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Shopping for a new guitar amp can be a tough decision. There are many questions that enter a guitarist’s mind when considering a purchase. Which ones sound better? Are tube amps better than solid-state amps? Do I need a stack? All of these questions are important to consider. The most important things to keep in mind are sound and durability.

Tube Versus Solid-State

A Marshall stack

Tube guitar amplifiers have been around for many years. Many guitarists prefer tube amps because of the deeper tone that is usually associated with them. Most professionals, though not all, tend to prefer tube amps over solid-state amps. Players who prefer clean sounds often choose solid-state amps. Others choose tube amps because it makes their sound seem more “alive.” Tube amps are mostly associated with blues and rock music. Though most guitarists prefer tube amps, there are several disadvantages to owning one. They are usually heavier than solid-state amps. They usually cost more and require more maintenance. Tubes eventually wear out, thus resulting in periodical maintenance. Tube amps work with high-voltage electronics which are sensitive to dust and moisture. Solid-state amps usually don’t require any maintenance other than an occasional cleaning.

What’s better, a stack or combo amp?

There are several factors that go into making this decision. The “stack” usually consists of an amp head resting on a cabinet, usually with one or more speakers. A typical configuration usually consists of an amp teamed with two 4x12 cabinets, each consisting of 4-12” speakers. The “half stack” is similar to this, but with only one cabinet. The stack configuration is usually used for projection. A combo amp is an amp in which the speaker and amp are built into the same box. Most are extremely portable and often weigh less than the stack.

What about effects?

During recent years, guitar amp manufacturers have started building effects processors into their amplifiers. This gives the guitarist the ability to control the amp and his/her effects in one convenient location. Companies such as Fender, Johnson, and Peavey (just to name a few) have really done their homework and these new amps are good proof. Effects such as: Chorus, reverb, digital delay, distortion, compression, flanger, phaser, and others are becoming incorporated into these new lines of amplifiers. Several companies, such as Johnson and Line 6, are building amp simulators that allow the guitarist to mimic the unforgettable amp sounds of Hendrix, Vai, Satriani, Clapton, and others. Fender just came out with a new amp with motorized knobs. The knobs automatically adjust when using different processor settings.

Electric guitar amplifiers are becoming more advanced each and every day. Be sure to shop around and play as many as you can before purchasing a new amp. Remember, the most important aspects of a new amp are sound and durability. Good luck and happy playing!!!