4 best tube guitar amplifiers for Metal in 2023
Despite live metal acts are becoming the more and more directed to use digital emulators on stage, still there are many guitar players (me the first) that still prefers the good old tubes to have that “punch” and warmth on stage.
Tube amplifiers are, still in my opinion, the best possible tool to obtain a responsive, organic guitar sound both live and in the studio. The Impulse response technology for sure made some incredible steps forward during the last decade, so it seems that we don’t need that much of a guitar amp on stage anymore… But, are we really sure?
Many guitar amps incorporate as well dedicated internal IRs to use this technology in real time like the Suhr PT15 I.R. , still, there’s nothing like a tube guitar amp played at the right volume, especially for clean and crunchy sounds.
In this article, I would like to talk about my personal list of the best 4 guitar tube amps for Metal in 2023.
So, let’s start!
Links to buy:
Average price: 2349$
Pro#1 High-quality sound
Pro#2 Reasonable cost compared to its competitors
Con#1 Clean Channel goes a bit crunchy easily
Con#2 Oriented mostly to Metal
The VX Super Kraken is probably one of the most devastating tube amps I have ever tried.
With pure 100 watts of power and 6L6 power amps tubes, this beast is in my opinion one of the best solutions if you are searching for flexibility, power, and tone quality.
The Kraken has 2 separate channels: clean/crunch (accessible via footswitch), and lead with two modes, CLEAN 1 and CLEAN 2.
Compared to its little brother (The Kraken), this amp also included an amazing CLEAN sound, good for solo lines, arpeggios, and rhythms. At the same time, the amount of gain that this amp can provide is ridiculous, and you will be always well-sustained both for your solos and rhythm lines. The Switch to GAIN 1&2 will give you the ability to switch from more British sounds to more American, read: Marshall oriented to Mesa-Boogie oriented.
In any case, both channels sound absolutely beautiful, the quality of the sound is overall very high!
Other additional features include traditional Footswitches, and midi access to switch your channels if you use digital processors (very useful!).
Another important feature is the ability to switch from 100 watts to 30, so you can cranck the amp properly even in small rooms.
What I absolutely loved about this amp is the quality of its sound: the definition and the dynamic of each note left me speechless. It is powerful, but also all the necessary frequencies you need to cut into the mix were all there.
This amp would definitely be my N1 choice if I would decide to go on stage with a metal or rock band, but not only.
The Kraken is mostly thought for modern-progressive and Djent players that aim to have an incredible definition with very low guitar tunings, and this amp is the perfect response to their needs. Tho, It can also be definitely used in a variety of different music situations and styles, even keeping up the powerful and great metal attitude and character.
The Super Kraken is overall one of the best amplifiers I have ever tried, and I definitely feel like recommending it if you are searching for top-level quality at a price that won’t oblige you to open a loan at your bank!
A complete review of his little brother VX The Kraken HERE.
Mesa Boogie Mark V
The Mark V is the last one of the very lucky series of guitar amplifiers made by Mesa Boogie, that together with the Rectifier Series has contributed to affirming the trademark sound of the company.
Mesa-Boogie is since its debut in the ’70 synonymous of amazing quality and peculiar timbre.
They have been the first ones to develop high-gain amplifiers, and they contributed to creating the sound of musicians like Carlos Santana, Al Di Meola, and many others!
The Mesa-Boogie sound is the typical American one ( compared with Marshall Amps which defines instead the typical British sound): heavy cutting distortions, singing middle-oriented lead sounds, overall versatility, and incredible dynamic response.
I personally owned a Mark IV for so many years (before it got stolen after a gig ☹️ ) so I can personally tell you guys how much I loved its sound.
The Mark V is the natural evolution of the previous one, with some modifications: first, the lead channel amount of gain. You always needed a Tube Screamer in front of the channel to have the necessary gain. On the Mark V, definitely, you don’t need it.
So how is this Mesa Boogie Mark V beauty structured?
The Mark V is divided into 3 different channels. Channel one is the clean one, is a very warm and rich clean tone. The switches can contribute to changing the power, and the frequencies (Tweed, Fat..) we want to obtain from it.
The sounds may vary from Jazzy clean tones to Fender-oriented classic blues sounds, to more crunchy tones ideal for rhythms.
Channel two is more oriented to Crunch sounds, and the beauty of it is that we can switch to the classic Mark I sound (the one used a lot by Carlos Santana…) or we can have an incredible crunch rhythm for Blues to Hard Rock.
Channel three is a resume of the classic Lead Mesa sounds, from the typical Mark IV to more metal distortions in the style of John Petrucci. The mode “Extreme” will unleash the full fury of this amp, with a quantity of gain that we only can imagine.
Other than the classic Triode/Pentode mode and class selection, The Mark V also contains a graphic equalizer before the Power amp to better define the sound we want to obtain.
So, how does the Mark V sound? In my opinion, absolutely amazing. The tonal control, quality, and overall dynamic make this amp a true must for any guitarist that wants to invest in a long-lasting professional machine, that can be used with incredible results both live and in the studio.
The Mesa-Boogie engineering lets guitarists have beautiful and reach cleans, together with very heavy distortions, a result that is not so easy to have on so many amplifiers in the market.
The three channels are dynamically very responsive, and all music styles are entirely covered: from Pat Metheny to Eric Clapton, from Steve Ray Vaughan to Steve Lukather, to Al Di Meola to John Petrucci and Metallica, the Mark V will make scream every rhythm and sing any solo from all types of guitars.
Nothing more to say, the Mesa Boogie Mark V is a masterpiece, and to me, it deserves a place among the best guitar amplifiers ever built.
Average price: 4,296$
Links to buy
Pro#1 Top Quality boutique sound
Pro#2 Versatility, dynamic, volume, control over every timbre
Con#1 Very Pricey, but absolutely worth
Con#2 Somewhat difficult to find around
What else to say about this beauty?
The Bogner Ecstasy is the perfect choice if you want to invest in an amplifier that will contain everything you will always need to obtain all the sounds you desire, with many different nuances.
Bogner amps are synonymous with dynamic, rich tones, defined timbres at every volume, sound quality, and an incredible amount of versatility.
Bogner amps have been used by monsters like Steve Lukather and Brett Garsed among many and are placed more into the boutique segment of the market.
The reason is that Bogner amps, and especially the Ecstasy, represent state-of-the-art quality guitar amps, they are at the top level, and definitely they deserved it.
Trying out this head absolutely blew me away, I have never heard something like this before.
So let’s get into the technical details.
The Bogner Ecstasy is a three channels head, capable of 100 watts of power, Class A or AB with EL34 power amp tubes (switchable to 6L6 on demand). The output power can be chosen among half or full, as well as the sound style (Old or New). Depending on the settings you choose, the power output will change from 100 to 50 to 25 watts.
The preamp section is configured using 6x12AX7 tubes which are designed for Channels 1, 2, and 3 plus a tube-buffered FX Loop for multi FX and pedals.
As mentioned before, the Bogner Ecstasy features three independent Channels: Channel 1 with independent Gain, Bass, Middle, Treble, Volume, Pre-EQ, and Gain Boost controls. Channel 2 and Channel 3 feature independent Gain, Volume, Pre-EQ and Gain Boost controls, but share the primary Bass, Middle, Treble, and Structure (Gain Structure Low or High) controls.
A Plexi mode switch can be engaged on either Channel 2 or Channel 3 to obtain more sounds in the character of the old Marshall heads from the ’60.
The three channels plus the FX loop can be controlled by a dedicated footswitch.
Depending on the nuances we want to obtain, we can also switch from Class A to AB.
How does it sound?
The Bogner Ecstasy is the perfect balance between the modern and vintage world.
The sound has got a proper distinctive character, but at the same time can be used to cover many different styles.
The boost options for CH1&2 will eventually give that extra punch needed to snappy solos and rhythms. I loved how with some simple toggle we can go from devastating metal distortions to more educated bluesy sounds in the style of Robben Ford or Eric Johnson. Every dynamic is respected and for every channel, you can obtain an incredible variety of sounds just by working on the controls on your guitar.
There’s no reverb on this amp, but I assume it’s been made on purpose to naturally preserve the rich tone of this incredible beauty.
At every rhythm and solo attempt, you will be completely blown away by the sound quality of this head. No pedals will be needed at all, but of course, it does respond incredibly well to good pedals as well. I would advise only using modulation and ambient pedals with the 4 cable method and leaving the preamp section does its job, you won’t be disappointed.
There’s nothing to say, this is one of the best guitar amps ever made, it goes way beyond the idea of “High Gain” and it can be used for any purpose. A precious jewel to own in our studio, and a life-long investment.
The BE-100 Deluxe is the high-level flagship amplifier for Friedman Amps. They offer one of the finest machines for all that regards Metal and Hard-Rock, with everything in between.
This amp is another top-quality beast, and the sounds you can obtain will leave you messed up at every new note.
Among the four amps that I tried for writing this article, this is the one that is more classic rock-oriented, and more British than all the others… And this is what someone wants, right?
So, if you are searching for old-school Marshall-era sounds with a window open to modernity, this amplifier won’t disappoint.
The Be-100 Deluxe is the upgraded version of the BE-100 lines of amps, with some more switch that makes it more versatile and usable, ad that set it apart from the BE-100 amps.
It features 3 different channels with independent master volumes and gains: CLEAN, BE, and HBE, so clean, crunch, and high gain.
Each channel contains switches that let you obtain different nuances.
The clean channel has got a bright toggle switch, very useful with different types of guitars.
Gain 1 and 2 channels share the EQ section, but they have independent master volumes and a voicing switch that works as a high pass filter.
Other toggle switches are the response switch that affects the negative feedback and the overall playing feel, and a frequency toggle switch that modifies the response to mid-frequences.
So how does it sound?
The clean channel is a classic British Marshall-oriented sound, but it feels more modern-oriented. Amazing for arpeggios, and blues licks, and very responsive with both single-coils and humbuckers pick-ups.
The second channel is perfect for crunches: Hendrix-oriented rhythms to AC/DC and Iron Maiden distortion. Everything will be covered. Also, very good at responding with overdrive pedals.
Channel three goes towards the more modern type of distortions even if it preserves its natural character, which means still British-oriented but heavier, with a point of fuzziness.
Another important characteristic of this amplifier is the back switches, which will provide more sound options depending on the kind of guitars and pick-ups you are using.