The 5 Best Guitar Power Amps – Our Pick (2021)
Power amps give power to passive speakers. They are near the end of a signal chain and come in two forms: either as solid-state units or with tubes. The former is superior in terms of reliability, though the latter sounds better.
Later on in the article, we’re gonna discuss the differences between a power amp and a preamp, the different types of power amps, and the benefits of using high-quality power amps. But first, let’s go through our top recommendations.
The Best Power Amps
1. Rocktron Mainline 300
The Mainline 300 is a fantastic choice for everyone who is looking for a rack mount power amp that is reliable and sounds great. It is a 2-channel 100-W solid-state power amp, which features a special circuit that emulates the sound of a tube amp. Its warmth, clarity, and interaction are really amazing for a solid-state unit. Each channel comes with separate controls, which include “Resonance” and “Presence” knobs, for fine tonal tweaks.
The same circuit brings another important benefit and that is the fact that this power amp can work even without a preamp. All you need is to connect your pedals to the Mainline 300 and practically get a complete amp head in the form of a small rackmount unit. The power amp features numerous connectivity options, including two inputs. One of them is “Line” input for connection with a preamp, while the “Instrument” input works great if you want to skip preamp.
Another thing to mention is that the Mainline 300 features a voltage switch, so you can toggle between 115VAC and 230VAC.
2. MOOER Baby Bomb 30
MOOER is known pretty well as a company that delivers plenty of quality for money and covers pretty much a complete area of what we call guitar gear. Among all those products, you can also find this tiny power amp, which is arguably one of the smallest units of this type on the market. Such a layout guarantees it will fit any pedalboard.
With the max output of 30 Watts, it probably isn’t powerful enough for bigger venues, but the MOOER Baby Bomb 30 will work just fine for smaller gigs and practice sessions. Besides superior portability, it is also extremely simple to use. Controls are pretty much the same as in the Electro-Harmonix 44 Magnum, which means there is just one, “Volume” knob, as well as a small toggle switch that allows you to put the focus on high-end tones.
3. Electro-Harmonix 44 Magnum
Electro-Harmonix is well-known for its super-compact pedal effects and the 44 Magnum isn’t any different. This is one of the smallest power amps you can get and it is a perfect solution for all those who want to power their pedal chain with a simple and extremely compact unit. This is a 44-Watt power amp, which makes it suitable for all kinds of occasions. Its affordable price makes it also a great backup unit.
In terms of controls, things are extremely simple here, as we’ve just mentioned. One knob and one toggle switch is everything you’ll get from this unit. Of course, the knob is reserved for volume control and allows you to set how much power you want. On the other side, the small toggle switch lets you choose between Bright and Normal modes, where the former provides you with a more high-end definition.
One input and one output are all you’ll get in terms of connectivity and you may count on 44 Watts of power into 8 or 16 ohms. A power supply is also included.
4. Seymour Duncan PowerStage 170
The PowerStage 170 might be small in size but it is a really powerful unit which offers plenty of power for any type of performance. This is a perfect gig unit that can fit any pedalboard. At the same time, 170 Watts of power is something that suits all kinds of venues, pretty much everything from 1×12 to 4×12 cabinets.
This power amp pedal is highly convenient in many ways and practicality isn’t the only thing you’ll get from it. It also offers a pretty amazing sound quality. You may count on 170 Watts of clean power, as well as on wide tonal diversity. The pedal comes with a typical 3-band EQ, which provides tons of tweaking possibilities. The PowerStage 170 is also very simple to use. There are just one input and one output. All you need to do is to put all your pedals in front of this power amp and go directly into speakers. It can’t go any simpler than that.
5. Orange Pedal Baby 100
The Orange Pedal Baby 100 may not be the smallest power amp pedal around but it is definitely compact enough to fit most pedalboard. Besides compact dimensions, it features a quite simplistic design, which includes a two-band EQ, so you can tweak the tone in any way you want. With full 100 Watts of clean power, it looks more than capable enough to deal with any venue.
Besides plenty of power, the pedal is characterized by a pretty impressive sound quality. Although a solid-state unit, it features a completely analog circuit and we are talking about an AB-class amp, which delivers the recognizable sound of Orange amplifiers. The sound is clean and offers lots of dynamics. At the same time, it won’t affect the sound of your pedals at all. So, whether it’s going to be your primary amplifier or you just need a great-sounding backup unit for your tube amp, this pedal is a fantastic choice.
What’s the difference between power amp and preamp?
Both are essential parts of a guitar amp, though with different functions. On one side, a preamp amplifies the signal that comes from pickups. It amplifies it to an audible level, so it can be manipulated with all kinds of effects. On the other side, a power amp is what makes everything loud. If your guitar amp has 50 Watt, it’s because the power amp is that powerful.
Different forms of power amps
In the past, power amps were nothing more than the power of a guitar amp. However, guitar players started to realize the full potential of mixing different power amps with different preamps. So, the first separate units appeared in the late ‘80s, in the form of rackmount products. These days, power amps come in all kinds of forms, including those that perfectly fit pedalboards.
What are the benefits?
The benefits of using power amps are obvious. First of all, a great thing is that you can go directly into speakers with such a unit. If you get a decent preamp too, you won’t need a traditional guitar amp for your gigs, which sounds practical and highly convenient. Many of these come in the form of a typical stompbox and will fit any pedalboard.
Also, the obvious benefit is that you can combine different preamps with different power amps. Such diversity is something you can’t get from a traditional guitar amp, where you are limited to just one combination of these units.