6 Best Solid State Amplifiers – Clinical Precision Of Modern Technology


In a world dominated by tube elitism, solid state amplifiers are once again finding their place. We keep seeing more and more models of this type hitting the market and scoring decent results. As this keeps happening, we are given more and more proof that prejudice against this type of technology has no place in our world.

Today we are going to check out some solid state amplifiers available, which are also some of the best guitar amplifiers, period. Afterward, we will tackle the issues and how their image has dramatically changed over time.

Top 6 Solid State Amps

ImageGuitar Amplifier / RatingSummaryCheck Price
+ - Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus

Total of 4.72/5  

One of Roland's incredibly capable and fairly unique solid state designs available.

+ - Roland Blues Cube Hot Roland Blues Cube Hot

Total of 4.80/5  

A blank canvas that offers great base to build your tone upon.

+ - Line 6 Spider V 240HC Line 6 Spider V 240HC

Total of 4.77/5  

Extremely versatile and ultimately consistent head with plenty of performance to give.

+ - Boss Katana Head Boss Katana Head

Total of 4.78/5  

Boss design that brings power and a number of their best effects.

+ - Orange Amplifiers Crush Pro CR120H Orange Amplifiers Crush Pro CR120H

Total of 4.78/5  

Extremely attractive cleans that will surprise even the most conservative guitar players.

+ - Fender Mustang V V.2 HD Fender Mustang V V.2 HD

Total of 4.78/5  

A powerhouse packed with numerous, great quality effects and impressive tone clarity.

Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus

Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus

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Roland's JC-120 Jazz Chorus amplifiers bring the essence of a very odd time in solid state amp history. What we have here is a rather vintage looking combo that looks like something straight out of '80s. However, that's only a facade to a very capable hardware that can single handedly alter the perception of this category. With a mighty 120 Watts of power at your disposal, several built in effects and plenty of controls, this Roland combo is a perfect choice for both studio and stage use. Cleans offered by this unit are some of the best out there, while the dual 60 Watt speakers deliver that genuine stereo Chorus experience. It's truly one of the best out there

Roland Blues Cube Hot

Roland Blues Cube Hot

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When it comes to basic solid state amplifiers, Roland is probably the best brand to turn to. Their Blues Cube Hot offers one of the most boiled down combos you can get. Blues Cube Hot is a classic amp with a single channel, plenty of standard controls and not much more. It is basically a blank canvas that offers a solid base for tone building. You get 30 Watts of power with built in attenuation, making the Blues Cube Hot a great choice for practice use as well. The tone that it delivers is amazing to say the least. The clean channel is reminiscent of Roland's legendary models from the past. As such, it commands respect and praise.

Line 6 Spider V 240HC

Line 6 Spider V 240HC

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Line 6 has made it to the top of solid state/modeling segment thanks to their no-nonsense approach to guitar amplification. Their Spider V 240HC is among the most capable heads of this type. Not only is the tone great, but this thing offers some 240 Watts of power to its user. In other words, you can bring this bad boy to any stage in the world and be set. On top of that, Spider V 240HC also brings that Line 6 pricing, which makes the entire deal so much better. If you were after a capable head that can be used both at home and for gigging, chances are you won't find a much better model than this one.

Boss Katana Head

Boss Katana Head

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Boss, the company that is responsible for some of the best guitar effects in the world, also makes really solid amps. Their Katana series have proven that this giant isn't a one trick pony. Katana head packs 100 Watts of pure power and features a complete suite of effects. As you could imagine, most of these are emulations of their legendary effects pedals. Add the versatile connectivity and you have an amp that is ready for just about anything. Since it is fairly powerful, Katana is a great choice for performing musicians who need a solid workhorse for stage use. All you have to do is find a decent 4x12 speaker cabinet and you are pretty much set to go.

Orange Amplifiers Crush Pro CR120H

Orange Amplifiers Crush Pro CR120H

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Orange Amplifiers' tube heads are what made them popular in the first place. Fortunately for us, their solid state designs aren't bad either. Orange Amplifiers Crush Pro CR120H is one such model that will easily surprise even the biggest Orange Amplifiers fans out there. Where most Orange amps pack a killer dirty channel and a mediocre cleans, Crush Pro CR120H is the other way around. Cleans on this head are out of this world. In addition to 120 Watts of power and generous control interface, this amp just keeps on giving. Whether you need a capable workhorse on stage, or something that will give you the necessary clarity in the studio, you can't really go wrong with Crush Pro CR120H

Fender Mustang V V.2 HD

Fender Mustang V V.2 HD

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Fender amps have had a major impact on the world of music as we know it today. Especially their earlier tube series. However, modern Fender designs are proving to be every bit as good. Fender Mustang V V.2 HD is a head that combines the latest and greatest tech with solid power output. What really makes Mustang series so attractive is the effects suite they bring, and the quality of the same. In a market that is completely saturated with all kinds of modeling designs, Fender has found a sweet spot that offers a decent number of effects without them taking any toll on the sound quality. As such, it's a great choice for both home and stage use.

What Is A Solid State Amp?

Back when electric guitars were first invented, the world was still living in the age of vacuum tubes. Pretty much every piece of electronics we had at that time was using this analog technology to operate. As it turns out, tube models were not only great, but have managed to stick around up until this day. If you are interested in learning more about them, check out our dedicated guide for that category.Moving on with our story. The purpose of vacuum tubes in guitar amplifiers was to boost the signal coming from the guitar to a level that could be pushed through the speakers. That is why you will often hear people talking about instrument level and speaker level signals when discussing amps.

The main issue with this type was that they weren’t all that efficient. A good portion of the power fed into the amplifier was turned into heat. When silicone based chips were first invented, the world has officially entered a new stage of technological development. It wasn’t long before these new benefits reached industry. Instead of using inefficient vacuum tubes to boost the signal, manufacturers started using silicone based transistors. The immediate effect was an exponential spike in efficiency. Heat was reduced to a minimum and guitar amps became cheaper to produce. Transistor based units are what we know now as solid state amplifiers.

Prejudices That You Should Consider Ignoring

Before we go any further, we have to address the elephant in the room. If you were to talk to 100 experienced guitar players, veterans of the industry, most of them would probably tell you that tubes are light years ahead of any other option. This type of thinking is a result of something that happened when this technology was at its infancy. Back in the day when first amps of this type hit the streets, their reception was less than ideal. They lacked substance, sounded way to clinical and sterile, thus turning away most guitar players. As a matter of fact, this issue lasted for quite some time.

The thing is, every new technology has that period where errors are made and corrected. It takes a lot of trial and error to perfect even the smallest new devices, let alone a whole new architecture of amplification. The models of today are a completely different story. Most of the models available to us right now are amazing to say the least. However, despite them getting rid of most of the things that kept them down, guitar players are still prejudiced against this technology. That is a true shame considering just how much potential there is in these amplifiers. Especially today when we are at a point where just about anything is possible.

Benefits That You Should Not Miss Out

To drive the point of our previous segment even further home, let’s take a look at some of the obvious benefits of using transistor based units. Putting things on ‘paper’ like this usually helps with clarity, and that is something we will definitely need in this case. Let’s get started.

Price
When we talked about tube models earlier, we have mentioned their inherent inefficiency. However, this is probably the smallest issue with that typ. The much bigger problem is the price of actually manufacturing one. Not only do vacuum tubes cost a fair bit of money, even to day when automation has completely taken over the manufacturing process, but the circuitry often costs more as well. Some of the best tube amps out there are hand wired, which pushes the already high price even higher. With solid state models, you don’t have that problem.

The manufacturing process of a transistor amplifier is more or less the same as that of any other piece of electronics. We are talking printed PCB boards and mass produced chips. As expected, the price of making is way lower than that of a tube counterpart. What this means in practical terms is that guitar players have the opportunity to buy something that is powerful and efficient at a fraction of the price they would have to pay if they wanted tubes.

Versatility
Versatility has a number of meanings in context of solid state amps. The very first thing that comes to mind is great tone at any volume. You see, with tube amps, you pretty much have to keep the tubes in their sweet spot as every vacuum tube has a well defined power band. If you were to look at a graph of that power band, it would look something like a bell curve with the furthest point being the point of distortion. All of this would be fine if most tube models weren’t in the 100 Watt range. That means that in order to reach that sweet spot, you are already at volume levels that maybe work on stage, but not in a closed quarters environment.

On the other hand, their solid state counterparts don’t suffer from this issue. Transistors don’t have a performance curve like tubes do and they pretty much give you the same tone quality at any volume. Granted, being dependent on that tube curve has its benefits. The other area of versatility is the addition of various effects without increasing the price too much. We are not really talking about modeling amps at this point, but you could count those in as well.

Are Solid State Amps The Same As Modeling Amps?

There are so many misconceptions regarding this simple question. Let’s try and put that to rest. The very short answer is yes. All modeling amps are solid state, but we can’t say the same thing vice versa. The difference between them is in the addition of a sound processing unit. A component similar to those you find in guitar effects processors. In other words, it is a chip that is loaded with various effects, cab emulations and distortions, that gives you loads of versatility.

Generally speaking, modeling amps are better suited for home and studio use. The main reason being that most of the built in effects are not really something you would want to use in a professional capacity. With that said, there are exceptions to this unwritten rule. Few of them are on our list at the beginning of the article. At the end of the day, there is a case to be made for both. However, that is a discussion for another time.

What To Look For When Shopping?

Even though solid state models are much more consistent in their performance, they still come in a variety of flavors. Finding the perfect one for your needs is going to depend on what you need to do with it. Even so, there are some unwritten rules about selecting a solid state amp. The most basic requirement most guitar players are looking for is a good clean channel. Clean channels of solid state amps were criticized in the past, but there are definitely numerous models out there that are too good to ignore.

When you find a model with a good clean channel, you are pretty much set. Since most don’t have a variety of distortions and other effects, it is implied that you have a selection of effects pedals at your disposal to add all the flavor you need. Giving an advice that is more detailed than this is almost impossible without knowing what your specific needs are.

Conclusion

Solid state amplifiers have come a long way from the stuff we saw when this technology first appeared. It is a real shame that the initial reputation still follows this segment, as 99% of the issues have been eliminated. We can only hope that our guide has eliminated at least some of those misconceptions and shown you that solid state field has a lot to offer. The models listed above are by far some of the best models you can get at the moment. We have even included some modeling options in the list just to drive the point home.


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