What are the essential amps?


Apr 18, 2020
Prague, CZ
I think much less of brands or models but more in terms of general qualities to the circuit-- tweedy, BF Fenderish, British Invasion (again, I prefer Selmers and Watkins over anything Vox or Marshall produced though I've played fine vintage examples of the latter), Valco/Supro, 40s/50s octals etc. Often times you'll see some overlap too, because nothing is really all that revolutionary in the amp world. For example, a Marshall Bluesbreaker is based on the Watkins/WEM Dominator which shares major similarities with Gibson Skylarks.

Besides, whether you're recording or playing live, the amp is only a very small portion of the sound sculpting process. Microphones, mic placement, guitars, room treatment, PAs/preamps, guitars, EQing, compression, etc. all make bigger impacts IMO on how the sound comes out in the end than whatever amp you plug into, or even if you plug into an amp at all.


May 21, 2022
This thread is resonating for me in that I’m curious about what might be missing in my sonic palette for recording. I have…
SF Deluxe Reverb (‘77 and 2 ‘78’s)
Custom Vibrolux Reverb (from ‘91)
‘65 Super Reverb RI
‘68 Custom Twin
- Vox
AC-30CCH w/ 2x12 cab (my favorite tube distortion)
Pacemaker V2 from 1965
Saturn Reverb
-Line 6/Bogner
DT-50 2x12
(Both from Victoria)

*note: I’m not a Marshall guy.


Jul 4, 2020
Los Angeles
Most high-end modelers will cover the "essential" amplifiers. A glance down the list of the amps they cover will reveal their thoughts. Line 6, for example, has the actual amps they've modeled on hand at their Calabasas studio. This isn't meant to advocate for modelers over physical amps, but it's interesting to see their take on the matter. Ditto cabs, ditto FX.


Aug 11, 2022
Shredder amps are underrepresented in this list.
Yes, there are no shredder amps on the list. The Marshall DSL and Silver Jubilee might be barely borderline shredder, but maybe not. I was thinking along the lines of amps for Gretsch guitars, so shredder amps may be lower on the list for Gretsch players.
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Country Gent
May 13, 2018
BF Princeton Reverb or SF
Z Carmen Ghia
Some more wattage, Maybe a Vibrolux or a Super reverb.


Apr 18, 2020
Prague, CZ
Speaking of unique amp sounds, you can get some really cool clean or lightly overdriven sounds out of those shredder or “metal” amps (JCM 800s, Matamps, Laneys) that are totally under appreciated in the non heavy music scene.

A friend here had a custom Matamp 100w head and it was absolutely amazing for clean sounds too.


Mar 19, 2022
Cincinnati OH
I'm not sure if this is intended to list classic historical amps, or a critical toolbox of sounds for, say, a studio player.

In either case conversations like this either rely on big assumptions about style (and demographics, location, or time period) which leave a lot of people out, or they are so broad that there can be no consensus.

And they leave out lots of stuff that seems just as classic as ones that make it to the list, like all those other Fender tweed/brown/black panel models, or the V front Dominator when the Marshall 18 watt (which was less common and well known in the UK scene in the 60s) makes it.

A Dual Showman and an Ampeg B-15N are surely classics, but I would not necessarily recommend either to a friend that was in the market, outside of very specific circumstances.

Lou Coppolino

Jul 23, 2022
Howell, NJ
My current stash of "essentials"................

Vox AC30

Dr Z Prescription head

Kendrick Gusher head

Top Hat Ambassador 35 watt 2x12 Combo

Alessandro Redbone Coonhound

Fender Tone Master w/Fender matching 2x12 Cabinet

Marshall 35th Anniversary 1987 Head & Matching 19660 Cabinet


Bruno Underground head

Fender Blackface Super Reverb

Fender Brown Princeton

Suhr Badger head.

wabash slim

I Bleed Orange
Feb 10, 2010
lafayette in
For real. Great records have been made with the absolute worst amps of all time. Solid state Voxes. Smokey amps. Peavey Decades.

Edit: To expand on this, I think it's better to have an interesting sounding amp than a "good" sounding amp.
How good your gear sounds doesn't matter that much when someone's listening to a compressed MP3 file on a 2" Bluetooth speaker or the tiny tinny speakers in the cell phone.


Apr 18, 2020
Prague, CZ
How good your gear sounds doesn't matter that much when someone's listening to a compressed MP3 file on a 2" Bluetooth speaker or the tiny tinny speakers in the cell phone.
Even live in weird spaces or for audiences that frankly don’t care. Nobody in your average bar or honkytonk and clubs cares if you have TV Jones or ceramic filters. Very few people can even hear the difference between a Vox or a Fender live, let alone other more subtle details. 😂