Essential Amplifiers: Blues

This installment of Essential Amplifiers focuses on the blues genre.

Ultimate Guitar
Here's my roundup of the best amplifiers for blues and their notable users!

Fender Twin

The Fender Twin is the amp that comes to mind when one thinks of the "stereotypical" electric blues sound. This amp was immortalized by legendary guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan, who could really make it sing with the combination of his amazing talents and trusted Tubescreamers.

The Twin offers spanky cleans and warm, articulate overdriven tones that are absolutely sublime when combined with single-coil pickups.

Notable Users: Stevie Ray Vaughan, Johnny Winter, Ted Nugent, Eric Clapton, Billy Gibbons, Jack White, B.B. King

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Marshall JTM45

Similar to the Fender Bassman in tonal range, but I believe the JTM45 is better for overdriven sounds. The JTM45 was one of the seminal Marshall designs, and became a template of sorts for many subsequent amplifiers. While the JTM45 features more "sag" and less "crunch" than most Marshall designs are known for, the amp has been used by many great blues artists on stage or in the studio.

Notable Users: Angus Young, Randy Rhoads, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page

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Fender Bassman

Class amplifier here. Originally intended for use with bass guitar, many early guitarists (and still many today) fell in love with this amp's warm, slightly-compressed sound. The tweed models are highly-sought after and sound incredible.

Notable Users: Billy Gibbons, Buddy Guy, Jimmy Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix, John Mayer

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Vox AC30

This amp made it on two lists in our Essential Amps series, and for good reason. Since the 1960s, the Vox AC30 has been seen on countless stages, in countless studios, and has been cloned and copied (but never 100%) by countless boutique manufacturers.

This is a go-to amp for many styles of music, and serves the blues well with its glassy cleans and stellar warm, mild overdrive tones. While usually not a first choice for hardcore bluesmen, make no mistake that this amp is quite at home with pretty much any style of music.

Notable Users: Jimmy Page, Ronnie Wood, Rory Gallagher

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Dumble Steel String Singer

Although any Dumble amp could be on this list, the Steel String Singer is another amp made legendary by one Stevie Ray Vaughan. It was a LOUD, clean amp with no overdrive but surely did it smoke.

Obviously, it has a lot to do with the player, but Dumble amps sound as great as they are hard to acquire.

Notable Users: Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Mayer

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Marshall Bluesbreaker

This amp was originally the brainchild of Eric Clapton, who needed a more portable amp with tremolo features. He requested Jim Marshall design it, and the Marshall Bluesbreaker was born. Due to it being a lower-wattage (around 35 watts), the amplifier could break up much more easily at moderate volumes as opposed to the standard 100 watt stacks of the day.

Notable Users: Eric Clapton

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Two-Rock Custom Reverb

Though Two-Rock has just recently come onto the scene, popularized by more modern blues artists like John Mayer and Joe Bonamassa, these amps remain among some of the most versatile on this list. Various features include a "mid defeat" switch, which scoops some of the middle and voices the amp a like a Fender, as well as a switchable power section for EL34 or 6L6 tube flavor.

Notable Users: John Mayer, Joe Bonamassa, Matt Schofield

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Dr. Z Maz 38 SR

It was hard to pick just one Dr. Z amp for this topic, as they make some killer amps that handle the blues quite well. The Maz 38 SR does the sparkling cleans to overdrive very well perfect for the blues. Not only is it possible to dial in great tones just going guitar to amp, but it makes a great platform for pedals. Tone and versatility are the name of the game here.

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Fender Super Reverb

This amp excels at the Texas blues sound especially. Ideally suited for use with single coil pickups, throw a Tubescreamer in front and this amp will just blaze.

Notable Users: Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert King, B.B. King, Robben Ford

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Carr Rambler

This amp made the list for one good reason it is one of the most pristine clean sounds you will ever find. Like the Dumble mentioned previously, this amp is a clean, loud amp and really responds to the player's picking.

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Sovtek MIG 50

Similar to certain 50-watt Marshall heads, the Sovtek MIG 50 is sometimes referred to as a "poor man's Marshall," but that moniker is very misleading. Many compare these amps to various Marshall models and there are a variety of models from which to choose, just do a little research on which may suit you the best.

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About The Author: Brandon Stoner runs Audio Ecstasy Productions out of Los Angeles, CA specializing in guitar and backline tech for touring, custom stompbox and cable design for stage and studio, audio engineering, and many other audio and guitar-related services.

20 comments sorted by best / new / date

    glad to see john mayer is mentioned here in a thread relating to blues, i know he does pop music too but his blues stuff is what he enjoys and you can tell because of the quality of it. a two-rock was/is my 'aim' in life, once i have one, i can die happy, but reading through this, there's some competition for what quality you can get for your /$ cheers
    I know you can't list every model, but I'm a bit surprised at some of the more esoteric mentions, but nothing about the 5E3 Fender Tweed Deluxe?
    Neil Young is all you need to know about that. the distortion he gets out of just that amp pushed to the max is impressive to say the least.
    I also note a distinct lack of 18W Marshall love? Surely the 1974 and it's clones have a much greater presence in Blues than the Carr or Dr. Z listed?
    Thanks for the love guys! I'll keep these articles coming. Any suggestions or ideas for something you'd want me to write about just shoot me a PM!
    I love these essential amp articles. Sure, I might be pretty good at predicting what will come up, but there's always something I would have missed, and it's interesting to read about them. The article definitely benefits from the video links as well, no-one has to click them but they're there, and it's a nice touch.
    out of all these amps, which one is the cheapest. second cheapest, and third?
    Sovteks, then a reissued AC30, then a reissued Bassman But these are all fairly popular circuits (hell, the JTM45 is based off the Bassman), so any local amp guru could probably build you any of these, save the two rock/Dumble (overrated hot rodded Fenders, imo), for under $1000.
    Good Ol' Ramos
    This was a great article to get me started on amp hunting. I expect my next big purchase to be a tube amp and this is sending me in the right direction I feel. Vox AC30 is looking very nice.