Guitar Amp Ultimate Buying Guide
Once you've got the basics down when playing your electric guitar and are getting together your setup – one of the most important decisions to be made is when buying guitar amps.
With amps of all different types and sizes – from larger to smaller amps, to hybrid amps and modeling amps you'll need to think about which option is best for you and where you're going to be playing.
Below we will break down everything you need to know about how to choose a guitar amp so you are armed with all the info you need when making your decision.
Your Ultimate Guitar Amp Buying Guide
The first step in how to choose a guitar amp is to think about what features and models may be suitable for your beginner skill level and where you will be playing. So, get started by thinking about the following factors:
What Speaker Sizes and Amp Sizes Do you Want?
When choosing an amp for a beginner, you will likely want something portable and self-contained rather than a large and complicated rig.
If you just learning, at this stage a small practice amp should be all you need. And even if you are an accomplished player going on tour, a high-quality smaller amp should take up a lot less room when you're on the road.
What Guitar Amps and Wattage Do You Need?
A key step in how to choose a guitar amp is wrapping your mind around how guitar watts work. A lot of people unfamiliar with amps tend to assume that if you double or triple the number of watts, the volume will increase in similar amounts.
Instead, you'll find that there is only a five-decibel difference between a 30 watts amp and a 100 watts model!
Think About the Amp Speaker Configuration
Once you have chosen how powerful your amp will be, you should pick a speaker which is configured to match. For example, if your guitar amp doesn't produce a lot of power then you should choose smaller speaker sizes. However, if you have very powerful amps optimized for live playing, you will need larger speaker cabinets and will need to invest in more than one!
If you are just beginning and will be playing at home, a guitar amp that has 20 watts of power is more than enough. Similarly, you will only need a single speaker which doesn't need to be any more than 8 to 12 inches wide.
Think About Your Budget Before You Begin Buying Guitar Amps
Make sure you don't blow your budget or get carried away by setting yourself a realistic budget before your begin. As a beginner, you don't need a huge expensive rig, but you also don't want to just pick the cheapest item which will create a tinny and unattractive sound.
Aim for a portable, high-quality practice amp from a reputable manufacturer which isn't for sale at a budget-busting price.
What is the Best Type of Ampilifer for Beginners?
With so many different types of guitar amplifiers, it is easy to be overwhelmed. But if you are looking for an amp that is suitable for electric guitar beginners, then a combo amp could be a perfect fit.
A combo amp combines the preamplifier which helps to share the tone of your guitar and a power amp which projects the sound to the speakers. All of these are contained in one smaller amp unit which doesn't take up too much room in your home and is easy to travel with.
This contrasts with the other main type of amp, where the amp heads are connected by cables to speaker cabinets.
However, many factors go into finding the right type of amp, so make sure to read the rest of our guitar amp buying guide below before making your final decision.
What About Guitar Amp Effects and Tone?
The type of sound you want to create will also affect your decisions when buying guitar amps. Read below for a breakdown of what you will need to consider.
- How much distortion do you want? The majority of guitar amps will let you control the level of distortion in your sound. If you are into a punk or heavy rock sound you'll want an amp that gives you a great distorted tone when you play.
- Do you Need Reverb? – The majority of practice amps feature a reverb option which will help the sound of your guitar to achieve an echo effect.
- Do You Want any Effects? – As a beginner, it's usually best to keep things simple. But if you are interested in experimenting, you might like to look at investing in an amp that allows you to play with effects without having to also buy pedals or a pedalboard.
- Do You Want an Amp With Different Sound Channels? – You might want a guitar amp that lets you switch between different types of sounds depending on the music you are playing. These usually feature a foot pedal which allows you to switch between and turn sounds on and off.
What Types of Guitar Amps Are There?
There are two main categories of guitar amps – tube amps and solid state amps. Hybrid amps combine the features of the two.
What is a Solid State Amp?
Solid State amps are a good choice for beginners and create a tight and quick sound. They also don't require much maintenance when compared to other types of amps.
What are Tube Amps?
Tube amps create attractive distortion and thick rich sounds and are good for pro players during live performances.
What are Hybrid Amps?
These amps contain features of both tube and solid state amps. These usually consist of a tube preamplification section and then a solid state power amplification section.
What are Modeling Guitar Amps?
Modeling guitar amps are a great choice for beginners and those who are looking to play mostly at home. These options combine the features of a variety of different amps, allowing you to experiment with different sounds and tones.
Is There a Difference Between a Guitar Amp and a Bass Amp?
A bass guitar and a guitar are two different instruments created to produce two different sounds. As such, there are different types of amps that are designed to project their particular sounds. If you try to play bass guitar on a guitar amp, you'll find that the lower-range frequencies aren't properly amplified. Similarly, the high-frequency sounds of an electric guitar can be dulled on a bass amp.
Summary – Your Ultimate Guitar Amp Buying Guide
Buying guitar amps for the first time can be both exciting and overwhelming given how much choice is on offer. But if you do your research on how to choose a guitar amp beforehand, you should find that your decision is a lot easier.
Take some time to think about what you need from your guitar amp and what type of music and sound you are most interested in. And don't forget to check back in with our Guitar Amp Buying Guide above to see which types of amps are the best choice for your musical taste and skill.