Because they tend to be most peoples’ performance amp, it’s especially important to get a unit that matches your ideal sound and aesthetic. Sound is such a personal thing that there are no hard and fast rules about which amp is the best, but most players find a combo amp gives them the best of both worlds, combining the smooth sound of a tube amp with the consistency of solid state electronics.
If you’re in the market for a new amp, check out the options on this list, which are some of the favorites of the guitar community—and arguably 4 of the best 2X12 combo amps on the market today.
Orange Amplifiers AD301C
The classic British tone of Orange amplifiers is one of the most sought-after sounds of the guitar amp world. Vintage Orange amps used an all-tube construction, but their AD series of combo amplifiers essentially gives you two amps in one, with two dual-stage channels whose signal paths are completely separate. Channel 1 brings you the thick, vintage tone classic Orange amps were known for, while channel 2 has a brighter, tighter, and more modern sound.
If the versatility alone isn’t enough reason to check this amp (see full specs) out, you might be swayed when you hear the included Celestion Vintage 30 speakers. Based on the original Celestion Blue design, these speakers are built to give you massive crunchy overdrive without losing the smooth, creamy sound Orange amps are known for.
Fender ’65 Twin Reverb
If pure power is what you’re after, the Fender Reverb ’65 has you covered. Like the Orange amp above, it’s a reproduction of the original all-tube Fender Reverb, which was one of the most popular amps among rock musicians in the late ‘60s and ‘70s. The two 12” Jensen speakers produce a classic American-style tone that stays true to the “blackface” sound with sparkling clear tones and a bright, crunchy overdrive. This makes it perfect for a wide array of styles, from hard rock and blues to country and punk.
At 85 watts it can handle more power than most 2X12” models, giving a seriously huge sound beyond what you might expect an amp of this size to produce. The tube vibrato and spring reverb are just icing on the cake. This is a strong contender for the best 2×12 combo amp.
A lot of tube-based amps are pretty pricey, and the two combo amps above don’t exactly come cheap. If you want a 2X12” cabinet that gives you the tube sound but you don’t want to spend over $1,000, the Vox AC15C2 is the clear front runner. It’s powered by the same dual-EL84 cathodes as previous Vox models (the same components used to power valve amps that cost twice as much or more) and gives you two independent inputs for using either the standard or the boosted channels, with a footswitch to change between them.
It also features a full-length reverb tank and a built-in tremolo effect, with on-board controls for the speed and depth of the effect. Of course, the sound is the most important thing, and this Vox model delivers. The included Celestion G12M Greenback speakers have a chiming clarity when clean and a powerful distortion when you crank the gain.
Another excellent contender in the “awesome and affordable” category is the 2X12” entry in Marshall’s MG Series. This is a great way to go if you want to capture a more British tone without shelling out the bucks for a costlier Orange or Peavey model. It gives you four storable channels (one for clean tone, one for crunch, and two for overdrive) and can handle 100 watts of continuous power—quite impressive for an amp at this price point.
It also comes with a host of on-board digital effects, including chorus, phaser, and flanger effects and a variety of delay and reverb options. If you’re looking to get the best of both the digital and analog worlds out of your combo amp—and do it without breaking the bank—the Marshall MG series is one of the best 2×12 combo amps for the money.
Which Amp is Right for You?
Even when you’re talking about different amps with the same size of cabinet, there’s going to be a range of dynamic options depending on the amount of power that your amp can handle. There is obviously more that goes into the volume of your amp than just its RMS wattage, but you will generally find that the more watts an amp is rated for, the higher its maximum volume level will be. When you’re talking about 2X12” cabinets, even one with a relatively low RMS of 30 watts will give you plenty of volume for most performance situations. If you play a lot of larger clubs or in a particularly loud and aggressive ensemble, however, a high-powered 2X12” amp like the Marshall (see full specs) above will give you the volume boost you’re after.
If you’re shopping for guitar amps you’ll often hear them described as having either a “British” or an “American” sound. This dates back to the ‘60s and ‘70s early era of rock ’n roll when there were two main schools of amplifier tone: those made in the United States by companies like Fender and those made in the United Kingdom by companies like Vox and Marshall. While there are certainly a lot of tonal variations even within the brands associated with these two schools, you can generally expect American-style amps to be brighter and louder than British-style amps, which tend to have a darker, warmer tone color.
Of course, when shopping for the so-called best 2×12 combo amp (or any other piece of musical equipment, for that matter), hearing it in action is the best way to know whether or not it will suit your needs. If you can’t get to your local music store to play around on the amps yourself—or if your local store doesn’t have the models you want to check out—you can always find videos of the equipment in action on the internet. You can also look at what kind of equipment your favorite guitarists use. Even if you don’t buy the exact same amp, getting something from the same brand or using similar speakers is likely to give you the similar tone you’re hoping to achieve.