Any guitarist who plays in front of an audience requires an amplifier to to be heard. A guitar amplifier is a very versatile tool for the guitarist. Similar to guitar pedals, the amplifier helps to create the guitarist’s unique sound.Buy guitar amps on Amazon
There are many variations of guitar amplifiers, each with their own tweakable parameters enabling two guitar players using the same amplifier to sound completely different from one another.
Top 5 Best Guitar Amps
Here, I have selected some of the most commonly used and popular amplifiers available today.These amplifiers range in price, functionality, style and sound. Common to them all, however, is that the quality and value for money is top notch. Over the years, I have tested more than 250 different amplifiers and have found these to cover all requirements and styles for most guitar players.
Overall Winner: Best Guitar Amp Right Now
Best Beginner Guitar Amp
Best Tube Amp
Best Solid-State Amp
Best Acoustic Guitar Amp
Best Modeling Amp
Best Combo Amp
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What is a guitar amplifier?
Most guitar players are already familiar with amplifiers, at least what the basics do. It allows the player to play at much higher volumes than without. Let’s take a closer look at the guitar amplifier.
The function of a guitar amplifier is to amplify the weak signal coming from the guitar’s pickup. This signal is transmitted from the guitar into the amplifier via a cable and projected out of a speaker. Amplifiers also have an EQ (equalisation) section built in to refine the sound depending on the room. In addition, there are often also built-in effects in the amplifier, which provide the same options that guitar pedals also offer. Typical effects man can be found on a guitar amplifier are: reverb, distortion (distortion or overdrive), tremolo and sometimes delay (repetitions of the played tone (s) that are delayed).
A guitar amplifier typically has two circuits. The first circuit is called the pre-amp. This circuit alters the signal of the guitar (EQ + TONE). The signal then passes on to the power amp which pushes the signal through the speaker.back to menu ↑
Guitar amplifier history
The concept behind amplifiers was not invented by the guitar. In fact, the modern guitar amplifier was invented when power supplies could be plugged into power outlets. This was due to the fact that batteries at the time were heavy and difficult to recharge. Capacitors were invented, but it was not until the 1930s and 1940s that the guitar amplifier itself was developed.
The breakthrough came from the popularity of music from Hawaii. This music primarily had lap steel guitar, and from here the amplifier was adopted into other genres of music. The most significant development of the amplifier was it’s entry into rock music, where in the 1950s it began overdriving the preamp circuit introducing overdrive & later, distortion. It has been a characteristic part of the soundscape of many music genres such as rock, pop, punk and heavy metal since the 1960’s.back to menu ↑
Different types of guitar amplifiers
Typically, there are 5 different kinds of guitar amplifiers. Each one has their very own sound, structure and functions. Let’s take a closer look at them.
Tube (Valve) Amp: Tube amps became very popular among guitarists due to the ability to use it as a dynamic extension of the guitar. Tubes gave guitars a “warmth” or “singing” nature to the tone due to their non-linear nature. When a guitarist played the guitar harder, the amp would break into distortion. As an expressive extension of the guitar, it has retained its reputation for guitar players. Examples of tube amplifiers are the Marshall JCM800 and Mesa Boogie Mark III.
Transistor amplifier (solid-state amp): Transistor amplifiers are those that began to dominate the market in the mid-70s. They were cheaper to produce and they were more stable than the tube amplifiers. Often with tube amplifiers, the problem was that if only one component broke, the amplifier was impossible to use until everything had been fixed. Popular among jazz guitarists, rock and metal guitarists were not particularly fond of the sound. However,one of these was the guitarist Dimebag Darell from the metal band Pantera, who played a transistor amplifier. An example of a transistor amplifier is a Roland Jazz Chorus.
Hybrid amplifier: Typically, hybrid amps have a tube preamp for shaping the tone and a more reliable transistor solid state power amp for reliability. An example of a hybrid amp would be Blackstar’s HT series.
Modeling amplifier: As technology has developed, digital software recreations of tube & solid state amplifiers have been made possible. Previously, the quality was fairly poor, and very few took advantage of them, but as time has passed, the technology has developed so much that they have become more popular due to their convenience and increasing realism. In fact, blind tests have been performed with many of the world’s best and most prominent guitarists and they haven’t been able to discern the difference between the modelled amp and the real amp. A modeling amplifier gives guitarists virtually endless possibilities. First of all, you have an arsenal of different amplifiers in one box and silent recording is now a possibility previously unavailable to most players. There are music genres today that rely on this sound that they play exclusively with modeling amps. A genre such as progressive metal (especially Djent) makes use of them. Examples of bands are Tesseract and Periphery. An example of a modeling amp is Ax-FX by Fractal Audio Systems.
Acoustic guitar amplifier: Acoustic amplifiers differ slightly from the above types. Despite the fact that the acoustic guitar amplifiers are most often transistors, they are particularly distinguished by the fact that they do not colour the tone of the guitar. This means that it must reproduce the sound of the acoustic guitar as accurately as possible, without adding its own touch to the sound. These amplifiers are therefore very often very powerful, as they therefore have more “headroom” to give, and the amplifier does not distort. In modern amplifiers, however, there is often reverb and compression that the musician can choose to use. An example of such an acoustic guitar amplifier is Roland AC-60.
Combo amplifier or half/full stack amplifier
The difference between a combo and a half / full stack is that the combo, as the name suggests, has both the preamp and speaker combined. An example of this is a Marshall DSL 401. The half / full stack consists of 2 parts. First you have the head and then one (half) or two (full) cabinets. Most can easily settle for a half stack amp. An example of a head is the Marshall JCM800 head. An example of a cabinet is Marshall 1960A / Marshall 1960B.back to menu ↑
Guitar amp buying guide
When you need to go out and buy your first guitar amplifier, it is incredibly important that you consider the different types. Especially the tube amplifier and transistor amplifier. Unless you play acoustic guitar, the acoustic guitar amplifier may well be omitted (an acoustic guitar can also easily drive over the others. However, be aware that they can change the sound more than the acoustic guitar amplifier). Modeling and hybrid amplifiers are typically very expensive and therefore it is recommended not to look at these types as the first ones. Often, these types of amplifiers, guitarists throw themselves over when they have a greater need and more money on their pocket (the latest Ax-FX II system costs, for example, around DKK 15,000). Like so much else is the best advice to try things out before buying. These are good and bad models and also good and bad copies within each model. Take a guitar by hand and plug it into the amplifier.
Then it is important to make some considerations. Should the amplifier be with many effects, or should it be very basic? Perhaps an amplifier without effects has a better sound, but you have to use the effects – will you then have the option of supplementing the amplifier with guitar pedals, or should it all be found in the amplifier itself?
Next, it is of course important to try and see if you like the transistor or tube amplifier best. Are you looking for the round, soft and warm transistor sound, or are you more in search of the raw, more angular and slightly heavier tone, which one can get out of an old distorted Marshall amplifier? Not to mention how high it can play! Is it realistic to buy an amplifier that sounds good when it is turned up high and when it can blow up a stadium and give you hearing damage within a week? This can be the problem for many young and new guitarists. A Marshall full stack looks super cool – after all, the rock guitarists who are stars make use of! The problem here is just that they play so incredibly high that no one can keep it out unless you play at big stadiums !. Therefore, the right choice may be instead of looking at a combo that can give the desired result for half as much volume. Most often cranker (distort) small amplifiers for faster than large, and natural distortion is preferable 9/10 times to a distortion as a simulated effect.
But it is not necessary to try a guitar amplifier before you buy it. There are reviews of all the amplifiers available on the market. And besides, I have shown you the guitar amplifiers that I can recommend on the top of the page.