Arguably the greatest art form that’s ever come from American music, jazz is an incredible style that blends beautiful songs and melodies with incredible virtuosity. Jazz guitarists spend a lifetime educating themselves on the intricacies of this beautiful art form.

With all that time spent continuing to learn and develop as a player, it stands to reason that a jazz guitarist also cares a great deal about their tone, and how their sound fits into their group or ensemble.

As jazz has taken a back seat to other popular forms of music like blues or rock, amp companies aren’t as focused on producing quality amps for jazz guitarists as they once were. But, fear not! Today, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about jazz amps and take a look at some of the best jazz amps on the market today.

What is the Best Jazz Amp?

What exactly is a jazz amp and what does it do?

A jazz amp is like any other amplifier in the sense that it amplifies the sound of the electric guitar for your audience to enjoy. Technically, any amplifier can be a jazz amp, just like any amplifier can be a rock or blues amp.

Whether you’re talking about an amp for jazz, blues, or any other style of music, the makeup of the amp is quite similar.

All amplifiers consist of three main components: a preamp, power amp, and a speaker.

The function of the preamp is to take the very weak electrical signal that’s being sent through your instrument cable from the guitar’s pickups and step up the voltage so that it can be fed into the power amp. The preamp is also where your signal gets most of its tone from, thanks to the different tone shaping controls like EQ, gain, presence, and resonance.

From the preamp, the signal then runs into the power amp section, where the sound is amplified and then sent through the speaker, where it finally becomes audible.

Just like other amps, a jazz amp can be powered either with vacuum tubes, or solid-state circuitry. While tone purists are quick to point out that tubes produce a warmer and more desirable tone than solid-state amps, it’s not so cut and dry when it comes to jazz.

In fact, the style of jazz guitar lends itself equally well to tube or solid-state amplifiers. Many players prefer the tone of a solid-state amp when playing jazz. Your personal preference will dictate which type of amp is best for the way you play.

best jazz amp

What makes a great jazz amp?

In just a moment, we’re going to take a closer look at some of the best sounding jazz amps on the market. Whether you go for one of the great jazz amps on our list, or you’d rather look for something different, you’ll want to evaluate any amp you play based on these criteria.

  1. Great tone at any volume
  2. Portability
  3. Built-in reverb
  4. Effects loop

Great tone at any volume

Unlike other styles where the guitar is usually a major focal point of the song, that isn’t always the case with jazz. Sure, there’s plenty of guitar-forward jazz groups, and many of the best jazz guitarists are often the lead voice in their songs. But, that isn’t always going to be the case.

Well rounded jazz guitarists are just as happy to take a back seat and lay down some rock-solid rhythm playing so that other instruments can shine as well. For this reason, it’s critical that the amp you choose can produce a great tone at any volume.

Many amps don’t hit their stride until they’re played at higher volumes, and when the volume is low, they lack tonal character. These types of amps are not well suited for playing jazz.

When you’re searching for a great jazz amp, make sure that the tone is just as beautiful and musical with the volume on one as it is when the volume is dialed up higher.

Portability

One of the most critical components that goes into a great jazz amp is portability.

When you’re playing in a rock band, one of the fringe benefits is that your bandmates are kind of like a built-in road crew. Lugging around a giant combo amp or a head and cabinet is much easier when you have bandmates to help you along with your gear.

With jazz, your built-in road crew is no longer a guarantee. What if you’re playing solo, or in a duo or trio? At that point, it’s much less likely you’ll have extra hands around to help you move your gear from point A to point B.

Thankfully, jazz is a more subtle style that doesn’t require tons of volume or massive equipment to get a great sound. So, there’s really no reason to bring a big amp with you to gigs. Due to the nature of jazz, a relatively small amplifier can still conquer a large venue.

As such, portability is important when it comes to a jazz amp. Many of the best jazz guitar amps on the market have a tiny footprint, and they weigh less than 30 pounds.

For gigging musicians especially, an amp that’s easy to transport, pack up, and move around can be critically important. Trust us on this one; your back will thank you later.

Built-in Reverb

Depending on the styles of jazz you play, you may find that you don’t need any effects whatsoever to color your tone. But, even jazz guitarists with incredibly simple rigs can benefit from some great onboard reverb.

Reverb adds character and color to your tone, giving it a liveliness that’s absent from the tone of guitarists who prefer a completely dry sound. Regardless of the room, you’re playing in; reverb can add depth to your playing, regardless of whether you’re playing rhythm or lead.

Not all onboard reverb is created equally, and with many popular amps, it seems as if it’s included as an afterthought, instead of a useful feature of the amp. You’ll want to test drive plenty of different amps before deciding on which one features a reverb that you like.

While many players rely on (and even prefer) a solid-state amp when playing jazz, this is one area where tube amps seem to have an advantage. For example, the reverb on Fender’s tube amps is highly regarded as some of the best reverb in the world, and you’ll have a difficult time capturing a similar character and tone with the reverb that’s included on a solid-state amplifier.

Effects Loop

Having a built-in effects loop may be a critical consideration for you, especially if you like to play lots of jazz fusion in the vein of Pat Metheny or Allan Holdsworth.

As the electric guitar evolved throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s and guitar effects became more popular, players found that there were some drawbacks to running all of their effects through their amplifier’s input. Especially when it comes to time-based effects like reverb and delay, players noticed that they weren’t getting the tones they were hoping for, and the pedals didn’t behave properly when run through the amp’s input.

As an answer to this issue, manufacturers developed effects loops. An effects loop allows you to run all of your pedals after the preamp section, but before the power amp. The result is a clearer and more accurate tone, which is especially important when it comes to playing jazz.

Of course, many jazz guitarists don’t use any effects at all. For them, having an effects loop isn’t important at all. But, for the jazz guitarist that likes to push the tonal envelope, an effects loop can be a critical feature that allows them to unlock all of the different tones they’re striving for.

Amps for Jazz Reviews – Our Top 5 Recommendations

Henriksen JazzAmp Ten

Best Overall

What Makes It Special?

Tons of headroom, a 5-band EQ, and intuitive features like a Bluetooth auxiliary input make the JazzAmp Ten a fantastic amplifier. At 120 watts, you’d expect this amp to be as heavy as a ton of bricks, but at only 23 pounds and 14” tall, this diminutive amp is an ideal sidekick for gigging musicians.

  • 5-band EQ
  • Closed cabinet for improved bass response
  • Bluetooth in
  • Reverb

Henriksen amps have only been on the market for about a dozen years, but in that short amount of time, they’ve completely revolutionized the jazz amplifier market. The JazzAmp Ten comes in at just over a foot high and wide, yet it manages to push out an impressive 120 watts through a single 10” Eminence Beta speaker.

The JazzAmp Ten also features onboard reverb, an effects loop, balanced line out, speaker out, and a headphone jack. The cabinet is closed which helps improve the overall responsiveness of the amp, especially in the lower range.

As for the tone, this amp delivers an incredibly pure tone that truly feels like an extension of the guitar itself. Gigging guitarists who are hoping to take it easy on their back are sure to appreciate that this diminutive combo comes in at only 23 pounds, and can easily be carried in with your guitar in one trip.

What Customers Like

  • Great low end
  • Loud enough for all situations
  • Quality onboard reverb

What Customers Dislike

  • Strictly a jazz amp
  • Effects loop send/return is a single input and requires a special cable.

Roland Jazz Chorus JC-40

Best For the Price

What Makes It Special?

A historic amp that’s been a favorite among jazz guitarists since 1975, the Jazz Chorus offers a true and uncolored clean tone, great sounding chorus and reverb, stereo inputs, and a stereo effects loop. The Jazz Chorus is ideal for all jazz players, whether you’re introducing pedals into the mix or not.

  • Built-in reverb, stereo chorus, and distortion
  • Stereo inputs
  • Stereo effects loop
  • Compact size is ideal for gigging musicians

The classic JC-120 amp has been a staple on stages across the world for over forty years. While players from jazz greats to Metallica and Radiohead have all tapped a Jazz Chorus for their tone, the original 120-watt amp was a bit of a monster, and it was difficult to travel with.

Thankfully, Roland has made the same great amp available in a smaller size that offers 40 watts through twin 10” speakers. The JC-40 features controls for volume, bass, middle, treble, distortion, reverb, and a suite of controls for the chorus and vibrato effects as well.

A stereo effects loop makes this one of the most compelling amps on the market for pedal users, and stereo inputs also allow guitarists to unlock interesting new sounds. For the jazz guitarist that likes to dabble in other styles as well, this 40-watt iteration of the Jazz Chorus may be impossible to beat. Plus, at under $500, it’s one of the best values on the market.

What Customers Like

  • Great sounding effects
  • Affordable
  • Perfect size for gigging musicians

What Customers Dislike

  • Lacks low-end definition
  • Amp may rattle at higher volumes

Fender ‘65 Twin Reverb

What Makes It Special?

Arguably the most iconic amplifier Fender has ever produced, the Twin Reverb features the iconic spring reverb Fender is so well known for. This storied amp delivers 85 all-tube watts through twin 12” Jensen speakers and also offers built-in tremolo as well.

  • 85 tube watts
  • Reverb and tremolo effects
  • Dual channels
  • Tilt-back legs

For over fifty years, the Twin Reverb has been one of the most iconic amps, favored by jazz, blues, fusion, and rock guitarists around the world. The ‘65 Twin is a faithful recreation of the original, and it offers all the charm and versatility you’d expect from a Fender Twin.

Plenty loud, the Twin Reverb delivers 85 watts through two custom designed Jensen speakers. A two-button footswitch allows you to toggle reverb and vibrato effects on and off, and the amp offers four inputs altogether – two per channel.

If there’s a knock on this iconic amp, it’s that it’s exceptionally heavy and may provide far more headroom than you need. The tone is a bit brighter than many of the solid state amps we’ve discussed thus far, but that brightness is favored by many jazz guitarists. Before you decide on an amp, it’s a great idea to give the ‘65 Twin Reverb a proper demo.

What Customers Like

  • Best reverb in the business
  • Tons of headroom
  • Warm and expressive tube tone

What Customers Dislike

  • Very heavy
  • No effects loop

Boss Katana 100

Best for Beginners & Students

What Makes It Special?

Best known for their iconic stompboxes, Boss recently released the Katana series of amps, which deliver an incredible variety of tones that cover seemingly every musical style. This amp features five different amp voicings, tons of high-quality Boss effects, an effects loop, headphone out and a line in.

  • Five different amp models
  • 61 built-in effects
  • Effects loop
  • Four distinct channels

While Boss may be new to the amplifier world, their parent company, Roland, has decades of experience making some of the most highly desired amps in the world. The Katana 100 is a modern style modeling amp that offers five different amp models, two of which lend themselves well to jazz playing.

This amp also gives you access to 61 effects, which makes it an excellent choice for fusion players, along with any guitarist who is looking for the most versatile amp possible. Other unique features include a headphone out, USB out, line in, and an effects loop.

What Customers Like

  • Exceptionally versatile
  • Great sounding effects
  • Powerful enough for all situations

What Customers Dislike

  • Lacks low-end definition
  • Lots of features that don’t apply to jazz players

Line 6 Spider V 20

Best on a Budget

What Makes It Special?

The latest in the Spider series, this intuitive and versatile amp provides sixteen different amp models, tons of onboard effects, and headphones and USB inputs. Two different clean channels provide a myriad of different tones, and a closed back offers an impressive bass response despite the Spider Vs small size.

  • Clean and chime models are ideal for jazz players
  • Three simultaneous effects

Line 6 has been a pioneer of amp modeling, and their Spider line of amplifiers has been one of the most versatile and affordable lines of amps for well over a decade. The latest version, the Spider V, provides even more intuitive features, providing guitarists of all styles with plenty to like.

The Spider V offers two clean channels; one is especially clean and dry while the other provides a more tube-like chime, more reminiscent of a Fender or Vox amp. A full suite of onboard effects is ideal for players who like to experiment with other styles as well. Beyond the two clean channels, there are also tons of other amp models that are more geared towards blues, rock, and other styles.

What Customers Like

  • Closed-back cab offers an impressive bass response
  • Affordable

What Customers Dislike

  • Too small for most gigging musicians
  • Lots of features that don’t apply to jazz players

6 More Really Good Amps for Jazz

Henriksen The Bud

From the same folks who brought you the JazzAmp Ten, the Bud from Henriksen is arguably the perfect gigging amp on the market. This amp features two fully independent inputs with independent gain, volume, presence, and reverb controls in addition to a 4-band EQ. This amp also features combination ¼” XLR jacks for added versatility.

As you’d expect, this amp offers the same amazing tone that Henriksen is known for. At 120 watts, this little gig machine is ideal for jazz players, singer-songwriters, and duos. Thanks to the twin inputs, it allows you to worry about one less piece of gear when you’re heading out for gigs.

Vox AC30C2

Vox is one of the most well-known amp manufacturers in the world, and their AC30C2 amp is their flagship product. This amp offers the signature British style clean tone that Vox is known for, and the amp provides a surprisingly colorless and pure clean tone which acts as a perfectly suitable blank canvas for jazz and fusion players.

The AC30C2 offers reverb and tremolo effects, and a top boost for adding a light overdrive to your sound. A tone cut knob provides a wide frequency scoop, making it easier than ever for jazz players to roll some of the high end off of the amp as their sound dictates.

Fender Blues Deluxe

A favorite among jazz and blues guitarists for decades, the Blues Deluxe packs signature Fender tone and all tube power into a package that’s a bit more manageable for gigging musicians. While the Blues Deluxe is no lightweight, it’s significantly lighter and more manageable than larger Fender amps, like the Twin Reverb.

The Blues Deluxe delivers 40 tube watts to a custom 12” Eminence speaker. A 3-band EQ and presence control allow you to dial in your tone while reverb and drive controls to allow you to add additional color to your tone. The amp also includes a dust cover and two-button footswitch.

Tone wise, the Blues Deluxe offers the same glassy and responsive, clean tone that all Fender tube amps are known for. An additional drive channel adds a layer of versatility, making the Blues Deluxe ideal for many different styles of music.

Roland Jazz Chorus 120

We spoke about the iconic Jazz Chorus amps above, but we would be remiss if we didn’t include the big daddy of them all, the original JC-120 Jazz Chorus amplifier. For jazz guitarists who regularly play in larger rooms, the additional headroom provided by this 120-watt powerhouse may be just what the doctor ordered.

Like it’s little brother, the JC-120 features a legendary clean tone, stereo inputs, stereo effects loop, and one of the best sounding chorus effects in the business. While the JC-120 weighs as much as a small sedan, it does come complete with casters so you can wheel it wherever you need to be.

Peavey Classic 30

While Peavey is more closely associated with rock and metal amps, the Classic 30 is the true jewel of their repertoire, and it offers a classic tone and style that shouldn’t be overlooked. The Classic 30 features a great retro look thanks to it’s lacquered tweed finish.

Similar to a Fender Blues Deluxe in styling and tone, this amp provides volume, pre and post gain controls, and a 3-band EQ. The second channel is harmonic and musical, and many players prefer it to the sound of the second channel of pricier Fender amps.

With 30 tube watts, the Classic 30 is powerful enough to handle any size gig, and a 12” Blue Marvel speaker delivers a rich and full tone for your audience.

Roland CUBE 10-GX

An intriguing choice for players on a budget, the CUBE 10-GX from Roland offers far more tone than you’d expect from such a tiny amp. The Roland CUBE offers three different channels, and delay, chorus, and reverb effects. Spring and plate reverb sounds are available, and there’s also a 3-band EQ to help you dial in your tone.

One notable feature of the CUBE is that you can swap out the three existing channels built into the amp (clean, crunch, and lead) and replace them with other models by using the Roland CUBE KIT app. Other intuitive features include a headphone jack for quiet practice and an auxiliary in for jamming along to records and backing tracks.

best jazz amp 2019

5 FAQ’s about Amps for Jazz

What are the different types of amps?

Guitar amps fall into four different categories:

  • Tube (valve) amps
  • Solid-state amps
  • Hybrid amps
  • Modeling amps

Tube amps are the original amplifier. Once the first electric pickups were invented, a means to amplify the sound from the pickups became the next focus. Early amplifier builders turned to PA systems and radios for inspiration, and the resulting instrument amplifiers were powered by vacuum tubes.

The warm and expressive sound of tube amplifiers is as coveted today as it was when the first guitar amp was created nearly 80 years ago. However, tube amps do come with a few caveats. For one, the internal components of tube amplifiers are heavy, and they can be difficult to carry. They also require occasional maintenance and tube replacement, which can get pricey.

With new technology came solid-state amplification. These new solid state amps solved all of the issues native to tube amplifiers. They’re considerably lighter, and they require virtually no maintenance. Unfortunately, solid-state amplifiers don’t offer the warm sound that tube amps do, and for this reason, many guitarists shy away from these amps.

That said, solid-state amps are quite popular among jazz players. These amps may not have the warmth of tubes, but for many styles of jazz, the signature tube tone isn’t necessarily more desirable than the tones you can create with a solid state amp.

The third type of amps is hybrids. These amps feature a tube preamp section with a solid-state power amp, and they’re designed to bridge the gap between the convenience of solid-state and the tone of tubes.

While these amps do tend to sound warmer and more expressive than solid-state amps, they aren’t quite the real thing, so tube amp fanatics aren’t likely to be impressed by the sound of hybrids. Meanwhile, other players find that hybrid amps deliver a perfect blend of tone and reliability.

Lastly, we have modeling amps. These amps can be a solid-state, hybrid, or even tube. Most often, they’re solid-state or hybrid amplifiers that feature a digital signal processor in the preamp section that allows players to tap into a myriad of different tones with a single amp.

Modeling amps often come with tons of built-in effects, and several different amp simulations, which are designed to replicate the tone and response of some of the most popular guitar amps of all time.

Modeling amps are a great choice for players who are more interested in the cutting edge of guitar technology than they are with the glory days of yesteryear. They also make a fine choice for jazz guitarists of all styles, since the different amp emulations cover such wide ground, tonally speaking.

Does the size of the speaker matter?

While the size of the speaker certainly matters, when it comes to jazz, this consideration is a bit less important.

When it comes to crafting a great jazz guitar tone, clarity is the most important characteristic to strive for. Whether your amp has 8, 10, 12, or even 15-inch speakers, you should be able to dial in a clear and focused tone that allows your natural tone and ability to shine through.

With jazz, 8-10” speakers are the most popular, but that’s partially because jazz amps tend to be smaller than amps for rock and other styles. Most jazz players aren’t especially particular about the size of the speaker in their amp, provided it delivers the tone they’re looking for.

Some jazz guitarists play a guitar with an extended scale or a 7-string, and if you fall into that group, you may find that an amp with small speakers doesn’t offer the low-end response you’re looking for.

What are the top brands for amps for jazz?

Roland has been one of the most popular amp companies for guitar players, thanks in large part to their beloved Jazz Chorus line of amplifiers. The Jazz Chorus is especially popular among fusion players who rely on pedals to deliver their tone. More recently, Roland’s cube series of amps has proven a versatile and reliable amp for many jazz guitarists.

Fender is one of the original amplifier manufacturers, and their amps have long been favored by jazz guitarists. Fender’s classic tube sound and vintage styling lend itself well to jazz playing, and their amps also lend themselves well to using pedals. Additionally, almost all Fender’s tube amps include one of the best spring reverb units in the world.

Henriksen began as a software and hardware developer for the telecom industry. But, the company’s founder soon branched out into making amplifiers specifically for jazz players, a tragically underserved community of guitarists. Their amps have quickly become some of the most coveted, and they’re favored by Jimmy Bruno and Jim Hall among many others.

Polytone is another company worth noting. This mysterious company has been producing solid-state amps for decades with virtually no marketing or advertising of any kind. While the company does still seem to be in business, it’s virtually impossible to find new amps from them. But, if you find one on the used market, it’s well worth taking a closer look.

How many watts do I need on an amp for jazz?

When it comes to jazz, the number of watts you’ll need will be relative to the spaces where you typically play.

In most cases, jazz guitarists are perfectly happy with an amp in the 50-watt range. Amps of this size tend to provide just enough power while also being small and portable, making them perfect for gigging musicians.

In larger rooms, guitarists will often send their guitar out through a PA, or mic their amplifier. So, despite the fact their amps are usually small, there’s no issue with them having the volume they need to project to the audience.

If you play styles beyond jazz, or if you’re the lead instrument in your group, you may want to consider buying a larger amp, as larger amps offer more versatility for other styles, like rock or blues.

Otherwise, a small and portable amp in the 30-75 watt range should be ideal for you.

Where can I learn more about amps for jazz?

Jazz Guitar Online is a great resource for all things jazz-related. This site provides some amazing tips, tricks, and advice to help players master the beautiful and complex world of jazz. The article in the link above is ideal for anyone looking to further increase their knowledge of jazz guitar amplifiers.

Guitar Fella is a newer resource that’s quickly becoming a go-to for all things guitar. This site is chock full of gear reviews, tips and tricks, and other information that can help you grow as a guitar player. The article above is a great resource for anyone looking for some more information about jazz amps.

Jazz Guitar Lessons is another top-quality resource for jazz musicians. This site provides great information to help you along with your playing and improvisational ability in addition to some helpful tips to help you improve your tone. The article above is practically required reading, and it will help you dial in an incredible jazz tone once you’ve picked the best amp for your sound.

Conclusion

Mastering the art of jazz guitar is a lifelong commitment, and one of the keys to becoming a great jazz player is developing a great tone. The amps on our list above represent some of the heavy hitters of the industry, and each makes a fine choice for your next jazz amp.

Are you a jazz guitarist? What are your thoughts on jazz amps? Sound off in the comments with tips for our readers!

When shopping for jazz amps, guitarists often also consider:

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