Common Types of Guitar Amps
If you’re new to the world of guitar amps, knowing where to start can feel overwhelming. Visiting our guitar amp store in person is the best way to learn, but in the meantime, we’ll get you started by describing the four most common types of guitar amplifiers.
Solid-state amps are reliable, low-maintenance amps that produce a clean tone. If you’re new to the game, you should probably start with a good solid-state amp. They make the best beginner guitar amps because they’re uncomplicated and unfussy.
Vintage guitar amps are almost if not all tube amps. Tube amps use physical vacuum tubes to amplify signal power and volume and are known for having a warmer tone. They are much more expensive and high-maintenance, although, with more parts that can go bad or need servicing. All in all, tube amps will deliver an impressive (and loud!) sound.
Modeling amps are digital amps that model the sound of classic vintage amps. Most modeling amps can toggle between several different legacy sounds. They tend to be lightweight and durable, but quality can vary (especially in the modeling itself).
Hybrid amps use vacuum tubes in the preamp and solid-state tech in the power supply, offering the best of both worlds – the warmer sound of tubes and the lighter weight of solid-state.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What do amplifiers do for guitars?
At the risk of stating the obvious, guitar amps amplify the tone your guitar produces.
If you’re playing a solid body electric, you’ll hear almost nothing without plugging in your guitar. By design, the point of a solid body is to reduce natural tone to nearly nothing to reduce or eliminate feedback. But once you plug into an amplifier, the sky’s the limit. You can crank that thing to eleven, add effects, reverb, and more – and your amplifier will reproduce those sounds as loudly or as softly as you wish.
If you’re playing an acoustic-electric or a hollowbody, you can hear what you’re playing without an amplifier, but you can plug into an amplifier for additional gain or effects. And often, you do want to use an amp with these guitars, to amplify or modify your sound.
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Are guitar amplifiers necessary?
For most guitars, yes.
Any guitar with an amp jack (or quarter-inch output) can connect to an amplifier. Standard acoustic guitars don’t have this jack. Acoustic guitars do, which gives you the flexibility to decide if you want to play unplugged or amped.
That leaves us with the full electric body types: hollowbody, semi-hollowbody, and solid-body.
Hollowbody electrics (and, to a lesser degree, semi-hollowbodies) do produce some natural tone. But unless you’re doing advanced experimental stuff, you won’t use these guitars without an amp. You just can’t get enough sound out of them to be useful in most musical contexts.
And as we mentioned earlier, solid-body electrics produce almost no natural tone.
So, in most cases, a guitar amplifier is necessary for any fully electric guitar. Having one for your acoustic-electric is a good idea, too: It gives you more flexibility and more maximum value, even though using one isn’t necessary.
How do I choose a guitar amplifier?
Ask yourself a few questions about the music you make (or what you want to make) when choosing a guitar amp:
- What kind of music (and guitars) do you play?
- What types of spaces do you play in?
- What type of amp is ideal for your playing style?
- Do you need built-in effects and other features?
Acoustic amps are tuned for the needs of acoustic-electric players, and you might choose a different electric amp for solo playing versus rhythm/backing. Volume and size should be appropriate for where you’re playing – a 100-watt amp will perform amazingly in a medium to large venue, but it’ll be out of control in your garage.
The best strategy for choosing a guitar amplifier is to work with a professional at a music shop like Brian’s Guitars. With just a little Q&A, our team can guide you to the amp that’s right for you. And if you visit us in person, you can try many of them for yourself!