Historically derided as being, well let’s face it, rubbish in terms of sound quality compared to your classic tube amps. Some say unfairly; others are not so kind. We are here today to get to the bottom of the age of question, are solid state amps any good? And if so, what are the best solid state amps?
The lowly underdogs of the amp world have actually gone through a mini-revolution in the past two decades, with advancements in technology bundled with production cost getting cheaper all the time. There is now a veritable smorgasbord of great solid state amps that are packed full of features you won’t find anywhere near a classic tube amp.
We’re talking about amps that can model (imitate) large numbers of classic amps and that are equipped with a huge range of onboard effects. So, please follow us down the rabbit hole that is the modern solid state amp market and lets us be your guide.
Top 9 Best Solid State Amps In 2021 Reviews
1 Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus 120 Watt Guitar Amplifier
And here we go with the Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus 120 Watt Guitar Amplifier. We are starting with a big boy in the jazz world here, being one of the most acclaimed non-tube jazz amps on the market and one of the few early solid state amplifiers to achieve a real cult following. The Roland JC-120 was truly revolutionary for its time.
Introduced to the market in 1975, it was the very first solid state amplifier to have an onboard analog chorus. At some point during its early existence, Roland added a stereo effects loop, which was warmly received by pros and amateurs alike.
Unchanged since its inception are the two 60 watt power amps, which give life to a pair of 12-inch speakers capable of producing a wide range of quality tones. Other than the analog chorus mentioned earlier, effects included are reverb, vibrato, and distortion. A two-channel system is employed here, with one for the effects and the other clean.
Channel 1 (clean) controls include bright on/off, volume, treble, middle, and bass while channel 2 (effects) offers bright on/off, volume, treble, middle, bass, distortion, reverb, vibrato speed, vibrato depth, chorus; on/off, and vibrato.
At the rear of the assembly, we find controls for both the effects level, with a range of +4dBm/-10dBm, and effect loop serial/parallel options. Rear jacks include channel 2 effect loop send/effect loop returns and three footswitch jacks (one for reverb, one for distortion and one shared for chorus and vibrato).
Something we haven’t discussed yet, but we think is one of the major factors when choosing an amp, is the weight and durability. Tipping the scales at a whisper over 61 pounds (28kgs), this definitely isn’t the lightest amp that we reviewed for this round up while still being unbelievably lighter than a comparably powered tube amp.
Size-wise we’re looking at dimensions of 30 “W x 24-1/2 “H x 11-1/4 “D. As with all solid state amps, the use of a solid state circuitry based amplification method makes for an extremely durable and tough amp that won’t complain about any possible mistreatment.
Although originally marketed as predominantly a jazz amp, the JC-130 was quickly snapped up by a wide range of players looking for the versatile, warm, and clean tones found in this amp.
It was the first amp of Jeff Buckley and players such as Albert King, Metallica’s James Hetfield (for nearly every clean tone he has recorded), ex-Police guitarist Andy Summers, Wes Borland of Limp Bizkit, Billy Duffy of The Cult, Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood and The Smith’s Johnny Marr have incorporated the use of this amp into not just live performances but also studio recordings.
If it works for them, it will probably work for you!
Is it the best of the Best Solid-State Amps currently available in terms of sound? It will be a tough one to beat!
- Iconic sound and widely used by guitar greats.
- Super versatile.
- The best in-built chorus on the market.
- Known for its pure and clear tone.
- The distortion flat and lifeless, fantastic clean sound, incredibly average distorted sound, but you can always use a pedal.
- Can produce an audible hiss in certain situations, especially with lots of pedals. A noise gate could be introduced to combat this problem.
- Expensive, but quality usually is.
2 Roland Guitar Combo Amplifier, 49 Keys (BC-HOT)
Another Roland, but this one is a very different and much smaller beast. The Roland Guitar Combo Amplifier, 49 Keys (BC-HOT), also known as the Roland Blues Cube, is a 30-watt blues modeling amplifier. The Cube series has been around for a long time, and for good reason.
This line of amps has been associated with great value, quality, and reliability, and all of it packed into a lightweight and compact design. A single 30-watt power amp runs into a 12-inch speaker here, with dimensions of 17.0 x 9.4 x 16.3″ (433.0 x 239.0 x 413.0 mm) and weighing just 27.78 lb (12.6 kg), this is a great choice for the musician on the move.
The Roland Guitar Combo Amplifier, 49 Keys (BC-HOT), has an extremely user-friendly design, incorporating the simplicity that is often missed on modeling amps. One input jack that is controlled by well-designed knobs for volume, reverb, bass, mid and treble, and master output.
Next to the power switch, you will find a rotating four-position knob. This gives you the option to select the power output level on this amp, which is handy helping you produce that driven into cut-off sound at any volume level, which we found super effective
Amplifier modeling is the process of using digital technology to replicate the sound and feel of another amp. The early 2000s saw the introduction of the Line6’s POD device, which is commonly thought of as truly kicking off the amp modeling craze.
This started a movement that saw home recording studios, which may have had access to one or two amp types before, suddenly be given the keys to unlock a huge amount of previously unthought-of recording options. Unsurprisingly, in the beginning, the results were less than impressive but have improved significantly in the past two decades.
Roland employs their patented Tube Logic system, which they claim “not only emulates the sound of a tube amplifier’s output; it simulates the inner workings of the amplifier itself.” In testing, we found it notably powerful with the modeling options nicely varied, a great little all-rounder that isn’t going to break the bank.
And in terms of celebrity, Robert Smith uses a pair of this amps bigger 80-watt brothers in stereo for live performances.
- Power output selection works extremely well.
- User friendly.
- Great for the musician on the move.
- We didn’t love some of the modeling options, but that’s the case with most modeling amps.
- We’re not a huge fan of the look, but that’s totally subjective.
3 Fender Mustang I V2 20-Watt 1×8-Inch Combo Electric Guitar Amplifier
Sitting at just 20 watts of power, you could be mistaken for passing straight by this modeling amp from Fender. But hold your horses, because the Fender Mustang I V2 20-Watt 1×8-Inch Combo Electric Guitar Amplifier may have you thinking again!
The ability to connect extremely easily to either PC or Mac computers (through the Fender Fuse app) plus the inbuilt modeling technology makes this a perfect addition to any quiver of amplifiers, or as your first amp!
We can say, with zero hesitation, that we were blown away with the performance of this little amp. Stuffed inside a 14.5″ x 15.5″ x 7.6″ compartment is a 20-watt power amp, an 8-inch speaker, an input jack, an aux jack, a mini USB port, a footswitch jack, and a headphone jack
Weighing just 17 lbs really ups the versatility of this amp, you can take it just about anywhere! The hardy, no-nonsense amp feels and looks like it won’t be breaking any time soon.
This great piece of software, introduced by Fender for all of their solid-state amps, gives you tremendous control over the settings making tone customization easy as pie. You can also choose from a huge library of presets made by other users, including famous guitarists.
- Sturdy design.
- Super compact.
- Great beginner amp or as an addition when wanting more variety.
- Fender Fuse compatible.
- Didn’t handle high gain very well.
- Some of the models didn’t sound great.
4 Boss KTN-50 12 Inch Katana 50W Combo Guitar Amplifier
The Boss KTN-50 12 Inch Katana 50W Combo Guitar Amplifier is next on our list. This is a stage ready, acoustic/electric modeling combo amp that includes five unique amp characteristics: clean, crunch, brown, lead, and acoustic. We had a look at some reviews before getting our hands on this one, and the delivery wait was excruciating as we were just so excited to give it a crack!
Straight off the bat, we noticed how responsive this amp was to the bass tones. When we plugged our octave pedal in, the sound produced was clean and smooth. Incorporated is the BOSS Tone Studio editor software (Boss’s equivalent to Fender Fuse) to give full customization to the user, including 60 effects.
Looking down at the top control panel, we see controls for amp type, gain, and volume, to begin with, followed by bass, mid and treble. Next up, we have the three effects knobs, including reverb and finally, the tone setting section where we have master volume control, power level, and the power on/off switch.
The power level setting control here works a charm and really helps with silent operation on stage or in the studio.
Onboard selective cab resonance models gives you the option of getting a more vintage, modern, or deep sound. There is also support for an expression pedal or two footswitches.
- Sleek design incorporating vintage and modern design concepts.
- Access to BOSS tone studio.
- A great marriage of simplicity and customization.
- Nothing glaring.
5 Marshall Amps Code 25 Amplifier Part (CODE25)
Is there a more iconic guitar amp producer than Marshall? We think not. Visions of the huge Marshall stacks have captured the imagination of young guitarists worldwide since the 60s.
With their classic, flowing white logo that looks effortlessly scribbled across the front of every Marshall amp, to the control panel and knobs adorned with gold style inlay. Marshall has always produced top-quality looking, but more importantly, sounding amplifiers. And the Marshall Amps Code 25 Amplifier Part (CODE25),15″ x 10″ x 15″,Black is no exception to this rule.
As one of the lower wattage amps on our list, this is not going to be an amp you will necessarily want to use on stage, unless you play very small venues? But we think that’s about where the limitations for this gorgeous piece of equipment end.
Inside a 13.38″ x 13.77″ x 8.46″ housing, that comes in at just a fraction over 13 lbs, is a pretty similar setup in terms of inputs as our last entry. We have a ¼” Jack and an aux input, a USB mini-b, and Bluetooth connectivity. A 25-watt power amp controls a single 10″ speaker. A top-down view shows the golden control panel, and here we were in for a little surprise!
Among the usual controls, we see a small LED display that shows info on modeling and effect presets (super handy).
Indeed it does my friends! Although Marshall’s reputation for producing high-quality Tube amps has never come into question, the buzz surrounding their digital amps hasn’t always been so kind. Well, let us tell you that stops right now! With its 14 preamps, four power amps, and eight speaker cab emulations, Marshall has finally got it right with the Code 25.
And who could model a Marshall better than Marshall themselves? No one, in our opinion.
Also included as stock is the ability to control and edit presets with the Marshall Gateway app (available on both IOS and Android). This was, in our opinion, the best of these types of connectivity systems that we tested for this rundown.
If you need an amplifier for stage use, then check out our review of the Code 25’s bigger brother, the Marshall Code 50w.
- The Gateway app works excellently.
- Although not all the modeling presets were perfect, most sounded great.
- Light and portable, and the best looking on this list, in our opinion.
- The only drawback of the Gateway app is the inability to share your recordings and presets easily with other users.
6 Fender Champion 100 – 100-Watt Electric Guitar Amplifier
If you’re looking for bang for your buck in terms of wattage to price ratio, then it’s going to be hard for you to go past the absolute workhorse that is the Fender Champion 100 – 100-Watt Electric Guitar Amplifier. Ask most guitarists worth their weight in salt, and there is a high probability that the Fender Champion 100 is somewhere in their back, or current, catalog of amps.
That’s because pure and simple, it’s been known as one of the most reliable solid-state modeling amps of the current era.
Specs-wise, we’re talking about a lone 100-watt solid-state power amp, double 12″ speakers, three band EQ, all the inputs and outputs expected in an amp this size and an included footswitch! Effects include reverb, chorus, tremolo, delay, and more. The delay time and tremolo tempo can be set with the simple tap of a button, and there is an effects loop for use with outboard effects.
We felt that the speakers on this amp definitely need to be “broken in.” This wasn’t the biggest issue, but something we think is important to point out. Give this amp some time to mature into its full tone before passing your final judgment.
For more information on this amplifier, please check out our in-depth Fender Champion 100 review.
- Bang for your buck price.
- A lot of customization options.
- Tap tempo for effects we found to be very handy.
- Speakers take time to sound their best.
7 Orange Amplifiers Crush Pro CR120H 120W Guitar Amp Head Black
We are changing it up slightly here this time. Instead of an amplifier/speaker combo, the Orange Amplifiers Crush Pro CR120H 120W Guitar Amp Head Black is a stand-alone amp head instead. Manufactured by the highly revered English amplifier company, made famous for their unmistakable sound and almost luminescent orange coverings.
It goes without saying that this entry to our list won’t be for everybody, but if you are on the search for a new solid state head for your stack, then we reckon the CR120H is going to be hard to beat.
This isn’t the lightest head on the market, coming in at 34 pounds. Of course, as there are no speakers involved, the size of the unit is considerably smaller than those previously mentioned, at just 13.8 x 26.2 x 12.5 inches. The design team at Orange decided it was important to keep this amplifier simple and not bombard the player with a multitude of onboard features.
The result is a two-channel (dirty and clean), solid-state, analog amplifier. The dirty channel uses a three-band EQ plus a circuit based on four stages of gain, which combined give the player a huge variety of distorted and overdriven sounds. The clean channel is a two-stage, two-band EQ design, that gives the player a clean but warm sound, which can also be cranked into overdrive.
OMEC’s technical director and resident valve amp guru Adrian Emsley explained the tedious process of trying to replicate a true tube amp sound – “The major breakthrough was getting as close as these have to achieve a non-solid-state-sounding [transition between] clean, crunch and overdrive. We thought about going down the digital route like most other brands, but then thought it would be way cooler to make them fully analog apart from the reverb.”
This hard work by the company to produce an authentic sound really shines here, with that unmistakable Orange sound blasting through. The only glaringly obvious drawback being the extra cost of buying a speaker cab.
On a personal point, vintage Orange amps only had pictures for the controls, now they still have the pictures, but with the words underneath. We don’t approve of such an informative move for such a legendary company.
- Great sound.
- Simple yet effective.
- Perfect for live performance.
- With simplicity comes a lack of options.
- No speaker cab included.
8 Roland CUBE Street Battery-Powered 5-Watt Stereo Amplifier ST
Here we are yet again with Roland proving they one of the biggest hitters in the solid-state amp game. The Roland CUBE Street Battery-Powered 5-Watt Stereo Amplifier ST is a super portable, double speaker setup that has buskers around the globe absolutely frothing to get their hands on.
And with good reason! This amp comes with two power options, either straight from a power outlet or six AA batteries, which will give you almost 15 hours of play time.
With a dedicated XLR input and dual-channel architecture, this amp delivers great results when both a guitar and microphone are plugged in. The delay and reverb effects can be sent to the microphone input also. On top of Roland’s famous six effects that come standard in every Roland modeling amp, there is a chromatic tuner inbuilt.
A total of eight amp models are offered here, covering every base. We have twin 2.5-watt power amps, And the Input connections are a 1/4″ phone jack, an XLR and a 1/4″ TRS phone jack with output connectors being a 1/4″ phone jack and a 1/4″ TRS phone jack. The dual high-performance 6. 5″ neodymium speakers handle most sounds and models extremely well.
- Best busking amp on the market.
- Effects on both channels.
- Battery or outlet powered.
- For an amp this size and price, none.
9 Line 6 Spider V 240HC MKII
As mentioned earlier in our run down, Line6 are credited with releasing the first true solid state modeling amplifier, and here we are with one of their most recent iterations, the Line 6 Spider V 240HC MKII. At first glance, you wouldn’t be mistaken for thinking that maybe this is just an amp head like the earlier reviewed Orange CR120H.
On top of being powerful enough to be able to directly control separate speaker cabinets, tucked away inside this tidy assembly is not just all the components needed for great amplification but also the speakers needed to produce the sound!
Simplicity and craftsmanship are on the full display here, with a solid black matte finish and an extremely user-friendly layout. The control knobs have more than one function depending on which control option is selected, and there is a handy LED screen to help guide the way. Push the amp button, and you have control over the drive, bass, mid, treble, and volume.
When the FX button is activated, a color-coded light display over each knob gives you control of over 100 FX options. Want to make a change to one of the inbuilt effects? Just press the edit button. Scratch the surface just a little deeper, and you’ll be presented with options for quick looping, tap tempo, tuning, and onboard drum tracks.
As mentioned earlier, included with this powerful amp head is an inbuilt speaker system. Here we are seeing a full-range, 50-watt stereo speaker system with two 4 inch woofers and two tweeters. Not only assisting with practice or home play, but you can also pre-program FX or loops and be sure that these will have the same tone and feeling once plugged into your favorite cabinet assembly.
The 100 FX models are accompanied by 78 amp, 24 cabinet, and four microphone models. All the inputs and outputs you expect from a top-quality head/amp combo are thrown in as is connectivity with the Line 6 Spider V Remote app. The whole unit weighs in at 28.6 lbs and sits at a size of 10.7″ x 26.9″ x 10.5″.
- Super portable.
- Great value.
- Huge library of models.
- No analog components put off some players.
More Great Amplifier Options
If you haven’t found exactly what you’re looking for in this review, it’s well worth checking out our reviews of the Best Modeling Amps, the Best Portable Guitar Amplifiers, the Best Guitar Amplifiers under 200 Dollars, and the Best Mini Amp currently available.
So, What Are The Best Solid State Amps?
Despite the obvious pros that come with solid-state amps these days, large numbers of guitarists still prefer good old tube amps. Solid state amps had a rocky start with a reputation for underperforming, but that is a thing of the past in our opinion, and we are hoping that this round up has cleared up a few of those lingering doubts over digital solid state amps!
And with the price, tonal consistency, inbuilt modeling and effects, and portability still improving with every new model, we can’t wait to see where the next few years take this tech!
While purchasing something like an amp is a deeply individual choice, let us point you towards our favorites.
At the lighter end of the scale, we just can’t beat the…
The portability mixed with the excellent tone and modeling options make for a great, if slightly small, gigging amp. We have personally used this one in live performance situations, and it outperformed our expectations.
If you want something with a little more oomph, we suggest you grab yourself a…
The combo of amazing useability, great sounding models, styling, and portability had us always wanting more.