How to Choose the Right Amp

When starting to play any instrument, you're not fully aware of what importance the great tone has. After a few years, you realize that there's a whole science behind making a pleasantly or appropriately-sounding guitar, amp, or a pedal. In fact, countless engineers and scientists have worked on this over the decades, ultimately making breakthroughs in the music gear design and production. At this point, the only thing you're left to do is to go out there in a random music store and buy a guitar or an amp, right?

Well, not exactly. This comes down to multiple different factors, and it won't be that simple to choose something suitable for your needs. This especially goes to guitar amps that are responsible for a huge portion of your tone and the overall dynamic response of your playing. So while we're at it, we figured we could do a brief guide and help you out if you're having trouble choosing the right guitar amp. Here are some of the things you'll need to bear in mind.

Genres that you want to play

The first thing you'll need to be thinking of is the genre you're playing. Or a certain scope of genres that you're focused on. This is the first factor that will narrow your search down to a certain limited number of amps. While it is possible to use some amps that are not intended for your genres, the best results for the standards of certain styles could be maximized with a proper amp. This varies in general but we'll get to that in the final part of the guide.

Solid-state, tubes, hybrids, or modeling amps

There are four main types of amps based on the technology they implement. We have the good old tube amps, solid-state amps, the so-called "hybrids," and the modern-era digital modeling amps.

While it's kind of "ancient" technology, tube amplifiers are still highly valued among almost all of the guitar players today. This is due to the warm and "organic" tone that they have, as well as the very detailed dynamic response. It's the high-end option, but they might bring some downsides such as the higher price, maintenance, and being somewhat impractical for touring.

Solid-state amps are a more practical solution with a more straightforward approach, as well as cheaper prices. However, the tone is a bit more "sterile" and the dynamic response is almost non-existent. On the other hand, some guitar players are more inclined to choose these amps due to their bottom-end heavy tones or harsher-sounding distortion. One of the most famous solid-states is the Roland Jazz Chorus.

Hybrids take the best of two worlds and implement one tube in the preamp section. This way, you get somewhat of a tube feel to it, with a little dynamic response and warmth. If you're into tube amps but are on a budget, this is what you should look into.

Modeling amps have caused quite a stir in the guitar world since they're able to convincingly replicate even the oldest tube amps back from the 1950s. They're usually fairly expensive but are way more practical for longer tours and even some of the biggest names in rock music began using them, sometimes even in the studio. There are also some cheaper alternatives in the form of floorboards that are still capable of delivering solid tones.

Many of the solid-state amps, even some tube amps, have integrated digital signal processing with some pretty realistic amp models. Peavey Vypyr is a great example of an affordable but great-sounding and versatile solid-state amp with modeling features.

Combo or an amp head

You'll also need to be thinking of whether you'll want to have combo amps or amp heads with separate cabinets. The first option is cheaper but somewhat limited since you're usually stuck with one type of speaker. In many cases, this can be more than enough to have a great tone, but if you're into more versatility, then having an amp head with a matching cabinet or any cabinet of your choice is the way to go, although it's a more expensive option.

Your style of playing and personal preferences

At the end of the day, you are free to choose whatever fits your tastes and should not be focused just on "conventional" or predetermined ways of getting your desired tone. For instance, in some cases, it's not uncommon for, let's say, funk players, to go with an amp that's traditionally intended for heavy metal.

However, this would require some experimentation and testing, as well as thorough research online before trying anything out. But at the end of the day, it's the best way for you to find what suits your own needs. There's no better way of finding out than trying countless different amps.

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