Thinking about purchasing a guitar amp, but not sure where to start? You’ve got some options, depending on your experience level and the style of music you play. Start your research with this helpful advice from Winston Salem, NC guitar teacher Kyle M…
When you start exploring the world of electric guitars, you’re not only dealing with the instrument itself, but also the amplifier it uses. Guitar amps in and of themselves are a very complex market. In this article I will be covering some of the basics of what kinds of amps there are, how they are different, and how to select the best amps for your needs.
To start at the very beginning, there are two kinds of amps: tube and solid state. Tube amps have glass bulbs in them, kind of like light bulbs, that send analog signals to the speakers. Solid state amps use transistors and computer chips to send a digital signal to the speakers. There are also hybrid amps that use both.
The general consensus is that tube amps have worse tone at lower volumes and better tone at higher volumes (and tube amps can get LOUD). There are ways around that now, though, that allow tube amps to get their high volume tone without shaking mom’s china cabinet and scaring the neighbor’s dog. Because solid state amps create their sound digitally, they allow you to get a decent tone at lower volumes, but at higher volumes they lose some of that. Solid state amps also don’t get as loud as tube amps. The downside to tube amps is that they are much more expensive and can be high maintenance if you aren’t careful; those tubes will need to be replaced eventually.
Amps also come in two different forms: combos and stacks. A combo is an amp where your channel controls, speakers, and everything are in one unit. A stack has two components, the head and the cabinet. A half stack is a head and one cabinet, and a full stack is a head with two cabinets. The head has all of the controls for the channels and the speakers are in the cabinet. Combos usually don’t get higher than 100 watts and cabinets are usually 120 watts and up.
Now that we know a little about the basics of amps, what should we get? For a beginner, a 15-30- watt solid state combo is a great place to get started. You shouldn’t have to spend more than $100. An amp like this is also great if you’re looking for something to practice on without bothering anyone. If you’ve been playing for a little while and you’re looking to step it up a little bit, I recommend you start looking into tube amps. You may have to save up a little longer or buy something used, but it will pay off. If tube amps are just outside of your budget, then a big solid state amp will do the trick. The most important thing, no matter what, is to NEVER buy anything music-related without playing it first! Good luck, and I hope this helped you figure out what you need!
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Kyle M. teaches guitar, music theory and songwriting lessons to students of all ages in Winston Salem, NC. Kyle is classically trained in guitar and composition, with a Bachelor’s of Arts in Music from Hartwick College. He joined the TakeLessons team in November 2012. Learn more about Kyle, or search for a teacher near you!
Photo by KWDesigns