Types of Guitar Amps

A Guitar Amp Guide for Beginners

Combo Amps

Combo Amps are a type of guitar amp with a single speaker or multiple speakers built into the same enclosure, or cabinet. Combo amps generally come with a 1x10", 1x12", 2x12", or 4x10" speaker combination. The enclosures of combination amps are either open or closed. The tone of the amp is greatly affected by an open or a closed back enclosure.

Guitar Amp Heads

Amp Heads are the brains of the amp in an enclosure without speakers. Amp heads must be paired up with a speaker cabinet. Amp heads usually have more wattage and volume than that of a combo or smaller amp.

Half Stack & Full Stack Guitar Amps

A half stack is a term used for a guitar amp head played through a speaker cabinet with 4x12" speakers, and a full stack powers a pair of 4x12" speaker cabs. A half stack guitar amp is plenty loud to play live shows with, but it could always be louder, right?

Before the digital technology of solid state and modeling amps today, tube amps were just about the only available option for electric guitarists. With digital and transistor technology, guitar amps now come in both Tube and Solid State form, but leads to a debate on which amps sound better.

Tube Amps

Over the years of guitar amp evolution, tube amps have been the choice of many serious electric guitarists. If you're serious about your playing and tone, a tube amp might be for you.

Tube amps usually cost considerably more money to buy and maintain than solid state amps. Keeping up with changing your tubes and other routine maintenance can prove to be pricey.

Tube amps played at higher volumes really bring out their tone. By overdriving its preamp tubes, tube amps create a clipping effect that produces the overdrive and distortion tones associated with tube amps.

Most tube amps come equipped with a standby switch that allows the amp to warm up before powering up the rest of the amp. This is important for sustaining the tube and amp life.

Tips for Tube Amps

Solid State Amps

Solid State Amps generally cost less money, and are easier to maintain. The price of tubes, biasing, and other tube amp related expenses might not be something you want to deal with if you’re just practicing guitar or you don’t want to piss off your neighbors. Solid state amps offer a good sound for typically less money and are often a great starter amp.

Over the years many solid state amps have improved as far as recreating the tube sound, but many die hard tube amp users swear by the sound and tone of tube amps. It has become increasingly harder to tell the difference between a solid state amp and a tube amp in sound recordings.

Solid state amps can be played at lower volumes without losing overdrive or distortion since they don't rely on tube output to cause distortion. This makes solid state amps a good choice for a beginner amp or even a practice amp even your neighbors would approve of

Modeling Amps

A modelling amp is a solid state or tube amp with built in effects. Amp emulators mimic the sound or tone characteristics of a selection or specific amps. For a while modelling amps were pretty much just solid state amps, but the option is now open to both tube and solid state amps.

How to Get the Best Tone From Your Guitar Amp