Our Top Pick for 2018: Fender Champion 100-Watt Electric Guitar Amplifier
Read our full review.
As a guitarist, you can expect to play some of the most iconic songs in the world. The genres that you’ll be able to touch run the gamut from pop to punk. If you are planning on not just playing a standard acoustic with a mic for boosting, then you are going to need a dedicated guitar amp. There are a large range of amplifiers out there today created by brands like Fender, Marshall, Vox, and others. With such a large selection, what are the best amps on the market today? We’ve compiled a great list of some of the three best electric guitar amplifiers on the market today. For those who are new to amps, we’ve even provided a great budget option as well as some pre-purchase considerations to take into account at the start of your amplifier experience.
Let’s Have a Quick Look of Our Top 4 Picks:
|Fender Champion 100 - 100-Watt Electric Guitar Amplifier||666 Reviews||$349.99||Buy on Amazon|
|Fender Frontman 10G Electric Guitar Amplifier||729 Reviews||$59.99||Buy on Amazon|
|Sawtooth ST-AMP-10ST-AMP-10 10-Watt Electric Guitar Amp||260 Reviews||$39.98||Buy on Amazon|
#1. Fender Champion 100-Watt Electric Guitar Amplifier
There are not many instrument brands with as storied a history as Fender. With the slogan of “Stop dreaming, start playing”, it’s not hard to imagine that the company wants to support the would-be musicians of the world by providing a large variety of instrument options. As the creators of the legendary Stratocaster and the Squier lines of electric guitars, Fender has been in the instrument production business since 1946. The Champion 100 watt amplifier, as our Gold Pick, incorporates this long history and dedication to the instrument into its excellent, functional design.
From an aesthetic point of view, this is a great looking, larger amp. It features the sloped console design that Fender has made popular. The knobs are skirted, similarly to the knobs that you’d find on some of Fender’s most iconic guitars. The front is coated in a silver grill cloth that accentuates the amp’s black vinyl shell. Insofar as dimensionality, this electric guitar amplifier measures in at 30 inches wide, 14 inches deep, and 22 inches high. This amplifier is also relatively light for its size; it only weighs 21 pounds, and features a strong handle on the top that will allow you to easily transport it from gig to gig.
Internally, this amp produces its great sound quality via two 12-inch speakers that can produce 100 watts of thrashing volume. Since this amp is based off of a device that Fender produced in the 1950s, you’d think that it would utilize a tube system to produce such great tone; this is not the case. Fender utilizes a great sounding solid state system to provide great sound at a fraction of the cost of a tube amp.
The console features two independent channels; one dedicated to the classic, clean sound that Fender has become known for over the years. This channel selection features the standard input jack for plugging in your guitar, a dedicated FTSW, or footswitch jack that will allow you to utilize a footswitch for utilizing specific amp settings by simply stepping on the switch. In addition to these jacks, there are four of the previously mentioned skirted knobs; volume, treble, bass, FX level, and FX select. The effects that the FX select manages are Fender reverb, delay/echo, chorus, tremolo, and vibratone. Once selected, you manage the level of the effects with the FX level knob, which gives you amazing versatility, even just using a single channel. Each of these sounds unique and represents a cleaner tone that is perfect for many genres of music.
The second channel on this amp features several gain selections that also incorporate a wide variety of tone effects. This channel is perfect for creating a crunchier sound that is perfect for hard rock or metal. To access this selection, simply push the CH select button and the on-board beneath the gain knob will illuminate. The skirted knobs in this channel are: gain, volume two, voice, treble, mid, bass, FX level, and FX Select. In addition to these knobs, there is an AUX in for your CD player, MP3 Player, or Smartphone, and a headphone jack that you can use to power those late night practice sessions where you don’t want to wake up the entire neighborhood. Two larger connectors follow these; a pre-out connector that allows you to output your guitar signal before the power amplifier and after the preamp and the final connector, a PWR IN connector, which allows you to connect an additional power amp.
Both channels feature a tap button that lets you add modulation to your amp’s delay. To change the settings, simply tap at the tempo at which you want the delay to modulate your sound. In other words, on any effect that uses timing to affect change, it will modulate upwards or downwards the time between the changes.
As our Gold Pick amplifier, this unit performs very well in both consumer and critical reviews. Of the 43 reviews on Amazon, 93 percent felt that this amp was worth at least a four star level of rating. Of this 93 percent, 77 percent thought that it was worthy of a perfect five star grade. The best testimonial for this unit comes from one such five star review: “I have to say that I was blown away by the performance of the Champion 100. The clean channel is very clean and perfect for my pedal board. I like the sound of the amp models but I use the overdrive channel as simply a clean boost. And it works perfectly for that. Overall, the tone of this amp is very good, with plenty of volume for clubs. It sounds great mic’d. It’s an extremely easy to use amp.”
#2. Marshall MG30CFX MG Series 30-Watt Guitar Combo Amp
Our Silver Pick is produced by iconic amp producer Marshall. Established as a instrument shop in 1962 by found Jim Marshall, his company soon became well-known for amplifiers when he realized that famous guitarists such as Pete Townsend and Ritchie Blackmore couldn’t quite find the sound they were looking for on their guitars. What followed is rock n’ roll history, as soon his company produced the legendary JMT45. Marshall continues this tradition of creating great amps with our Silver Pick entry.
For an amplifier, this unit has a truly eye-catching design. The first thing you’ll notice is the shell; it’s vinyl like other amps of its type, but the design is faux carbon fiber; as a result, this guitar amplifier looks like it’s coated in a light-catching woven material. As a matter of fact, the CF in MG30CFX stands for carbon fibre. Each of the amplifier’s edges are protected by a shiny black metallic amp corner that looks sleek and functionally protects the amp from the rigors of the road. The cloth grill has a tight weave that is taut and protects the single speaker unit housed inside the amps body. The console is also very nice looking; utilizing a brushed metallic surface to help accentuate the eight large knobs as well as the various inputs.
This is one very portable amplifier. Only measuring in at 18.9 inches in width, 16.5 inches in height, and 8.85 inches in depth, this amp will fit almost anywhere; as long as it’s in range of your guitar. It’s also not too hard to truck from place to place; it only weighs about 24 pounds in its entirety. This portability is made all the more easy by the standard handle that is positioned along the top of the amplifier.
Feature-wise, this single speaker, 30 watt guitar amp has a lot going for it. It utilizes a digital memory for the storing of your own personal settings for each of the four channels: clean, crunch, OD1, and OD2. To store your own personal settings for each channel, simply select the channel and the LCD light will shine either a solid green for clean and OD1, or a solid red for crunch and OD2. When you make a change to any of the knobs which include gain, treble, bass, middle, reverb, volume, FX, or master the amp will note that the settings no longer follow the pre-set values. It will display this disparity by causing the formerly solid light to start blinking. Once you’ve achieved the type of sound that you want to play, simply press and hold the store button and the formerly flashing light will return to a solid illumination meaning that this is the new pre-set.
Like our Gold Pick, this amp utilizes a tap switch for setting the tempo of the effects, features a AUX in for attaching a media device, and also has inputs for a foot controller and a set of headphones. The effects package that this unit comes with is chorus, a flanger, phase, delay, and even features a setting that will make your guitar strums sound one octave lower.
85 percent of the reviewing audience on Amazon felt that this guitar amp was at least worthy of a four star rating, and of this percentage, 68 percent felt it was deserving of a perfect rating. As one of the better-reviewed amps on Amazon, one reviewer had this to say: “Despite what other people say, this is a MARSHALL. When you look on any stage of any rock or metal band, you don’t see a line 6 or Vox or Roland. Hands down it’s a piece of art work, sounds just heavenly.”
#3. Fender Frontman 10G Electric Guitar Amplifier
Another excellent Fender amp, the well-crafted tradition of this iconic guitar and amp company comes through in this standard guitar amplifier. On first glance, you’ll notice that his unit is a lot more portable than the Champion model that we selected as our Gold Pick. It features a smaller form factor that is great for hefting and placing anywhere in any room. This is the perfect amplifier for travelling from home to a practice session, and is crafted well for extended travelling.
Aesthetically, this amp uses a lot of the visual cues from the Champion amp at a much smaller size. Present is the cracked faux leather, vinyl shell that is resistant to damage as well as the silver cloth grill that is emblazoned with the stylized Fender logo. The four skirted knobs that are oh-so Fender are colored black with white numbering. When it comes to measurements, this diminutive unit measures in at 10.2 inches wide, 11 inches high, and 5.8 inches deep. For ease of carrying it also only weighs 8.5 pounds in totality.
The knobs, which are set in a sloped Fender-style design, feature the settings that are present on almost all guitar amps and include gain, treble, volume, and bass. While this amp doesn’t have a full selection of effects, it does provide some great sounds that you can select from; these include Fender’s standard clean sound and a crunchier, more gain-y O.D. selection. As it isn’t weighed down by a ton of effects and settings, this is the perfect guitar for developing your skills on guitar; you simply don’t get sidetracked finding your favorite delay or echo effect, whichmakes this a great beginner’s amp.
This simplicity doesn’t mean that this amplifier is entirely bare-bones; there is an included AUX in for attaching your favorite media device and a headphone jack for practicing without disturbing the neighbors. The design also incorporates closed-back technology in order to provide excellent bass response.
87 percent of 343 Amazon reviewers positively reviewed this amplifier and granted it at least four stars. From one reviewer:“Small, light (less weight than, say, an industrial lunchbox computer), fairly loud for its size, built like the proverbial tank, no unwanted extras. And it’s cheap! (Sixty at my local GC.) It has a very nice clean sound, which you can dirty up a bit via the built-in overdrive (there’s a button and a gain dial).”
#4. Sawtooth ST-AMP-10ST-AMP-10 10-Watt Electric Guitar Amp
The ability to generate solidly great-sounding tunes isn’t something that requires an overly expensive amplifier. If you are ballin on a budget, then here’s a great little amplifier that will help you add polish to your guitar skills without breaking the bank. Developed by Sawtooth; an instrument producer that specializes in amps, guitars, cajons, ukuleles and harmonicas, this ten watt amplifier provides all of the musical power you crave at a very reasonable price.
As the only amp on our list where the controls are positioned on top of the unit, the Sawtooth 10 watt amp has a quality form factor that sets it apart from some of its portable contemporaries. Its single speaker is protected by a woven grey cloth fabric grill cover. The body of the amp is composed of a faux cracked leather vinyl material that admirably protects the amp’s delicate components from damage. The internal speaker is 6.5 inches and sounds great when you plug in your axe. Another unique looking feature of this guitar amp is the leather handle positioned atop the device. It’s of one piece of stitched leather that is attached via two metal buckles that are screwed into the amp’s body. The amp’s measurements are 10.5 in width, five inches in depth, and 11 inches in height. You’ll have no problem transporting either; it only weighs 6.5 pounds.
When it comes to sound settings, this amp features two drive settings, overdrive and standard and sports five knobs, including volume, gain, treble, middle, and bass. In addition to the input connection for your guitar, there is also a 6.35 stereo jack for your favorite headphones.
Of the 185 reviewers on Amazon, 88 percent of these were of at least a four star quality. Here is one great five star review: “I wasn’t sure what to expect with this amp based on it’s size…I am blown away by the quality. Not only have I purchased this, but many of my students have too. I have mine discreetly set up on an end table in our living room and nobody even knows it’s there. It’s easy to plug into, the sound quality is incredible and this puppy is loud.”
One of the simplest requirements that you should pay very specific attention to when buying a new amplifier. Amps range in size, you can buy a very small, very portable one, but if you try to play a gig with one of these, you might be very disappointed in the output. On the other hand, you can purchase a larger unit that will generate big sound, but good luck on carrying it; with some of these types of units, you’ll definitely need a friend to heft it from place to place. The key is knowing what you’ll be using your amp for when you buy it. For a newbie, simply go for a smaller amp that you can use on the run in order to take your practice on the road with you. When it comes time to start thinking about gigs, that’s when you can start thinking about larger, more powerful guitar amps.
Don’t have a tone pedal and want to get that tremolo-friendly surf guitar sound? Then, an amp with a great effects selection could be the choice for you. These types of amps can add echo effects to your guitar playing, but be forewarned; effects pedals and processors generally will give you a wider range of sound effects to add to your guitar. If you want a simplified and easy-going effects experience, then definitely consider a guitar that has a bevy of interesting tone effects to give your playing some extra oomph. Common amp effects are:
• Distortion – This adds that “crunchy” sound to your guitar. This is great for pumping out industrial-inspired sounds from your amp.
• Wah – This is a well-known sound that will help you emulate some of the style that was famous in the 70s and 80s.
• Chorus – Just like a chorus of vocalists, this effect sounds like there is multiple guitars playing in near-unison. The second guitar effect is purposely added with a minute time delay, to make it sound more like two guitarists are playing together.
• Flanger – This effect makes your guitar sound similar to a jet engine. It sounds great when playing and adds a very grunge-friendly feel to your playing. This is done by the amp adding a delay to your sound, the delay is altered as your play; as a result, your harmonics start to phase cancel, created a flanged sound.
• Tape Echo – This is the tremolo style sound that you find in a lot of surf guitar. This amp setting allows you to have add tremolo sound to every strum rather than having to execute it yourself.
Some guitar amps come loaded with extra features that can really bolster your guitar playing experience. You can utilize an effects loop in order to cycle through effects faster as you play. There are other connectivity-based extra features like line outputs that add speaker emulation for when you want to record at home. Some even have external speaker connectivity that will allow you to create a broader, more specialized sound. Extra features are great; just remember that if you are new to guitar playing and you are still learning how to differentiate a tremolo from a vibrato, then you might want to consider simply investing in a guitar amp that’s not weighed down with a ton of extraneous features.
Tube Amp, Solid State, or Digital?
Tube style amps are considered the best sounding amp type by many guitarists. This style is very classic sounding and, as a result of its construction, tends to be the most expensive of the types of amps on the market today. Solid state and digital amps, which some feel produce a great sound and tend to be much cheaper than a traditional tube amp. There are even hybrids on the market today that have the tone is produced in a tube, and a solid state system is utilized for the power amp.
Wattage doesn’t always equate to a speaker’s sound power, volume actually directly correlates to a amps wattage in combination to its speaker’s efficiency. This means that if your speaker isn’t efficient, a 40 watt amp could provide more volume than a 100 watt amplifier. Wattage does directly correlate to how clean the sound that is generated by the amp is; and as a rule, this is great for bass guitarists. However, since most standard electric guitarist believe that power tube distortion is the best way to add flavor to your music, the extra cleanness of a high wattage amp is not always desirable. When selecting an amplifier always make sure to take the wattage into account. If you want to add a little crunch to your sound, stay under 100 watts or so.
Conclusion (Wrapping it up)
As you might expect, sound quality is the most important consideration for any musician. A great, dedicated guitar amp can turn your unique sound from mediocre to high quality through the usage of tone knobs, effects, and delays. When you’re looking into getting a new amplifier for your aural pursuits, always make sure that the model you end up buying fits your playstyle, fits your mobility, and most of all has all of the features that you need to rock the house. This guide has provided some excellent models of amps; some even from iconic brands like Fender and Marshall, and we’ve also included some considerations that will help you make a more informed decision on your amp. However, these aren’t the only types of amplifiers on the market, so be sure to shop around before settling on a device that you’ll most likely use for years.