For over half a century, innovative minds have gathered to push the design of electric guitar amplifiers toward new and exciting tonal concepts. The 1990s saw the rebirth of small business (big aspiration) guitar amp builders—all to ensure that everyone from the touring artist, to the bedroom guitarist, to the wealthy lawyer have the best possible tone. We’ve hand-picked the following list of guitar amp builders for their tonal superiority, allowing you to discover a new amplifier for your rig. Looking for tube guitar amp kits? Check out the small tube guitar amp kit page.
Ben Fargen, founder of Exclusive Amps (formerly Fargen Amps), came onto the boutique guitar amp scene around the turn of the millennium, and became well-known for his Blackbird amp (a Fender Deluxe-inspired amp that offers tighter low end and a subtle reverb for more tonal accuracy). He expanded his line to include the Olde 800, the John Lennon series of amps and various Marshall-inspired amps. The great thing about Fargen amps is that they are affordable. Whereas many boutique guitar amps sell for multiple thousands of dollars, Fargen is amp to offer a boutique solution in the range of $1,500-$2,500. Ben now focuses on custom guitar amps. Go Custom or Buy Used >>
Want feature your guitar amp company? Learn more.
These boutique amps are know for their accurate representation of the classic Marshall “Plexi” amplifiers of the 60s. They combine use of modern and vintage components. Their Grease Monkey II (classic Plexi tone), Organ Grinder (NOS 5879 pentode preamp), Sock Monkey 1×10 combo, Orangutang head and BW 119 (Brad Whitford model, Aerosmith) are offering some of the bes British rock tones in the world.
Allessandro amps are inspired by classic guitar amp circuits and feature audiophile-quality parts to provide guitarists with some of the finest boutique guitar amps being built today. Their wooden enclosures draw attention as a work of art, not just an electric guitar amp. Their line of amps include the Italian Greyhound (jazz amp), Redbone, English, Plott, and Beagle (blues amps with varying features), Blodhound (high-gain rock amp) and Basset (steel guitar amp).
These boutique recreations of classic vintage guitar amps are made in Kentucky and offer reliable alternatives to classic Fender tweed and blackface amps that are highly sought after. Their models include the Brown Sugar (shown left, 30 watts with 6L6 or 15 watts with 6V6 tubes), Sweet Spot (15 watt 6V6 tube amp perfect for overdriving) and the Accomplice (22 watt Deluxe Reverb inspired amp with a middle control). There’s more models on their website, so check out these guitar amps.
Bad Cat Amps is based out of California and focuses on Class-A tube guitar amps that cover the British-rock tones with everything from 5 watt to 100 watt guitar amps. Their models include the Mini Cat II , Black Cat 15, Cub II, Hot Cat 15 and Lil 15 (15 watts), Judah 20 and Classic Cat 20 (20 watts) and many other amps models in the 30-100 watt range. They make an electric guitar amp for just about any tonal need.
Bogner amps got their start in the late 1980s when Reinhold Bogner moved to the LA area from Germany. His early years included customizing amps for guitarists like Steve Vai, Mike Landau and Eddie Van Halen, so he cut his teeth with the best of the best. Bogner amps specialize in amps that deliver incredible saturation, often based Marshall-style circuits. Their line of amps has grown to include modern classics like the Bogner Shiva, Alchemist, Uberschall and Goldfinger.
Bruno amps are feature-rich and have great aesthetic appeal with wooden enclosures like this guitar amp featured to the left. Bruno amps are PTP wired and offer touch-sensitive response with 3-dimensional sonic imagery.
Budda amp are feature-rich tonal monsters, and most of them sport their classic black and purple colors…except this Mark Nason-series amp featured to the left. Their other amps include the Superdrive Series (18-100watts), Twinmaster and Verbmaster among others. These electric guitar amplifers are known for crisp, clean and power-packing guitar tones that are great for hard rock.
Carr Amps are wired point-to-point with custom output transformers and speakers along with high-grade capacitors, power supplies and classic Fender-inspired pine cabinetry (using dovetail joints). These amps are some of the best modern boutique amps offering classic vintage tones. Popular models include the Rambler, Slant 6V, Mercury, Viceroy and Impala.
Clark Amps are known for their classic Fender Tweed amp recreations. Everything from the circuitry to the pin cabinets is given full attention. These are point-to-point wired vintage replicas with Jensen and Sprague capacitors, carbon-comp transistors from Allen Bradley, NOS tubes and vintage-style Weber speakers that truly recreate the classic tweed amps of the early days of amp building. Can’t go wrong with a Clark amp.
Cornford amps opt not for printed circuit boards, but instead for a hand-wired, point-to-point construction method that creates some of the finest tones on the boutique guitar amp market. Their amps are great for high-gain guitar players, and models include: Harlequin and Carrera (smaller home and studio guitar amps), Hurricane (great for home and small club use), MK50H and Hellcat (louder high-gain guitar amps).
Bob Bradshaw of CAE is known for his guitar switching systems, but he also makes one of the finest rackmount guitar preamps on the market: the 3+ SE Preamp. Trey Anastasio used this amp during the early 90s with Phish, and combined it with the Groove Tubes Dual-75 power amp to help him achieve a multitude of guitar tones. This 3+ preamp offers three independent guitar preamps designed for different levels of saturation. If you have a big rig, and need a high-end guitar preamp, start your search with Custom Audio Electronics.
Demeter amps offer the warmth and clarity of a vintage Fender amp and the gorgeous crunch of a Marshall plexi amp with the sustain-for-days solo tones provided by Demeter’s own TGA-3 amp. These guitar amps are wired by hand with high-grade parts in their own California factory. Tons of attention to detail here, so check out Demeter amps.
Dr. Z amps have stormed on to the scene in recent years with their innovative amp designs for guitarists of all needs. They are, of course, point-to-point wired and offer some of the best raw tube tone available on the boutique market. Just ask Brad Paisley, one of the world’s most accomplished guitar players. Popular models include the Carmen Ghia, Maz 18, Route 66 and Z Wreck (a recreation of the classic Trainwreck amplifier).
Edward amps are perfect for guitarists who need a low-watt guitar amp to crank up the volume with in order to get that sweet “edge of breakup” tone that is needed for rock, blues and country. They are also capable of incredible clean tones and include a boost footswitch for leads. Tremolo and reverb are included along with effective Equalizer controls. These electric guitar amps even inclue a power outlet for powering your pedals/pedalboard. Last but not least, they come in easy-to-carry combo cabinets to make them a perfect club gigging amp.
Emery Sound builds some of the best low-wattage guitar amps on the market. These electric guitar amps are perfect for tabletop solutions such as in your home studio, band room or even living room. The unique feature that they offer is the ability to use any tube type with them. They offer hours of fun via swapping all sorts of NOS tubes for different tonal flavors. This is quite possibly one of the best studio guitar amps on the market due to their pure circuitry, tonal options, and their polished wooden construction make them a sight to behold!
Fender makes the classic American-style electric guitar amps that got everything started. Having inspired Marshall and numerous modern boutique amp builders, they set the standard for tone in the early days. Classic models include the Princeton Reverb, Deluxe Reverb, Super Reverb, Twin Reverb, Tremolux, Vibrolux, Vibroverb and more. These amps have been used for everything from rock to country to jazz, and players like Jerry Garcia, Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughn depended on these amps for at least part of their incredible electric guitar tones.
Framus electric guitar amplifiers and speaker cabinets were designed for the guitarist who wants a high-quality boutique system to play through. Whether it be the Ruby Riot combo or the Dragon half stack, all Framus amplifiers use only the finest components and are assembled by technicians who have truly mastered their craft. These amplifiers will truly blow your mind and impress your ears.
Fuchs Audio Technology designs, manufactures, and modifies tube musical instrument and audiophile amplifiers. Andy Fuchs has over twenty years experience as a technician and musician, which provides him with a unique sensitivity to the needs of musicians and audiophiles. All products are hand built of the finest premium parts, and use classic and modern circuit topologies to achieve their sonic goals. Fuchs is famous for their Dumble inspired amp designs, such as the Overdrive Supreme 30, 50 and 100 watt models.
Fulton-Webb amps, used by Eric Johnson occasionally, were spawned at a time when low-watt Marshall flavored guitar amps were hot on the market. Fulton-Webb amps are no longer made, but can be found on Austin Vintage Guitars’ website at times, so we linked to their website above. Note that Fulton-Webb amps come with 3 separate output jacks (16, 8 and 4 ohms) to help with configuring their heads with the cabinet of your choice.
Garnet Amps, a Canadian company that grew in the 1970s, is a small tube guitar company founded by Gar Sr. They currently make the Guillotine (guitar preamp), Herzog Reissue V (a point-to-point wired tube amp with a single 12ax7 and single 6V6 that nails the tone from the song “American Woman”), and some of their older tube guitar amp models include the BTO, Rebel and Pro series. They also released the Deputy series and a number of guitar amps (Mach 5, Gnome, Revolutions I/II/III, the Enforcer, Sessionman and the Banshee. Garnet also produced a tube reverb unit.
Gerhart Amps is boutique guitar amp company that uses modern technological advances to produce reliable, affordable guitar amps that just ooze tone. Their line of guitar amps includes: Gilmour (1/2 watt tube amp), Sunset (15 watts for small clubs, home and recording use), Ventura (30 watts for club and medium sized venue use) and the Vanowen (a solid and powerfully toned amp).
Germino amps are handmade in the United States, use high-end guitar amp parts like carbon comp resistors and feature Marshall Plexi-style faceplates to give them a classic vintage look. These guitar amps use Heyboer output transfers (which are custom-wound), Mallory capacitors, CTS and military-grade pots and much more (too much to list). These are some of the finest boutique Marshall style amps on the market so check them out.
Gibson amps originally launched in the 50s when companies like Fender, Marshall, Magnatone and Supro were birthing the guitar amplifier industry. Gibson’s modern line of amps include the Goldtone series which are Class-A tube amps that utilize a EL84 power tubes and 12ax7 preamp tubes. These amps are more durable than their original counterparts, but deliver all the classic vintage tone that made them so popular with collectors. These little combos will surely stand out on stage with their vintage appeal.
Groove Tubes is primarily known as a tube company, but they also made a few innovative amps used by guitarists like Jerry Garcia (Trio Preamp) and Trey Anastasio (Dual 75 power amp). Their Trio Preamp featured 3 channels (Clean, Mean and Scream) to cover the bases from clean to high gain tones, and it was designed for use with the Dual 75 power amplifier, which featured two independent (stereo) power amp sections that could use different power tubes. This combination provided nearly limitless tonal options and they were very attractive units. They also produced a couple combo amps, the Soul-O 75 and 45 (shown above).
Guytron is a company born out of a commitment to quality and innovation. Built with the experience of more than 20 years in the music-electronics trade, Guytron uses traditional and time proven methods, dating back 30-plus years to the “Golden Era” of American HI-FI. Wherever possible, Guytron uses new techniques and technologies in guitar amp building, but they never compromise the quality or reliability of their amps. They make both guitar amp heads and cabs in 20 watt, 40 watt and 100 watt power ratings.
Don Mackrill, founder of Mack Music Systems, makes budget boutique guitar amplifiers – hand made amps that really provide true boutique tone (under 20 watts) and reliability at an affordable price (under $1000).
MI Amplification is an Australian-based boutique guitar amplifier and effects company, originally founded in 2002 by Michael Ibrahim. They offer some superbly built amplifier heads: the Revelation (60W, 6L6 based amp with three gain modes per channel), the Megalith (160W two-channel head offering clean and overdrive), the Iron Duke (50W, EL34 based, British-voiced amp with half power switch), and some heavy duty 4×12 speaker cabinets.
Siegmund Amplifiers makes electric tube guitar amps based on uniqueness and authentic passion for the craft. Vintage components are combined with custom transformers and original circuitry that achieves a tonal balance that is incredibly musical to the ear. Gorgeous aesthetics cap off these boutique amplifiers to make them truly hand-crafted instruments.
Inspired by Star Trek, the Spock amp from StubbyFex features a single-ended design, out-of-this-world linear outputs and 8 total watts per channel. features single ended, ultra linear outputs, 8 Watts per channel. The amp began using NOS output transformers but is now made with Hammond Transformers since the NOS transformers are out of production. These are handmade amps with point-to-point wiring, 6L6GC tubes (from Svetlana) anda 12AX7A is uniquely used instead of a 6SL7 tube. They are priced just over $1,000.
Tech 21 was the first to introduce amp emulation for direct recording in 1989 when the original SansAmp was released. Now they have a full line of SansAmp products, all of which have 100% analog signal paths. But about their guitar amps. Tech 21 has two amp models: the Trademark 30 and Tradmark 60. These amps are very similar, but with different power ratings. They utilize their SansAmp technology to allow guitarists to “model” nearly any popular guitar tone (blackface, tweed, British, etc.).
THD Electronics is most well-known for their guitar amp attenuators (the Hot Plates), but they also make fine boutique guitar amps that are all-tube, baby. They make a number of “Box Head Amps” that feature either a single tube for low wattage, 30 watts or 50 watts. They are made to sit atop the THD 2×12 speaker cab. They also make a 1×12 guitar amp combo (shown left).
Tone King broke onto the scene over a decade ago with the Meteor amp that allowed for both blackface and tweed tones to be achieved through four separate models using different tubes (6V6 and EL-84). They now make very cool TV-front style guitar amps (shown left) that are super retro for vintage fans. They literally look like a TV! All Tone King guitar amps are inspired by blackface tones and feature incredible deepness in tone, rich harmonics and some additional sweet and crunchy tweed tones that are some of the best on the market.
TopHat is another modern boutique amp builder who uses only point-to-point circuitry, custom cabinets and rugged construction. They are both tone-worthy and road-worthy. Their line of electric guitar amps include the Club Series (1×12 and 2×12 combos for small gigs), Emplexador Series (Marshall-inspired amps), King Royale Series (Vox-inspired amps) and custom amps that include an aluminum chasis-version of the Club Series amps (also in a head instead of combo). These are some of the best modern boutique amps being made today.
Torres makes classic recreations of vintage amps using PTP wiring (point-to-point), their own custom-crafted steel chassis and feature Orange-Drop caps and a super low noise floor. These are some of the best modern recreations of vintage guitar amps on the market, so check these out.
The first Trainwreck amplifier was built in January of 1983 and was named Ginger. Ginger is a Liverpool model and was made in a Cherry cabinet. The first Trainwreck “Express” amplifier was built in January of 1984 and was named Victoria. Victoria was made in a Cherry cabinet. The first Trainwreck “Rocket” amplifier was built in January of 1990 and was named Betty Lu. Betty Lu was made in a Cherry cabinet and has an eagle painted on the face plate.
Tubetec makes guitar amps that keep the guitar’s tone true to the vibration of the strings and are therefore very touch-sensitive. They feature high distortion and sustain amounts, passive equalization in the preamp section, effects loop for delays and modulation pedals to be placed after the preamp section, and footswitchable channels to achieve different levels of tube saturation on the fly.
Two-Rock is one of the premier boutique guitar amplifier manufacturers. Founded in 1999, their team of “amplifier artisans” (as they like to say) is focused on transparent and touch-responsive tones sourced from the the highest quality parts and point-to-point wiring. Popular artists who use Two Rock guitar amplifiers include John Socfield, John Mayer, Jimmy Herring and others.
ValveTech makes very cool tube amps that can do everything from clean tones to screaming distortion. They include reverb and an effects loop to put your delay and modulation pedals after the preamp gain section. They feature 4 inputs, like some vintage amps, and offer modern, very high gain switching to help achieve hard rock tones that simply blast out of the amps.
Vero Amps makes some very uniquely designed guitar amps like the one shown to the left with a side tone port. The cabinets are like nothing we’ve ever seen before. Their 20th Century Limited model amp that can achieve honky to crunchy tones. They are great for Americana music. Their Chicago Zephyr model is a medium-wattage guitar amp (45 watts) that is crisp and full of dynamic tone to help cut through the rest of the band when it’s time to take leads.
VHT Amps makes Special, Standard, Classic and Lead series guitar amps. These guitar amps range from 6 watt 1×12 combos, to 20-watt combos and heads to 40-watt tone monsters that will light up the stage with incredible tube guitar tone.
Victoria Amps are, hands down, the most reputable boutique amp builder making Fender tweed era replicas on the market. They make a really cool tweed champ in both 1×8 and 1×12 combo configurations, and the 1×12 (called the 5112) is perfect for the club guitarists who plays raunchy blues and swamp rock. Definitely check out the Victoria Amp website to learn more about their extensive line of boutique guitar amps.
Voodoo Amps is not just known for guitar amps mods and restorations, but also for making some of the world’s finest electric guitar amps. Their Voodoo Hex is a modern distortion style guitar amp that is anything but sounding squashed, fizzy and nasty. It may snarl, but in a good way. They excel at offering the “amp to the max” tone at any volume level, are point-to-point hand-wired and are quite expensive (@ $3,00-$4,000). But, isn’t the best guitar amp tone worth it?
Vox is known for their AC30 and AC15 British-style tube amps that were launched in the 1950s, and have grown to become one of the industry standards (used by The Rolling Stones, Beatles, The Edge of U2 and more. The are truly an icon, and offer that jangly, cutting overdrive tone that is perfect for vintage rock.
The Dominator Amplifier is based on the legendary 17 watt 60’s model. The first channel of this new guitar amp model is a clean tone driven by high-quality EL84 power tubes and offers 5 knobs (Volume, Treble, Bass, Mids and Tremolo). The output can range from 17 to 30 watts via the 4 EL84 tubes operating in push-pull fashion. This guitar amp’s second channel is engaged by a push-switch and offers tons of classic overdrive tone. The amp uses a Hi-Fi quality output transformer that is double the original amp’s size, offering more sustain and overdrive.
The circuit topology of the DRD amp is very unique as far as single-ended amplifiers go. It consists of an Ultrapath output stage whereby the return path of the output transformer connects to the output tube’s cathode instead of the power supply. This topology results in greater detail and it is believed this is a result of better coupling between all parts of the circuit and less interaction with the power supply components. The DRD guitar amp from Welborne Labs is available pre-assembled or as a DIY kit.
West Amps was founded by Dave West, who got his start in Michigan with an audio shop that sold classic hi-fidelity amplifiers such as Dynaco, McIntosh and more. When he saw an Sunn guitar amp for the first time, which used Dynaco topology, he realized he could follow suit. He then started West Labs and launched West Amps. If you’re a guitar player who is also a fan of vintage hi-fidelity amplifiers, then definitely check out these guitar amps.
Wizard Amps specializes in high-gain guitar amp heads that are perfect for metal and hard rock. They have enormous power supplies that deliver a very punchy tone, military-grade turret board construction, point-to-point wiring and high-end amp parts. These are great amps for shredding so get one if you’re a metal head.
Zinky Electronics is an electric guitar amp builder who makes tube amps, speaker cabinets and signal processing devices for the tone-hungry electric guitarist.
Zwengel Amps makes tube amplifiers that are great for rock. Their line of guitar amps includes the Banshee 50 (which includes vintage and modern channels), the Crossfire (shown here, a two-channel amp head available in 25, 50 or 100 watts), and the 452 Vintage Modern with four separate amp channels (two clean channels, and two overdrive channels). All of their amps come with an XLR output for sending the signal straight to the mixing console, which is very cool…but like you, we prefer guitar speakers whenever possible.