Guitar Amps Explained- What are the Different Varieties?

Guitar Amps Explained- What are the Different Varieties?

When going shopping for guitar amps for your electric guitar, there are many things that you need to keep in mind before making any final decisions.

Amps are defined by the type of technology that is used in order to produce sound; the type of technology that is used in the amp affects the way your music sounds.

Before making your final purchase, you should be well-informed on what you’re actually buying.

What are the different types of amps that are available on the market?

Tube Amps

Vacuum tube amps are large, glass cylinders that are in amps that turn orange and get hot, the more that they’re used. Tube amps aren’t very popular anymore because they tend to be more expensive, they’re very heavy to carry around, it’s hard to find replacement tubes, and the tubes burn out often and are high maintenance.

Tube amps are old and are very hard to come across, they’ve still left their mark in history by producing loud and responsive tones.

Solid State Amps

If you’re looking for an amp that isn’t going to cost you an arm and a leg, the solid state amp is a great purchase to make. The technology that’s used in this amp has printed circuit boards and transistors. Also, the technology in this amp makes it very popular among performing guitarists and that’s because of the amp’s tone, which also includes sound distortion.

Not to mention these amps and light weight, reliable, inexpensive, and offer a wide range of tonal alterations and effects. Solid state amps are also very popular because they’re built to be sturdy, which means that they don’t need repairs very often.

That’s why solid state amps are the most popular practice amp among all electric guitar players.

If you’re looking for an amp that isn’t going to cost you an arm and a leg, the solid state amp is a great purchase to make. The technology that’s used in this amp has printed circuit boards and transistors. Also, the technology in this amp makes it very popular among performing guitarists and that’s because of the amp’s tone, which also includes sound distortion.

Not to mention these amps and light weight, reliable, inexpensive, and offer a wide range of tonal alterations and effects. Solid state amps are also very popular because they’re built to be sturdy, which means that they don’t need repairs very often.

That’s why solid state amps are the most popular practice amp among all electric guitar players.

Of course, if you are looking for some great solid state amp suggestions, please read my article here! 

Hybrid Amps

The technology that’s used in hybrid amps include solid state and tube electronics, hence the name. In the hybrid amp, the preamp uses a tube in order to start the initial sound, while the power amp depends on the solid state technology in order to drive the sound to the speakers of the amp.

Digital Modeling Amps

Digital modeling amps emulate the sound of a tube amp, without carrying the same physical weight that a tube amp does. Instead of having a tube produce the sound on digital modeling amps, there’s a computer inside of the amp that produces the sound; this computer also has the ability to produce a whole plethora of other sounds.

Another benefit of digital modeling amps is that they are programmable and more often than not, they have built in effects like delay and chorus.

Let’s take a second to get into talking more about digital modeling amps for a quick second. They’re an amp that people often claim is their holy grail amp, but what makes a modeling amp so different than any other amps?

Modeling amps can range in quality; meaning, you can purchase yourself a basic amp that doesn’t have any cool effects all the way to a high end amp that offers a combo with tube powering, as well as providing you with whatever tonal effect you may want or need.

People like digital modeling amps for one major reason: they have so many different effects and options packed into one amp. Guitarists don’t have to jerry rig together two amps anymore; now, they have the option of purchasing a modeling amp.

Modeling amps are also very popular to travel with; they make great practice amps, but also provide amazing sound quality to make them perfect for on stage performances.

Each amp has its own pros and cons; there’s no one amp that is better than the other options. Your choice really all depends on what tone you’re looking for.

Other Effects

It seems like there are more options to choose from when going shopping for amps compared to all of the different electric guitar options there are.

You can choose an amp based on the sound you want, the technology inside of the amp, the configuration, and size. Above, we talked about the four different types of electric guitar amplifiers, which are: digital modeling (also just called modeling), hybrids, solid state (also called analog), and tube amps.

Construction and configuration: Amps are more complex then they seem to be! The thickness of the wood used to create the cabinet is a large factor that decides the type and quality of the sound that’s produced from the amp. Having a piece of wood that is half of an inch thick helps to produce a stronger, larger sound.

There are some amps that have the combination of the amplifier and the speaker in one cabinet; however, there are other amps that have the amp and the speaker in different cabinets.

On other amps, the amp is broken into two completely different units, which makes carrying the overall amp lighter, since you don’t have to carry the weight of the speaker and the amp in one system.

Speaker size and power: The size and power rating of the speaker that you choose will depend on price and application. Amps that are meant for practice are typically a modeling or solid state unit, that have a power between ten to thirty watts, paired with eight to ten inch speakers.

If you plan on playing at rehearsals with small groups or at small venues, you’re going to want to decide between purchasing a digital modeling amp or a tube amp; these options feature a larger, twelve-inch speaker, as well as a fifty-watt power rating.

Lastly, amps that are going to be played in front of large audiences are going to have a power average of one hundred watts and more.

If this happens to be too pricey for you, you can also combine two medium sized speakers (twelve-inch speakers) and stack them on top of each other, with a separate speaker and head cabinets.

Channel switching: Amps that allow you to switch between different preamp channels allow you to switch from a clean sound to a distorted sound. Amps that offer channel switching sometimes will come with a footswitch; however, digital modeling amps typically need the footswitch to be purchased additionally.

Effect loops: This allows you to add rack units or stomp boxes after the preamp area of the amp, in order to avoid amplifying any extra effect noise.

Reverb units: When talking about reverb, there are some amps that use digital reverb, which produces a sound that has a machine-like tone to it. On the other hand, there are other amps that use spring reverbs, which produce a natural sounding tone.

Built in effects: Some amps are famous simply because all of the built-in effects that they offer. Modeling guitars are often jam packed with these different effects.

Let’s take a second to talk about speakers

Does the size of a speaker really matter that much? Yes, it does! There are different size speakers for a reason; different size speakers produce different sounds. The smaller the speaker is, the higher the frequencies it can produce. A twenty-inch speaker is not going to produce the treble notes as well as a ten-inch speaker.

You’re also going to want to look to see if the amp that you’re looking at comes with an open backed cabinet or a closed cabinet design. There are going to be amps that you test out that are the same exact size but produce totally different sounds.

Open back cabinets have a panel covering half of the back, which allows more of the sound from the speaker to emit more sound from the back and the sides of the amp. People who use open back cabinets often mention that they notice that the sound produced from this speaker sounds more natural and open.

The only downside about the open back cabinets is that the bass notes don’t resonate very well, as the open back design of the cabinet benefits the higher frequencies. Open back cabinets fill the room with sound, because the panels aren’t preventing the sound from radiating from the amp.

On the other end, closed back cabinets are do a good job at projecting the sound forward, which accentuates the middle and bass ranges. This is because the back of the cabinet is closed, which stops any sound from coming out from the back and the sides.

The common complaint with this guitar comes from people who perform on stage; they find that with this guitar, the sound only is directed straight ahead.

Sound doesn’t resonate to the sides, which causes the sound coming from the speakers to be a maximum when you’re standing directly in front of the speakers.

Your next question is likely to be ‘which one is right for me?’ Since each electric guitar, playing style, and desired sound is unique, there is no direct answer for this question.

If you’re looking for an amp that’s going to provide you with a crisp definition, you’re going to want to purchase yourself a closed back cabinet. If you want a natural sound that’s going to fill the room, go purchasing yourself an open back cabinet.

Conclusion

Picking your guitar amp is also going to take some planning, careful thought, and knowledge. Before you make any final decisions on what amp you’re going to purchase, I would suggest taking your guitar into a shop and testing out several different amp options; this includes testing out different amp sizes, cabinet options, and different types.

Make sure that you’re very happy with the amp’s sound projection and tone before you finally decide. I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about the different type of guitar amps!

About the Author Danny Trent

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