Tone Tips

Five Solid-State Amps That Don’t Suck

  • By Jamie Wolfert @tonereport
  • June 05, 2014
  • 27 Comments

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5) Quilter Labs Amplifiers: Quilter Labs is a company that is truly at the forefront of modern solid-state guitar amplification. While most of its competitors are focused on digital modeling, Quilter is keeping it real, so to speak, with innovative, analog, Class D solid-state designs. Quilter's specialty is building small, lightweight, highly portable amplifiers with excellent tone and tons of output. The Tone Block 200 (reviewed in Tone Report issue 15) typifies this design concept, with a whopping 200 watts of loud packed into a rugged housing that's about the size of a dual-channel overdrive pedal. It is an absurdly compact amp with simple, useful controls, and it makes an incredible platform for the pedal geek, due to its abundance of clean headroom, flexible contour control, and solid tonal foundation. If any company today can make solid-state amps respectable, it's Quilter Labs.

The non-sucking solid-state amps I've listed here are but a few of the many fine examples in existence, including both obscure vintage models and current production units. The key to understanding and loving these rugged, reliable, and unique tone tools is not to continually compare them to their valve powered brethren, but to evaluate and appreciate them based on their own strengths and merits. These amplifiers deserve respect, and despite decades of disdain, ignorance, and abuse hurled their way, these transistor-souled sonic misfits will have their day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

27 Comments

  1. Mick

    Great, how about 5 amps that don’t suck I can find and /or afford

  2. Shelby

    I’ll give you one: Marshall 5210 Combo.  50 watt solid state cousin of the 4210 jcm800 combo.  Made from 1980-1990.  Excellent Marshall tone.  Unique aspect?  Without the channel switch plugged in both channels run at once as their is no switch on the amp itself.  Talk about unique tones.

  3. Shelby

    Oh yeah and they can be found here and there for $100 to $200.  If Marshall burned the MG series down and reintroduced these they would destroy any hope of selling tube amps to suckers.

  4. Jamie

    Mick, Mick, Mick….every amp on this list can be had for no more than a few hundred bucks, at most, and they are all commonly found on ebay and in pawnshops throughout this great land.

  5. Richard Guido

    I used to have a Crate combo purchased in the early 80’s. It was a two channel with reverb and an extention cab jack. That thing rocked and could push a 4×12 cab and handle an MXR D+

    Though a low watt amp is had a Lucio us overdrive channel

  6. BlasphemyMadeFlesh

    Here are some more:

    Ampeg VH140c = the queen of high gain solid state amps, improved version of JC120
    Marshall Valvestate (original series, although it DOES use a 12AX7 tube for a pre…)
    Peavey XXL = besides the grey-carpet Randall RGs, the XXL is the warmest and smoothest sounding solid state amp I have ever played

    I love solid state amps for metal distortion and metal cleans but prefer tubes for blues or classic rock, all the way

  7. brett adams

    lots of solid state amps don’t suck. yamaha g100 series combos, jmf spectra, pearce, randall commander series, polytone, acoustic control corp, traynor ts series, gallien-krueger, etc. it really depends on the player and what he/she is going for. the guitarist i play with can play a solid state one day and an all tube preamp/power amp combo the next day and still get good tones with either.  personally, i prefer solid state power amps (randall rrrm 2-80, stewart pa200, carvin dcm 200, or ada microfet) and dither when it comes to solid state or tube preamps.

  8. JD BRADSHAW

    I own a Quilter Mach 2 amplifier head that is paired with a 4 x 12 cabinet….This thing roars and has many tonal options to choose from….I love it!

  9. Bafflegab

    I am not a fan of commercially available solid state guitar amps for anything but country or jazz (don’t play metal, don’t like it for the most part) BUT I will say that in conjunction with a good tube preamp, or even a Fender Champ used as a pre (just wire up a dummy load and a dividing network across that) the Altec solid state drive in amps (they would run off DC and charge the standby batteries: you see them in old buildings for fire alarm use) with Peerless (real Peerless, not Lefoofoo) transformers can give a nice surprisngly tubey sound.

  10. Arvie Arce

    I had A Sunn beta lead in highschool. It totally rocked. Has real raw distortion like early Sabbath.

  11. Gwugluud Barcher

    Arvie A could have been describing my B-52 LG-100 head just as well, and I do remember plugging into some kind of Sunn SS amp in 1980 and that it had incredibly hard, great-sounding distortion. I have a Vox AC30 and great tube amps, but my SS Fender Frontman 212 (which looks EXACTLY like a Twin Reverb) is good even for getting roots rock and mid-60s garage rock sounds as well as effortlessly-to-dial-in heavy, end-of-the-world distortion which seems characteristic of most later-made SS amps. I LIKE the stock speakers in the Frontman.

  12. Michael

    My pick: Gallien-Krueger 250 ML Series amp. Best solid-state amp EVER.

  13. Dave

    No mention of any of Peavey’s contributions during the 80’s to the solid state amp world.  There are still quite a few of them available today.  The only problem now is that due to their resurgence in popularity, people who own them either aren’t letting go of them or are asking ridiculous prices for them. 

    One example is the Peavey Bandit 65.  These were built back in the 80’s with a 1x12 Scorpion speaker/combo configuration with 65 watts of output power.  They screamed.  They were excellent as a practice amp or you could use them in a small club venue or mic them with a PA system.  For a while I was seeing them on the Internet for under $150 bucks but lately due to their popularity, people are asking for $200.00 or more for these which isn’t worth it.  You can go buy a new Fender solid state amp that does just as well for the same money.

    The other Peavey that I really loved was my Classic Chorus 2x12.  It was 120 watt combo with built in chorus and reverb and 2x 12 speakers.  I had one of these until the mid 90’s when I sold it just because it was way too loud to use as a practice amp in my little apartment and I had no place to store it.  Now I’m kicking myself because I’ve never been able to replicate the lushness of the built in chorus on these amps with any of the chorus pedals available out there.  But as with the Bandit 65, the increase in popularity on these amps is artificially pushing the price back up on the Internet. If you can find one of these in the sub $200.00 range I’d say you are doing well if it’s in good shape.

  14. Guitar Sound Guru

    I agree with your top choices of amps. Got new ideas. I love this blog! http://guitarsoundguru.com/

  15. Eddie

    I’ve had a Fender Frontman 100R for about ten years now, and that thing screams! The clean channel is pristine, but the gain is awful. Good thing it takes to pedals well. I run an MXR Distortion III and an MXR Micro Amp for solo boosts through it and it just growls. The reverb on it is ok. It came stock with the short tank. I keep hearing about people modding it with the longer tank and that it really makes a difference. I may finally get around to that this year as it’s only like a $35 mod. This amp gets a bad rap on YouTube and guitar forums, but I think it’s badass, not to mention reliable.

    I will always kick myself for pawning my solid state Laney 1x12 80w amp I had in college in the 90s. That thing was loud af and had a really sweet OD channel.

  16. Tombob

    I’m surprised not to see something from Peavey on here. Like maybe the Nashville 400. I’ve always been fond of tube amps but I have seen quite a few guitarists get great tones through Peavey Nashville, Reno, Session and other of their higher end SS amps. Jazz and steel players love these amps and for good reason, they sound great for both. I tend to think of SS amps as light weight in general but that’s not the case with these amps though, I’ve helped load a few and the old Twin Reverb I used to lug around didn’t have nothing them weight-wise…

  17. Jordan

    I have a Marshall Lead 20 from 1986, it’s got awesome tone. I like the typical Marshall clean tone it produces and when you need distortion, this thing is just heaven for a 20 watt solid state amp, this thing just sings AC/DC and modern rock similar to the JCM 800. Check out my demo on YouTube here https://youtu.be/Sbwn47KFnQk

  18. james Sauer

    Traynor anyone? T series solid state are great amps.

  19. David Sullivan

    Orange CR-120

  20. Gemma Seymour

    There are lots of solid-state amps that don’t suck, but you may have to look in unconventional places, and it may also depend on the sound you want and how you get your sound. For many modern players whose gain sounds come entirely from pedals, any good solid-state amp into a guitar cab will be great.

    My vote for amps not included on this list are:

    1. The Polytone Mini Brute. You simply cannot talk about solid-state guitar amps without referring to this jazz classic.

    2. The Ampeg VH140C. This stereo 2x12 combo appeared in 1990 as an evolution of the earlier SS140C, and boasts 70+70 W into 8 Ohms or 100+100 W into 4 Ohms, which you can get by attaching the matching SS212EC extension cabinet. It has a fantastic clean tone, reverb and detune chorus, plus a mono FX loop and a stereo FX loop, a DI output, and an accessory AC outlet. It was my first amplifier, bought new in 1990, and I still have it, though it is in need of repair. I bought this amp specifically on the strength of its preamp distortion, the best I could find in a solid-state amp at the time, because I didn’t want to deal with a fragile tube amp. The VH140C later went on to become something of a cult favourite with heavy metal guitarists.

    3. The Tech 21 NYC Power Engine 60. Granted, it’s missing a preamp section, but remember what I was saying about pedals? Two of these make a great stereo rig.

  21. Anthony

    You can get some VERY cool tones from solid state amps if you get creative…even if they’re amps that do “suck” under normal circumstances. My favorite distorted tone I’ve ever recorded was a total accident, I was running the preamp out side of the effects loop on my Fender FM100 head into my interface as a simple “silent recording for home demos” deal since I was living in a tiny apartment at the time and didn’t want to annoy my neighbors. Sounded terrible, obviously, since it was literally just the distorted preamp tone with no speaker sound. But for kicks, I took that preamp tone and ran it through some cab models in Amplitube, expecting to just find a decent/somewhat usable tone…and it made that guitar track sound better than it ever did just playing through my regular head/cab. I don’t know what kind of stars aligned to make that happen, but it’s become a tone I use on a lot of stuff.

  22. Tori

    what about some tiny tonemonsters like the Fender Mustang Mini, the Vox AC5 and the Blackstar Fly. Not for gigging unless you count busking but huge variety of tones and no plug needed as they run on batteries unless you want to plug them into ac.

  23. Dausnaicaiche

    There may be absolutely serious head aches, sinus cramps, coupled with issues because of breathing. These can be professional lenders, friends and family. It is no personal dislike of you. These remedies involve petrol jam, medications combined with cough drug treatments. He now has to learn the basic principles of accounting so that he will be able to properly manage his funds so that he knows where the profits go to. http:tropical7. <a >Wholesale Cheap Jerseys</a>. As you start to experience any one of these problems you will want to monitor this problem and document when you feel it. A player who loses his head must expect a poor reception from the gallery. of Education, that has diverse programs providing educational funding like grants and low-interest loans to students and elders. This code is expected for submitting tax returns and is a requisite within opening financial institution accounts and attaining financial loans.<a >Wholesale NFL Jerseys Free Shipping</a>. So for those who are interested,<a >Wholesale Cheap Jerseys China</a>, here are some of the requirements. These are all big names.
    Visit my site:https://www.wholesalenfljerseyssite.us.com/

  24. Dausnaicaiche

    In this system of My Lead System Pro mlm leadership is absorbed by osmosis when you immerse yourself.Apart from Fed student loans, <a >Wholesale Jerseys Supply</a>, you may sign up for a loan at non-public lending establishments. Ensure that you send all of your applications within the deadline.After you have chosen a consistent source of funding, it’s time to make your application. Do not get chilled before a match,<a >Wholesale NFL Jerseys China</a>, as it makes you stiff and slow. Before I met this awesome community of network marketers I doubted I would ever be able to be the leader I was looking to become. The more they will become consistent. But MLSP got it all.But Bob turns out to be an American player throughout downtown area of the Olympics.Talk with medical professionals in the area to figure out who you can start working for. Do take note that at times, there will be inspections wherein someone will check how the daycare is doing.<a >Wholesale Jerseys Online</a>. It is merely a natural reaction in favour of the loser.
    Visit my sitehttp://www.jerseyssportsshop.com/

  25. Dausnaicaiche

    Compared to Dublin, Belfast is widely regarded as a significantly less expensive and more rewarding tourist destination. Studies have shown that many of the socalled unk food junkies and ast food addicts would prefer eating nutritionally sound foods if they were within arms reach. <a >Cheap NFL Jerseys China</a>.com Publicado por copito en 7:08 No hay comentarios: CLINICA REINA SOFIABOGOTA La cl?nica REINA SOFIA, no responde por los da?os causados a mi esposa HELENA URDANETA, durante una Ecoendoscopia practicada por el Dr. Where are the schools? Is school bus service provided for your home? Is it included in your taxes or are there additional charges? What other services does the town provide? Which are private and which will cost you money each and every month along with your taxes? What about trash pickup,<a >http://www.wholesalenfljerseyscheap.com/</a>, sewers?3) Does the town have private septic and well water or do you have public sewers and town water? Many parts of Basking Ridge have septic systems and well water.<a >Cheap NFL Jerseys From China</a>. Simple static electricityor are romantic sparks responsible for that familiar tingle?We’ve been warned, over the last decade, to think twice before dating a coworker.“Boys will be boysand he told all,” Dr. Monounsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and become thicker when the temperature drops. Spend an afternoon inside a rather busy shopping district and leave your company cards about the bulletin boards of retail shops and competent buildings. Capsulized food is not about taking this important ritual out of our lives, and it is not about replacing fresh foods. Some plant food sources are coconut oil, palm oil, and cocoa butter. Today, more than ever, location, location, location prevails. Each and every convert you are taking you only get more and more perplexed.
    Visit my site:http://www.wholesalenfljerseyscheap.com/

  26. doonesoig

    Doubleblind taste tests have shown that the flavor profile of Profect is indistinguishable from noncarbonated fruit drinks on the market.6) Let s make a LOW BALL OFFER! I have heard this so much in the last year, you cant imagine! With all the talk about foreclosures and short sales the media has scared a lot of buyers and told you to not buy now and if you do, make a low, low offer.. Primer and sand paper are other investments to contemplate in that circumstance, as using them along the way will make for a better finished product. <a >Wholesale Jerseys Cheap</a>..<a >http://www.suggler.com/</a>. Among other development initiatives on their roster, Protica Research engineers liquid foods that are ultracompact, nutrientdense, and above all else, very palatable.<a >Wholesale Jerseys Free Shipping</a>. eight inches touch screen along with QVGA quality.The premiums paid for every single deposit of money is one thing that should concern you. He was interviewing for a senior positionand he spilled the intimate details. Wrong! I have heard too many buyers tell me they are O. Consuming unsaturated fats will help decrease cholesterol levels and lower cardiovascular diseases. No amount of nutrition can make up for a poor taste.
    Visit my site:http://www.suggler.com/

  27. mrz80

    Believe it or not, the greatest sounding solid state amp I’ve encountered is that silly little Roland MicroCube. It’s got gobs of tone packed into a teeny package you can stuff into a backpack.