Specialist or all-rounder – Just like guitars, more expensive amps sometimes excel in a very particular sound. Beyond choosing the type of amp, you should think about the music you need to play. It’s especially important if you play in many different bands and need a versatile amp.
Guitar Amps Buyers Guide
What to Look for in a Guitar Amp
There are a lot of options when it comes to guitar amps. Depending on what you will be using the amp for, you will have some decisions to make based on many different factors. It all comes down to your preference and opinion. If you’re going to be playing with a band live or in a practice room, you’ll need more power than a beginner. But this is just one aspect you’ll need to consider. With things like sound, versatility, capability, and size all playing a part, it can be tough to sift through the prospects.
We have put together a short buyer’s guide to try to give you a better idea of what’s important when picking out a guitar amp. We’ve included buying advice and what to look out for when it comes to the product specifications, as well as tips and tricks for all experience levels. Hopefully, by the end, you’ll have a clear picture of what you need, whether you want to sound like the genius that is Brian May, Bruce Springsteen, or Taylor Swift.
Not all amps are created equal when it comes to sound quality. There are solid state amps and tube amps. Solid state amps send their power through outputs, whereas tube amps derive the power from voltage through vacuum tubes.
So what difference does this make when it comes to tube and solid state amps? Tube amps require a little more long-term upkeep but provide a genuine and realistic tone of instruments and voice. They tend to have a rich midrange.
Solid state amps will generally provide a more detailed tonal quality and more power for the dollars spent. They’re also easier to maintain, with no glass vacuum tubes to keep clean. Either type can provide you with a really good sound.
If you’re trying to turn your sound all the way up with massive overdrives, ensure that your amp is not designed for acoustic in-home use. If you only need an amp to help work on your chops, a smaller and less dynamic amp can do the trick. It all depends on what type of music you are playing. We’ve included a few practice amps in our product guide above for you to consider.
Check out the power section of the amp you intend to research. You could also consider a master volume feature, which allows you to turn up the pre-amp section. All of this will matter when considering power.
Consider combo amps or tube combo amps. These tools offer combinations of amplifiers and speakers.
Remember that smaller watt amps will give you good tone at lower volumes, but as you turn them up past the threshold, they tend to lose some integrity.
Power necessities are pretty simple from a buying standpoint. How loud do you want your amp to be? How much headroom do you want? If you’re playing at home by yourself, then 10-20-watts is all you’ll need. If you’re playing along with a drummer or a loud band of any kind, at least 50-watts will be necessary. Usually, 100-watts is the safest bet because that brings you the power you need.
The majority of larger amps designed for band use come in 100 watts. It can also be helpful to have some foresight in terms of what you may use your amp for in the future. Even if you’re only practicing now, you may get good quickly and want the capability to play along with a band sooner than you think.
How versatile do you need your amp to be? If you want all of your effects packed into one amp, then you may be best off going for a modeling amp, which allows you to upload many different tones. But if you already have your own mammoth of an effects pedal, you can be less concerned with getting a detailed guitar amp.
Some amps come with enough compression, tonal clarity, and power that when you plug effects pedals into them, they sound great on their standard tone. Do you want to have modes and effects like chorus, reverb, delay, and distortion on your amp without buying extra pedals? If you pick an amp with multiple channels that can harness the benefits of numerous effects, you could save yourself a little bit of money on effects pedals. Consider voicings, too. These effects will help you find a music style that is reminiscent of those cool British sounds, or something that will make you feel like one of the American greats.
Having everything right in place is really convenient for people playing at home or with a small jam group. A professional stage musician is likely happy to pick out their own effects specific to their needs. If you want super versatility, consider an amp simulator.
Will you play mostly at home, or do you need to take your amp around the world? Unfortunately, amps that you can take to gigs and practices with you need to be more powerful. In order to bring more power, the amp generally needs to be bigger and heavier.
If you only have a small space at home to play in or not a lot of storage space, you won’t need a large and powerful amp. A smaller desktop or a 10-20-watt mini guitar amp will do the trick. 100-watt amps tend to be quite big and heavy. So it’s best to figure out beforehand how much maneuverability you want.
When it comes to high-powered speakers, you need to make sure you’re protected against manufacturer defects. Amps are built to last, and many feature a durable cabinet or case, but the smaller and more fragile components can be easier to break. You want to make sure that you’re covered if your speaker is defective, or if the wires simply weren’t soldered on properly.
Amps are difficult to fix if you don’t have the necessary expertise. A good warranty will help you take care of any unexpected problems that you didn’t see coming. Guitar amps can be expensive, so the last thing you want is to buy another one without a warranty. Most brands, such as Vox, Boss, Blackstar, Fender, Victory, and more will offer a warranty.
You’re probably really excited to get playing your favorite music, as you should be – playing music is one of the greatest gifts to mankind! Hopefully, we’ve been able to outline the necessary information to help you make the right decision. Let’s rock out!
The more simple an amp is, the less likely problems will arise. An amp that is just meant to plug into a guitar will have fewer things that can break or malfunction. Amps with Bluetooth and WIFI capabilities can be great for versatility and ease. However, there’s always the chance that the extra components will stop working, which can cause unwanted annoyances.
Did you Know?
Before modern guitar amps were invented, guitarists who wanted to have their pickup wielding electric guitars had to play through “radio horns with limited acoustic frequency or output.” The sound was terrible and unreliable until 1927, when a portable speaker that could be plugged in became popular with many musicians.