Top 10 Best Guitar and Amp Combinations For All Genres
Published on 09 November 2023
Life is all about combinations. Think about it: fish ‘n’ chips, gin & tonic, Guns ‘n’ Roses…
In the guitar world, it’s guitars and amplifiers, of course. Despite the fact that most any electric guitar will work with any amplifier, there are still certain magical combinations that are more than the sum of their parts. Call it magic, mojo or just coincidence, but these following combos are the ones that work amazingly well…
- Telecaster and Fender Tweed Combo
- Stratocaster and Blackface Combo
- Les Paul and Marshall Plexi
- PRS and Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier
- Rickenbacker and Vox AC30
- ESP/LTD Eclipse and EVH 5150
- Suhr Classic/Modern and Friedman
- Tyler Studio and Soldano SLO
- Gibson SG and Orange Rockerverb
- Gretsch Hollowbody and Tone King Imperial
1. Telecaster and Fender Tweed Combo
It’s the sound of classic Country twang, a timeless tone that remains a lynchpin to many Americana-flecked styles of music. Telecasters through Fender Twins can be terrifyingly toppy (there are countless expressions about audience members’ heads removed etc), but the slightly warmer, rounded tone given by Fender’s Tweed combos (from the Deluxe to the Bassman) helps balance the snarl of a Tele to great effect. For country, early blues and all indie styles as a basis for pedals, this is where to begin.
2. Stratocaster and Blackface Combo
Stratocasters sound inherently ‘skinnier’ than Teles, and seem to work better with the slightly sharper response of amps like Princetons and of course the Twin. When clean power and unadulterated twang are required, accept no substitute! As with the above rig, this is extraordinarily versatile as a basis for all genres, if you use a selection of pedals for drives and so on.
There are tons of obvious references here (I always jump to Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game) so instead, let me go slightly into the esoteric this time: here is Howard Shore’s eerie Crash movie score, written for ‘6 electric guitars with the Fender Twin’.
3. Les Paul and Marshall Plexi
It’s the sound of rock. As Billy Duffy told me a while back, a ‘good Les Paul and a good Marshall’ is hard to beat. Given how great his sound is, I’d be inclined to agree.
In these cascading high-gain, noise-gated days, it’s easy to overlook the organic richness of tone and texture than come by combining Milton Keynes’ finest with the pride of Kalamazoo. For me, rock needs humbuckers, and Marshalls sound at their best when being driven by a lovely PAF tone. Les Pauls carry sonic vibrations like no other guitar model, and it’s the perfect vehicle to deliver lovely big crunchy rock tones. It’s just one of life’s great sounds.
There are obviously countless examples of this great rock combo, but since I’m picking examples, let’s have some of the Reverend himself, Billy Gibbons, putting this combination through its paces like only he can.
4. PRS and Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier
Ahh, the sound of nineties America! While the UK concerned itself with Pulp and Kula Shaker, the US hung on to its grunge roots, spewing forth a great many bands who loved the Seattle sound but also grew up with Metallica. Mesa Boogie Dual Recs were the preeminent high gain amplifiers for that generation, and the timing was also right for PRS, since many players were keen to avoid the Fenders and Gibsons of their dad’s generation.
It’s not a cheap combination by any standard, but then the 90s were the glory days, when the music biz was a veritable El Dorado compared with today. Bands could afford to invest in great gear, and Mark Tremonti probably made the best use of this opportunity. Say what you like about Creed (they actually get far more love now than they used to!) but that sound of his is inarguably great.
5. Rickenbacker and Vox AC30
Normally I’d pick a specific guitar model - so a Ricky 360 or 330 - but the fact is, all Rickenbackers sound perfect through a nicely cranked Vox AC30. The amp’s upper mid push is the ideal foil for the expensive jangle of a nice Rickenbacker. It’s the sound of garage-ey counterculture as much as it’s the chirpiness of artists like The Smiths, Tom Petty and R.E.M.
If you feel like playing a rig that will focus your playing on songcraft and not on endless ‘technique’, then a Rickenbacker into an AC30 will most certainly shape the way you approach your playing. Maybe not one for the hard rockers, but then that’s entirely the point!
6. ESP/LTD Eclipse and EVH 5150
This rig, however, is most certainly for the hard rockers! Ever since Machine Head’s Burn My Eyes album, the (then Peavey) 5150 has dominated the world of heavy guitar sounds. Rich in gain and power like a Boogie, but savage and aggressive in a way that maybe the Mesas aren’t, this amp is best served with something loud, active and made of mahogany. It’s gotta be the ESP Eclipse! One of the few Les Paul copies (it sounds rude to call it that but what on earth else is it?) around that has its own dedicated fan base, the ESP EC, in black of course, has been one of the most popular choices for moshers for the past 20 years. Why? It looks ace, it sounds huge and it’s about half the weight of a Gibson LP Custom, therefore better for energetic arena shows.
If the whole ESP/LTD thing confuses you, don’t worry: buy the one you can afford and rest easy in the knowledge that they are uniformly ace across the board.
7. Suhr Classic/Modern and Friedman
This is like a sort of champagne version of the 80s classic ‘superstrat and hot-rodded Marshall’ thing that has remained relevant ever since. If you think of guys like Pete Thorn, this is the sort of setup they take around the world with them, and it’s easy to understand why: this Suhr and Friedman rig covers all bases, yes, but it does so with a level of character, performance and depth that only top-level gear can achieve.
8. Tyler Studio and Soldano SLO
Taking that ‘champagne’ comparison to its zenith, I’d offer up this pairing as the ultimate ‘Los Angeles session guy’ rig. The Soldano SLO needs to be heard in person to be truly appreciated. If the term ‘mojo’ ever had any real meaning, it would be to describe what happens when you play a note through one of these amps. With no sense of hyperbole, it’s next level, hair-raising stuff.
To then utilise what many consider to be the best sounding, best-built s-type guitar in the world, well, how can it get any better? Tyler are at the top of the tree, and then some.
9. Gibson SG and Orange Rockerverb
This killer rig is like a slightly more niche version of the classic ‘Les Paul and Marshall’ marriage. SGs tend to have a tiny bit more snark in their sound (and a little less low end), so coupling one with the indecently good-sounding Orange Rockerverb will deliver some earth-shattering results. I’m thinking of doom metal and sort of post-Sabbath bands (you know what I mean, there’s a whole universe of Iommi worshipping rockers out there), where things like speed play second fiddle to texture and sheer size of sound.
Bands like Clutch use this rig to great effect too, but it’s when the tuning drops below C standard that things start really happening here!
10. Gretsch Hollowbody and Tone King Imperial
Retro-vibe does not get any suaver than this stunning pair! It’s not all about looks though - as extraordinary as they are - but the sound and feel, which is a very specific and rewarding experience. It's not unlike what I mentioned about the Rickenbakcer and Vox pairing, actually: though the guitars are distinctly different, both promote a style of playing that veers away from flashy playing to focus on tone, timing and taste, really.
The Tone King Imperial certainty takes its notes from the Vox sound, but there’s more on offer than just a clone, and many guitarists who find themselves split between Vox and Fender amps may just find their happy place with a Tone King amp amp.
Wear the Gretsch as low as possible on your strap, obviously. Don’t buy all this cool stuff and then ruin it right at the end!
It’s All About the Balance
Great tone is all about balance. Simply having a nice guitar and a nice amp isn’t quite enough: for example, there’s nobody saying you can’t plug a 7-string Solar guitar into a Fender Twin, but are you really getting the best from either ingredient there?
Matching up electric guitars with amps is excellent fun, and goes to show just how significant the amplifier is in any tone equation. Underestimate that at your peril! I hope these combinations have sparked some ideas for your own setup, and if there are some that you haven’t tried out before, well, what are you waiting for? Dig in! You never know what greatness you might stumble on. Enjoy!