Keith Richards of Rolling Stones fame put it best: “If you don’t know the blues, there’s no point in picking up the guitar and playing rock and roll or any other form of popular music.” While the guitar has carved out an impressive legacy across every musical genre; it seems as though the guitar was tailor-made to play the blues.

You’ll be hard-pressed to think of a musical style that’s as expressive, emotional, or evocative as the blues. While some of the finest blues guitarists of all time had to rely on hand me down instruments, or guitars they built themselves, today, there are tons of amazing guitars and amps that are perfect for playing the blues.

But, with so many great options on the market, how can you be sure you’re getting the best blues amp for your playing? Today, we’ll dive into what makes a great blues amp, and take a closer look at some of the best blues amps that are on the market today?

What is the Best Blues Amp?

What exactly is a blues amp, and what does it do?

A blues amp can be any guitar amp; the only real prerequisite is that it sounds good when you’re playing the blues. Just like amps for jazz or amps for heavy metal, anything goes, provided it sounds good and delivers the features you need to let your guitar playing shine.

The purpose of a guitar amp is to amplify your playing so that you, and your audience can hear it in all its glory. While there are several types of amps, the premise behind each of them is similar.

Guitar amps consist of a few basic components: a preamp, a power amp, and a speaker. When you’re plugged into an amp, the signal from your guitar is transmitted into the amplifier through an instrument cable or wireless receiver.

First, that signal enters the preamp of the amplifier. This section of the amp is largely responsible for how your guitar is going to sound through the amp. From there, the signal runs into the power amp section of the amp, which as you’d imagine, is responsible for amplifying that signal. From there, it travels through your speaker for you and your audience to hear.

Now that you have a working understanding of how amplifiers work let’s take a look at what makes a great blues amp.

What makes a great blues amp?

While you can use any amp to play the blues, some amps are much more capable than others. Whether you decide on one of the incredible amps we’ll be covering in just a moment, or you go with an amp that isn’t part of our list, you’ll want to make sure that any amp you’re considering checks all four of the boxes below.

  1. Warm and rich tone
  2. Enough power for the way you play
  3. Great sounding reverb
  4. A second channel or switchable boost

Warm and rich tone

Hands down, the most crucial factor to consider is the tone of the amp. To achieve a beautiful blues tone, you’ll want an amp that offers a warm and rich tone. This usually means you’ll be in the market for a tube amplifier.

While there are several types of guitar amps on the market, no other amp is as capable of dishing up expressive and evocative tones quite like the tried and true tube amp. Tube amps are powered by a series of vacuum tubes, and those tubes are responsible for the tone of the amp.

Compared to other amp types, tube amps are revered for their expressive and lively tone, which has been a characteristic of blues guitar for as long as the amplifier has existed.

Some may say that a great guitar tone starts in your hands, and while that’s true, a poor quality amp isn’t going to give your playing the sound it deserves. Sure, some players can conjure up a great blues tone using a solid-state amp, but most bluesmen rely on the warm and expressive tone of a tube amp to deliver their sound.

Enough power for the way you play

This consideration will be different for every player. Are you a solo guitarist, or do you play in a band? Are you looking for an amp for your practice room, or do you plan on using your new amp to play gigs? If you play gigs, how big is the largest room you’ll be playing in?

Depending on how you answer these questions, you’ll have a better idea of the power you need in an amp.

Guitarists who play in a band, especially those who play in medium or high capacity venues will need an amp that delivers enough power to be heard in the mix. Even solo performers will need an amp that delivers enough power to fill the type of venues they usually play in.

Of course, if you’re just looking for an amp to practice with at home, how much power the amp has will be less of a concern.

An amp’s power is measured in watts. But, not all watts are created equally. Tube watts are considerably louder than solid state watts, so you’ll need to factor in that difference when you’re evaluating different amps.

For example, a five-watt tube amp will have the power you need for small gigs, even if you’re playing with a full band. Meanwhile, a five-watt solid-state amp is never going to be large enough to gig with.

Most blues players look for an amp that delivers somewhere in the realm of 15-40 watts if they’re looking for an amp that can handle small and mid-sized gigs. Or, if it’s a solid state amp, somewhere around 50-100 watts would be more in line with the power you need.

If you play in larger venues, or if you like to play loud, you may want to consider an amp in the 50-75 range for tube or 150-200 range for solid state.

Great sounding reverb

When it comes to the blues, you don’t need a whole bunch of bells and whistles to conjure up the perfect tone. All it takes is your guitar and an amp. But, one effect, in particular, can add a great deal of depth and feel to your music, and that effect is reverb.

Reverb has been a staple dating back to the first guitar amps, and most amps feature built-in reverb. But, just because an amp has reverb doesn’t necessarily mean the reverb is any good.

Thankfully, many of the best amp manufacturers on the market are known for producing great reverb units. In particular, the classic spring reverb found in all Fender’s tube amps is one of the best in the business.

While spring and plate style reverbs tend to lend themselves to blues music the best, even digital reverbs will do the trick if they’re well made. If you’re in the market for a tube amp, it’s probably best to opt for an amp that has spring or plate reverb.

Or, if the amp you’re leaning towards has digital reverb, that’s fine, too. If you’re dealing with digital reverb, it can be helpful to find an amp that provides more precise control over the effect than just a simple level knob. With most digital reverbs, a little bit of tinkering is required before you find the sweet spot.

A second channel or switchable boost

A final consideration to make is whether or not the amp features a second channel or a boost function.

Amps with two or more channels provide an added level of versatility, and they can be especially useful for solos, or when you’re playing other styles of music beyond blues. Many blues guitarists rely on amps with a single channel, and they use their guitar’s volume knob to cut or boost their volume and tone as necessary.

While this method is certainly fine, and it’s served many of the greatest blues guitarists of all time quite well, having an extra channel is still a welcomed addition to your amp, especially if you like to play other styles as well.

While another channel is preferable, a boost function can be nearly as useful instead of a dedicated second channel. Instead of a second channel with an independent set of controls, boost provides players with more volume and gain for their solos or other sections of the song where it’s important that the guitar stands out.

Some amps feature both, and that’s great, as well. Any of these additional features will increase your amps versatility and provide you with a greater tonal toolbox to pull from, whether you’re playing the blues, rock, or any other style.

Amps for Blues Reviews – Our Top 5 Recommendations

Fender Blues Deluxe

Best Overall

What Makes It Special?

Often imitated, the Fender Blues Deluxe packs 40 watts of all-tube tone along with Fender’s world-famous spring reverb. A newly redesigned Eminence speaker delivers enhanced midrange, ensuring that you’ll cut through even the densest mixes.

  • 40w of all tube power
  • Fender spring reverb
  • Two channels
  • Effects loop

The Fender Blues Deluxe is simply the amp for blues guitarists. For decades, bluesmen across the world have relied on the classic Blues Deluxe to deliver their signature tones. This amp features 40 watts which are delivered through a newly redesigned Eminence speaker, which provides more midrange response than past Blues Deluxe models.

This amp has two channels, clean and drive. A bright switch allows you to add additional color to your tone. Fender’s classic spring reverb is built in, and it sounds as sweet as ever. There’s also an effects loop, so pedal users will be able to run whichever pedals they please for optimal tone.

The latest Blues Deluxe is appointed in style as well. A tweed exterior reminiscent of the original Fender amps covers the entire amp, the controls are mounted to a highly polished chrome panel, and the amp also includes a dust cover and a Fender two-button footswitch.

What Customers Like

  • Plenty of headroom
  • Classic Fender tube tone
  • The best reverb in the business

What Customers Dislike

  • Both channels share EQ
  • Drive channel leaves a lot to be desired.

Bugera V22 Infinium

Best For the Price

What Makes It Special?

Boasting big tube tone and innovative features, the V22 sounds much more expensive than it is. Infinium Tube Life Multiplier technology provides dramatically longer tube life. In fact, Bugera claims that the Infinium system can provide up to twenty times longer tube life than other amplifiers.

  • 22 watts of tube power
  • Two channels
  • Built-in reverb
  • Effects loop

The Bugera V22 has quickly become a favorite of blues guitarists on a budget, as it delivers all the tone you could ever want at a price that’s virtually unheard of for a 20+ watt tube amplifier. The V22 provides 22 watts to a TurboSound speaker, and it provides both a clean and dirty channel.

The clean channel produces a pristine, glass-like tone, while the drive channel provides the type of smooth and warm overdrive that blues players covet. Most notably, the Infinium Tube Life Multiplier technology can extend your tube life by up to twenty times. When it’s time to change tubes, LED tube lights on the back of the amp illuminate.

The amp is finished in sharp black and tan tweed and appointed with cream-colored Fender-style chicken head knobs. At this price, the V22 is well worth a closer look for any blues guitarist, especially if you’re trying to save some money.

What Customers Like

  • Two great sounding channels
  • Longer tube life
  • Reverb can be controlled from footswitch

What Customers Dislike

  • Both channels share an EQ
  • Cabinet rattles at louder volumes

Fender Blues Junior III

What Makes It Special?

With plenty of power despite its compact size, the Blues Junior III is highly portable, sounds great, and features legendary Fender spring reverb. A newly added “FAT” switch acts as a second channel, providing an additional layer of versatility that was missing from past Blues Junior amps.

  • 15w of all tube power
  • Genuine Fender spring reverb
  • Footswitchable “FAT” boost
  • Jensen speaker

Delivering classic Fender tweed looks, and enough power for small and medium-sized shows, the Blues Junior has been a favorite of gigging musicians for decades. The latest iteration of this classic amp provides a footswitch-able boost that delivers a volume boost and a slight overdrive. Some players find that they prefer the sound of the boost over a typical Fender drive channel.

Appointed in classic tweed, the Blues Junior III provides controls for volume, bass, middle, treble, and reverb. There’s also a master volume control. The Blues Junior packs all the classic Fender tone you could ask for, and it’s surprisingly loud, which makes an ideal choice for guitarists who don’t need tons of additional headroom.

What Customers Like

  • Great sounding boost
  • Classic Fender tone
  • The best reverb in the business

What Customers Dislike

  • Not much headroom
  • Many players complain of blown fuses

Roland Blues Cube 30w

Best for Beginners & Students

What Makes It Special?

An efficient, lightweight, and portable amp that’s perfect for traveling, the Blues Cube features Roland’s Tube Logic technology, making this solid-state amps one of the most tube-like and responsive non-tube amps imaginable.

  • Tube Logic technology
  • Onboard reverb
  • USB out for recording
  • Headphone in and line out

The Blues Cube from Roland is an impressive little amp that dishes out tube tone without the weight or other drawbacks associated with tube amps. This nifty amplifier utilizes Roland’s Tube Logic technology to deliver a tone that’s about as close to the real thing as you can get.

The Blues Cube features controls for master, EQ, reverb, volume, and buttons for boost, and tone, which bumps up the presence of the amp. Additional features like a USB out for recording and a headphone jack for quiet practice make this amp ideal for students and beginners.

What Customers Like

  • Practically maintenance free
  • Impressive tone for a solid-state amp
  • Footswitch-able boost

What Customers Dislike

  • Doesn’t include an effects loop
  • Too small for medium or large sized rooms

Vox Pathfinder Combo

Best on a Budget

What Makes It Special?

Incredibly simple operation and classic Vox styling make the Pathfinder perfect for players on a budget who are still hoping to squeeze some luscious blues tones from their amplifier. At under $100, the Pathfinder is tough to beat.

  • Switchable overdrive
  • Headphone out

Finding a quality sounding amp for blues on a shoestring budget is easier said than done, but the Vox Pathfinder is one affordable amp that stands out of the pack. The Pathfinder is exceptionally simple to operate and features controls for gain, volume, treble, and bass. A switchable second channel provides classic British style overdrive.

While this amp is only 10w with a 6.5” speaker, the Pathfinder still manages to dish out plenty of tone, making it ideal for anyone looking for an affordable practice amp that still delivers versatile tones that are ideal for blues, rock, and even jazz.

What Customers Like

  • Classic Vox tone and looks
  • Affordable

What Customers Dislike

  • Doesn’t have reverb
  • Too small for gigs

6 More Really Good Amps for Blues

Laney L5T-112

Laney has quietly carved out a lane for themselves as one of the finest amp manufacturers on the planet. Their Lionheart line of stylish all-tube amplifiers is a must try for blues guitarists who are looking for a new take on the classic British sound.

The Lionheart L5T-112 delivers only five watts, but it certainly lives up to the Lionheart moniker, delivering an impressive amount of headroom despite its diminutive wattage. A Celestion G12 70th anniversary speaker is a step up from what you’ll find in other popular blues amps.

Two separate channels, a footswitch-able effects loop, and fantastic sounding onboard reverb complete this tiny Lionheart amplifier, which is a must try for blues guitarists who are looking for something a bit different.

Fender ‘59 Bassman LTD

For over fifty years, the Fender Bassman has delighted guitarists and bassists alike with it’s incredibly rich and warm tone. This faithful reissue provides all the classic tone the Bassman was famous for, with some modern upgrades that all guitarists are sure to appreciate.

The Bassman LTD delivers 45 tube watts to four 10” Jensen speakers with alnico magnets, and they deliver all the classic tone the original Bassman was lauded for. Like the original, the cabinet is made from solid pine, which is a far cry from the plywood that’s used in most cabinets. It’s a difference you can hear, too, as the pine provides a more “musical” tone than other cabs.

It’s also one of the most durable and sturdy amps around thanks to the solid wood cabinet. It can also be a bit of a drawback, as this amp weighs a ton.

Like the original, the Bassman LTD features four inputs, which can be bridged to create some unique tones you can’t find in other amps. Unfortunately, there’s no onboard reverb in this amp, but it sounds so good, you may find it’s worth it to add reverb through your pedalboard so you can still enjoy the sound of this legendary Fender amp.

Marshall 2525C Mini Silver Jubilee

Marshall is one of the world’s most iconic amplifier companies, and they’ve been responsible for the sound of many of the top rock and blues guitarists since the 1960s. If you follow the brand at all, then you already know that the legendary JCM25/50 Silver Jubilee is one of the most important guitar amps ever created.

To the chagrin of players everywhere, it was virtually impossible to get your hands on one of your own, as they’ve been discontinued for decades. Fortunately, Marshall has recently reissued the classic Silver Jubilee amps, and their 2525C Mini Silver Jubilee is ideally sized for the studio, and small and mid-sized gigs.

Players familiar with the Silver Jubilee line will instantly recognize the pristine clean and biting overdrive of this classic amp, and those who aren’t familiar already will want to get acquainted as quickly as possible.

The Mini version features independent master volumes for each channel, a gain control, three-band EQ and presence control. A pull knob allows you to toggle between the two channels, which can also be controlled with a footswitch. The Silver Jubilee also features an effects loop.

Supro Blues King

A once legendary amp and guitar manufacturer, Supro disappeared for decades, to the chagrin of blues guitarists everywhere. Thankfully, the company was recently revived, and their Blues King amplifier delivers all the classic tube tone that blues players prized the original Supro amps for.

The Blues King features a unique looking cabinet that houses a custom designed 12” speaker. This amp offers controls for volume, treble, middle, bass, reverb, and a master volume. There’s also a footswitch-able boost, and a gain switch, which delivers impressive modern high-gain sounds you’d never expect from other blues amplifiers.

The amp also includes a dust cover and two button footswitch. For the blues player that likes to stretch their legs and shred now and again, the Supro Blues King is more than worthy of a closer look.

Peavey Delta Blues 210

While Peavey is best known for their high-gain monsters like the 5150 and 6505, their Delta Blues amp has provided an interesting and much-loved take on the classic blues amplifier.

The Delta Blues 210 forgoes a single 12” speaker in favor of twin 10” Blue Marvel speakers. Players who prefer the sound of 10” speakers were usually pushed towards amps like the Fender Bassman, or Hot Rod Deville, which each contain four 10” speakers and weigh about as much as a Cadillac with a full trunk of groceries.

The Delta Blues provides two footswitch-able channels, great sounding spring reverb, and built-in tremolo. The drive channel is especially versatile and is ideal for players who enjoy playing rock and even metal in addition to the blues.

Bugera V5 Infinium

The Bugera Infinium series is one of the most innovative takes on the classic tube amp ever seen, and their tiny V5 version is ideal for players who need a quality practice amp and aren’t willing to sacrifice their tubes to make it happen.

This tiny amp delivers five tube watts and offers controls for gain, tone, volume, and reverb. The V5 features the same tube life-extending technology of other Infinium amps, and the same stately look, with two-tone tolex and cream colored chicken head knobs.

The V5 also features a headphone out for quiet practice, and a power sponge that allows the amp to operate at .5, 1, or 5 watts.

5 FAQ’s about Amps for Blues

What are the different types of amps?

When it comes to guitar amps, there are essentially four different types:

  • Tube amps
  • Solid-state amps
  • Hybrid amps
  • Modeling amps

Tube amps are the original amplifier, first developed in the 1940s. It’s been nearly 80 years since then, and even with a world of innovation and technology at our fingertips, we’ve yet to develop an amplifier that provides the warm and lively character of a genuine tube amp.

Tube amps use a series of vacuum tubes to deliver your guitar’s tone, and the power it needs to be heard. These vacuum tubes are responsible for the characteristics that make tube amps so desirable.

But, tube amps aren’t without their drawbacks. For one, they’re considerably heavier and more delicate than other types of amps. They also require occasional maintenance every year or two by a qualified amp technician.

Considering those drawbacks, amp manufacturers began to look into ways to make amplifiers that are immune to the shortcomings that affect tube amps. Their answer was the solid-state amplifier. Solid-state amps use a collection of diodes and transformers to deliver the tone and power your guitar needs.

While these amps are lighter, more durable, and require virtually no maintenance, they lack the signature tone that tube amps are so revered for.

In response, amp manufacturers began to develop hybrid amplifiers. A hybrid amp employs a tube preamp section and a solid-state power section. The idea behind these amps is that they can deliver authentic tube tone while still being lighter and more durable than a tube amp. They also require hardly any maintenance.

While hybrid amps have a decidedly more tube-like sound compared to a completely solid-state amp, they still fall short of delivering that authentic tube tone that guitarists covet.

The latest type of amplifier on the market is the modeling amp. Modeling amps can be tube, solid-state, or hybrid. Most modeling amps are solid-state, though. These amps employ a digital signal processor that can mimic the sound of highly sought after tube amps, and they also usually provide a bunch of very useful effects, as well.

Modeling amps can be a ton of fun to play around with, and they come the closest of any non-tube amp at delivering that patented tube tone, but most serious blues players agree: there’s no substitute for a genuine tube amp.

Does the size of the speaker matter?

When it comes to a blues amp, speaker size is slightly less important than with amps for other styles of music. Regardless, it still shouldn’t be overlooked.

The industry standard guitar amp speaker is 12”. A 12” speaker can handle the full signal range of the guitar, and they can handle a powerful amp without issue. There are also some great amps on the market that feature 10” speakers. Some players feel that smaller speakers are more responsive and lively, although most players opt for an amp with a 12” speaker.

Amps with speakers smaller than 10” usually don’t handle low frequencies as well as larger speakers, and they tend to sound “flubby” or distorted when you play low notes.

While most players go for amps that feature tried and true 12” speakers, we encourage you to try some amps with 10” speakers as well before deciding which type is best for your sound.

What are the top brands for amps for blues?

Fender is one of the most iconic guitar and amplifier brands on the planet, and no name is as synonymous with amps for blues as Fender. Fender produces several of the best blues amps on the market, and many blues guitarists, including the legendary Stevie Ray Vaughan, have made Fender their amp of choice.

Marshall is perhaps the only brand on the planet that’s better known for their amplifiers than Fender, and Marshall amps are extremely popular with blues players. If you’re looking for a versatile amp that sounds great for other styles beyond the blues, a Marshall amp may be a great choice for you.

Supro is one of the original electric guitar and amplifier companies. From the late ‘30s through the 1960s, Supro produced highly sought after amps and guitars. Unfortunately, the company went the way of the dodo bird for decades before it was revived in 2013. Today, Supro is back to their old tricks, and they produce some incredible sounding blues amps.

How many watts do I need on an amp for blues?

The amount of wattage you need will boil down to how and where you play, and whether or not you’re looking at a solid-state or tube amplifier.

First, you’ll need to consider your playing. Do you play in a band, or are you a solo artist? Do you regularly play gigs? If so, how large are the rooms you typically play in?

If you play in a band, you’ll need a more powerful amp than a solo performer would. The size of the rooms you play can also indicate roughly how much power you’ll need from your amp.

Next, you’ll need to consider the type of amp you’re looking at. Tube watts are significantly louder than solid-state watts. So, you can get away with a lower wattage tube amp than you’d need if the amp were solid-state.

As a general rule, most guitarists who play in a band will need a tube amp that delivers 40 watts or more. Or, for solid-state, you’ll need somewhere in the realm of 80-100 watts. If you’re a solo performer, a 10-15 watt tube amp should do the trick. For solid state, look for an amp that delivers around 30 watts.

Where can I learn more about amps for blues?

Guitar World is the most popular guitar magazine in the world, and they’ve been covering all things guitar for decades. Their website also provides a ton of great content, including gear reviews, interviews, and tips from some of the best players in the business, and more. The link above is an excellent roundup of some of the best gear on the market for playing the blues.

The Hub by Musician’s Friend is another great resource for all things guitar. While they function primarily as an online music store, their blog, The Hub, is chock full of great information, including this fantastic write-up about the four amps that gave birth to blues-rock.

Sweetwater is another online music store. What separates Sweetwater from their contemporaries is there incredible attention to detail when it comes to their product pages. Are you curious about how an amp sounds, but can’t get to the store to play one? Head on over to Sweetwater, where nearly every product page includes detailed demo videos and recordings of different gear in action.

Conclusion

Now that you’re armed with the knowledge you need, it’s time to get out there and select an amp that’s going to provide your playing with all of the warmth, character, and emotion that it deserves.

Are you a blues guitarist? Sound off in the comments and let us know about your favorite gear, and especially, your favorite amp!

When shopping for a blues amp, guitarists usually check out other gear, including:

  • Jazz guitar amps
  • Rock guitar amps
  • Overdrive pedals
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