Guitar amps have been around for nearly a century, but like everything else in the guitar world, they continue to evolve. The newest breed of guitar amps is the best pedal platform amp. Acknowledging our modern-day love of pedals and the need to make them sound as clear, powerful, and tonally brilliant as possible, pedal platform amps can take pedal-stomping jams to a whole new level.
Best Pedal Platform Amp on the market
The best pedal platform amps should produce a clean, solid tone, offer plenty of head room, and have easy-to-use controls with plenty of features.
While different in many ways, the amps below check all of these boxes and provide a solid base to grow your pedal board and develop your sound.
1. Orange Crush 35RT – Best Orange Amp
Orange Amps tube rigs are known for their killer overdrive and having dirty channels that are in a league of their own. However, the Orange Amps Crush35RT Amp proves its digital solid-state amps can definitely keep up. It’s pound for pound, dollar for dollar one of the best pedal platform amps out there.
Coming in Orange Amps’ signature orange box, the Crush35RT is designed to take your music from your living room to the stage. While somewhat limited in scope, its clean channel churns out clear, crisp chords, but its dirty channel is what this pedal platform amp is all about.
Combined with its CabSim technology, it can achieve a sound that’s nothing short of pure bliss. When dialed right, achieving a stack tone is not only doable but easy.
As far as the controls go, the Crush35RT pretty much sticks to Orange Amps’ usual layout. However, since it has two channels, there’s a separate knob for each. This allows you to actually mix the channels a bit and create some awesome sounds.
Channel knobs aside, there’s also a gain control, reverb control, and three-band EQ. These are knobs as well and are rather intuitive once you get the hang of them.
The Orange Amps Crush35RT is focused more on sound than features. As such, it uses a simple dirty and clean dual-channel setup. However, it also offers onboard reverb, a built-in tuner, and Orange’s cab emulation, which is pretty neat.
These features may not wow you on paper, but the sound of the amp definitely will when you switch it on. If you’re on the hunt for a killer amp to use at home, in the studio, or local gigs, the Orange Amps Crush35RT should be at the top of your short list.
• Excellent tone
• Great value
• Built-in tuner
• Could be more headroom
• Buttons and/or a toggle switch might be nice
2. Monoprice 40-Watt 1×10 Guitar Combo Amplifier – Best Budjet Amp For Pedals
Do you like capturing classic surf sounds? If so, the Monoprice 40-Watt Guitar Combo Amp is worth checking out. With a genuine spring-reverb, you can use it to create iconic beach sounds, electronic music, lounge music, and add dripping, dark tones to your sound with little to no harmonic distortion.
Controls and Features
To control the 40-watt amp and its 10-inch speaker, there’s a volume control and three adjustable EQ controls – one at 100Hz, one at 1 KHz, and one at 3 KHz. Both the spring-reverb and the gain level are fully adjustable as well.
It also has two guitar-level inputs, and one of the inputs has a –6dB pad, which is great to use with active electronics. To round out the controls, a line level input can be used to send the amp’s output to a mixing board or recorder, while the return jacks can be used for external effects processors.
In terms of sound, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better pedal platform amp for the money. While the overdrive channel is serviceable and typical for a digital solid-state amp, the clean channel puts out some excellent tones.
With the spring reverb, you’ll have no problem producing some nice surf notes. You can also get some nice dirty tones with the overdrive channel and your guitar’s volume knob or run distortion with the clean channel for a perfectly balanced sound.
There’s really no need to pay more for a brand name amp. This 40-watt amp may not have tubes, but it doesn’t need them. You can spend the same amount for a 20-watt amp with an 8-inch speaker by a big brand name or get this 40-watt beast. It’s a pretty easy choice.
• Great value
• Adjustable gain and reverb
• Spring reverb is a plus
• Plenty of controls
• Not the best for bass
• No reverb jack
• Plastic corner protectors
3. Marshall Origin 20H Head Amp – Best Head Amp
The Origin 20H Amp from Marshall marks a return to form for the classic amp maker. With a pure, powerful sound and a thoughtful set of features, it’s an ideal amp for guitar purists and pedal players alike.
All About the Tubes
The new Marshall Origin 20H features a series of combos and all-tube heads. This allows it to provide the perfect combination of modern functionality, vintage tone, and budget-friendly affordability.
It does so by doing away with the high-gain bells and multi-channel whistles of many of Marshall’s later designs. Hence its name – Origin. Despite its affordability due to its offshore production, the Origin 20H and its 20-watt all-valve combo has a distinct style and tone reminiscent of the amp maker’s British heritage.
Speaking of style, it has narrow wall cabinetry, pinstripe grille cloth, and a small Marshall logo circa the brand’s mid-60s hits.
Features and Controls
In addition to its rich and harmonic tones, which are perfect for players looking to hone their sound and explore new possibilities, the pedal-friendly Marshall Origin 20H has enough features for basement players as well as those performing on stage.
In classic Marshall style, the pedal-friendly, single-channel amp has low, medium and high power output controls. The mid setting plays at three watts, which is perfect for just about anything. However, you can switch it to low for a softer sound or up to high, which is loud enough for a band.
It also has new power reduction and tilt tone blend controls. Since its wattage is tube wattage and quite powerful, you might find yourself using these features more than you would think. On the other hand, if you want it louder, you can also use the direct out or mic it through PA. To round it out, there are volume and gain controls, two EL34 outputs, and an X ECC83 preamp as well.
• Classic tube design
• Strong, powerful, and clear harmonic tones
• Excellent clean and crunch sounds
• Quality build
• Great value
• No onboard reverb
• Not the best DI in the world
4. Boss Katana 100-Watt Guitar Combo Amp – Best Boss Amp
The new Boss Katana 100-Watt Guitar Combo Amp delivers 100 watts through a 1×12 solid-state combo to produce plenty of low-end thump. The master volume and gain controls work just like a classic tube amp.
Regardless of your gain setting, the Clean, Crunch, Brown, and Lead amp modes work as advertised, producing some really great full-on and in-between tones. For an open-backed cabinet, it definitely thumps, but it may take some fiddling with the EQ knob to get some significant high-end sparkle.
As mentioned, the BOSS Katana has four different modes: Clean, Crunch, Brown, and Lead. While it also has an Acoustic mode, it’s really only suitable for Piezo-equipped acoustic guitars.
It’s also equipped with a 3-band EQ, and you can set the power output at 100 watts or 50 watts. All in all, you have plenty of options and the setup is fairly straightforward and easy to use.
The BOSS Katana’s standard onboard effects include Reverb, Delay/FX, and Booster/Modulation. There’s a total of three knobs, with two effects and three modes per knob. That’s a whopping 15 options to choose from!
While you can only use three of the modes and effects at a time, you can use the USB jack to connect the solid-state combo Katana to a computer and hook it up to BOSS’s Tone Studio software. The software has every effect Boss has ever produced, and you can assign any effect you want to one of the respective knobs.
You can even use the software/amp combo to create your very own signature tone. Plus, there’s no need to mess with complicated menus and sub-menus, which means more time playing.
Overall, the BOSS Katana 100-Watt Guitar Combo Amp is a good amp to have some fun with. With variable wattage controls, great cleans, and smooth and natural overdriven tones, it can be used in the bedroom or any rehearsal space.
• Great amp tones
• Super flexible
• Easy to edit/adjust
• EQ is a little dark
• No footswitch
5. Fender Acoustasonic 40 Watt – Best Clean Amp
From coffee houses to churches, if you perform anywhere with an acoustic guitar, the Fender Acoustasonic 40 Acoustic Guitar Amp promises to provide budget-conscious guitarists with a great “grab-and-go” solution. Although it’s definitely one of the simpler pedal platform amps on our list, sometimes simple is exactly what a picker needs.
The Fender Acoustasonic 40 comes with two channels. One is for guitar and the other is for a mic, and both channels have the same exact controls. From right to left, there is a reverb control, three-band EQ, and a master volume control. That’s about it. The controls are simple, clean, easy-to-use, and exactly what an acoustic player needs.
In terms of power, the Acoustasonic 40 has not one but two 6.5-inch speakers with specially designed high-frequency whizzer cones to deliver a satisfactory 40 watts of power. Although you wouldn’t want to use it for big gigs, it definitely has the oomph for bars, coffee houses, and other small venues. Plus, there’s a balanced line-out connection at the back of the amp just in case you need a bit more juice.
The Acoustasonic 40 also has plenty of inputs. While they admittedly look a little odd, the inputs for both of the amp’s channels are ¼-inch/XLR combos, so you can connect not one but two guitars or mics. For full use of the microphone, read Best Preamp For Mic review. Of course, you can also connect one of each. There’s also a headphone output for peaceful practice sessions and an auxiliary input for external music devices.
Other than that, there’s no other features to discuss with this amp. It’s a simple amp with very few bells and whistles. The same is true of the amp’s design. With a simple yet stylish textured brown vinyl case, jet black grill cloth, and a convenient carrying strap on top, it looks clean and simple, just like the tones it evokes.
Best Clean Guitar Amp For Pedals
Overall, the Fender Acoustasonic 40 performs admirably for an amp in its price range. While it won’t fill up a large space, it’s perfect for small rooms and produces a super clean, organic sound ideal for a variety of acoustic styles.
• Compact and lightweight
• Solid sound
• Great bang for the buck
• Not extremely powerful
• Only a fit for acoustic guitars
Best Pedal Platform Amp – Buyer’s Guide
Okay, now that you know all about some of today’s top pedal platform amps, it’s time to learn a little more about pedal platform amps in general in order to know what features to look for and which ones you need. Only then can you pick the best amp for you. So…
What criteria are there for choosing the best pedal platform amp? Its: availability of send/return channels. This is necessary for correct connection of pedals in the circuit. To understand this in more detail, read on… Good clean amp tone. This is the second criterion when selecting an amplifier for pedals. A “good” tone refers to the “purity” of its sound. This is the absence of noise. Possibility to modify the clean sound for a perfect combination with the effect pedals. Usually such amplifiers have a high power. Tube or digital amplifier? There is no single answer. Playing on a tube amplifier is more dynamic. The quiet moments of the play will be quiet, the loud moments will be loud. On a digital amplifier, you lose the personality of the sound, but you have guaranteed high-quality sound, almost regardless of your playing.
In a nutshell, a pedal platform amp is an amp that works extremely well with effects pedals, especially drive pedals. Although overdrive, distortion, fuzz, and booster pedals will work with any amp, a true pedal platform amp is able to transmit the signal from these pedals in a manner that maximizes the sound potential of the pedals and the amp itself. Our review includes large and loud amplifiers. If you are interested in low-watt home amplifiers that sound very good, here is the Best 5-watt Tube Amplifier
An overdrive pedal will sound good plugged into almost any amp, and a quality pedal platform amp will deliver a clean and rich sound all on its own. However, when you put them together, they work as a single unit and enhance the sound of each. The result is a better sound than the amp or pedals can individually achieve.
What makes pedal platform amps work so great with pedals is their use of a preamp stage, which can be pushed over the top by a pedal from overdrive to clean. However, thanks to the sizeable amount of headroom they provide, they’re able to sound really clean up to pretty high volumes before getting pushed over the edge.
With a good pedal and a good pedal platform amp, the tones that can be achieved can be described as nothing short of glorious. They’re rich, articulate, and much more robust than the raw sound of a regular ol’ amp being slathered by an overdrive pedal.
How to Set Up Your Pedals and Amp Correctly
In the back of your amp, you’ll see a “Send” jack and a “Return” jack. To set up your pedals correctly and in the right order, have a look at the following diagram:
As you can see, the EQ, modulation, delay, and reverb pedals are set up post-preamp in order to hear the tone of the preamp correctly without embellishing it. Meanwhile, the fuzz, distortion, and drive pedals are set up before the preamp, allowing them to affect the sound.
That said, it’s worth pointing out that this is simply the recommended way of setting your pedals up. If a different method works better for you, then by all means, use it.
What to Look for in a Pedal Platform Amp
When it comes to picking a pedal platform amp, there’s no right or wrong choice. However, some are a better fit for certain players and situations than others. Basically, selecting a pedal platform amp depends on what you want it to do and the features you would like it to have.
Here are some tips to point you in the right direction:
No Such Thing as Too Much Power
The amount of power an amp delivers doesn’t necessary translate to how well it will perform as a pedal platform. That said, it’s best to have too much power rather than not enough.
For example, if you’re playing outdoors or at a large venue, you’ll need a powerful amp. For most guitar players and situations, anything over 40 watts is more than enough power.
Avoid Confusing Controls
You don’t want your pedal platform amp to have too many controls. Sure, it’s nice to be able to control every facet of your sound, but having too many or awkwardly placed controls can make playing not only more confusing but more of a hassle as well.
Make Sure It Has the Right Inputs
It’s also important to make sure the pedal platform amp you choose has the right type of inputs. There should also be enough of them for all of the pedals you plan on using.
Keep an Eye on Speaker Size
Since amps are meant to amplify the volume and sound of a guitar, it’s also important to choose one with a decent size speaker. Many guitar amp setups utilize a 10 or 12-inch speaker. Anything smaller than a 10-inch speaker will only be suitable for the bedroom, basement studio, or smaller venues.
There are plenty of solid pedal platforms out there disguised as traditional, no-frills guitar amps. However, if you’re searching for a great amp to work well with your pedals, it’s sometimes easier to understand the things you should avoid.
Some characteristics a great pedal platform amp should not have include:
Overly Saturated Tone
A pedal platform amp, or any amp for that matter, shouldn’t have a tone that’s oversaturated in harmonic jangles and bright shimmers. A deep, natural tone is almost always best.
Cascading Gain Stages
Cascading gain stages often generate a ton of overdrive and result in a unique lead sound. While the “dirty” and “clean” channels of such an amp can make a decent pedal platform, amps with cascading gain stages are best to avoid.
Excessive Highs and Lows
You should avoid any pedal platform amp with dips or humps in its frequency response and excessive highs and lows. Amps with sharp high-end responses also tend to make bad pedal platforms.
In all fairness, many amps that aren’t ideal for pedal platform setups may sound great on their own. In fact, many of the most revered amps out there fall into this category; they’re fine by themselves but not the best solution for pedals.
Did this narrow down your list? I hope so. Chances are any amps not eliminated by these checklists will serve you just fine.
With all that out of the way, it’s decision time. Which amp will you choose?
The amplifier you pick is completely up to you. The goal of this guide is to simply help you better understand pedal platform amps and narrow down your options.
Ultimately, you’re responsible for doing your homework and making an informed decision on the best pedal platform amp for your needs.
Each of the amps above provide incredible sound even the best guitar players will have a hard time picking apart. The question is: which one is right for you? We have our favorites, and hopefully soon you will too!