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Electric Guitar Amp Buying Guide

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Electric Guitar Amp Buying Guide

Electric guitars require amplifiers, or amps, to convey the sounds they make. Electric guitar amps are available from numerous brands, in various models and with different features to enhance the sound and overall effect.

About Electric Guitar Amps

Electric guitar amps work by converting electrical signals into sound with the aid of a loudspeaker. All amps have a volume control, and the less basic models can also produce different types of effect besides simply conveying sound.
Guitar amps are also used with other musical instruments, such as keyboards, synthesisers and other string instruments, to produce a range of interesting and attractive tones and effects.

Choosing an Electric Guitar Amp

There is a good deal of choice when it comes to choosing the right electric guitar amplifier.

Factors in Choosing an Electric Guitar Amp

The decision over which amp to buy will depend upon various factors, such as budget, function and venue, and the type of sound required.

Budget

One of the first considerations when it comes to buying an electric guitar amp is budget. There are some excellent mini amps and practice amps on the market for under £100 and, depending on the purpose, one of these may be all that is required. If a more powerful amp is required for live performances but the budget is still limited, it may be helpful to look for second hand or ex display models. There are two basic types of amp, valve amps and solid state amps, and valve amps are the more expensive. High quality professional amps can cost thousands of pounds.

Function

The next most important consideration is function. If the amp is only for personal use or for practising in a small room, either a mini amp or a practice amp may work.
Not all amps require a power supply, and this is a consideration for buskers and other mobile performers without electricity access. Different battery powered amps give different amounts of playing time, so it is important to check this out. Portability is also a consideration, especially if the amp is to be carried around frequently.
Playing at small venues such as pubs will generally not require one of the loudest amps available. Valve amps produce a louder sound than solid state amps and it can be difficult to decide upon the required power, but generally a 15 watt (W) valve amp is sufficient for small venues while a 60 W solid state amp may be required. Choosing a louder amp gives the flexibility to play at larger venues if or when required.
For recording, smaller valve amps are generally recommended. This is because they give the versatility to vary the tone while keeping the sound level at a reasonable volume.

Types of Electric Guitar Amp

There are various types of electric guitar amp, such as valve amps and solid state amps, which refer to the mechanism by which the sound is produced, and combo or stack amps, which refer to the way in which the amplifier head and speakers are arranged.

Valve Amps and Solid State Amps

Valve amps work by conveying and modulating electric current through valves or vacuum tubes. They are considered to produce a superior tone to solid state amps by most artists. They are, however, generally more expensive and less portable than solid state amps.
Solid state amps use semiconductor circuits to produce sound. As well as being cheaper and lighter, solid state amps also require less maintenance than valve amps and are more reliable. They also produce cleaner sounds with less distortion and are therefore often the amp of choice for jazz guitarists.
So the choice between the two will depend upon many factors. Ultimately valve amps are generally preferred by professional artists but for many smaller bands, and certainly for beginners, solid state amps are perfectly sufficient. Some hybrid amps are also now available.

Combo Amps and Stack Amps

Combination, or combo, amps are the simplest and most obvious choice for many. In combo amps, the amplifier and speaker or speakers are placed together in a cabinet. Combo amps are available from around 1 W to 100 W. They are often inexpensive compared to buying stack amps. It is possible to buy extension cabinets to use with combo amps.
Stack amps, also known as head and cabinet amps, have separate amplifiers and speaker cabinets. Amplifiers are available in higher powers than for combo amps, with 200 W or more commonly found. The appeal of stack amps lies in their versatility. Whereas the components of combo amps are fixed in place, the components of stack amps can be mixed and matched to produce various tones. Not all amplifiers are compatible with all speakers, so make sure they can be used together.

Other Considerations

Other considerations can include brand, number of channels and special effects.

Brand

Popular brands of electric guitar amp include Fender, Marshall, Peavey, Roland and Vox, but there are many other excellent brands available.

Number of Channels

The number of channels that an amp has can affect how many different types of sound can be produced. While tone can be shaped with guitar controls, some musicians prefer to use the controls on the amp. Using a foot switch can help to switch quickly and easily between different channels and sounds.

Special Effects

There are various special effects that electric guitar amps can create. Basic special effects include reverb and tremolo. Modern amps may have a range of further special effects. Special effects can also be created by using guitar pedals, so a large range of special effects on the amp may not be required.

Find Electric Guitar Amps on eBay

Electric guitar amps can be easily found on eBay. From the eBay home page, scroll over All Categories and select the Musical Instruments link. Then scroll down to Pro Audio Equipment and select the Amplifiers link. From the categories on the left, select Instrument Amplifier under Type. There are various types of electric guitar amp listed here, as well as different accessories. From the categories to the left, the results can be further refined by criteria such as brand, number of channels, condition, price range and power. Bear in mind that some listings may not include specific criteria, so leaving these options open can return a larger number of results. Electric guitar amps can also be searched for in the search field at the top of the eBay home page or other eBay pages. Type in terms such as “electric guitar amp”, “Fender electric guitar amp” or “valve electric guitar amp”.

Conclusion

Various models of electric guitar amp are available, to suit all budgets and purposes from beginners experimenting in their own homes to professional artists playing large gigs. The amp chosen will depend upon a range of factors, including cost, portability, size of venue, and required sound and effects. The types of amp include valve amps and solid state amps, with valve amps generally preferred by professional artists for their distinctive tone and distortion, with the exception of jazz artists who may prefer solid state amps for their clean sound. The basic types of amp configuration are combo and stack, with combo amps having the amp and speakers housed together for convenience while stack amps have separate amplifier heads and speaker cabinets, which gives more flexibility. Other considerations when buying an electric guitar amp include brand, the number of channels and any required special effects. Special effects may also be produced by guitar pedals if the amp does not have the capacity to produce them. Research the various models of amp available to find the most appropriate product at the best value.

 
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