The amplifiers of 2016 that made us lose our heads…
2016 has been a great year so far for guitar amplifiers and we’re only half way through! Huge names in the industry have bestowed upon us some serious heavyweights in the amplifier world, including the Vox AV series, the Marshall CODE amps, Fender Bassbreakers and so many more. As all guitarists will understand, we’re all on that endless journey for the perfect tone, and once we find it, we rarely deviate – it takes something really special to turn our heads and of course our ears. 2016 however, has been a seriously interesting year for guitarists and bass players alike with so many great options coming from leading brands in the musical instrument world. In fact when Namm 2016 rolled around it felt like Christmas for many of us as we were given so many great new options to try out! So with that said, we’re going to look at the best amplifiers of 2016 and take a little look at why you might want to consider changing that beat up old thing you’ve been lugging around for years for a new model. Here’s our best guitar amplifiers of 2016.
When the Fender Bassbreaker series launched at Namm 2016, the guitar world went into a bit of a frenzy. The all tube nine piece electric guitar amplifier series packed everything you needed into a very catching vintage looking case – perfect for practicing or touring musicians in equal measure. The Fender Basssbreaker 007 head (pictured at the very top) and the Bassbreaker 18/30 2×12 Guitar Amplifier Combo (above) were particular favourites with guitarists. The Bassbreaker 18/30 two channel amplifier gave you the option of switching between an 18 watt amp to a 30 watt monster at the flick of a switch. Channel one gave the user a 30-watt version of the blackface Fender Deluxe whereas Channel two delivered a gorgeous 18-watt 1961 brown Deluxe energy whilst Four EL84 output tubes and a pair of 12” Celestion V-Type speakers pumped out the sound. With the likes of Blink 182 and Biffy Clyro supporting these amplifiers, you’re in good company when you finally decide to check them out. From clear bell like clean tones to distorted, powerful overdrive in an instant – it was easy to see why we fell in love with the Fender Bassbreaker series almost instantly.
For those out there that want to be able to choose from a variety of amplifiers at any given moment, the Marshall CODE series was a welcome arrival. The range of modelling amp combos and the 100watt head was the ace up Marshall’s sleeve this year at Namm 2016, fusing a variety of gorgeous, coveted amplifier sounds, Bluetooth and USB connectivity for streaming and recording as well as a range of professional quality FX to keep you busy. The Marshall CODE50 50 Watt 1×12 Guitar Amplifier Combo contained an impressive array of different sounds to choose from including 14 preamp models, 4 power amp models and 8 speaker cab models allowing you to go from classic blues, to searing punk tones at the touch of a button. Guitarists will appreciate the fact they can choose from TM45 2245; 1962 Bluesbreaker; 1959SLP Plexi; JCM800 2203; JCM2555 Silver Jubilee; JCM2000 DSL100; JVM410H and many more amplifiers and even change the range of speaker cabinet models too. Fancy mixing up a 1959SLP Plexi with a 1974X? Done. The range of effects include a Compressor, classic stompbox Distortions, Auto Wah, Pitch Shifter, Reverb, Delay and a whole lot more – it’s essentially an encyclopedia of amplifiers in one convenient combo. Definitely worth checking out!
The Roland Blues Cube series of amplifiers was a surprising addition to the Roland brand’s arsenal of equipment. Geared at both the professional and practicing musician, the Roland Blues Cube range included the unique Tube Logic treatment which painstakingly modelled the behaviour and response of vintage tube amplifiers without having to wait for valves to warm up or worrying if they needed replacing at any point. The Blues Cube Stage was designed with guitarists of all levels in mind, but it really shines when placed on a stage. The adjustable power output switch means that you can go from 0.5 W all the way to 60 W at the flick of a switch, providing you with the sonic power you need, when you need it. This meant that practicing at home didn’t mean a loss of tone, you could get the same clear sounds or crunch tones regardless of what setting it was on – an all-rounder that definitely comes in handy. The dual tone button allows you to mix both clean and crunch together to get your ideal sound – a great addition from the geniuses at Roland. The interesting addition was the interchangeable Blues Cube TC-UB Tone Capsule (sold separately). Simply plug this thing in and hear your amp instantly evolve into a blues monster emulating the sounds of a heavily cranked smaller amp. Add sweet blues tones in an instant! Well worth a look, plus it emanates a cool green light! How cool!
It takes some serious convincing to get the analog circuitry purists out there who will only gravitate towards valve amps, to try something new out. Well VOX have proven yet again that they completely know what they’re doing when it comes to fusing a valves with solid state stability. The VOX AV series of amplifiers, and specifically the VOX AV30 utilises the best of both worlds. The AV30 has 30 watts of pure power driven by two 12AX7 tubes located in the pre amp and power amp running in combination with the eight analog preamp circuits all designed to accurately mirror the sound of eight coveted tube guitar amplifiers. With the amount of options on board, this amp may seem a little daunting, but it’s definitely something to get excited about rather than scared of! The Bright and Fat switches alter your preamp tubes and the Bias and Reactor switches alter your power amp tubes allowing you to sculpt your sound to your specifications – whether you want super distorted tones or ringing clean sounds, the choice is yours. The added bonus is that it’s essentially 8 valves amps in one in an easy to carry box – no more lugging around a heavy valve amp!
Orange blew everyone’s minds at Namm 2016 with the unveiling of their OB1 bass amp series and their O Bass guitars. The OB1-300 combo was especially awesome as it gave bass players the chance to really cut through the mix when playing in a live situation via an incredible 300 watts of serious power. The interesting thing about the OB1-300 was the fact that it would split the input path, offering you two sounds to play with similar to those achieved by the time tested method of mixing a guitar amp with a bass cab i.e. Kyuss, QOTSA, Royal Blood etc. On one side you had the clean signal, offering deep and melodic bass, whilst the other worked in unison providing gain to the upper harmonics. This meant that the bass sounds would cut through the mix more and provide a really interesting element to your sound onstage and in the studio. The 15″ Eminence Neodymium speaker handles anything you care to throw at it offering deep, yet precise bass response and a clear sound with added growl when you wanted it. This beast definitely makes our best guitar and bass amplifiers of 2016 list!
Check out a full range of awesome guitar and bass amplifiers at the Dawsons website.