The question of what the right guitar amp is a pretty big one because it constitutes a big part of your sound. As a result, it is important that you are well informed before you buy one. As a person who has shopped for guitar amps countless times, believe me when I tell you that I understand how overwhelming it can get.
Finding the right guitar amp for you will require you to carry out some research and to have a good understanding of some features, types and many details of guitar amps. The key is to do proper research and be careful enough not to over-analyze. In this post, I have put together in the form of tips all the experience, dos and don’ts I have learned over the years. It includes the general things you ought to be on a lookout for and also the little things you should not ignore.
There is another way to cut the costs on a guitar amp and it is to connect your guitar to your PC or laptop, you can check the ways to do it in my post 5 Easy Ways To Play Electric Guitar Through PC/Laptop
Determine Your Budget For The Amp
One of the first things you need to do when buying a guitar amp is to define your budget and then ensure you stick with it. Your budget plays a very significant role in streamlining your spectrum.
There is no point in checking out or testing a guitar amp if it is not within your range. So, make your research based on the budget you have defined. After making a well-informed decision to buy an amp, you should be sure to get the best deal out of it.
When you are buying a guitar amp, just like when buying most things in life, buy the best you can afford. You should be sure that the guitar amp you are buying can withstand the beating from transporting it for rehearsals.
What Functionality The Amp Need To Serve
It is essential that you ascertain what you need the amp for. Do you want to use it for practicing in your room, for a small club or a big crowd? What you want the amp for will help you narrow down your choice and make the process a lot less demanding and less overwhelming.
Even while still considering the functions, you still have to be careful about how you go about it. For instance, you don’t want to go purchase a hundred-watt size amp all to play or a medium-size club.
If you are sure you will not be playing for a crowd that will require the amp’s potential, I will be a lot cost-efficient to go for something slightly less. Else, you run the risk of blowing people off from your stage. Also, there is a misconception that I will like to correct, and that is the notion that people have that the biggest is always the best, it is not so.
You may be buying an amplifier as a beginning guitarist who is just starting the voyage into the world of guitars. You could also be buying as an intermediate or a professional guitar player. As a beginner, you want to buy something small and with little power, something around 5 to 50 watt.
If you are buying for home use, I recommend 5-20 watt, for small clubs go with something around 50 watts. For bigger venues, you can go beyond 50 watts.
Reverb is an excellent website to buy used or new guitar gear. If you have any concerns you can check my post Is Reverb A Legit/Good Site To Buy From?
What Type Of Amp You Want
Basically, there are four types of amps out there, namely
These are also known as valve amps. They are made using glass vacuum tubes. Nowadays, tube amps are becoming less used. This is because they are costly, heavier and require more maintenance than other types of amps. The energetic responsive tones that tube amps produce can’t be compared to any other amp type.
The solid-state amp is the amp you will consider going for if you are on a limited budget. They are made with circuit boards and transistors. Solid-state amps are known for the clean sound they produce. Unlike the tube amps, solid-state amps are generally lightweight and offer a wide range of various effects and tones.
Hybrid amps combine tube technology with solid-state circuitry. The technology employed in hybrid amps enhances the tube technology with the circuitry of the solid-state. This makes it possible for tube technology to produce the best sound effects. It is also relatively less expensive.
Digital modeling amps are also lightweight and less expensive. It doesn’t use the tube technology. Instead, it uses computer modeling technology. Digital-modeling amps are known for their flexibility and ability to produce a wide range of sound effects. You should consider this if you are also on a limited budget.
What Amp Configuration You Want
Another thing that you would aid your decision for an amp is to have a look at the configuration. Is it a combo amp or has a separate head and cabinet.
The amp doesn’t refer to the whole setup in the unit as most thought, the amp and the speakers are two separate parts that are separated. There are basically two configurations of a guitar amp.
This refers to guitar amps where the amp and the speaker are put together in a cabinet. A combo amp is a self-contained amplifier that can be used by anyone. If you are a beginner, this is your only choice.
Head + Cabinet
In this configuration, the amp and the speakers are separated into two separate cabinets. This is usually used by pro players and makes it possible to use the amp with both low-wattage and high-wattage speakers.
What Amp Features You Want
Some amps have a single channel like the clean sound, and you will have to add pedals before you can get distortion. There are also amps that have two or more and distortion will be one of them.
So when buying a guitar amp, you should define the number of channels you need. This is because the more the channels, the higher the price. And also because the higher the channels, the more the internal components required to set up the guitar amp. To tell the truth, you will most likely never find an amp that has or does everything you want, and you might have to compromise a little.
For the most parts sticking with two the clean and the distortion. Sometimes there are also effects on the distorted channel like reverb which can add to the experience.
The Tone The Amp Should Have
Don’t expect to sound like someone you are not, no matter the guitar amp you plug into, you are still going to sound like you. Be careful not to go buy a signature-sounding amp of your favorite guitarist, you will most likely still sound like you when you plugin.
The tone that you get is mainly a result of how you play, how you bend the note and your technique, and less of the amp. That is not to play down the importance of tone while buying a guitar amp. When buying an amp, it is important that you know what you want and go for it.
if you are looking for your next gear or an accessory that can improve your playing experience but you are not sure what it is exactly, make sure to check my post Top 27 Must Have Guitar Accessories For Every Guitarist
What Type Of Music You Play
This is because some guitar amps are more geared towards playing certain styles of music. If you are buying a guitar amp, you will for sure want one that has features that will aid the sound and tone of your genre. This is not to say that you can use any amp for playing.
You can and there is no rule that compels certain amps to certain genres but it is wise to put it into consideration. And again, it is a matter of what you want, and if what you want is a clean sound go for clean sounding amps. There is no point in getting an amp with a drive channel when you want to play jazz music; you need something with a clean and nice sound. But if you are also into rock, pop, or something slightly aggressive, you will be looking to get something with two channels.
That way, you will have something that can produce both the clear and the distorted sound you desire.
Bring Your Guitar With You To Test The Amp
Nothing can be as misleading as testing an amp with a guitar other than your own. To avoid that awkward and pretty annoying feeling after hearing a different sound when you get home, always bring your guitar with you. Even if the store has the same model of guitar, still test it with yours.
I had fallen victim to buying an amp that sounded bright and sparkly in the store but turned to be annoying dull when I got home.
Ensure The Amp Is Safe To Operate
This comes into play if you are considering buying an older amp. The first thing you need to be conscious of is whether or not it has a three-prong grounded power cord.
Check to be sure that all its capacitors are properly covered. Also, ensure that it still has the correct fuse. If you discover that it is not safe enough, you might have to carry out some safety upgrades for it.
Though it usually isn’t expensive, with $40 to $50, you should be able to carry out a safety upgrade. Also, ensure that the amp is regularly maintained and every part of it is functioning very well. If you don’t have the technical expertise to know whether or not it is in good condition, let your ear be the judge of it.
Test The Amp Yourself
Your choice of speakers should be based on your decision about the kind of sound you want. I recommend you find out all you can. play them, to see what sounds best to you. Also, the wattage of the speakers you be looked at. For instance, a 25-watt speaker will be easily distorted than a 100-watt speaker.
In other words, a low-watt speaker can be easily overdriven to produce that overdriven sweet tone. Different sizes of speakers produce different tonal characteristics, and as a reason, you should consider the size of the speaker the same way you’d consider the wattage of the guitar amp.
Check The Performance Of The Amp
Assess the real-world performance of the guitar. No matter the type or configuration of amp you are buying, ensure that it in person. And that you hit all the notes on your guitar fretboard and while varying the volumes. Check for every extraneous noise that comes out. If you play for a loud band, you may not bother yourself about the noise.
But if you are buying an amp to use for while you play in a quiet space or for recording, the slightest amount of noise would be intolerable. If you are buying a vintage amp, Be sure to confirm that the glues are not dried or lost its ability to bond surfaces together. Also, ensure that the baffles are not damaged or worn out. If you don’t take your time to ensure that the amp is in its ultimate performance, you will have to spend quite a deal of your money to resolve and put it back in order.
Check The Brand Of The Amp
if you have a specific brand at heart, which you’d like to buy, either because you have heard about or read about, then just go ahead and buy it. In other words, if you really love a model and want it, then just go ahead and buy it.
Even if you have to save up before you can afford it, Don’t get an amp that sounds like it, but get the amp itself. This is because, over time, you will see the difference, and you may end up getting frustrated. It will bring you joy and happiness and of course, pay for itself if you are a working musician.
Confirm That The Knobs Are Working Fine On The Amp
Don’t make assumptions or accept what the sales rep says, twist the knobs and try to dial in a sound you like quickly. Try adjusting all the tone controls and pay attention to how they interact with the sounds coming out. Check to confirm if the knobs turn or not.
Test If The Amp Have Crunching
An overdriven speaker produces a well-distorted sound. One of the best ways to test for crunches is to dial in a clean setting and then tune up the volume way up. If the speaker is a low wattage one, the volume will break up at a lower volume and may turn mush at an excessive volume.
Meanwhile, a high wattage speaker will not break up. A helpful tip is for you to check as many speakers as you can and then choose one that sounds lively and good to you, and give you the rich sound at your regular volume level of distortion.
Find Common Issue On That Particular Amp
Finding out common issues that others found with an amp usually is not something you can easily do when you already with the seller. So, before you meet with the seller go ahead and search the internet for this particular amp model.
Try to find any articles, videos, form threads to see if musicians run into issues when they used this kind of model. Try to figure out a general satisfaction or dissatisfaction with this particular model. This will help you determine whether or not you will go ahead to make your purchase
The Reason The Amp Is Being Resold
Some may be selling to get an upgrade, to get some money or simply because the amp is bad or couldn’t serve the purpose. Finding out why they are selling could help you to know more about what you are buying.
asking them doesn’t guarantee that they will tell you the truth, especially if they know that telling you may stop you from buying the amp, but there is no harm trying.
Check Damage History Off The Amp
Ask the seller if the amp was damaged, malfunction or has recently been modified. Try to find out if something was wrong with the amp or if it has been fixed while it was in their care. There is no guarantee that they will tell you, but it doesn’t hurt to try.
There is no point mentioning that we live in such an exciting time, where we are surrounded by great choices of a guitar amp for you to select from. We have various manufacturers with wonderful technologies and producing great products with outstanding features. This is exciting and without a doubt exhilarating, but unfortunately, it can be overwhelming and very challenging too.
There are different types of amps, and with different features and usually, what works for a player and he finds fascinating may a not work for another. Because every guitar amp has its own sound, application, and genre of music, it is important that you know this and not expect what works for a guitar player to work for you.
The issue of the most ideal amp for you is a subjective one and it will be very wrong for me to say this amp is better than that. All amps have their own positive features and their shortcomings too. So when buying an amp, carry out all the necessary researches and find out what sounds best to your heart, and go for it.
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2 thoughts on “17 Steps You Need To Take Before You Buy A Used Guitar Amp”
I’m hoping you can answer something for me if you don’t mind. I just got an old electric guitar from my dad. I don’t have an amp for it though and I also don’t have too much money. Do you have a recommendation for a good budget combo amp? I appreciate it!
If you are really short on cash you can use your PC\Laptop as an amp.
if you only play at home this is perfect for you. you will get so much tone variety with it.
you can check my post 5 Easy Ways To Play Electric Guitar Through PC/Laptop