We gathered 13 of the hottest high-gain amps on the market, brought in ace guitarists Misha Mansoor (Periphery) and Ty Dietzler (Thousand Foot Krutch), and let the cameras roll.
Whether you’re in the market for a new high-gain head or you just spend your free time searching for heavy riffage on YouTube, you’ll want to bookmark this article for reference. This month, we gathered 13 of the hottest high-gain amps on the market, brought in ace guitarists Misha Mansoor (Periphery) and Ty Dietzler (Thousand Foot Krutch), and let the cameras roll. Listen to both guitarists tearing up each channel of each amp listed below in CD-quality sound, and get a rundown of each amp’s main features. If you’re looking for a stripped-down metal machine or an amp stuffed with high-tech tools, there’s surely a monster for you.
Blackstar Series One 200
The Series One 200 is packed with features, like Blackstar’s DPR (Dynamic Power Reduction) system, which allows users to reduce the power of the output stage from full power (200 watts) down to 10 percent (20 watts) and any power output in between.
• Four footswitchable channels (Clean channel with Warm “Plexi” and Bright “Class A” type modes; Crunch channel with Crunch and Super Crunch modes)
• High and low output damping on two overdrive channels
• Two ISF (Infinite Shape Feature) equipped tone control sections, which allow the user to infinitely adjust the response of the tone control network
• Presence and Resonance controls
• Master Volume
• Series effects loop
• MIDI switching
• Speaker emulated output
The Nitrox claims more lows than Diamond’s other high-gain offerings, but remains tight across both channels, making it perfect for heavy rhythms and precision playing.
• Two fully independent channels (Clean and Crunch)
• Volume, Gain, Bass, Middle, Treble, and Presence on each channel
• Dual Volume/Gain control on Channel 2 (switchable, allows for two gain settings with two volumes for level adjustment to match volumes)
• May be wired for 100v, 120v, 220v and 230/240v output selection
• Front panel Effects Return control, which acts as an overall master when loop is engaged for quick overall volume adjustment
The VH4 is compatible with a range of tubes (6L6, 5881, 6550, KT88), features four unique, independent preamps, and includes a number of signal routing options for the ultimate in versatility.
• Four completely independent channels
• Gain, Treble, Mid, Bass, and Volume on each channel
• Bright switch on Channel 2
• Switchable insert loop on each channel, with parallel and serial returns
• Master Volume, Mix, Presence, and Deep controls
• MIDI compatible
ENGL Powerball II
The Powerball II picks up where the first one left off, giving users four channels, ENGL’s Power Tube Monitoring (PTM) system, dual masters, and a footswitchable noise gate.
• Four channels (Clean, Crunch, and two Leads), each with Volume and Gain controls
• Bottom sound switches on Lead channels; Bright and Bottom sound switches on Clean and Crunch channels
• Bass, Middle, Treble EQ controls on Clean and Crunch channels; Bass, Middle or Middle-Boosted (switchable), and Treble controls on Lead channels
• Dual Master controls
• Presence and Depth Punch controls
• Footswitchable noise gate
• Footswitchable effects loop with Balance control
• Electronic Power Tube Monitoring system (PTM) with LED indication
The Cobra sports three channels, two switchable Master Volumes, and a Deep control, which allows users to dial in the amount of low end in the power amp stage.
• Three channels (Clean, Crunch, and Lead)
• Gain, Bass, Middle, Treble and Presence controls for each channel
• Notch switches for Crunch and Lead
• Parallel effects loop
• Effect Mix control
• Deep control to set the amount of low end in the power amp stage
• Switchable dual Master controls
• Integrated MIDI interface
• Switchable speaker output impedance
Fryette Pittbull Hundred/CLX Master Built
With its fat, warm sound and touch-sensitive feel, the CLX is a highly-refined tone machine packed with highly specialized features.
• Three channels (Lead, Rhythm, and Clean)
• 6-band graphic EQ
• Gain Stacking, which allows users to add an additional “flying” 4th gain stage to the Lead channel for even more gain.
• Dual-Class Mode, where the two outside power tubes are Cathode Biased, while the inside two remain in Class AB. This produces a fatter midrange and smoother top and bottom end response.
• Half Power Mode
• Power Amp Mute
• Variable Line Out
• Series/Parallel Effects Loop
• Global Presence and Depth controls
Hughes & Kettner Coreblade
Watts: 100 watts
Amp tweakers and tech geeks will love the Coreblade, which features four distinct channels, digital effects, USB-backed up amp presets, and H&K’s Tube Safety Control (TSC) system.
• Four channels (Clean, Drive, Ultra I, Ultra II)
• Downloads amp presets directly to USB; also allows for backup of all amp and effects settings to USB
• 128 user presets
• Three independent Digital-FX processors: Reverb, Delay, and Modulation (giving users chorus, flanger, phaser, and tremolo effects)
• Serial/parallel effects loop
• Built-in MIDI capabilities
• Adjustable noise gate
• Tube Safety Control (TSC) system, which automatically biases the amp (allowing users to also run 6L6s) and shuts down defective tubes
The Nineteen80 channels the classic hard rock tones of the late ’70s and ’80s, but adds a footswitchable active effects loop with individual level controls for both the send and return.
• Two footswitchable channels (Kleen and Krank)
• Separate Volume and EQ sections per channel
• Footswitchable tube-driven active effects loop
• Gain and Sweep control on Krank Channel
• Global Presence Control
• Ohm Selector
Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier
Tubes: 6L6 or EL34
The latest iteration of the Dual Rec features three independent channels with eight different modes, a bold/spongy “Variac” switch, and Mesa/Boogie’s Multi-Watt technology, which allows users to assign either two or all four power tubes to each channel.
• Three fully independent channels with eight modes (Channel 1 can be set to Clean or Pushed; Channels 2 and 3 can be set to Raw, Vintage High Gain or Modern High Gain)
• Each channel features Multi-Watt Power Switch (50/100 Watt), independent Gain, Treble, Mid, Bass, Presence, Master, and channel-assignable Dual Rectification with Recto Tracking
• Bias Select Switch (6L6/EL34)
• Footswitchable, fully buffered effects loop with Send Level control
• Output Level control
• Footswitchable Solo Level control (over all channels when activated)
• Bold/Spongy “Variac” Switch
• True “Hard” Bypass switch that removes effects loop, Output Level, and Solo Level controls from signal path
• Tuner Output with footswitchable mute
• Slave Out with Level control
• External switching jacks for Channels 2 and 3
Orange Rockerverb 100 MkII
Watts: 100 watts
This British powerhouse includes two channels and special bias switch that enables you to use 6CA7, 6L6, 5881, or KT88 tubes in the power section.
• Clean and Dirty channel
• Output valve fusing system
• Bias switch, allowing users to plug in quartets of output valves of different types
• Unique “Reverse Snake 8” output transformer design
The extreme gain of the 6505 Series lives on in Peavey’s 6534+, but it also incorporates a new design aimed at minimizing the noise that high-gain amps typically generate.
• Footswitchable Lead/Rhythm channels
• 3-band EQ on each channel
• Resonance, Presence, Pre Gain, and Post Gain controls on each channel
• Footswitchable Crunch boost on Rhythm channel
• Bright switch on Rhythm channel
• Preamp output
• Effects loop
• Bias test point
Randall RT 100
The RT 100 offers users three channels of all-tube tone, plus a user-friendly bias section on the back, which allows users to replace and match tubes with a run-of-the-mill voltmeter.
• Three footswitchable channels (Classic Clean, Classic Overdrive, Modern Overdrive), each with Bright switch
• Bass, Middle, and Treble controls
• Master Volume and Reverb controls
• Series effects loop
• User-friendly bias section on back
If you want the overdrive of the legendary SLO 100, and that’s all you want, this is the amp for you. High and low gain input jacks provide the option of using the full SLO lead circuit or skipping the first gain stage for a more vintage crunch.
• 3-band EQ
• Master Volume, Presence and Depth controls
• Selectable for 4-, 8-, or 16-ohm cabs
• High- and Low-gain inputs