A Guide to Buying a Used Digital Amplifier

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A Guide to Buying a Used Digital Amplifier

People have been amplifying sound since the invention of the phonograph. Before we had the technology we do today, the sound that was reproduced was affected by a lot of interference. Costly equipment or a laboratory was necessary to achieving true digital sound. Multiple computer chips were required to reproduce sound, but with today’s technology, people have been able to minimise the necessary amount, which allows digital amplification to be incorporated into multiple products. Moreover, being able to purchase a digital amplifier is a relatively new thing. A digital amplifier allows the sound to remain in its true digital form, from the beginning of the audio signal until it is reproduced.

Buying a used digital amplifier can be more beneficial than buying a new one. If the used product has barely been used, then a consumer can expect to pay less than the retail price while basically getting a new amplifier. Even if the product has been heavily used, there are still great purchases to be had. There are many brands, types, and configurations of amplifier, and finding the best one to suit can be difficult. It is good to have an idea of the type of amplifier required before making any purchase.

What to Consider when Purchasing a Used Digital Amplifier

If a consumer is at the point of purchasing an amplifier, then they are either purchasing their first amplifier or looking to upgrade. There are various amplifier options, depending on size, sound, amplifier technology, and configuration. But before we get to that, there are some things that need to be considered when buying a used digital amplifier.

Visual Inspection

It is very important to look at the amplifier for any damage inside or out. Broken connectors, loose screws, transformers, or speakers are a good indication that the amplifier has been damaged somehow. Next, check the entire cabinet and handle for any signs of abuse. This is all so consumers know what they are buying. A physically damaged amplifier may still produce great quality sound. Look for any indication of damage from fluids because if fluid has been spilled on the amp, or worse yet, flowed inside the amp, then it becomes a riskier purchase.

Operational Inspection

Turn the amplifier on and also let it standby. If this operational inspection is for a modelling amp; plug in a guitar and turn its local volume down straight away. The next step, and this applies to all amplifiers, is to listen for any hums, crackles, or pops. Run each control through its entire range, listening for any places where the amp freaks out. A bit of noise is fine, so consumers should not let that turn them off a purchase. The more issues that are detected, the more the consumer needs to be sure that this particular purchase is worth the risk.

Sound Test

Once the operational inspection is complete, connect an instrument to it, play, and listen. Play some of the song while adjusting the master to different levels to get a sense of how the amp performs at different volumes.

Types of Amplifiers

There are four types of amplifiers: solid state, tube, modelling, and hybrids. Each type of amplifier has a specific use, and which one a consumer buys comes down to what sound the consumer is after.

Solid State

Solid state amplifiers are analogue amplifiers, and they are called solid state because they use transistors for their preamp and power sections instead of tubes. They are very reliable amplifiers and produce a clean sound. They can also be purchased with "distortion" channels.

Tube Amplifiers

Many musicians prefer these amplifiers as they produce a warm, fat tone, and "organic" distortion. Tube amps are generally louder than solid state amps of the same wattage. The majority of tube amps have separate channels that can switch from clean to distorted sounds instantly. The down side to a tube amplifier is that over time their performance can deteriorate. If this happens, then the tubes need to be replaced.


A modelling amp is a digital amp, and it uses digital processors to simulate the sound of the old fashioned tube technology. It is called a modelling amp because it "models" the sound of a tube amplifier, as well as being able to put the sound of numerous amps into one box. These amplifiers are programmable and usually have built-in digital effects like delay chorus. The upmarket modelling amplifiers include both digital and analogue outputs with speaker simulation, which allows for direct connection to a PA system or recording interface. Most digital amplifiers that are "modelling amps" depreciate quickly. Once it gets older than six plus years, it may not be worth much at all.


A hybrid amplifier combines the best features of each amp into one device. These amps use an actual tube in conjunction with solid state technology. This provides great quality sound, but like the tube amplifier, performance may diminish over time, which means the tube needs to be replaced.

Amplifier Configurations

Amplifiers come in two different configurations, combos, and head and speaker. The combo amplifiers otherwise known as a "stack" are self-contained units that hold both the amplifier and speaker in one cabinet. Head and speaker configurations are exactly that. One box has the amplifier head and another box houses the speaker. They are a great option as they are generally lighter than the combo configuration. The head and speaker configuration also allows the consumer to mix and match amp heads with a preferred speaker.


The amplifier and speaker cabinets are made of wood. It is very important to purchase an amplifier that is made from thicker wood. The thinner the wood, the more likely the speaker may vibrate itself loose, which results in a terrible sound. An amplifier made from thicker wood can hold the speaker in place and achieve a strong sound. Another factor to consider is whether or not the amp has an open or closed back. A closed back produces a better bass response from the speaker. Lastly, since amplifiers get moved around a lot, that can cause it damage. Purchase some corner protectors to give the amplifier a longer lifespan.

Speaker Size and Power

The power rating and size of the speakers chosen for the digital amplifier depend on price and application. This is a great reason to buy a used amplifier, especially if playing an instrument is a new hobby.

Practice Amplifiers

A practice amplifier is most commonly solid state or modelling combination "stack" units. They have a low power output of 10-30 watts and small speakers usually about 20 to 25 centimetres in size.

Rehearsal and Small Venue Amplifiers

For rehearsals or playing in a small venue, consider modelling and tube combo units. The power rating on these combos should be around 50 watts, and the speaker size should be 30 cm to allow for a fuller sound.

Performing at Large Venues

To perform at a large venue or to just create a loud sound, the average power rating needs to be 100 watts with a speaker size of 30 cm. With this power output, both the combo units and the head and speaker units can be used. A separate head and speaker configuration is most effective in this situation.

Buying a Used Digital Amplifier on eBay

Obviously, if you are purchasing a used digital amplifier from eBay, you may not be able to perform the operational inspection or the sound test. Therefore, try asking the seller to send you a recent recording of the amplifier, or if you live close by, you can always ask the seller if you can go and see the amplifier in person. Try and obtain as much information about the amplifier as possible before committing to a purchase.

It is always a good idea to make sure the seller has a return policy, just in case the amplifier is delivered in worse condition than expected. One way to prevent this from happening is to obtain as many pictures of the used digital amplifier as possible from the seller before committing to a purchase. Make sure to get photos of all sides of the amplifier, including the bottom. If you have as much information as possible, you can be sure to get a great used digital amplifier from eBay.


With so many used digital amplifiers out there, choosing the right one can be difficult. How does a consumer purchase the right used digital amplifier for their needs? It comes down to research. Knowing what the used digital amplifier is going to be used for and knowing if a combo or a head and speaker configuration is required can take a lot of work out of the decision making process.

The construction of the amplifier also plays a big role in its performance, so gaining as much detail about its construction is imperative to making a good decision. Do not go too big too quick. Know what scenario the amplifier is to be used in, and purchase an amplifier to suit the scenario. Lastly, amplifiers are moved around a lot, so make sure to be aware of any damage to the amplifier no matter how minor it is before committing to anything. Even though the digital amplifier is used, a consumer who makes a smart purchase should still get many good years out of it.

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