So what exactly is a solid-state amp? It is a transistor amp as against a valve amp. They run on low operating voltage and are usually smaller and less heavy. Using a combination of transistors, they produce a different type of sound which the ‘valve amp purists’ tend not to appreciate that much.
They have their advantages other than being smaller and lighter to carry up three flights of ‘outside the building stairs’ in the rain. They can have a lot of digital effects built-in allowing you to ‘model’ your sound and they are easier to maintain, as transistors don’t burn out like valves.
So, let’s have a look at the best solid state amps around and find the perfect one for you…
- Top 10 Best Solid State Amps To Buy In 2021 Reviews
- 1 Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus
- 2 Roland Guitar Combo Amplifier
- 3 Fender Mustang I V2 20-Watt 1×8-Inch Combo
- 4 Boss KTN-50 12 Inch Katana 50W Combo
- 5 Marshall Amps Code 25 Amplifier
- 6 Fender Champion 100
- 7 Orange Amplifiers Crush Pro CR120H 120W Guitar Amp Head
- 8 Roland CUBE Street Battery Powered Stereo Guitar Combo Amp
- 9 Line 6 Spider V 240HC MKII
- 10 Blackstar IDCORE10 Stereo Combo Amplifier
- Best Solid State Amps Buyers Guide – Are There Any Good Solid State Amps Around?
- So What Are The Best Solid State Amps?
Top 10 Best Solid State Amps To Buy In 2021 Reviews
1 Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus
We start off with an amplification legend. It feels like its been around forever and actually it nearly has, being first introduced to us in 1975 and is still sought after and coveted today. Why is it still so popular? That clean, crisp sound it is famous for is the reason, that and the onboard built-in effects and its rugged construction. Forty-odd years ago, it came, and we still love it.
It was made tough then and still is and is built to take the punishment of being on the road. Its heavy-duty build is supported by edge protectors and tough corner brackets and some heavy-duty castors it looks seriously industrial.
It still produces that clean sound and its stereo chorus just seems to swirl around you and fill the room. The built-in vibrato and reverb adds to the effects that can be achieved and make it one of the most expressive tonal amps ever manufactured. It is easy to use, and the convenient front-panel controls allow you quick access to instant tonal changes. There are two inputs with a three-band EQ for each channel and a stereo effect loop.
The JC-120 carries two 12” speakers each driven by a separate 60-watt amplifier giving a high-performance output that is both clear and powerful. The built-in effects only pass through one of these channels, which is one of the reasons behind its legendary wall of sound status.
It is a specialized amp and will not suit everyone. Every recording studio should have one just for the options it gives in sound quality, but it certainly won’t fill every musical niche. It is quite expensive as well, but if it is the sound you want there is not a lot that will give you something better, No doubt, a legendary amp and would have to be included in a list of the best solid-state amps.
As a side note, this amp has over the years been used by so many guitarists in so many genres. Early on it was adopted by Andy Summers and became the sound behind The Police. Before later being used by the British Post-punk and early goth bands such as The Sisters of Mercy, The Cure, The Cult and The Mission.
Then most surprisingly of all, this is THE clean sound of Metallica and has been used for the clean guitar parts on more Metallica songs than any other amplifier. It is also favored by Wes Borland of Limp Bizkit, which just shows it’s versatility.
- Trademark crystal clear sound with good onboard effects.
- Built like a tank.
2 Roland Guitar Combo Amplifier
Another offering from Roland, this one a Combo amp that attempts to recreate the sounds of the traditional tube amps. Featuring a 30-watt output delivered by one 12” speaker. It is well-built in true Roland standards with a simple design that is not too heavy for carrying around.
It is made from Poplar plywood in a basic design with an open back. The black finish is an attractive finish to its style. The controls are located on the top for ease of use and consist of a volume and bass, mid and treble controls. There is also a boost and a 3-band EQ and reverb and master volume.
Included is also a power control where you can reduce the amp’s output but not change your instrument tone. There is a direct line-out and a USB output for recording to a PC and also a headphone socket.
Roland’s first Blues Cube in the 90s used a process called Tube logic to create a tube sound by simulating the way the components of a tube reacted to each other. This latest version has improved upon that technology to get even closer to a real tube amp sound.
Using the Boost and Tone controls, you can take your sound from a typical crystal clear Roland to add some crunch. These and other options can be operated by a footswitch which is an alternative extra and not supplied.
This is a decent little amp that is easy to carry around with you and gives some crisp tones. The volume is enough except for maybe the larger venues and the sounds are good. Seems a bit high priced for a 30-watt amp.
- Good crisp Roland sounds with good extra features.
- Well made and sturdy but lightweight.
- Some might think it expensive for a 30-watt amp.
3 Fender Mustang I V2 20-Watt 1×8-Inch Combo
Of course, they will be in here somewhere. Wherever there is music or musical items, you will usually find Fender. This model is just a bit more than just another solid-state amp; it is more of a modeling amp.
The 20-watt Mustang has a tough build but is still lightweight at just 17 pounds. Inside this relatively small little box though is a wealth of sound. Eighteen different amp models giving you a range of great guitar amps, including some of the iconic Fender sounds all there for you to use and modify if you wish.
Thirty-seven different effects including reverbs and delays, tremolo and phasers, and a range of others. A complete range of options that give you the ability to sound shape in any way you wish. Also included are 24 presets already setup that you can use as standard or edit with the onboard effects. This includes a diverse range of musical styles.
The USB lets you put all this straight into your computer, and if you find yourself in a moment of intense creativity, you can use the Ableton Lite 8 recording software that is included to preserve your ideas for later. If it’s getting too noisy, there is a headphone output to give the neighbors a rest. Connection to your computer also gives you the option to use the Fender FUSE software to apply further edits.
It generates 20 watts of power through its Fender-designed 8” speaker. The controls are well situated on the top of the amp, allowing you to make adjustments easily and quickly. They are relatively easy to use, but when there are options, there is always a small learning curve involved.
More than just an amp, this little Fender opens up a world of creativity. Could well be a contender for Best Solid State amps, read on to find out if its the winner…
- Good build and packed with features.
- Great sound options and sound-shaping facilities.
- Only has one input.
4 Boss KTN-50 12 Inch Katana 50W Combo
Another manufacturer steeped in history for providing quality, Boss give us the Katana 50 watt Combo. With five separate playing styles to choose from this amp has got most things covered. From crystal clear tones to some distortion to overdriven lead guitar sounds, it packs a real punch. As an added bonus Boss give you some metal sounds from the 80s vis their Waza amp, and lastly an Acoustic option lets you play your acoustic guitar.
If you are thinking of buying this amp and assuming that Boss would have loaded it down with their effects, then you could be wrong. But you’re not! Boss do quite a few things very well, and one of them is to create great effects pedals. This amp gives you access to 55 special Boss effects with 15 available to store and three to use at the same time.
All the Boss favorites are included, delays, reverbs, chorus and EQ to name a few and of course all available to be edited to help you achieve what you are looking for. When you add up all these great features it isn’t surprising that the Boss KTN-50 is one of the best modeling amps that you can lay your hands on.
Loading up the Tone studio software through the USB to your computer will let you download preset sounds created by well-known guitar players or create your own. Edit any of the Boss effects to suit exactly what sound you are looking for. You can store two setups that you create with an amp and effects settings for later use when you can call them up when needed.
It has a power rating of 50 watts with a 12” speaker driving the sound. A great little amp that can make a lot of noise. To give the family a break, it has a headphone socket.
- Access to all the major Boss effects.
- Five different amp and music styles.
- The download procedure might take time to operate.
5 Marshall Amps Code 25 Amplifier
How could we possibly talk amplification without including Big Jim? The ‘Father of Loud’ might not be with us anymore, but his spirit lives on in the amps that Marshall still produce.
This is a 25-watt combo amp designed to give you some vintage Marshall sounds and some of the modern ones as well. Let us be extremely boring here and say nothing will ever emulate the old Plexis and the JCM800, but they get quite close to that overdriven valve sound that changed music forever.
Besides the four amps, you have the choice of eight cabinets and fourteen preamps, including the JCM800 2203. You will find that Marshall sound in there somewhere. To widen your sound options even further the Code 25 comes with 100 presets that you can modify to set up a stack that is suitable for you.
Once you have the amp and cabinet, you can use the included effects that can be applied. It is loaded with all you need, compression, wah, overdrive and distortion, pitch shifter, a variety of reverbs delays that are tap tempo and chorus. Once you’ve got ‘that’ sound you can save it.
To complete the package this amp offers it has Bluetooth so you can connect to the Gateway App or use the USB to play directly to your DAW. A headphone jack is included so you can at least save anyone within earshot from wondering why they haven’t bought what you’ve got. It has a single 10” speaker. That doesn’t sound much, but trust us, it is.
A great amp, there is nothing more to add other than, it’s a Marshall. It’s also one of the best guitar amplifiers under 250 dollars, so all the Marshall goodness and such a cheap price is hard to beat..
- Marshall sounds from the past and present.
- Loaded with effects and options.
- Some may find it expensive.
6 Fender Champion 100
Somehow all you’ve got to do is look at the styling of this amp. The traditional Fender look that reminds us of the iconic Fender Twin Reverb, and you just know it’s going to be good. It gives you that traditional Fender sound but it also offers a bit more.
It has two input channels. Use number one, and you will get tones that are crisp and clean with a bit of overdrive if you want it and is reminiscent of the ‘Twin.’ Channel two has a surprise or two where there are some options that let you choose your own amp sound. Included here are a variety of British amps and some modern sounds as well.
Onboard effects help you get the sound exactly as you want. They have included just about everything you might have on your pedalboard – Delay, Chorus, Tremolo Reverb and Vibratone, gives you some powerful sound modeling tools. The rhythm of tremolo speed and delay timing can be set with the tap facility.
There is an effects loop and a ⅛” aux input for external devices and a ⅛” headphone socket for when it’s all too much for the family.
You might find that you are thankful for the headphone option as this is a 100-watt amp being driven by two 12” speakers designed by Fender. They punch out a lot of noise which makes this amp eminently suitable for live gigs in some quite large venues.
This is a powerful amp with a lot of effects onboard. It also has on one channel that Fender sound. If you loved the ‘Twin”, you are going to get close to it sound-wise with the Champion 100. Great amp at a great price.
- It’s a Fender amp and all that brings sound-wise.
- Plenty of onboard sound shaping options.
- Only built for guitar.
7 Orange Amplifiers Crush Pro CR120H 120W Guitar Amp Head
Now, we know quite a bit about Orange amps. Designed and built by Cliff Cooper, they were made just down the road from us and arrived on the scene in the late 60s. We were all impressed.
Jim Marshall, now inundated with orders for his amps and cabinets had left his small overcrowded West London temple of sound and gone to Bletchley. No more coffees and listening to the next batch of Richie Blackmore’s or Jimi Hendrix’s now. But then almost immediately, Cliff arrived with Orange, and we had another spiritual home.
The sound was big, loud, and powerful, and it was colored orange! We loved it and still do.
Part of the Crush series from Orange which has been designed to exclude having an amp packed with effects in favor of having a few very good ones. This is a 120-watt head that gives you that classic Orange sound. It has two channels that are modeled on the Orange Rockerverb series of amps which if you are not familiar with, were very good indeed.
Two channels with slightly different designs with one providing a more discreet break up of tone as the volume is applied and the other letting you have the full wrath of Orange overdrive. Be careful with that one; it bites.
It does have some basic effects including three choices of reverb and it also carries a built-in effects loop, but true to the identity of the range that is it. What you get here is the Orange Valve sound. If you’ve not had the experience, we recommend it. Best Solid State amps? Let’s wait and see…
- A great amp with that Orange sound.
- Tough and rugged wooden build.
- For the money, some will want a combo rather than just an amp head.
8 Roland CUBE Street Battery Powered Stereo Guitar Combo Amp
The Roland Cube series of amps are known to produce a great sound whilst also being extremely portable. This Cube Street is a good example. It is well-built with a tough, rugged feel designed especially for the street performer. It has two 6.5” neodymium speakers that will give a good level of volume. They are driven by two amps to create a solid sound.
Roland also means Boss, and we all know what that means in terms of effects, and this little amp has its fair share. Included are six different effects, flanger tremolo, phaser, chorus, delay and reverb, and an EQ to enhance your performance, and there are eight separate amps in one courtesy of Roland’s COSM technology.
COSM is a modeling tool that Roland gave us in the 90s that lets guitar players create a range of sounds based on iconic guitars, amps, and cabinets. Placed in the Cube, it produces amazing results.
The mic channel is a valuable addition and allows you to connect a mic through the XLR ¼” socket. This channel has dedicated reverb and delay to give you control over your voice sound. The two channels can be used at the same time.
One of the most amazing things about this little amp is that it can run for 15 hours on six AA batteries. It is lightweight and therefore very portable, weighing just 15 pounds. It fact, it’s one of the best portable amplifiers you can get.
A great little amp that has been well made and designed for the road.
- Portable, lightweight, and battery-driven.
- Good sound with some good effects.
- Some might consider it a little expensive.
9 Line 6 Spider V 240HC MKII
The Line 6 Spider is an amp head that generates a rather loud 240 watts of output. And has a large and varied array of sound options built-in to this relatively small frame including some classic amps and cabinets.
Using the onboard controls, you can create your own sound from scratch choosing the amp and cabinet and all the effects to go with it. And there are a lot to choose from. You have a choice from over 78 amps and 23 cabinets, some of them the rigs that created some of the most iconic sounds in music.
With the wide choice of amps and cabinets, there are also over 100 specially selected effects. All the usual favorites are included with variations on each. Reverbs, Delays, Chorus, EQ, Flangers, and Phasers, are, as you would expect all there. There are presets which include some of the great sounds from the past by respected guitar players to give you a starting point.
There are also genre presets included so you can hone in on a particular style of music and reduce the options.
Other features that have been included are a headphone jack socket which mutes the sound, a metronome, and a digital tuner and two XLR sends for connection to an external source, and some drum loops to practice with.
Is there anything else they could have included? We can’t think of much though it doesn’t make the tea. Shame on them for overlooking that one.!
- Powerful amp head with great sound effects.
- Varied options for sound shaping exactly what you want.
- Quite an expensive item.
10 Blackstar IDCORE10 Stereo Combo Amplifier
Blackstar is a UK company set up and managed by four ex-employees of Marshall who also happen to be musicians themselves. Working for Big Jim, they gained an insight into what makes a great amplifier, and they decided to pursue their own path.
Being musicians themselves they had ideas about alternative designs that would be of value to the musician. They no longer work out of a shed in the garden and are fast building a reputation for building quality amps.
The ID Core is a small, lightweight amp. Weighing just eight pounds and at 18 inches by 15 inches it is compact enough to carry around and moved easily. This particular model is the 10-watt version which has one input, and it also has a larger 40-watt option.
The build is tough and strong with corner protectors. For ease of use, the controls are placed on the top. They include gain, volume, and EQ and effects control, offering four options with modulation, delay and reverb, and effect level controls and a tap control to dictate the effect tempo. The four options become twelve when utilizing some of the effects together.
And any of six separate voices can be selected ranging from a very clean and bright sound to super crunch.
There are headphone and MP3 sockets and a USB port all situated on the control panel. All of which means connection to your own devices is easily managed.
It is a great little amp, at a very attractive price that is essentially made for practice. But could of course also be used in the studio. It is made in China.
- Well made with easy controls.
- Good effects and sound options at an attractive price.
- Might not be enough effects for some.
Best Solid State Amps Buyers Guide – Are There Any Good Solid State Amps Around?
Yes, there are. A lot of them and we have had a look at just ten. There is a lot of interest in buying a solid-state amp, and one of the reasons is because they can go a long way to creating the sounds so loved from yesteryear — the sound of the big Tube amps.
The question to be asked then is why don’t you just go out a buy a tube amp and just have the sound, instead of trying to recreate it when you know you won’t get it exactly the same.
The reason people don’t is that whilst the sound was stunning when you cranked them up, tube amps are heavy to carry around, they are prone to go wrong and to be honest that cranked up sound was what they did. Yes, there were some sound variations, but only a few of interest that were usable.
The Solid State amp, the more modern alternative, can carry as many effects, sound-shaping facilities, and options as you want. Choose from amps, cabinets, and effects. All in one unit. Sometimes that unit is small and weighs nearly nothing, You can still generate enormous power from it, and the options are almost limitless.
What Do You Want From Your Solid State Amp?
If it’s for gigging, then you will need a bit of power, but if it’s for studio work or home use then obviously not so much. Just how many options do you want? Some of the amps we looked at carry more options than you will find in some guitar shops. Do you need them all or will just a select few be enough?
Are You Expecting A Tube Amp sound?
If so, you will be disappointed. A solid-state amp can never achieve that. It will be close, but it can never be the same. We can recall clearly the first time we came across one. The shop guy we used to deal with brought an H and H down from a new manufacturer in Cambridge. It had built-in overdrive at the push of a button on the front control panel.
It didn’t need to warm up and was ready to play immediately and weighed nothing and he carried it one-handed, We were amazed. We tried it out. It was loud, it was a bit dirty in sound, and it could drive, but it wasn’t quite the same as our HiWatt gear. We were quietly impressed but not enough to change.
The digital world of the solid-state amp has come a long way since then, and now there are many more reasons to buy a solid-state amp than a tube amp. And it’s not just that the valve technology is old or that it is not reliable or that they are generally cheaper than tube amps.
It is because of what they pack under the bonnet. And what they can do that valve amps can never do without a hundred pedals all over the floor. And even then you can’t save individual song settings for later use and just call them up when needed.
Tubes are great, and that sound is irreplaceable, but the music world has moved on. Keep your valve amp if you have one and use it, but solid-state amps are here now, and they perform. And you never know one day the JCM800 sound might just come out of a little digital box somewhere.
So What Are The Best Solid State Amps?
This was a difficult one. Marshall, Orange, Fender, Roland of the big names plus some great smaller companies making quality products. They are all made with a rugged design, and they have a varied array of effects and options, some more than others, of course.
Differences in volume levels made some stage amps and others just for the home or recording studio. So we had to sit down and think about this one. What would we use it for?
If you’ve got all the effects, amps and cabinet possibilities, then its great at home, but no one is going to hear it. And very good for the studio where it will offer a lot of options, but we decided we wanted people to hear it. That means live performance which means adequate volume.
We have therefore chosen as our best of the Best Solid State Amps the…
Apologies to our spiritual heroes at Marshall and Orange but this does the job.
Our choice for the best Solid-State Amp.