How to Buy an Amp?
The market for amps is endless. You can choose between lots of brands and different technologies. Now the question is: how can I find the right amp for myself?
Here are some explanations for the different amp-technologies:
Should I get a combo amp or a head and cabinet?
This one is simple, as it really depends on just how big is the venue you are planning to play in. For clubs and even small halls, today’s combos are well-equipped to deliver the power you need to be heard all the way in the back. If your goal is to have enough power to fill a giant auditorium or even an open arena, there’s no question that you’ll want a high-powered stack with at least a 4 x 12″ cabinet and a 100-watt head. Remember, a combo is an all-in-one unit, a head and cabinet are separate and heavier.
Solid state or tube?
There’s no right or wrong here, but for tone alone, tube amps are way better. They’re the amps all the great bands ever used, 99% of all professional musicians prefer tube amps. But there’s nothing wrong with solid state amps.
Solid state amps have many advantages: they are cheaper, lighter, and require less care than a tube amp (which eventually will need new tubes, for instance!). They are not necessarily “worse” amps. The Rolling Stones, Status Quo and many other big acts have used solid-state amps at some point. They’re also quite popular with jazz guitarists.
The benefits of modelling amps
Modelling amps offer the best of both worlds. You can buy anything from a basic “practice” amp to a high-end, tube-powered combo that will deliver almost any tone or effect you might need or want. These modeling amps provide everything from clean rhythm tones to a full-out overdrive along with many “must have” effects like reverb, chorus, phase, flange, and delay.
Different size speakers produce different sounds. Smaller speakers can produce higher frequencies than larger speakers, which is why a tweeter is small and a woofer is large. A 10″ speaker will generally produce a better “top end” than a 15″ speaker. There is also a difference between an open-backed cabinet and a closed-cabinet. Which is why certain amps, like a 4 x 10″ Bassman with an open back will sound different than a 2 x 12″ Bassman with a closed cabinet. And even though speakers may be the same size, they can still have different sound characteristics.
In the end, buying the right amp depends on several questions that everyone needs to ask themselves:
What kind of music do you play?
How much power do you need?
Do you need a highly portable amp?
And a very important thing: test the amp with your guitar! Every guitar sounds different on the same amp. So when you like the sound of the amp with your guitar, then you’ve found the right amp for you ☺
About the author
Roger Walder is a student of professional guitar teacher and musician Gonçalo Crespo. Gonçalo is the founder of Music&Co., a guitar music school based in Zurich, Switzerland that offers tuition for acoustic and electric guitar. Check out his website at Gitarrenunterricht Zurich.