2020 Review: Pedal Platform Amps

Rather than do a ‘best of’ style post, every year I’m going to do a rundown of what amps I’m using for pedal platforms, and why.

Previous articles: [2019]

tl;dr

Nothing changed (for me) in 2020. I’m still using the same amps that I did in 2019.

That’s partly because I’m delighted with what I already have, and partly because there hasn’t been much along this year to challenge the status quo.

  • Blackstar’s Studio 10 6L6 is my go-to amp for pedals that want a completely clean amp. Pedals designed in the USA often work best into this amp.
  • Marshall’s Origin 20 is my go-to amp for pedals that want an amp that’s on the edge of break-up. Cheap (non-clone!) pedals – such as Boss’s classic range – often work best into this amp.
  • Vox’s Mini Superbeetle gives me a way to use pedals that are exploring other classic rock sounds. It’s a good choice for boosts and the like.

Synergy’s modular amp system is still my go-to choice for when I just want the best sound possible. All I have to do is swap between preamps to suit whatever pedal is on my test board.

Marshall’s DSL20 HR and Boss’s Katana are two amps that are popular with home players. If you don’t want the maintenance that comes with tube amps, the Boss Katana is the amp for you. And if you want classic Marshall tones on a budget, the DSL20 HR will probably appeal to you more than my beloved Marshall Origin 20H will.

What Has Changed This Year?

The main change this year is that I’m using the Blackstar Studio 10 6L6 all the time now. All the pedals I’m using this year want a clean amp, and they all love the Fender blackface-inspired tones that this Blackstar amp provides.

Thanks to pandemic lockdowns, my Synergy rig has had a bit more use this year. I picked up the BMan preamp module for it, and that’s proven to be a great choice both as a pedal platform (along with the T-DLX model I’ve had for years) and as a raunchy tweedy rock amp too.

The main loser this year has been the Marshall Origin 20H. Despite sounding as good as ever – especially when recorded – I haven’t used it since early summer. Why? Mostly because I’ve been exploring tweed-tone pedals more than ever this year, and it simply makes sense to run them into a Fender-style amp.

What’s New This Year?

I want to give a shout-out to the Blackstar HT-20 mk2 combo amp.

Although it was released back in 2019, I didn’t get to play one until this year, and first impressions are very positive. Just straight into the amp (ie no pedals), it sounds great; like, really great.

I don’t own one, so I haven’t been able to run any of my pedals into one yet to see how well it takes pedals. Kristi got one for Christmas, so I’ll see if she’ll let me borrow it for some experiments at some point.

Anything Planned For 2021?

In terms of pedal platform amps … not really. I’m really happy with what I have, and I’m not really tempted by the more exotic brands like Revv or Dr Z atm.

The one thing I’d love to get would be an actual Fender Tweed amp of some kind, preferably something built around the 5e3 circuit. I’d love to be able to compare different tweed-tone pedals against the real thing.

I can’t see it happening though. Those classic combos are just far too big, far too heavy, and far too loud for me and my home.

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