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.
Before 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 about 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?
There 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 unlikely that 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.
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.
The Best Beginner Guitar Amps
Popular Guitar Amps Under $100
- Fender Champion 20 – link
- Fender Frontman – link
- Line 6 Spider 15 – link
- Marshall MG – 10 watt or 15 watt
- Vox Pathfinder – link
Neal Says: These are all perfect amps for new players, coming from well known, big-name brands – but which would I choose? For the ultimate in versatility, both the Fender Champion, and Line 6 Spider come with a plethora of in-built effects for you to experiment with. The Line 6 is our best selling practice amp by a country mile – loaded with features, built like a tank, comes with free online lessons, and sounds killer.
If you’d rather use separate effects (or none at all!) then you can save a little cash and opt for one of the other three, which are all very similar spec-wise.
I’ve also included a couple of wild-cards from Vox that you may also like to consider. The amPlug is a handy little gadget that plugs straight into your guitar and gives instant tones from a variety of classic amps via headphones. The amPhones takes that same idea and builds it into a set of quality Audio Technica headphones for the ultimate in convenience. If you know the kind of sound you’re after, one of these could be a handy choice.
Popular Guitar Amps Under $200
- Fender Mustang – 20 watt or 40 watt
- Line 6 Spider 30 – link
- Marshall MG CFX – 15 watt or 30 watt
- Peavey Vypyr – 20 watt or 40 watt
- Vox Valvetronix VT20 Plus – link
Neal Says: At this price range we are introduced to the Fender Mustang, which is arguably the most popular amp range in the world. These guys are a lot of amp for the money, handle any style of music, and get universally great reviews. One of these would be my choice at this price point. The 20 watt is perfect for bedroom practice, or the 40 watter has a little extra juice for jamming with friends. Although in saying that, all of the amps listed here are fantastic options if the Fender doesn’t catch your eye.
Beginner Bass Amps
Popular Bass Amps Under $100
- Fender Rumble – link
- Ibanez IBZ10 – link
- Peavey Max – 10 watt or 20 watt
- Vox amPlug Headphone Amp – link
- Vox amPhones Headphones – link
- Vox PB10 – link
Popular Bass Amps Under $200
- Ampeg BA110 – link
- Behringer BX108 – link
- Fender Rumble 40 – link
- Hartke HD Series – 25 watt or 50 watt
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