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The most legendary amps in guitar history
The guitar amp is a crucial part of a guitar player's sound. Like most things guitar-related, this topic can be highly subjective and rightly so. There are so many different kinds of guitar amps, the options are almost endless. And there are a plethora of models to choose from. It all comes down to taste and preference. However, there are a few guitar amps that have stood the test of time. These were used by some of the most celebrated guitar heroes we know. They also helped create many revered recordings. These amplifiers are still highly sought after even today. One might argue that craftmanship and technology have come a long way from the time these vintage amps were released. However, it is hard to argue with history. All the amps in this list can be considered vintage, which in turn presents its own set of challenges. Here are the most legendary amps in history.
Marshall 1959 Super Lead 100 Watt Plexi
This is arguably the most legendary tube amp ever. Introduced in 1965 The "Plexi" has four inputs, two channels, 100 watts, and a Plexiglass faceplate. It was typically matched with 4x12 cabinets. This amp was heavily employed by legends such as Jimi Hendrix (featured on the iconic Woodstock Festival), Eric Clapton, and Pete Townshend.
Fender introduced the Bassman amp in 1952. Almost 70 years later, it is a highly sought-after amp for guitarists that love vintage gear. Funny enough, it was intended for bassists (hence the name). Out of all the amps on this list, the bassman is probably the one most beloved by guitar legends. Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton, Mike Campbell, Mike Bloomfield, Jimmie Vaughan, John Fogerty, Brian Setzer, and many more have used this amp for decades. The Fender Bassman is heralded as being extremely responsive to the player's touch. It is also a great pairing with Stratocaster guitars.
Vox AC30 Top Boost
Vox introduced the 30-watt AC30 tube amp in 1958, offering it in 1x12 (one speaker of 12 inches) and 2x12 configurations (two 12-inch speakers), and with a single tone control. A few years later this amp was upgraded with three channels, each with two inputs. It also featured an optional Top Boost which introduced an extra gain stage and separate bass and treble controls. The AC30 was used on The Beatles’ early recordings. Other famous guitar players to use it are The Edge, Brian May, and Tom Petty.
The Marshall JCM800 made its splash in the industry in 1981. At that time Marshall had also introduced the Master Volume feature. This made the JCM800 the ideal option for crunchy, in-your-face distortion at low output levels. This attracted droves of metal and hard-hitting rock guitarists such as Slayer’s Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman and Slash of Guns N’ Roses.
But the recognition of the JCM800 did not stop there. Modern guitar heroes such as Fugazi’s Ian MacKaye and Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine still employ this Marshall amp to this day.
This is the only amp on the list that is not a tube amp. The Roland Jazz Chorus 120 is a solid-state amp know for its pristine and clean sound. It was introduced in 1975, with 120 watts of power and a built-in Dimensional Space Chorus effect that became highly desirable at the time.
Fender Twin Reverb
This might be the vintage amp most in use today. Besides the fact that it sounds fantastic, it is also one of the lighter amps on this list. Oh, don't get me wrong: it is still heavy. Just not that heavy. The Fender Twin Reverb is considered a go-to model for guitarists searching for a clean sound. Its built-in spring reverb is world-wide known for its quality. It was used by legends such as Stevie Ray Vaughan and Steve Howe. Famous players that use it today include Dweezil Zappa and Jack White.
Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier
Starting in 1970 Mesa/Boogie was admired for its powerful and convenient Mark series amps. In 1989 they release a range of bigger and more powerful Dual and Triple Rectifier amps. For the past 30 years, the Dual Rectifier developed a reputation as one of the most beloved rock amps.
The amp was especially attractive to metal and hard-rocking groups such as Living Colour, Metallica, Tool, Korn, Soundgarden and Foo Fighters. Mesa upgraded the Dual in 2009. This time they included a third, dedicated clean channel, making this rockstar amp even more versatile.
Over the last two decades, boutique amps have become very popular due to the variety, uniqueness, and attention to detail that they offer. These amps are typically offered by smaller companies. Just like in the case of boutique guitars, many of these companies are run by former employees of the big amp companies. Usually, they offer high-end amplifiers of all sizes, types, and configurations. These amps are beloved by many well-seasoned players as well as informed guitar enthusiasts. They tend to feature very high quality, which is reflected in their price as well. Companies like Bogner, Suhr, Dr. Z, Bad Cat, Matchless, Tone King, and Two Rock are some of the best. At the present time, none of these amps can rival the vintage ones in terms of their impact in history. However, expect this to change in a few years. Even some well know guitar heroes now favor boutique amps as opposed to vintage one. This is not only for practical reasons but also for sound.
Wrapping it all up
Guitar amplifiers are a vital part of a guitarist's sound. The amps listed here have played an important role in shaping the sound of western music. Be it rock, blues, country, or even jazz. These amps have been used in countless recordings by some of the greatest guitar players ever.
That’s it for this week. Stay tuned and…