Another question I get asked regularly in store is 'what amp do I need?'. The most important consideration is what is it's primary use. If it's for practicing at home you obviously don't need a100 watt valve head and 4x12" cab (unless you really don't like your neighbours!) Truth is, you have never had has much choice. Here are some of them;
Micro amps have become very very popular over the last decade or so. They are relatively cheap, low volume, portable, battery or mains powered and look really cool.
Although they will never replicate a proper guitar amp sound wise they have improved a lot but some are definitely better than others.
It will definitely pay to try before you buy.
Practice amps are usually 5-15w with 8-10" speakers. They come in many different varietys. Single channel, Split channels,with reverb, boost buttons, with fx etc etc.
The biggest distinction is between Valve and Solid State amps. You could write an encyclopedia on this and I plan to cover it in my next blog. Valve amps are normally louder because of better more efficient speakers and I've played many small gigs with a 15w valve amp. The minimum solid state output for a small gig i would say is 50w.
Remember even small practice amps can still be loud. For home use 5w should be sufficient.
The average gigging combo normally has 1x12" or 2x12" speaker configuration and is between 15-30w for a valve amp and 50-100w for solid state amps.
Most come with reverb and some have multi fx.
If you play in a band with a really loud drummer or in a country band where you need a super clean sound then go for the top end of these scales otherwise the lower end should be fine for 99% of situations.
Guitar stacks consist of an head (the amp) and one or two 4x12" cabs.
Due to their size and weight, plus improvements in PA systems, the legendary guitar stacks as used by people like Jimi Hendrix and The Who are not as popular as they once were. However, for certain types of music such as Metal, Shoegaze and Stoner Rock the huge sound they produce are vital. There is something about an amp shifting that much air that is magical. Mini stacks with 20-30w heads and 2x12 cabs are more the norm now.
The Bottom Line
Really I've always beleived in 'horses for courses'. If you need an amp to gig with buy a gigging amp. Then if you want something to practice at home with buy a micro or practice amp, there cheap enough nowadays. Manufacturers keep trying to convince people that one amp can be both and personally I'm not convinced.
And as always 'try before you buy' you may just like something you've never heard of!