The Fender Stratocaster is undoubtedly one of the most recognizable guitars to ever be produced. The guitar has been used for a variety of genres. When combined with a well-suited amp, the results are marvelous.
In this article I will point you in the direction of the most compatible amplifiers to pair with a Stratocaster. Whether you want that classic break-up for soloing or a clean channel for melodies, there’s an option which will suit your needs.
The 6 Best Amps for a Stratocaster
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The Blues Junior has been one of the most popular Fender amplifiers for a long time. Its popularity is largely down to its versatile, reliable performance. With 15 watts of power, this all-valve combo amp lends itself to the practice room as well as the stage.
Pedals aren’t an issue thanks to the Blues Junior IV’s ample clean headroom. When the gain is cranked up, it produces a lovely amount of saturation which is perfect for projecting a solo or a riff on your Stratocaster.
In order to get the elusive bluesy tone that Fender Strat players strive for, you can reduce the master control and boost the volume control which forces the preamp tubes to work and compresses the signal.
The addition of a modified preamp circuit gives the fourth edition of the Blues Junior a smoother spring-reverb unit and a more balanced overall tone. The definition is clear across the whole fretboard. This smooth sound married with the durable high quality construction you would expect from a Fender amp, makes it a great partner in crime for a Stratocaster.
2. Vox AC15C1
When combined with a Stratocaster, the Vox AC15C1 amp produces wonderful results. The AC15 was first introduced way back in 1958, and since then has become renowned for its British-Invasions styled gritty sound.
The 15-watt all-valve model has three 12AX7 preamp tubes installed. The two EL84 tubes produce the classic warm Vox tone through a 12 inch Celestion speaker.
Stratocasters produce beautiful tones when combined with reverb. The built in spring-reverb unit of the Vox AC15C1 really compliment the natural sound of the guitar. When the gain is reduced, this amp can be used for light melodic playing with a touch of reverb added in.
The two channels offered by the AC15C1 are normal and top-boost. Both of these channels have their own output control and the top-boost has a built-in EQ. You can tweak these effects to create a variety of sounds on your Strat.
When it comes to amps which are best-suited to a Stratocaster, the original manufacturers know best. Fender’s ’65 Twin Reverb is capable of producing the burning lead tones we love to hear from a Strat, but it also has the capabilities to facilitate lighter playing styles.
This amp is a true powerhouse. The all-tube, 85-watt construction produces enough volume for even the largest of venues. In fact, it’s so loud that you could drown out the drummer with this amp! Even when cranked to its upper limits, the ’65 Twin Reverb will highlight the articulation of your Stratocaster.
If your preferred style of guitar is cleaner rhythm playing, this amp can provide that too. The use of four 12AX7 and two 12ATZ preamp tubes produce a clarity and smoothness which complements the similar qualities of a Strat so well.
In terms of built-in effects, the amp has a spring reverb channel, a vibrato channel and a three-band EQ. It’s a bulkier model than other additions to this list, but for the power it provides that’s to be expected.
As you would expect from a Boss amp, the Katana-50 MKII has an extensive selection of built-in effects and modulators. We know how great a Stratocaster sounds when draped in over the top effects, so the range of 60 which are included with this amp will provide many hours of experimentation.
The Katana-50 MKII is not just about processing and effects, though. This versatile combo amp has a sweet-sounding clean channel which lends itself to jazz, soul and blues guitar playing.
The variation of five individual amp voicing settings allows you to quickly switch between the presets. This is useful if you need some more bite for a guitar solo, or if your Stratocaster is struggling to cut through the mix.
This 50 watt amp is ideal if you want to bring out some of the more experimental sounds that your Stratocaster is capable of. It provides a good balance between the natural warm tone and the endless possibilities of audio manipulation.
Bugera’s V5 Infinium is a small 5-watt combo amp which is perfect for practicing on your Stratocaster. This amp is powered by a single 12AX7 preamp tube and an EL84 power tube, giving it a warmth and clarity which belies its size.
The addition of a high-definition reverb channel and British engineered Turbosound speaker make the V5 Infinium an awesome piece of equipment.
The harmonics of a Stratocaster are clearly reproduced by this Bugera amp. Played lightly with a touch of reverb, the guitar will sing. By pushing the amp to its limits, you get the classic break up and saturation that a Strat does like no other guitar. Quite impressive for such a small amplifier!
Bugera introduced their Infinium Tube Life Multiplier technology which was designed to improve the longevity of the amp’s tubes. It works by monitoring the performance of the amp’s output tubes and ensures that they are performing at their ideal level. This means you can shred your Strat through the V5 Infinium without the worry of wearing the tubes out anytime soon.
The Mustang LT 25 is an 8 inch combo amp with 25-watts of power. Fender have used their decades of experience modeling Mustang amps to create a tiny, compact model which is ideal practicing and travelling purposes.
Don’t let the size of the LT 25 deceive you into thinking it lacks in power, though. The 8 inch Celestion speaker can fill a small room, and only starts to sound muddy at the very top of its dynamic capabilities.
As far as practice amps for a Stratocaster go, the Mustang LT 25 is hard to beat. It gives you instant access to 30 “greatest hits” patches which reproduce iconic tones from classic songs.
The simple USB connectivity gives you access to a range of amp models, effects and presets so you can experiment with your Strat. This, combined with the convenient size and mobility of the LT 25 make it an option definitely worth considering.
Getting the Classic Strat Tone: Tube vs Solid State
The Fender Stratocaster has been at the forefront of popular music for over six decades now. The main reason for this its signature tone which so many guitarists strive for.
In order to get the best out of your Strat, it’s important to understand the functions of tube amps and solid state amps and the effect that have on the guitar’s tone.
Tube amps, sometimes also referred to as valve amps, amplify the guitar signal by using vacuum tubes.
These amplifiers are generally pricier than solid state amps, but if you are looking for the classic, smooth tone that the Stratocaster is famous for, they are the best option.
When the tubes are saturated by cranking the volume, you get the natural break-up and distortion that makes a Strat great for solos.
Solid state amps use transistors instead of tubes. These are often cheaper, but don’t produce the same responsiveness and natural tone of the Strat, at least not to the same level as a tube amp.
Despite this, they are a good option for reason other than tone, such as their mobility and having less need for repairs.
Choosing the Right Amp for the Sound
Even though the Fender Stratocaster is synonymous with blues and classic rock, many guitarists use it for all kinds of music genres.
Just because you can use a Strat for different genres, doesn’t mean you can use any amp.
A Vox AC30 isn’t going to be very great for heavier music, and a Marshall JCM900 isn’t going to be the best fit for funk.
This means you have to pair your guitar with the right amp to get the sound you’re looking for.
Before deciding on the amp you want to use with your Strat, determine the genre of music you’ll be playing and the tone you want to achieve.
For Jazz, Country, or softer genres that use more clean, you’ll of course want an amp with a better clean channel.
Likewise, for heavier genres that require more overdrive, an amp that can provide a lot of gain is a better choice.
You can also go with a modelling amp if you want a wide variety of sounds. These amps can simulate many different amps and cabs, and come with a selection of effects.
With a modelling amp you can play around with different styles and sounds with just the press of a button.
Avoid Pairing Cheap with Expensive
One of the worst things you can do is play an expensive guitar through a cheap amp or vice versa.
The simple fact is that playing an expensive guitar through a cheap amp, or the other way around, won’t sound good.
When buying an amp, make sure to get one that will be able to bring out the full potential of your guitar.
This also means that if you have an entry level guitar, you can also get a cheaper amp since an expensive one isn’t going to make your guitar sound any better than it already can.
The amplifiers on this list are, in my opinion, all very well suited to a Stratocaster. Hopefully, it has helped you to decide on the best option for you.
It really comes down to what you want from the amp, and what you intend to use it for. Establishing this before buying will make you more likely to choose right amp which will last you for many years.