The phrase “guitar amplifier” in itself is almost a bit misleading. Sure, it “amplifies” your guitar — but guitar amps really do so much more. Arguably, even as much as your choice of guitar, your amplifier will have an immeasurable influence on your sound. Beyond the basics of volume, bass, midrange and treble, your amp can provide warmth or bite to your sound, or anything from a sparkling clean tone to a blazing distortion. Amplifiers are constructed utilizing different size (or even multiple) speakers and can derive their tone from tubes, transistors, or even digital modeling. They can be very basic with just one volume knob; or they can offer a variety of gain and EQ options along with built-in effects.
When it comes to guitar amps, American Musical Supply carries iconic cornerstone brands such as Fender, Marshall, Vox, and Orange. These are the names that have formed the foundation of guitar rigs worldwide for decades. We also stock the most innovative new models from such brands as Blackstar, Fuchs, Line 6, Paul Reed Smith, Supro, and a host of other incredible companies anchored by passionate engineers, technicians, and designers. With the myriad of choices available from AMS, how does one decide? All it takes are a few questions to get started.
When viewing our large selection of guitar amps, one of the first questions you’ll need to ask yourself is “Where will I spend most of my time playing?” Perhaps you’re just starting out and need something fun and functional to learn on; or maybe you’re an experienced player requiring something that inspires you to practice your technique and learn new tunes for gigs. In either case, chances are you’ll be using the amp in a small to mid-sized room in your house. Massive volume and multiple speakers aren’t really necessary. Our selection of Guitar Mini Amps or Guitar Combo Amps with a single 5, 8, or 10-inch speaker may be adequate to do the job, and wattage between 5 and 25 watts would provide plenty of power.
Do you intend to play with other musicians? Once you’re competing to be heard over the drums and bass, you’ve crossed a threshold that may step up your requirements. You’ll need a little more volume and at least a 10 or 12-inch speaker to move more air.
Will you use this amp to perform live? Depending on the size of the venue, style of music, and whether your amp is mic’d through the PA system, A Guitar Combo Amp with a 12-inch speaker or 1x12 guitar cabinet with a Guitar Amp Head is a safe bet for the majority of performance spaces. The multiple speakers found in a 2x12 guitar cabinet or a 4x12 guitar cabinet paired a suitable Guitar Amp Head may also be appropriate for larger venues. The largest Guitar Combo Amps have a 2x12-inch speaker setup as well, giving you a self-contained option with plenty of power for a bigger space. The size and number of speakers in the amp matters because your wattage needs to increase as you perform in bigger rooms. Generally speaking, 50-100 watts will cover a large venue cleanly; a little less if you’ll have a microphone in front of the speaker.
Another key consideration is how well the amp can deliver the appropriate sounds for the style(s) of music you enjoy. Need the bone-crunching tone of a classic Metallica tune? The high-gain power and bite of a Marshall fits the bill. Or perhaps you’re playing a big hollow-body guitar and need the deep, rich sound associated with Jazz or Fusion. In this case, a Fender amp built for pristine cleans, such as their Twin Reverb, is spot-on. Maybe you’d prefer something in the middle that’s bright and crisp, but can also generate a little grit for those Country and Blues tunes. The Fender Blues Junior is a hugely popular in this setting as is the trademark chime of a Vox AC30, which can also get down and dirty for a variety of blues-y genres. Whatever music you like to play, AMS has an amp to cover it.
AMS has a number of resources to help you find the right amplifier for your musical needs. Be sure to check out the full descriptions, high-definition photo galleries, and audio/video demos of our amplifiers on their respective item pages. There are also a number of amplifier-related articles and exclusive media content over at our blog, The Mix.
A guitar amp’s wattage isn’t a true indicator of how loud the amp is. Twice as many watts are twice as loud, right? Well, no — that’s only about a 3dB increase in actual volume. Though the guitar amp’s attainable volume will increase somewhat with wattage, the real benefit is increased headroom. Larger amount of watts indicates that the amp will play at a louder volume before distorting. Simply put; if you want to play loud and clean, you’ll need more wattage. If you’re looking for a more overdriven tone, you may want an amp with less wattage that distorts more easily at lower volume.
Guitar amps can be built on several platforms and each has its own advantages. Benefitting from the warmth of vacuum tubes, a tube guitar amp is a popular choice among those seeking a natural sounding overdrive. By driving the amp hard, the tubes become saturated and distorts. Because of this, it’s sometimes preferred to have a lower wattage amp that distorts at a reasonable volume, as opposed to a higher wattage amp that needs to be exceedingly loud before the tubes saturate.
There are also what is referred to as solid-state guitar amps. Instead of using vacuum tubes to amplify the signal, solid-state amps use transistors and diodes resulting in a reliable, lighter-weight, and less expensive amplifier.
Then there are hybrids. Hybrid amps combine the best of tube and solid-state technology. By using vacuum tubes in the preamp section to attain the warm distortion and transistors in the power amp section, hybrid amps retain the sound of tubes with the lighter weight of a transistor amp.
Modeling amps are a different beast altogether. Digital modeling is used to emulate the tones of other popular amplifiers, allowing you to virtually play through a variety of classic, highly-coveted guitar amps by simply switching between presets. As an added benefit, modeling amps often offer a variety of built-in effects.
Regardless of your budget, style of music, or where you are in your career — AMS has your guitar amplifier in stock and ready to ship.
About the Author - Michael Barberich
What started as a simple string and pedal sales catalog has grown exponentially over the past thirty years. The early days were a time where catalogs didn't have much of a presence in the industry, but what began as a college dorm room operation grew rapidly. In 1986 we moved to a full product offering and 64-page catalog, which over the years has grown to 162 pages. Join the AMS family and get your free catalog now!
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