The more you learn about guitars, the more you realize that there are so many aspects which go into getting the right sound. It is not just the guitar or the pickups which will dictate a good jazz sound, you need the best jazz guitar amp to complete your tone. In this article, we explore which models of amps are available for Jazz guitarists, whether they’re solid state amps, combo amps or tube amps. We also weigh up the combo amp vs amp heads and cabinets debate.
What Makes a Good Jazz Amp?
Whether you need a jazz amp under $500 or you have a limitless budget. Whether you want a practice amp or need something for huge gigs, there are certain criteria for jazz amplifiers. Unlike a lot of other genres, Jazz is typically played with a clean tone and having an amp that can give clarity is an absolute must. Some other genres such as rock and metal benefit from a crunchy, degraded sound, this is unlikely to give jazz players the sound they’re looking for.
Some other effects are commonly used and built into amplifiers for jazz guitars such as reverb to give a thicker, spacey sound, and commonly a chorus effect too. More on that as we look at individual models.
Recommended Jazz Amps Reviewed
Fender Champion Series
The first of our recommended Fender models of amp. The Champion range is a Jazz amp for the modern age, with some truly awesome, high tech features, but a classic Fender sound.
Available with a lot of different jazz guitar tone effect settings and settings for other genres, this can be used for a huge amount of different genres, but really lends itself to Jazz. The clarity of the sound and a selector for a huge variety of effects give you a lot of possibilities in terms of your sound. This is also great for pop, rock and more.
There is also a controller in place for voicings, so you can choose between many classic British sounds. The technological advancements in recent years mean more inputs and outputs. You can plug in headphones and practice privately, or you can even plug in an MP3 player and play along with songs or backing tracks (there are lots of great Jazz backing tracks on YouTube).
If you’re looking to buy a Fender Champion, it is available in three different wattages, 20W, 40W and 100W. While the 20W is great for practicing at home or even small band practices, you will want something with a bit more power if you are going to be playing gigs. You don’t want to overdrive this amplifier, or any other, as it will quickly lose its clear, airy Jazz sound.
Roland Jazz Chorus
It has Jazz in the name, after all! On its own that doesn’t qualify this as one of the best amplifiers, but it just so happens that Roland has hit the nail on the head with this solid state stereo amplifier range.
These amplifiers have been popular for over 40 years now, but there are some modernized features for the 21st-century guitarist.
This amp has a three-band EQ, a true stereo input for a thick, detailed sound. Vibrato, distortion, and reverb are built-in so you can experiment with the sound and create your own signature tone.
The ‘Chorus’ effect may be iconic, but a lot of guitarists opt to play this amp with a clean tone, and this is the tone which makes us recommend the Jazz Chorus range. It is available in multiple powers including 30W and 40W. Which you buy depends on whether you will be using this amp for performance or practice. Whichever you opt for, make sure you don’t overdrive this amp unless you are playing more modern of ‘fusion’ styles of Jazz which require a little distortion.
Fender Frontman – A Small, Budget Jazz Amp for Practice
If you are a beginner, or you just need a practice amp for playing at home, the Fender Frontman range will give you what you’re looking for in terms of a clean Jazz sound without spending a fortune.
This is great if you are on a budget too, and not many Jazz amps can be bought for under $100. Of course, there is only 10W of power on offer here so you probably won’t be using it to play any Stadium tours with it, but it is so easy-to-use that many beginners will opt for this product ahead of the many amplifiers on the market.
Jazz Guitar Amp Brands
As you can see, certain brands are more synonymous with the Jazz sound than others. In the music industry, manufacturers often go hand in hand with certain styles and genres. Jazz is one of the oldest genres we know of, so since the earliest amplifiers there have been preferred models.
Fender is known not just for jazz. Lots of guitarists in the realms of rock, pop, indie and even metal opt for Fender now, and their range is huge. The reason they are known for jazz is the fact that Fender amplifiers have a lot of clarity, and often Jazz players go for a lot of power and therefore a lot of ‘headroom’ which means you don’t have to crank them and distort them to get a full sound. The volume can be high, but the clarity will be retained. This is something that isn’t the case with the more crunchy, distortion-driven blues and metal amps.
Roland are another brand who offer a lot of very clear solid state amps, something we recommend for playing Jazz. The range is huge, and many Roland amps have lots of inbuilt effects and more features, so they can adapt to other genres. The fact that they have a range entitled the Jazz Chorus means they know the score when it comes to a clear Jazz sound. Not all players opt for a chorus effect, but it can give a thick Jazz sound many love. These amps became popular around the 70s and 80s.
Of course, other guitar brands are available and as you create your own sound you may find that one works better for your own sound. It may be that you opt for a tube amp, you might go for an Orange amplifier for more of a fusion sound. Marshall amps also have a huge range to explore and many that will do a more-than-adequate job.
No matter what genre of music you play, there are always decisions to make in terms of equipment. For Jazz, the above models will do a brilliant job, and have some exceptional consumer reviews, but there are other options too.
If you have any other recommendations or experience playing jazz amps, feel free to leave your thoughts in a comment below.