Best Guitar Amp Review – Top Rated Models in 2019 with Buying Guide
If you can’t commit hours of your time to tracking down the right electric guitar amp, we listed here a number of the top guitar amps that are varied enough to fulfill most requirements. Among these, we found the Vox Pathfinder 10 Denim to make a great choice for those that are just getting into playing guitar or who just need a good, inexpensive practice amp. It’s solid-state, so you won’t have to blow your money on replacing lamps and this will also make it easier to tweak its voice to whatever tune you want to try out. Folks who use it appreciate that resembles the overdrive on a lamp amp pretty well and at 10 W of power it can be used from a garage without any complaints from the neighbors. If this isn’t available, The Blackstar IDCORE10 will offer similar quality and even more of a possibility to play around with sound effects.
Our Top Choice
If what you usually play is British rock and roll, this VOX alternative might be right up your alley. Its clear and natural sound is what made so many guitar players have only good things to say about it. The affordable cost makes it perfect for beginners and eager learners. Besides, its compact design is a net advantage as it’s easy to carry.
This is an inexpensive practice amp, so other models might sound better.
The VOX is a budget-friendly and compact amplifier that seems to be truly worth its weight in gold.
The neatest thing about this Blackstar model is that it is entirely programmable, which means that the guitar player can achieve any effect as desired. The unit does come with a series of presets ranging from clean warm to super crunch, though, so feel free to use those if you aren’t particularly accustomed to setting amps.
Some users argue that this amp is less loud compared to others they’ve tried.
This particular Blackstar amp is modern, easy to use, and completely customizable.
The Champion 40 is light, affordable, and easy to use. Besides, the brand should give you a clue as to whether or not it’s a good idea to invest your hard-earned money into this alternative. The 12” speaker that it comes with is perfectly capable of rendering both bass and treble, and most guitarists who’ve reviewed it say it works great for blues and country.
There’s not a lot of gadgetry you can play with as the effects are limited.
This 40-watt amplifier is great if you’re looking for a light and affordable choice. It works best for blues and country.
Highly Recommended Choices – Reviews & Comparison
Since all the variety of options out there can make it pretty tough to find good amps and amp accessories, we’ve looked through the best guitar amp reviews the internet has to offer and made a selection of some of the better ones available for sale.
Best guitar amps under 100
Vox Pathfinder 10 Denim
As the name suggests, this little amp is covered in Denim material to give it a classic look, which should go well with the style of sound it’s best at producing. People who used it report that it works particularly well in mid range, with a tonality reminiscent of early British rock and roll.
The similarity is further extended by the fact that the clean channel gives out a clear, natural sound that is surprisingly close to what a tube model can produce. It also has an overdrive, to which there’s a possibility to switch at will, for a “creamy, warm” distortion.
The affordable cost seems to be more of a result of its small size rather than some compromise in regards to quality, since it gained quite a deal of appreciation as a practice amp, good to keep in your workroom and light enough to carry to a friend’s house on foot.
The single, 6.5 inch, 10 W speaker will put out a surprising amount of volume in the mid and high ranges, while the overdrive is slightly more subdued.
Click to see the price on Amazon!
Blackstar IDCORE 10 – Best Guitar Amplifier & Best Modeling Amp
We jump from tradition to the latest technology from Blackstar. The IDCORE 10 is a modeling amp that comes with its own presets a clean warm; clean bright; crunch; super crunch; etc, tunes but it’s also fully programmable to achieve the precise effect desired by the user.
It can be plugged into a computer using a mini USB to allow for precise tuning and recording with a digital equalizer and a sizeable ‘effects’ section allowing you to modify a wide set of parameters.
This might keep an enthusiast busy for hours, without bothering others with the noise, since the IDCORE 10 can accept headphones.
If you want to go old school, then the Blackstar will offer you that possibility as it has a full set of intuitive controls, the same as on a traditional amp.
The sound comes in full stereo with two speakers totaling 10 W of output at a remarkably good quality for an entry-level model.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($99.99)
Best guitar amps under 200
Fender Champion 40
More than one Fender Champion 40 review recommended it as the best 40-Watt amplifier for beginners. Truth be told, this light and relatively affordable combo does have a few things working for it.
Besides the recognizable brand, there’s the sound quality, that earned it good appreciation even from experienced guitarists who are used to more expensive units. It has a standard 12” speaker that allows it to render treble and bass equally well, for a good range of sound which should make it suitable for country, blues, and jazz, as well as softer rock.
While not a modeling amplifier (which should be a plus for the purists out there), it does come with pre-set effects, like reverb or delay and an MP3 player can be plugged in the auxiliary jack to provide tracks to jam along to.
As a combo, it will prove very easy to carry and it contains additional storage space in the cabinet for cables, plugs and other miscellanea.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($199.99)
Line 6 Spider V 30
It’s hard to find a place to start listing the features offered by this modeling amplifier. It has over 200 preloaded amps, effects models, and cabs, with up to 8 of them being able to run at the same time, so it will give you quite a lot to experiment with before feeling the need to introduce your own custom effects.
Among its presets are a high number of setups mimicking the sound of both classic and contemporary rock tunes, which should make this product very attractive for cover bands and people that need to switch between different styles on the fly.
The spider V is also equipped with a full range speaker system, which will allow you to run an acoustic guitar through it, as well as let songs from your playlist provide accompaniment while you jam.
This item also comes with a number of aids for rookie players, like a metronome to keep their riffs in time and a collection of drummer loops they can play along to.
Click to see the price on Amazon!
Best guitar amps under 500
Most guitarists agree that nothing can beat vacuum tube amplifiers when it comes to sound quality, especially the great overdrive they produce. The HT1R from Blackstar uses two vacuum tubes to give both crystal clarity and a crunchy overdrive, between which you can change at the flip of a switch.
To achieve this, it uses just two lamps, one for the pre-amp and the other one working the power-amp, processing sound for a remarkably low output 1 Watt speaker. Given the electronics involved, it would be pretty hard to judge the maximum volume from the power alone, but people who used it consider it sufficient for casual jamming.
Somewhat unusual for this design, it also has an MP3 and headphones jack, and it’s said to offer an exceptionally good simulated headphones output.
The product also has an original feature, called ISF, advertised to “give you infinite sound possibilities, from the USA to the UK” by using pre-set bass, mid, and treble setting that the user can select between. Some customers remarked that the feature doesn’t seem to make much of a difference, but praise the tone quality and good functionality of the product nevertheless.
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Fender Champion 100
If you want something relatively affordable for both practice and stage use, then the Champion 100 is sure to provide. It has the basic standard configuration for playing in clubs, with a couple of 12” speakers placed in a combo, which you can potentially double by stacking.
Regardless, at 100 W it provides enough volume to cover most venues, and the size of the speakers should render all frequency ranges equally well.
Of course, for its affordable price you shouldn’t be expecting anything else than solid state, which combined with the combo construction should make this Fender easy enough to carry around, without giving you chills whenever your car stumbles into a pothole.
Since the manufacturer has a name to live up to, you can expect it to do a good job at rendering rhythmic tones as you find in country music or slow rock. It also features a number of effects, like reverb, delay/echo, tremolo, chorus, and vibrato, so you might need to invest in a pedal to use it fully.
Click to see the price on Amazon!
Best guitar amps for jazz
California Tone SET5
As one user put it, this is one of “Amazon’s hidden little gems”, with a good set of tube electronics that gives out a natural sounding overdrive and some crystal-clear rhythmic sounds. If you want to make your guitar sound clear enough to accompany Porcupine Tree while also having the option for a natural grainy sound that might work well for jazz and blues, then this item is definitely something to look into.
With only 5 W of output, the speakers on this unit might not be powerful enough for a large hall, especially when accompanied by drums, but it should do a great job in allowing a solo guitar and the skill of its player to shine in front of a discerning audience.
The price on this unit has been cut down by eschewing additional features like pre-set effects or an output jack that would make it compatible with MP3 players or headphones, but definitely, no corners were cut when it comes to sound quality.
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ZT Amplifiers Lunchbox – Best electric guitar amp
The (perhaps miss-appropriately) named “Lunchbox” is as small as an electric heater, as light as one, and it also kind of looks like one. If some might not appreciate the aesthetics, then they will definitely be impressed by the level of performance ZT Amplifiers managed to squeeze into such a small package.
It comes with two 6.5-inch speakers, delving out 100 W each for a total of 200. Now, the small woofer diameter might make these units work less-than-perfect for rendering stomach-churning bass noise, but ZT Amplifiers never intended for them to be used as such. Instead, they are supposed to deliver loud and clear enough sounds in the treble and mid ranges to make the guitarist hold its own even when a loud drummer is present.
Like any good product meant to be used on stage, the Lunchbox can be effectively paired with 12” speakers but it also features a headphones jack for individual rehearsals.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($449)
Best country music guitar amps
Peavy Classic 30
The Peavy Classic 30 should give your guitar plenty of volume and a clear enough tone to cover any tune in a country singer’s discography and then some. It comes with a reverb tank and an overdrive channel, so it should be workable enough to play hard rock and metal music in your local club.
Albeit this model should hold its own when being used for what Peavy amps are famous for, that is playing metal or hardcore, most people who’ve tried it find that it performs best for slower, more rhythmic music. If the sound of your guitar goes “ting-ting” or “clang-clang” instead of “rifff”, then this piece should definitely deliver.
Otherwise, while the manufacturer is considerably shy when releasing specs regarding this product, customer reviews can give us a good idea of how well it performs under real-life circumstances. In brief, it performs well, particularly so for country music and slow rock, especially when paired with a couple more 12” speakers on top of the ones that are already integrated into its chassis.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($699.99)
Peavy Bandit 112
Among other things, Peavy is somewhat famous in the guitar amps world for being one of the first manufacturers to produce a close-to-tubes type of sound from their transistors amps. While this achievement might not have seemed perfect for the most discerning of ears, their solid state guitar amplifiers are good enough for the general public not to tell the difference.
The Peavy Bandit 112 will make a great amp for rock club venues since it works with enough power (100 Watts) to fill up a small hall and it will be easy to carry around from place to place due to its combo construction, with the two 12” speakers inhabiting the same frame as the guitar amplifier.
The close-to-nature overdrive you would expect from a model particularly engineered to imitate tube-amps should make for a nice and grainy tone once the appropriate dial is switched, perfect for playing blues in front of an attentive audience.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($449.94)
Best acoustic guitar amps under 500
Fishman Loudbox Mini
If you want to keep the laments of your banjo or guitar as clean as possible yet still hearable to the folks sitting way at the back, then the Fishman Loudbox Mini should do the trick, since the 60 Watt speakers will provide enough volume for a steel string guitar to be heard over slow drums or bass.
While it can (naturally) be used with electric guitars, many of its customer reviewers best appreciate the way it renders acoustic, steel-stringed instrument noise. It gained a particularly good reception with self-proclaimed audiophiles, whose assumingly refined tastes in regards to sound quality were definitely piqued by this item.
On top of that, this item does offer some additional basic features, like a reverb effect, dual-function chorus and an instrument+microphone channel, so it will allow you sink in with the vocals while making the guitar tune a little more haunting without having to employ any additional tools.
At just under 20 lb, this combo will be easy enough to carry from venue to venue.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($299.99)
Marshall Acoustics Soloist AS50D
The Soloist AS50D shines as an acoustic guitar amp because of its sound quality, maximum volume, and portability. It’s been said that it plays magnetic acoustic piezo and mic blend pickups substantially well, so there’s no need to worry that this amp will somehow take away from a guitarist’s talent during a show.
With 50 Watt of power, this Marshall piece lends itself best for small venues, where drowning a room in guitar riffs won’t be required, but you still need to keep yourself audible to everyone present, preferably without any sound distortions due to excessive volume.
This one seems to be a favorite for gospel groups or people who usually play in churches, but it should provide more than adequate service for indie bands that prefer a calm, laid down sound, reminiscent to the mid 90’s acts you used to hear on college radio stations.
Otherwise, it offers a digital chorus and a reverb function, and enough jacks for a footswitch and extra speakers to be plugged in, so all the basics are there.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($349.99)
Best guitar preamps
Kemper Profiler Power Head
For the low low price of a second-hand Ford Focus this Kemper Profiler will act as an all-around amp for concerts, a pre-amp when paired with the appropriate gear, and thanks to the high number of effects it can provide — a head unit for a guitar studio.
As opposed to the modeling amps and amp profilers already on the market, the Power Head doesn’t just offer a number of pre-set amp settings that would allow you to imitate the styles of famous guitarists (among many other things), but it can also copy the settings of other amps it is connected to, or let you load your own so that any particular style you’ve stumbled upon during a recording session can be re-rendered with crystal-clear accuracy when performing live.
So this is basically an amplifier clone-machine that can pick up and accurately imitate what other amps are doing without any sweat from the operator. If you ever wanted to get as close as possible to the tone used at the beginning of John Carpenter’s The Thing, this would be the piece of equipment to use!
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Kemper Profiler White Guitar
From the stylish 1950s look that seems to belong in an operations room of the US Strategic Air Command to the high level of function it provides, this Kemper profiler just screams quality.
While it can’t be used to guide early versions of the B52 to their targets (despite looking the part) it does, however, answer all the guitar tuning and guitar amplifying needs of the modern musician. It acts like an amp during concerts, one that allows you to pre-load the exact settings the band used during studio recordings, so the fans won’t get disappointed at a live performance sounding like a bootleg version of the tunes they came to hear.
With the same function that records and re-renders pre-existing mods, it also promises to revolutionize studio works, or at least make it a lot more convenient since it allows for pre-existing settings to be brought back at the push of a button, thus sparing you all the hustle and bustle of re-tuning the instrument from where you left off.
Click to see the price on Amazon!
Best guitar amp microphones
AKG Pro Audio C214
If you want to get an accurate recording of your studio work, then it will be hard to find a better mic for that then the Pro Audio C214. Some professional guitarists consider it to be the best mic in its price range on the market, and it shouldn’t be absent from a recording session if you care about the clarity of your tones.
It has a wide dynamic range and a 20dB attenuator, which alongside a bass-cut filter should clear out any noise that’s not supposed to get over your guitar track. Add to this an integrated suspension to reduce any vibrations when playing on stage and you get a highly functional condenser microphone that won’t capture anything else than what’s supposed to.
It can do its job for noises up to 156dB SPL, but several users comment that it doesn’t work as well for the highest values, describing it as a “silent studio” mic, and praising its effectiveness under such conditions.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($379.99)
AKG Pro Audio C414 XLS
The bigger brother of the C214 above, the 414 has been designed to provide the highest linearity and neutral sound to capture any detail of your recording, either vocal or instrumental.
It has three attenuation levels set at -6; -12; and -18 decibels, and three different bass-cut filters for reducing wind noise, the proximity effect, and subsonic noise. This should prevent any clutter from getting over the recording, leaving your tunes nice and crisp.
It also features an overload warning with an LED that lets you know when the audio pick is reached, and you can also hold to that peak tone guided by this visual signal. Since it’s easy enough to see, you’ll get a clear notice of the shortest audio peaks and adjust accordingly.
It can be used to effectively record sounds of up to 158 dB and works equally well in all ranges. The unit is made in Austria, so no need to worry that any workers were put under sweatshop conditions for its manufacture.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($1012.19)
Best guitar amps headphones
Due to the good critical response received, the ATH-M50x can be considered the flagship of Audio-Technica headphones, and it definitely doesn’t disappoint. It’s clearly a professional product, so much so in fact that philistines who dare compare it to models directed at casual entertainment get verbal beat downs in comment sections from its many fans.
The above might sound like a trivial thing to mention, but achieving a loyal following of knowledgeable fans is not something that any brand can boast with. Judging by the rave reviews this product received it’s easy to understand why, and the 45 mm aperture drivers it operates with are proprietary to Audio-Technica, so you won’t get them anywhere else. Most headphones struggle with bass given their law diameter aperture, but the ATH-M50x renders sound accurately throughout the range.
They are said to provide good sound isolation, and the padded surfaces on its cups closely follow the contours of the human ear, so you probably won’t get any fatigue through extended use.
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A more affordable but still high-quality pair from Audio-Technica would be the M20x, which still shares some features with the premium products offered by this manufacturer. The drivers — in this case at 40 mm in size — feature the same rare earth magnets, and the voice coils are made of copper clad aluminum wire to provide for the clearest possible tones.
It has a sensitivity of 96 dB, just two units short of the M50x’s 98, but the maximum input power is less than half of that model’s, at 700 mW. The impedance is somewhat higher at 47 W vs. the M50’s 38 W. Besides the price, another identifiable upside would be the lower weight, of 6.7 oz, a feature that won’t be easy to discard after spending the whole day with the headphones on.
Cups are similar to those on other Audio-Technica models, with the mention that they only swivel to 15 degrees, while the other product we’ve featured allows for an impressive 90 degrees movement range.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($49)
Best guitar amp speaker cable
Mogami GOLD SPEAKER-10
A lot of care went to in the construction of this 10-foot Mogami cable, so that it will transmit the sound signal as cleanly as possible, with little in the way of distortion and virtually no background noise.
First, the actual cable and isolation are entirely oxygen-free, which means there will be less interference and will also keep the copper wire from oxidizing. While the cable itself is made of highly conductive copper, the plugs are plated in gold, to ensure superior resilience and transfer.
To provide better isolation, a patented Ultra High-Density spiral shield was used, which also increases transparency and minimizes noise.
It is specifically intended for speaker to amp connections, and it works on ¼” TS speaker jacks. We note that given the high precision involved in its manufacturing, it will be a shame to use this cable with anything else than a top shelf jack adapter if your own set wouldn’t fit its plug.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($59.95)
Planet Waves Custom
This Planet Waves product uses some innovative in+out technology, which translates to a low capacitance for better signal transparency. This is further improved by the use of 24 karate gold for its standard-sized 1.4-inch plugs.
It also has two layers of shielding, to prevent outside interference that might clutter the signal, resulting in unwanted “noise.” Like any professional, top of the range sound cable should, it doesn’t provide any additional background to the signal passing through its copper wire, which is an ultra-fine, stranded piece of the 14 AWG variety.
With 5 meters (16.4 feet) in length, it does allow for some leeway in placing speakers further away from an amp, although in 99% of cases these should be held close together. The length could prove more important for off-label applications of the product, like connecting studio monitors to a computer.
Besides the good, accurate transmission, reviewers of this product also saw fit to mention its heavy construction, which is a deceptively important factor, since an unfortunately placed chair leg can often effectively cut down the sound by thrashing the isolation on the cable.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($17.99)
Best stands for guitar amps
On Stage RS7705
Sizable, easy to set up, resistant, and reliable, this On Stage unit should provide your amp with all the support it needs during concerts and rehearsals. The lower arms are 308 mm long, and the back supports measure 280 mm in height, which makes it usable with all but the largest amps.
It also offers you the possibility of inverting the arms to accommodate taller cabinets, and it can be precisely adjusted thanks to three double clutch disks, two of them acting as a pair. The knobs used to operate the disks are reported to be grippy and easy to turn even with sweaty hands.
It, of course, features rubber cushions, that provide enough grip so that the amplifier doesn’t slip, or more importantly, the unit itself won’t be easy to drag on a well polished wooden stage by accident.
The total weight of the item is 14.9 pounds, which is indicative of its solid, steel construction that is sure to keep it functional for years.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($63.95)
A little lighter than the On-stage but equally sturdy is the Gator GFW, at only 8 lb of weight. This doesn’t mean it won’t be able to offer proper support to the heftiest amplifiers, however, since it is rated to hold as much as 176 lb before showing any signs of stress. At this capacity, most people would be able to use it as a chair without any worries.
The dimensions should fit most combo amps out there, with 19” back and bottom support rails, 13” in total height and between 6 to 8” of total extension for the bottom arms.
One important thing to note, though, is that on open-backed amplifiers the back rails might not have anything to rest on, making it pretty unstable.
This can be easily solved by using something like a piece of plywood for support while taking care to provide for adequate ventilation. Both the rests and the “feet” are rubber, so they should offer sufficient grip.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($36.95)
Yearly Guide & Report
When you’re starting to become serious about playing the guitar, the question of “what amp should I get” is bound to pop up. There’s quite a deal of variety out there, with many brands and models, and constant innovation adding new features to choose between with each passing year. It’s enough to baffle even an intermediate player, let alone a rookie who’s just getting started. To ensure that you get the right amplifier for your needs, you’ll first need to know a bit about how the amp’s specifications translate to real life.
Clean channel and overdrive
Guitar amplifiers commonly have two channels, a clean one (sometimes referred to as a “primary”) and overdrive. The way they are called is indicative of their function, as the clean channel renders clear, crisp and mellow tones, while the overdrive puts out a grainier but much more powerful noise, good for amplifying heavy guitar riffs.
There are few amps that work equally well in both channels, with the majority of them better suited to rendering either the primary or the overdrive. A choice between them falls to what style of music you like to play most since country or soft rock will sound better on a clean channel while most metal genres need a powerful overdrive.
Tube amps vs. solid state
Tube amps use the height of the 1940s electronic technology to give out what is widely considered the best sound quality to date. Since some people tend to be confused by this, it’s important to note that only their sound rendering circuitry is based on vacuum tubes (or lamps) while the equalizers and assorted bits employ transistors like any other piece of modern electronics, with no bearing whatsoever on how the sound will come out.
Tube amps are appreciated for their high fidelity, which allows for the player’s ability and the quality of the guitar to be put to full fruition, and for their equally natural overdrive, which is achieved easier than with most solid state amps. However, besides being more expensive as an initial purchase, tube amps will also prove harder to maintain since lamps have a tendency of blowing up and are themselves quite expensive.
The solid state amp isn’t really new either, but it only came into its own following William Shockley’s world-changing invention, the transistor. Its use for the audio circuitry allows the amp to be more adaptable and easier to tune, but despite innovations in recent years, the overdrive of solid state amps isn’t yet on par with what a tube can offer, and only a few manufacturers can boast of products that come close to sounding as clean as a tube amp.
Their primary advantages lie in low price, superior durability, and convenience, as they are easier to carry around without the constant worry of a vacuum lamp breaking in all the hustle.
Configuration and portability
Besides overall size, how easy the amplifier will be to carry around falls down to the way the speakers are positioned in or around its chassis.
In a cabinet configuration, the speakers are placed outside the main body housing the amplifier, so an additional frame is required to keep them near one another during concerts. The most common configuration is called a half-stack and will have the amplifier on top of the cabinet holding the speakers.
A full stack doubles on the speakers to give extra volume, and what is considered to be the best sound projection and resonance available, since all the units will be acting in concert to put out a veritable wall of sound that hits heavier than the sum of its parts.
The combo amps won’t really allow for this kind of freedom in setting them up because their distribution is one-piece, rather than modular. The speakers and amp occupying the same case gives you a clear advantage, however, in that they would be far easier to move around.
Even when featuring 12-inch speakers, most combos will fit neatly into the trunk of a car, with no need to worry about where to place an additional cabinet. Some newer models are also powerful enough to fill out a small hall, so they’ll allow the budding musician plenty of possibility when choosing a venue.
Speaker size and power output
The size of the speaker determines the range of sound it’s be best suited for. Smaller ones will do a better job at producing high frequencies and will be able to reach higher top ends than big speakers. Large models, with a sizeable woofer, are best at producing low, rumbling noises, but higher pitches will come off faded.
You can choose between them depending on what genre of music you’ll be playing, noting that large units tend to be more expensive and are best suited for bigger venues. A good average size if you’re thinking about playing in a band is around 10”-12”, while practicing in your garage can very well be done with 5” speakers.
The maximum volume a speaker will be able to put out depends on the electrical power fed into it, which is measured in Watts. The correlation is not the same between tube amps and solid state, as the former requires significantly less energy to achieve the same volume due to the natural overdrive.
For practice work or casual jamming, a solid state amp can go as low as 10 W and still let the guitar be heard loud enough, while a tube model will require even less, sometimes even half a Watt.
When playing in a band, the primary guiding factor for determining the volume needed is the presence of a drummer. Drums tend to drown all other instruments in their noise and a solid state amp that gives out less than 70 W might not provide enough power for a well-balanced sound in a rock band.
In the case of country music or blues, you could get away with half of that, but don’t expect to be filling out anything larger than your local bar.
Other characteristics to consider
There are two parts in an amp that receive and process the signal coming from your guitar. The pre-amp picks up the input and boosts it enough so that the second stage, the power amp, will process it and send it to the speaker.
In the case of tube amps, a distinction between these stages can be significant, since they sometimes use different lamps. There are also hybrid models out there that employ both transistors and tubes for either of the stages.
Most modern guitar amplifiers feature a built-in equalizer between the preamp and power amp. In the vast majority of cases, this will only allow you to adjust the volume of sound on three bands, delimited roughly in the same manner as in a common stereo: treble for high frequencies; mids in the middle; and bass for low, rumbling sounds.
The so-called modeling amps can be said to differ from both tubes and solid state ones as they employ modern processing technology to apply preloaded characteristics to the sound. This can alter the output in a variety of ways, from imitating certain classic styles to rendering something entirely new. Needless to say, they are favored by cover bands and electronic music fans, but many guitarists don’t appreciate their “artificial” sound, although they can serve as good practice amps.
Frequently asked questions about guitar amps
What guitar amp should I have?
Among other factors, this depends on the style of music you most often play. For slower genres like country, blues, and soft rock, you should look for an amp that offers good clean channel tunes, while for something loud and fast like heavy metal or hardcore, an amp with a competent overdrive channel will serve you better.
For “heavier” genres you’ll need powerful speakers with a lot of wattage, and often times during gigs an additional set of loudspeakers will be required, so always buy an amp that has an adequate jack to allow for this (fortunately, most good amp brands do nowadays).
There’s also portability to consider. If you’re a one-person country act a small unit that also features a convenient handle should do, while a metal band might be forced to settle for a voluminous cabinet layout to offer the acoustics they need.
How to record a guitar amp?
By using one or multiple appropriate mics, of course, while paying close mind to a few useful tips to ensure the best possible results.
To get an in-your-face sound try to jam the mic as close to the cabinet as possible, just a little off of the cone’s center. This should get you a little extra bass response for a grungy sound.
You can change the angle of the mic head in relation to the cone by tilting it to get slightly different tunes. This is called “off-axis” use and requires trial and error to get just right.
Always use more than one mic, and when possible, double down on the amp as well. This will give you additional options in the mixing phase. You can split the signal to the amp by employing a stereo FX pedal or a DI. The second mic doesn’t necessarily have to be close to the cabinet and can be placed as far as 3 ft away to give you more tonal range.
What are guitar amp heads?
This is the name given to the amplifier, separate from the speakers. It’s the pre-amp and amp in one box, which is usually placed on top of a cabinet or a stack of speakers. This is a common configuration for large venues, and it might be useful to have a separate amp head if you play a lot of festivals or “battle of the bands” events, where the speakers are generally provided by the organizer.
It allows you to use an amp without forcing having to lob a set of speakers around as you would with a combo (the most common construction system right now.) The combo has the speakers and the amp occupying the same cabinet, which gives it a pretty convenient frame for carrying all these items around if using the stage speakers is not an option.
Can guitar amps be used for bass?
The short answer is yes, although it might not give you the best results since the bass noise needs more energy behind it to propagate properly. In other words, the sound will come at a lower volume than what you will experience a guitar.
If you want to do this effectively, you should consider pairing up the amp with a set of powerful speakers, in the 200 W – 300 W ranges, with an appropriately sized woofer. The 12” standard might do the trick at lower volumes but 15” should sound a lot better for the full force of the bass.
You can also play around with the equalizer to minimize treble and mids and have all the energy directed to the bass band to improve results further. It won’t be a good idea to do this for any considerable amount of time, as bass guitars can damage regular speakers at higher volumes, but the head itself should be okay.
Can guitar amps be used as speakers?
Technically yes, but they generally won’t deliver the best results. Most electric models available can only effectively reproduce the guitar’s sound range, which is between 50 Hz and 5000 Hz, so the highs and lows that a high fidelity speaker can reach won’t be accessible.
Even compared with the cheap set of speakers a desktop computer comes with, your run of the mill electric guitar amp will be lacking, so there’s really no reason to risk blowing it up due to current differences in order to try this out.
A lot of modeling amps are paired with high fidelity, full range speakers, which should deliver the same performance as specialized products. If you’re really adamant in connecting the amp to a stereo or computer, these are the models you should look into.
How are guitar amps made?
They usually have two amplifying circuit stages, and additional tone-shaping circuits, like the ubiquitous equalizer which works with up to two bands. Most models allow you to adjust the bass, mid and treble, with more advanced ones featuring two midrange controls and an additional presence control for treble (high) ranges.
The two stages are the pre-amp, which is used to amplify the weak signal coming from the guitar so that it can be further processed and the power amp, which does the effective translating so that it’s picked up by the speakers.
Besides an equalizer, most newer models have built-in circuitry between the two amp stages to offer a wide range of effects, which often times require pedal controls to be implemented during play. Reverb effects, compression, distortion, and chorus, are usually sought after by guitarists, regardless of the style of music they prefer.
What brands make great guitar amps?
Few people aren’t already familiar with the legendary Fender brand, which has been around since the mid-1940s. In 1965, one of their engineers had the bright idea of adding a spring reverb to their flagship tube amp, greatly improving its tune.
This attracted all the well-known rock and roll names to the brand, but also gained a significant level of appreciation from country western and blues performers.
Another company first was the introduction of the guitar-shaped bass, or the precision bass, as it was patented, an instrument without which rock and roll would look a lot different than it does today.
Throughout the decades, Fender kept its level of quality and innovation high, constantly a market leader in guitars and guitar amps. Their products are all-around good performing, but the trademark Fender reverb is still a prime selling point.
In the guitar world, Vox is probably only second in fame to Marshall or Fender, its long-standing rivals. What the two can’t brag about, however, is that their products were the go-to for all the illustrious names of the 1960s British rock scene, starting with the Beatles.
You can say that Vox helped build the specific sound of these bands with their early AC15 and AC30 amplifiers, which were later adopted by US artists looking to get closer stylistically to their UK counterparts.
The British tones Vox did so much to popularize are still well appreciated today, and the company is recognized as producing the best models for recreating it. Their newer AC30CC and AC30C2 models can be viewed as contemporary re-editions of the highly successful amp of the 60s, with some faults ironed out by the use of modern technology.
Following their acquisition by Korg in 1992, the name Vox can also be found on a series of modeling amps.
In one form or another, this Japanese firm has been around since the 1960s and continuously expanded into producing a wide and wider array of music electronics, including a highly eclectic line of guitar amplifiers.
It attracted quite a deal of fame for constant innovation and the good overall reliability of their products, with the JC-120 Jazz Chorus being especially appreciated for its remarkable true chorus capabilities, impeccably clean sound and a wide palette of effects.
The Cube series is widely regarded as one of the best portable battery-powered amps on the market. The Micro-Cube is the most diminutive member of the family and small enough to be carried in a large-ish backpack, which makes it perfect for bedroom jammers and for hopping from bar to bar in search of a gig.
The best Roland products are built in their facilities in Italy and Japan, with Japanese levels of quality control, so they should be tough enough to maintain a good reselling value.
Peavy amps are especially well appreciated by the metal community, thanks to their good overall reliability and the high volume of sound some models produce. The 6505 Series is a favorite of metal guitarists due to its power and versatility. This is most often used as a head for double stacks of speakers, but it can also be purchased as a 2×12” and 1×12” combo for convenience.
The XXX and the Butcher series are usually the second best choice for hard rockers with fewer monetary means, and they can put out a lot of volume and some terrifying high-gain sounds.
But Peavey isn’t a one-trick-pony, as their Classic 30 line can address the needs of blues and slow rock players with its smoother tones and the VIP Series offers digital modeling options thanks to a highly reliable computer chip.
Peavey is an all-around solid brand that manages to constantly keep the quality level of their products up to standard.
The company name might open it to be confused with aircraft and small arms manufacturers by the general public, but any guitarist who’s been around should know exactly what you’re talking about when mentioning Hughes & Kettner.
While a little on the pricey side, their products are seen as particularly powerful and reliable overall. The H&K Trilogy is well appreciated for its versatility, allowed by the high level of German technology and engineering involved in its construction. It has easy MIDI control and three channels, a clean, crutch, and lead, all with boost options that give a lot of freedom to musicians who are into experimenting.
Some don’t find the unique voicing of H&K models to be to their liking, but fans of the firm simply fall in love with it and prefer it over anything else. Their tube models are frequently praised for the good cleans they can provide, as well as a natural sounding reverb.
Since its inception, Line 6 specialized in modeling amps, applying advanced digital technology to the decades-old task of generating guitar sounds. It’s recognized as one of the prime innovators in the field, delivering both affordable and convenient products like the Spider IV series and complex modeling amps like the AMPLiFi.
The last one features a unique stereo system and can offer a full range of sound at the speaker, alongside the remarkably vast array of effects and programmable options that Line 6 products are already famous for.
They are also responsible for one of the top digital floor processors on the market, the POD HD500 X, as well as a well-appreciated series of tube amps, the DT, considered to be among the most flexible of its kind.
Although it’s only been in the business for a little more than a decade, Line 6 is definitely here to stay.
Mesa Boogie usually dabbles in high-quality tube amps which deliver great acoustics for quite a deal of a price. Since its inception in the 1970s, the Californian company proved to be a constant competitor to its Corona-based neighbor, Fender.
While arguably not as famous as the latter, Mesa Boogie took the lead on the metal scene during the 90s with the Triple Rectifier series, appreciated for achieving the desired heavy sound without sacrificing tone and nuance.
Of course, they aren’t ignoring the requirements of country and blues musicians, for which the Lone Star series will offer a deep tonal palette and a good clean sound. A versatile amplifier that can be effectively used for a wide range of styles is the Mark V.
For bedroom and small stage use, the Mini Rectifier should do the trick, since it’s very small and highly portable, with a sufficiently potent clean channel.
Founded by the veteran sound engineer Dave Friedman, Friedman Amplifications can be said to incorporated decades of experience in sound tweaking and tone setting, combined with a lot of care and attention to details during the manufacturing stage.
Rumor is that the company’s owner checks the tone of each amp himself before letting it leave the shop, to ensure that the company’s good name isn’t sullied by a sub-par product. Expectedly, Friedman amps aren’t exactly cheap, but they offer quite a deal of variety for guitarists of more modest means to choose from.
Their compact line, the PT-20 is well appreciated by some rockers for its classic British sound. The BE-100 is a good all-around workhorse that offers quite a deal of range and variety while the JJ-100 can be used to put out some terrifying metal riffs.
Paul Rivera is widely considered to be one of the engineers responsible for Fender’s great successes during the 60s and 70s, and he employed all that talent and expertise in developing his own line of products. Needless to say, you should expect some very competent reverb from the amps bearing this name.
The brand’s a favorite among metal connoisseurs and an eternal competitor to the slightly more famous Mesa Boogie. While the Boogie Triple Rec offers plenty of power for plenty of sounds, Rivera’s flagship Knucklehead uses the electricity running through it more effectively and allows for a good deal more versatility.
The pre-amp on the Knucklehead features five tubes for plenty of gain, which can be further powered to offer what is considered the loudest sound from a 100 W head. It’s equally competent in both clean and overdrive channels, to offer a full range of musical possibilities.
Engl is not particularly famous among US guitarists, and even veterans in the field might be unfamiliar with this hard-to-pronounce name. A good shorthand to give you an idea of what they’re about is to make a mental list of the features most readily associated with German products: good manufacturing quality, reliability, an adequate level of innovation (but only when needed) and higher than average performance.
Engl offers all these characteristics in a full range of amps that cover all functions. Great portability and clean sound that’s perfect for soft rock from the Screamer E330 combo and sophisticated modeling possibilities from the top of the range E670 Special Edition that can store 128 MIDI presets and adapt to any tone you might require.
The E670EL34 is the most appreciated tube model offered by Engl and can be used for a wide variety of styles.
Another somewhat obscure manufacturer, Orange has a surprisingly long history behind it, having experienced its first glory days during the 1960s, when this amp was a favorite with hard rock bands.
The British manufacturer knew its fair share of setbacks throughout the years, but it’s currently undergoing a revival that might assure Orange guitar amps a spot on the map for a new generation of musicians.
Its most appreciated product is the Orange Crush, the latest in a long series that’s has been sung about by the likes of REM. This is a solid state amp, reminiscent of the specific tone which made the company famous decades ago.
The ironically named Terror series features some small, portable and affordable amps, that give out a good clean sound. At the opposite side of the spectrum, the company produces top of the line amp heads, like the OR, TH and TV series which are great for studio work and big-name bands to use on stage.
Together with Marshall and Vox, Hiwatt is considered to be one of the main contributors to what we commonly refer to as the “British sound.” The company’s history is older than the name, with owner Dave Reeves building his first custom unit in 1963. This earned a great deal of praise on the local scene for its reliability and virtually established the company’s character.
Durability, more precisely “roadworthiness,” is a quality that Hiwatt pays close attention to, and their products are recognized as some of the most reliable on the market today. They are hand built in England and soak tested before leaving the factory floor.
The MkIII tube amp series offers a good mix of portability, durability and good sound quality, with the smallest model only weighing in at 6.25 kg but providing plenty of volume for 10 W thanks to the use of a 12AX7 in the preamp and an EL84 for the output stage.