Top 6 Guitar Amplifiers For Metal – The World Of Face Melting Distortion


Metal may be an acquired taste, but that is generally the type of music where gear is pushed to the extreme. With that said, it is no wonder that there are amplifiers built specifically with metal. If this genre is something you are passionate about, you are in the right place.

Today we are doing a short rundown of guitar amps, very suitable for the topic we are covering, where we will include some true legends as well as some awesome value deals. Afterward, we are going to talk a little about what makes a good metal amp and what to look for in one.

6 Best Amplifiers For Metal

ImageGuitar Amplifier / RatingSummaryCheck Price
+ - EVH 5150III 50W EVH 5150III 50W

Total of 4.88/5   4.88 Stars

The prime source of Eddie Van Halen's pure, legendary brown guitar tone.

+ - Peavey 6505 Peavey 6505

Total of 4.85/5   4.85 Stars

By far one of the most popular and capable metal amps available.

+ - Marshall DSL100H Marshall DSL100H

Total of 4.80/5   4.80 Stars

A neutral choice for those who appreciate a more old school tone.

+ - Bugera Trirec Bugera Trirec

Total of 4.80/5   4.80 Stars

New kid on the block that has proven to be extremely capable.

+ - Peavey 6505 MH Micro Peavey 6505 MH Micro

Total of 4.90/5   4.90 Stars

Smaller version of the legendary 6505 that brings the same amazing tone.

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

Total of 4.65/5   4.65 Stars

One Watt of pure vintage valve tone at a rather affordable price.

EVH 5150III 50W

EVH 5150III 50W

Controls:4.9 Stars
Features:4.8 Stars
Performance:5 Stars
Value:4.8 Stars

If there is one name that has made an impact on the world of high gain guitar sound, it is Eddie Van Halen. Therefore, when a guitar player of his caliber designs a perfect amp according to his needs, we listen. EVH 5150III is an awesome little tube head with vast supplies of gain ready to be used. It is an all tube design that features three separate channels, and just an impressive tone. What really makes the EVH 5150III a really special treat is that classic EVH 'brown tone' that. Gain management is easy, intuitive and really allows you to dial in the type of sound you're looking for. Overall, this amp is about as good as it gets.

Peavey 6505

Peavey 6505

Controls:4.8 Stars
Features:4.7 Stars
Performance:5 Stars
Value:4.9 Stars

Peavey's 6505 easily the most popular choice for metal guitar players around the world. There's several reasons for that. The most obvious one is the copious amount of gain this thing can dish out, which attracts the extreme metal crowd. Pretty much any humbucker you plug into this bad boy will scream with heat. The formula they have used has proven to be just the kind of thing necessary for a good metal sound. Since it is an all tube amp, you can expect to distortion to be organic, full and highly flexible. Peavey's 6505 series of amplifiers are by far one of the best things you can get if metal is your main genre of music. That's a fact.

Marshall DSL100H

Marshall DSL100H

Controls:4.8 Stars
Features:4.6 Stars
Performance:4.9 Stars
Value:4.9 Stars

If we were to go back to the early days of metal, we would see that a large number of guitar players used standard Marshall heads. Something like this Marshall DSL100H is a genuine, old school way to get a proper metal tone. Especially considering that you get three dirty channels, including classic crunch. It is arguable that OD2, where most of the gain is available, is something that's going to be used the most in metal music. Overall, without any additional effects, Marshall DSL100H can get you into quality trash or heavy metal territory without even breaking a sweat. Additionally, since it packs 100 Watts of pure heat, you are looking at a very capable gigging piece of gear.

Bugera Trirec

Bugera Trirec

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

While MESA's Dual Recto is still the hardly attainable dream of many, Bugera has found a way to give us a very similar kind of performance in a much more affordable package. Bugera Trirec is one of the most impressive amplifiers to hit the market in recent years. It completely wild if you consider the power, tone and amount of vacuum tube hardware it brings to the table. High gain, pure tube distortion is easy work, especially if you need a tone that bites. Sure, it is not without its own downsides, but Trirec offers a very unique solution affordable metal tone. Those who are getting ready to upgrade from small practice amps have a really good opportunity with Trirec.

Peavey 6505 MH Micro

Peavey 6505 MH Micro

Controls:4.8 Stars
Features:4.9 Stars
Performance:5 Stars
Value:4.9 Stars

Peavey 6505 MH Micro is special in a number of ways. Usually when a brand decides to develop a smaller version of a popular amplifier, they either limit it's tone in some ways, or do something else to create a hierarchy between the two. Peavey pretty much disregarded that approach, offering an almost identical performance of the full size 6505 in a much smaller, and more importantly, affordable package. The tone is there, as is the headroom when it comes to gain. The only real difference between the standard 6505 and this mini version is the power output. Everything else is more or less the same. Needless to say, Peavey has acquired quite a few new fans with this model.

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

If you need something that is compact, affordable but still feasible for metal, Blackstar's HT series is a perfect choice. More specifically, Blackstar HT-1. This tiny little tube setup can be very deceiving. Yes, it's a 1 Watt amplifier but believe us when we say that its 1 Watt can be very loud and impressive. What makes it so awesome, aside from Blackstar's circuitry, is the fact that you can really push those tube without losing your hearing. Everyone talks about that sweet spot in context of tube amps, and this one's is easily accessible. On top of that, its cleans are out of this world for such a small amp. You really should to give Blackstar's HT-1 a chance.

What Defines A Guitar Amp For Metal?

One of the more common questions people tend to ask is whether there is such a thing as a guitar amp designed for metal. Short answer would be both yes and no. While there are some metrics that make some models better than others, the general consensus is that any option should be capable of delivering the goods. Honestly, this discussion is one that you won’t see the end of any time soon, which is why we won’t even engage in it today.

What we are interested in is what defines if a model is suitable for the dark genre. The very first thing is the amount of gain it has to offer. Distortion is essential for the genre, there’s no doubt about that. Since a lot of things technically pass for distortion, including overdrive, you want to be very careful what kind of dirt you want to use. General rule of thumb is that more gain equals better sound. This is a double edged sword, though. If you add too much gain, you will lose definition. However, with that comment we are already entering the world of tone shaping which is a whole different topic. If there is one thing you should take away from this article, it is that more gain is better. This way you at least have all the potential you could need to find that perfect metal tone for your needs.

Tube Or Solid State?

The discussion between tube and solid state extends well into the world of metal music. The reason for this is that the difference is far less noticeable in this genre. Keep in mind that less noticeable doesn’t equal to non existent. If you look at our list above, you will notice that all of the models we have shown you are tube amplifiers. The main reason why we took the tube route is because these have a very specific flavor of distortion. It’s the type of tone that sounds natural and organic. That isn’t to say that there aren’t any solid state metal amps worth their weight, but we felt that tubes are the way to go. If you would like to check out what solid state segment has to offer, go ahead and visit our guide dedicated to this type.

If we take Peavey’s 6505 head as an example, it isn’t hard to figure out what makes it so attractive to the metal crowd. For starters, its distortion is just impressive. We are talking full saturation with great clarity across the range, and a whole bunch of that ‘oomph’. What gives this amp such a fine color are the tubes Peavey has chosen and the circuitry inside the box. Sure, it might not be as efficient as some solid state models out there, but those small imperfections are exactly what gives it its value.

Why Not Just Use Effects Pedals?

There are undoubtedly some awesome effects pedals on the market. A logical question that comes next is why not just take one of them and slap it onto just about any amplifier? Sure, that works. However it may not work for everyone. Depending on what type of tone you are after, and how adamant you are about details. Most guitar players find out sooner rather than later that a metal pedal just doesn’t have the same type of range as a good model.

However, there is another route you can take. One of the more standardized practices is to hook the pedal up to your amplifier and then use the gain to infuse the distortion effect with enough juice. This is where you can combine the capabilities of both the amp and the pedal in order to get something you can work with. Overall, as good as some distortion pedals are, we are still not at a place where they are as good as a proper tube amp cranked up with gain. That is just the fact of the matter. Pedals are essentially small solid state boxes that are limited in a number of ways. When you put such a basic circuit against a full fledged tube head, it isn’t hard to figure out which one comes on top.

But Aren’t Metal Amps Too Niche?

This is by far one of the most widespread misconceptions regarding amps, and guitars if we want to be completely honest. Just because a model has a good overdrive channel doesn’t mean that it can’t be used for anything else but metal. Most of the models we have listed above are perfectly suitable for a wide range of music. You could play jazz, blues or whatever you like on them without sacrificing anything.

What it really comes down to is your ability to use the amplifier and find different tone settings. Most of the guitar players who complain about amps being too niche are somewhat incapable of finding a good tone setting for different genres of music. We say this without intending to offend anyone. It is the same situation with guitars. A good guitar player can take a mean looking Ibanez guitar that just screams death with its looks, and turn it into a blues machine in a matter of seconds. The bottom line is that getting a high gain model won’t limit your capabilities should you decide to ditch metal music altogether.

How To Find The Tone I Want?

Have you ever been in a situation where you are playing around with amp, but just can’t find that tone you want? There are several thing that could be at fault for that. If you think about it, the music we listen to is what shapes our taste. Chances are that the tone you are after is one that your favorite band used or still uses to this day. The easiest way to solve the entire issue is to look what kind of gear they are running. Maybe it is a very specific amp that just has that unique flavor, or maybe it is a mixture of factors.

If getting a whole new amplifier isn’t an option, especially since some of them cost a small fortune, you can try replicating the exact settings your favorite guitar players use. It won’t give you the exact same tone, but chances are it will put you in the same ball park. Other things that could affect the tone are pickups. We won’t go into passive versus active or similar, but we will address the issue of single coils. Unfortunately for us, single coil pickups are still not suitable enough for high gain distortion. If you insist on using something like a Stratocaster, be aware of its limitations because there are some when it comes to metal.

Things To Consider When Shopping For One

Everyone’s tastes is different and we all have our idea of what makes a good tone. Even so, there are something you should keep in mind when choosing an amp for this type of music. First rule of thumb is that more gain equals more versatility. You simply need gain if you want that distortion not to sound hollow. The other thing are the controls. Having a good EQ is a must have, but you can go much further than that. Even though you might not be familiar with things like presence or similar knobs that come on some of the models, having more control can’t be a bad thing.

Lastly, get the very best your money can buy. Amps are not something you buy every day and it has nothing to do with your finances. It takes time to figure them out, and find that perfect setting. It’s better to start on something versatile than it is to upgrade later.

Conclusion

Guitar amps designed for metal have been in the center of many controversies. We hope that our guide has helped you eliminate at least some of them. Models shown above are by far some of the best amps you can get for metal music. They all have their unique vibe, but they are also proven concepts with very good track records. That is what matter the most at the end of the day. Your journey to finding a perfect tone might end up being a long one, but nothing is as good as the feeling you have when you do.


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