5 Best Guitar Amps for Clean and Distortion – Review My Top Picks

BY LEARN GUITARS
5 Best Guitar Amps for Clean and Distortion – Review My Top Picks

6 Second Summary

Most players consider a good “clean” amp as an amp that projects a clear, direct tone, over a wide range of volumes (from subtly quiet, to quite loud). Amps which have great distortion are probably going to be tube amps, which have a crispy, natural “break-up” at louder volumes; or, they’re amps which pair well with pedals, to produce the sound you’re looking for.

Also, the best amp for your desired clean or distorted sound is the amp whose wattage is a good fit for your playing environment. In other words, don’t get a 15W+ tube amp for your bedroom; it may have a legendary distorted sound at 90 decibels, but you won’t get the distorted sound you want at normal, household volumes.

With those factors in mind, read more to see the selections we’ve made which are hopefully likely to fit what you’re looking for when it comes to amps with nice clean and distorted sounds!

Overview

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

2. Blackstar HT1R

3. Peavey Vypyr VIP 1

4. Fender Champion 20

5. Marshall MG50CFX

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

1

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Orange Micro Terror

Orange Micro Terror
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The Orange Micro Terror has stood the test of time quite well, emerging these days as one of the most common recommendations you’ll find for an easy-to-transport head which packs lots of power, and takes pedals quite well.

At 20W, it should be powerful enough for decently sized rooms, and for jam sessions with buddies, though Orange makes this “lunchbox” line of heads with higher wattages, so you can just find the equivalent head with a higher wattage if you need more power. Also, the rugged build makes it not only look cool but also quite durable for being on the road.

Note: You’ll need a speaker for this head, and you can pair it with Orange’s 1×8″ closed-back speaker. Even with the added speaker, the combined cost for your portable setup will be quite affordable.

Pro

Con

Conclusion

1

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Blackstar HT1R

Blackstar HT1R
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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!

Pro

  • Very compact and convenient
  • Versatile ISF voices
  • Good sounding reverb
  • Overall great clean and distortion tones

Con

  • Could use a tone brightness control knob
  • The stock speaker isn’t that great

Conclusion

So, if you’re looking for a small tube amp with a little something extra, the HT1R is an option worth considering.

1

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Peavey Vypyr VIP 1

Peavey Vypyr VIP 1
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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.

Pro

  • Pretty straightforward interface, easy to use
  • Good range of effects and amp simulations
  • Surprisingly good sounding clean and distortion

Con

  • Some may not like the “artificial” modeling amp sound, as it can still be noticed

Conclusion

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.

1

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Fender Champion 20

Fender Champion 20
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When you think about country music and where it originated, it’s pretty obvious that going for a Fender amp is a good idea. Their Champion 20 model is a budget-friendly option that can deliver some mean tunes!

After just the first glance at the controls, you can see that the Champion 20 has a lot to offer.

Besides the regular gain, volume, bass, and treble knobs, there are a couple more that deserve attention.

The first one is called voice, and allows you to choose from 4 different sound styles, each with its own unique characteristics. These include tweed, Blackface, British, and metal, meaning you can truly experiment with the sound.

Personally, I find the Blackface voice type as the best for country twang, rocking that retro feel and providing everything that we’ve talked about in the intro.

Other controls include FX Level as well as the actual effects, ranging from reverb to tremolo, with chorus, flanger, delay, and the most commonly used ones in between.

As the name suggests, this version of the Champion offers 20W of power, with larger and more powerful, 40 and 100W variations being available as well.

Pro

  • Huge sound from a small body
  • Crisp and clear highs
  • Various amp voices
  • Good sounding effects
  • Affordable

Con

  • The effects could be better sounding


Conclusion

Overall performance is at beginner guitarist level


1

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Marshall MG50CFX

Marshall MG50CFX
Check it out

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.

Pro

  • 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

Con

  • Not as versatile as some other models in this price range

Conclusion

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!

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