How To Find The Right Amp Jul 12, 2007 12:35:40 GMT -4
Post by Mr. G. on Jul 12, 2007 12:35:40 GMT -4
How To Find The Right Amp
A Beginners Guide
A Beginners Guide
by: Eric D. Granholm (PRSplaya)
Purchasing an amp can, and should be, an exciting and fun experience. However, with all the options and different brands, it can be quite overwhelming. With this guide, I hope to give you the knowledge to be able to find the right amp for your needs. First, let’s start off with some questions you need to ask yourself. Then I will go over each question to help you understand how to answer them.
• What styles will I be playing?
• Do I want a tube amp or a solid state amp?
• How many channels do I need?
• What will the amp be used for?
What styles will I be playing?
When deciding on an amp, you need to keep in mind what styles of music you will be using it for. With such a wide variety amps on the market, one can easily gather that most amps work well for certain styles, and not so well for others. Keep in mind though, don't go on looks and name alone. Let your ears tell you if the amp is right for you. Take my Peavey Classic 50 for example. It has the word "classic" in it's name, and has a vintage appearance. Going on this alone, one might think that the amp is only good for styles such as blues and old classic rock. This couldn't be farther from the truth. Though, it is good at those styles, it also is great for hard rock, 80's type metal, and even some of the more modern tones. What it does not do very well is the super high gain, scooped mids, nu-metal tones of some of today's music. The point of all this is, let your ears tell you if the amp works for your style. Here is a list of some artists and the type amps they use:
- Slash (Guns 'N' Roses) uses Marshall tube heads, such as the JCM 800 and Jubilee
into 4x12 cabinets.
- Zakk Wylde (Ozzy Osborne, Black Label Society) also uses modified Marshall JCM
800 heads and boosts the front end with an overdrive pedal.
- John Petrucci (Dream Theater) uses a variety of Mesa Boogie amps
- Eddie Van Halen used Marshall SLP (super lead plexi) amps for the most part, but then moved on to the Peavey 5150 on his more recent albums and tours.
- Godsmack uses Mesa Boogie Rectifier amps
- Dimebag Darrell (Pantera) used solid state Randall Heads, and just before his death started using Krank tube amps
- Stevie Ray Vaughan used Fender tube amps, along with an overdrive pedal
- Pete Townsend (The Who) uses Hiwatt tube heads
- Alex Lifeson (Rush) uses Hughs & Kettner tube amps
- The Beatles used Vox amps
- The Rolling Stones used Ampeg amps
As you can see, the style of music you play is an important factor in choosing an amp. Also, just because a particular guitarist uses a certain amp doesn't mean his tones can't be achieved on a different amp. Find out what works for you by playing several different types of amp, and using your ears and not your eyes to make the final
Do I want a tube amp or a solid state amp?
Now, you should decide whether you want a tube amp or a solid state amp. They both have their pros and cons, and most guitarists swear by one or the other. First, lets start off with some pros and cons of solid state amps.
- low maintenance
- generally lighter weight than tube amps
- sparkling cleans with tight distortion
- wide variety of tones available
- some can very closely emulate the tone of a tube amp
- they generally sound their best at any volume
- takes twice the power to equal a tube amps volume
- some sound sterile, or have a lack of character
- they tend to get muddy at higher volumes
- not much can be done to alter their original tone
Now, lets go over some of the pros and cons of tube amps.
- tubes can be changed to alter the overall tone and character of the amp
- takes less watts to get loud
- they don't get muddy at loud volumes, only sound better
- they are usually very touch sensitive, which means that the harder you play the grittier the amp will get, and the softer you play the smoother it will get.
- you can turn your guitars volume knob down to make a distorted tube amp clean (semi-clean), and turn it back up for full distortion
- tube amps seem to have a special something in their tone and character that solid state amps just can't reproduce. It's one of those things you have to experience for yourself to understand
- tubes play out and need to be replaced occasionally
- some can be fairly heavy
- price can be pretty high sometimes
- the volume needs to be turned up for them to sound their best
How many channels do I need?
Now you should decide how many channels you need. Most amps are going to have either one, two, or three channels. Typically, a three channel amp will have a clean channel, a medium gain channel, and a high gain channel. Some will have separate EQ controls for each channel, and some will use the same EQ controls for multiple channels. A three channel amp with separate EQ's will provide you with the most versatility. When deciding on the number of channels, you need to keep in mind what styles you will be playing, and how many different tones you need without readjusting the amp.
What will the amp be used for?
Lastly, you need to keep in mind what the amp will be used for. Will it be used strictly as a practice amp? Will it be used for practice and jamming with friends? Will it be used for recording? Will it be used to play with a band? Or, will it be used for a combination of all? These questions will help you decide what size amp you need.
- Since amps used for practice are usually played at home, or in a small area, you can get away with a fairly small amp. How small, or how big is up to you though. But, keep in mind that tube amps can be very loud, and need to be turned up to sound their best. I have a 5 watt, 8" speaker, tube combo amp that is almost too loud to play
in a small room. With a solid state amp, you shouldn't have to worry about this. Anywhere from 1-20 watts (1) 6"-12" speaker would be plenty for this purpose.
- If the amp will be used to jam with friends and such, usually a practice size amp will be enough. However, if you plan to jam with a drummer, or several musicians, you will probably need to consider a larger amp. I would suggest something between 1550 watts with 1 or 2 10"-12" speakers.
- If the amp will be used for recording, it's open to whatever size you want. This will mainly depend on the space you have to record in, and the tone you are after.
- If the amp will be used in a full band situation, something slightly larger may be necessary. I would suggest something between 30-100 watts and 1-4 12" speakers, or 2-4 10" speakers. A 30 watt solid state amp might be little weak in this situation, but a 30 watt tube amp would be fine. A 100 watt tube amp with a 4x12 cabinet, a.k.a. a half stack, is almost always too much. That's not to say it won't work, but it can produce some serious volume. A 100 watt solid state half stack would be a little more reasonable, but would still be very loud. What I use for this situation is a 50-60 watt tube combo amp with 2x12" speakers, and I never have a problem with a lack of volume.
Here are a few more things you should keep in mind. Obviously cost will be a factor. Size and weight should be considered. The potential uses for it in the future. If you plan to use effects pedals, you might want the amp to have an effects loop. Some amps have built in effects that are nice and convenient, but are usually better for the
practice and jam situations. There are also "modeling" amps, which simulate other amps. These are great if you play a wide variety of music, and need a lot of different tones. Lastly, have fun, and don't be afraid to ask questions. Most importantly, let your ears tell you if the amp suits your needs. Now, you should be ready to go out and
search for the amp that is right for you.