So you’ve purchased your first guitar and are now looking for a suitable amp. You know an amp will elevate your guitar’s sound as well as your guitar playing skills. But they come in all shapes and sizes, not to mention prices, so there’s a lot to consider. Pick the right amp, and you’ve made a savvy investment. But pick the wrong one, and it’ll make your guitar sound a bit off. Carefully considering your needs, along with your budget, will help you make the right choice. Here are some qualities you’ll need to bear in mind when considering any guitar amplifier as a potential purchase.
Whatever your budget for an amp, you want to make sure you get a good bang for your buck and the best way to do this is not to go blindly into buying any one, but look at your needs and then reviews to see if the amp is the one for you. Very often, expense will be associated with high end guitar amps that possess high wattage, quality build and power scaling, regardless of volume. You get what you pay for is applicable to purchasing a guitar amp, so know what your needs are beforehand, so you’re not wasting your hard-earned cash.
You want a guitar amp that makes your guitar sound great and is durable enough to be a solid investment for years to come. Many trusted amp makers produce amps in a range of prices, with a range of features to suit any budget. If you’re able to, it may be worth waiting until you’re able to afford the amp you want/need rather than settle for second best.
Guitar Amp 101
A combo amp is a great first choice for anyone new to the wonderful world of amps. A combo amp will combine the speakers with the preamplifier and the power amplifier. The preamp develops the guitar’s tone whereas this sound is pushed to the speakers by the power amp. This means there are three devices in one, which is an ideal space saver. It’s a great device to have to practice at home. Some have added features, including headphone jacks and input jacks, so you can jam along with your favourite tunes. You can also have a separate head, which is the amp without the speakers.
It’s also good to mention at this point, particularly for novices, that there’s a difference in amps for bass and guitar amps. This is to compliment each one’s purpose. For instance, an amp for a bass will have a higher wattage for volume than for a guitar. A bass amp is optimised for low frequency sounds a bass produces, which would be ineffective for a guitar. A guitar’s amp is optimised for its higher range of tones and will compliment the tones a guitar produces better than what a bass amp would.
If you’re considering purchasing an amp for the first time, consider a small amp to begin with it. It’ll be all you need for the moment. It won’t break your bank, and it’ll be small enough for you to transport with you to practice sessions.
Wattage and Sound
The higher the wattage doesn’t always mean the higher the volume of sound produced. For instance, loudness isn’t increased when you double your wattage, as a 30 watt amp is considered only 5 decibels quieter than an 100 watt amp. Besides, the best sound quality for amps is when they’re turned up half way and not on full volume.
If you’re practising at home, you won’t need to use over 20 watts of power to sound good and nor will your neighbours want you to. Having a practice amp at home is a good idea, and if it’s an option you choose to have, purchasing an amp with low wattage will enable you to practice at decent volume without upsetting your neighbourhood. Additionally, a good practice amp allows you to practice playing different genres and keep jamming sessions fresh.
Another thing to consider is ensuring that your speakers can cope with the volume of sound they’re producing. Sound quality will be compromised if your speakers can’t cope with the volume. In contrast, if you’re never going above a certain volume level, then there’s no point spending money on speakers that increase substantially beyond this.
Most of the time, when you’re playing at gigs, your amp will be connected to the PA system. It’s this system that’ll produce an amplified sound from your guitar. However, you should also be aware of, and have access to, adequate speaker configurations. Typically, one or two 12 inch speakers will produce the desired sound, although up to four 12 inch speakers are also used to produce the desired sound.
Sound Quality: Tone, Effects and Overall Flexibility
Speaking of sound, the type of music you play will also affect the amp you buy because that will affect the sound it produces. For instance, some amps will have a gain knob for distortion. This is a sound often synonymous with heavy metal music.
A lot of amps will have both a reverb and equalizer option. The reverb produces an echoey sound that you’ll often hear on tracks, whereas an equalizer will help produce a desired tone usually based on the bass, mid and treble. The equalizer will make you sound good in any environment, whether indoors or outside, and it can be tweaked throughout your performance.
You can also get some amps with digital effects that can be controlled by pedal boards or the amp itself. Although this isn’t something you’ll need as a beginner, it’s something you can build up to with the more experience you gain.
If you’ve invested in a guitar, then one of your next investments will need to be an amp. The amp is what makes the sound of your guitar come to life and reach everyone you’re playing to. Take your time when choosing the right one for you and, whenever possible, try each amp you’re interested in, and also look at their reviews. This way you’ll make an informed choice and one that you won’t regret.