Guitarists that play electric guitar must have an amplifier to be heard. Acoustic guitars with built in pickup systems have the capability to be connected to an amp if desired.
Here are some things to consider when deciding on what type of amp to purchase.
Practice AmpsIf you are just starting out on electric guitar, and will only be playing at home, then a small practice amp will suffice. These are usually "no frills" amps but many will have channel switching capabilities that allow you to switch between a clean channel and a distortion channel. Many of these amps have a headphone jack so that you can practice without waking up the rest of the house.
These amps are usually inexpensive, in the under $100 range, and don't take up a lot of space.
Solid State AmpsSolid state amps have been around for a long time and are a good fit for a guitarist on a budget. They range in size from small practice amps to larger 2-12 (2-12" speakers) combos, stacks and 1/2 stacks. Most come with some sort of channel switching between clean and distortion channels.
Many solid state amps have good quality sound, and some models are powerful enough to play with a band on stage. Quite a few are made with built-in effects processors as well.
Modeling AmpsThese are solid state amps with built in processors that "model" various amps and tones. They have become extremely popular because they offer a guitarist a wide array of tones and sounds. Some of these offer models of Fender amps, Marshall amps, Vox amps and more. There are usually numerous amp combinations to choose from, as well as multiple effects processors, to dial in virtually and sound desired.
Modeling amps range in size and price from small, play at home units, to larger, more powerful units capable of playing gigs with.
Tube AmpsTube amps are the amp of choice for pro players due to their warmer tones and natural distortions. They can be found in smaller models that produce 15 watts of power, and larger ones that produce up to 100 watts or more.
Tube amps are generally more expensive than solid state amps and require a little more maintenance. Tubes must be replaced on a regular basis as old ones wear out.
These amps can be defined in one of two categories.
Amps that are known for their "clean" tones fall into the family of amps that use 6L6 power tubes closely related to the "Fender" sound.
Amps that are known for their "distortion" tones fall into the family of amps that use EL84 power tubes are closely related to the "Marshall" sound.
Every guitar player has their own preference in tone so if you are looking at tube amps, it may be best to try out a few before making the investment.
Acoustic Guitar AmpsSome acoustic guitarists, that have pickups built into their guitar, prefer to use a guitar amp when playing on stage. Others prefer to plug straight into the mixer and let the PA do the work.
Acoustic guitar amps come in solid state models and tube models. The solid state amps are more prevalent and seem to be more popular.
Many solid state models will have built-in effects so that the guitarist can dial in choruses, delays and reverbs, to the desired tone.
Generally speaking, an acoustic guitar amp with a 15" speaker tends to re-produce the acoustic sound most effectively.
These amps can range in price from modest to expensive.
Obviously there are a number of factors involved in choosing a guitar amp. Your needs may be different if you are playing at home in a practice room, than they are if you are playing on stage. Since an amp can be a pricey investment it might be wise to think ahead a couple of years and spend a little more money on an amp you can grow into, rather than trading up every six months.
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