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When it comes to buying a guitar amp for jazz, what are the best choices? We’ve already written about some of the best guitars for playing this style but, for this guide, we’ve jumped into the topic of what options are out their for jazz amplifiers. 

Whether you’re looking to start playing jazz guitar or just to upgrade your current set-up so it’s more suited to this type of music, here’s our guide to some of the key choices you need to make, which famous jazz guitarists you might want to copy and recommendations on some specific brands.

Here are our top picks, before we dive into the full round up…

ImageProductTypePrice
Tube
Fender Limited Edition Blues Jr.
Fender Limited Edition Blues Jr.

The rich, clean Fender sound at a more-affordable price.

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Tube
VOX AC30C2
VOX AC30C2

Brighter, janglier sound with less prominent low-end than Fender

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Solid-state
Roland CUBE-10GX Compact
Roland CUBE-10GX Compact

Incredibly popular compact amp from a trusted manufacturer

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Solid-state
AER COMPACT
AER COMPACT

The go-to amp for many jazz players, can produce a rich, warm tone on archtops

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Jazz guitar amps

Tube Amps vs Solid-State Amps

When it comes to setting up your guitar for jazz, there’s one big question to ask first: should you use a solid-state amp or a tube amp?

Here’s what you need to know about these two types…

Tube amps

Tube amps – also known as ‘valve amps’ – use vacuum tubes to amplify your guitar signal, and were the first type of electric guitar amplifier.

They have a distinctive warmth, and are very responsive to playing dynamics – turning the guitar’s volume down or playing softer can produce a cleaner sound, and turning up or playing harder makes the tone more aggressive.

As such, tube amps are very versatile: they can provide a rich, warm clean tone, but when they are turned up, the tubes naturally saturate the sound and produce overdrive.

Some amps, such as the classic Fender Twin Reverb, are designed to be super-clean, even at louder volumes (known as having ‘headroom’).

Fender amps like this are a favourite among jazz guitarists.

The disadvantage with tube amps is that they can be large and heavy and require maintenance – the tubes themselves need replacing about once a year!

They sound best when turned up at least moderately loud. The tone may be unsatisfying on the lowest settings, so they may not be appropriate for quieter gigs.

Solid-State Amplifiers

The more modern solid state amp uses transistors to amplify your signal. They tend to be much smaller and lighter than tube amps, but can be surprisingly loud for their size!

They produce a clear, crisp clean tone which doesn’t saturate at higher volumes, like a small tube amp would.

Many feature in-built digital effects, and some (such as Line 6 guitar amps) even go further – offering digital modelling – allowing you to turn your amplifier into dozens of pre-set ‘classic’ amplifiers at the touch of a button.

Solid state amps are designed to not add any colour to the sound of your instrument, and pair especially well with archtop guitars. Some jazz players prefer solid state amps designed specifically for acoustic instruments, such as the AER compact 60.

Small, light, and powerful, these amps are very portable and don’t require regular maintenance – unlike tube amps.

With all that in mind, here are some popular choices for both types of guitar amp…

Best Tube amps for Jazz

Fender Blues Junior

Fender have a range of excellent tube-powered amplifiers. The Fender Blues Junior is a compact and affordable amp that offers the same rich, clean sounds as the more expensive models, whilst being cheaper and more portable.

The warm jazz tones it produces, as well as the surprisingly high volume it’s capable of, defies its relatively low power output of 15W.

ImageProductFeaturesPrice
Fender Blues Jr. (Limited Edition)Fender Blues Jr. (Limited Edition)
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Fender Blues Deluxe

The Deluxe is a bigger, better (heavier) model from Fender. It has more low end and flexiblity than the Blues Junior, as well as a separate overdrive channel.

With almost 3 times the wattage of a Junior, it’s a seriously powerful jazz guitar amp!

ImageProductFeaturesPrice
Fender Blues DeluxeFender Blues Deluxe
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Vox AC30 C2

This is a less conventional jazz amplifier choice, but one that’s well worth considering…

Vox amps tend to be brighter, ‘janglier’ and have less prominent low end than Fenders. Despite this, there are some great examples of how this amp can be used; John Scofield has done beautiful things with a Telecaster and a Vox AC30!

ImageProductFeaturesPrice
VOX (AC30C2)VOX (AC30C2)
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Best Solid-State Amps for Jazz

Roland Cube

Roland Cube amps are popular and robust solid-state amplifiers that generally house numerous quality inbuilt effects.

Portable and often more affordable than their tube amp equivalents, these are a good bet for those looking for a practical piece of equipment that can be used in a variety of different settings.

Whilst we’d recommend the Roland Blues Cube amp as a solid choice for playing jazz, the low-budget Roland Cube micro is well worth a look for the ultimate in portable quality or practicing at home.

ImageProductFeaturesPrice
Roland CUBE-10GXRoland CUBE-10GX
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ZT Lunchbox

The ZT Lunchbox amp provides great tones in a very compact package.

Modern jazz guitar great Julian Lage, amongst others, has been seen to gig with one of these!

There are minimal controls, but this little thing can produce remarkable volume for its size!

ImageProductFeaturesPrice
ZT Lunchbox Junior ComboZT Lunchbox Junior Combo
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AER Compact 60

The AER compact 60 is a go-to amp for many jazz players, including Russell Malone.

Designed for acoustic instruments, this amp is very transparent, and played with an archtop guitar, can produce a rich, warm, ‘wooden’ tone.

ImageProductFeaturesPrice
AER COMPACT 60/4 AmpAER COMPACT 60/4 Amp
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Hopefully this guide gave you some better insight into your options when it comes to buying a great jazz guitar amplifier. As always, let us know in the comments what your set up of choice is: solid-state or tube amps? Or does it depend on the occasion..?

Looking for more jazz guitar?

Check out this round up of 10 of the best modern jazz guitarists today, or this rundown of the best types and brands of guitars for playing jazz.

 

Discover Jazz
Discover Jazz

The label ‘Discover Jazz’ is attached to articles which have been edited and published by Jazzfuel host Matt Fripp, but have been written in collaboration with various different jazz musicians and industry contributors. When appropriate, these musicians are quoted and name-checked inside the article itself!