Newbie Series Part 5 : Buying Your First Amp

Neal May 15, 2011 54

Time to crank up the noise!  In Part 5 of the Newbie Guide I’ll recommend some great amps for new players that’ll sound great without breaking the bank.

Newbie Guide Part 5 - AmpsBefore you consider buying your first amp, really think hard about whether or not you actually need one.  When you first start playing guitar you’re going to sound as musical as a rusty toaster, and an amplifier is just going to broadcast the sheer horror to anyone nearby.  One month of botching the ‘Smoke on the Water’ riff will be enough to drive any of your neighbors loopy!  Using an amp will also generally mean no late night practice – sure, you could plug in some headphones, but that kind of defeats the purpose of an amplifier doesn’t it!?

A better option for many new players may be some type of effects unit coupled with a pair of headphones.  This would mean that you could play as loud as you like and not have to be self conscious about offending nearby ears.  I would recommend something along the lines of a Line6 Studio interface (GX/UX1) for computer use, or a Line6 POD for standalone use.  I will go into more detail on these in Part6 of the Newbie Guide.

Of course, if you really want to rock out loud and unencumbered by headphones, or if you are planning on jamming with some buddies as soon as possible then an amp is probably the way to go.

Solid State, Tube, Hybrid and Modeling – What Does It All Mean?

Guitar Amp TubesThere are four different types of amplifiers which you can consider.

Solid State – These amps utilise solid-state electronics such as diodes and transistors to amplify your signal.  As a beginner player this is most likely what you will be looking to get as these amps are generally the most affordable. Due to the electronics being solid-state, they are much more reliable than tube amps and very seldom need repaired.

Tube – Also known as Valve Amps, these models utilise one or more vacuum tubes to amplify your signal. Most experienced guitarists (aka tone snobs) will argue that tubes amps produce a superior sound when compared to solid state models, however to your untrained beginner ears it’s unlikelythat you’re going to notice much of a difference.  As tubes can blow-out and also deteriorate over time, they will occasionally need replacing.

Hybrid – Combines the best of Solid-State and Tube amps into one tidy little package. So hopefully you’ll get the extra warmth of tube tone coupled with the affordability and reliability of solid-state.

Modeling – Also known as Digital Amps, these models use digital processors to mimic the sound of a tube amplifier. Modeling amps are programmable and more often than not will come with effects built in.  Because they are based around electronics and computer chips they are generally very light weight and reliable. Another great choice for new players.

Power

Guitar – For bedroom practice, guitarists should be looking for something around the 10-30 watt range. Calm down Slash, you don’t need a full stack quite yet!! One of my first amps was a 60 watt Marshall which I bought because it looked cool.  I never turned that beast past 10% volume – what a waste!

Bass – Because of the lower frequencies of a bass guitar, you bassists will require a little more oomph to push more sound from the speaker. Anything from 10 up to around 50 watts should be good for home practice. Make sure you get a bona fide bass amp as a regular guitar amp speaker isn’t designed to handle the lower frequencies of a bass guitar.

Beginner Bass Amps

A Selection of Great Bass Amps for BeginnersPopular Bass Amps Under $100

Popular Bass Amps Under $200

Beginner Guitar Amps

A selection of excellent beginner guitar ampsPopular Guitar Amps Under $100

  • Fender Champion 20 – link
  • Fender Frontman – 10 watt
  • Ibanez IBZ10 – link
  • Line 6 Spider 15 – link
  • Marshall MG – 10 watt or 15 watt
  • Orange Crush PiX 12 – link
  • Peavey Rage 258 – link
  • Sawtooth ST-10 – link
  • Vox amPlug Headphone Amp – link
  • Vox amPhones Headphones – link
  • Vox Pathfinder – 10 watt

Popular Guitar Amps Under $200

  • Fender Champion 40 – link
  • Fender Mustang – 20 watt or 40 watt
  • Line 6 Spider 30 – link
  • Marshall MG15CFX – link
  • Marshall MG30 – link
  • Orange Crush PiX 20 – link
  • Peavey Vypyr VIP 1 – link
  • Vox Valvetronix VT20 Plus – link

Part One : Tips Before You Buy
Part Two : Beginner Electric Guitars
Part Three : Beginner Acoustic Guitars
Part Four : Beginner Bass Guitars
Part Five : Amps
Part Six : Effects
Part Seven : Accessories
Part Eight : Lessons

54 Comments »

  1. Lauren December 16, 2010 at 2:07 am - Reply

    Love all the advice! thanks!

    • Neal December 16, 2010 at 9:55 am - Reply

      Glad you found it useful Lauren :)

  2. Ger December 16, 2010 at 7:08 pm - Reply

    Maybe you should add the Spider III (15W or 30W) by Line6. A nice range of choices for a nice price. Especially for the high gain-people.

    • Neal December 16, 2010 at 8:34 pm - Reply

      Great suggestion Ger, don't know how that one slipped through the net – tis a great beginner amp for sure. I shall add it when I get a chance.

  3. Lefty Dude July 28, 2011 at 6:14 pm - Reply

    Did you say anything about needing a different type of amp for a base guitar?

  4. Greg December 30, 2012 at 1:33 pm - Reply

    What about

    Fame Vintage Line GX15G Combo

    Fame Vintage Line GX15R Combo

    Fame Megatone ML-20 R Combo

    Are those good ones?

    Thanks and great site.
    I’m a lefthanded beginner and you give me more desire to want to play with it ;)

  5. Rob January 16, 2013 at 5:29 pm - Reply

    As with your advice i have a strict budget as am selling all my pc gaming stuff to do something i have wanted to do for a long time. My amp budget is £100 and the two i am looking at are the Fender Mustang 1 and the Line 6 Spider IV. Both well within budget and both having the ability of lots of effects so need for a effects unit. Do you have any experience with any of these two as the reviews i have read have both been positive.

  6. S Wolf March 30, 2014 at 11:16 pm - Reply

    I got a $90 Fender Champion 20-watt amp. It’s not to big, but still has power, and it’s got all the basics. I’d definitely recommend it to beginners.

  7. MG June 16, 2014 at 11:39 pm - Reply

    Interesting post. Unfortunately, you forgot the acoustic guitar players with this list. Not one acoustic amp was recommended. Only amps for electric guitars. Maybe you could do another blog about acoustic amps?

    • Neal Beedie June 17, 2014 at 7:23 pm - Reply

      I’m not sure what kind of new player would buy an acoustic amp straight off the bat, but I’ll try and add a separate article.

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