The best combo amps provide an ideal balance of good tone, features and convenience. These amps have been popular for decades, and are often the preferred choice for guitarists.
It is not hard to understand why combo amps are so beloved. They are usually less expensive and far more convenient than having a head and cabinet speaker. Combos are easier to transport, store, and care for and can also provide a stellar tone.
There are plenty of combo amps out there, ranging from vintage models to more modern ones. In this KillerGuitarRigs Review, we’ve picked 7 of the best combo amps that deliver a great combination of tone and features.
While reviewing these amps, we primarily looked at build quality, features, and naturally, tone. So, if you’re in the market for a good combo amp that delivers, keep on reading.
Features: 12" Celestion G12V-70 speaker, Bassman and Deluxe Reverb circuits, 2 Button footswitch
Benefits: Huge tonal variety, Fantastic touch sensitivity, Beautiful organic overdrive
|Click For Best Price|
Features: 5 Built in amp models, Cab emulated outputs, Power attenuation
Benefits: Massive aftermarket amp/effects support, Easy stereo setup, Enormous power
|Click For Best Price|
Features: Battery powered, Built in FX, Stereo sound
Benefits: Ultra portable, fantastic aesthetics, Great sound quality
|Click For Best Price|
- Best Combo Amps: Our Top 3
- Best Combo Amps: Individual Reviews
- How to Choose the Best Combo Amp For You
- Final Thoughts On The Best Combo Amps
Best Combo Amps: Our Top 3
The BOSS Katana Artist MkII is our Top Choice. This is the flagship amp from the popular Katana series and delivers flexibility and convenience by offering the user five distinct amp voicings, with fantastic tone and response.
The Yamaha THR5 is our Best Budget Choice. This is a portable combo acoustic guitar amp that is battery-powered and offers tonal flexibility with five simulations of dynamic and classic tube condenser mics, as well as effects, and USB connectivity for practicing with tracks.
Last but certainly not least, the Fender ’68 Custom Deluxe Reverb is our Editors Choice for this list. This is a 2-channel tube combo amp that offers a vintage Fender tone while providing special and detailed features. An ideal choice for discerning guitarists that are willing to pay for quality.
Best Combo Amps: Individual Reviews
Great tone and convenience with BOSS versatility.
This is the flagship model of BOSS' popular Katana line of amps. You get plenty of power and great tone with the versatility and convenience that the Katana amps are known for, as well as intuitive operation.
The BOSS Katana Artist MkII delivers when it comes to flexibility and convenience by offering the user five distinct amp voicings. From Crunch, Clean, Lead, and Brown voicings for your electric guitar, to the Acoustic voicing for your acoustic guitar, this amp has got you covered.
We loved the punchy tone we got on the Crunch voicing, perfect for power chords and heavy riffs. With the use of the Gain knob, we were able to control how much distortion we got on this voicing, and we loved everything from the overdriven warm tones to the more aggressive saturation it gave us.
The Brown and Lead voicings were also fantastic, giving us different flavors of distortion. We were able to easily shape our sound just the way we wanted, as this Katana amp came with a 3-band EQ. We particularly liked how the Brown voicing sounded with the mids scooped – perfect for a heavy metal tone.
The clean voicing really sounded great on its own, but with some delay and reverb from the built in FX section really made it sparkle.
The included Presence, Master, and Solo controls were also great for further sculpting our tone, and the 3-way Contour switch was a welcome tool for enhancing our midrange.
The number of features, effects, voicings, and tonal sculpting possibilities were just right on this amp. It was intuitive, and easy to use, but at the same time, it was feature rich, and just packed with different functions to keep things interesting.
Being a modeling amp from possibly the most popular modeling amp series on the planet, the aftermarket support for this thing is massive, and there are literally tens of thousands of both official and user made amp models that can be downloaded and easily patched over using the Tone Studio companion software. We got some of our best sounds this way, and we found it just as easy to use as the budget Katana 50.
Verdict: The BOSS Katana Artist MkII delivers three selectable options for wattage (100, 50, or 0.5 Watts) as well as five distinct amp voicings. Equipped with a variety of Boss effects and a series of great features, this cleverly designed amp offers great tone, ease of use, and convenience.
Ultimate portability and fantastic styling.
The THR5 is the perfect practice amp, as it delivers great portability while being a practical tools that delivers great tone and sound for its size. Packed with useful features and the ability to tailor your tone, this amp is a fantastic choice for quality practice.
The Yamaha THR5 is a portable combo guitar amp that comes with the convenience of being battery-powered. It allows you to have tonal flexibility as it offers five simulations of dynamic and classic tube condenser mics, as well as effects, and USB connectivity for practicing with tracks.
This amp gave us a dynamic and balanced sound via the dual 3.15″ speaker. We started playing through all five amp simulations, and really appreciated how versatile this amp was. We played everything from blues riffs and jazz comping, through to hard rock and metal, and the THR5 sounded great for all genres we tried.
It was super crisp and really detailed with the clean voice selected. With the tone rolled back to about 75%, we found it to be super warm, and great for jazz and blues. In the crunch mode, we got some really nice mild overdrive, and when shifted up to lead, the saturation kicked up an additional notch.
The Brit Hi gave an almost Marshall Plexi type tone, which was borderline hilarious to hear coming from a tiny little modeler. Modern was really the heaviest of all the voicings, and gave us some guttural chug, that once again, we didn’t really expect from something so small.
With two knobs that provide onboard effects (compression, chorus, delay, and reverb) we got intuitive operation and great flexibility in our acoustic tone. The included aux 1/8″ input was also a welcome feature, and we used to plug in our iPad and play with some tracks.
Even though we felt that this unit offers nice versatility, you have the option of using Yamaha’s THR Editor software to fine-tune your sound with even greater precision. Additionally, the THR5 comes with a complimentary copy of Cubase AI, a fantastic DAW to either complement the one you already have or to get you started with recording your own music.
If you’re leaning towards the Yamaha THR5, you might want to check out our full review, here.
Verdict: The Yamaha THR5 is a versatile and portable combo guitar amp with five amp voicings. With great build quality and a nice tone for a battery-operated amp, you also get onboard effects and a tuner. In short, a fantastic and affordable amp with great flexibility and powerful editing capabilities for your tone.
Glorious Fender tone from a legendary amp.
This amp delivers the highly sought-after Fender tone from the late sixties. However, it ups the ante as this historical tribute amp reduces the negative feedback from the original, while still retaining its ability to overdrive faster with increased touch sensitivity.
The Fender ’68 Custom Deluxe Reverb is a 2-channel tube combo amp that offers vintage Fender tone while providing special and detailed features such as hand-wired tube sockets, and custom-made Schumacher transformers.
. We loved how warm and open the sound was in the vintage channel with the gain turned down low. It was full with beautiful highs, full mids, and powerful lows. We also really liked how open and balanced the cleans of this amp were.
Here we also liked how natural the included reverb effect was. It had a shimmering quality that gave our open and inverted voicings a nice openness.
The custom channel actually came with a modified Bassman tone circuit and gave us fantastic tonal versatility, especially with pedals. We loved how the ’68 Custom Deluxe Reverb amp sounded with several of our pedals. It sounded great with a dry signal, and we found that i handled pedals like a champ, too.
The 12″ Celestion G12V-70 speaker served up a well balanced frequency response with tight, punchy lows, warm and smooth mids, and crisp highs. It gave this ‘68 Deluxe Reverb a dynamic edge that really helped it to cut through a mix.
Verdict: The Fender ’68 Custom Deluxe Reverb offers a fantastic tone and feel on two channels. With 22 watts of power, this is a great choice for professionals that have a great tone as their main priority. In conclusion, a historical tribute amp for dedicated professionals that want quality and stellar tone and feel from a combo tube amp.
Iconic British tone and true vintage style.
This amp offers guitarists a legendary British Vox tone on a 15-watt combo configuration. With a great balance between sound and convenience, the AC15C1 offers enough volume for live gigs while still only weighing a manageable 48.5 lbs, a great feature for a good-sounding tube amp.
The Vox AC15 amp is a British classic, and favorite of hard rock act BRKN LOVE. It’s essentially a smaller version of the iconic Vox AC30 amp, and comes with an EL84-driven power amp as well as the revered Top Boost preamp. Sturdy and well-built, the first thing we loved about this amp is how well-suited it was for live work: rugged, easy to carry, and with a proven tone.
With this amp, we got a well balanced tone that was very musical, responsive and nuanced. To test out the Top Boost section, we played around with the Bass and Treble knob and loved the sound we got at noon and 2 pm, respectively.
We loved the high-end detail that this section added to our guitar, especially for funky rhythms on position four, and country style fingerstyle lines on position one. Essentially, the top boost section was a built-in treble boost circuit, something that has been commonplace in many of the high end Vox amps for decades.
We also loved the inclusion of the Celestion 25-watt Greenback speaker as it made some of the harsher frequencies that are often present on the AC30 a bit more mellow. This was also really apparent when we ran a pedalboard through the AC15..
Distortion pedals such as the Electro Harmonix Big Muff Pi and Ibanez Tube Screamer sounded great, with stellar tone and good response. The fact that this famously clean amp stood up so well to overdrive and fuzz was a great thing.
As good as it is, this amp did fall a bit short on controls that allow you to have greater control over your tone..
Verdict: The Vox AC15 offers good sound and is a practical amp for working guitarists. With a British, all-tube tone and durable enclosure, this amp is a good choice for anyone looking for a reliable amp that looks and sounds great.
A stylish amp that delivers good tone.
The HT-5R is among Blackstar's most popular amps as it provides quality tone in a convenient size. With features like power attenuation and emulated output, this amp comes in a two-channel design, and is a good choice for guitarists who prefer tube tone on a portable model.
The Blackstar HT-5R comes in a 1 x 12″ configuration and weighs in at just 27.33 lbs. With a 12AX7 preamp tube and a 12BH7 power tube, this amp offers a true tube tone for your playing needs.
With just three groups of knobs labeled Clean, Overdrive, and OD Equalization, (plus a dedicated reverb knob) we were able to dial our desired tones quickly and intuitively. In the clean channel, we had a balanced tone that was open and airy, while overdriven and distorted tones had a nice gritty quality to them, perfect for rock and blues.
One of our favorite features on the HT-5R was the built in attenuator. Here we were able to take our wattage down from 5 watts to just 0.5 watts.. Being able to ramp down the power in this way made sure we were able to get the full saturated tone at bedroom levels.
In all honesty, we really liked the sound we got at 0.5 watts, especially with a healthy dose of gain. We felt that the HT-5R was able to retain clarity with a balanced sound, even at low volume.
Unusually for a tube amp, it came with an MP3/line-in for plugging in a device to play with backing tracks.
Verdict: The Blackstar HT-5R is a good amp that delivers great flexibility while providing a good tube tone. Well built and with intuitive operation, this amp excels in convenience in great part thanks to its power reduction circuit that gives you either 5 or 0.5 watts, so you can have flexibility at your practice sessions.
All-tube design and tone in a portable size.
Thanks to its affordable price point, small size, and great tone, the Pro Jr IV is one of the best selling amps in the Fender lineup. This is the fourth version of this beloved amp, which excels in build quality while providing the guitarist with a true Fender tone and feel.
The Fender Pro Junior IV has been a popular amp among guitarists looking for a practical option. Simple and intuitive to use, it boasts a 2-knob control set and features a 10-inch Jensen speaker. Built with a durable lacquered cabinet, this amp also looks the part, with a ’50s-era grille cloth that gives this combo amp a vintage touch.
It gave us a fantastic clean tone with tons of that classic Fender chime, especially while playing open chords. The Pro Junior IV gave us that beloved Fender headroom that this brand is so famous for, and that sounded fabulous.
Once we got to about 6, the unmistakable warm tone of the 12AX7 preamp tubes in combination with the two EL84 power tubes came to life.
The Fender Pro Junior IV also paired well with pedals. We tried it with several of our distortion pedals, as well as some modulation and spaced based effects, and got great results. We particularly liked the added grit that we got from the volume knob when combined with our distortion pedals.
This amp is also quite portable and weighs just 22.85 lbs. However, this amp is too small for most live applications and does not offer many options when it comes to dialing your tone, as it only comes with two knobs.
Verdict: The Fender Pro Junior IV delivers 15 watts of all tube tone that can be used for a variety of situations, from smaller gigs to miked up setups in bigger venues. With a durable and simple overall design, this is an amp that can be used by guitarists of all levels, as it delivers good sound and fantastic response. If you’d like to learn even more about the Fender Pro Jr IV, we covered it at length in this full length review.
A simple yet powerful and convenient amp.
Marshall's MG series of amps offers a great blend of features and convenience and has become popular among gigging guitarists that want British tone with flexibility. With 30 watts of power, the MG30GFX is a good option for live work as well as practicing.
The Marshall MG30GFX comes in a four-voice configuration and offers an uncomplicated approach to getting a variety of quality tones while adding useful features such as Speaker-emulated Line/Headphone Out and onboard effects.
We started our tests on the Clean voice/channel, where we got an open sound that was perfect for funky rhythm work, as well as rock and pop comping on open chords. We got rounder and more ambient sounds once we added a bit of reverb and chorus via the dedicated reverb knob and effects knobs respectively.
We then moved on to try the OD1, and OD2 voicings. Both of these gave us nice overdrive, which we were able to fine-tune via the three-band EQ in conjunction with the gain knob. OD1 was a bit warmer while OD2 gave us a slightly more aggressive tone. Both of these channels were good for soft rock, blues, country, and any other genre that uses overdrive heavily.
One of our favorite features on the Marshall MG30GFX was the preset channel modes, which allowed us to easily store and recall our settings. Additionally, this amp also took pedals well and paired nicely with several of our distortion, modulation and time-based effects.
Although this amp sounded good, we did wish it had the response of a more dynamic tube amp.
Verdict: The Marshall MG30GFX is a good combo amp that can deliver nice results for live work as well as practice. It adds versatility and flexibility thanks to its four distinct voices/channels while providing an authentic Marshall tone on an amp that is also quite durable.
How to Choose the Best Combo Amp For You
Choosing the best combo amplifier can be an exciting endavor. It is important to determine what you will be using the amp for, and what you expect to get from it. Below we share a few considerations to take into account.
This may sound basic or obvious to some, but do you really know what you need the amp for? First, make sure that the amps you are considering fit your playing style and the genres you play. Second, take into account where you will be performing. Are you looking for a practice amp, for gigging at your local bar, or something to record with? Truly knowing your needs will help narrow down your choices.
Combo amps come in various power ratings, typically measured in watts, but how loud is an amp at any given wattage? Higher-wattage amps are louder, and are suitable for larger venues and band performances, while lower-wattage amps are ideal for practice or small gigs. Play close attention to the wattage of the amp you are considering, as this is a vital aspect.
Tube vs. Solid-State vs. Modeling
Tubes vs solid state is the debate that will never die. Combo amps can be either tube, solid-state, or employ modeling technology. Tube amps are known for providing a warm, dynamic tone but are more expensive and require maintenance. Solid-state amps are generally more affordable and can be more reliable, but generally lack some of the organic characteristics found in tube amps. Modeling amps emulate the sound of various amplifiers and effects, offering a wide range of tonal options, but may not have the warmth of tube amps.
Features and Controls
Consider the available features and controls on the amp. For instance, how important is it to you to have onboard effects such as reverb, delay, chorus, or overdrive? Also, does the amp you are considering take pedals well?
Set a budget based on your financial reality. Combo amps come in a wide range of prices, so determine how much you’re willing to invest and prioritize features accordingly.
Final Thoughts On The Best Combo Amps
Combo amps come in different sizes, with various features, and can vary greatly in tone and performance. As usual, it is imperative that you try a few models and see what you connect with.
In this guide, we’ve listed seven of the best models on the market. We are confident that at least one will be perfect for you and your needs. But first, it is vital to understand what you need the amp for and shop accordingly
The BOSS Katana Artist MkII is our Top Choice. This is the flagship amp from the famous Katana series and offers flexibility and convenience, with excellent tone and superior response.
The Yamaha THR5 is our Best Budget Choice. A portable combo amp for acoustic guitar, this battery-powered model offers tonal flexibility with five simulations of dynamic and classic tube condenser mics, as well as other useful features.
Finally, the Fender ’68 Custom Deluxe Reverb is our Editors Choice for this list. Here you get a vintage Fender tone with excellent response. An excellent option for discerning guitarists that are ready to pay for quality.