Top 5 Best Guitar & Amp Combinations

There's an almost endless amount of unique guitar and amp combinations possible. But throughout rock history, a few formulas have just "stuck". Popularised by some of the biggest artists in the industry, here are 5 of the best guitar and amp pairings we could think of!

Elliot Stent

Elliot Stent

Let’s face it, we’re utterly spoiled by the amount of guitars and amps out there today. With more brands in the market than ever before, this means that it has never been easier for guitar players to experiment with different gear combinations in order to discover their own “sound”. But while that’s all a part of the fun, sometimes it’s best to take inspiration from some of the best.

We’ve created this top 5 guitar and amp combinations article to help you find a great sound from the get-go. With many mentions of famous players and their setups, you can feel assured that these combinations truly work!

Gibson & Marshall

Gibson Marshall Lee Malia Bring Me The Horizon

Gibson guitars and Marshall amplifiers go together like wine and cheese – they perfectly compliment one another. The thick, rich tone of a humbucker-equipped Gibson guitar plugged into a ballsy, saturated-sounding Marshall is like the perfect sonic marriage. And that’s probably why some of the most significant rock guitarists of the last 50 years have relied on this common combo. Slash, Eric Clapton, Angus Young, Jimmy Page… the list goes on!

But why does this pairing work so well? It might sound silly, but for today’s guitarists; nostalgia probably plays a huge part. Seeing as the aforementioned names were in some of the most influential rock bands of all time, this means that our ears are somewhat familiar and in-tune with that iconic Gibson/Marshall sound. You could almost regard it as the “benchmark” rock guitar tone, for which all others are compared.

While this may be classed as a fairly old-school rig nowadays, you’d be surprised by the amount of modern guitarists that still use this iconic setup. Justin and Dan Hawkins of The Darkness are among them, who rely on the classic Gibson/Marshall combination to achieve their potent hard-rock guitar tones. But perhaps more surprisingly, Lee Malia of modern metal titans Bring Me The Horizon uses his signature Epiphone guitars into Marshall JCM800 heads; forming a crushing high-gain sound.

Popular Marshall Amps

PRS & Mesa/Boogie

PRS Mesa Boogie Dan Estrin Hoobastank

The ultimate nu-metal/post-grunge guitar rig? Most definitely. Let’s just say that if you watched Kerrang or MTV in the early ’00s, PRS guitars could be spotted in most music videos. And often, full stacks of Mesa/Boogie amps were lurking somewhere in the background! An all-American affair, the premium PRS/Mesa pairing was used by a raft of guitarists from that era. Mike Einziger (Incubus), Mark Tremonti (Creed), Dan Estrin (Hoobastank), Brad Delson (Linkin Park) – to name just a few.

But even if you weren’t into any of the aforementioned players or bands, the PRS and Mesa/Boogie combination is actually quite significant. In many ways, it has changed the way that contemporary guitarists and producers approach guitar tone. The tight and fizzy high-gain sound of a Mesa/Boogie Rectifier head can be heard on a bunch of rock and metal albums released in recent years, and in a way, it has set the precedent for what a modern distorted sound should be. That’s why many other amp brands have taken inspiration from that bombastic Boogie tone.

The distinctive sonic traits of Mesa/Boogie amps have proven to merge well with the sounds of PRS’ powerful, humbucker-equipped Custom 24/22 models. However, is the PRS and Mesa/Boogie combination exclusive to just heavy players? No, definitely not! Legendary Latin rock guitarist Carlos Santana is actually the earliest proponent of this well-known guitar and amp combination. He has used his signature PRS guitars with Mesa/Boogie Mark I amplifiers since the late ’80s, helping him to achieve his warm, singing guitar tones.

Popular Mesa/Boogie Amps

Fender & Fender

Fender Guitar Fender Amp Eric Johnson

Fender is as famous for its amplifiers as it is for its electric guitars. Well, the latter might have a slight edge when it comes to recognition. But fame aside, Fender’s guitars and amps are practically designed to work seamlessly with one another. I mean, why wouldn’t they be? The unmistakable all-Fender rig has been used by a countless amount of players ever since the ’50s. Some of the most legendary names include Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Johnson and Dick Dale.

The Fender guitar/amp combination is one of the most frequently recorded in pop and rock music. There are many reasons as to why it works so well, and it’s also quite easy to distinguish from a sonic perspective. Simply put, the thin and articulate sound of Fender’s single-coil-loaded guitars lends itself well to the high-headroom qualities of their amps. As most Fender amplifiers feature 6L6 or 6V6 power tubes, they can be cranked without encountering excessive break-up. This means that they remain clean at high volumes and thus project a broad frequency response with plenty of dynamic range.

Popular Fender Amps

Gretsch & Vox

Gretsch Vox The Beatles George Harrison

The gentleman’s guitar rig. There aren’t many guitar tones more discernible than that of a jangly Gretsch guitar into a Vox amp. The open and airy character of a Filter’Tron-loaded semi-hollow Gretsch blends beautifully with the chimey, EL84-driven tone of a classic Vox AC30 or AC15 amplifier. A staple of ’60s pop-rock, this classic combo is classed by most as a vintage-style setup. And even though it isn’t as prevalent as some of the other combinations on this list; it still has its loyal fans!

This Gretsch/Vox pairing is most synonymous with George Harrison of The Beatles. He was often seen playing a black Gretsch Duo Jet model in the early ’60s, but later switched to a larger Country Gentleman hollowbody. During this period, Harrison and the rest of the band used Vox amps almost exclusively. Relying on a mix of AC-15 and AC-30 valve combos, they used these vibrant clean amps both live and in the studio; contributing massively to the overall sound of The Beatles.

While the Gretsch and Vox pairing is heavily associated with Harrison, other players have also used it to great effect. U2’s The Edge is one of them, and even though he plays a raft of different guitars onstage; in most sets he’ll bring out his Gretsch Country Gentleman or White Falcon for a few numbers. But more significantly, an original 1964 Vox AC30 has been a mainstay in The Edge’s rig since the early ’80s. And as a keen user of delay, the bright sonics of The Edge’s Gretsch guitars merge perfectly with his chimey Vox AC30 amp; ensuring that delay repeats sound crystal-clear.

Popular Vox Amps

Fender & Marshall

Fender Marshall Jimi Hendrix

The legendary partnership between Gibson and Marshall is very hard to top. In our opinion, there just aren’t many things that sound better than a Gibson guitar plugged into a cranked Marshall! However, you’d be surprised by just how many high-profile players have used their Fender guitars with the iconic, British-built black and gold amplifiers.

The Strat-wielding Jimi Hendrix was an early proponent of Marshall amplifiers, and he played a huge role in popularising the brand in the late ’60s. In fact, Jim Marshall labelled Hendrix as “the greatest ambassador” his company ever had! Jimi famously relied on a trio of 100-watt Super Lead valve heads connected to various 4×12″ cabinets. By using these high-headroom amplifiers with his single-coil-loaded Stratocasters, Jimi could achieve those pure and glassy clean tones heard on tracks like “Little Wing” and “Hey Joe” – with just a hint of break up. John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who was heavily influenced by Hendrix’s clean and slinky playing style, also uses a very similar Fender/Marshall rig.

But of course, Marshall amps are mostly known for their distorted tones. So, have any Fender players used Marshalls specifically to attain overdriven sounds? Yes – many in fact! Deep Purple’s Ritchie Blackmore and neoclassical shredder Yngwie Malmsteen have used Marshall Plexi amplifiers throughout their careers, exclusively with Fender Strats. Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins used Stratocasters into Marshall JCM800 amplifiers in the band’s early days, but often coloured his sound with various fuzz and modulation pedals.

Popular Marshall Amps

Want To Learn More?

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Elliot Stent
Elliot Stent
Elliot is a Senior Product Copywriter at Andertons, a guitarist and a YouTube gear demonstrator. Having studied Music and Music Technology, his interests lie equally in both performance and production. Favouring Fender instruments and Marshall amps, Elliot is also a pedal fanatic with a large collection of effects.

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