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?
Top 10 Best Guitar Amplifiers:
|For well under $1,000, the DSL40C is a superb choice for any serious musician|
|The AC15C1 is a modern version of the classic, and Vox has done a fantastic job|
|They have a clear, loud, and exceptionally high-quality sound output|
|The Valvetronix VT80 is enough for almost any performance and venue|
|Get this amp if you don’t see yourself exploring through almost 100 different presets|
|The amp is compatible with all versions of iOS and Android.|
|If you spring for a head amp – aka, an amplifier without the speaker cabinet|
|75 watts of power, one 12” speaker, over 300 classic presets|
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.
Read on to learn how to buy the right guitar amp that’s within your price range.
Knowing The Key Differences in Guitar Amps
Head vs. Combo
A combo amp is an amplifier with one or more speakers in a wooden casing. A regular amplifier (sometimes called a head) doesn’t include the speaker unit. You have to buy the speaker unit separately and connect them together.
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.
Solid state vs. Tube vs. Modeling vs. Hybrid
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.
How the amplifier is built
All amplifiers use wood, but the thickness and quality of the wood will affect how your amp sounds.
In general, unless you’re on a shoestring budget, you should consider only amps with ½” wood thickness or more. Any less and you risk your amp moving itself around because there’s so much power and so little enough weight.
The only other physical difference in guitar amps is whether they have an open back or a closed back. If it has a closed back, sound will be trapped at a higher rate, and this will make the bass sound fantastic. Open-back amps are good as well, just keep in mind that they won’t give you the sort of base that a closed-back one will. It’s all about your personal preference.
Power and size of speakers used (combo amps only)
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”.
Your cheap, everyday amps will usually have just a bit of power (between 20 and 30 watts) and smaller speakers (usually 8” to 10”). If you’re practicing or playing at a low volume and in an enclosed space, one of these amps is fine. However, if you try to use one of these cheap amps at a loud volume in a larger space, you’ll notice a lot of distortion and a sound that doesn’t quite fill the room.
In general, 12” speakers are what you want for your performance combo amp. With 12” speakers, 50 watts of power is good for normal venues. For larger venues or outdoor performances, you’ll want to upgrade to a combo amp with 100 watts of power or consider getting a head amp and speaker unit separately.
Amp lingo that you’ll come across
Before we launch into recommending guitar amps for you to start on, you need to know about the different terminology you’ll come across while browsing. If you don’t, you’ll be confused beyond belief.
- Effects: almost all amps will have predefined settings you can use for different sounds. In general, the more expensive the amp, the higher number of effects you have to choose from. Modeling amps are the king of effects because so many different ones can be programmed in.
- Number of channels: amps allow you to control the level of distortion (from crisp all the way to distorted) through adjusting the channel you’re on. The more channels you have, the more precise you can get your sound. In general, cheap amps have one channel, decent ones have two, and really good ones have more than two.
- Reverb settings – some amps have reverb settings (either spring or digital). If included, this feature will allow you to control the amount of echo that your guitar makes.
- Stack – a combination of one or more head amps and one or more speaker units.
Guitar Amplifier Reviews Sorted by Type and Price:
We’ve gone ahead and scoured through hundreds upon hundreds of guitar amps to bring you the best of the best. Each category of guitar and budget price range is broken down into the top eight guitar amps in the world. Click on the link below that suits your needs the best.
These are best for beginner guitarists or anyone looking for a cheap amp that they don’t care about damaging or breaking. After all, if you lead a rock and roll lifestyle, things do get broken… One example is here: Fender Champion 20 Guitar Amplifier
With a small price increase, you can substantially improve the quality of the amp you purchase. An amp under $200 isn’t the cream of the crop, but it’s nothing to scoff at, either. For these, it’s best to read customer reviews to determine if an amp is good enough for what you’ll be using it for. Too lazy to read? You can check this one: Blackstar CORE20 ID:Core 2×10-Watt Stereo Combo
These are pretty decent amps that will suit a beginner or intermediate guitarist just fine. If you can afford it, we’d recommend selecting your first guitar amp from this list. Once you cross the $200 mark, you get to choose from some pretty respectable amps from reputable companies in the industry. If you just want a proven model check out the Line 6 Spider IV 75 75-watt 1×12 Modeling Guitar Amplifier
These are fantastic guitar amps that are all suitable for practice and normal-sized venues. One of these amps will last you for years and give you impeccable sound all throughout its lifespan. One of our favorites is the infamois Vox Valvetronix VT40 Plus Guitar Amplifier
These quitars amplifiers are the cream of the crop and are loud enough to produce incredible sound, even when turned up all the way to accommodate large venues or outdoor performances. If you want a premium option without thinking too much on it check the Marshall DSL Series DSL40C 40 Watt Valve 2 Channel Combo
What have to saying for the Portable/small guitar ampplifiers – if you’re moving around a lot, you don’t need heavy equipment slowing you down. Leave that for the drummers. Get one of these small, lightweight amps for great sound on the go. A great example is the Roland Micro Cube Guitar
Thease amplifiers are made specifically for acoustic guitars can produce cleaner sounds than one-size-fits-all guitar amps can. If you’re an acoustic player and just got a top rated acoustic guitar, treat it with respect, we’d recommend looking at this list first. I must admit that the winner in this category is by far the Behringer Ultracoustic AT108
Similar to acoustic guitar amps, bass amps are made specifically for bass guitars and the sounds they produce. If you’re the bassist in the group, look here first. If you are looking just for a cabinet check out the Hartke HyDrive 410 Bass Cabinet
Guitar Amp Buying Guide Summary
Look: you’re going to have a great time jamming out no matter which guitar amp you choose. But you do want to choose the right one the first time around. If you don’t, you’ll blow all of your amp money on something that you just don’t enjoy playing with.
Make sure to understand the features of guitar amps, and when you go to purchase, look for those features that are important to you. GuitarFella‘s lists above will get you started on the right track to picking the guitar amp that’s right for you and in your price range. Once you are done with your amp and have some decent experience with your guitar, head over to the recommended guitar pedals section, a lot of good stuff for you to read!
Click one of the links above to start browsing, or if you are past that stage, click here to check out the recommended guitar lessons that we have for you.
Good luck, and happy shredding!
Table Of Contents
- Top 10 Best Guitar Amplifiers:
- Knowing The Key Differences in Guitar Amps
- Guitar Amplifier Reviews Sorted by Type and Price:
- Top-Rated Guitar Amps Under $100 (click for full list)
- Recommended Guitar Amps Under $200 (click for full list)
- Go-To Guitar Amplifiers Under $300 (click for full list)
- Best-Rated Guitar Amps Under $500 (click for full list)
- The Highest-Rated Guitar Amps Under $1000(click for full list)
- Best Portable/Small Guitar Amplifiers (click for full lits)
- Best Acoustic Guitar Amplifiers (click for full lits)
- The Top Bass Guitar Amplifiers (click for full lits)
- Guitar Amp Buying Guide Summary