Best Clean Guitar Amps (Combo) for the Cleanest Tone

Author: Ross McLeod | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

Choosing the best clean guitar amp provides you with an ideal blank canvas to create your desired tones. Coloring your guitar's output is great for certain scenarios, but sometimes playing clean, as the instrument was intended, is the best option.

Some particular attributes and characteristics make an amplifier capable of producing an excellent clean tone. In this post, you'll find a selection of the best options for this purpose. 

The Best Clean Guitar Amps

The JC-120 is amongst the best-selling guitar amps in recent history. Renowned for its stunning, transparent clean tone, and several adjustable parameters, this amplifier is a great choice for guitarists across multiple styles.

The JC-120 boasts a long lineage of high-end models. First produced in 1975, it was designed by Roland to revolutionize the preconceived notions regarding electric guitar amplifiers – and that’s exactly what it achieved. 

Fast forward to the present day, and the JC-120 continues to go from strength to strength. Retaining the original specifications of the first model, this amp has become a thing of legends as the decades have passed.

Arguably the biggest reason for its prolonged success is its ability to amplify a guitar's clean tone with impeccable clarity, and authenticity. It produces sparkling highs, full-bodied mids, and powerful bass frequencies.

Additionally, the JC-120 also houses high-quality reverb and vibrato. These are controlled by dedicated front-panel parameters and can be used to add character to your guitar's output.

There's also the useful inclusion of three jack inputs for footswitches, which can then be used to control the built-in effects. A stereo effects loop completes the setup, and you also get a 2-band EQ for each of the inputs.

PROS

  • Highly-respected amplifier
  • Rich history dating back to 1975
  • Exceptional clean tone
  • Reverb and vibrato units built-in

CONS

  • None

The '65 Twin Reverb is based on the classic amplifier from half-a-century ago. It features all of the various aspects that made the original such a hit with electric guitarists, along with some contemporary enhancements.

This combo amp is well-suited to both humbucking and single-coil pickups. With its 85-watt, all-tube construction, it can amplify your guitar's clean tone with the power to fill even the largest of venues.

With the volume dial set to anything below “8”, the ’65 Twin Reverb is startlingly clean-sounding. Once you exceed that threshold, it starts to add natural-sounding color in the form of classic Fender warmth and slight overdrive.

Tonally, the Twin Reverb projects your guitar’s clean tone with outstanding precision. The detailed onboard EQ parameters provide you with a platform to tweak the frequency output if you need some extra substance.

In the early 1960s, Fender set the tone for decades to come with their high-quality reverb and vibrato units that were installed on their all-tube combo amps. The ’65 Twin Reverb has both of these, and they sound great.

The classic combination of four 12AX7s and two 12AT7s make up the preamp tube section, while the power is generated from the four Groove Tube 6L6s. Then there’s the pair of 12” Jensen speakers which project a guitar with remarkable power.

PROS

  • Reissue of the classic 1965 model
  • Exceptional clean tone
  • Reaches extremely high volumes
  • High-quality Fender reverb and tremolo units

CONS

  • It may be too loud for smaller, intimate performances

Being one of the best clean tube amps out there, the Vox AC15 produces a solid and reliable clean tone. It features the classic Vox chime when used in the Normal channel mode, while the Top Boost channel offers more grittiness and bite.

Vox amplifiers were used to create the classic British Invasion tone of the 1960s. The AC15C1 stays true to that revered sound but is also capable of amplifying your guitar's clean tone in a pristine and accurate manner.

A combination of Class A EL84 power tubes and the Top Boost preamp are largely responsible for the AC15 Custom’s versatile output. When the Top Boost is selected, a dimension of high-end detail is produced.

One area where this tube amplifier differs from the original models is in its speaker choice. Rather than opting for the traditional AC design, Vox has improved the amp by including a 12” Celestion 25-watt Greenback speaker.

The onboard spring reverb allows you to add a dimension of space to your clean tone, while the tremolo unit sounds authentically warm. The amp is more focused in the midrange, which prevents harsh treble frequencies from occurring.

If you're looking for an all-tube combo amp that is capable of producing enough volume to fill a medium-sized venue but isn't too loud for intimate performances, the Vox AC15C1 is a great choice.

PROS

  • Legendary British Invasion tone
  • Top Boost & Normal channels
  • Clean tone clarity thanks to the EL84 power tube
  • Celestion 25-watt speakers subdue harsh frequencies

CONS

  • Lacks footswitch inputs

Despite its modest size, the V5 Infinium by Bugera is capable of amplifying your guitar’s clean tone with pinpoint precision and plenty of punch. With a 12AX7 preamp tube and an EL84 power tube installed, it produces a classic, familiar sound.

An interesting addition made by Bugera is the inbuilt power attenuator. This allows you to hone in on the “sweet spot” of your guitar’s clean tone, regardless of how high you set the volume.

The British-engineered Turbosound speaker ensures that the V5 Infinium boasts output power that belies its compact dimensions. A versatile amp, it is capable of producing tones that easily crossover multiple genres and styles.

The onboard, high-definition reverb unit is great for adding character to your clean tone. Then there’s the unique Tube Life Multiplier Technology, patented by Bugera, which ensures that the lifespan of the onboard tubes is increased and their performance remains consistent.

In addition to producing a reliable clean tone, the V5 Infinium can also provide you with plenty of warm breakups. By pushing the amp into its upper limits, the tone is colored with immersive distortion.

PROS

  • Combination of sweet harmonics and warm overdrive
  • Long-lasting tubes thanks to unique Tube Life Multiplier technology
  • Onboard power attenuator for finding the “sweet spot”
  • High-definition reverb

CONS

  • Lacks the power required for larger venues

The Vox Pathfinder 10 is a great choice for guitarists who want an amp that is suitable for practicing and recording at home. With its minute, 10-watt construction, it produces the ideal amount of volume for an intimate setting.

Featuring the classic Vox aesthetics, including the basket-weave grille with a leather finish, and the instantly recognizable control knobs, the Pathfinder 10 provides you with the Vox experience at a very reasonable price.

Although at first glance the Pathfinder 10 may lack in power and volume, don't be fooled by its compact sizing. The 10-watt output produces a remarkably powerful sound across the frequency range.

Arguably the area in which the Vox Pathfinder 10 excels the most is recording your guitar’s clean tone. It comes with a filtered line-output, so you can either record directly or use the conventional microphone setup.

There are also two selectable settings housed on the Pathfinder 10. The clean/overdrive switch allows you to instantly transform the amp’s output, to either add or remove gain. The 3-band EQ then allows you to further tailor the frequency output to suit your needs.

PROS

  • Classic Vox tone
  • Line-out for direct recording
  • The ideal volume for practicing at home
  • 3-band EQ and switchable overdrive settings

CONS

  • Too small and quiet for playing shows

The Blues Junior range has included some exceptional tube amplifiers, all with great clean-tone producing capabilities. The IV edition is the biggest-sounding offering in the date line.

A 15-watt, 1x 12" combo amp, the Blues Junior IV is based on the foundational properties of the hugely popular original but has plenty of new enhancements to improve its performance.

The preamp section has been slightly tweaked by Fender to create a larger and more diverse tonality. Combined with the Celestion A-type 12” speakers, it creates the perfect platform for your guitar to express its clean tones.

The classic Fender spring reverb unit remains, as does the popular choice of EL84 power tubes. The manufacturer has once again proven why they're so well-loved globally, by creating this combo amp with the perfect blend of power, clarity, and convenient sizing.

PROS

  • Based on the classic original model
  • Smooth spring reverb unit
  • Plenty of headroom
  • Ideal 15-watt size

CONS

  • None

When I think of Boss amplifiers, the first thing that comes to mind is their plethora of onboard effects. However, although the Katana-50 certainly has those in abundance, it is also capable of outstanding clean-tone amplification.

Featuring a smart, minimalistic design, the Katana-50 MkII has a huge-sounding 1—watt output section. Coupled with a specifically-designed 12” speaker, it is a great tool for sculpting your desired tones.

Whether you need an amplifier for live performance, recordings, or practicing, the Katana-50 MkII can do it all. With cab-emulated outputs and monitoring options, it can operate with zero noise issues and perfect clarity.

Although we’re mainly concerned with clean tones here, it would be unfair not to mention the array of tone-altering processing options that the amp provides.

With several amp variations and access to 60 of Boss’ most popular effects, you can transform your guitar in any way you wish.

PROS

  • Gain and EQ controls
  • Access to 60 Boss effects
  • 100-watt solid-state output
  • Multiple amp models to choose from

CONS

  • Contains no tubes, so produces less warmth and authenticity of tone

With six amp style models and a pair of completely independent channels, the Mesa/Boogie Mark Five: 25 is a brilliant tube combo that does your guitar’s clean tone justice.

Retaining the popular Mark Series preamp tone, which sounds natural and warm, and with Mesa’s flagship Dyna-Watt EL84 power tube section, the amp blends volume and clarity very effectively.

If you predominantly play clean but sometimes require some more extreme tones for solos or riffs, you’ll love the Mark Five: 25. It can be used to produce sweet, smooth cleans, or seething lead tones.

The Celestion Custom G10 Creamback speaker is responsible for the abundance of headroom. With a built-in direct output, you can record using the Mark Five: 25 with very little effort.

PROS

  • Quality preamp and power tubes
  • Produces smooth cleans and hot lead tones
  • All-tube spring reverb channel
  • Rugged aluminum chassis

CONS

  • None

Getting the Best Clean Tones: Tube vs. Solid State

The elusive "perfect" clean tone is something that guitarists can spend their whole lifetimes searching for. Many factors combine to create a clean tone, starting with the choice of guitar and pickups, and the way that they interact with an amplifier.

Solid-state amplifiers have the advantage of housing digital effects and amplifier models. This means that you can quickly switch to a clean setting, where the various parameters, characteristics, and EQ adjustments are all taken care of.

Tube amplifiers may not be capable of housing these modern effects, but they undoubtedly produce a more authentic sounding, natural tone. They are, however, sensitive to volume. And when turned up, a warm overdrive becomes prominent in the output.

Both types of amplifiers have their benefits and drawbacks, so it's worth doing your research. If you require plenty of headroom and access to a plethora of processing options, solid-state is probably the best choice.

If you'd rather stay true to the authentic tones and natural warmth of your guitar's clean tone, opting for an all-tube amplifier is recommended.

They are generally more expensive than solid-state options, but this is justified by the quality of tones they produce.

Final Words

Although it's easy to drape our guitar in multiple effects these days, you still can't beat the sound of a well-rounded clean tone. All of the amplifiers featured in this post will help you to get the best out of your guitar.

It's important to identify the clean tone you're aiming for, and make your decision based on the features that are required to produce that sound.

About Ross McLeod

Ross is a music producer, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter. He is the frontman of The Blue Dawns, where he handles vocal and bass duties. He has extensive experience with bass, drums and guitar. His most recent project is named Gold Jacket.

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