Newbie Series Part5 : Buying Your 1st Amp

Neal May 15, 2011 54

As was mentioned earlier on in this series, you don’t want to buy a cheap guitar just to save a few dollars – and this idea rings equally true with amps!  A cheap amp is always going to sound inferior no matter how many effects you put through it, or how good a guitar you plug into it.

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 are going to sound dreadful (there’s no escaping it!) and an amplifier is just going to broadcast to anyone nearby how bad you really are.  One month of botching the ‘Smoke on the Water’ riff is enough to drive any of your neighbours up the wall!  Using an amp will also generally mean no (loud) 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 (all through the night if you wanted) and not have to be self conscious about infuriating 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.  Here is a list of some reasonably priced amps for use in the bedroom and beyond.  Of course if your budget allows, almost all of these amps have bigger brothers – but keep in mind that you really don’t need much power for bedroom practice!

Clean/Lower Gain

Vox Pathfinder 15R Guitar AmpVox Pathfinder 15R

The Pathfinder 15 produces 15 watts of power that drives a specially voiced 8 inch VOX Bulldog speaker. In addition to a headphone output that mutes the internal speaker for silent practice, the rear panel also has a specially filtered Line Out jack for recording/live work and an External Speaker output as well.  The Pathfinder 15R is identical to the Pathfinder 15 but also features an onboard Spring Reverb system with a Reverb control that adjusts the level of the effect.

Vox AC4 Guitar AmpVox AC4

Way back in 1961, VOX rolled out the AC4 amplifier. Nearly fifty years later, VOX is pleased to announce the AC4TV – the all-tube practice amp with remarkable self control. This up-to-date Class A version retains the distinctive EL84 power tube of the original and features a 12AX7 powered pre-amp, all driving a custom-made Celestion 10 inch speaker. The sophisticated sound is unmistakably VOX, delivering that distinctively British top-end tone.

Epiphone Valve Junior Guitar AmpEpiphone Valve Junior

Valve Series Junior: Boutique amplifiers just became the domain of every guitar player out there. Take a listen and your jaw will drop. This little, low-watt powerhouse rivals $800.00 snob boxes no problem. The Valve Junior is vintage tone and crunch in an impressively affordable package. Perfect for recording, live, mic’d use and for practice when space is limited but sacrificing tone isn’t an option.

Fender Champ 600 Guitar AmpFender Champ 600

A fun and affordable tribute to a rare and historic Fender amp. The new Champion 600 is a 5-watt tube amp with a 6” speaker and 1950 “two-tone” looks. Fender added a higher-gain preamp circuit to let the overdriven tone exceed that of the original, and they added a choice of high or low-gain inputs. The Internal speaker jack enables the use of a larger speaker cabinet.

Mid Gain

Vox Valvetronix VT15 Amp VT30Vox Valvetronix VT15/VT30

Sophisticated modeling technology combined with the VOX Valve Reactor power amp circuit that uses a 12AX7 vacuum tube results in sound quality that overwhelms the competition. The VT series are the latest combo amps in the Valvetronix series, featuring simulation sounds of famous guitarists.  With sound quality that overpowers its rivals, the Valvetronix series has achieved enormous support from guitarists around the world.

Fender Vibro Champ XD AmpFender Vibro Champ XD

The Fender Vibro Champ XD takes the vintage Vibro Champ into a new era with classic styling, simple controls, a good variety of clean and distorted tones and unmistakable tube feel and performance at a remarkable price.  Features include a real tube amp combined with up-to-date extras including versatile amp voicing and superb DSP effects. Its solid-state overdrive and distortion eliminate many of the preamp tube problems that plague tube lovers while providing exemplary tones for rock, blues, country, jazz, metal and more.

Peavey Valveking Royal 8 Guitar AmpPeavey Valveking Royal 8

The ValveKing(R) Royal 8 is a true class A guitar amplifier designed to give players the punchy dynamics and tones that inspired rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest riffs. Perfect for rehearsing, the Royal 8 features a simple interface of a single tone control, dual inputs and master volume and gain controls that can be adjusted for either class A “breakup” power-amp tones-achieved by reducing the gain and increasing the master volume-or preamp distortion, which players can access by reducing the master volume and cranking the gain.

Higher Gain

Blackstar HT1 Guitar Amp 1 Watt

Blackstar HT1

The HT-1 is the perfect studio and practice amp, packing all the great tone and innovative features of the award-winning HT-5 valve amp into a 1 Watt format.  The patent-applied-for ISF (Infinite Shape Feature) circuit gives you infinite adjustment over the characteristics of the tone control network and takes you from the USA to the UK and anywhere in between. Add a fully specified speaker emulated output, MP3 / Line Input, plus an 8? speaker output and you have everything you need for recording or practicing.

Blacstar HT5 5 Watt Guitar AmpBlackstar HT5

The HT-5 is the ultimate studio and practice amp, packing all the great tone and innovative features of the award-winning HT valve pedals into a two channel, footswitchable valve amp format. The patent-applied-for ISF (Infinite Shape Feature) circuit gives you infinite adjustment over the characteristics of the tone control network and takes you from the USA to the UK and anywhere in between. So now you can effectively design your own tone and finally find ‘the sound in your head’.

Roland Cube 15 Watt Guitar AmplifierRoland Cube 15

There are lots of affordable practice amps on the market today, but none of them pack the sonic punch and versatility of the new Roland Cube-15 Guitar Amplifier. This compact guitar amp offers a two-channel design with four different overdrive and distortion sounds, an active 3-band EQ, an Auxiliary input and Recording/Headphone output—all at an affordable price!

Roland Cube 30 Watt Guitar AmpRoland Cube 30

No other amp in this class packs the sonic punch or versatility of the new Roland Cube-30 Guitar Amplifier.

This compact guitar amp offers a two-channel design with eight COSM® guitar amp models for clean and overdriven sounds, an active 3-band EQ, an Auxiliary input and Recording/Headphone output, plus onboard effects—all at an unbelievably low price!

Roland Micro Cube Guitar AmpRoland Microcube

With the Micro Cube, guitarists get a genuine Roland Cube amp in an ultra-compact package that even runs on batteries.

Weighing in at just a few pounds, the Micro Cube packs a big punch and comes with six DSP effects, COSM® Amp Modeling and a new Digital Tuning Fork—giving guitarists everything they need for killer tone on the go

Peavey VypyrPeavey Vypyr Guitar Amp 15/30/60

The Peavey Vypyr features 24 amp channel models, both the clean and distorted channels of 12 popular amps for the first time anywhere,  plus 11 editable post-amp “rack” effects with dual-parameter control. Players can use up to four effects simultaneously. The amp has a studio quality headphone output and MP3/CD/Aux input. The entire six-model Vypyr® Series features the easy-to-use Peavey WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) interface.

Let me know of any other beginner friendly amps which you think I should add to this list!

Want to get your guitar playing off to the best possible start? Well check out! In our opinion JamPlay offers the absolute ultimate online guitar learning experience – in fact, we guarantee it will improve your playing ability!


Part One : Important 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




  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. Neal December 16, 2010 at 10:00 am - Reply

    Can't say that I've ever tried one dude but from what I've heard it's more for a mid to high gain scenario – certainly most people on YouTube with one seem to be playing the heavy sheeeet. I would think YouTube would be your best bet for some unbiased opinions.

  3. 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.

  4. 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?

  5. 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 ;)

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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’ll need to ass bass amps as well, thanks for reminding me :) I’m not sure what kind of new player would buy an acoustic amp straight off the bat, but I’ll add some suggestions for sure.

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