'81 Special

British Rock Amplifier

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As rock n roll progressed through the 1970's, rock guitarists were on a mission. Collectively, they could hear in their heads the potential sound they wanted to get out of their British amplifiers, but they weren't quite there. They knew that there was untapped gain and harmonics in these amps that had yet to be brought forward. This led to the inevitable onslaught of amp techs relentlessly modifying these amps on a quest to find "that" tone. By the late 70's, it appeared that quest was over.

The SonicTone '81 Special is the culmination of that sonic quest. The modifications that had been achieved were so highly sought after, that major amp companies had no choice but to include them in their amps as the 1980's kicked off. Heading into the 80's, guitarists were armed with a brand new sound - one that had tremendous amounts of tight gain and rich harmonics. Little did anyone know, these types of amps came along at just the right time. They would prove to be the fuel for the fires of decadent 80's rock and metal.

The '81 Special is the embodiment of that sound. It carries the torch of 80's rock high and proud. It is a simple amp, but in the end, it's probably the only amp you'll ever need.

Recommended Speaker Pairing: Celestion 25W Greenbacks or 65W Creambacks for 80's rock & metal.

Available as a 50-watt head, 100-watt head, 50-watt 1x12 combo or 50-watt 2x12 combo.

Tube Set:
Speaker (Combo Only):

Price: $2,150.00 USD

Features & Specs

  • Fixed-biased British-voiced amplifier
  • 2 channels with independent gain controls, footswitchable
  • Shared EQ with presence
  • Master volume
  • Bright switch on channel 1
  • Classic/Hotrod switch on channel 2
  • Half-power switch
  • 16, 8, 4 ohm impedance selector switch
  • 12" Celestion 65-watt Creamback speaker(s), wired for 16 ohm (stock 1x12 or 2x12 combo versions only)
  • Birch plywood cabinet with finger-jointed construction
  • AC Input: US standard IEC jack at 120V/60Hz

50-Watt Smallbox Model

  • 3 x 12AX7; 2 x EL34
  • Bypassable FX loop
  • 1-button footswitch

50-Watt or 100-Watt Standard Model

  • 4 x 12AX7; 2 x EL34 for 50W (or 4 x EL34 for 100W)
  • Bypassable and footswitchable tube-driven FX loop
  • FX loop series/parallel switch with send and return controls
  • 2-button footswitch

50-Watt or 100-Watt Lead Model

  • 4 x 12AX7; 2 x EL34 for 50W (or 4 x EL34 for 100W)
  • Solo boost control, bypassable and footswitchable
  • Bypassable tube-driven FX loop
  • 2-button footswitch


50-Watt Smallbox Head:
    24.00" W x 10.75" H x 9.0" D, 29.5 Lbs

50-Watt Standard/Lead Head:
    30.00" W x 10.75" H x 9.0" D, 32.5 Lbs

50-Watt Smallbox 1x12 Combo:
    24.00" W x 20.75" H x 9.0" D, 50.0 Lbs

100-Watt Standard/Lead Head:
    30.00" W x 10.75" H x 9.0" D, 42.5 Lbs

50-Watt Standard/Lead 2x12 Combo:
    30.00" W x 20.75" H x 10.0" D, 55.0 Lbs


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'81 Special Reviews

5 out of 5 stars based on 2 reviews
Taylor G Chellew
New Orleans
January 30, 2024
I’d give this amp 6/5 stars if I could.

I have the 50 watt 81 Special head, and it is in fact the BEST amp I have ever had. I no longer look at the big brands or even worry about trying them out, Sonictone is the company I will stick with for the rest of my life. The cleans, the crunch, the hotrod switch, it’s got it all, with top notch tone. The clarity, attack, sustain, harmonics, holy moly, go try one out. Another incredible feature is the effects loop switch. You can engage a wall of sound all with one click! Nick is very hands on and provides amazing, hospitable customer service. This won’t be the last amp I purchase from Sonictone.

Darren Bergeron
January 1, 2023
'81 Special, Amazing!

Where are you going to find hand built boutique amps at a fraction of the cost of some of the more familiar names in the business? SonicTone Amplification, that's where. Nick's products are top notch quality, built with passion and superior craftsmanship. These amps are work horse amps that will hang with the best in the business. Let's face it, the average gig doesn't pay what the artist is worth these days. Not only are these amps amazing products, they are super affordable for the average musician or hobbyist. But don't take the price in consideration, you can put Nick's amps in the hands of any professional artist out there and they would be impressed. Glad I found out through word of mouth before I bought a big box store brand. Give SonicTone Amplification a try... you won't be sorry!

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