Best pedal amps 2024: Power up your pedalboard with an amp in a box

An IK Multimedia Tonex One mini amp modeling pedal lying on a guitar cable
(Image credit: Future)

Pedal amps have been around in one form or another for many years, with some serving as home practice tools and others as emergency backups if your main amp doesn’t make it past soundcheck, however in recent times they have become so much more than this. The best pedal amps offer a viable option as the primary amplifier in your rig, packed with features that make them adept for live, home or studio use.

Pedal amps’ biggest selling point is their convenience, coming in small enclosures that make them easy to transport – particularly compared to the huge, heavy tube amps they often end up replacing. They can also offer a level of versatility that their big-bodied amp counterparts would find hard to match, with a plethora of features that make them super versatile.

Some may argue that swapping your amplifier out for a pedal isn’t particularly rock’n’roll, but with ever-advancing digital technology closing the gap between the ‘authentic’ and the digitally replicated, there are fewer and fewer reasons not to swap to a pedal amplifier, particularly with our picks of the best you can buy.

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Our top picks

Best overall

Best pedal amps: Line 6 HX Stomp

(Image credit: Line 6)

1. Line 6 HX Stomp

One of the most flexible pedal amps ever made

Specifications

Type: Amp modeler & multi-fx
Controls: 5x rotary controls, volume control, home/view, action, page left, page right, 3x footswitches
Connections: 2 x 1/4" (L/mono,R), 2 x 1/4" (L/R, aux in), 2 x 1/4" (L/mono,R), 1 x 1/4" (stereo send), MIDI In, Out/Thru, USB Type B, 1 x 1/4" headphone out, 1 x 1/4" TRS (expression/footswitch)
Output: N/A
Power: 9V DC power supply (included)

Reasons to buy

+
Range of amp models
+
Lots of effects
+
Compact size
+
Versatile connectivity

Reasons to avoid

-
Could be too much for some
-
Easier to edit with a computer

If you need a jack-of-all-trades pedal amp, the Line 6 HX Stomp can do pretty much anything. Whether you want a simple clean amp sim to run all your pedals into, or hook it up as a full-on ampless rig, it’s a brilliant choice for any kind of guitar player.

Whether you want classic Fender cleans or roaring Mesa-style high gain, the HX Stomp can do it. The sound quality is simply astonishing and it even does edge-of-breakup-style sounds accurately. There are so many effects too, with every iconic stompbox you can think of represented, as well as some more esoteric choices like synth pedals and ring modulators.

Having owned an HX Stomp for a little while now, we’ve been most impressed with its flexibility in both use and connectivity. You can use it as a full-on audio interface at home, slot into an existing rig with an amp to handle time-based and modulation effects duties, or just as a take-anywhere travel rig. Stereo ins and outs plus MIDI and an expression connection mean it will fit into any guitar player’s set-up.

Best for beginners

Best pedal amps: Strymon Iridium

(Image credit: Strymon)
An easy-to-use pedal amp with some classic tones

Specifications

Type: Amp Emulation, Impulse Response Cabinets
Controls: Drive, amp switch, cab switch, level, bass, middle, treble, room, fav footswitch, on footswitch
Connections: 1 x 1/4" TRS (mono, stereo via adapter) input, 2 x 1/4" (L/mono, R), 1 x 1/8" (headphones) outputs, 1 x 1/4" TRS (expression/MIDI), USB Mini-B
Output: N/A
Power: 9V DC power supply (included)

Reasons to buy

+
Pedalboard-friendly size
+
Superb amp tones
+
Realistic cabs and IR loading

Reasons to avoid

-
Needs 500mA power

The ever-present Strymon Iridium is one of the most popular pedal amps ever made. Its ease of use combined with top-tier tone make it a popular choice for players who want to record at home or play live without lugging their amp around with them.

There are three amp models on the Strymon Iridium, with Fender-type, Vox-type, and Marshall-style emulations that cover all the bases when it comes to classic tones. The Fender type goes from clean to Tweed with ease, whilst the Vox imitation has all the classic chime of the original. Finally, the Marshall emulation delivers a punchy Plexi-style tone that will please many a classic rock lover.

One of the best things about the Strymon Iridium is its lack of screens and menu diving. Everything you need is on the front face of the pedal, so you can tweak it in real-time without the use of a computer. If you are more tech-minded you can load your own impulse responses, and utilizing MIDI opens up options for 300 presets.

Read our full Strymon Iridium review

Best budget

An IK Multimedia Tonex One amp modeler pedal

(Image credit: IK Multimedia)

3. IK Multimedia Tonex One

Incredible amp tones in a microscopic enclosure

Specifications

Type: Amp Modeler
Controls: Bass, Mid, Treble, Gate, Comp, Reverb, Volume, Gain, A/B Switch
Connections: Mono Jack In, TRS mono/stereo out, USB C
Output: N/A
Power: 9V DC

Reasons to buy

+
Top quality sounds
+
Great value for money
+
Tiny size

Reasons to avoid

-
Fiddly menu navigation
-
Lack of outputs

IK Multimedia’s Tonex pedals are state-of-the-art, AI-powered pedal amps, and the Tonex One is their smallest offering; but smaller doesn’t mean less. With 200 amp tone models as standard and access to over 25,000 models to choose from on the Tonex library, if sheer number of amp options is what you’re looking for, this is a pedal you should consider.

Given its diminutive size and, therefore, lack of built-in knobs and control, to get the very best out of the Tonex One you will need to plug into your computer and use the Tonex SE software – the light version of the full-fat Tonex software – which is pretty simple and intuitive. However, those who just want to plug into a standalone pedal and instantly achieve their desired amp tones may not be sold on Tonex One.

Not all of its features are via the Tonex SE software; an onboard tuner, noise gate, EQ, compressor, plus 5 stereo reverbs, complete the pedal’s internal offering. Combined with the huge bank of tone models available, this makes a case for the Tonex One offering the most features and power per square inch of any pedal in its class.

Best for gigging

Best pedal amps: Neural DSP Quad Cortex

(Image credit: Neural)
Probably the most powerful pedal amp in the world

Specifications

Type: Multi-FX, Amp Modeling
Controls: Volume knob, 11x footswitches
Connections: 2 x XLR-1/4" combo (instrument/mic), 2 x 1/4" (return 1/2), 2 x XLR, 2 x 1/4" TRS, 2 x 1/4" (send 1/2), MIDI In, Out/Thru, USB Type B, 1 x 1/4" (headphone), 2 x 1/4" (expression 1/2), 1 x 1/4" (capture signal out)
Output: N/A
Power: 12V DC power supply (included)

Reasons to buy

+
Endless array of tones
+
Easy-to-use design
+
Rugged and portable

Reasons to avoid

-
No desktop edit app

It’s one of the most highly regarded amp modelers ever made and a brilliant option for players who want to replace their entire rig or augment their existing pedalboard. The Neural DSP Quad Cortex has been an absolute phenomenon over the past few years and for good reason.

There are over 90 amp models, over 100 effects and more than 1000 impulse responses, so you’re not likely to run out of tones any time soon. It can be used to capture your own amps, cabs and pedals too, so the possibilities are pretty much endless. If you can think of a world-famous amplifier or pedal, chances are there’s a model here.

The large touch screen negates the need for buttons and rotary controls and, in a genius-level move, the stomp switches double as rotary controls. This means you can tap on the touch screen then adjust parameters using the footswitches, making editing on the fly nice and simple. The one negative here is that there is still no desktop editing app, despite Neural DSP having promised one for some time, so for those who prefer to do their editing at the computer, you’ll still be waiting for this functionality.

Read our full Neural DSP Quad Cortex review

Best pedal platform

Best pedal amps: Universal Audio Dream ‘65

(Image credit: Universal Audio)
The best pedal amp for classic Fender clean tone

Specifications

Type: Amp Emulation
Controls: Volume, reverb, output, bass, treble, boost, speaker switch, mod switch, 2x footswitches
Connections: 2 x 1/4" TS In, 2 x 1/4" TS Out, 1 x USB-C,
Output: N/A
Power: 9V DC power supply (sold separately)

Reasons to buy

+
Amazing dynamics
+
Cab models are great
+
Useful mobile app

Reasons to avoid

-
No headphone out

One of four amp emulators from UA, the Universal Audio Dream ‘65 is our personal favorite when it comes to these stompbox-sized pedal amps. Designed to work both in the studio and during live performances, this easy-to-use pedal amp is the perfect antidote if you’re not in AI or machine learning.

With glassy cleans and a scooped midrange, the Dream 65 sounds exactly how you’d expect a pedal based on a Fender classic to sound. It also responds like an amp too, with touch dynamics that are scarily close to the real thing. Turn things up and you still get that feel of a dimed amp, with its deliciously crunchy breakup.

The cab models are sublime and when you use the mobile app you get access to six overall. The standard cabs are all 1x12s but the extras offer you the use of two 2x12s and a 4x10. There’s an option to use your own impulse responses too. Of course, no Deluxe Reverb model would be complete without spring reverb and tremolo, which the Dream ‘65 emulates incredibly well.

Read our full Universal Audio Dream ‘65 review

Best for volume

Best pedal amps: Blackstar Amped 1

(Image credit: Blackstar)

6. Blackstar Amped 1

A powerful pedal amp that will do big shows

Specifications

Type: Solid State
Controls: Gain, bass, middle, treble, master, reverb, response, voice switch, power switch, 2x footswitches
Connections: 1 x 1/4", 1 x XLR (cab sim out), 2 x 1/4" (8 ohm, 16 ohm), 1 x 1/4" TRS (line out/headphone), 1 x 1/4" TRS (series/parallel switchable), MIDI 1 x 1/8" (in), USB Type-C
Output: 100W
Power: Standard IEC AC cable, 2 x 9V DC (500mA) Power Outputs

Reasons to buy

+
Huge variety of sounds
+
Excellent connectivity options
+
Powerful enough for big gigs

Reasons to avoid

-
It’s heavy
-
No stompbox modeling

The Blackstar Amped 1 is a hugely versatile pedal amp that gives you a massive variety of tones to choose from. It’s a reassuringly rugged unit that will fit on your pedalboard, delivering a huge 100 watts of power that will handle even the biggest live shows.

We loved the range of tube responses from the defined low end of the KT88 to the punchy midrange of the EL84, and of course classics like the 6L6 Fender clean and EL34 Marshall-inspired roar. It delivers all of these sounds with a satisfying responsiveness and a voice switch that essentially allows you to triple your combinations with American. British and Flat voices.

You can use it with your 8 or 16 ohm cab of choice, or there’s a cab sim available if you want to go straight to front of house. A headphone output gives you a silent practice option, and there’s USB-C for recording or editing your tones. The accompanying Cab Rig software lets you set up your desired cab from a range of options, room EQs, and microphones, giving you plenty of flexibility for studio or stage.

More options...

Best pedal amps: Walrus Audio Mako ACS1

(Image credit: Walrus)

7. Walrus Audio Mako ACS1

A practical pedal amp that doesn’t take up too much space

Specifications

Type: Amp & Cab Simulator
Controls: Bass, mid, treble, volume, gain, room, cab switch, l/r switch, amp switch, 2x footswitches
Connections: 2 x 1/4" (stereo/mono) in, 2 x 1/4" (stereo/mono) out, MIDI In/Thru, USB Micro-B
Output: N/A
Power: 9V DC power supply (sold separately)

Reasons to buy

+
Small size
+
Great amp sounds
+
Works in stereo

Reasons to avoid

-
Some will prefer more gain

With the Walrus Audio Mako ACS1 the company very much appears to be attempting to steal some of the thunder of the Strymon Iridium, opting for a very similar set-up in an even more compact enclosure. 

Just like the Iridium you get three classic amp models with a Fender clean, Vox chime and Marshall crunch. Six cab models offer a variety of tonal options and you can also load your own impulse responses into it if you wish. The sounds are detailed and respond realistically, with a sparkly clean tone on the Fender and Vox settings, but we’d have liked a little more gain on the Marshall setting.

One feature we liked the most is the stereo switch, which lets you build a sound from different cabs. This means you can build up a really full sound by mixing a more treble heavy cab with a bassier one, giving you a really full guitar tone. It’s great for recording direct too, offering superb sound with ease of use.

Best pedal amps: Orange Terror Stamp

(Image credit: Orange)
An amazing value pedal amp that’s super compact

Specifications

Type: Guitar Amp Pedal
Controls: Volume 1, volume 2, shape, gain, 1x footswitch
Connections: 1 x 1/4", 1 x 1/4" (8/16 ohms), 1 x 1/4" (cab simulated)
Output: 20W
Power: 15V DC 2A, positive center power supply (included)

Reasons to buy

+
Uses actual tubes
+
Two preset volumes
+
Super portable

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacking clean headroom

The Orange Terror Stamp is a hybrid pedal amp that features a tube preamp stage with a class A/B power amp. Its analog circuitry makes it stand out from a crowd of digitally modeled pedal amps, offering a legitimate amplifier in a tiny package.

It works as a two channel amp, so you can set each one at a particular volume and use it is a boost function. There’s only a single EQ knob which gives you an evenly balanced tone in the middle, with a mid boost when you turn to the left and a mid scoop when you turn to the right. Orange uses this single EQ knob on a few different amps and it works really well.

It won’t quite do metal-style high gain, but you’ve got everything from super clean to a British-type overdrive with bags of sustain. An FX loop allows you to flexibly implement the Stamp into your pedalboard, making it perfect for a grab and go guitar rig.

Read our full Orange Terror Stamp review

Best pedal amps: Two Notes ReVolt

(Image credit: Two Notes)
An all-analog pedal amp with incredibly realistic feel

Specifications

Type: Tube Preamp, Cab Sim, DI
Controls: Boost, bass, mid, treble, gain, volume, 3x footswitches
Connections: 1 x 1/4", 1 x 1/8" (aux), 1 x 1/4", 1 x XLR (DI out), 2 x 1/8" TRS Type-A (in, out), 1 x 1/8" (headphones)
Output: N/A
Power: 12V DC 600mA power supply (included)

Reasons to buy

+
Three different sounds in one
+
Excellent boost feature
+
Can be used as a preamp

Reasons to avoid

-
Onboard cab sim not the best

Powered by a 12AX7 valve, the Two Notes ReVolt gives you three distinct amp sounds in one compact unit. Its all-analog amp circuitry makes it a great choice for players making their first foray into the world of pedal amps with the added bonus of being able to slot into your rig as a preamp.

The three differing amp sounds cover a lot of ground with a Fender Bassman-inspired clean channel, a Plexi-style British crunch option, and for the high-gain lovers, a channel that emulates the girth of a Soldano SLO-100. They’re incredibly realistic sounding, but we preferred the sound of our own IRs over the ones that come as stock.

Dedicated footswitches allow you to quickly change up your tone, although we’d have definitely preferred dedicated EQ controls for channels two and three. There’s plenty of flexibility for connectivity and the MIDI connection offers up a lot more control whilst the balanced XLR out will please your local sound engineer.

Read our full Two Notes ReVolt review

Best pedal amp: TC Electronic AmpWorx JIMS 45

(Image credit: TC Electronic)

10. TC Electronic AmpWorx JIMS 45

An insane value for money pedal amp for Marshall fanatics

Specifications

Type: Tube Preamp, Cab Sim, DI
Controls: Normal, high, level, bass, mid, treble, 2x footswitches
Connections: 1 x 1/4", 1 x 1/4" (out), 1 x 1/4" (DI), USB Mini-B, 1 x 1/8" (headphones)
Output: N/A
Power: 9V DC 300mA power supply (not included)

Reasons to buy

+
Insane value for money
+
Compact size
+
Useful boost function

Reasons to avoid

-
Only does one tone

The newly released TC Electronic AmpWorx JIMS45 is one of five in a line of budget pedal amps designed to give cash-strapped guitarists a realistic alternative to the many more expensive units. 

Based on the legendary ’60s Marshall JTM45 tube amp, it delivers that classic British crunch delightfully. You can make it act as if you’ve jumped the two channels on it as well, by blending the normal and high knobs to sculpt your perfect sound. An additional preset switch also means you can save two of your favorite tones and switch between them.

It’s got a boost function for enhancing your solos, and the Celestion cabinet impulse responses sound absolutely fantastic. A dedicated headphone output makes it great for practicing or recording at home, and for this amount of money, there’s not really too much to complain about here.

FAQs

Strymon Iridium on wooden floor

(Image credit: Future)

What is a pedal amp?

A pedal amp is fairly self explanatory: amp tones in a pedal format. Like with traditional amplifiers, pedal amps can vary, with some focusing on one or two specific amplifiers – which would be more comparable to a tube amp – whilst others feature a plethora of digitally modeled amps, using similar (or sometimes the same) technology as modeling amps such as the Boss Katana or Line 6 Spider.

It is worth clarifying that a majority of pedal amps may not have a power amp and therefore wouldn’t have the ability to power a speaker cabinet. This can be overcome by utilizing an FRFR, powered speaker cabinet, or plugging straight into a PA system – though with a PA system you will likely not have the same sort of onstage monitoring as you would have with a cranked speaker cabinet sat behind you. Some pedal amps, such as the Blackstar Dept. 10 Amped 1 do come equipped with an internal power amp, and can almost be considered as a conventional amp head, moved into a pedal layout.

Are pedal amps worth it?

Every use case is different, so whether a pedal amp is worth it for you will be specific to your needs, and different pedal amps will have different features that cater to those needs. For use at home, many pedal amps will have integrated audio interfaces which make it an ideal home recording and practice tool, with many being far more convenient to use in this situation than tube amplifiers, or even digital modeling amps.

In years gone by, emerging bands wouldn’t be able to count on a pedal amp for their live shows as venues may only have a vocal PA system, which wouldn’t have the guts to also project amplified guitar sounds. This has largely changed, with many venues investing in affordable but powerful PA systems, that can project your pedal amp comfortably, and with many pedal amps offering a simulated speaker output, your tone will have some semblance of being a genuine amplifier.

Ultimately, in all environments, pedal amps have come on leaps and bounds in recent years and there’s a strong argument that having one in your arsenal – even if not as your ‘main’ amp – is a wise addition, particularly when there are many available on the market at bargain price points.

Can you use pedals with a pedal amp?

 

The best pedal amps will have been designed to not just sound like a regular guitar amp, but also react like one, including how they interact with external pedals. Some are better than others at this and the very best will replicate tube amp breakup from overdrive pedals near-perfectly. Not every pedal amp has an FX loop, however, so if you prefer your time-based effects and modulation pedals uncolored by your preamp, then you’ll need to bear this in mind when using one.

You could theoretically place the pedals after the pedal amp on your board, although this won’t have quite the same effect as using the FX loop; it's a good compromise if you don’t have one already built in.

Many pedal amps will have some effects built into them, though this can be limited to a small selection of reverbs. The most powerful pedal amps, such as the Neural DSP Quad Cortex will feature a huge amount of effects, meaning you can ditch your external pedals and use that exclusively – though, as it happens, the Quad Cortex also plays very well with external pedals.

Where does a pedal amp go in the pedal chain?

When considering where to put your pedal amp in the chain, it’s best to forget about the ‘pedal’ part and just consider it as an amp, even if this is counterintuitive. A pedal amp for the most part replaces your actual amplifier so it will go at the very end of the signal chain. There could be reasons to run pedals after the pedal amp as we mentioned in the previous section, or if you’re using it as a preamp or just a multi-effects unit, but for most players it’s best to have your pedal amp as the last thing in the signal chain. 

How we test

We've got loads of experience using both real and pedal amps here at Guitar Player, and when testing the latter we try and use it just as we would an actual guitar amp. Testing them this way allows us to judge its suitably for the task at hand, namely replacing your regular guitar rig.

When we first get our hands on a new pedal amp to test, we'll start by seeing how easy it is to get up and running. Plugging the inputs and outputs alongside the power supply, we're aiming to see if it's just as easy to use as a real amp, or whether you'll need to start menu diving to get your sounds. Ultimately a good pedal amp will be just as easy to use as the real thing, whilst simultaneously providing additional features a real amp cannot.

Speaking of features, once we've ascertained how easy it is to use, we'll move onto examine the extra features in detail. We'll look at how flexible it is when integrating into an existing setup. For example can you put your time based effects in an FX loop? Does it cater for stereo pedals already on your pedalboard? Things like how many presets you can use at any given time, how easy it is to dial in sounds on the physical controls, and what sort of offering any additional software gives you are all up for consideration.

Once the features have been studied in depth, we'll then move on to that most important of factors, the sound. Here we'll use our extensive knowledge of using real guitar amplifiers to see how the sound holds up. We'll test it through a variety of mediums too, including guitar cabinets, studio monitors, studio headphones, and PA systems to determine the overall quality.

Where possible, we'll endeavor to A/B versus the real guitar amp if we have one. Doing this gives us a great overview of how realistic the amp models are, thus informing how suitable they are to replace your real-life amp. We'll also spend a good amount of time using them, so we can see how they hold up over a period of time. Testing for a decent amount of time lets us live with pedal amp, so we can judge it once the initial honeymoon phase is over.

Read more on how we test gear and service at Guitar Player.

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Matt McCracken
Junior Deals Writer

Matt is a Junior Deals Writer here at Guitar Player. He regularly tests and reviews music gear with a focus on guitars, amps, pedals, modelers, and pretty much anything else guitar-related. Matt worked in music retail for 5 years at Dawsons Music and Northwest Guitars and has written for many music sites including MusicRadar, Guitar World, Guitar.com, Ultimate Guitar, and Thomann’s t.blog. A regularly gigging guitarist with over 20 years of experience playing live, writing, and recording in bands, he's performed everything from jazz to djent, gigging all over the UK in more dingy venues than you can shake a drop-tuned guitar at.

With contributions from