What's a Good Guitar Amp for a Beginner?

What's a Good Guitar Amp for a Beginner?

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How to find a great starter guitar combo amp that makes sense for your music and budget

In choosing an amp you have to first consider how much you have to spend, the style of music you like to play, and what kind of tone you like best. It is perhaps best to start with something small. You might feel that a Marshall stack is the way to go, especially if you have the money, but for home use, big amps are hard to work with because to drive them into distortion, you have to get really loud. They also take up a lot of space.

Anything over 30W or so is usually overkill for home practice or casual jam sessions. Remember, even a 15W amp is loud when cranked. What you sacrifice with lower wattage is clean volume. But if you primarily use a dirty, overdriven tone, small will work just fine.

You can choose between tube amps, hybrids, or solid state models. The first are generally viewed as the grooviest. The latter are cheaper, more reliable, and require less maintenance. And the hybrids are often a practical compromise. (Keep in mind that watt for watt, tube amps are much louder than their solid state cousins with similar wattage ratings.)

When you shop the huge selection of combo guitar amps at Musician’s Friend we make it easy to hone in on what you’re looking for. Just select the type ( tube, solid state, or hybrid), brand(s), and price range, and voila—up pops a selection fine tuned to your specs. To really fine-tune the process you can also dial in the wattage, type (combo or stack), and speaker size/configuration.

And remember, the expert Gear Heads at Musician’s Friend can help you cut through all the specs and details to find that one perfect guitar amp that’s right for your music and budget. Just give us a call at (800) 449-9128 for friendly advice.

Here are a few popular tube combos to consider:

Fender Hot Rod Series Pro Junior III 15W 1x10 Combo - This tube-driven guitar combo with a 10” Eminence vintage-cone speaker reproduces the harmonically complex output and sensitivity to playing synamics that vintage Fender tone hounds love. Dual 12AX7 preamp and EL84 power amp tubes crank out the same celebrated midrange as vintage combos. Fender has updated the Pro Junior III with an external speaker jack, a more legible control panel, and internal tweaks.

Fender Hot Rod Series Pro Junior III

 

Check out a Strat played through a close-miked Fender Hot Rod Series Pro Junior III.

Fender Hot Rod Series Blues Junior III 15W 1x12 Combo - With the same tube complement as the Pro Junior III (above), an Eminence 12” Lightning Bolt speaker gives this combo more growl and bottom end. A spring reverb, 3-band EQ, plus footswitchable FAT boost circuit offer you more sounds to play with.

Fender Hot Rod Series Blues Junior III Guitar Amp

 

Here’s the Fender Hot Rod Series Blues Junior III 15W 1x12 Combo getting all nasty with the blues.

VHT Special 6 - Though it’s rated at just 6W, this affordable combo gets high marks for its creamy tube distortion and a high/low power switch that shapes the 10” speaker’s output for bedroom concertos or jamming and recording.

VHT Special 6

Here are a couple of popular hybrid tube/solid state models to check out:

Vox Valvetronix VT20+ - The tube preamp coupled with a switchable 20W/30W solid state power section and a host of on-board amp models, effects, and presets makes this a very versatile first combo.

Vox Valvetronix VT20+

Bugera BC15 15W 1x8 Combo - A 12AX7 tube in the preamp circuit coupled with a wide-range gain control help you dial in sweet tones. Under its vintage-look cabinet, the 2-channel BC15 sports modern tweaks like a headphone jack, aux input, and master level control.

Bugera BC15 15W 1x8 Combo

And finally, here are a pair of solid state starter guitar combos that get lots of props from experienced players:

Orange Crush PiX Series CR35LDX - A full slate of digital effects, 3-band EQ, and an aux input to connect an MP3 player for accompaniment make this a great little rehearsal and practice combo.

Orange Crush PiX Series CR35LDX

Peavey VYPYR VIP 2 - This modeling combo includes 10 unique instrument sounds, stompbox models, and a host of advanced effects and recording capabilities with an easy-to-use control panel.

Peavey VYPYR VIP 2

 

Take a video tour of the 40W Peavey VYPYR 2 to check out all its awesome features.

Learn more with our expert Instrument Amplifier Buying Guide

Tags: Amplifiers Guitar Amplifiers

Comments  

# Dale Sinclair 2016-02-29 06:46
and solid state also?
Reply
# Dale Sinclair 2016-02-29 06:45
10 or 15 watts should be should be sufficient for a beginner with a cheap electric for practicing and learning would you say ?
Reply
# Ross 2014-12-22 21:13
sad to see the old "a tube watt is louder than a solid state watt" nonsense posted here as fact.

It's garbage, a watt is a watt is a watt. It's an electrical measurement and doesn't care how it's been generated.
Reply
# joe dirt 2016-04-05 10:53
thanks, I have a 15 watt vox (valvetronix) but I really want to get a tube (complete) maybe 5 to 20 watts at
the most with a headphone jack. Any suggestions? I am just a bedroom player who sucks and price is well I say depends what it (the amp) is worthy b/c I am on disability and my neurologist said just quit but at 48 years old it (music) is the only area of life besides my dog and mom that keeps me even and she is in worse shape than me (sorry for the soap box). Is the EVH 5150 III though its' combo is 50 watts but it has the headphone jack. Please anyone help???
Reply
# Lawrence 2014-12-23 05:54
You're technically right, but tube amps have a higher perceived volume due to the harmonics they produce and how our ears interpret them, despite outputting the same db.

Even different types of tube amps have different perceived volumes. Class A amps have been said to sound louder than Class AB amps of equal wattage because of the harmonics they produce. That's argued as well, but I know I need to turn my 40w class AB higher than my 30w Class A when rehearsing w/ the band.
Reply
# Dale Sinclair 2016-02-29 06:30
MY kid brother has been playing drums since he was a kid , until I snuck him into a bar at 15 one night and he set in with the house band , he played all my music. He was good so he & the lead guitarist clicked & they released a CD that took off & then the guitarist was killed , my brother got a doctorate in music and has played on several good CD's , MTB being but one. he can now play nearly everything and has released two more CD,s ,and owns his own studio , me I'm only an electrician but I understand Harmonic heating in electronics . its right that a watt is a watt,& it's a way to measure power & its sold in kilowatt hours, but even though a watts is a watt when measured, its a measurement of energy , it still depends on how it's used as to how far it goes or what you get from it ,it has a lot to do with how clean or distorted it is as to how loud it seems , people will perceive it differently , the only way to find to find how loud ? a decibel meter, another measurement .
Reply
# Andy 2014-12-22 21:23
My head agrees until reality meets my ears. Hold on, let me turn my 40w tube amp down so we can hear your 100w SS.
Reply
# A warning to beginer 2014-11-25 06:34
Just sending this warning to beginners who decide they need a "Power Soak" for a tube amp.
Carl's Custom Guitars sells what they claim is a "Attenuator/Power Soak".
If ANYTHING is really a low price then BE VERY WORRIED, the item is 2 jacks and a Potentiometer (Dial for non-technical). A REAL Power Soak costs in the hundreds, I've seen untold numbers of people who have posted their complaint about the item.
I don't know if this posting is appropriate here so let me know if I made an error, but beginners need to be warned about scams like that.
Reply
# Lawrence 2014-12-22 20:39
IMO Most people don't even need a power soak.

I personally use modelling for bedroom use and 30-40w for rehearsals and gigs. Modelling is getting scary accurate, except for capturing that raw tube power that you can't really appreciate quiet anyway. You can even continue your jamming late into the night w/ headphones and not get a divorce or noise violation.

For gigs, 30-40w tube should give you the sweet spot without a Power Soak. If you're playing a larger venue, then you should be micing the amp and feeding it to front of house anyways, since excessive stage volume leads to spotty coverage.

If you really want that Marshall/Mesa stack, both companies make lower watt heads that look indistinguishable from their 100w brethren at a distance.
Reply

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