What came first, the chicken or the egg? Did amp design change to create an emerging musical genre? Or did that genre just make the most of what was already there? Maybe the two just developed together. As we begin a journey to find the Best Amps for Metal, we will meet some old friends, as well as some new ones.
There may also be a few surprises along the way. There are some manufacturers you expect to be included. Maybe one or two that will make you think. Even possibly some new names to consider. Will your favorite manufacturer be included?
You’re about to find out as we search for the best metal amp for you…
Top 8 Best Amps For Metal To Consider In 2021 Reviews
1 Laney Guitar Amplifier(IRT30-112) – Best Combo Amp for Metal
Laney is a British company that was set up in 1967 in the Birmingham area of the Midlands. Lyndon Laney was the driving force behind this new company. He was quite well-known, with his band, around the fast-developing circuit of pubs and clubs in the UK.
Those that also played the circuit at the time saw and played with his band often. They included in their line up Robert Plant and John Bonham. Interesting days indeed. But there was another famous name that helped shape the Laney name and who Laney helped to evolve, as you will find out soon.
A bit of an outsider…
Laney struggled at first, mostly with reliability, but gradually they improved. But they were in a market in the UK that also included Marshall, Orange, and HiWatt. Not easy to compete with that little lot. They shouldn’t feel down. No one else could either.
Today they have an interesting range and have become an alternative option from the mainstream. This amp, the IRT30-112, is a versatile, all-tube amp with three channels and some interesting features.
It has one twelve inch speaker and generates 30 watts of power. The tubes used are the 6L6 as against the EL34. Some prefer them as they have a bit more bottom end and a sharper top.
Maintain your tone…
The amp also features a ‘watts control.’ This will let you create your tone at any volume level instead of having to crank it up.
It has a preamp across all three channels and pre-boost controlled by a footswitch. There is a separate EQ that has push and pull controls. There is a built-in digital reverb that is a decent addition.
Additionally, you get a GX loop, sockets for an extension speaker, and an aux-in. It is well-made with a compact size of 25 x 14 x 21 inches. It is made with a tough Tolex vinyl covered body and a metal grille.
Full of features and a quality tone, it sounds as aggressive as it looks. It isn’t a cheap option, though.
So who and what was Laney involved with during the early days? Tony Iommi. I suppose you could say they were right where it mattered for the birth of heavy metal.
- Well-made with plenty of practical features.
- Compact combo with plenty of tone-shaping options.
- Rather expensive.
2 PRS Paul Reed Smith MT15 Mark Tremonti Signature Guitar Amplifier Head – Best Distortion Amp for Metal
This amp from PRS was designed in conjunction with Mark Tremonti and therefore features some trademark sound options. It has definitely been designed with the heavier style of player in mind. But this amp does give you a rather distinctive look, as we shall find out.
It is not dissimilar in its design ideas to the Archon, another PRS amp, having five stages of gain before the master volume. This creates a rich, powerful level of distortion. It has 15 watts of power coming from two 6L6 and six preamp tubes.
It will give you quite a range of tones. And whilst it is ‘metal-based’ in its sound design, it can operate in other genres comfortably.
Quick and easy controls…
There are two channels, one being quite bright and clean, but the other what you might refer to as the opposite. This channel gives you a thick level of drive and distortion and has its own selection of tone and gain and master controls.
The clean channel also has its own controls, but the sound has far more of a chime. It does, though, have pull and push control on the treble to add a little bit extra if you need it. There is also a loop feature for effects and a half-power cut from 15 watts to 7.
Perhaps disappointingly for some, it does not have a reverb built-in.
A little extra in the build…
The build says that it is ready for the road. It has a steel chassis with punched holes that measures 14 by 8 by 7.25 inches and weighs 25 pounds. On top is a metal carrying handle.
All very plain and uninspiring, you may say, so what about that distinctive look?
After you power up, the valves are lit up by LED lights. These will glow blue if you are using the Clean channel and red if you are on the Lead channel. A nice touch, we think, and definitely adds something to your stage performance.
A good amp, but remember you still have to buy your speaker cabinet. On that basis, not cheap for a 15-watt amp.
- Rugged metal build with some nice internal lighting on the valves.
- Some nice sound options with two separate channels giving variety.
- No reverb built-in.
3 Marshall Amps Guitar Combo Amplifier (M-DSL40CR-U) – Most Reliable Amp for Metal
“The Boys are back in Town.” We didn’t think it would be long before the ‘Hanwell lads’ appeared.
We are not going to wax lyrical about Marshall. They are the “Guv’nars,” end of subject. And Big Jim gave the world the sound of rock. But can they produce a great metal amp?
A marvelous Marshall…
Nowadays, it isn’t all about mind-numbing volume and crushing overdrive. Although those elements aren’t far away with all the amps on our list. This DSL40CR-U is a more subtle operator though it can still churn out those classic Marshall sounds.
It is a 40-watt twin channel all-tube amp that carries onboard four preamp valves and a couple of EL34’s. Just to let the people know it is around when you crank it up.
The DSL, Dual Super Lead, amps first arrived in 1997, and this is an upgrade on that series. Therefore, it comes with a fine lineage and history. It was replaced by the JVM series after about ten years but never really went away. And now it is back.
It has two channels, and each channel has its own overdrive control. New to the mix is a resonance control. This replaces the fixed deep switch from the original amps. This allows you to set your own preferred amount of bottom end.
Included is a studio-level reverb and controls for low or high power. There is a footswitch to change channels or to operate the reverb. It has one twelve-inch speaker to handle the power.
There are plenty of options for tone shaping, and it can go very close to capturing those classic 60s Marshall sounds. We say close for a reason. Because the only way you get the exact sound is by having a 60s Marshall amp and cabinet.
Easy to transport…
The EQ options have been improved and now give you a more flexible approach to tone management. On the back is an effects loop, which you can bypass if you choose.
It is quite a compact little amp, measuring 9.9 by 29 by 19.3 inches, and it weighs just under 30 pounds. So is easy to carry around with you.
Tough to beat…
Well-made, solid, great sounds and enough volume for even reasonably sized rooms. It’s a Marshall. What else do you need? Oh yes, a decent price point. It has that as well.
One of the Best Amps for Metal? Of course, Marshall won’t let you down!
- Great range of Marshall-based sounds.
- Plenty of volume with good tonal features at an attractive price.
4 VOX VT40X Modeling Amp, 40W – Best Modeling Amp for Metal
Yes, boys and girls, they are still around. Alive and kicking. And there is still that wonderful visual look to Vox amps. May they never change. This is an amp with its own place in the market.
Here’s the reason…
This is an amp that is a lot more than just a ‘turn it up and let rip’ amp. This is what is described as a modeling amp. It uses some quite advanced digital technology and combines it with analog circuits. The result is a little amp with tube-like performance.
It offers you eleven different amp models and thirteen separate effects pedals. To ensure the sounds were as authentic as possible, Vox used their VET systems. These allowed the Vox designers to understand what made each amp sound the way it did.
The result is an amp that can present you with very similar characteristics, responses, and distortion levels that mirror the originals.
Customize your sound…
The onboard DSP provides the VT40X with enough processing power to provide realistic amp models and effects with real quality.
You have the use of Vox’s online Tone Room editing software. Everything can be tweaked to give you the exact sound you are looking for. Thirty-three presets and original amp sounds and effects are available for you to edit.
When you have finished creating what you want, you can store it away for use whenever you need it.
Durable with useful features…
It is made with traditional Vox quality with a sealed cabinet with its own bass-reflex design. And at just 18.5 by 9.6 by 22 inches and weighing twenty-four pounds, you can take it anywhere. The cabinet houses one ten-inch speaker and has a sturdy carrying handle.
The controls are located on the top with plenty of useful features. There are aux-in and headphones sockets and a USB. There is also a built-in tuner. Channel selection and amp and effects options are all well-labeled and easy to use.
Won’t smack you in the face, but…
There are also jack sockets for a footswitch, but that is not supplied and is an optional extra. It is not what you might call a ‘smack in the face’ metal amp. But it has enough options built-in to create the sound.
A great little amp at an amazing price.
- Plenty of sound modeling and amp and cabinet effects.
- Easy to use at an attractive price.
- Some may want a more defined metal amp.
5 Fender Mustang GT 40 Bluetooth Enabled Solid State Modeling Guitar Amplifier – Best Budget Amp for Metal
Are you looking for an amp that will thrash out some metal and not much else? If so, this probably won’t be the amp for you.
We have looked so far at some amps that can do other things besides really punch it out. But this amp is strictly a modeling amp. But it has some very good features which make it worth looking at.
Unfortunately, as with a lot of things Fender these days, it has some disappointing features that we will look at a bit later.
Choose your genre…
This is a 40-watt solid-state amp that will suit all levels of players. It has been designed to have a wide variety of sounds across many genres, including metal. It has two 6.5 inch speakers.
Inside are 21 amp voices along with 45 effects. The opportunities to create sounds are, therefore, plentiful. To help you, there is a color LCD screen allowing you to see what you’re doing and amps and effects you are using.
Fender has made this amp to appeal to as many types of users as possible. With that in mind, they have made it WiFi-compatible. With the online capability, you can download any updates, check out Fender presets, and communicate with other Fender users.
The Mustang GT is also Bluetooth compatible. That means you can stream music from your phone or other devices. You can also connect to the Fender Tone app for effects and amp options.
And for those into computer-based technology, there is a USB that allows you to connect the amp to a computer. This allows you to download straight to your DAW.
It is a compact unit measuring only 18 by 12.2 by 11.1 inches and weighing seventeen pounds. From the features on board, it is easy to see that Fender has tried to produce an amp that will appeal to a range of people.
This amp is ‘much ado about nothing’ to quote Shakespeare, and it is difficult to know exactly what Fender was trying to do. But these days, that applies to a lot of their products. We doubt this amp will appeal to a serious metal guitarist. But it will appeal to the buyer who keeps it in his bedroom to play with a few sounds.
We mentioned some disappointing features. And they go a little beyond what we have just mentioned. They are personal issues, though, and some may not agree.
Fender has made some iconic amps. Notable not only by sound but by the way they look. Is it so hard to understand? When people buy a Fender amp, they want it not only to sound like one but to look like one?
Frankly, this amp is nothing to write home about. Poor design and cheap-looking speaker cloth. And control knobs that look like they got them from a bankrupt stock warehouse. Do they think that is what people want? If so, they are in Disneyland.
Fender in name only…
While this might seem harsh, this is, after all, a Fender amp we are talking about. A descendant of ‘The Twin.’ It should not look like it’s been thrown together from some unused parts.
A good enough amp, with some nice features. It is a modeling amp with some internet connectivity. It is set at a low price, but its appearance for us is a big no no!
- Plenty of sounds to choose from and use.
- Attractive price.
- The very cheap appearance.
6 Hughes & Kettner GM40DH GrandMeister Deluxe 40 40W Amplifier Head – Best Premium Amp for Metal
Hughes & Kettner might not be the first name you think of when buying an amp to play some serious metal. But those that have come across them know their qualities.
They are a German company only established in 1984. They are a manufacturer that has torn up the rule-book on design and replaced it with their own version. We quite like it. But it is not just how it looks. It also performs.
But can it compete with the ‘big’ names? You are about to find out.
Excellent sound-shaping potential…
This is a 40-watt tube amp that is described as being able to do anything. They might be right. The tone options available will give you everything from the heaviest death metal to sweet jazz and everything in between.
The build is rugged even though it might appear at first to be a bit vulnerable. Not the case. It has a metal chassis with two carrying handles. It measures 22.40 by 11.40 by 11.40 inches and weighs just under 22 pounds. This means it is no lightweight amp head.
The amp has adjustable wattage that allows you to play your tones at 40, 20,10, and 5 watts without losing them. Full-on sounds but at low volumes. The all-tube tones included are just too much to describe here. The options are endless, and all are adjustable.
Save your settings…
Once you have found what you like, you can store the sound for later in one of 128 patches. There is a range of built-in effects, including digital reverb. And it has a noise gate you can use to adjust the sound without changing the tone.
Controls are all located on the front of the amp, or you can use a remote iPad app. There are plenty there to fire the imagination. It seems the only issue that will prevent you from getting a great sound will be you.
All on its own…
You will need to sit down before you look at the price. It really is quite expensive. And remember, this is just the head. You are still going to need a cabinet.
We started off talking about design. What does it look like? Different, to say the least, but it has a lot of style. Great sounds and a great looking amp. No doubt, these guys can compete at the top of the ladder.
- Endless tonal options that you can store.
- Plenty of built-in effects and features to get a great sound.
- Only the price.
7 Orange Amps Micro Dark Amplifier – Best Value for You Money Amp for Metal
And now we return to another stalwart of the 60s and 70s that are still punching it out. Cliff Cooper set up Orange, and for a while, they were the loudest thing on the market.
They are a company like Marshall and like Vox that recognize the value of a corporate image. When you see one of their amps, you hardly have to look twice to know what it is. Something is reassuring about that.
Looks are one thing, of course. But can Orange still do the business? You are about to find out.
This is an amp head that has a simple idea behind it. To put some great punchy sounds at your disposal. But also to include them in a compact and easy to carry unit.
This is an amp built with the legacy of the Orange ‘Dark’ series behind it. The ‘Micro’ behaves like its bigger cousins with plenty of powerful gain and a wide range of tones. It is just smaller.
In fact, it is quite a bit smaller. This little powerhouse only weighs just over two pounds and measures 3.94 by 5.91 by 7.09 inches. You can almost put it in your pocket. Well, not quite, but you know what we mean.
A hybrid amp?
It puts out 20 watts of power. That’s 20 watts of Orange power, not the 20 watts offered by some. And it is definitely geared up towards metal tones. It has a hybrid design with tube preamps and a solid-state build.
The tones take you from meek and mild and twangy to Orange savagery. And anyone who has used Orange knows how savage they can be.
Controls are easy and located on the front. There are separate Volume and Gain controls and a headphone socket. Being just an amp head, you will, of course, need a cabinet. We suggest you get something that can handle it.
Can Orange still do the business? There was never any doubt. This little thing is a brute of an amp. Good to see Cliff is still strutting his stuff.
An easy-to-use amp with great sounds and plenty of unashamed metal under the hood. A great buy and at this price a more than attractive option. Surely one of the Best Amps for Metal regardless of how much you want to spend.
- Powerful searing metal tones at a great price.
- A compact build that is easy to carry around.
8 Boss Katana-100/212 MkII 2×12″ 100-watt Combo Amp – Most Versatile Amp for Metal
Finally, we go to take a look at the Boss Katana 100 watt combo. Perhaps better known for the effects pedals they are famous for, this is; however, an amp to be reckoned with.
We wouldn’t say that this amp is specifically designed for metal. It is more an amp that is full of options, some of which are leaning towards the metal genre. Versatility is the name of the game with the Katana.
It is a combo amp that is well-made, as is the norm with Boss. It has one twelve inch speaker that pushes out the power and a solid road-ready cabinet. Although, it does look a little plain and not very ‘heavy metal.’
Boss, of course, has effects for just about everything. They have a real understanding of digital sound.
So how can you use this?
Inside are five separate amp voicings. Clean, Crunch, and Lead are all fairly standard. They all do very much as they say. But then you have the ‘Brown’ channel. That comes from the Boss Waza. Also interestingly, a dedicated acoustic-electric channel.
If you’re buying a modeling amp such as this, and it has Boss written on it, what would you expect to find included? Exactly. Sixty Boss effects from their own tone studio that all can be customized to suit your own particular sound requirements.
The Boss Tone studio includes an amp and sound effects editor. Further options to get your own tone right are found with the effects controls and the Gain and EQ. And the effects loop means you can add some extra pedals after the preamp.
Boss continues to lead…
If you want to play using your own tones but at a lower level of volume, you can. The Variable power option lets you achieve the full-on sound at a low volume.
A decent amp, packed with the ‘Best of Boss’ if you want to describe it that way. No bad thing to have to hand.
Set at a decent price point, this is an amp to consider for those that want variety in their tones and sound options.
- Well made with a good size twelve-inch speaker.
- Plenty of volume and packed with Boss sounds and effects at a decent price point.
- Hasn’t quite got the punch needed for a full-on metal sound.
Best Amps for Metal Buying Guide
How do you define the genre? It has so many sub-genres these days, probably more than any other type of music. All different.
You get the really serious levels of Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Metallica, and a few others. And you also get what we call the ‘impostors’ who are more interested in wearing something to get attention. (No names mentioned).
But whatever they like to refer to themselves as, it is a style of music that demands a lot from its equipment. It used to be just volume and distortion. Lots of it. But that has changed somewhat, and the tones are important.
Metal is more than just an effects pedal…
It is not just about the level of distortion, either. There are a thousand pedals that can tear your head off. But it is more about the sound of the amp than anything, in our opinion.
That is why getting the right amp is important. And on that list, there are some good and not so good.
With amps that have built-in extension options, you don’t need 10 million watts anymore. You can have a little 20-watt amp model and just send it through something else. As we say, it is the sound of the amp that is important.
There are options a-plenty, and on our list, there are some staggering amps. They range in prices, of course. But you haven’t always got to spend a fortune.
Looking for more superb amplifier options?
If so, then take a look at our in-depth reviews of the Best Battery Powered Guitar Amps, the Best Modeling Amps, the Best Low Watt Tube Amps, the Best Tube Amps, and the Best Solid State Amps currently available.
So, what are the Best Amps for Metal?
We are going to choose simple. An amp that just generates the sound. We don’t need myriads of amps, cabinets, or effects pedals. Basically, we want an amp that is going to pump out ‘that’ sound.
We could quite easily go to Marshall, of course. We know they can do it. But apologies to the ‘Father of Loud’, we are sure he won’t mind if we pick the…
Orange has always produced ‘killer’ amps. This one might be small, but it’s gonna bite you.
Our choice as the best amp to make your Metal the meanest.
Until next time, may your music be heavy and your sound be metal!