7 Amps Tailor-Made for Pedalboards

As you build your rig, and your pedal collection expands, you may find yourself asking the age old question: “Do I get an amp that can break up at gig levels, or do I get a clean amp for pedals?” The answer: Both! You can never have too many. Alas, in the practical world of rehearsals and gigging, I’ve often found that the best way to get the tones I’m after is to use an amplifier that provides enough headroom for various effects.

If you like to use a lot of different sounds within your set, it can be difficult if your amplifier distorts when you don’t want it to. If you run delays and reverbs in front of your amp like I do, you need something with enough headroom to prevent your spacious sounds from becoming unrecognizable mush. With that in mind, let’s look at some pedalboard-friendly amplifiers.

Dr. Z M12

The M12 is Dr. Z’s amplifier for the pedal fiend. Featuring an EF86 preamp, it works fantastically well with boost, distortion, fuzz, and overdrive. At just 12 watts, it is capable of delivering its own organic grind, which can be achieved by flipping the input switch to High and cranking up the volume.

However, there is still an ample amount of headroom to ensure you get the most out of your pedals. If you use a mic with your amplifier when you play out, you’ll have no trouble at all filling up the biggest spaces with this bad boy.

It comes in 1x10, 2x10, or 1x12 combo forms, and you can also get it as a head and pair it up with your favorite speaker cabinet. Simple and sweet, this is an excellent choice for the lover of both pedals and EL84 tones.

EarthQuaker Devices Sound Projector

This amplifier, the Sound Project 25, is a pedal lover’s dream. With a simple interface featuring volume, treble, and bass controls, this is a no-nonsense high headroom beast built with the sonic explorer in mind.

EarthQuaker makes some of the best pedals in the business, so you can be confident the amplifier they design will pair up perfectly with them.

It will come stock with KT66 power tubes, but you can also use 6L6, EL34 or 6V6 tubes, giving you a wide tonal range to work with. Built with high quality components by the awesome folks at EarthQuaker, this is sure to be a winner, and we all anxiously await its arrival.

Fender Deluxe Reverb

It would be a crime if I failed to mention the classic amplifier that Andy Martin himself has used for so many pedal demos. Featuring 22 watts pumped out by a dual 6V6 power section, the Deluxe Reverb is a tried-and-true classic on stage and in the studio.

You can snag a vintage one, or you can choose from the reissue offerings available today, in 1965 Blackface form or the 68 Custom model. The latter has modified circuitry and Silverface cosmetics, and either would make an excellent pedal platform. And let’s not forget about the tube-driven reverb and tremolo.

The best part about this amp is the price-to-quality ratio. It is very reasonably priced for what you get, especially if you pick up a used one.

Fender Tweed Bassman

The other Fender on this list, the Tweed Bassman, was the inspiration for the original Marshall amplifiers. Featuring four 10-inch speakers and 45 watts pumped out through 6L6 power tubes, this classic amp provides a warm clean sound just waiting to be enhanced by all of your favorite effects.

If you prefer the stronger midrange inherent in tweed amplifiers to the scooped mids of the Blackface ones, this is the Fender for you. When I saw Pearl Jam at a large amphitheater in 2006, lead guitarist Mike McCready used two vintage Fender Bassmans on top of two Marshall 4x12 cabs. They were set clean to receive his entire pedalboard. He sounded absolutely incredible, and it remains one of my favorite live shows to this day.

It’s worth noting that other Bassman amplifiers, such as the Blackface and Silverface head models, although different in circuitry, also make for great pedal platforms.

Gurus Amps 5015

Gurus caught everyone’s attention with rad pedals like the Echosex and Double Decker, and now it’s done us all a solid by creating an amplifier specifically designed for using with pedals.

It has an ultra-simple interface with just three knobs: Master, Volume, and—wait for it—Sexytone. Yes, you read that right: Sexytone. I want it just for that. The latter sexy knob helps control the EQ so you can match it up with your board and various speaker cabs.

Featuring a 12AX7 preamp and 5881 power tubes, this baby cranks out 50 watts of clean power, and it is conveniently built into a lunchbox-style head cab to ensure you can haul it to gigs without needing a road crew.

Hiwatt Custom 50/100

Hiwatts have been used by legendary players such as David Gilmour and Jimmy Page, and they are a fantastic choice if you want an amplifier that will provide a strong foundation for all of your effects.

These amplifiers are incredibly loud and there is nary a sound of tube breakup unless you are using an attenuator, have it modified in some way, or are playing at volume levels that leave all mammals within a 50-mile radius sterilized. Vintage Hiwatts seem to be the most desired, but new ones are currently being manufactured in England as well.

Those tend to be very pricey, so you may look at Reeves Amps as another option. Named after Hiwatt designer Dave Reeves, they deliver the same classic tone, are built in the USA, and are more affordable than their contemporary Hiwatt counterparts.

Marshall Astoria Classic

A lot of players will think of distorted rock and roll glory when they think of Marshall amplifiers, and for good reason. We’ve all played air guitar to an Angus Young solo, and possibly fantasized about playing to a crowd of thousands with several dozen Marshalls and 4x12 cabs à la Kiss.

However, the original Marshall amplifiers were built by Jim Marshall himself at the request of bands like The Who, who needed more power and volume as they played to bigger and bigger crowds. The recently released Astoria Classic seeks to return to that time, featuring KT66 power tubes for a bold clean tone that sounds fantastic with pedals.

It is still capable of achieving overdrive on its own when pushed, but this particular circuit is not hot-rodded for extra gain as it was designed with the pedalboard player in mind.

What amplifier do you use with your pedalboard? Is there a dream amplifier you have in mind for your ultimate pedal setup? On your quest for tone, you may find that you end up with something different than you originally desired.

In my experience, playing through various gear at rehearsals and gigs has taught me that sometimes what I wanted wasn’t always the best gear for the job. Pedalboard platform amps are a fantastic way to go if you play live, and I highly recommend that you check these amps out for your rig-building consideration.

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