How to Choose a Guitar Amplifier

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Are you looking to buy a guitar amplifier (amp) and got overwhelmed by seeing all different types of guitar amps in the market? Although, it is quite difficult to figure out which one is right for your guitar from various brands, size, shapes and features.

So, to help you purchase the right amplifier, we are providing all the necessary information in this guide. Scroll down to learn about them in detail.

Types of Guitar Amps:

In general, there are 4 main types of guitar amps – Tube, Solid State, Modelling & Hybrid. However, each type of amplifier uses a different type of technology to produce the tone and also they come in different configuration of speakers to shape the tone.

1. Tube Guitar Amplifier:

  • Tube guitar amplifier also known as valve amplifier.
  • It is considered as the pinnacle of amp technology.
  • It is simple to use and produce the best & louder tone.
  • This tube amps uses ancient technology and many guitarists prefer to use this type due to the warm tones and organic distortion they produce.
  • They are expensive, heavier (weight) and more fragile when compared with other types of guitar amplifiers.
  • Most of these tube amps comes with separate channels which can instantly switch from clean tone to distorted tones.
  • Most suitable for home use but not for traveling or carrying around. They produce best tones at high volumes but not at low volumes.

2. Solid State Guitar Amps

  • The solid state guitar amps (or analog amps) came to existence when the glass vacuum tube gets replaced with transistors (for preamp & power sections) on the circuit board.
  • Its light weight, less maintenance and a reasonable price will make most of the guitarists choose it as a best one.
  • It is ideal to produce a sparkly / crystal clear clean tone.
  • It comes with distortion and suits best for those players who are looking for a sturdy & reliable touring amp.
  • The only drawback is that they are limited when compared to modelling amps.

3. Modelling Guitar Amps:

  • Modelling guitar amplifier is also called as digital guitar amplifier why because it uses digital processors to stimulate the sound.
  • It uses modern technology to produce a wide range of effects and tones. They are programmable and have built-in digital effects like chorus, delay, etc.
  • Flexibility is the biggest advantage for this modelling guitar amps. With this amps, you can get access to many different amp models, presets and inbuilt effects.
  • One can easily notice improvements in this modelling technology to provide the best quality tones.
  • They come with light weight (easy to transport), cost effective, and provide a lot of flexibility in tones when compared with above two types.
  • The modelling technology is improving constantly. So, prefer to choose the latest model.

4. Hybrid Guitar Amplifier

  • Hybrid guitar amplifiers comes with a weird mix of different amp technology.
  • The idea behind this amps is to give the best of both worlds like using a tube in preamp section and solid state in power section to create a tube tone (just like hybrid cars).
  • Although, it give access to wide range of guitar tones than typical tube provides but a few guitarists choose this type of amps.
  • It is heavier and expensive than typical modelling amps.

How to Choose the Best Guitar Amps?

Knowing what type of amplifier suits best for your need will definitely reduce your research time. You can even narrow your search down by knowing what are the factors to consider while purchasing the guitar amplifiers.


The amplifiers come in different configurations. Combinations/combos are self-contained units that contains speaker and amplifier in one cabinet. Other configuration includes amps come in separate head and speaker in cabinet, in which you can use any amplifier head with any speaker cabinet.

Also, head and speaker cabinet (the speaker and amplifier separates into two units) will make each unit lighter and easy to carry rather than a single combo. The combination of head and cabinet is known as a stack.

2. Speaker’s Size:

We know that different size of speakers will produce different sounds. Smaller speakers will produce higher frequency than larger one. It’s true, you can find top end sound quality from 10 inch speaker rather than 15 inch speaker.

Also, check the difference between the open backed cabinet and closed cabinet designs. For example, a 4X10 inch Bassman with an open back will sound quite differently than a 2X12 inch Bassman with a closed cabinet. You can find a combination of particular size of cabinet with a particular set of speakers size.

3. Construction:

The wood (it’s thickness) which is used for constructing the cabinet will play a major role to determine the sound quality. In simple words, the thinner wood will make the speaker more likely to vibrate. So, ½ inch thickness will help to achieve a stronger sound and also keep the speakers in place.

Amplifier with open or closed back is another factor used for determining the sound quality. The closed back guitar amplifier will produce a better sound from speaker.

4. Power:

Generally, power is measured in wattage, which measures the amount of electrical output used to drive the speakers. In general, the guitar with 1 – 30 watts are considered as small amplifier, whereas 30 – 60 watts is midsized and more than 60 watts as large amp. The bass amplifier need more watts to run larger speakers.

While considering the place, the power is mentioned as how loud you want your amplifier to be? Like if you’re playing at home then 10 – 20 watts of power is needed, if playing along with drummer or loud band then at least 50 watts is required but larger amplifiers for band use are designed to have 100 watts.

5. Sound Quality:

Not all amplifier create same or equal sound quality. The tube amps requires long term upkeep but gives a realistic and genuine tone to the instruments and voice. The tube amps have a rich midrange.

Coming to solid state amps, it provides a detailed tonal quality and they are easier to maintain. Although both these types provide a good quality sound but it depends on what type of music you’re playing.

In case, if you need amplifier to work on chops, then choose a small and less dynamic amp. For massive overdrives, choose the amp that not designed for acoustic in-house use. An amplifier with small watt will provide good tones at lower volumes and vice versa.

6. Size of the Amplifier:

Size of the amplifier will matter according to the place where you want to play this guitar. For instance, a 10W combo will be inadequate if you’re playing in a band or event. Alternately, a 100W stack is useless if you need an amplifier only for home recording. So, carefully choose an amplifier as per your primary application. The player need at least 30W for playing live with there rock band or else if playing out then you need at least 15W of tube tone.

7. Other Features:

Most of the amplifiers are having built-in effects, in which some common are explained below.

Effects Loops – The jacks will let you to add rack units or stomp boxes after the pre-amp section of the amplifier to prevent amplifying any noise.

Reverb Units – Reverb produces the echo-like sounds of the amplifier output bounce off the walls. Analog reverb effects are mechanically created with the usage of a spring or plate and the solid state amps produce digital reverb effects.

Digital Effects – Modern amps comes with a built-in digital effects like reverb/echo, distortion, chorus, pitch, flange, phase, shift, etc. which can be accessed from the front control on the amplifier. You can save these effects in presets and allows you to set several effects at once.

Channel Switching – You can switch from a clean tone to distorted tone (different preamp channels). Also, make sure to check whether the footswitch is included why because the most of the digital amps require an additional multi-functional footswitch to change the tones remotely. People who use a different tones will require multichannel amplifiers,with more amp.

Sound of Power – In general, the distortion comes in three distinct sources – the power amp, preamp and speakers. Choose the best one as per your requirement.

Guitar Amp Simulators – Used to record the electric guitar at home with its software.  It allows the user to practice silently with their headphones or computer monitor speakers.

8. Brands:

Although, there are various brands popular for generic preferences like Fender, Marshall, etc. all you need to choose the best quality, durable guitar amplifier at a reasonable price. One of the best Indian brand is Stranger, which comes with an inbuilt reverb feature.

9. Price:

Always set the limit for your budget and choose the best one, as per your requirement. The price of guitar amps will start from 4k, which depends on the brand, weight, wattage range, etc.

10. Warranty:

Although, these amplifiers are built to last longer but the small and fragile components gets break easily. Also, check whether the speaker is working properly or not or else all the wires are soldered properly or not before fixing it.

The guitar amplifiers are expensive. So, without a good warranty won’t buy the product and make yourself stay without peace.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Which one is better – a combo amp or a head and cabinet?

A combo amplifier comes in a single box where 1 amplifier along with 1 or more speakers are included. The combo amp is easy to operate but handy to transport. All you need is to plug the amplifier into the wall. Then plug your guitar into the amp to start playing.
Whereas the head and cabinet has amplifier components and speakers separately (amplifier head and speaker cabinet). In some cases, the speaker cabinet and amp heads are sold together as guitar amplifier stacks.
Simply saying, it depends on the place / event where you’re planning to play the music. A combo is all in one unit where as the head and cabinet is separate. The combo amplifier is lighter while the head and cabinet are usually heavier.

2. How to choose power and speaker size as per the event?

The power rating and size of the speakers will depend on the type of amplifier application (where you’re using) and price range.
For Practicing amplifier, The modelling or solid state combination units will feature less power (about 10 – 30W) and small speakers (about 8 or 10 inches).
For playing in small venues or rehearsal, consider modelling and tube combination amps with power rating of about 50W and speakers of about 12 inches for full sound.
For large venues, you should consider the power range of 100W or above and have to use twins or combinational amps with a pair of 12 inches speakers or use stack which is more effective.

3. Can a guitar amplifier be used as a speaker?

Yes, we can use this guitar amplifier as a speaker either to play music or to plug in a microphone. Although, it won’t sound like a proper sound system which is designed to play music but we can achieve decent results if used properly.

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