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How to Choose a Guitar Amp: The Only Guide You Need

By Sydney Henry
October 09, 2020
how to choose a guitar amp

Music has been a way for people to express themselves creatively for thousands of years, and it seems that not much has changed since then.

When looking to create the sound you're after, choosing the right guitar amplifier is just as important as choosing the right guitar.

But not everyone knows what attributes they should be looking for. Not sure where to start? Don't worry, we’ve got you covered.

Let's take a look at everything you need to know about how to choose a guitar amp.

 

Effects Matter

As you may expect, effects play a huge role in the type of sound that you get from your guitar amp. This is, after all, one of the main reasons for using a guitar amp as opposed to an acoustic guitar in the first place.

In general, you'll find that most amps give users the ability to add reverb. This will allow them to make the sound feel 'bigger,' as if it were in a larger room.

Most amps also have a distortion knob and some form of equalization (EQ) to allow the user to shape the guitar's frequencies. Other effects you may find include delay (echo) and chorus (a layering effect).

 

Bass Amp vs Guitar Amp

Depending on whether you're playing the bass guitar or traditional guitar, you'll need to get the appropriate amp.

Bass amps are specifically built to enhance the lower frequencies that bass guitars produce. Similarly, traditional guitar amps are optimized for the higher frequencies that play from this instrument.

While using the wrong amp isn't the worst thing in the world, it will certainly prevent you from creating the best sound possible. For example, using a bass guitar amp to enhance the lower end of a traditional guitar is likely to make it sound muddy or clouded.  

 

Size

Bigger amps lead to a bigger, louder sound. But, the situation doesn't always call for your guitar to be as loud as possible.

If you're simply practicing in your room, for instance, it doesn't make sense to get an overly large amp for this purpose. So, it's recommended that newer guitar players purchase an amp that's more on the small side.

Small amps are also useful for musicians who frequently travel, as they're far easier to transport. 

In some cases, guitar players choose to build their own amps that cater to their specific needs. This allows them to have full control over the features that the amp offers.

 

Wattage

If your amp doesn't have the appropriate level of wattage, you won't be able to produce a full, loud sound. Fortunately, you likely won't need much wattage regardless of what setting you're playing in.

For amateurs, you can easily get away with a 20-watt amp. A professional guitar amp ranges anywhere from 30 to 100 watts. Interestingly, a 30-watt guitar amp is only marginally quieter than a 100-watt amp.

So, using a 20-watt amp for general use will still produce sound with noteworthy volume. 

 

What Genre Are You Playing?

The type of effects you use to create an ambient, jazzy sound will be far different than if you prefer to play metal or punk.

So, those who are interested in playing multiple genres should look for an amp that has the flexibility to drastically change the overall tone of your guitar playing. It's best to experiment with the amp you're interested in before you buy it, though, to ensure that it can create the sound you're looking for. 

Otherwise, you may find yourself with the inability to achieve your desired tone no matter how hard you try.

 

Amps for Acoustic Guitars

Although amplifiers are generally used for electric guitars, there are plenty of amps out there that are specifically tailored to the sound of an acoustic guitar.

The effects that come built into with these amps are generally softer, such as delay, chorus, and reverb. Acoustic amps are mainly used during live performances to shape the tone of the instrument while also boosting its volume loud enough for people to hear.

 

Multi-Channel Functionality

It can be tedious (and often difficult) to find the perfect tone you're looking for while playing. Fortunately, guitar amps with multiple channels can help alleviate this.

Multi-channel amps allow you to shape your overall sound in a different way compared to an amp with a single channel. This includes multiple instances of EQ, gain, distortion, etc.

The end result is the user being able to create a far more unique sound given that they have a wider range of options. Additionally, a major use of a multi-channel guitar amp is the capability to shift seamlessly between a clean signal and a distorted signal. 

 

Quality

As with any product, choosing a guitar amp from a reliable manufacturer is essential when it comes to getting your desired sound. Otherwise, you may find a large amount of difficulty in producing the tone you want.

In general, you can find a reliable amp by researching what amplifiers your favorite artists use. Any brands that are consistently used among multiple artists are more than likely worth the money for the quality you get.

 

Understanding How to Choose a Guitar Amp Can Seem Difficult

But it doesn't have to be.

With the above information about how to choose a guitar amp in mind, you'll be well on your way toward making the decision that's best for you.

Want to learn more about how we can help? Feel free to get in touch with us today to see what we can do.

About Author
Sydney Henry

Sydney Henry is the marketing specialist at Bailey Brothers Music Company. In her spare time, she can often be found with coffee, a book, and her three cats.

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