What makes Les Paul guitars so special? – Craftsmanship quickly comes to mind as does the impressive consistency of note sustain, both signatures maintained through the years. Of course, there are also many that argue that Les Paul guitars might just get the edge in the vintage tone department.
That being said, an electric guitar is only as good as the guitarist and the amplification. Without one of the best amps for Les Paul guitars, you might not be able to wow your audience and make an impactful and memorable performance.
To get the most out of your guitar, you always have to pay attention to what kind of tone favors it. With any Gibson, the choice is simple. A vintage sound that’s less heavy on the distortion is often the way to go. Here’s how you can achieve that with a few high-end and budget-friendly guitar amps.
5 Best Amplifiers for Les Paul Guitars
The Fender ’65 amp has been one of the purest sounding amps for guitars to this day. The Twin Reverb model from Fender is equipped with powerful stock speakers, 2x12” Jensen C-12k. They can give your guitar that sound clarity you’ve been craving, and a note separation in the works of Eric Clapton or B.B. King.
Of course, this amp can do more than just make your Les Paul sound bluesy. It can also give you a cleaner overdrive and enough power to crack the paint on the walls. Don’t let the 85W fool you. This amp is more than capable of letting you stand out in the mix during live gigs, even when accompanied by four, five, or six other musicians.
This is a tube amp with four 12AX7 tubes and two 12AT7 tubes in the input and gain stages and four 6L6 power tubes in the amplification stage. This, combined with the powerful speakers and the dual channel setup for normal and vibrato are are what makes the Fender ’65 Twin Reverb guitar combo amp one of the best in the business.
Marshall is another huge name in the music industry. It’s also one of the few manufacturers that do a good job of creating affordable amps without sacrificing sound quality.
This amp is fitted with replicas of the Celestion V speakers. This allows you to get a vintage sound from a modern amp while also maintaining a balanced tonal signature. You’ll get good sound definition and nothing out of place. There’s no unnecessary chiming on the mid or high frequencies.
Now, the Marshal and Les Paul combination is obviously a classic one. That doesn’t mean that I recommend this combo amplifier purely based on historical preferences. I recommend it as a well-balanced 40W amp that can give you a clear and distinctive sound whether you’re practicing or playing in small venues.
The amp has a 20W output mode which makes it ideal for practicing even at home. Switched to its 40w profile and the amp can help to define your blues rhythm and solo play. Crank it up loud enough and you will get a sweet distortion too. Of course, you can always maintain better clarity if you pair it with a proper cabinet.
If practice is strictly why you need an amp for, then there’s no reason to be paying too much is there? – Although Fender and Marshall may dominate in the eyes of Les Paul purists, the Bugera V5 amplifier is a reliable choice if you want to play at home or at the rehearsal studio.
This is not a very powerful amp, not by a long shot. However, its single 12AX7 tube is more than enough to help you reproduce a vintage blues or jazz guitar sound. It probably also helps that the Bugera V5 also has a vintage design and a less complex EQ with just gain, tone, volume, and reverb settings.
The speaker is an 8” Turbosound speaker which is known for its clarity and note separation even when the guitarist delves into the crunch spectrum of play.
This is a simple yet high-performance combo amplifier that comes with pre and post-gain controls for the lead channel, a footswitch, and a vintage spring reverb.
The amp is capable of sounding midrange heavy, bass heavy, or powerful and balanced across the board. You can get great sustain by adjusting the pre and post dials and it can even do justice to a traditional heavy rock sound.
In the reverb department, the Peavey Classic 30 is just what a Les Paul guitar needs. It has a smooth control and is capable of delivering mid-centric tones. Its warmth is of course adaptable to other guitars too.
If you’re looking to get the brightest tone out of your guitar, then the normal channel will be best suited for the job. It’s also the channel that accommodates pedal effects best.
The vintage look adds to the vintage feel. The note separation is good but not perfect. However, it’s the little differences that make the harmonic detail unique and the Peavey Classic 30 a modern classic choice for a Les Paul guitar in a small venue, or even during a live performance if paired with a potent cabinet.
I wouldn’t be doing my job properly without also taking some time to inform you of a more budget-friendly amplifier to pair with your Les Paul guitar. The Monoprice 611705 is one of the best entry-level practice combo amplifiers that can replicate the vintage 60’s and 70’s blues sound.
From blues to jazz to soft rock, this amplifier covers all bases. It features a 12AX7 tube and an ECC83 tube in the preamp stage and a 6V6GT in the amplification stage. The speaker is modeled after the classic Celestion Super 8 GBA-15 speaker.
The amp is rated at 0.5% total harmonic distortion, which is of course only if you don’t overdrive it. It also features both low and high input channels. The latter amplifies the signal significantly and can be used with an overdrive pedal. Definitely the best choice for practicing your solos.
There’s nothing too special to mention other than the fact that for a bargain price, the Monoprice 611705 delivers consistency and a decent dynamic range. You won’t be able to take it on the road, but you probably won’t need anything bigger and louder at home either.
Why I Think Tube Amplifiers Still Reign Supreme
Obviously, this is a matter of personal preference. And yet, many of today’s top guitarists regard tube amplifiers as superior to digital or solid state amplifiers.
Not everyone has the ear to notice the differences between each amp type. But tubes are considered as the standard due to their purer, warmer, and more analog sound. Tubes have higher distortions and they aren’t flawless, but that’s exactly what makes them more natural-sounding.
With that in mind, a word of caution. Tube amplifiers are always more expensive because they can’t be mass produced like solid state amps that use transistors and integrated circuit boards. They’re also harder to maintain and you’ll have to change the tubes eventually.
Still, if you want the best sound and if you want to invest in yourself, this is the way to go.
Your Les Paul Sound
Les Paul guitars are used in just about any genre from folk, blues, and through to hardcore extreme metal. The natural wide body of the guitars given them a very comfortable feel for guitarists across the entire spectrum of genres and the note sustain is simply unbeatable for many top players.
That being said, there’s a predominance of Les Paul guitar usage in softer genres like jazz, blues, sometimes country. And even in soft rock or heavy rock genres.
All this means is that a Les Paul guitar is prone to favoring mid-heavy or high-heavy sounds. After all, even newer Les Paul guitars are still made to emulate the vintage sound that made them popular in the 60s and 70s.
Just because you can use your Les Paul to play anything with the right combination of effects, it doesn’t mean that you’ll be as pleased with the end result. If you want to stick to the classics, then a classic/vintage amplifier will let you get the best tonal quality and consistency.
Using multi-effects pedals might just murky up the sound.
You Don’t Always Have to Go with the Flow
In the modern era where Boss, Orange, Messa, and Ax-F/X amps may dominate the market, there’s still room for vintage amplifiers.
Although capable of impeccable quality, powerful sound, and amazing distortions, many modern amps simply lack the ability to emulate a vintage sound.
If you’ve already picked a favorite amp, you might also want to start studying the great solo guitarists of previous generations. Being able to mimic that sound in the comfort of your own home might just give you an incentive to study harder and expand your guitar knowledge library.