Why You Should Try A Stereo Guitar Amplifier Rig

If you're not getting the sound you want from your rig, we may have the answer! Here's why every guitarist should try a stereo amplifier rig...

James Hurman

James Hurman

The secret to many guitarists’ huge sounds is running multiple amplifiers in their rigs, either to combine different amplifiers to create a unique tone, or to add additional space and dimension to their sound using stereo effects. There are several ways to set up a stereo amplifier rig, including: Dual Mono, Wet/Dry, or true Stereo. All have their own unique sounds and capabilities, so experiment and see which one is for you!

What you’ll need

  • Guitar
  • 3 Cables
  • Splitter / ABY Pedal or Stereo pedal (and pedal power supply if required)
  • 2 amps

How do you set up an ABY pedal?

For the simplest of stereo rigs there’s a couple of things you’ll need: 2 amps, and a way to split your signal – that could be by using an ABY switcher or even a stereo pedal to split your signal to both amps.

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With your splitter (either a switcher or stereo pedal), simply plug your guitar into the input of the pedal, then plug the two outputs to the input of two different amps.

Let’s talk amps

There are many different ways to run a stereo rig, but the simplest (and in my opinion best) way is to pick two amps of similar headroom – which in general will mean similar wattage. However, bear in mind that solid state and valve amps produce vastly different volume and headroom at the same power. As a rule of thumb, a valve amp of 15W or more will probably need to be paired with a solid-state amp of 50W or more.

Why wattage matters

Well as I say, it’s all about headroom – the amount of clean volume the amp produces before it starts to overdrive. This is because you ideally want to run both amps at the same volume at similar gain levels, so the sounds complement each other. This becomes especially important if you want to add gain pedals into the mix. If you decided to pair a super high-headroom 100W amp like the Victory V140 Super Duchess with a low-headroom 1W amp like a Marshall DSL-1, then the moment you stepped on a distortion pedal, the Victory with all that headroom would jump in volume, whilst the Marshall – which has far less headroom – would be pushed over the limit and would only produce more gain without a measurable increase in volume. So suddenly, your amps which were perfectly matched in volume and gain will be thrown entirely out of balance as one becomes much louder, and one is much quieter and more distorted.

Which amps pair well?

Provided your amps are roughly matched in power, this is really all down to you, and what kind of sound you’re going for. Many guitarists will pair two of the same amp, because they like that sound but they’re just looking to add more width and texture, while others will combine different amps to find their own unique tone.

A great starting point would be to try pairing any of the big 3 amp brands – Fender, Marshall and Vox. All three have their own unique characteristics that compliment each other in a variety of ways.

Perhaps the most popular combination is Fender and Marshall, famously used by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Simon Neil of Biffy Clyro. The EQs of these two amps are excellently suited to each other, as Fenders are known for their mid-scooped tone, with plenty of bass and top end sparkle, while Marshalls have a very mid-focused character that can sound very aggressive when cranked up. Together they fill in where the other lacks, so you still get the warmth and chime of the Fender, with the punch of the Marshall.

For Perfect Balance

If you’re looking for a lush clean tone, you could pair the bell-like, warm cleans of a Fender with the brilliance and chime of a Vox for a truly 3D clean sound. For best results, you may want two amps with plenty of headroom.

For Chimey Cleans

For something dirtier, a Vox and Marshall could hit the spot (and a combination I’m personally very partial to). Both amps sound great when they’re overdriving as their midrange character adds fullness and punch. This idea of ‘mid-stacking’ is a trick used by Joe Bonamassa to get his huge sounds. The idea is to find amps that are mid-focused, but accentuate different parts of the midrange, to create a really full effect that sits perfectly in the guitar’s frequency range. Marshalls have a lot of lower midrange which gives them their characteristic punch, while a Vox is very upper mid focused when it starts to overdrive, giving it grit and cut.

For British Crunch

But don’t feel limited to these options, try pairing any two amps you like and find your unique sound!

What is phase and why does it matter?

As previously alluded, provided that a chosen solid-state amp can match a valve amp for headroom, they can work perfectly well together in a stereo setup, but you can run into issues combining a solid state or valve amp with a digital amp. This is because digital amps experience an almost imperceptible amount of latency as your signal is converted from digital to analogue, which when paired with an all-analogue amp, would put the two signals out of phase with one another.

If two amps are out of phase, the sound you hear will be very thin and quite shrill – not a very pleasant sound. So remember, pair analogue with analogue, or digital with digital – don’t mix and match.

Dual Mono

Dual Mono is perhaps the simplest Stereo setup, as you’re sending all of your effects to both amps, so the splitter goes right at the end of your chain. This option is easy to set up whilst adding extra width and tonal blending. The main consideration is to roughly match volume and gain so that adding gain pedals won’t result in uneven jumps in volume.


Wet/Dry is a little more complicated than Dual Mono, but is an excellent option for fans of ambient textures, that still want to deliver a clear, direct sound. The great advantage to this setup is that you can heavily layer wet effects without your core sound getting washy or mushy, which can often be an issue when layering reverbs and delays. The concept of Wet/Dry is that you send all of your “wet” effects such as reverb, delay and modulation to one amp, while the other amp receives your “dry” signal, which remains dynamic and punchy. This combination adds tonnes of width and depth to your sound!

Furthermore, if you use a wet/dry rig in a live or studio situation and mic both amps, the mix engineer can blend the wet and dry signals to taste. As a rule of thumb, if one amp has more headroom than the other, try that as the wet amp, as it will keep your wet effects cleaner. However, there are no rules, so try both ways round. You may also have one amp with an effects loop and one without so you may choose your effects loop to run your wet effects.


Many modern effects pedals have stereo options, designed to send slightly different effects to each side, adding width which fills out your sound. In terms of dialling in your amps, the same guidelines apply. If you already have any stereo pedals, it is very simple to set up. Simply place a stereo pedal at the end of your signal chain and send the 2 outputs to your two amps, and enjoy creating a sea of ambient texture!

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With 2 amps, there are so many ways to set them up to great a huge variety of different sounds! So if you already have two, why not try a few different ways to set them up and find what your like. If you currently have one amp and you want some more texture, getting a second may be the perfect solution! And remember, there are no right answers, just experiment until you find a sound you truly connect with.

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James Hurman
James Hurman
James is a member of the Guitar Marketing team and has a particular penchant for vintage gear. He loves Strats, Les Pauls, Fuzz and British amps. He also has an embarrassingly large collection of overdrive pedals on his pedalboard

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