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An amplifier is an essential companion to bring out the full potential of your electric guitar. Whether you’re training on your own at home or getting ready for a tour, you’ll need one that is reliable, durable, and can sound exactly the way you want it to. This is a major investment for any serious musician, and will most likely last for years. For this roundup, we’ve focused on amps that can fit into dorms and small apartments, but are also powerful enough to play gigs in cafes, bars, and with bands in various venues.
Electric Guitar Amps Buying Guide
Types of amps: A tube amp (also sometimes called a “tube amp”) was among the earliest amplifier models ever made, and they still sound great. These are powered by preamp and power tubes – little glass bulbs on the back that give it a powerful, warm sound. And while the rock gods of the ’60s and’ 70s primarily used them, they aren’t the only ones available these days. The other common type that you will find is a solid state amp. These operate on transistor circuits, bypassing light bulbs completely. Technology has come a long way with solid-state amps, allowing them to mimic the effects of tubes, while being louder than you likely ever need, even when playing a show. But it’s mostly a matter of preference, and it’s worth taking a look at the stats and attributes of each to see what will work best for you, your guitar, and your playing style.
Connectivity: Bluetooth connectivity is another big leap forward in technology that may be new to anyone who hasn’t bought an amp in years. Not only to listen to you on headphones while you play (without being tied by wires), but also to connect to your smartphone. Ports are still needed, and even if you don’t plan on using them all now, you might be able to be somewhere down the road. A second input lets you share your speaker with another guitarist, while XLR and phantom power is designed for mics, and a USB port lets you record directly from your amp into your favorite studio program.
Power : Just because an amp can get extremely loud doesn’t mean you need it. Think about what you will be using primarily for this and consider the potency from there. A 10- or 15-watt amp is great for practicing at home or at a friend’s house, while a 100-watt amp will be more than enough for a rehearsal space or a local gig. The wattage goes further with tube amps as well, and a lower number can still be loud enough to shake the room.
Weight: Although they are lighter than they were decades ago, tube amps can still get heavy. It might not be a big deal if it stays in a corner of your room all the time, but carrying it from gig to gig can get exhausting if it’s difficult for you to pick it up. This goes for amps across the board though, so if you’re constantly charging and unloading, make sure you can lift it comfortably.
Play live: If you’re playing in venues with a main soundboard, solid-state amps most often have an XLR output that can go straight to the sound technician’s office. Not all tube amps have this, and if they don’t, you’ll have to physically mic it up and make sure the placement is correct every time. Taking into consideration the type of music you play also helps determine which amp is right for you.
What are the best electric guitar amps?
If you can’t go to a music store to try them out right now, we’ve handpicked these powerful amps to help you start your search. They are great for all levels of musicians, but most importantly great first amps to have, as the experimentation is endless, and this is the best way to become familiar with all the possibilities that you and your guitar can create.
1. Fender ’68 Custom Pro Reverb 40W combo amp
This timeless 40-watt Fender mixes the best sounds, effects and aesthetics of the past with modern styles and the flexibility to find your ideal sound.
Legendary tube reverb and crystal clear Fender clarity shine here and give that clean, classic, bluesy feel. It’s modified to a single-channel format, with two power tubes and three preamp tubes inside to help create a shimmering, dreamy sound, or get loud enough to play the lead.
This is inspired by the original 1968 Fender model, with useful adjustments for portability and efficiency. Overall weight is reduced to less than 35 pounds (the original was almost double), with a 12-inch Celestion NeoCreamback speaker inside to deliver that iconic Fender sound.
It works well for just about any style, and even for recording. Up front there’s an illuminated switch and two inputs, as well as a full treble / mid / bass EQ section, as well as reverb, speed and intensity to control the effects of tremolo and pulsed vibrato.
Feedback is drastically reduced, and this comes with a vintage-style two-button foot switch for easy transitions. The amp also integrates effortlessly into the pedals, giving you even more possibilities to mix and match, and ultimately evolve your playing.
2. Vox AC30C2 30W 2 × 12 tube guitar combo
A mix of preamp tubes is what powers this 30-watt Vox, handling clean tones, high gain and everything in between.
There are four inputs here, for normal and top boost, each with its own volume knob (as well as bass and treble for the latter). The reverb has its own tone and level controls, giving you more flexibility as to the shimmering effect you’re looking for, along with speed and depth for the tremolo as well. A tone cut control acts as a convenient filter, and behind the signature diamond grille are two 12-inch Celestion G12M Greenback speakers, with a switchable 8/16 Ohm output jack.
While it sounds gorgeous and is loud, be aware of the weight, as this one is an absolute beast at over 70 pounds (the three different handles are a big help when it comes to lifting it).
3. Marshall Studio Vintage 20W 1 × 10 Tube Guitar Combo Amp
You won’t need a giant wall of Marshall amps behind you to get the brand’s powerfully vintage sound at home – one of them will do just fine.
This 20 watt tube amp is based on Marshall’s 1959SLP. In fact, the top panel is identical to the original, with a full EQ section and volume control for each channel (treble and normal). At the rear, this model offers five outputs for connecting it to different speakers, a DI output for studio recording and an effects loop with its own on / off switch.
It can handle a nice thick tone for rhythm parts and switch to a rumbling solo tone just as well.
4. Orange Crush Pro CR60C 60W Guitar Combo Amplifiers
It’s hard not to like this eye-catching amp, but it offers more than just cool aesthetics.
The CR60C is part of the Orange Crush range. This is a reliable two-channel solid-state combo amp with a 12-inch Voice of the World speaker inside. This delivers crisp, crisp sound, with its own clearly labeled control panel for bass, treble, and volume. The same goes for flipping the switch and getting dirty, with designated knobs for gain, volume, and full EQ. On the back there are two speaker outputs, effects loop jacks and even a slot for pedals.