While amps are vital for every style and genre metal is probably one of the music genres that benefits the most from a good amplifier. While pedals are vital for your performance without a quality amplifier you can forget about that perfect, punchy tone that makes or breaks the deal. Guitar amps for metal might be a bit more niche than a list of the best electric guitar amplifiers, but if you are sure that metal is your passion then going for a model that is made specifically for it will make your experience more enjoyable.
But do not think that there is a lack of choice in this category. In fact, you might actually have a problem with choosing out of too many options. Some of the best manufacturers like Marshall and Peavey have been making the best guitar amplifiers for metal. While it might be a bit intimidating and overwhelming at first you will figure things out. And to do so check out these five amps that we have chosen. While metal amps might cost a bit more we have tried to incorporate some of the cheaper models as well.
What’s The Best Guitar Amp For Metal
What can be a better metal amp than a tube powerhouse? – probably the one from Marshall. We all know that this brand holds a special place no matter what kind of amp we’re talking about. Their JVM line was designed to deliver powerful performances, suitable for gigging musicians and professionals. Now we’re talking about JVM205C – a real beast and a true competitor to other models on the market. This bad boy comes with 50 watts of power and 2 12” speakers: Celestion Heritage G12H and Celestion Vintage. The preamp section hosts four ECC83 valves and a single ECC83 phase splitter, while the power amp is equipped with two EL34 valves. This amp has two separate channels: Clean/Crunch and Overdrive. The Overdrive channel is designed for heavy rock/metal with stronger distortion. The JVM205C includes a four-way footswitch that lets you control different settings. You can program it in advance and easily switch between settings while playing. If you can afford it, it’s worth considering buying this amp.
- Rich and full clean tones
- Comes with a footswitch
- Versatile features
- Expensive (and I mean it)
What do you do if you want a boutique amp but can’t really afford it? Well, not much, but Randall seems to be doing quite a bit to help those of us who have the ambition to play the best without having to spend too much. Through their partnership with Mike Fortin, one of the best boutique amp creators nowadays, Randall came up with Thrasher, an amp that deserves to be in the pantheon of all of the best metal amps. With 120 watts and a quartet of 6L6 power amp tubes, this amp will destroy any stage you will set your foot on. With great power comes… well, not responsibility but great tone (at least with amps). This model has dual-channel with EQ control for both. This is a dream come true for anyone who is obsessed with tone shaping. There is also boost mode, high and low-frequency Gain controls, Presence/Density power amp voicing, and many features that “doom” this model to be one of the best metal-friendly amplifiers on the market.
- Thick, intense and full-bodied overdrive
- Amazing sounding cleans with depth and definition
- Big headroom
- Can discern “nonstandard” tunings and guitars
- Might be a bit too tight for some
While the two amps that we talked about so far are amazing the truth is that unless you are a pro player you probably won’t be able to afford it or are just a normal human who does not want to spend thousands of an amp. That does not mean that you can’t get a quality amplifier and EVH 5150III is here to prove it. This is a tube combo amplifier with 50-watt power and two 12-inch Celestion G12M speakers. Now, while this is a step down in price from the previous two models this is still a pretty luxurious amplifier. This amp is a tube amp, which means it produces fantastic sound no matter what, with a lovely, natural distortion. Don’t worry about the 50-watt power; one of the best guitar amps for metal with 50 watts can do much more than a 100-watt solid-state amp. It also has three switchable channels, offering versatility and helping you find your ideal tone.
- Power attenuator allows you to go from extreme volumes to bedroom levels
- You could easily nail Eddie Van Halen tones out of this fella
- Extremely good sound quality
- Wide range of gain options
- Very heavy (about 40 kilos)
- Might have certain hiss at some settings
Tube amplifiers are known to be expensive because they are delicate compared to solid-state models. You may need to replace the valves often, which adds to the cost. However, many people still prefer them because of their unique sound, and they end up buying tube amps whenever they get the chance. Especially if we’re talking about metal amps and the models with dirty channels. Blackstar HT Stage 60 112 MKII is a powerful beast, which still maintains a relatively affordable price. Its features will force you to grab your credit card and order it right away. This bad boy drives a single 12” Celestion speaker with 60 watts of power. It comes equipped with 2 x ECC83 and 2 x EL34 valves. It has three foot-switchable channels, including a single clean and two high gain channels (with ISF feature). This fella has a power reduction function, which enables you to reduce the output by 6 watts. Not to mention the effects loop, an extensive control panel, and wonderful sounds it can yield. And I’m just scratching the surface here.
- Diverse and interesting features
- Built to last
- Versatile sound
- The clean channel doesn’t have mid control
We will finish this list with the cheapest option (well… cheapest compared to the other models). Even if you are a beginner you probably have heard about Peavey and know that their amps have quite a good reputation no matter if they cost thousands or just a few hundred dollars. The 6505+ 112 is a combo electric guitar amp that can be used for metal. With 60 watts and five 12AX7 preamp tubes and 2 – 6L6GC power amp tubes this baby will blow your mind and resound in all venues. The 6505+ 112 is based on Peavey 6505+ but is a lot more compact and lightweight without losing any power and capabilities. There is 3-band EQ for each channel of the amp. This is topped off with MSDI (microphone-simulated XLR direct interface) which gives a pretty decent and authentic miked-cabinet simulation. This is a perfect model for someone who enjoys metal but is not necessarily playing just metal. A perfect starting point for a beginner who is looking for quality over price.
- Can simulate microphone response
- Very durable and long-lasting
- EQ, presence and resonance give you a lot of control over your tone
- Reverb is not as deep as with effects pedals
It is not a big secret that metal needs pedals, but a lot of people concentrate more on pedals and get a basic amplifier without realizing that a good amp will elevate your performance and work better with the pedals of your choice (to learn more about pedals look at our article about the best pedals). No one has an unlimited budget for their amps. Even the top metal players have some limit. It might be a lot higher than yours but no one is going to or wants to pay more than is due. That is why the key of buying a good amp for metal is not as much about the cost as it is about the variety of effects and features and how they fit your style and choice of the subgenre.
First of all, as already mentioned, determine your budget. That might seem like an easy task. You will look into your account and go “The cheaper, the better” but trust me, saving up a bit more for a while and getting a better amp will save you money in the long run. Know how you will be using your amp.
Will you be practicing at home most time and not doing any gigs? Then you do not need to get an amp with high wattage. Are you just a beginner with a pretty cheap guitar? Then unloading thousands on an amp won’t do you any good. But if you plan on gigging and in a band you have to consider wattage, effects, and combinations with pedals that you already have or will buy.
The other concern is what a beginner metal guitar amplifier is. Beginner amps are usually synonymous with cheap but do not look at it that way. If you are actually a beginner look at the effects and basic features as well as ease of maintenance and controls. While the more expensive amps have more effects and presets, you might not even be using most of them in the first couple of months of your playing. Figure out what presets work the best for you and when the time come get a better amp that will have all the presets that you have been dreaming of.
You have, hopefully, decided on which subcategory of metal you want to play (or several categories). Metal is a like a tree with a hell load of different branches. All these branches are very niche and specific to amp requirements. For instance, if you are going to play heavy metal make sure you have an amp that can create crunch, and distortion and have features that will allow for great solos. For Thrash, you will need something with good gain and balances mids. There are so many other genres like Goth, dark, doom, metalcore and all of them can be played on a metal-friendly amplifier but the more you know about the specific subgenre the better equipped you will be to find an amplifier that suits the genre.
Talking about the best guitar amplifier for metal is not an easy thing to do for several reasons. First of all, there is no one best amp for metal. Second of all, metal is not just one homogenous genre that accommodates all amps and techniques. As I have said, when looking into amps know your genre or at least several subgenres that you might be interested in. Learn more about specific effects (maybe pedals) necessary for that category and then it might be a bit easier to hone down on just a few models. Trust me, there are a lot – even too many – amps that are metal-friendly. Do not go just for the most affordable amp or for one that is made by a well-known brand. A lot of lesser-known (to the mainstream public) brands make the best, niche metal amps that you might not even have heard of. Of course, just an amplifier won’t do you good. You have to have a metal guitar that perfectly complements the amplifier (or vice versa). If you do not have a guitar yet, look through our articles about the best guitars for metal.