When you add an amp to your electric guitar, bass or even your acoustic guitar, it can turn it into an impressive instrument. Before you buy an amp you should decide what your needs are, try a few out, and then choose one that works best for you.
Picking out a Marshall amp over a Fender amp might seem like a no brainer: whichever brand you choose, you’re sure to get a high-quality amp. A guitar amp can do many things to help with your playing, but what size should you get and do you need all those knobs and controls? Read on to learn more.
Combination (or combo) amps are self-contained units that include the amplifier and speaker all in one.
A stack variation features a separate amp, or head, and a speaker cabinet; it lets you mix and match heads and cabinets to fine tune your sound.
Types of Amps
Solid-state amps are the most popular choice for their clean tone, reliability and affordability. They use transistors for their preamp and power sections and produce sound that is sometimes considered cold.
Tube amps are known for their rich, vintage tone. They are also heavy and require more maintenance, as the tubes often wear quickly.
Modeling amps use technology to make solid-state amps sound and feel like traditional tube amps and provide plenty of gain for almost any application.
Hybrid amps have transistors generating power and a tube-driven preamp that produces the basic tone.
Digital Modeling Amps
If you're looking to get the vintage sound of a tube amp without going all old-school, a digital modeling amp is what you need. It simulates sound through software, so you can choose from a variety of amp sounds easily.
These amps also come with built-in digital effects such as tremolo, chorus, and more, while a footswitch lets you change between tones.
The materials used in making the amp you choose can have an effect on the quality of the sound it will produce. For instance, a thinner material can cause a speaker to vibrate loose, so a minimum thickness of ½″ is usually recommended.
Also, keep in mind that an amp with a closed back will often produce a better bass response from a speaker.
Choosing a speaker size will depend on what type of sound you want. Bigger isn't always better in this case. A few smaller speakers in a bass cabinet will produce a tighter, more accurate sound while a larger speaker can sound heavy. Be sure to have a listen to a couple of different ones to determine what your preference is.
Amps generally come with anywhere from 5 to 400 watts. And the more you have, the better the amp will stay true to the tone, especially at higher volumes.
On most amps, EQ frequency settings are preset. They allow you to emphasize or de-emphasize frequencies to alter the tone of your instrument. In some instances, you may have the ability to adjust the frequency, which will give you greater control.
Look for tone controls that include low, mid and high EQ, presence, gain and reverb. Plus, you should make sure that the controls aren't just decorative, and that they actually perform a function.
All amps are not created equal, so checking out and testing different amps is important in helping you get the sound you want. What kind of music will you be playing? Something soft; or do you plan to rock out? Some brands might even better suited to one style of music, so testing first is always a good idea.
Take the Next Step
Great sound doesn’t have to cost a lot of money and when you’re looking for an amp online or in-store at Best Buy, be sure to choose the one that sounds best to you. A wide selection of Fender, Marshall, Line 6, and Ampeg amps give you plenty of options to choose from, but you’ll want to try a few before you buy to be sure you’ve got the right one.