When we talk about versatility, what we mean is an amp that can do both clean tones and distortion well. The on-board effects and tone shaping options are a big part of this. The most versatile amps tend to use solid state electronics, which often include amp modeling presets. If you want that tube sound, though, a combo amp can give you the best of both worlds. Ready to see the most versatile amps on the market?
Here are our recommendations for the 4 most versatile guitar amps on the market:
Marshall JVM205C Guitar Combo Amp
- Marshall JVM205C JVM Series 50-Watt 2x12-Inch Guitar Combo Amp
- Price as of 10/29/2020 14:41 PDT(more info about ad)
Let’s start with an amp that can truly do it all: the Marshall JVM205C. This 50-watt 2X12” amp has two channels, each with three switchable gain stages, reverb and loop functions, and independent EQ. You can add a programmable footswitch if you want to switch modes quickly on-stage.
Even with all these extra features, the most impressive thing about the Marshall JVM205C is the tone. It’s brings out the best from your guitar, whether you want the crisp chime of the clean channel or a massive, crunchy overdrive.
The Marshall JVM205C is a lot of amp—over 60 pounds of amp, in fact, and the price tag isn’t small, either. But if you want an amp that can rock, scream, and everything in between, it’ll meet your needs nicely—it’s one of the most versatile combo amps period.
Vox AC30C2 Guitar Amp
- VOX, 2 Electric Guitar Amplifier Footswitch, Black (AC30C2)
- Price: $1,399.99
- Price as of 10/29/2020 16:18 PDT(more info about ad)
The Vox AC30 is one of those amps that need no introduction. With the AC30C2, you get twice the wattage and speakers for a higher output. Unlike many of the other options on the list, this classic tube amp is versatile not because of its effects and modeling but because the warm, rich valve tone can fit into any set-up or style.
Talking specs, this comes installed with EL84 tubes for power and 12AX7 for the preamp. It uses two 12” Custom Celestion Greenback speakers driven by 30 watts of power. The controls are simple but give you everything you need to make the tone your own, with a 2-band EQ and knobs for the gain and reverb.
This is a hefty amp with a solid build and a clean, classic look. Whether you want massive gain or sparkling clean tones, you can get them from the Vox AC30C2.
Fender Super Champ X2 Guitar Combo Amp
- Fender Super Champ X2 15-Watt 1x10-Inch Guitar Combo Amp
- Price: $399.99
- Price as of 10/28/2020 21:14 PDT(more info about ad)
The Super Champ is Fender’s mid-range combo amp, and if you’re looking for value it just might be the best choice on the list. It comes equipped with a 10-inch Special Design speaker and two 6V6 tubes, with a 12AX7 tube for the preamp. Fender then adds a gamut of extra features for both live performance and recording, along with on-board effects and switchable channels.
When it comes to versatility, the voicing knob is probably the Super Champ’s most impressive feature. It gives you voicings for 16 different amps, including emulations of popular amps like the Blackface and Hot Rod. You can also use the free FUSE software to download even more voicings and effects.
The customizability of this amp makes it extremely flexible across genres, and it sounds great with any guitar. At 23 pounds, it’s also not too hefty when you need to transport it to a gig. Without a doubt, this is one of the most versatile guitar amps for the money.
Line 6 Spider V20 Guitar Amp
- Line 6 Guitar Combo Amplifier (Spider V 20)
- Price: $159.99
- Price as of 10/29/2020 16:18 PDT(more info about ad)
If you’re looking for versatility on a budget, the Spider V20 is a great way to go. It’s a compact 1X8” 20-watt amp, designed for both practice and small venues. It includes a lot of features you might not expect for the price, like a micro USB port and a variety of on-board effects.
This is a great amp for beginners, too, because it’s designed to sound great straight from the box. The controls are easy to use without a lot of experience. It also comes with 16 effects pre-sets so you can quickly experiment with different sounds. You can also save your own presets when you find your perfect settings.
The Spider V20 is relatively low output—it’s not an amp for bigger venues and louder ensembles. But for jamming, practice, and small gigs, this is an affordable way to get great sound. Its compact design makes it a convenient traveling amp, too.
The Appeal of the Most Versatile Guitar Amps
There is a large portion of the guitar community that would argue it’s better to get an amp that focuses on one superior tone. The argument is that amps that give you tone options don’t do any of them as well—the kind of “jack of all trades, master of none” idea.
The thing is that most people can’t afford to buy an amp for every situation, and switching amps can be a hassle. The idea that multiple voices automatically means lower quality is a myth, too. An amp with modeling or emulations might not sound quite as realistic as the real thing, but something like the Marshall JVM (see full specs) easily matches high-end single-channel amps in sound quality.
Versatility is especially important if the amp is for a student. Someone who’s learning guitar doesn’t know what their ideal sound is yet. Playing around on an amp with lots of tone options gives them the chance to experiment.
Even if you’re a seasoned professional, a versatile amp can unlock your creativity by giving you new ways to play with your sound. While there is something to be said for sticking with what you know, finding new sounds and colors can push your music in new directions.
As you can see from the reviews above, getting the most versatile amp doesn’t have to mean spending a ton of money, and there are a lot of different ways you can go. As with all amps, you’ll generally spend more for tube amplification than you will for solid state electronics. If you want the sound of tubes for less, you can get a solid-state amp with a tube emulation. The models on the Fender Super Champ (see them here) in particular have a lot of warmth and realism.
Whatever the reason you’re looking for a versatile amp, one of the four models above should fit your bill nicely. Good luck finding the perfect one for you!
Micah Johnson started playing music in high school, when he taught himself the bass to join his friend’s band. He added guitar and drums during his twenties playing in local clubs, and along the way, he picked up unique, hands-on experience from hand drums to studio mixers. On Song Simian, he aims to share this knowledge from 20+ years playing and recording music. When not in gearhead mode, he enjoys photography and travel. Email him