Essential Amplifiers: Rock

The second installment in "Essential Amplifiers" series focuses on the rock genre.

Essential Amplifiers: Rock
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The second installment in my "Essential Amplifiers" series focuses on the rock genre.

Read the previous article here.

I've tried to go beyond the standards and include some amplifiers that get little.

Marshall Plexi

The Plexi is one of Marshall's most prized models, and is perfect for rock tones. Glassy, punchy, warm, and present are all adjectives to describe this great series of amplifiers. The Plexi is not a singular amp but actually a line of amps, named for the plexiglass front panel of the amplifier. The most notable of all the Plexi incarnations is the 1959 Super Lead 100W, which was born for the arenas.

Notable Users: Eddie Van Halen, Pete Townshend, Cream-era Eric Clapton, Angus Young, Billy Gibbons, Jimmy Page

Vox AC30

What a great amp the AC30 is! Another of those that are supremely versatile, and used just as much for their overdriven tones as the cleans. Prized for articulate, glassy clean sounds and a great cranked out, classic rock overdrive. It has gone through various changes in its lifetime, and has continually been in production since it was released onto the market. It is now available in a great, hand-wired version.

Notable Users: The Beatles, Brian May, Foo Fighters, Jimmy Eat World, The Edge, Tom DeLonge (Blink-182, Angels & Airwaves), Thom Yorke, Matt Bellamy

Fender Twin

Another amp that is forever legendary the Fender Twin. It's characteristic clean tone is a thing of beauty, and it can take pedals very well. This amp has been favored by many diverse artists in the studio and on the stage.

Notable Users: Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Ted Nugent, Cheap Trick, Kurt Cobain, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix

Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier

This amp made 2 of our lists for good reason it's THAT versatile. It's almost usable for any style imagineable, though it accels when the gain is pushed. You'll see this on stages the world over backlining rock, metal, punk, pop, alternative artists and more.

It offers pretty much everything you'd want in any amp: great cleans, incredible crunch tones, multiple channels, effects loop, and very focused, shapeable EQ.

Notable Users: Foo Fighters, Joel Stroetzel (Killswitch Engage), Coheed And Cambria, Thrice, Adam Jones, Jerry Cantrell

Savage Blitz

The Blitz 50 is a boutique amp designed with classic British and American tones in mind. It seems to clean up pretty well like Fender amps while offering an overdrive with a British flavor, more Hiwatt than Marshall. All tube hand-wired design ensures the finest attention to detail.

Notable Users: Chris Shiflett, Pearl Jam, Doyle Bramhall, Bob Weir, Peter Buck

Fender SuperSonic

This is one of the newer all-tube models issued by Fender, and it is certainly new territory for them. This amp combines the classic cleans that Fender is known for with the addition of high-gain settings. This amp also features all of the features that modern players need multiple channels, preamp out, and so on. By combining the past with the present and future, Fender has created a truly unique and versatile amplifier for the rock world.

Notable Users: Foo Fighters, Airborne Toxic Event, Matt Skiba (Alkaline Trio)

Roland JC-120

The Roland Jazz Chorus is a unique amplifier. It offers a stereo option; the left and right speakers can act independently. It is a 120 watt solid-state unit, and while this amp is pretty much strictly for cleans (it does have overdrive but it's not very good). Heavily used in genres ranging from heavy metal to funk, it does cleans better than almost any other amp on the market. It also takes pedals extremely well, which adds to its versatility. In addition it has on-board analog chorus and tremolo effects, which sound great. The JC120, while not strictly intended for it, also is great for amplifying acoustic guitars and keyboards (watch those low notes though!).

Notable Users: James Hetfield, Billy Duffy, Zakk Wylde, Robert Fripp, John Petrucci, Mark Knopfler, Johnny Marr, Brad Nowell, Joe Strummer, Andy Summers

Hiwatt Custom 50/100

Hiwatt, along with Marshall and Vox, came to define the British sound of the 60's and beyond. These amps feature great British crunch, and the power section of these amps is something of legend. They are offered in a 50-watt version or a stadium-filling 100-watt variation. These are the sound of early Led Zeppelin (Jimmy Page had his Hiwatt's custom-modded), and David Gilmour used the 50 watt version in Pink Floyd at times. More recently these amps have found favor with bands like Pearl Jam and Green Day.

Notable Users: Jimmy Page, Pete Townshend, Billie Joe Armstrong, David Gilmour, Mike McCready, Dave Grohl

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.

33 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    sideslick
    Six of the eight amps listed were used by either bandmates of Dave Grohl, or Dave Grohl Himself. It mentioned Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl, Chris Shiflett, and Nirvana. Seven out of eight amps (adding the Plexi), if you count Jimmy Page's Wembley appearance with Foo Fighters' Dave and Taylor. He's probablyat least played with someone using a Roland, too. Just a fun fact I noticed. It just means Dave is even more noticeably rock 'n' roll than he already was.
    sroze478
    I picked up on that too...I guess the Foos/Dave Grohl have great taste in amps!
    KerNeL_KLuTcH
    it's more of UG riding Grohl's dick 24/7
    DisarmGoliath
    @KerNeL_KLuTcH: fastlanestoner is not part of the UG Team, actually, he's a regular user who decided to contribute some articles for you guys to learn a little about the gear that goes into some classic sounds. If you're going to criticise us or him, at least get your facts straight.
    Different376
    Fun fact: They did actually use a roland JC-120 for Wasting Light... To record the vocals for White Limo. I forget the source but I read an article about the recording process and White Limo's vocals were done with I believe a ProCo Rat and definitely a JC120 to get that super dirty tone. So there you go, 8/8
    Natrone
    Surprised to see the Orange Rockerverb and anything from Supro/Valco get snubbed for this while the Jazz Chorus and Super Sonic made it in.
    Dimarzio45
    Nicely done. I'm surprised the Roland made it on the list. I'll have to try one out.
    Dimarzio45
    Eric Johnson would've been a good "Notable User" to have for the Fender Twin. Just sayin'...
    jkielq91
    James Hetfield uses them for his clean tone. That covers some really iconic songs.
    arabmetallion
    Jimmy Page recorded with an AC30, just pointing it out. nice list but you can't not put the JCM800 lol it's practically THE amp of the 80's. the mesa mark also deserves a spot
    Dimarzio45
    Jimmy Page admitted to using a Supro amp to record most of the first two Led Zeppelin albums. He never said what model though.
    plbrynt
    Fender Bassman.....?? And the Mesa MK IV should have been included in the metal amp article. But a nice list anyway..
    badfish_lewis
    Love your articles dude. I love my Fender Twin for it's cleans but I've always wanted to try out the Roland as well
    *Stranger*
    ice list BUT one does not simply put page in the last place plus blackmore would go with plexi a lot because he even modded his to be a 150 watt and ofc, rory galagher for ac-30 other than that great maybe a bit more description of what these amps offer would also be nice
    Dimarzio45
    You could at the very least capitalize Jimmy Page's last name if he's that important for you to complain about how he's listed last on the FIRST amp in the article. Plus, what qualifies Page to be any more important of a contributer to noteworthy guitar tones than the rest of the listed artists?
    korinaflyingv
    Mostly a good list, but if you're going to include stuff like the Savage and the Supersonic, the whole article becomes kinda meaningless. If they're "essential", then pretty much any amp above a certain quality is going to be "essential".
    lank81
    I'd put the MKIV and JCM800 before the Super-Sonic. Not a bad amp but I think the Pro-Sonic is better. Still, cool choices none the less and all are worthy of being on this style of list.
    gerrywm
    Am Tom Delonge mention for the Ac30 and not Rory Gallagher? Both Brian May and the Edge got Ac30's as they wanted to get Rory's sound...Brain May having asked him in person went and the same amp and boost pedal