Best Pedal Amps: Power Up Your Pedalboard With An Amp In A Box

 A Line 6 HX Stomp multi-effects processor on a dark floor
(Image credit: Future)

We see it more and more these days. Guitarists are eschewing traditional amplifiers in favor of modeling units that fit neatly onto a pedalboard. The best pedal amps combine the larger-than-life tone of a genuine tube or solid-state amp with the convenience of a pedal, and no matter how much of an amp lover you are, there’s no denying they’re getting incredibly close to sounding like the real deal.

We admit to being one of the deniers initially – there was no way a pedal could match the power of our EL84-equipped 2x10 combo. Then it happened, we purchased an amp modeler as a way to record at home more easily, then it moved to our pedalboard, and now we’re using it at shows. Turning to the dark side has taken time, but nowadays pedal amps are so close to the real thing that it would be obstinate to say otherwise.

We love our amp, but sometimes it’s just not convenient to use one. Having a pedal amp in your armory means you’re always prepared for any situation, whether it’s as a backup in case of a failure with your main amp, using it as an entire rig in itself, or as a versatile solution for recording and home practice.

If you’d like to know more about pedal amps, have a look at our buying advice section which goes into detail on these brilliant bits of kit. If you just want to see the best pedal amps available today, then keep scrolling to see our top picks.

Best pedal amps: Guitar Player's choice

We’re going with something we know well here, but for us, the Line 6 HX Stomp perfectly blends the small size of a pedal with the power of a myriad of real amplifiers. It also offers a huge range of connectivity options, so whether you use it to supplement your existing set-up or replace it entirely, it will fill any role and offer more sounds than you’ll know what to do with.

Probably one of the most popular pedal amps ever made, the Strymon Iridium has been around for a while, but its staying power is proof of just how good it is. With three classic amp tones at its core, the compact and easy-to-use format makes it a brilliant choice for any guitarist.

Best pedal amps: Product guide

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 pedal amps: Strymon Iridium

(Image credit: Strymon)

2. Strymon Iridium

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.

Best pedal amps: Neural DSP Quad Cortex

(Image credit: Neural)

3. Neural DSP Quad Cortex

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 50 amp models, over 70 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 the full Neural DSP Quad Cortex review

Best pedal amps: IK Multimedia Tonex Pedal

(Image credit: IK Multimedia)

4. IK Multimedia Tonex Pedal

An AI-powered pedal amp that’s great on stage or in the studio

Specifications

Type: Amp Modeling Profiler
Controls: Model, preset, parameter, gain, bass, mid, treble, volume, 3x footswitches
Connections: 1 x 1/4", 2 x 1/4" (L/R), MIDI In/Out, 1 x 1/4" (expression), USB Type B, 1 x 1/4" (headphones)
Output: N/A
Power: 9V DC power supply (included)

Reasons to buy

+
Top quality sounds
+
Great value for money
+
Lots of customization options

Reasons to avoid

-
Fiddly menu navigation

Utilizing AI machine modeling, the IK Multimedia Tonex Pedal gives you advanced modeling capabilities in a compact pedal amp format. With 1000s of tone models available, this powerful little pedal gives your pedalboard a huge boost, saving you lugging around loads of expensive gear.

The main pull of the Tonex pedal is the ability to capture your own rig, although you will need a separate reamping box or IK’s Tonex Capture to do this. You can capture simple amp and cab set-ups, stomp amp and cab set-ups, stomp and amp, or an amp or stompbox individually. 

If you’re not interested in capturing your own rigs, there are plenty pre-loaded into the pedal for you to use live or in the studio from classic clean to modern metal chug. We’ll admit that there’s a learning curve to the menu navigation, a limitation of the simple display, but once you get the hang of things you’ll find editing pretty simple.

Best pedal amps: Universal Audio Dream ‘65

(Image credit: Universal Audio)

5. Universal Audio Dream ‘65

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 three 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.

Glassy cleans, 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 the full Universal Audio Dream ‘65 review

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.

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)

8. Orange Terror Stamp

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 the full Orange Terror Stamp review

Best pedal amps: Two Notes ReVolt

(Image credit: Two Notes)

9. Two Notes ReVolt

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 the 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 three 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.

Best amp pedals: Buyer's advice

Strymon Iridium on wooden floor

(Image credit: Future)

Are Pedal Amps Worth It?

It all depends on what you want from your rig. If you’re happy with your amp, and you don’t mind lugging it around then stick with what you know. A pedal amp is for players who want to condense their rigs down to a manageable size, by allowing them to easily transport them from home, to rehearsal, or to live shows. 

If you’re tired of carrying too much gear around, then a pedal amp will likely solve that problem for you. That said, there’s no reason you can’t have both if you wish! We use a pedal amp as part of our rig so that we can easily record at home, whilst still using our amplifier for live shows.

Can You Use Pedals With A Pedal Amp?

Most pedal amps will behave exactly like a regular guitar amp, so yes you can use pedals with them. 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.

Where Does A Pedal Amp Go In The Pedal Chain?

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.

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Matt McCracken
Junior Deals Writer

I’m a Junior Deals Writer at Guitar Player. I regularly test and review music gear with a focus on guitars, amps, and pedals, as well as being responsible for over 60 buying guides, and helping musicians find the best deals on gear. I worked in music retail for 5 years at Dawsons Music and Northwest Guitars, and have written for various music sites including Guitar World, MusicRadar, Guitar.com, Ultimate Guitar, and Thomann’s t.blog.


I’m a regularly gigging guitarist with over 20 years of experience playing live and producing bands covering everything from jazz to djent. When I’m not buying new plugins for my studio or guitar pedals for my pedalboard, you’ll find me making a racket with Northern noise hounds JACKALS.