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What Type Of Guitar Amp Is Best?

December 2, 2017



As promised in my last blog, which Guitar Amp Should I buy?, I'm going to give you a brief rundown of the different types of amp available and what may be best for your needs.

Just a quick note - most guitar amps are built with a preamp section that controls the signal coming in from your guitar and the output section that powers your speakers.


Valve Amps


99.9% of the time the choice for pro & semi pro guitarists everywhere valve amps are responsible for most of the worlds great guitar tones.

They are normally most expensive than other amp types, although prices have dropped considerably since the Chinese started to built them.

Boutique amps however, normally built in the UK or US are still very expensive. But they are hand built to last and made of out top quality components and there's not a circuit board in sight.

1w to 5w valve amps are great for recording and home practice and anything from 15w upwards is great for gigging.

The reason that they are held in such high regard is because they provide warm tones & rich harmonics that give them a magical quality that other amp types simply can't match.

The downside to valve amps apart from the expense is that they occasionally need servicing and valve changes. They are also the heaviest of the options.



Solid State Amp


Solid state amps don't have valves and are instead powered by transformers so they are normally lighter and much more portable.

Some people prefer the clean tones they produce while some find them too 'glassy' or clinical and they don't 'break up' (start to distort) as smoothly as a valve amp. Overdriving them at volume can also sound harsh if your not very careful.

They normally give out less volume than valve amps due to inferior speakers but are a great value option for practicing & small gigs.





Hybrid Amps


Hybrid amps are a cross between a valve amp and a solid state amp.

They normally have a valve like an AX7 in the preamp with a solid state output stage. The idea being that the valve in the preamp will warm and fatten the tone.

I've heard some good ones and some not so good ones but you could say that about any amp type.

Again they are cheaper then all valve amps & are lighter and more portable.

Whilst they never fully replicate the tone of a valve amp some do get close.

Again they are great for home practice & small to medium gigs.



Class D Amp


Class D amps are super lightweight & can be very loud. Normally found in PA systems and Bass Amps.

For clean power and headroom they are excellent although on guitar amps they can sound clinical and cold.

Some companies are experimenting on them for guitar amps but personally I would avoid.



The Bottom Line


The Key thing with guitar amps is don't buy blind. One persons dream tone is another persons nightmare. Ignore the snobs & 'experts' & trust your own ears.