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If you’re looking at taking the plunge into the world of guitar amps then you’ve come to the right place. Here, we’ll take you through everything you need to know when selecting a pedal platform amp. From price points and power to sound quality and versatility, we’ll cover it all.
Whether you’re a seasoned guitar god or a total newbie, our handy guide will help you make an informed choice when choosing your amp.
We’ll look at some of the best-established brands on the market, as well as some lesser-known ones we think you should be considering. Once we’ve outlined the amps we think you should be looking at, we’ll give our verdict on the best of them.
Let’s begin by looking at 5 of the best pedal platform amps currently on the market.
5 of the Best Pedal Platform Amps
|Best Overall||Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus|
|Best for Professional Musicians||Fender ’64 Custom Deluxe Reverb|
|Great Value||Blackstar ARTIST15 Blackstar|
|Most Affordable||Marshall DSL 20|
|Best for Beginners||Fender Bassbreaker 15|
What Exactly are Pedal Platform Amps?
A pedal platform amp is a specific type of guitar amp that sounds great when players have multiple foot pedals running through them.
There are several reasons why guitar enthusiasts choose to set their rigs up this way. The most common reason is that you can create specific sounds that you cannot otherwise produce. You can manipulate the guitar tones much more precisely using pedals, rather than relying too heavily on the natural sound of your chosen amp.
This ability to manipulate the sonic qualities of a guitar allows musicians to create a wider range of sounds, leading to greater creativity.
They work by providing a ‘blank canvas’ through which sounds and tones are played and amplified. ‘Stompboxes’ (pedals) can then manipulate the guitar notes, leading to epic sounds.
What Makes a Good Pedal Platform Amp?
There are several features that you as a prospective buyer need to be aware of when looking for the perfect amp. The world of musical instruments and their accompanying tech can be difficult to wrap your head around and may seem a little daunting at first. Why are some amps considered better? Why do some cost twice the price of others? What is a watt?
The simple fact of the matter is that you get exactly what you pay for. A good amp can give you a lifetime of beautiful notes, whereas a cheaper one for beginners may need upgrading after a while.
The more expensive models tend to have more power, are made from more durable materials, and are more efficient. These factors mean that a $200 amp makes a much different sound to a $2,000 one.
Here, we’ll tell you exactly what to look out for when choosing yours;
While the power output of an amp is always important, when using one or multiple pedals it becomes imperative. An amp with high wattage offers the necessary power along with enough ‘headroom’ for the pedal effects to work and sound good.
What is headroom I hear you ask? Well, it is essentially the amount of ‘room’ you have when turning the volume up before you begin distorting. The more room you have, the louder you can go while maintaining a crisp sound.
If you’re using distortion or overdrive pedals then power is an even more important aspect to consider. This is because the higher headroom allows you to really get the most out of them and create clean, dynamic, and open tones.
One thing to remember on power though, wattage DOES NOT equal volume. This is an easy mistake to make when buying for the first time and is something always worth bearing in mind.
Another point to remember here is that amps with similar wattage don’t automatically produce the same level of noise. There are lots of other factors that go into that. Most notably, design. Some designs are much more efficient than others and can therefore create more volume with less power.
A Clean yet Balanced Sound
As we mentioned before, having a clean sound is essential for a good pedal platform amp. This is due to its fundamental purpose of acting as a blank slate for your guitar’s sounds.
If an amp cannot produce this then it simply won’t work with multiple pedals. That’s not to say it’s a bad amp, just that it’s not equipped to deal with the added pressures pedals can cause.
Core amp tones should always be as clean, balanced, and pure as possible. When they achieve this, they can be cranked up without ‘clipping’ or distorting at high volume levels. Being able to do this means you can keep much more of the intended tones your guitar and amp produce, meaning better sounds and better performances.
That said, some guitarists will intentionally use amps that cannot handle pedals and harness the distortion in their performances. Modern metal bands, in particular, do this a lot – but that’s a whole other article!
Seasoned guitar players will already know this but if you are a first-time amp buyer then you may not; guitar pedals don’t always have to be plugged into the front end of an amplifier.
Pedals and stompboxes can often be plugged into the effects loop. Be sure to look out for this when buying as any serious pedal pusher will need this feature.
An effects loop is essentially an input/output section on the amp that lets you connect pedals to the preamp and power amp. A preamp converts the weak original sound into one that can then be manipulated by the main amp and played loudly through a speaker.
There are fundamentally different categories of the amp. They have been designed and developed over time and produce very different sounds. Some are naturally more suited to pedal use than others.
Tube (or valve) amps are what you want when looking for pedal platform amps. Other types include solid-state and modeling amps.
The warm, clear, and analog nature of valve amps lends itself particularly well to overdrive and boost pedals, but work well with all.
Solid-state and modeling amps, however, don’t perform so well. As they rely on digital technology they can often sound a little flat when used with pedals. That’s not to say that they’re bad amps, they have been developed considerably over the last few years, but for this particular purpose, we would recommend sticking with tubes.
5 of the Best Platform Pedal Amps on the Market
Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus 120-Watt Guitar Amplifier – Best Pedal Platform Amp for Experienced and Intermediate Players
Roland as a brand needs no introduction. One of the pioneering music brands of the 20th century, they are not only one of the leading guitar amp manufacturers, but one of the major musical instrument manufacturers. Amps, keyboards, synthesizers, DJ equipment – you name it, they make it.
The JC-120 is described by Roland as “one of the few guitar amps that can truly be called a legend.” Their flagship amp is renowned across the planet as the benchmark for clean guitar sounds. Rich tones and integrated stereo chorus effect feature on many famous songs from the last few decades.
At $999 the JC-120 sits towards the top of the price range but as with all amps, you get what you pay for. Read about some of its features below;
- 13.78 x 25.98 x 32.28 inches
- 73.8 pounds
- Outputt wattage 60
- Size 120 watt
- Ideal for performing or studio use
- Roland’s flagship amp
- Clean tones and signature chorus effects
- 120-watt stereo amp with two 12-inch speakers
- 2 input channels (Normal and Effect) – each with 3 band EQ and bright on/off
- Vibrato, distortion, and spring reverb effects
- Footswitch jacks for use while performing
- Stereo effects loop with the ability to use external effects
- This is a professional grade amp, not ideally suited to beginners
- There is no headphone jack as this is NOT a bedroom amp
- At $999, there are cheaper options available
Fender ’64 Custom Deluxe – Best Amp for Professional Musicians
Another classic brand, Fender has been around since the 1940s and continues to produce some of the very best equipment around.
The ‘64 Custom Deluxe has been around since, you guessed it, 1964. Described by Fender as ‘a timeless classic’ and ‘one of the most indispensable guitar amps ever made’, it’s easy to see why it made our list and why so many guitar enthusiasts used them over the years.
Considered moderately powerful, the ‘64 Deluxe produces snappy, full, and crystalline tones that are 100% pedal-friendly. Whilst carrying on the legacy of a vintage line of amps, Fender has modified the circuitry to ensure the sounds that the brand became famous for are not lost.
This awesome amp comes with bright and normal channels, tube-driven reverb and tremolo across both, and output power of 20 watts.
- 28 x 23 x 13 inches
- 48.6 pounds
- Solid pine cabinet
- 20 watt Tube Amp with a 12 inch Jensen C-12Q speaker
- Four 12AX7 and two 12AT7 preamp tubes
- 5AR4/GZ34 rectifier tube
- Two 6V6 output tubes
- Dual channels with custom controls: volume, treble, & bass
- Vintage channel with; volume, treble, Reverb, bass, speed, & intensity
- Reverb & Vibrato Effects
- Four ¼ inch jacks with 2 per channel, plus two ¼ inches parallel speaker jacks
- Professional grade quality for performance or studio use
- Beautiful tones with dynamic response
- Reverb and vibrato available on both channels
- Includes 2-Button Footswitch and Fitted Amplifier Cover
- At $2500 this is the most expensive amp on our list
- Overdrive needs volume before kicking in properly
- Not suited to beginners or bedrooms
Blackstar ARTIST15 Blackstar Guitar Combo Amplifier – A Great Mid-Priced Amp
The Artist15 from Blackstar offers an alternative to the amps we’ve been looking at from established industry heavyweights. A relative newcomer, the British company has been making waves within the guitar playing community with its well designed and cost-effective range.
Boasting support from the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Bon Jovi, and Neal Schon, a group of ex Marshall employees set about rivaling the legendary amp manufacturer back in 2007. Fast forward 13 years and they have the honor of making our list.
- 28.34 x 14.33 x 22.08 inches
- 44.1 pounds
- 15 watts output
- 12AX7 preamp tubes
- 6L6 power tubes
- At $799 this amp is considered good value for money
- Includes ISF tone shaping circuit, reverb, and effects loop
- Compact & portable
- Great tones at lower volume
- Considered a ‘modern classic’
- Lack of standby switch
- Not the most powerful amp in this price bracket
Marshall Amps Guitar Combo Amplifier (M-DSL20CR-U) – A Fantastic Amp at a Fantastic Price
No article about guitar amps would be complete without at least one Marshall. The latest in the DSL series combines the classic Marshall tones with functionality and features suitable for both beginners and more experienced players.
Compact and portable, the DSL20 is packed with tones and effects, as well as the ability to reduce the power output – making it the ideal amp to practice with or play smaller venues.
- 12.9 x 23 x 21.9 inches
- 35.9 pounds
- Gain and volume on each channel
- Resonance control
- Integrated reverb
- Low power setting for use in smaller spaces
- Celestion seventy 80 speaker
- Softube Emulated output
- 3 x ECC83 & 2 x EL34 tubes
- Suitable for beginners and experienced players alike
- Delivers classic Marshall tones at a great price
- At $600 it is one of the cheaper options on our list
- Compact and relatively lightweight
- Adjustable power output to accommodate smaller venues and practice sessions
- Less tonal options than the larger amps in the same series
- Not suitable for performances in large venues/outside
Fender Bassbreaker 15 Combo – Another Great Option for the Budget Conscious Buyer
We finish our five recommendations with another Fender. This time it’s their Bassbreaker 15 Combo (Full Review Here). A brilliant little amp, the Bassbreaker packs a punch and provides real bang for your buck at $649.
The 15-watt tube amp will get you heard when playing with a band but is also perfect for bedroom practicing or performing solo. With an effects loop and reverb built in it’s even been described by some as the best amp Fender have ever made.
Read our full review of the five best Fender Bassbreakers available today.
- 12.5 x 25.75 x 21 inches
- 40 pounds
- Three-tone colors and overdrive levels
- Lots of midrange character due to the EL 84 power three 12AX7 preamp tubes
- No microphone needed when recording
- 15 watt
- Good value at $649 considering it is a 15-watt amp
- Delivers the classic clean Fender sound
- Built-in effects and reverb
- The cabinet is on the small side
- 40 pounds is a little heavy for a 15-watt amp
- Line out function could use some adjustment
Question: How Does an Amp Actually Work?
Answer: Electronic amplification as a concept was introduced way back in the 1930s. Guitarists in big band setups needed to be louder than the horn section when playing solos and amps were born.
Simply put, the pickups on electric guitars convert magnetic energy from the metal strings into electrical energy. This energy can then be amplified into sound.
Question: Tube or Solid State: Which is Better?
Answer: Tube amps are the classic design. When you think of all those old Fenders and Marshalls from the 20th century you’re thinking of tube amps. Often referred to as solid-state amps, Tubes are considered to have a warmer, richer sound.
Solid-state amps on the other hand use transistors for the preamp and power sections. This makes them super sturdy and reliable. The only downside is that you sacrifice the organic sound of their counterparts.
Question: How Much Does Size Matter with Amps?
Answer: This is almost an impossible question as each guitarist needs an amp for different reasons. Generally speaking a smaller amp (usually with a 10 or 12inch speaker) will produce more top end (treble) than larger ones, which will produce more midrange and bass.
Cabinet size is also a crucial factor as it plays a significant role in how the sound is delivered. In short though, yes size matters, but only because different sizes produce fundamentally different sounds.
Conclusion: Which is the Best Pedal Platform Amp?
To be totally honest, all of the options we’ve discussed here are awesome. It just depends on what you need your amp for. If you’re an experienced professional musician we’d recommend taking a look at the Fender ‘64 and if you’re just starting out then perhaps you should be looking more at the Bassbreaker 15, Marshall DSL20, or the Blackstar ARTIST15.
If you can, it is always a great idea to try out amps before you buy – just make sure you know what to look out for. Whichever you decide to go for we wish you all the best on your journey to becoming a guitar god! If you’re looking to take lessons, make sure you check out our guide to the best online courses around.