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Craving a loud amp sound but don’t want noise complaints?
With so many amp-in-a-box pedals around, we are spoiled for choice
Find out which ones truly shine and stand out from the crowd
You can probably remember a moment in your life where you heard a guitar tone and suddenly everything in the world just made sense. A tone that moved you, one you dissected and obsessed over. But then you discover it’s only made possible by cranking an amplifier to full volume, thus making it impossible for you to replicate it at home. Or is it?
Pedal manufacturers are getting closer and closer to mimicking real amps in pedals, leading to the nickname “amp-in-a-box”. The increasing number of these pedals means our favorite loud guitar tones can be realized without excessive volume.
From playing on Dutch national television, to gigging all around the Netherlands, I’ve been lucky enough to have tried a wealth of these stack in a box pedals. In this post, I’d like to share my findings of the very best of the bunch.
Rounding Up The 10 Best Amp-In-A-Box Pedals
We’ve tracked down 10 of the best amp-in-a-box pedals that go hard without upsetting the neighbors. My personal favorite of the bunch is the JHS Angry Charlie, which is a staple on my board and has become an integral part of my guitar tone.
Here are the 10 best stack in a box pedals I’ll be reviewing:
This particular pedal is gunning for the sound of the famous Marshall JCM800. This is one of the holy grail amps for hard rock and classic heavy metal tones, so naturally a pedal able to capture these sounds is a must for every “heavy” rock musician.
The controls are very simple. There’s gain for dialing in the amount of overdrive, a three band EQ for bass, mids, and treble, and a volume control to tame the output. If you want to know how cool the Angry Charlie V3 sounds you can check out this video from That Pedal Show.
All in all I highly recommend this pedal to every guitarist looking for a versatile rock sound. My Angry Charlie is still one of the best purchases I have ever made in regards to my guitar tone.
This pedal is designed to give you the sound of an overdriven 60’s Fender Blackface amp. These days Fender amps are mostly known for their clean tones, but overdriven Fender amps have still made their mark on the music industry.
For example, the riff from Michael Jackson’s Beat It was played on a Fender Tweed amp at the request of Quincy Jones. Of course the Vemuram will not give you the exact same sound, but this does prove that no matter what kind of amp is overdriving, if it sounds great, it is great. The same applies to this little pedal – the idea may seem unconventional, but it certainly sounds fantastic.
That Pedal Show has done a great video on the Jan Ray Overdrive which you can find below.
This amp-in-a-box pedal has received a lot of attention in the guitar pedal industry with people such as Eddie van Halen’s personal guitar tech commenting on how close the pedal comes to replicating the now famous “brown sound”.
This pedal delivers nothing short of pure tone.
This might be one of the best cranked Marshall style overdrives on the market today! This dual footswitch pedal is jam-packed with features, such as a three-band EQ, a “bright” and “bass” switch, and a Tube Screamer style boost for when you want a little more distortion.
Many guitarists have made demos of this pedal, but if you want to hear how it sounds in a song you should check out this video made by Pete Thorn, who has toured with artists such as Chris Cornell, Melissa Etheridge, and many more.
The Fulltone OCD is a classic amp-in-a-box pedal giving guitarists the mid to high gain tones of a Marshall Plexi. Ever since being released in 2004, the OCD has gone through a lot of updates until finally, in 2017, the OCD V2 was created.
Although the controls on this pedal don’t seem as extensive as the other Marshall in-a-box pedals, don’t let that fool you. Next to the gain, tone, and volume controls you also have an HP/LP switch.
This switch essentially lets you alter the EQ curve and gain structure of the pedal, turning it into a pedal capable of not only recreating Marshall style tones, but also Fender Blackface style tones.
That Pedal Show has done an in-depth demo comparing various models of the OCD.
JHS have made many overdrive pedals and this one is modeled on the Marshall Plexi amp sound. When I had my first encounter with this pedal I was amazed at how accurately it captured the high end sizzle and general feel of a real Plexi amp.
Again, the Morning Glory’s controls are really simple. You’ve got volume, drive, and tone along with some toggle switches. One switch changes the gain, and the other controls the brightness of the pedal. Another cool feature of this one is you can plug in a footswitch to toggle the gain!
Check out this demo by Del Rei Rock to hear the tones the Morning Glory is capable of.
So far, most of these pedals have come from established pedal manufacturers, but we rarely see amp manufacturers themselves get involved. Enter the Bogner Ecstacy Blue.
This pedal is a replication of the blue channel of the famous Bogner Ecstasy 101b amplifier. This pedal is the most exact replication of the 101b – except without valves!
Having played both the amp and the pedal I felt this one gets really close to the mojo and weight you get behind every note you play. Bogner have killed it with this pedal, but since this is an amplifier maker trying to recreate their own designs, that is no surprise. For an in-depth review check out this demo by Prymaxe.
The folks at REVV Amps are quite new to the guitar scene, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t had an impact. Ever since they started in 2014 these clever Canadians have left quite the mark on the music industry and they are very well known in the YouTube guitar scene.
After making some great sounding amps, they decided it was time to fit these tones into a pedal. This particular one captures the sound of the green channel of the REVV Generator amp series. This is the lowest gain pedal of REVV’s G-pedal range.
David Friedman of Friedman Amplification has worked for the likes of Eddie van Halen, Steve Stevens, and Jerry Cantrell. Having become famous for amp mods, he got into designing his own amps, which took the guitar industry by storm. One of these amplifiers, the Dirty Shirley, has earned a great reputation with regards to touch dynamics and flexibility.
When Friedman announced he was working on a Dirty Shirley pedal, guitarists were jumping for joy. The Dirty Shirley overdrive, despite being a pedal, captures the dynamic range of a tube amp really well.
This pedal has a very pleasing sweep to the gain control, meaning you can go from mild bluesy breakup to high gain hard rock tones very easily.
The pedal boasts the same controls you have on the Dirty Shirley amp, and a tight switch, which rolls off some bottom end, making it great for sitting in a crowded mix.
Session pro Pete Thorn has made a cool demo of this pedal, which you can check out below.
Most amp-in-a-box pedals are trying to recreate Marshall style tones, but this one is different. The Galileo is trying to get close to what could quite possibly be the most complex tone in the guitar world! I am of course talking about the majestic tone of Queen’s Brian May.
A cranked VOX AC30 and a treble booster are what drives the sound of this famous guitarist, and that’s exactly what this three knobbed pedal is trying to do. By combining two of Catalinbread’s own pedal designs, the CB30 (an AC30 in a box which is no longer made), and the Naga Viper (treble booster) the Galileo is simulating the signal chain Brian would use.
The controls are very simple. Gain determines the amount of distortion, the tone knob shapes the color, and volume changes overall loudness.
In this video done by Pro Guitar Shop you can hear how this pedal gets really close Brian’s modern-day tone.
When you say “Led Zeppelin’s guitar tone”, a guitar player will probably say “Marshall” in response, but not many people know Jimmy Page used Supro amps in the early days of Led Zeppelin. The JHS Superbolt recreates the mojo of those old cranked up Supro amps.
This pedal is great for classic rock tones ranging from low to mid gain.
It has a bright character to it without it sounding like there’s an ice pick stabbing your ears, making it cut through the mix in a pleasant way.
It might not sound as distorted as something like a Marshall in-a-box, but because of that it does provide you with a nice amount of punch, making it great for double-tracking to achieve a punchy wall of sound. This results in a tone that sounds really dirty, yet clearly defined.
As you can see, we’re spoiled for choice with amp-in-a-box pedals in terms of what amps we want to emulate and how we can tweak them. If you’re not sure which pedal is right for you, a good place to start is to look up your favorite guitarists and find out what amps they prefer.
You should also definitely check out audio demos for each pedal to help you make an informed decision. But we’re sure that any of the pedals here will be a solid investment that you won’t regret.
Last update on 2020-09-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API