- 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 realised without the excessive volume.
We’ve tracked down 10 of the best amp-in-a-box pedals that go hard without upsetting the neighbors.
1. JHS Angry Charlie
- Convincingly and accurately breathes JCM800-like tones into any rig
- Sports a 3-band tone stack to help nail warm yet searing tones and boundless sustain
- Go from bluesy Hendrix-like breakup to high-gain Brit tones with a twist of the Drive knob
- Drive and Volume control interact the same as a master volume amp head
- Back off your guitar’s volume to control your gain levels without losing clarity
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.
2. Vemuram Jan Ray Overdrive
- Natural overdrive with a pleasant silky sustain.
- Keeps the characteristics of the tones that the guitar naturally produces.
- Reproduces the great sustaining punchy clear tone of the blackface Fender amps.
- The tone is crispy yet the low end is warm and mellow.
- Handmade in Japan.
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.
3. Wampler Pinnacle Deluxe V2
- Takes everything we loved about the original Pinnacle Distortion and adds many options to be more versatile
- The added 3 band EQ will allow you to sculpt your tone like never before
- The bright and bass boosts available will get you that fresh tone or the thump of a 4x12"
- The "Valve Screamer" based pre-gain boost (that you can use when the pedal is bypassed) will really push your gain...
- The SAG switch lets you remove that saggy crunch and tighten the response up dramatically
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.
4. Fulltone OCD V2
- HP/LP switch for instant re-voicing and uses
- Tube-like overdrive and touch-sensitive response
- Volume, Tone, Drive controls
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.
5. JHS Morning Glory V4
- Designed to be one of the most transparent overdrives out there
- Adds mid to low level grit to Your crystal clean tone and tube like touch response to a less than ideal amp
- Boosts a crunchy tone into thicker sustain and switches between two gain levels on the fly
- Delivers all the tonal and responsive nuance that Your amp is missing, and Nothing that Your tone alReady has
- Gain Control sweeps from Completely clean to rock ‘n’ roll
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.
6. Bogner Ecstasy Blue
- True bypass
- Boost function with independently lit volume and gain controls
- Master Controls: Gain, Treble, Middle, Bass and Volume
- Variac On/Off switch: adds a "dropped voltage" dynamic compression to the feel and sound
- Mode Switch: Plexi and Blue modes offer vintage lower-gain or modified higher-gain levels
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.
7. Revv Amps G2
- Amp in a box: Big amp tone, organic feel, & 3 voicing options.
- Based on Revv’s Green Channel — An expressive and dynamic crunch voicing that provides almost-cleans to satisfying...
- Clear, Warm, Responsive Tone — The G2 always sits how you want in a mix whether you are using it as your main gain...
- Three Dynamic Voices — Off gives you a full-range boost with 3-band EQ suitable for enhancing your clean tone or...
- New Versatile Tone Possibilities — The G2 has the widest gain & EQ range of any of our pedals. From totally clean to...
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.
It’s great for low to medium gain crunch tones and can also be used as a boost for sending your amp further into overdrive. Shawn Tubbs has made a demo of this pedal and you can check it out here.
8. Friedman Dirty Shirley
- Bass, Treble, Presence, Volume, Mid and Gain Controls
- Tight Switch
- True Bypass
- Voltage Requirements: 9-18v Center Negative
- Built in USA
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.
9. Catalinbread Galileo MKII
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.
10. JHS Superbolt V2
- Tones based on the clear and gritty tones of ‘60s Supro tube amps
- Drive knob acts in a similar fashion to the volume controls on the old amplifiers
- Tube rectifier-like sag is increased as the Drive control is turned up
- The tone control is usable throughout the whole range
- Tone control takes you from warm and mellow to cutting and aggressive, without ever losing its musicality
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 2020-08-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API