Why Small Guitar Amps Can Be Better

As technology changed, so did the music. With new advances, we saw the rise of different concepts in modern music. One of them was the electric guitar. Of course, to get the best of it, you just can't plug it into any PA system and expect it to sound good. You need a good amplifier that's voiced in a special way to pronounce the most pleasant parts of the audible spectrum.

But whether you're into tube amps, solid-state amps, hybrids, or even digital modeling amps, it seems that everyone is rather hyped about using big amps with huge output power. A stack with a tube-driven amp head that has over 100 watts of output power sounds like a dream come true for every guitar player.

However, what would you think if we said that this is an outdated concept? Big amps trace back to the old days when guitar players had to compete with PA systems, drummers, or even entire orchestras. These days, pretty much every type of an amp can be miked-up and put through the full mix. This means that if you have a small amp that sounds pretty great, you can have it running through the PA system and make it as powerful as anything on there.

With all this in mind, many are starting to wonder – are big amps actually worth it? Well, they certainly have their advantages. However, we would argue that having a smaller amp is always a better option, even for frequently gigging semi-professional musicians. In this guide, we're going to explain why.


The first, and the most obvious advantage, is the practicality of these smaller amplifiers. Way back in the old days, the 1960s, Eric Clapton needed a more compact amp that would fit the trunk of his car. So he went over to none other than Jim Marshall who made him a combo amp that was still powerful enough to be heard in live settings, thus creating the legendary Bluesbreaker.

And now, all these decades later, we have the very same issues. However, we don't even need them to be that powerful if we're gonna mic them up. Just a relatively small amp, no more than 40 to 50 watts, that will be heard on stage and through the PA system. And, of course, the smaller size means that you can take it to a gig without breaking your back or just bothering with those bulky amp heads and 4×12-inch cabinets. Just put your amp on the stage, mic it up, or even use its dedicated line out to go straight into the PA system. Meanwhile, the amp's own speaker will serve for monitoring purposes.

You can use the full potential of smaller tube amps

Although they sound awesome, there's one problem with tube amplifiers – you need to turn them way up high to get their full potential. And a 50 to 100-watt tube amplifier might get quite loud. In fact, it would get too loud for some live settings, and you'd pretty much "drown" all the other instruments with your mighty guitar amp.

This is why guitar players on even some bigger stages began using 30 to 50-watt tube amps. And for smaller settings, you don't exactly need more than 20 to 30 watts if we're talking about tube amplifiers. For some blues or jazz gigs, you can even do fine with 10-watt tube amps, maybe even 5-watt ones.

This might go against some popular beliefs, but for a smaller to medium-sized gig, you don't even need more than 20 to 30 watts as a metal guitarist. Just crank that amp high and you'll get that "organic" distorted tone. And if you prefer solid-state amps, then 50 is just about enough for a high-gain amp.


One of the biggest problems for guitar players comes down to the dedicated budget. There are so many things we'd like to purchase that would enhance our tones. However, you can't actually spend your life savings on that. Fortunately, some of the most popular amplifiers models, both solid-state and tube-driven, have smaller versions. For instance, you don't need that big 120-watt Roland Jazz Chorus amp for your needs. Instead, you can go with the cheaper 40-watt version, or even the small and compact 20-watt version.

The same thing goes for Marshall's DSL series, or pretty much any other tube amps. A 20-watt DSL20HR is significantly cheaper and way more practical than the 100-watt DSL100HR.

The choice is up to you...

At the end of the day, it's up to you what you'll choose as your main amplifier. However, in this day and age, there's really no need for a big, bulky, and powerful amp if you're a guitar-loving enthusiast or even a musician that plays clubs or does studio sessions. Just take that smaller 20-watt tube amp with you and it'll be more than enough for your needs.

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