If you’re looking to record, perform, or just explore your music more thoroughly, then you’re probably in search of an amplifier.
Amps are a staple for guitars, bass and keyboards. Picking the right amp that is properly optimised for your instrument is important. You don’t want to end up with an amp that doesn’t work well with your bass, or an amp that doesn’t suit your style or genre of music.
There are many different things to consider, so this blog will help guide you through the process of choosing an amp, and explore the different options available.
What Are Amps Used For?
An amp is an electronic device used to increase the power of a signal, such as the sound of an instrument being played. Musicians have used amps for over a century to increase the volume of their music, create new signature sounds and change the tone of their musical instruments.
For some instruments, such as electric guitars, they are an essential part of playing.
For other instruments, such as keyboards, they’re just an extra tool to help boost the sound of your playing.
What Type of Music Do You Want to Play?
The type of amp that you choose can have a big impact on the sound signature of your music.
Different amps can create different effects, whether it’s through built in effects, eq controls or the method used to boost your signal.
For genres such as classical, or jazz, you often want an amp with a clean, undistorted sound. Whereas for genres such as metal and rock, you might want an amp with a naturally added texture, such as a distortion effect.
For many musicians it is important to purchase an amp that will complement the type of music that they plan to play.
Tube Amps vs. Solid State
There are many types of amps on the market, including hybrid amps and modeling amps/digital amps. However the most commonly used types are tube amps and solid state amps.
When it comes to your first amp, these are the two you are most likely to encounter and use.
Solid state amps are known for their reliability. For a beginner it is great to use as your first practice amp. They use transistors in the power supply and preamp configuration, creating a clean sound.
Tube amps were the first ever type of amplifier to be created, using vacuum tubes to increase the volume and signal power. They create a very warm sound. They’re typically louder than solid state amps, and can be a lot more responsive. They can produce a natural distortion effect, and have more natural texture.
Many musicians believe tube amps sound the best when pushed to their max. Whereas solid state amps don’t create this natural distortion.
Combo vs. Head
Combo amps are very common, and typically cheaper than amp heads. A combo amp refers to an amplifier and speaker that comes connected in one box. They’re incredibly portable, and good for live performing.
Amp heads don’t come with built-in speakers, instead you pair them with a separate speaker cabinet. They’re more versatile, but also more expensive. If you choose an amp head, you can change your speakers and potentially upgrade. As long as they pair well with your amp head, you can choose whatever speakers you fancy.
Wattage is useful to give you a general idea of what your amplifier is capable of, but because different manufacturers can measure it differently, it is not always the most reliable measurement.
Wattage is used to describe the power of your amplifier, so it measures the amount of electrical power output an amp has to drive the speakers.
The number of watts an amp has tells you how loud you can play before the sound loses quality and starts to break up. A higher wattage amp means you can play at a higher volume without running into issues.
50 watts is often deemed as a midsized amp, providing enough power for most keyboards, but not enough for a bass. 100 watts or more is typically seen as a larger amp, but it still might not be enough for some bass guitars. Bass amps generally have a higher wattage, as they use larger speakers and need more power.
A higher wattage doesn’t always mean louder volume. Tube amps with lower wattage can still sound louder than solid state amps with a higher wattage.
Picking the Right Amp for Your Instrument
We have touched on some of the differences in amps, but one of the most important to consider is what type of instrument you are using your amp for. This will have a huge impact on your decision, as different amps are optimised for different instruments.
Electric Guitar Amps
An amp is an integral part of playing an electric guitar, and so naturally it is the most common type of amp available.
Due to innovations in modern technology, most amps available will get the job done. It’s up to you how many features and options you want to include in your amp. Many amps will come with reverb and effect loops, even allowing you to switch between a clean sound to a distorted sound.
You want to choose an amp that has features you are actually interested in using.
There’s no point buying an expensive amp with loads of features if you are only really interested in one or two.
Acoustic Guitar Amps
Acoustic guitar amplifiers have a much more simple job to complete than their electric counterparts. These amps are designed to reproduce the acoustic sound without any added effects such as distortion.
You will often want an acoustic guitar amp if you are planning to play gigs or perform. With an acoustic guitar you can often get away with a smaller amp, as you don’t need as much power to boost the signal and increase the volume.
Bass Guitar Amps
Bass guitars typically need more power, and larger speakers because they use lower frequencies and move a lot of air. You want an amp that is going to be able to handle the signal of your bass, and replicate the low, sonorous tone.
Typically they focus less on digital effects, and instead use a larger speaker size to boost the ‘fat’ bass noise.
Much like acoustic guitar amps, keyboard amps aim to replicate the sound of the keyboard without changing the tone.
A keyboard amp will help you control the sound, and will make sure that your playing doesn’t get drowned out by other instruments.
Picking your new amp is a big decision, and there are many things you need to consider. Trying out your new amp in store at the Sunshine Coast Shake It Up Music Shop is a great way to experiment with your amp before you commit.
If you need any help, the friendly and knowledgeable team is already ready to talk about everything and anything music.