Three Things to Consider Before Buying a Guitar Amplifier

When it comes to pairing your instrument with an electric speaker, sound quality trumps sound volume.

Man adjusting an amplifier before playing guitar
An amplifier with a few adjustments and controls can help you get the best sound possible from your guitar.Fender

There’s no question that a quadruple Marshall amp stack is cool. Way cool, in fact. It can also break every window in the house, not to mention what it’s doing to your ears. Say what? Never mind. . .

Despite the ‘blow your socks off’ image so prevalent among rock guitarists it’s actually counter-productive to crank the volume so you can’t even decipher the notes you’re playing. How can you improve your playing and technique when the music is so loud and distorted you can’t tell if you’re shredding or being shredded? A practice amp you can use anywhere (even with headphones when the baby is asleep or your mom is not appreciating your budding musical genius) isn’t hard to choose when you consider these things.

Power

Fender amplifier
A 1/8-inch auxiliary input allows you to plug in your iPhone or CD player and play along with your favorites.Fender

If all you’re doing is practicing in your home, you need a quality amp with around 10 watts of power and a small speaker. That’s all. As long as it comes with a headphone jack that’s plenty of power and volume for what you need.

Portability

Blackstar Electric Guitar Mini Amplifier
This two-pound, three-watt powerhouse amp comes with a battery-powered or plug-in option you can easily take anywhere.Blackstar

The weight of an amp is a factor if you’re transporting it much, a fact that likely created the ‘roadie’ job as bands moved their truck-sized amps and gear in and out of gigs. Even if it’s only from room to room, a lighter amp will simply get used more often. Some practice amps run on battery power with a dc adapter, a handy feature if you’re busking a street corner or playing where there’s no power source.

Effects/Tone

Orange Amps Electric Guitar Power Amplifier
This popular practice amp has a three-band equalizer for tone control, as well as overdrive and gain controls for special effects.Orange Amps

Today’s amps feature equalizer and tone controls that enable someone to apply a wide range of sounds from an electric guitar. In addition, sound effects like overdrive, chorus, reverb, and tremolo are standard on some models. While more advanced players will use various pedals to achieve specific effects, look for a practice amp offering a few effects options in addition to equalizer and tone controls.

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