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’s the quick overview, before we dive into the details…
|Fender Blues Junior||Tube||The rich, clean Fender sound at a more-affordable price.||Check Price|
|Fender Blues Deluxe||Tube||Bigger Fender model with more low end and a separate overdrive channel.||Check Price|
|Vox AC30 C2||Tube||Brighter, janglier sound with less prominent low-end than Fender||Check Price|
|ZT Lunchbox||Solid-State||Great tones in a very compact package.||Check Price|
|AER Compact 60||Solid-State||The go-to amp for many jazz players, can produce a rich, warm tone on archtops||Check Price|
|Roland Cube Mini||Solid-State||A quality low-budget option for travelling or using at home.||Check Price|
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 – 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.
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 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.
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!
- 40 watts of legendary Fender tone.
- Fantastic clean and overdriven tones...
- 1X 12" Eminence special-design speaker...
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!
Best Solid-State Amps for Jazz
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.
- Ultra-compact guitar amp with...
- Eight COSM amp tones, including the...
- Eight DSP effects, including HEAVY...
- i-CUBE LINK jack provides simple audio...
- MEMORY function for saving favorite amp...
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!
- 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
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.
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..?
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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!
Last update on 2021-03-31 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API