Top 6 Combo Amps – Compact And Versatile Performance


Combo amplifiers were an instant hit ever since they first appeared on the market. Conceived out of necessity, this type of amplifier has proven to be a very versatile and user friendly way to get some serious sound out of your guitar.

Today we’re going to check out some of the best amplifiers on the market which come in this format. After we do a short overview of our picks, we will go into a few often asked questions about this type of amps and how they can help you become a better guitar player. Without further ado, lets get to it.

6 Best Combo Amps That You Should Consider

ImageGuitar Amplifier / RatingSummaryCheck Price
+ - Fender '65 Princeton Reverb Fender '65 Princeton Reverb

Total of 4.67/5   4.67 Stars

Revamp of one of the most epic tube combo amps ever made.

+ - Fender Hot Rod DeVille 212 III Fender Hot Rod DeVille 212 III

Total of 4.78/5   4.78 Stars

Impressive show of what vintage tubes can do in a modern configuration.

+ - Vox Custom AC15C2 Vox Custom AC15C2

Total of 4.70/5   4.70 Stars

Modern iteration of an legendary amplifier that impacted music in many ways.

+ - Vox AC4 Classic Limited Edition Vox AC4 Classic Limited Edition

Total of 4.80/5   4.80 Stars

One of the smallest packages that delivers a truly genuine Vox sound.

+ - Orange Amplifiers Crush35RT Orange Amplifiers Crush35RT

Total of 4.70/5   4.70 Stars

Typical Orange power, grind and finesse delivered in a very compact package.

+ - Blackstar HT Series HT-1 Blackstar HT Series HT-1

Total of 4.65/5   4.65 Stars

A tiny, extremely capable tube amplifier that comes at a bargain price.

Fender '65 Princeton Reverb

Fender '65 Princeton Reverb

Controls:4.5 Stars
Features:4.7 Stars
Performance:4.9 Stars
Value:4.6 Stars

Fender's amplifier are nowhere near as popular as their guitars. With that said, this brand is known for some of the most influential and sonically attractive guitar amps ever made. One of them is the Fender '65 Princeton Reverb. This model first appeared some 50 years ago, and was almost instantly recognized as a very capable unit. Fender has decided to do a reissue, which has caused a lot of hype in the community. On the release date, all of the expectations were confirmed as met. Not too long after, users have found numerous ways to boost the performance even further. Ultimately, Fender '65 Princeton Reverb is a time capsule that has brought the best of vintage tube tone back.

Fender Hot Rod DeVille 212 III

Fender Hot Rod DeVille 212 III

Controls:4.7 Stars
Features:4.8 Stars
Performance:4.9 Stars
Value:4.7 Stars

Hot Rod DeVille 212 III is by far one of the most impressive combo amps we have today. On paper, it doesn't give that impression but it takes only a couple minutes of hands on experience to confirm all the hype. What Fender has essentially done with this box is revamp one of the most authentic vintage tube tones we know today. It's a simple package, with two channels and a built in spring reverb. However, the quality of each of these features is on a whole different level. On top of that, you get 60 Watts of purest tube power, which is plenty enough for most applications. It's not hard to see why this amp is so loved today.

Vox Custom AC15C2

Vox Custom AC15C2

Controls:4.6 Stars
Features:4.7 Stars
Performance:4.8 Stars
Value:4.7 Stars

Vox amplifiers are credited with impacting rock music in a very profound way. Most of that can be attributed to their AC series of combos. While AC30 is definitely the more popular in the series, AC15 is not too far behind. Vox has recently decided to rework the AC lineup, offering some custom models. AC15C2 is one example and it's beyond impressive. The most important feature you can count on is that classic, vintage Vox tube tone. The best thing is that with the revamp of these series, you no longer have to put aside a small fortune in order to have access to that legendary tone. It’s fair to say that AC15C2 is among the best amps currently available.

Vox AC4 Classic Limited Edition

Vox AC4 Classic Limited Edition

Controls:4.7 Stars
Features:4.6 Stars
Performance:5 Stars
Value:4.9 Stars

Mini tube amplifiers are all the rage at the moment. Even though this trend didn't become huge overnight, most of the larger brands were ready as soon as the whole thing started. Vox was of course among the first. There are numerous mini tube amps in Vox's lineup, but AC4 Classic Limited Edition had got to be among the most interesting ones. With its humble 4 Watts of power, this tiny amp is a perfect choice for practicing and recording. The reason being that AC4 brings the essence of that epic Vox vintage tube tone. You no longer have to spend a fortune to get it, and it comes in a compact package. It doesn't get much better than this.

Orange Amplifiers Crush35RT

Orange Amplifiers Crush35RT

Controls:4.7 Stars
Features:4.6 Stars
Performance:4.7 Stars
Value:4.8 Stars

Orange Amplifiers is among the amplifier brands which are actually known for making bulletproof combo models. Their Crush 35RT belongs to the more affordable segment of their lineup, but is every bit as incredible as their other models. What makes it so interesting is the amount of pure tonal perfection it brings for the money. You are looking at a solid state build with an extremely refined cleans and those classic Orange dirty tones. This is a type of combo amp that goes straight to the point. It doesn't try to bribe you with a plethora of effects and emulations. No, this thing is all about raw performance, the old school way. As such, it represents a perfect practice rig.

Blackstar HT Series HT-1

Blackstar HT Series HT-1

Controls:4.3 Stars
Features:4.4 Stars
Performance:5 Stars
Value:4.9 Stars

Blackstar's HT-1 is nothing short of a small wonder. It was one of the first small, limited power tube combos, but also one of the best. Sure, it offers only 1 Watt of power, but that single Watt sounds so much better when it is pushed through the tubes that Blackstar has selected. It is not really something you would want to use on a stage, but HT-1 has proven to be one of the best things you can have by your side when recording guitars in a studio where budget is an issue. For that application, as well as practice, Blackstar HT-1 packs more than enough volume. If you want proper tube tone on a budget, this is it.

What Is A Combo Amplifier?

Combo, or combination amplifiers are one of the two standardized types of guitar amps in use today. They are called like that because they combine the amplifier and a speaker complement in a single cabinet. Combination amps are generally much more present in the more affordable segments of the market, but are also known to saturate the high end territory as well. As always, there are pros and cons which can be limiting at times. For the most part, you won’t see them being used on world class stages as often as one would think.

Today we are going to talk about these amps and find out what they have to offer. Combination amplifiers can use tubes or solid state technology. If you’re interested in solid state amplifiers, check out our dedicated guide. Combos can also be big or small, powerful or underpowered. The sheer popularity of this type of amp has led to a very large number of models hitting the market in past several decades. Let’s break all of the important things into specific categories and address each one in particular.

Benefits That Will Make You Feel Good

As we have mentioned before, there are two standardized types of guitar amplifiers today. You have your combos and then there are stacks. A stack is a configuration that includes an amp head and a standalone speaker cabinet. Two issues become immediately apparent with this setup. First, you have to buy the head and then spend a similar amount of money on the speaker cabinet. That is not the case with combos. Everything you need is delivered in a single package that is ready to go as soon as you take delivery of it.

The second thing is that a stack isn’t really the most mobile thing in the world. If we assume that you have studio practice with your band every couple of days, with a gig scheduled every other weekend, it becomes painfully apparent just how hard it can be to move a stack from place to place. This is where combos really come to shine. Since everything is in a single cabinet, it is much easier to transport from point A to point B. This stands true even if we are talking about large, cumbersome combos which definitely exist out there.

Integration Leads To Efficiency

One of the most appealing things about head and cabinet setups is the added versatility. In other words, you get to choose what kind of amp and speaker cab you want to use. After all, different amps offer different subtle differences in tone and the same can be said about speaker cabs. All of this freedom can be a double edged sword. Just as a specific speaker cab can improve the performance and sound of an amp, it can also ruin it. With these models, you are getting a complement of speakers that was specifically matched to that amplifier. Someone, somewhere spent a lot of time and effort into finding the best match that would deliver the kind of performance they wanted the amp to offer.

That isn’t to say that you are always limited to the speakers your amp comes with. Modding is a well known practice that is usually done by those who are in search of perfection. The process of swapping speakers is much harder than simply unplugging a speaker cab and using a different one, but it is absolutely possible. For example, with classic Vox models such as the AC30 and others, changing the speaker is almost always taking away from the tone. Just keep in mind that this amp is one of the most legendary guitar amplifiers ever made.

Are They Viable For Stage Use?

The short answer to this question is a strong yes. Combination models are used on stages every day, albeit not as often as stacks. From a purely practical point of view, stacks are a much better solution for stages where you need an abundance of power. The thing is, some guitar players are very specific with the type of tone they want. Sometimes their ideal tone is only possible if they use a specific unit. The main limitation of using such amp on stage can be divided into two specific issues. First one is the fact that they are often limited in power compared to amp heads. Even some of the top models we have today will have only 60 Watts of power to offer whereas your average amp head packs 100 Watts.

The other issue is the question of connectivity. In order to have an amplifier be useful on a large stage, you have to have a way to get more speakers into the equation. There are combo amps that have line outs for standalone speaker cabinets, but a decent number of them don’t. If you go with an option that belongs to the latter category, there is very little you can do to make it stage worthy.

How To Choose One That Will Get The Job Done For You

One of the best things is the fact that they come in a variety of shapes, flavors and most importantly, price ranges. You can find a whole lot of awesome little combos that will cost you a hundred bucks at most, but good luck finding an amp head for the same amount of money. This is one of the largest reasons why these units are so popular today.

Choosing the right one for your needs depends on a number of things. Are you looking for something that’s going to be used exclusively for home practice? Or are you in the market for a gigging workhorse that will be used in a recording studio when you’re not touring? Your choice of amplifiers will mostly depend on how you answer these questions.

The main things you need to remember are the upgrade paths. In other words, you have to ask yourself whether or not you want the ability to expand the speaker complement beyond what comes in the amp itself. This feature alone doesn’t really impact the price that much, but can be the difference between something you can use and something you will regret down the road. Additionally, try to find an amp that sounds good to you. We say this because you won’t be able to change that too much after the fact, without performing some pretty intrusive mods.

Why Are Some Combos Better Than Amp Heads From The Same Series?

This is a phenomenon you will see sometimes with specific brands and models of amplifiers. It is not all that unusual for a brand to release a model in both a combo form and a head amp form. The main reason why some are better than heads from the same series has a lot to do with the selection of speakers. Once you reach a certain level of tone building, you will find that speakers add a very subtle yet noticeable coloration to the sound of an amplifier. When you go and get yourself a combo, especially a higher end one, you are most often getting the best set of speakers for that specific amp.

High end models and brands who produce them are well aware of what kind of an impact a speaker can have on the performance and sound. They will spend generous amounts of time, effort and funds in order to find the best possible combination. Can you achieve the same results with heads? Sure, but it takes experimentation which often leads to higher expenses. Just how important the choice of speakers can be for a your amp can be seen in specific models. There are epic models out there which lose most of their flavor the moment you swap out the speaker for something different. As odd as it sounds, that is sometimes the case.

Conclusion

Combo amplifiers have their place in this world. Despite amp heads being all the rage these days, it is them that are taking care of most of the community. You will see them on and off stage, in all genres of music imaginable. The models we have shown you today are by far some of the best you can get at the moment. We looked for units that have proven their worth numerous times and are reliable in nature. No matter which one of these you go with, chances are you will be more than satisfied with your choice.


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