Last updated: 08/12/2020

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You are a musician at heart. Some people simply listen to music, but others want to go further and become part of it. If you have an electric or acoustic guitar, you are probably looking for an amplifier with which you can unleash your creativity. If you want to feel what a professional guitarist feels, you need to have the right equipment.

Whether you are a beginner or already have some expertise with this instrument, we have designed the following guide to help you make the right purchase based on various factors. If you want to create your own artistic personality or imitate the great Jimmy Page, our article will teach you everything there is to know about guitar amps.

Key Facts

  • Guitar amps may seem like elaborate contraptions, but understanding the basics will be enough for you to analyze the options on the market and choose the one that best fits your needs.
  • You can find various types of amps out there. Combo amps and amp heads both come with their particularities. We can also identify these electronic devices based on the technology they use, which we will delve into later.
  • There are various critical purchasing criteria to take into account when buying a guitar amp, such as your level of expertise or the power of the device.

Our Selection: The Best Guitar Amps on the U.S. Market

We want you to be fully satisfied with your purchase, which is why we have selected guitar amps for different audiences. While some are more tailored to beginners, others offer superior sound performances for more advanced players. You can now sit back, relax, and simply pick the guitar amp that best suits your needs and level of playing.

Best Guitar Amp Overall

Whether you’re a beginner or a professional musician, you have certainly heard of Fender. This industry-leading company produces the best amps on the market, and its Frontman 10G model is tailored to electric guitars. It includes controls for gain, treble, bass, and naturally volume, as well as a switch for overdrive. The headphone output allows you to practice your favorite riffs and tunes at any time of the day or night.

Best Mini Guitar Amp

Available in 4 different color schemes, this compact little guitar amp is ideal for beginner players or those who have little space left at home. Offering 3 watts of power, it integrates controls for gain, equalization, and delay. This mini amp also features an MP3 input and an output jack for your headphones. One of its most attractive functionalities is the fact that you can either plug it into a wall socket or use batteries to power it.

Best 20-Watt Guitar Amp

Fender is back again, this time with a 20-watt combo amp that provides serious power and a variety of controls to fine-tune your guitar style. Although this model is suitable for more advanced players, beginners can also learn to perfect their skills with this amp. Choose between the 17 amp models and no less than 24 onboard presets available, and start jamming to your favorite tunes using the MP3 auxiliary input!

Best Guitar Amp for Traveling

This tiny little guitar amp is perfect is you travel a lot and simply can’t take a bigger model along with you. Offering 9 different sound effects, the VOX AC30 features an auxiliary input to plug in your audio player or smartphone and an output jack for headphones. All you need is a pair of AAA batteries, and you’re ready to rock and roll! It is also available with different preset music genres, including blues, classic rock, and metal.

Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Guitar Amps

If you’re into acoustic or electric guitars, you need to know what options are available to you on the market. Understanding what an amp can do for you isn’t so complicated, but there is an incredible range of high-quality brands and models, each with different characteristics. In the following section, we have answered the most frequently asked questions regarding guitar amps.

10 or 20W amps are more than enough if you are a beginner and want to learn to play.
(Source: Yakobchuck: 91013575/ 123rf.com)

What is a guitar amp exactly?

This electronic device is designed to amplify the signal of your guitar in such a way that the volume of your instrument is increased. The sound is then emitted through a loudspeaker. The vast majority of guitar amps include various features; you can, for instance, apply sound effects to your music.

Some of these settings allow you to modify the resonance and the gain, or to equalize the sound to boost its bass, midrange, or treble. Guitar amps also vary by the power they offer, their size, and their number of input and output ports. Recently, manufacturers have started producing models with Bluetooth connections and USB ports to exploit their full potential.

These electronic devices amplify the signal of guitars.
(Source: Sidelnikob: 117239002/ 123rf.com)

When did the first amps appear?

Designed for acoustic guitars, the very first amps appeared during the 1920s. However, it wasn’t until the 1930s and 1940s that models for electric guitars rose in popularity, thanks in great part to the spread of Hawaiian music. As you can imagine, these first amps were very basic.

Different sound effects were incorporated over time, as well as vibrato bars. The 1960s saw a massive sophistication of guitar amps. Surf music legend Dick Dale collaborated with Fender to create custom models, and bands like The Kinks further popularized saturation during this decade.

B. B. KingAmerican Singer-Songwriter

“I wanted to connect my guitar to human emotions.”

What types of guitar amps are there?

We understand that there might be some terms that sound like complete gibberish to you if you’re entering the realm of guitars. But don’t worry, we have kept our guide as simple as possible; after all, knowing the basics is all you need to make the right purchase. Let’s now have a look at the different types of amps you can find on the market. Please pay attention because each one has its specific characteristics.

  • Amp head: This is a preamplifier and an audio power amplifier. It is mostly used in the world of professional music. Note that you will need a speaker with equal or greater power for it to work.
  • Combo amp: Its most attractive feature is that it includes every part of an amplifier, and you won’t have to purchase any other device unless you want to create specific settings. Its ease of use makes this model ideal for beginners.

Besides these two main categories of amps, we can also identify them by the technology they use:

  • Vacuum tubes: This is the first technology ever used for guitar amps. Their warmth and specific characteristics mean that certain musicians still prefer them over other types. That being said, they considerably restrict the kind of sound played.
  • Solid-state: This is an excellent option because of its versatility, lighter weight, and low maintenance. The minimum is enough to keep these models in perfect condition, and they are very affordable.
  • Hybrids: While they are not currently among the preferred types of amps, they do offer the same advantages as vacuum tubes and solid-state models. They remain relatively versatile and are quite easy to keep in good condition.
  • Modeling: The microprocessor technology built into these models allows them to imitate the sound of other guitar amps. They come with a variety of effects and are often appreciated by rock and metal musicians.
  • Acoustics: As their name indicates, they are tailored to acoustic guitars. They reproduce a much cleaner sound and do not have additional features that can tweak it like other types of amps.

What are the main parts of a guitar amp?

To help you better understand the main parts of an amplifier, we have designed the following table so you can access the information clearly and concisely. You will also be able to see what amp heads and combo amps include.

Part of guitar amps What is it? Included or not?
Preamp This is where the signal coming from the guitar is processed, when saturation, equalization, and different effects come into play. ✓ Part included in amp heads and combo amps
Audio power amplifier This is the element in which the signal is intensified, and the power is applied to it in order to be heard. ✓ Part included in amp heads and combo amps
Speaker This part is responsible for emitting the final sound. ✓ Part included in combo amps

What power is suitable for a guitar amp?

This will mostly depend on how you use your amp, how often you use it, and your level of expertise. If you are still learning to play the guitar, you will prefer a home amp, for which 10 or 20 watts of power should be plenty enough. This will change if you already have your own band and give concerts from time to time.

If this is your case, you will want to purchase an amp that you can use for future rehearsals, for recordings, and even for your live shows. In that regard, a model with 50 to 100W of power should satisfy you. You don’t need to go for an amp with more energy; it will be much more expensive, and you won’t be able to make the most of it.

Please keep in mind that the power also depends on the amplifier’s technology. A vacuum tube model usually delivers more power once you have warmed it up since they cannot reach their maximum potential from the get-go. These amps remain heavier and less affordable, which is why they are not particularly popular among music beginners.

Shopping Criteria

We know that experienced guitar players fully understand amps and their characteristics. This is why we have tried to talk about these devices so that beginners can also know what they are, what types are available on the market, and which characteristics are the most important. In the following section, we discussed the key purchasing criteria to keep in mind:

Level of Expertise

This is essential. Your experience with guitars and amps will ultimately determine your choice. If you are a beginner and want to learn to play the guitar, a 10 or 20W model will be more than sufficient. If you have a higher level of skills, play in a band and even give concerts now and then, favor a 50W amp so you don’t end up having to buy another one.

You can naturally opt for a more powerful model, but it will be much more expensive and harder to transport. In addition, you should take into account the learning factor. If you can’t spend as much time practicing as you’d like, you may become frustrated by your slower progress and end up shoving your equipment in the back of a closet. This is why it is recommended to slowly build your way to the best guitar amp.

The most modern amps include Bluetooth technology, jack plugs, and even USB ports.
(Source: Ratsamerat: 23023744/ 123rf.com)

Type of Amp

We have discussed the different types of guitar amps available on the market throughout our guide. The combo amp is the model that makes the most sense when you’re starting out. That being said, your personal needs eventually determine which type you should purchase.

Combo amps include all the essential parts so you can play your guitar from the get-go. Since you won’t need other equipment to get the job done, they are considered to be much more comfortable, and in theory easier to adjust.

Amp heads, on the other hand, are recommended for players with a medium-high level. Even though they only have a preamp and an audio power amplifier, they are more appropriate for professional use. This means that you will also need a loudspeaker. Amp heads are much more sophisticated and complex and allow for greater sound variations.

Technology and Connectivity

Once you have decided on the type of guitar amp you need, check out the technology it uses – vacuum tube, solid-state, hybrid, modeling, or acoustic. The number of controls for bass, treble, and other equalization available is another criterion to keep in mind. In that regard, beginner players shouldn’t worry too much about this aspect just yet.

Guitar amps usually feature enough inputs and outputs for you to use any other accessory you might have. As mentioned earlier, recent models integrate Bluetooth technology and USB ports. Make sure you check the technical specs of the model you want to get, so you don’t realize soon after that you could have purchased a model more to your liking.

Jimi HendrixAmerican Guitar Legend

“Sometimes you want to give up the guitar, you’ll hate the guitar. But if you stick with it, you’re gonna be rewarded.”

Power

This is another fundamental factor because it will in part determine the fidelity of the sound when played at high volumes. This means that you will end up with inferior quality if you play in a bigger space with an amp that lacks power. This factor also depends on how you plan on using your device.

As we explained before, a 10 or 20W guitar amp will be enough if it is intended for use at home, depending on whether it has vacuum tubes or a transistor. A 50W model can be used in rehearsal rooms and some small concert halls. With 100 watts of power, you are looking at something much more serious with the punch needed for live performances in front of a large audience.

Summary

The market for guitar amps is full of brands and models that satisfy virtually every need – for beginners, intermediate players, and naturally professional musicians. In addition, the different types available allow you to focus the amplification of your guitar according to your personal preferences.

Remember to have a thorough look at your options before making your decision. You shouldn’t simply choose between combo amps and amp heads, but also between their technology, the number of effect and equalization controls, and their connectivity – not to mention their quality and power. The latter is determined by where you will most often use the device.

We hope that you found our guide on guitar amps useful and informative. If that’s the case, we’d love for you to leave a comment in the section below and share this article on your social media!

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Why you can trust me?

Thibault Perinet Freelance Writer & World Traveler
As a literature and translation licensee and avid traveler, language has always been at the heart of my daily life. A freelance writer since 2014, I love to delve into a variety of topics that contribute to my professional and personal development. My favorite things in life? Maté in the morning, soccer with friends, and old school hip hop.