How to Buy an Inexpensive Amp

Vox DA5 Portable Modeling AmpIf you’ve been following this series you may remember that I’ve told you that you can buy a guitar for a beginner for about $300. If you’ve read my previous article in the series you’ll remember that I tried to keep the price of a solid body electric guitar to under $200. You might be lucky and get an electric for as little as $100. That leaves us with between $100 and $200 for an amplifier.

Here’s what you should know.

You want a combo amp. Essentially there are two parts to amplifying a guitars sound. The actual amplifier and then the speakers. Both have a huge impact on the sound. A combo amp combines speakers and cabinet with the amplifier in one convenient unit.

There are more difficult choices in moderate to expensive amplifiers. How many watts (how powerful) do you need? What size and how many speakers should you get? You can also choose between pure tube amplification, hybrid tube and solid state amplification and pure solid state amplification. Then those choices can be modified by guitars that have built in amplifier modeling and or built in digital effects. The good news for you is you won’t be able to afford most of those choices.

You will probably not be able to get a tube amplifier and keep your total costs to $300. The prices for the least expensive tube amplifiers start at about $150 to $200. This isn’t such a bad thing for a beginner. I’ll explain in a bit, for now the thing to know about inexpensive tube amplifiers is in general you get an on/off switch and a place to plug in the guitar – perhaps a volume control. That it. You get more with my suggested amp which I’ll describe in a bit.

If you can’t get a tube amp, why did I mention tube amps anyway? Because most guitarists consider tube amplifiers to produce the best guitar tone. What you can afford are solid state amplifiers with digital effects and tube amplifier modeling. Modeling is the digital emulation of famous style amplifiers. Most modeling amplifiers can model early Fender tube amps (tweeds), later Fender amps (clean), British Amps (Vox, and Marshall) and later American amps (Mesa Boogie).

The great thing about these modeling amps is that you can play distorted sounds at low volumes that don’t upset the neighbors or parents. Do they sound as good as a true tube amp – no. But for a beginner, you get four or more classic amp sounds, effects and the total price for new guitar and amp is only about $300.

Let me review. If you want an inexpensive amplifier for your beginning guitarist who you will be giving a solid body electric guitar, buy him or her a solid state, combo, digital modeling guitar amplifier. It provides effects and versatility at a very reasonable price and can be played quietly (or through headphones) so as to not disturb others. Just remember that though it can be played at low volumes that doesn’t mean it will be!

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