The Best Big Clean Guitar Amps

Okay, so you want a Big Clean amp for live use and/or as a platform for lots of pedal use. There are more amps on the market today than ever before, obviously, so there's a lot to consider. My suggestion is to go with a company that has a long track history and narrow your search down to a few certifiable classics. Sure, you might find an obscure jewel out there but who can guarantee that Mr Obscure Amp Guru will still be alive and kicking next year when his mind-bending and gooped to hell masterpiece blows up?

In reverse order, here is my ranking of the best Big Clean amps you can buy new today:

4. The venerable Fender Twin -- no explanations required. The Twin is and will remain the bread and butter clean amp for countless guitarists and the standard for which all other big clean amps are measured. It's impossible to go wrong with this amp.

3. Taking the Twin a step further, the Mesa Boogie Lonestar represents an improved Blackface tone with additional useful features and a better reverb. The build quality is also a notch or two above Fender for about $500 more.

2. Here's my curveball: The Vox AC30 handwired (with alnico Celestion blue speakers). We tend to think of the AC as a perfect amp for medium gain grind and furry bliss, and it is, but back off the volume knob a bit (and use a mic and a PA for larger venues) and you have a mind-bending, massive clean tone that you can get lost in for days. Indeed, if I could only have one amp it would be either the handwired AC30 or AC15. They just sound that good. This Vox will lack the headroom of the other amps on this list but the added harmonic richness and complexity is the reward.

1. Finally, my bid for the greatest big clean amp tone: the Bogner Shiva. Disregarding the amazing crunch channel, the Shiva is considered by many to be the terminal point in the history of Big Clean. It seems to possess an extra dimension other amps lack with heaps of chime, sparkle, as much beefy and solid low end you could possibly want, texture, etc. Just stunning. With just a couple of tone pots you can carve just about any clean sound you want. And you can get these tones at any volume level (more is obviously better) and the reverb is probably the best you'll hear. Whether you chose the head or combo, 1x12, 2x12, 6L6, or EL34 formats (my favorite is the 1x12 EL34 version circa 2003, which is the third version of the amp) you're playing through a monster. Downside? Sure, the price is a real retirement killer but who's retiring anyway?

And here's Ego's tone secret for redneck Tele players: put an EP Booster (set at about 50%) and a Strymon El Capistan between your Tele and the clean channel (any volume) and prepare for the best chicken pickin' sounds you've ever heard: kind of a blend of cranked blackface Twin and a purring Plexi. Yummy.