Crowdstorm’s beginner’s guide to guitar amps
If you’re looking to buy new guitar amplifiers, Crowdstorm is the best place to both start – and finish – your search.
Here you can compare the best guitar amps from the leading manufacturers including Marshall, Laney and Vox. And once you’ve decided, you can simply click through and seal the deal with your favourite online or high street retailer.
But if you’re new to the market, below you’ll find all you need to know to help you start comparing electric guitar amps. We’ll walk you through the basics, so you’ll be turning it up to 11 with your new amp in no time!
Electric guitar amps technology
One of your first considerations should be what’s going on beneath the bonnet. Essentially you have three choices available to you:
- Tube/valve amps: The classic amp, still preferred by many purists. Vacuum tubes amplify the signal and when those tubes are saturated you get that timeless, overdriven sound and distortion to die for. Tube amps tend to be more subtle, giving the best representation of how you play. And they’re LOUD.
- Solid-state amps: Transistors and diodes are used to amplify the signal. Historically they weren’t highly regarded, but advances in digital technology have seen solid-state amps start to accurately emulate the tube sound and tone of other amps. They’re also more reliable and less fragile – as well as cheaper.
- Digital amps: These are either small and cheap (fine for practice) or hugely expensive. They try to emulate a valve amp sound with digital technology - which only really works with the absolutely top-end models.
Many modern amps are actually hybrids, using a tube-driven preamp to shape the sound before handing over to solid-state circuitry for the power.
Combo, head and cab amps
‘Combos’ are simply a single unit containing both the amp and speakers. These have the benefit of simplicity of setup, but can be a heavy old unit to lug around (although the total weight of a combo will probably be more). It’s also one less lead to worry about!
Your other option is to buy a head (the amp) and cab (the speakers) separately. As well as easier transportation, buying a cab and head separately give you more options in terms of sound: you may love a Marshall amp, but want to combine it with Peavey speakers, for example.
You may even want to use different setups for different sounds, mixing it up for different songs.
Wattage: How much do you really need?
You’re probably going to be looking for an amp with an output between 10 and 100 watts of power. For noodling in your room 10W will probably suffice (often called a ‘practice amp’), while if you intend to get out gigging a 30W amp will blow away larger venues, while a 15W will be enough for smaller (sub-200 capacity) venues.
Remember that with tube amps they tend to sound better the more saturated the tubes are, so the lower the wattage the more you can crank it up and get the best sound without deafening anyone within a five-mile radius. Even if you’re aiming for loud loud loud, 60W will suffice. And if you intend to do a lot of recording, smaller amps are actually the better option.
Other important guitar amp considerations
Amp speakers: While wattage is the obvious number to look out for, you shouldn’t overlook the size of your new amp’s speakers. Smaller speakers (say 10”) will generally give you a tighter sound, while larger ones (15”, for example) will offer more bottom end.
Case design: Don’t underestimate the amp’s casing either: it’s best to read plenty of individual amp reviews to get a feel for the type of sound they’re putting out. Also, remember wood thickness is important; you’ll want at least a half-inch thickness to for a strong sound – as well as to keep the speaker in place!
Channels: Multichannel amps are great if you need the channels – but just add cost if you don’t. Most guitarists can get by with a couple of channels; but if you do want three or more, be sure to check they have separate EQ controls on each channel. And if you’re going to be gigging, make sure your amp has good corner protectors.
Built-in effects: These can be a great way to save money on extra pedals etc, but may not be flexible enough to be useful. But if you’re just starting out, they can be a great option. But if you intend to stock up on pedals, you really don’t need built-in effects.
Battery power: Thinking of busking a bit? Make sure you pick an amp that can also run on batteries.
Reverb units & effect loops: Very much a personal preference, but don’t presume these come as standard. For reverb, you’ll need to check if the amp using spring or digital reverb.
But the real test is plugging in…
As much as it pains us to say it, the best way to truly check out an amp is to close down your computer, grab your guitar, and head to your local music shop (or friends’ houses), plug in and play.
Every guitar, and every ear, will have a different opinion on the sound and the only true test of an amp is to try it out.
But once you’ve decided on what guitar amp to buy, you should probably head back here to Crowdstorm to find the best price! Buying couldn’t be simpler: just click on your chosen deal to be taken to official website of the trusted retailer of your choice. It couldn’t be simpler!