When it comes to buying a guitar amp for jazz, what are the best choices? We’ve already written about some of the greatest jazz guitarists in history 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 style 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.
If you’ve got experience with some of these, or others to recommend, feel free to share your tips in the comments section…
Tube Amps vs Solid-State Amps
When it comes to buying an amp for playing jazz guitar, there are two different types you need to be aware of…
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 down side 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.
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. Some jazz players prefer solid state amps designed for acoustic instruments, such as the AER compact 60.
These are designed to not add any colour to the sound of your instrument, and pair especially well with archtop guitars. Small, light, and powerful, solid-state amps are very portable and don’t require regular maintenance like tube amps.
With all that in mind, here are some popular choices for both types of amp…
Best Tube amps for Jazz
- Fender Blues Junior
Fender have a range of excellent tube-powered amplifiers. The Blues Junior offers the same rich, clean sounds as the more expensive models, whilst being more affordable and portable.
- Fender Blues Deluxe
A bigger, better (heavier) model from Fender. More low end and tweak-ability than the Blues Junior, plus a separate overdrive channel.
- 40 watts of legendary Fender tone.
- Fantastic clean and overdriven tones plus lusciously Fender spring reverb.
- 1X 12" Eminence special-design speaker offers enhanced midrange that fills the stage and projects through the densest mix.
- Vox AC30 C2
A less conventional choice. Vox amps tend to be brighter, ‘janglier’ and have less prominent low end than Fenders – however, John Scofield has done beautiful things with a Telecaster and an AC30!
- 10 Watt tube combo offering the classic VOX Top Boost tone
- EL84 power tubes; 12AX7 preamp tubes
- Custom 10" VX10 speaker made by Celestion
- Simple but effective Gain, Bass, Treble, Reverb, and Master Volume controls
- Extension and External speaker outputs; By-passable Effect Loop, Distinctive VOX Styling. Output Power: 10W RMS
Best Solid-State Amps for Jazz
- ZT Lunchbox
The ZT Lunchbox provides great tones in a very compact package. Julian Lage has been seen to gig with one of these! There are minimal controls, but this little thing can produce remarkable volume for its size!
- 35W RMS Class D Amplification
- 1x5" Speaker
- Capable of 117 dB SPL
- 9V Power Output for Powering Pedals
- 12V Input for Car/Battery Power Adapter
- AER Compact 60
The AER 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, can produce a rich, warm, ‘wooden’ tone.
- powerful twin-channel acoustic guitar amplifier, carefully designed to deal with piezoceramic pick-ups, microphones and any sort of line signal, dynamic controlled 60 watts power amplifier provide a brillant clear sustaining sound performance
- Henriksen Blu 6
Henriksen produce compact, solid-state amps designed for jazz, providing beautiful high-quality solid-state warmth. Blu is their most affordable model, but still features a great tone, and lots of control over EQ.
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 our interviews with these jazz guitar legends:
Last update on 2020-08-08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API