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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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