various models offer different types of distortion.
Before you actually start looking for an amp, you should at least have a rough idea of the type of distortion you want.
Of course, depending on the type of amp, you can expect more or less from actual models, and we’re going to talk about it in the next paragraph!
- What Can I Expect From Different Types of Amps?
Any good guitar amp review should clearly bring out the differences between the 3 main types of amps.
While you could basically use any kind of amp for each and every different genre of music, certain types just perform better and offer either tonal consistency or variety at a press of a button.
Like I already stated, you should keep in mind the occasions in which you’re going to use the amp, and the most prominent features you find the most useful.
Tube amps offer a truly unique clean tone. Unlike most other amps, this type allows your guitar’s natural sound to be easily projected.
Cranking up the volume and gain up to a certain point results in a sweet yet powerful tube overdrive sound. It’s an effect that you can hardly simulate to sound like the real thing.
If you plan on playing jazz, blues, country, funk, or other similar genres which mostly utilize the clean channel, going with a tube amp is definitely your best bet.
Solid state amps, on the other hand, offer a nice combination of clean and distortion. Depending on the model, you can either have one clean channel and one distorted, or multiple, different, distortion channels to choose from.
The clean channel still sounds pretty good, but can’t really be compared to tube amps.
Because they are so versatile, solid-state amps are widely used for all kinds of genres, and the fact that any malfunctions are generally easy to fix makes them pretty convenient.
Modeling amps, or digital amps in general, focus on delivering multiple amp and cab simulations, as well as loads of different effects.
The main downside of this type of amp is that they can sometimes sound too artificial, and well, digital.
However, there are some great sounding modeling amps on the market, that not only feature loads of interesting presets, but sound pretty natural at the same time.
Basically, it’s up to you to choose which type suits you best. And I’ve made a list of the best guitar amps for clean and distortion which we’re going to check out!
Reviews of the Best Guitar Amps for Clean and Distortion
- Orange Micro Terror
Starting with one of the best sounding vintage amps, we have the Micro Terror by Orange.
For just around $150 you can get this amp head (you still need a cabinet though!), which delivers amazing sounding clean as well as an aggressive distortion.
The Micro Terror is a hybrid amp, meaning it has a tube preamp and a solid state power amp. With 20W of power, it should be powerful enough for smaller gigs, and perfect for home practice sessions as well.
The rugged metal construction not only looks appealing but ensures that this amp will last you a long time.
As far as the controls go, you have volume, tone, and gain knobs. Sure, this may be a bit limiting or confusing for some, but once you’ve started playing around with them, you’ll find out that it’s more than enough for easily shaping out the tone you want.
Orange Amps are known for a unique and natural sounding clean tone, and the Micro Terror is no exception. With just the right amount of gain tuned in, you can utilize the crunchy and raw overdrive.
- Very durable build quality
- Simple controls
- Headphone and aux I/O
- Good balance between clean and distortion
- Only an amp head, you need a cabinet
- Could use EQ controls
All things considered, the Micro Terror is a great amp that’s really fun to play around with. The possibilities it offers span a wide range of great sounding tones.
- Blackstar HT1R
If you’re looking for a good sounding compact tube amp for home practice sessions, look no further than the HT1R by Blackstar. Both the clean and distortion tones sound amazing!
Sporting only 1 Watt of power, the HT1R is perfect for cranking the volume all the way up without demolishing your room. This means that you can easily achieve a much stronger sound and that sweet tube overdrive, while still not being too loud.
Similar to the Micro Terror, the HT1R also has pretty minimalistic controls. The volume and gain knobs are pretty self-explanatory, and the ISF controls offer improved versatility.
The ISF, or, Infinite Shape Feature allows you to blend just the right sound between either a USA or UK tone.
As far as effects go, the built-in reverb sounds pretty decent and is fun to play around with.
You’ve got your standard headphone/aux I/O, as well as an 8 Ohm speaker output if you wish to use your amp alongside a cabinet.
Don’t let the low power rating fool you, as the HT1R is definitely a feisty little fellow!
- Very compact and convenient
- Versatile ISF voices
- Good sounding reverb
- Overall great clean and distortion tones
- Could use a tone brightness control knob
- The stock speaker isn’t that great
So, if you’re looking for a small tube amp with a little something extra, the HT1R is an option worth considering.
- Peavey Vypyr VIP 1
When it comes to modeling amps, most guitarists first think of the Spider by Line 6. However, the Vypyr VIP 1 by Peavey offers much more of a natural sound.
Versatility was the main focus of this model, as you can play an electrical or acoustic guitar through it, as well as a bass!
Modeling amps are compared by looking at all the different presets and simulations they have to offer. The Vypyr VIP 1 boasts 36 different amp models, 25 effects, 16 presets, as well as a couple of bass and acoustic guitar oriented amp models.
Peavey used their patented TransTube technology in order to simulate even the tube amp models as precisely as possible. The result, while not as good as the real deal, is definitely better than expected.
With loads of various clean and distortion options to choose from, you can’t really complain about the actual quality, no matter what your standards may be.
You can even use the Vypyr VIP 1 for recording, or with various MIDI devices with the included USB port.
- Pretty straightforward interface, easy to use
- Good range of effects and amp simulations
- Surprisingly good sounding clean and distortion
- Some may not like the “artificial” modeling amp sound, as it can still be noticed
While not sounding as good as tube or solid state amps, the Vypyr VIP 1 definitely compensates with unmatchable versatility. If you’re about experimenting and don’t really focus on one genre specifically, this may just be the amp for you.
- Fender Champion 20
At number 4, we have one of the best solid-state amps on the market, the Champion 20 by Fender. A simple, straightforward approach that this amp boasts is a clear example of how you don’t need any bells and whistles for a natural and powerful tone.
This particular model is perfect for home practice sessions, as well as jamming alongside a friend or two. For band practices or smaller gigs, the Champion 40 should be just fine.
The Champion 20 has all the Fender characteristics but at a definitely more affordable price point. You can rest assured that the build quality is good enough that it will last you a long time.
The controls cover all the basics, with the gain, volume, treble, and bass knobs. It’s the voice knob that allows you to mix in just the right sound, ranging from tweed, over blackface and brit, to metal.
Though it may look like a regular old amp, it surely caters to the needs of pretty much any guitarist.
The effects are definitely a great addition to an already amazing amp. They cover all the basic effects, and when compared to other models in this price range, sound pretty good.
- Known Fender clean tone
- Various distortion tones to choose from
- Built-in effects
- Some static noise may occur at higher gain settings
The Champion 20 by Fender is a simple yet very effective little amp that’s really enjoyable to play.
- Marshall MG50CFX
And finally, at number 5, we have a model coming from Marshall. The MG50CGFX delivers that known Marshall sound and feel, but with a hint of something new and interesting.
The solid build of this amp means that you can easily take it on tour at one point, without worrying about it being able to withstand a drop or two.
The interface is well designed and makes for a quick and easy setup.
You basically have 2 channels but with 2 different voice options each. This gives you either a crisp clean tone, or a more crunchy one on channel 1, and 2 different distortion options.
Besides the regular 3 band EQ, you’ve got separate delay and reverb controls, as well as a dedicated knob for cycling through a couple of additional effects.
The clean has that unique Marshall touch, and the different OD voices are great for both rock and high-gain metal.
- Solid and nice looking design
- 2 channels with 2 voices each
- Built-in delay, reverb, and a couple of other effects
- Good for home practice and smaller gigs
- Not as versatile as some other models in this price range
For just around $400, the MG50CFX by Marshall is a great amp for smaller gigs and home practice sessions. The consistency of the sound and the well-known durability make for a good investment.
Wrapping Things Up! - Let's Pick a Winner
There are numerous great amps that offer both a crisp clean tone and aggressive distortion.
However, if I had to pick one, I’d go with the Fender Champion 20.
It’s easy to use, delivers the unique Fender flavored tone, and has enough effects for you to play around with and experiment.
As a beginner, it should be more than enough, and is a great learning platform for developing your own taste and preferences!
I truly hope that this article helped you and was informative.
Thank you very much for reading, and I’ll catch you in the next one!