The Total Beginner’s Guide on How to Choose a Guitar Amp

If you’re wondering how to choose a guitar amp, begin by considering the type of music you play. There are many different types of guitar amps and each one offers a different sound, as well as other features like effects. Guitarists who play in a band may need a different type of amp than a solo player. You’ll also want to consider your budget and size constraints.

Many experts recommend choosing a guitar amplifier to match the guitar you play. For example, a vintage electric guitar may sound better on a tube amp rather than a solid state. Consider taking your guitar to your local music retail store, where a sales representative can help you pick the perfect amp. 

Some stores have demo amps you can try in person. You’ll also be able to get personal recommendations from the staff. Music and Arts has over 200 locations nationwide with a staff of professional music technicians waiting to help you find the best guitar amp.

Online community forums are also a great resource on how to choose a guitar amp. Many guitar players are also “gearheads” who love talking about music equipment. You’ll likely find someone else who has the same guitar you do, and this person will probably be eager to offer their advice. 

In general, there are several factors you should consider when buying a new guitar amp. When you’re thinking about how to choose a guitar amp, we recommend the following steps:

  • Consider the Type of Music You Play
  • Consider Volume, Size and Weight
  • Learn About the Different Types of Amps
  • Look Into Effects and Other Special Options

There are almost as many different guitar amps as there are different guitars, so choosing an amp can feel overwhelming at first. However, if you follow these considerations, you’ll be able to choose the best guitar amp for you, your band, and your budget.

How to Choose a Guitar Amp: Important Tips for Beginners

Consider the Type of Music You Play

First, consider the type of music you play. Is there one genre you love more than others? Do you usually play with a band, or solo? Do you play mostly electric guitar or do you use an amplified acoustic model? Each of these factors can influence your choice in guitar amp.

Believe it or not, a guitar amplifier can make a huge impact on the instrument’s sound. Some amps produce a very smooth, clean sound, which is often preferred by jazz guitarists as well as players who focus on pop and indie rock. Other amps can create more “texture,” such as buzzing and distortion, which is often the favored sound of guitarists who play classic rock, punk, or metal genres.

Just like a guitar, every amp has its own personality. Choose wisely and make sure you buy a guitar amp that fits you and your band, if you play with others. If you’re trying out different amps in a store, don’t necessarily pick the first model you love. Take some time to make sure the amp’s sound actually fits your music.

New guitar players may be hesitant to commit to an amp before they’ve discovered their signature style. If you’re not sure, choose an amp that offers a more versatile sound profile. Many newer guitar amps provide a range of tones that work with multiple music genres.

Consider Volume, Size/Weight and Material

Next, address the practical aspects of your playing. The first is volume. On average, how loud do you play? Are you looking for a practice amp to use at home, or a full stack to take to gigs? 

With guitar amps, sound volume is measured by power in the form of watts, as well as speaker sizes. A smaller amp uses 10-30 watts of power and has speakers that range from 8” to 10”. These amps are a good choice for playing at home or in a classroom setting.

For rehearsals with a band, or shows in a small capacity venue, most players opt for a medium sized amp with 50 watts and 12” speakers. Large amps start at 100 watts and 12”+ speakers. These power amps are the best option for big venues where you need to be really loud.

The second practical aspect to consider is the size and weight of the amp. How often do you need to travel with your amp? If it’s difficult for you to lug around heavy equipment on a regular basis, choose a smaller or medium-sized amp. 

Then, consider the materials used in the amp’s construction. The case containing the amp’s electric parts and its speaker is known as a “cabinet.” Cabinets are usually made of wood. The type of wood, and its thickness, will affect how the sound resonates from the speaker. 

Learn About the Different Types of Amps

Once you know what type of sound you want from an amp, as well as how much volume and what size/weight you need, it’s time to learn about the different types of amps. Understanding the differences between amps is one of the most important things you need to know when you’re researching how to choose a guitar amp.

In general, there are four main types of amps:

Solid State Amps: Also known as analog amps, a solid state amp uses transistors in its power supply and preamp configuration. In general, solid state amps are very “clean” sounding. They are known for their durability and reliability. Many musicians choose solid state amps for practice amps and pros often take them on tour because they rarely need repairs.

Tube Amps: This type of amp uses vacuum tubes to increase signal power and boost volume. The sound of a tube amp is often described as warm or “fat.” Tube amps are louder than solid state amps, even if they have the same wattage, and the tones produced by a tube amp have more natural texture. Often, tube amps have two separate channels. One is a clean sound, the other is a distorted sound, and players can easily switch between these two channels. Tube amps tend to be large, heavy amps. They also need more maintenance and repair. The tubes themselves sometimes need to be replaced from wear and tear.

Modeling Amps: Also known as digital amps, a modeling amp is the latest evolution of guitar amplifier. These amps use software to “model” the sound of various vintage tube amps. In other words, these amps can replicate the sonic palette of multiple different amps. Some modeling amps also include built-in effects. Since modeling amps rely on computer parts, they’re very lightweight compared to tube and solid state amps. They’re also more durable.

Hybrid Amps: Hybrid amps combine solid state technology with vacuum tubes. Typically, they use a tube in the preamp and solid state circuitry in the power supply. This mimics the sound of a tube amp without using heavier power tubes, so these amps are smaller and more portable.

Look Into Effects and Other Special Features

Finally, when considering how to choose a guitar amp, think about special effects and other options you’d like. Many amps include digital effects such as reverb, tremolo, and effect loops. You can also find amps that offer channel switching, which allows players to switch from a clean sound to a distorted sound by flipping a switch or pressing a foot pedal.

Some amps also include separate EQ controls for each channel. This allows you to adjust volume and distortion more specifically. Other special features can include outputs for digital recording. Just remember to choose effects you’ll actually use. Some beginners spend too much money on fancy digital amps with features they don’t actually need. Again, consider the type of music you play and let that influence your buying decision.

Choose the Best Guitar Amp at Music and Arts

At Music and Arts, we offer a great selection of guitar amps for all players. Whether you’re a beginner or an old pro, we have an amp for you! Our trained technicians can help you find the best guitar amp for your playing style.

If you’re wondering how to choose a guitar amp, Music and Arts is happy to help. Visit one of our 200+ retail locations, go online, or give us a call at 888-731-5396. We’ll answer all your questions about guitar amps.

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