Change amp or buy pedals?

Hi all. Happy new year!

I’m a beginner and making progress following Justin’s lessons. I’ve made some progress to the point where I can play some songs all the way through (e.g. Paranoid, Temple of the King and some others with only chords) or most of the way through (e.g. Enter Sandman, And justice for all, hell’s bells… Without the solos).

My amp is a Marshall MG15, solid state, combo, 2 channels, bass, contour, treble and spring reverb, that I had bought some 15 years ago (failed attempt to start playing the guitar then). Still in really good condition.

Perhaps it’s a bit early to say that but sometimes I feel the sounds the guitar-amp combination makes, doesn’t express me or it doesn’t quite get close to the tone I want to hit (e.g. AC/DC crunch or Iced Earth (-like) distortion or a warm bluesy tone). Of course I’m experimenting with the EQ controls of the amp and sometimes I hit a tone I like but if I lose it I can hardly hit it again.
Another challenge I have is when a song has both clean and dirty parts. There’s no footswitch for my amp and I find it hard to roll off the volume knob of the guitar the right amount to clean up the overdrive channel.

So, my question is buy a new amp (with a footswitch as well) or keep my amp and try an overdrive/distortion pedal on its clean channel?
I’m torn between the two and I don’t have anyone to discuss this so I’d appreciate any input or feedback on this.

Many thanks and all the best for the new year!


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I’m in the same boat. I’m considering buying an inexpensive pedal from Amazon ($20-30) so at least if I can’t get the sound I want then I haven’t broken the bank and still end up with a pedal to use on a future amp. Justin has a great review on the Boss Katana Mk2 which is on my wish list for this year. I figure with that, the accompanying foot switch, and a looper pedal my sound needs will be covered and then I can focus on upgrading my guitars.

I hear you. I’m happy with my guitar at the moment and I have a project one too that will be added in my arsenal in the future.

I’ve seen the Katana and watched Justin’s review of it. I’m unsure I like modelling amps but I haven’t played/tried many.

You mentioned budget which is an important factor. For example, there are £200 pedals and £150 combo, solid state amps with decent reviews. So comparable prices. What would one choose in this case?

For me personally if I’m looking at the cost of a pedal (a high quality one) and include the cost of power supply and patch cable and it’s within $50 of an amp I have my eye on that can do what the pedal does, I’m going to go for the amp. I’m still green in my playing journey but I’ve figured out what kind of sound I like when I’m playing and most of that sound comes from amps that I’ve tried out with the guitar I currently have. Then again, because I’ve only been at this for about a year my belief that good sound comes first from a good amp may be short sighted.

If you want to go down the Amp route and are not sure about modelling amps look no further than this, it has the option for a foot switch for clean/dirt and reverb.

If you’re more inclined to try a pedal maybe these would give you what you want - but bear it in mind that your amp is pretty much a first amp and can only sound so good (or bad).


Both are outstanding for tone depending on what you want, bear it in mind they come in a plastic not metal enclosure and do not come with a power supply, they are optional, but they can be run on batteries.
Personally, I would go for the Amp purely because you will buy a new amp soon anyway.

I believe we think alike.
I’m more inclined towards the amp.
However my thinking is: should I just manage with a pedal for now and save for a good amp in a year’s time (and still have the pedal then) or just buy a good amp right off?

@DarrellW thanks for tips, much appreciated.
I was in fact checking this amp (online) and stacking it against the MG30GFX (for which I already have a footswitch somehow…).
How do they compare in your opinion?
For me, an advantage of the MG is that you can store the settings for each channel and also you have a master volume (which is also something I’m struggling with currently as I enjoy the dirty channel… Loud :laughing:)

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I think that if you want a really great tone there’s no contest between them - the Orange will just wipe the floor with the Marshall!
The Orange is analogue circuitry not Integrated circuit so it is designed the same as a valve amp so sounds much more than any IC amp ever can. Also it has an FX loop that is great if you want to use a looper, the Marshall doesn’t which means your stored loop would take on the same FX as your guitar which very often you don’t want it to, with an FX loop it doesn’t .
When I do a decent setup on any of my Amps I take a photo on my phone and give it a memorable description, easy peasy!
Here’s a couple of reviews from the same source:


Have a good read!

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Thanks once again. I’ll have a read, it’s pretty interesting!

Just updating this.

I read the reviews. I guess I have to visit a store and try the both back to back…

What you mentioned about the FX loop missing in the Marshall, is something that I observed too and this conversation helps me realise that this is probably not a very good thing down the line…

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Not really. There are analogue integrated circuits too, and these are commonly used in guitar amps including, I believe, those from Orange.

Edit: Specifically, the Orange Crush 35 is based around the LM3886TF Integrated Circuit. I believe this is the same amplifier IC used in the Boss Katana.

Sorry, but I think you are confused here.

Just because both transistor amps and tube amps are analogue, that does not make them the same. There are substantial differences in design, and in tone and feel between transistor amps and tube amps.

There are cases where manufacturers have included special circuits to try to specifically emulate tube characteristics (call this analogue modelling, if you will) such as in the Boss Nextone. But, in general, tube amps are quite different from non-tube amps.



The Katana is a decent amp which has a lot of flexibility and sounds great, and has most of the effects you would want to use built in. It also has a solid-state class A/B analogue power amp section, similar to those used in many other analogue amps, like the Orange Crush series, and a decent 12" speaker.

I would advise looking at the Katana 100 if you want to use a looper though. The Katana 50 does not have an effects loop and using a looper pedal with it is “problematic”. Loopers work great with the Katana 100 and it also has the option for the GA-FC footstwitch which gives you a lot more control.



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I think the thing that puts a lot of people off modelling amps in general is the complexity of them, as a lot of them seem to involve a plethora of factory pre-set patches and lots of menu diving and button pressing.

The other thing is on a lot of modelling systems, many of the presets are more designed as a demonstration of what is possible, than something that is usable. I have modelling systems with 100s of preset patches, of which only around 3 or 4 are useful to me.

The Katana is much more like a traditional analogue amp to use and you can do most of the things you need using knobs on the top panel, just like a traditional analogue amp. There is a PC editor, and it’s worth checking out if you want to explore the world of effects in more detail, but if you don’t want to, you don’t have to.

Just select the channel, and set the gain, EQ, and volume knobs and off you go. And if you want to add some reverb, delay, modulation or overdrive you can by dialing in the level on the top panel.

I lent my Katana 100 to a gigging friend whose Marshall JVM 210C 100W tube amp was in for repair, and he said the Katana was easier to use than his Marshall.



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Plus 1 for the katana. I have a solid state and tube amp and barely barely hear any difference. My next amp will be a modeling amp bcuz I don’t want to fuss with pedals and technology is getting better. Another option is a multi efx pedal. I had a Zoom G1 - some nice sounds for the money and a looper and beats.

Just my 2 cents…

First I would ask who you will be plying for. Yourself, family and a friends or two? A small party or even a venue? Busking? That will make a difference.

If you are essentially playing for friends and family at home, a 12” speaker with tube or solid state will be way, way more than needed.

I would then vote for something like the Katana mkii head. It has a small 5” speaker that is plenty loud for the living room. It doesn’t take up much space. You can add an external speaker if you need more. It is small and has a pedal to switch between presets if desired, it has an fx loop, it can be controlled by PC, Mac, or android.

It also has a 0.5 watt, 50 watt and 100 watt setting. The nice thing is that you can push the 0.5 watt to distortion easily with lower volumes.

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TC Electronics make some great cheaper pedals. Not super cheap, but no crap or expensive either. Overdrive = Cinders, Reverb = Skysurfer, Distortion (metal) = FANGS, Distortion (Rock) - Grand Magus, Phaser - Blood Moon, Tremolo - Choka. I have a Blackstar ID Core 10V3, which is ok…but sometimes I like to play through a clean channel as a pedal platform, sounds completely different. Will be upgrading the amp to a Marshall MG30GFX at some point. At least the pedal wont be so cheap they suck, you will always be able to use them with future amps.

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I’d probably go with a Katana, for all the reasons that have already been mentioned. I’d get one that includes an effects loop and supports the GA-FC footswitch. (And for the record, I own a Katana 100/212 and use a GA-FC footswitch with it.) You’ll have the foot-switchable channel/effect selections, and the Katana has a whole host of built-in effects that you can experiment with to learn more about effects and what works for you.

Hi Lefteris and welcome to the community.
A 2-decade old Marshall MG never was a great amp.
But, on the clean channel it could be an amplification device for something else going in to it.

However, I think you overestimate what ‘one pedal’ can do.

My strong advice is either / or.

1] Either, buy a modest multi-fx pedal that will give you a platform for better sounds through the clean channel (reverb, delay, overdirve, chorus etc) and give you a chance to listen to and learn what each effect offers to you and your playing.

2] Or buy a modelling amp that offers these capabilities on-board.

If budget is a factor and you do not want to spend hundreds then consider something such as:

1] Vox Stomplab or Mooer PE100 (both around £50-60

2] Blackstar ID: Core 10 (around £110)

@Lefteris this is why I love this community.

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@kdickson519 indeed I’m getting hooked too! Haha
Honestly, the response is fantastic and I am so grateful!!

I’m still researching into the options I’ve been exposed to and I’ll probably have some more specific comments in a while.

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That’s not a bad shout. And if they wanted to rehearse or gig with it later, they can use it with a cabinet.

Normally I would shy away from a 5in speaker because it’s not just about the volume, but also the tone. The tone depends very much on the speaker and cabinet (often as much as the amp itself) and many smaller speakers sound “boxy”. But this is usually because they are in undersized cabinets. I’ve not heard the Katana head, but I’ve never heard it being called “boxy”.