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Ultimate Guitar Amps - A Personal Selection

AmpsBossCarvin AmplificationCombo AmpGigging AmpHome-Play AmpKatanaMESA/BoogieModelling AmpPeaveySolid State AmpTube Amp+-

Although my focus of late has very much been on pedals, I do of course still harbour a desire to improve my amp backline. As reported on several occasions now - I run an extensive pedal chain through a stereo rig with a Boss Katana 100 on the left channel and a Carvin V3MC (50W) on the right - piling everything into the front of those two amps while making great use of the TC Electronic Mimiq, and mostly playing at scaled down volumes - entirely for home-use - but still plenty raucous enough.


For me the perfecting of timbres and textures of tone is very much about finding complementary components which fill in each other’s gaps and provide a deeper, richer and wider soundstage. This means using two sufficiently different, but still sympathetic / complementary sounding amps - which work well in combination. And the Boss Katana and Carvin V3MC - with all my pedals - create a phenomenal soundstage with plenty of headroom, clarity, and very pleasing low-end too - perfect for very high-fidelity home-playing.


The Katana and V3MC currently sit on top of a Fender Mustang IV v2 and a Hughes & Kettner Tubemeister 18 Twelve respectively, decent enough amps in their own right, but not really currently used. This is partly because I get much better tones out of the other two, but also because the controls cannot be easily accessed when in stacked combination. I have reviewed both the Katana and V3MC previously and stated their strengths and weaknesses. The Katana (£269) is the best amp you can get for that money or even several hundred pounds higher - one of the best solid-state amps every created - everyone should own one - especially at that price.


The small Carvin V3MC (c£1,000) is an equally phenomenal amp - essentially like a mini MESA:Boogie Mark V - with 3 Channels, each with independent 3-pot EQs and various tone switching toggles. It is less than 1/3 of the price of the Mark V and about half the size - a wonder of engineering. It also has a truly great clean channel which I mostly make use of - there’s lots of tweakability on offer here, but the power tubes are EL84s which don’t always give you much in the bottom-end. For my purposes though, this amp is incredibly versatile and really usable - and complements the EL34 modelling of the Katana brilliantly.


Way back when I started looking at amps in this most recent phase, there was very little about Peavey amps in general (most of the YouTube gurus don’t have much to do with them), and nothing at all really about my most likely next acquisition - the Peavey Vypyr Pro 100 (£619) - which Steve PixxyLixxx raves about so much, and which seems so well suited to rock players - using a 4 gain-stage analogue transistor circuit - for wonderful and lively crunchy sounds. It would replace the Fender Mustang, but would be unlikely to oust the Boss as number 1 left channel choice, with which I am currently so happy. The Peavey would give me another option for tone-questing and experimenting with different textures, particularly using the amazing dedicated Sanpera Pro Foot Controller - with dual volume / expression rockers. Also, as the menu panel is front-facing, it would work well with the Katana stacked on top of it.


I have frequently indicated that my dream amp is the MESA:Boogie Mark V (90W), it is easily the most expensive one featured here - by some margin (£3,235), and the one I will always aspire to - it is simply the most brilliantly versatile tube combo amp available with no real competitors (unless H&K decide to offer their TriAmp in combo format). My playing chops are no way near the mark yet to be deserving one of these any time soon, apart from the fact also that I would have to save up considerably, But it remains one of my longer term targets alongside a natural Rosewood-necked PRS 513 guitar (currently out of production). There is an amazing one for sale at the New Kings Road Vintage Guitar Emporium - as pictured below and for £3,200. The Mark V and 513 would complement each other perfectly! But I’m realistically speaking a few years off that goal - here’s to dreaming!



10 Things I look to have in my Amps

  • High Fidelity Clear and Clean Tone - great note separation, also reasonable low-end dynamics
  • Versatility - ability to play stand-alone, with pedals or in combination
  • Around 50 to 100W valve-equivalent volume output
  • Multiple Independent Channels - ideally 3 or more - Clean | Crunch | Lead
  • Independent EQs per Channel (Bass | Middle | Treble)
  • Power Scaling - the ability to play saturated tones at lower volumes - e.g. Carvin scaling - 7W | 22W | 50W
  • Presence / Brightness Control - to tune amp to guitar output / pickups
  • FX Loop (for signal routing versatility - even though I currently don’t use this much)
  • Multiple OHM output options for pairing with different speakers and cabs - 4 | 8 | 16
  • Cabinet Simulation Output - for DAW input and recording purposes
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Stefan Karlsson
Stefan Karlsson
Guitar Pedal X
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