May the Gods Hear Your Sound
Guitar amplifiers are a god-sent treat for all the guitar players out there. Without them our performance would be limited to a small group of people. Impressing large audiences would be a far-fetched dream. Not to mention the inability of listening to our favorite bands during gigs. Luckily, some good engineers saved us from this disaster and developed guitar amps back in the 20th century. These units detect the signal coming out of your pickups, make it stronger and then emit it through loudspeakers. Since all of us have different needs and audiences, there are various guitar amps on the market. This article will praise these ethereal devices and discuss in depth each and every type out there.
But first, let’s outline the distinction between combo and head + speaker cabinet amps. The former combines an amp and one or more speakers in one body, while the latter offers the amplifier and the speaker in separate cabinets. When choosing between these two, you should always keep in mind your audience. If you are planning on performing in front of a small crowd, a combo will work perfectly. However, if you are going to gig in a gigantic hall, you will definitely need a head + speaker cabinet with a good amount of watts and power.
Now, let’s move on to the actual types of the amplifiers. Even though amps differ from each other by a lot of parameters (size of speakers and cabinets, watts, construction and etc.), today we are going to list down four basic sorts and outline the differences between them.
Vacuum Tube Amps
Vacuum tube amps (a.k.a. valve amps) work with the help of big glass vacuum tubes. These tubes are used for enhancing the amplitude or the power of the incoming sound signal. Tube amplifiers were popular until 1970s and were best known for their warm sound. However, they are quite expensive to make, weigh a lot and can burn out easily. In other words, they need to be looked after like babies. The parts of tube amps are quite hard to replace due to their paucity on the market. Regardless of these cons, they have this unique vintage touch to them that amazes many musicians even today. The prime reason why tube amps receive such a high praise is that they can create the warmest overdrive. Turning them to maximum settings will cause the tubes to overdrive and you will be left with amazing results.
Solid-state amps use transistor circuits and are way less expensive then tube amps. Apart from affordability, they also offer durability, are reliable and have lightweight design. Solid-state amps have quite clean sound and this is why they are preferred by a lot of musicians (especially by those who play jazz and blues). Due to being cheap, such kind of amps are mass-produced and can be found in all the shapes and sizes. They vary from each other depending on the price, output power, functionality and sound quality. A solid-state amp is the best choice if you are always on the road and are looking for a reliable device, yet you do not want to break the bank.
If you are someone who loves adding different effects to their sound, then you should definitely try out modeling amps. They allow you to touch up your signal with different colors or shape your tone according to your preferences. Such kind of amps use digital processors that recreate the good ol’ tube amps sounds (and almost all the amp sounds on the market). They are less heavy and are way more affordable compared to others. Modeling amps are extremely versatile and flexible, providing you with an array of opportunities.
Hybrid amps are basically the best of both worlds. They are the combination of tube and solid-state technologies, meaning that you will get amazing results. The tube section is a preamp stage, which feeds the signal into the power amp (a.k.a. solid-state circuitry). The latter operates the speakers and produces the ultimate sound. The best thing about hybrid amps is that you can still get that beloved tube amp sound without the power tubes themselves. This means that such kind of amps are more durable and will last you through a lifetime.
There are a lot more types of amps on the market. You even have the option of purchasing an instrument-specific amplifier, which means your sound will be as tailored as possible. However, the types I have listed above indicate on the basic operating systems that ultimately are the basis for any other amp. No matter what genre you play, amp is something you will need in your everyday life. This is why it is important to know what is what. Read carefully all the details before splurging on something that will not suit your needs. I tried my best to explain the basic types of amps in the best way possible. I leave the rest to you. Good luck!