With its iconic single-cutaway body shape, the Gibson Les Paul is one of the most recognizable guitars to ever be manufactured. Choosing the best amp is vital if you want to get the best out of a Les Paul.
The key is to choose an amplifier that complements the natural qualities of a Les Paul. In this guide, I’ll provide you with a selection of premium quality combo amps that emphasize the warm, immersive tone of the legendary Gibson axe.
6 Best Amps for Les Paul
Table of Contents
- 6 Best Amps for Les Paul
- Les Paul Amps: Tube vs. Solid State
- Consider The Speaker Configuration and Size
- Choosing the Right Wattage
- Are You Using Pedals or Just the Amp?
- How Versatile is the Amp?
1. Marshall DSL40CR
Marshall amps are beloved by so many guitarists and with good reason. They pair perfectly with just about any guitar.
The DSL40CR is a great example of the quality Marshall is known for. Both in terms of build and sound.
This 40-watt tube amp has just about everything I think you would expect from a Marshall amp. Two great channels, full three-band EQ, and reverb.
The two channels are a Classic Gain and an Ultra Gain. Classic Gain can also switch between Clean and Crunch. The Ultra Gain has an OD1 and an OD2 setting.
This gives the DSL40CR a great amount of versatility that I haven’t seen too often on Marshall combo amps. On Classic Gain you have that vintage rock sound.
Testing this amp with a Les Paul, I of course had to play some Led Zeppelin. I wasn’t surprised when the DSL40CR pulled off an almost perfect Zeppelin sound.
If you want a more modern, aggressive sound, you just have to switch over to the Ultra gain channel. Now you have everything from Iron Maiden to the most modern metal sound available.
The great distortion doesn’t mean that it lacks in the clean department either. Quite simply, the cleans on this amp are fantastic. It might actually be one of the best clean sound I have ever heard on a Marshall amp.
It is rich and deep. The cleans also play really well with pedals. If for some reason, you don’t like the amp’s distortion, you won’t have any trouble putting a pedalboard in front of this amp.
Something that I also appreciate is that Marshall has put the power attenuation on the front of the amp. While it doesn’t really make much of a difference, it is just a small convenience that shows the care Marshall has taken when designing this amp.
2. BOSS Katana-50 MkII
The BOSS Katana might be one of, if not the best modeling amp around today. It also happens to be one of my favorite combo amps.
The Katana’s simple and sleek design hides an array of great features. This is one fully stacked amp.
Since this is a modeling amp, you get a wider variety of settings than just the standard ‘clean’ and ‘gain’. There are five different amp settings (acoustic, clean, crunch, lead, and brown) with a variation button that effectively gives you ten settings.
Les Paul guitars are fairly versatile themselves. So, having an amp as versatile as the Katana to compliment a Les Paul is fantastic in my opinion.
Each one of the amp settings sounds great. None of them sound digital or flat. I even found the acoustic setting to have a very natural sound.
You aren’t limited to what is on the amp either. You can connect the amp to a PC or Mac to edit and save your own presets onto the amp. The software is pretty easy to use and I found making my own presets to be a breeze and even fun.
I would have liked it if BOSS included a USB cable. The Katana uses a USB type B cable which not everyone just has lying around. Of course, you don’t have to connect the amp to anything other than a guitar.
Apart from the amp presets, you also have an Effects section available to you. The effects section features a wide range of effects from overdrive, flanger, delay, compressor, and so on.
I found it easy enough to switch between effects and adjust them. The effects sound just as great as the amp presets and they are all very responsive.
The BOSS Katana-50 MKII is a truly versatile amp. From its great selection of amp presets to the high level of customization it allows. I have a tough time finding anything wrong with this amp and you surely will as well.
3. Bugera V5 Infinium
Don’t be fooled by the Bugera V5 Infinium’s small size. This little tube amp packs quite the punch.
The V5 is a very vintage-sounding tube amp. Specifically, I would call the tone ‘vintage British’. That does mean that the V5’s tone is quite limited compared to the other amps on this list. You won’t be getting a modern metal tone out of it.
I would say this amp is very much geared towards a blues, softer rock, and jazz sound. The clean tone is also fantastic. Very warm and very vintage.
The clean tones also work quite well with pedals. I had no issues putting a distortion and some delay in front of this amp.
Playing a Les Paul through this amp is an especially great experience. The two work just so great together. Of course, the V5 is just a 5-watt amp. That means that you won’t be blowing the roof off of any gigs with this amp.
I still think that it has more than enough volume to be a great practice amp. Combined with its great sound quality, I also think that the V5 is a great little amp to have in your studio.
It has such a rich and distinct tone. It will easily add a whole new dimension to your guitar tone. Its lightweight and compact design also make it a great travel companion. The V5 will be quite perfect for any buskers.
I think my only real issue with the V5 is its lack of EQ. It only has a single tone knob to adjust your sound with. The tone knob works well enough and the difference is quite noticeable. I would just have preferred even a simple 2-band EQ to be able to make finer adjustments.
All in all, the V5 Infinium is an excellent little amp, well worth the price.
4. Vox AC15C1
The VOX AC15 has a long and prestigious history in music. Used by many iconic bands including The Beatles, it is no wonder this is such a sought-after amp.
The C1 version stays true to both the design and the sound of the original AC15. It retains that classic British look and tone.
The AC15C1 is a powerful 15-watt tube amp. It is one of the loudest 15-watt amps I have ever played and you would be forgiven for thinking it isn’t a 15-watt amp.
It is also quite big and heavy for a 15-watt. Unless you absolutely have to, I am pretty sure you won’t be moving this amp around too often.
But considering how good this amp sounds and how powerful it is, you probably will want to take it to every gig. I know I want to take it everywhere.
In terms of features, the AC15C1 has some unique offerings. It has both a normal and master volume and spring reverb which are fairly standard on an amp of this type. It also features a tremolo reverb with depth and speed adjustments and a top boost with 2-band EQ and volume.
In terms of sound, though, the amp isn’t very versatile. You won’t be venturing into high gain, distorted territory with this amp. Clean and light gains are what it does, but does really well in my opinion.
That isn’t to say that the amp doesn’t have any teeth. Vox amps are well-known for their grit and the AC15 has quite a lot of it. Especially when you have a Les Paul running through it.
American guitars and British amps are always such a great combination to me. The two distinct sounds blend together so well and create such a fantastic sound. No wonder so many guitarists have paired the two together over the decades.
5. Blackstar HT20R MKII
Another British amp company, Blackstar has been making excellent amps for many years now. From their first amps all the way back in 2007 to the HT20R MKII, Blackstar has remained consistent with their quality-built and sounding amps.
The HT20R is fairly standard in terms of features. It has two channels, a clean and overdrive, 3-band EQ, reverb, and master volume.
What isn’t as standard is the two voicings featured on both the clean and gain channels. The gain can switch between either a light crunch or a screaming high-gain overdrive.
But my favorite has to be the voicing options on the clean channel. Blackstar has spoiled guitarists here and allows you to switch between either an American or a British clean tone.
Do you want a tight, sparkly tone or a more jangly tone with a decent helping of mids? Well, the choice is yours with this amp. I think this works especially well with a guitar like the Les Paul. You can either go all American or combine the American and British sounds for their unique blend.
Over in the EQ section, there is also something called ISF (Infinite Shape Feature). This is something wholly unique to Blackstar.
Essentially, this feature allows you to blend the American and British tones of the amp as much as you want. So, you can either go full American or British or combine the two however much you want.
There isn’t really anything I can find wrong with this amp. It is very loud at 20 watts, which can also be brought down to 2 watts. And it is fairly lightweight making it easy to take with you to gigs.
Blackstar has even included a simple two-button footswitch for easy switching between channels and voicings. I have played amps that don’t always work too well with every footswitch, and buying the right one is a bit of a hassle.
6. Fender Blues Junior IV
Similar to Vox, Fender amps don’t need much of an intro. You know that you will be getting high-quality design and sound, regardless of the Fender amp you choose. The Blues Junior IV is no different.
As the name suggests, this little 15-watt amp was made to play the blues. And from my experience, it does blues wonderfully.
The Blues Junior has those classic sparkling Fender clean sound. Switching over to the ‘fat’ channel, you get a smooth midrange and, well, fat crunch sound that is just perfect for blues and rock.
The reverb has also seen a substantial improvement from the Blues Junior III. The IV’s reverb sounds quite a bit smoother and warmer to me than on the previous version.
I was also pleasantly surprised by how well this little amp handles pedals. Drive pedals sound especially great with loads of volume. This allows you to push the amp a little further into a distorted sound.
Although I did start to notice some issues when pushing it too far. So, you still won’t be able to turn it into a hard rock or metal amp with a pedal.
Speaking of pedals, Fender has also included a simple footswitch for easy switching between the clean and gain channels. It isn’t that big of a deal, but I do feel it was nice of them to include this small convenience.
Build wise, the Blues Junior is a compact and lightweight amp. You will easily be able to throw it on the backseat of your car to take to a friend’s house for a jam or even to gigs.
Even at just 15 watts, this is still a fairly loud amp. Although, I will say that it isn’t anywhere near as loud as the AC15. While you can certainly gig with this amp, you are going to be limited. I probably wouldn’t do any large gigs with it, but rather smaller café gigs or some busking.
Les Paul Amps: Tube vs. Solid State
One of the reasons the Les Paul is such a beloved instrument to so many musicians is the sheer range of styles it can be used for. Although predominantly used for rock guitar throughout the 60s and 70s, the classic Gibson guitar has gone on to be utilized for many different purposes.
When it comes to identifying the best amplifier for Gibson or Epiphone Les Paul, you need to identify the results you're aiming for.
Do you simply want to amplify and enhance the natural, warm tone of the Les Paul, or would you rather have access to a plethora of effects to bathe the guitar in?
If the former is your preference, then an all-tube amplifier is likely to be your best bet. If the latter piques your interest, then perhaps a solid-state amplifier with many onboard processing options would be better suited.
Amplifiers with all-tube constructions are generally preferred by music purists. They popularly produce a natural layer of grit, which is sometimes called "breakups", adding character and color to an electric guitar.
Solid-state amps, on the other hand, are preferred for the additional headroom they offer a guitarist. The signal is much cleaner and less likely to be subjected to distortion or saturation.
In terms of effects, tube amplifiers often house the classic combination of tremolo and reverb. These channels have a distinctive sound, with spring reverb the predominant variety used on valve amps.
Solid-state amps have the potential to house hundreds of inbuilt presets and effects. They can often be accessed simply by using a rotary control or buttons, and for that reason, these amps are well-suited to experimental guitarists.
Tube amplifiers are generally more expensive than their solid-state counterparts, due largely to the inner components that form them. However, they are more fragile, and the tubes are prone to wear out eventually.
Consider The Speaker Configuration and Size
This might not have been something you have ever considered, but the speakers in your amp do make a difference.
The obvious difference is in terms of power output. A larger diaphragm speaker is going to output much more power than a smaller speaker.
But that doesn’t mean that bigger is automatically better. There are reasons to want to go with smaller speakers.
For example, smaller speakers are more responsive and have a tighter attack. Larger speakers on the other hand will have a lot more low-end, but will also be more evenly spread across the frequency spectrum.
Consider the type of music you are going to play. If you are mainly playing things like jazz and blues, you will probably be better off with a smaller speaker as you won’t need as much power.
If you are playing rock and metal, then bigger is better. And in that case, you will also likely want to go with an amp that has two speakers. Something like a Fender Champion.
Bigger, more powerful speakers will also allow you to play in larger venues.
Choosing the Right Wattage
This sort of ties into the size of your speakers, but you should also consider the wattage of your amp.
More wattage will of course mean you will be able to play larger venues. You can play gigs with a 15-watt amp, but what this is really about is headroom.
Specifically, headroom with the clean sound. A higher wattage amp will have a lot more headroom for those bright, sparkly cleans.
Headroom is also important if you are going to use pedals with your amp. This brings me to the next point.
Are You Using Pedals or Just the Amp?
This is another important thing to consider. Different amps tend to react differently to pedals.
Some amps work flawlessly with pedals while others don’t like having a pedal plugged into them. Other amps work well with certain pedals but not others. And then there are amps that work well with pedals up to a certain point.
If you don’t plan on or need to use pedals, then you won’t have to worry as much. Just make sure you get an amp that can still do everything you want it to.
But if you are going to use pedals, especially to add to the sound with effects like flangers and delays, you will have to make sure the amp still sounds good with a pedal plugged in. Tube amps can be especially picky when it comes to pedals, even more so with digital pedals.
I would just always look up videos of the amp I want to by being played with pedals. Even better would be going to a shop and testing it out for yourself. Even if you aren’t planning on using pedals, you might change your mind down the road.
How Versatile is the Amp?
And of course, the genres and styles of music you play are going to affect the one you choose.
Do you want an amp that can do it all? Or do you want an amp that can just do one thing, but really well?
If you only play jazz and blues, an amp like the Marshall DSL40CR is probably going to be overkill and unnecessary. If you play blues, but also sometimes delve into rock and metal, the Blues Junior IV isn’t going to cut it.
I personally think that going with a more versatile amp is better than going with an amp that is more focused on a specific sound. This is just to leave the door open in case you want to experiment with other genres or you suddenly need an amp that can play a certain genre.
Whether it's Gibson or Epiphone-made, a Les Paul deserved to be paired with an amplifier of sufficient quality. Hopefully, this list has pointed you in the direction of the ideal companion for your beautiful guitar.
It takes time to figure out the operation of a new amplifier, so be patient, and you’ll be producing some wonderful tones in no time!