Buying An Electric Guitar Amp

Guitar AmpsThere is an ongoing argument among guitarists over the relative importance of a good guitar as opposed to a good guitar amp. It simply comes down to money. Not every one can buy the exact gear that they want so often it is a trade off. While spending a bit more time and money on getting a good amp seams like common sense, many players think the opposite. Because musical equipment isn’t cheap, it is a good idea to try out as many different amp and guitar combinations within your price range as you can.

Remember a bad amp can make a good guitar sound bad and a good amp can make a bad guitar sound good. For this reason it is important not to neglect your amp when you are guitar shopping.

There are basically four different types of guitar amplifiers: tube, analog (solid state), digital and hybrids. This article will give brief description of the different types of amps out there.

Tube Amplifiers
The first amps ever made were tube amps and many players still prefer them over analogue or digital amps. The reason for this is that tube amps have a fat warm tone that many guitarists find natural. Also tube amps are generally louder than analog or digital amps with the same wattage. (There aren’t many among us who don’t like having more power on stage.)

Most tube amps have separate channels for distortion and clean sounds. The distortion in tube amps is generally made by overdriving the preamp. There are two major draw backs with tube amps: one is that tubes are made of glass and can be broken easily if you don’t treat your amp properly, also tubes wear out and need to be replaced periodically.

Solid State (analog) amplifiers
The reason that these types of amps are called ‘solid state’ is that they use transistors in their pre and power amps instead of tubes. The main problem with solid state is that they can often sound brittle and harsh. This is particularly the case with their distortion channels. The quality of the distortion on solid state amps can vary wildly and it is something you should defiantly check when you are looking at a solid state amp. Solid state amps are very reliable, inexpensive and they don’t have any pesky tubes to replace and for these reasons they remain popular with some guitarists.

Digital (modeling) amplifiers
Modeling amps use digital processors so that the amp can mimic many other amp sounds. They can copy sounds from old or new style tube amps using onboard software. These types of amps are quite popular at this time and will only become more popular as they improve in quality and become cheaper. Some of these amps are better in quality than others, for those at the top of the range most guitarists will not be able to hear the difference between them and the real thing.

Hybrid amplifiers
Some guitar manufactures have come out with amps that combine a tube preamp and a solid state power amp. The most well known of these is the Marshall Valvestate Series of amps. These amps are a cheap way of getting a tube sound when you are on a budget.

Buying an amp
The best way to buy an amp is to shop around. Take your electric guitar (if you have one) into a few stores and try out a few different amps. Try amps from different price ranges to see if you can hear any difference. Perhaps take a more experienced guitarist with you. Listen to their advice and try out as many amps as you can. Try playing the amp at different volumes to see if it responds well. Check all the different channels to make sure it sounds cool both clean and distorted. Take your time buying an amp. If you choose wisely, you can get a piece of equipment that will make you sound better and should last you a long time.

That is all for now!

Ben Edwards


  1. Rob Dotz

    I forgot to mention, this is a good article with plenty to think about. What about modding? I’ve heard an awful lot lately about using Russian caps to replace orange caps in guitars and solid state amps, any thoughts about these?

  2. Rob Dotz

    I placed this elsewhere, but felt this might be a good place to repost.

    I’m still fairly new to electric guitar, so a few tips would help me tremendously. The gear I have now is an LPJ, distortion and chorus pedals along with a DigiTech RP90 with a DigiTech DG15 combo amp. I’ve only ever run the distortion and chorus together or straight through the RP90. With the analog pedals, I get tons of background noise since the amp is a combo and I have to keep the distortion to under 50, can’t raise the tone or level much and no OD or gain on the amp.

    Can I use them before the RP90 or after to gain additional effects or just skip it until I invest in a pre-amp or can the DG15 actually be used as a preamp using the phone jack and run in line adding the pedals between the DG15 to another cabinet? Just trying to learn here and not buy unnecessary items. I also don’t want to inadvertently do damage to the all-digital RP90. Thanks folks for any advice you can give. I just can’t seem to piece together the answers despite hours of digging around the internet.

  3. Anna

    thanks for the advice I am in the process of buying a gutar amp many gutarist have
    suggested,line 6 or the roland cube.they are quite costly but I play a semi acoustic guitar.I am woundering if any of these amps are best suited for the type of guitar I play I am looking for a fat sound,one with depth.Any suggestions!

    1. admin

      Hi Anna,

      There are some amplifiers which are built specially for acoustic electric or semi acoustic guitars, we have named a few here –

      These amplifiers can be a bit pricey too. Using an electric guitar amp for your acoustic is not the best idea, you wont get that sound you are after. Probably the best idea is always to play your acoustic plugged direct through the PA system, a DI (direct box) is needed though – this is in case you are gigging.

      If you want a small amp to play at home but also for doing gigs, the Ibanez Troubador can do a very descent job at a cheap price, check it out here:

      Hope this helps for now.


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