10 Guitar Amps that Don’t Require Dirt Pedals For Blues and Rock
Over the last 12 months, I have gone back to basics enjoying the freedom that comes without having to stomp dirt pedals on the floor. It’s not always easy to find pedal-free amplifiers that sound great. This list is some of my personal favorites that you can use without pedals and also sound better without any overdrive or distortion pedals going into them. If you are sick of having to use overdrive or pedals with amplifiers here are 10 guitar amplifiers that don’t need pedals.
1. Marshall DSL40/20
The Marshall DSL range of amplifiers is some of the best amplifiers I have ever owned and played. The Marshall DSL40CR is the current version and they sound fantastic. These amplifiers have 4 channels including:
- Crunch Channel 1
- Crunch Channel 2
- Ultra Gain Channel
While you could use the clean channel with your favourite overdrive in my experience the crunch channels sound better than any pedal going into it. These channels have all the attitude and punch in the mix you could ask for. You can set up one crunch channel as a rhythm tone and then the other crunch or ultra gain channel as the lead tones.
Depending on your taste there are tones in here for just about anyone who plays blues and Rock. I put this at the top of the list for amplifiers that don’t need pedals because it can cover so many different tones.
2. Fender Supersonic 22/60
The Supersonic range of amplifiers is Fender’s answer to the Marshall amplifiers. These fantastic guitar amplifiers have 2 clean channels and the best drive channel fender has ever made.
These amplifiers are loaded with 3 tones on both the Supersonic 22 and Supersonic 60.
- Clean 1 – Vibrolux
- Clean 2 – Bassman
- Burn Chanel (Drive Channel)
The burn channel is the drive tone of the Fender gods. It’s funny how long it has taken Fender to nail a drive channel. Sure, they made some decent ones here and there but nothing like the Supersonic.
3. Mesa Boogie Studio 22
This is one of the greatest combos of all-time. Unlike a lot of the amps on this list, the Studio 22 from Mesa Boogie is no longer in production. You can only find these on the used market.
There’s a lot to love about these little amplifier combos. The Mesa Boogie Studio 22 has two channels and that is it.
- Clean Channel
- Dirty Channel
The clean channel doesn’t stay clean too long. if you turn the master up to about 5 on the clean channel it starts getting dirty. I would almost go far to say this is the off-clean tone on the clean channel most blues guys don’t know what they are missing out on.
The Drive channel is pure blues/rock to rock n roll. The tones straight out of the Mesa Boogie Studio 22 are some of the best. I’ve tried this amplifier with pedals and you’re just wasting your time. Crank it up and enjoy!
4. Yorkville Traynor YCV40
These are a great amplifier. Yorkville is a Canadian company that makes “Fender-esque” amplifiers with one main difference. Their drive channels have always sounded better than Fenders. The YCV40 is a Hot Rod Deluxe style amplifier rated at 40 watts and has two channel with a “boost” on the dirt channel for higher gain tones.
The Traynor YCV channel setup is very simple
- Dirty with a boost switch
The first stage of the gain channel is “nothing but the blues“. It sounds great. I used this amplifier live for years and the drive channel sounded better than any dirt pedal I tried on the clean channel. You can step up the gain on the amplifier either by using the footswitch or clicking the button on the amp and you’ve got a heavier rock tone that works great with the volume control on your guitar.
The Yorkville YCV40 amplifier is an under-rated gem in terms of gain tones. Don’t get this amp confused with the YCV50B. The YCB50B doesn’t have the niceness of the YCV40. The YCV is loaded with 6L6 tubes and the YCV50B is loaded with 6L6 valves. In terms of amplifiers that don’t need pedals, this is right up on the list as one of the best.
5. Artist TweedTone 20R
I’ve been raving about this 20-watt guitar amplifier ever since I first got my hands on it and for good reason, it’s great! The Artist TweedTone 20R is a tube/valve amplifier loaded with 12AX7 preamp tubes and EL84 power tubes. Unlike something like a Fender Blues Jr, this amplifier has 2 channels, a master volume, and a very nice digital reverb.
The TweedTone 20R setup is as follows:
- Clean channel
- Dirty Channel
One of the fun things about the Artist TweedTone 20R guitar amp is you can run it on either the clean or dirty channel and you can get it to break up. For example, you can use the dedicated drive channel with the master all the way up or you can use the clean channel cranked with the master volume down. This will give you the “off-clean” sound of your dreams.
In terms of the dirty tones, they will go anywhere from blues to thick and saturated lead tones reminiscent of the Marshall DSL amps. This is a 20-watt amplifier but it is LOUD. The drive channel responds so well to the volume control on the guitar and it really is an amp you don’t need any pedals for. I actually prefer the sound and feel of the drive channel than the clean channel with pedals.
6. Fender Hot Rod DeVille IV
It took Fender about 25 years but they have finally included a drive channel on a Hot Rod Deville that is awesome. I had a chance to test the 60-watt 2×12 amplifier a few months ago with my friend Ric and we both thought it sounded better on the drive channel than with a Tubescreamer on clean. Every incarnation of the Hot Rod amps has had amazing clean channels but sub-par drive channels. It’s great to see Fender finally got this right and included something that sounds just as nice (or close to) as their clean channel.
The Fender Hot Rod Deville a 2 channel amplifier with the following configuration
- Clean Channel
- Dirty Channel (Yellow Light / Lower Gain)
- Dirty Channel with Boost (Red Light / Higher Gain)
This is a two-channel guitar amplifier but the drive channel has a switch that will take it from the yellow gain stage (lower gain) to the higher gain stage indicated by the red light. Unlike previous versions where the drive channels always sounded way thinner than the clean channels. The drive tones finally have some nice fat mid frequencies going on and 3D projection which means it will work great in the mix.
7. Peavey Delta Blues (1×15″ version)
The Peavey Delta Blues is a no-nonsense guitar amplifier loaded with two channels and a 15″ Blue Marvel Speaker. With the fake-tweed Peavey stand by on their amplifier designs, this amp sounds great. The Peavey Delta Blues has the following configuration:
- Clean Channel
- Drive Channel with Boost
Unlike the Hot Rod Deluxe, the Peavey Delta Blues boost is just an EQ boost. It makes the amp slightly louder by just adding a mid-boost. The drive channel on this amp is obviously great for blues but it also sounds great for country and Rock. The drive channel is limited to these genres as it does not go too overboard with the gain. Unlike the TweedTone 20R, this is a “Tweed Tone” in the true sense of the word. It’s a lower gain drive channel but it works great for blues and rock.
8. VOX AC15C1/AC30C2
These mid-scooped beasts are classics for a reason! Sure, there’s the old school one channel VOX amps but what makes these new amps great is the Top Boost Channel. The VOX AC series of amplifiers are really simple.
- Clean Channel
- Top Boost (Drive Channel)
It doesn’t matter if you have the AC10, AC15, AC30C2, or even the new AC30S1 the top boost channels rock. VOX really capture that classic chime of the 1960’s rock tones with their top boost channel without having to do what you had to do in the old days: Crank the clean up to 10. The Drive channel will be great for anyone who wants a country, blues, and rock tones. It does it all really well. It will handle anything from a Telecaster to a Les Paul. Plug in and enjoy!
9. Peavey Bandit 112
I had to add at least one solid state amplifier to this list and one that I have used a lot over the years. The Peavey Bandit 112 is a no-brainer for this list. Most incarnations of this amplifier have 2 channels and 5 voicings.
- Clean Channel Vintage Voicing
- Clean Channel Modern Voicing
- Vintage Overdrive Channel
- High Gain Distortion Channel
- Modern Distortion Channel
The gain channels on this amplifier will go from anything from that off-clean tone all the way through to chugging silliness. The modern and high gain tones have so much drive that it’s hilarious. For me, I like to live on the vintage drive channel it does my particular sound no problems at all. If you’re wondering why the Peavey Bandit made the list check out this post for detailed information on the amp and why it rocks.
10 – Music Man RD50/150
The Music Man series of amplifiers have some of the best direct to amp tones I’ve ever heard. If you haven’t heard of Music Man amplifiers before they are a tube amp that has a solid-state preamp. This is essentially like plugging in an overdrive pedal to a tube amp. The solid-state preamp really works well and the tones are something special. Even the new reissues of the Music Man amplifiers sound really good too.
If you’re a blues player this is one amplifier that doesn’t require pedals at all!
- Fender Bassbreaker 15
- Peavey Classic 30
- Hughs & Kettner Tubemeister 36
This list excludes any digital modelling amplifiers. Modelling amplifiers can sound great without pedals because they have all of the effects built into the amplifier already. This list is compiled listing amplifiers I have used or tested myself. I really enjoy the freedom that comes without having to use pedals at a gig.