Buying an amp for your guitar is just as difficult as “buying the best electric guitar” itself. There are so many options and companies to choose from – how do you pick a good amp that you can actually afford?
It’s all about being smart and knowing the features of each amp that you’re going to potentially purchase. This is your short, all-inclusive guide to buying a guitar amp – we’ll go over what to look for in a guitar amp and why the different features are important. Then, we’ll give you some of our top picks (sorted by category and price) to start you off on the right foot.
Back in the day, combo amps were known as weak and not good enough for your standard gigs in clubs and other venues. However, technology has advanced to the point where these days, a nice combo amplifier is usually enough to get the job done. If you’re performing outside or at an unusually large indoor venue, you’ll want to consider making the jump to a head amplifier and speaker unit setup. You’ll be able to get more power if you put the pieces together yourself.
There are four types of amplifiers, and each one handles sound a bit differently.
Solid state amps use analog technology to increase the decibel level. Because there is no digital technology used, solid state amps are extremely reliable and often used as everyday amps. You can usually find them cheap – the only downside is that they are the most prone to distortion.
Tube amps use old-fashioned vacuum tube technology to increase the decibel level. While they deteriorate faster than solid state amps, they produce louder, warmer, fuller sounds than solid state amps do. Many players who like to “stick with the classics” will prefer a tube amp.
Hybrid amps combine old-fashioned vacuum tube technology with solid state (analog) technology. The sound is passed through vacuum tubes in the preamp stage, but the power (used to make the sound louder) is drawn from solid state technology. Players who want the tube sound without having to deal with maintenance of a tube amp will prefer hybrid amps. And finally, modeling amps are the newest type of amp. They use digital technology. Because they’re programmable, you can mimic any sound of tube amps and even add in external effects. They’re usually the most expensive, but they offer the most customization for you, the player.
Amplifiers are limited by the speakers attached to them. If you have a really nice pair of speakers, you’ll be able to get the best sound possible from your amp. If you don’t, your sound will be less than perfect and you’ll always feel like something is “off”.