Just as one man’s carefully-nurtured tone is another’s nail to the ear drum, the look of some amps can turn as many stomachs as they do heads. We’ve taken a straw poll around t’internet and corralled just five amps that we reckon mix quality tone, a wealth of features and sheer vibe with eye-popping looks.
We’ve probably missed a hundred or so, so point us in the right direction if you’d be so kind!
1 - Mesa/Boogie Road King
Boogie offer a wide selection of finishes, liveries and other custom vibes through their lauded Custom Design service. It’s not cheap, but boy does it make a selection of great amps look as good as they sound. This version of the all-conquering Road King is clad in Saddle Tan Suede and is crowned with a gold grille. In the words of the Churchill bulldog: “Oh yessshhh...!”
2 - Budda MN-100
Budda provide some wonderful amps, but none are as cool as this brand new MN-100, a three-channel affair clad in a leather cloak fashioned by Mark Nason, who usual applies is not inconsiderable skills to manufacturing shoes. The phrase you’re searching for is “Holy blimes!”.
3 - Engl Steve Morse Signature 100
With a Mid Control Matrix that allows you to play around with no less than eight independent voicings for the midrange, this is about as far away from a plug in ‘n go amp as it’s reasonable to get on the open market. As usual, though, it’s well worth ten minutes spent with the manual as the amp can sound spectacular, as does Morse himself.
4 - Marshall 1992LEM
There’s not much cooler than a standard Marshall head, but this, the signature model of bass monster Lemmy that’s based on his original 100-watt head that’s been christened Murder 1, is made all the more frosty by the inclusion of the gold crests that adorn the original. But is it loud? Pardon...?
5 - Hughes & Kettner TriAmp Alex Lifeson Signature
If you wish to start a company dedicated to producing the flashiest amps possible, you need to begin with a front panel that lights up in the way many current Hughes & Kettner amps do. Still, after you’ve developed all that you’ll have a hard job getting your stuff to sound as good or be as versatile as the Rush guitarist’s signature head: boasting, in effect, six channels, it rocks.
And finally, just for balance...
Dr. Z Mazerati GT
How about this for simplicity? 38 watts, simple tone and volume pots...and that’s it. Turn it up full, connect to a good speak cab and grab a decent guitar and you’ll have a tone to die for. Who said boutique needed to be bells and whistles?