The style of music that you play will be an important consideration when you’re looking for amps. Consider the role of gain and overdrive in your sound. A metal or punk guitarist will want to look for a larger amp with more speakers and a higher output. People who play more country, folk, or rock may want to go with a more traditional pairing, combining their Les Paul with a classic Fender or Marshall amp.
Below are our recommendations for the 4 best amps for Les Paul guitars.
Fender Twin Reverb
Originally released in the mid-1960s, this all-tube amplifier is renowned for its clean tone but can also add some crunch when you turn up the gain. This model comes installed with two 12” Jensen speakers. In terms of sound coloration features, it has included tube vibrato and spring reverb with a two-button footswitch to control them. The highs are crystalline and the midrange bright, but it doesn’t shirk on the power, either. If you want that classic “Blackface” sound that was captured by the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan or Jimi Hendrix, you can’t do any better than a Fender Twin Reverb.
This 2X12 combo amp is a flexible and versatile, giving you classic sound paired with modern features. The brilliance switch is similar to a bright switch on a Fender amp; it also features a 3-band EQ as well as reverb and tremolo. The AC30 combined with a Les Paul is great for raunchy blues and classic rock and excels when used for a relatively pure, clean tone rather than one with a lot of distortion. Don’t take this to mean the amp is wimpy, though—the AC30 can produce impressive dynamic power, and has a rugged construction to make it perfect for a gigging musician. It’s one of the best amps for Les Paul period.
You don’t have to drop a grand to get an amazing amp for your Les Paul. Peavy Classics are beloved by working guitarists because of their value, versatility, and dependability. The tweed casing has a distinctive vintage look that gives it an excellent aesthetic appeal, but of course it’s the sound and functionality that really make it an excellent choice. It offers a genuine spring reverb with a footswitch for selecting channels or utilizing the reverb and boost. It comes installed with one 12” Blue Marvel speaker but has the capability of adding a cabinet extension if you want to add power.
Fender Mustang II
When it comes to amps you often get what you pay for, but this Fender model far exceeds those expectations, adding new features to one of the brand’s most popular combo amp models and still delivering it to you for less than $200. The 12” Fender speaker gives you a powerful and versatile sound that really complements the tone of a Les Paul.
Not only that, its compact size and USB connectivity make it convenient to use in both live performance and studio applications—at only 21 pounds, it’s one of the lightest amps you can get at any price point. It also has a total of 18 amp emulation models and a whole host of effects, from fuzz to intelligent pitch shifting, giving it the versatility a gigging guitarist needs. If you’re on a budget, this is one of the best amps for Les Paul on the market.
Tube vs. Solid State Amps
There are two main classes of guitar amplifier. Tube amps use vacuum tubes to amplify your instrument’s signal, while in a solid state amp, the amplification is done electronically. Combo amps are a melding of the two categories, typically using tubes in the preamp stage but then using electronics to add power to the signal.
For purists, an all-tube amp is the way to go. The tubes give the sound a more natural sounding distortion and give the notes a warmer overall feel. On the flip side of this, however, tube amps are more expensive both initially and in the long term than solid state amps. Vacuum tubes aren’t as durable as a solid state amp’s electronics. They can break or blow out and will wear out with time, meaning they’ll need to be periodically replaced over the lifetime of the amp.
The overdriven color of a tube amp can also typically only be achieved when volume’s cranked high enough to nearly saturate the tubes. Since you’ll want to run the amp at higher levels more consistently, this usually means you want a lower wattage tube amp so you can get the distortion you want without blowing out your ears.
Solid state amps tend to be less expensive and more durable. They will often come with an array of tube amp simulations that you can apply to the tone at any dynamic level and alter with the press of a button, which can also make them more versatile if you play in a lot of styles. The downside of a strictly solid state amplifier is in the intangible quality of the sound itself. Even with a very good emulation, the tone of a solid state amp doesn’t have the same life and feel as one that comes out of a tube amp, and though the differences are shrinking as technology progresses, when it comes to an all-tube sound, there’s no substitute for the real thing.
The Best Amps for Les Paul – Speaker Configuration
Generally, the bigger your speakers (and the more of them you have) the louder your sound will be. Bigger isn’t always better. A smaller diameter speaker will have a better responsiveness and a generally tighter attack than a larger one. Consider the style you want to play in when you’re figuring out which speaker size is best for you.
If you play jazz or folk, pure power isn’t going to be your primary concern, and you may find the Peavey Classic or Fender Mustang II more suitable. If you’re in a rock band, on the other hand, the 2X12 configuration of the Fender Twin Reverb (see full specs) and the Vox AC30 (see full specs) will let your solos scream and help your sound cut through the mix.
If you play in a wide variety of styles, buying an amp with smaller speakers that can be enhanced by an extension cabinet for louder gigs or bigger venues could be the path to your perfect tone, without having to buy a whole army of amps.