Electric Guitar Amplifier Reviews

All guitar amplifier reviews are taken from a lot of research and from my own personal experience, so hopefully they'll give you some insight and clarity into guitar amplifiers in general and help you decide as to what amp is the best one for you and your guitar. There are also going to be some additional videos included along with the slightly higher priced models of say around the $/£300 price range, providing I can of course find relative videos on YouTube or additional websites.   

There's literally hundreds of guitar amplifiers available on the market today consisting of various types, makes, models and prices so it isn't easy to provide the most accurate and personal guitar amplifier reviews for everybody. However, I've done some serious research and grouped them into price ranges starting at around £/$100 and moving up the price ladder towards the better, higher priced guitar amp models available at the time of writing (October 2016).

Getting the exact sound that you're after isn't always easy, especially as there are so many different types of amplifiers available today. This can often cause uncertainty and confusion when trying to decide what amp to buy. I will attempt to explain the differences between the various types of guitar amplifiers available to help you make the right choice.

There are generally four main types of guitar amplifiers in existence for a regular electric guitar. They are; valve/tube, solid state (analogue), modelling (digital), and hybrids (a combination of two types). Acoustic guitar amplifiers also exist and are made for the sole purpose for use with an electric acoustic (electro-acoustic) guitar.

In addition to the four main types there also exists 'head' and 'combo' amplifiers which incorporate one or more of the four main types.

Note; I am resident in the UK and will therefore use the term "valve" which is the equivalent to the US term "tube". Therefore "valve" amps and "tube" amps are exactly the same thing, it just depends on whether you're a British or US resident or what term you prefer to use. To be fair the valves do consist of glass vacuum tubes. 

For more information on guitar amplifiers in general please read on. Alternatively, click the link below to jump straight down to the reviews.

Amplifier Reviews

Valve/Tube Amplifiers

Until the 1970's valves/tubes were the most common electronic components in instrument amplifiers. It was only in the 70's, when transistors started to take over, that the classic distorted sound of the valve amplifier started to diminish. Transistor (solid-state) amplifiers offered a far cheaper, lighter and reliable alternative to the more expensive, heavier and higher maintenance valve amplifier used by so many influential players of previous years.

If you're a purist and you're after that classic, warm naturel tone, then the valve amp is what you'll be after. Guitarists who play the old classics will almost definitely be using a valve amp, although there are some great alternatives that will be discussed further in the guitar amplifier reviews further down.

Valve guitar amplifiers use vacuum tubes to create volume. These glass tubes glow orange and get very warm when the amplifier is used. The more the amp is played, the more they glow and the hotter they get.

Although the tubes are known to deteriorate over time they're loved by many old-school guitarists for producing loud, warm, thick tones with great sustain. There are some really good solid state and modelling guitar amplifiers on the market today that attempt to mimic the warm, thick, lively tone of the valve amplifier, but valve/tube fanatics say even the best solid state and modelling amps can't really produce that soft, warm compression and overdrive in quite the same way that valve amplifiers are known and loved for.

The down side of the valve amp is it can often be a bit heavy compared to its solid-state cousin which can make it a bit awkward for a busy gig schedule. In addition to this is the fact that you can't throw a valve amp around as much as a solid-state amp as the tubes are fragile like a light bulb and easily damaged. Again, just like a light bulb, the valves also have a limited lifespan and therefore will need to be replaced every so often.

Valve/tube amps are often a bit pricey too so you'll only see them in the guitar amplifier reviews on this website over and above $/£200.

Valve/Tube Lifespan & Supply

The tubes should last around 5,000 to 10,000 hours but it all depends on how often you turn the amp on and off. Generally speaking, the valves/tubes will need to be replaced every 2-3 years. It's a good idea to have a spare set for when they go unexpectedly which they will do at some point or another. That's providing you can actually get your required tubes for your amplifier? This could be another potential problem surrounding guitar amplifiers.

Although the market for vacuum tubes is pretty small and consists mainly of musicians, audio enthusiasts and amateur radio enthusiasts, it seems that the supply is pretty steady and sufficient to meet the demand. Countries like Russia and China are still manufacturing popular audio valves/tubes and although they aren't quite as good as the tubes that were made during the 1950s and 1960s they're good enough.

So at least it doesn't look like they'll run out, providing of course your guitar amplifier or other amp doesn't use some strange and rare tube which isn't made any longer. Just check the availability of the valve for your chosen amplifier before you spend your money. And, if you can get the valves for your new amp then buy some spares so you have them ready and waiting for when you need them.

In time, I'll be adding a guitar amplifier reviews page dedicated entirely to valve amps.

Solid State Amplifiers

Solid state guitar amplifiers use analogue technology to increase the volume level. Solid-state guitar amps are known to be very reliable as they contain no digital technology.

The general opinion is, that the transistors and printed circuit boards of a solid state guitar amplifier will produce superior, clean, powerful tones. Many guitarists prefer the tone of a solid-state amp over a valve amplifier including the distorted sound.

There are however some great alternatives on the market in the form of hybrids where the basic tone is created by a valve-driven preamp with the actual power being produced by a solid-state amp.  

Many purists will still claim they can here the difference between a full valve amplifier and a hybrid amplifier though and the majority of these will almost certainly prefer a full valve amp.

Things are slowly changing nowadays though and with today's modern technology some great guitar amplifiers are being produced, some of which I personally think sound just like full valve amps.

Solid state amplifiers can often be found for very little expense which is great for the beginner guitarist. They're often far lighter than valve amplifiers too making them ideal practice amps at home and also for small gigs in pubs and small halls etc. They're durable and solid and far more reliable needing far less maintenance than a valve/tube guitar amplifier.

At the end of the day it's what sounds best to your ears that really matters though as it's your money that you going to be spending.

Many solid-state amps will be among the guitar amplifier reviews that cover the lower end of the market, but also higher end models will also be included.

Modelling Amplifiers (digital)

Modelling guitar amplifiers are the latest type of amp. They utilise microprocessor technology to allow the use of digital on-board effects for creating a multitude of different sounds all from the same amp.

They're generally pre-programmed with simulated specific tones of well-known amplifiers and speaker cabinets. Modelling amplifiers are also programmable through USB connection to a computer for editing and creating personal sounds within the amp. This allows you to re-create any sound of say a valve/tube amplifier for instance and even add in special effects.

Good modelling amplifiers can often be quite expensive but can also be purchased for not a lot of cash as can be seen with the Line 6 Spider IV modelling amplifier that I discuss in the guitar amplifier reviews for amps around $/£100.  As far as I am aware, Line 6 were the first to create the modelling amplifier and bring it to the market.  

Modelling amplifiers offer a lot of scope for different sounds if you're the type to play around with digital equipment and software etc. Having said that, they come with a multitude of sounds and effects already programmed in, so you can just leave things as they are if you prefer. There are modelling guitar amplifier reviews in all price ranges.

Hybrid Amplifiers

Simply put, hybrid amplifiers consist of a combination of tube and solid-state amplification technology. They involve one of two different possibilities.

  1. An amplifier will have a solid-state pre-amp that feeds the valve/tube power amp. 
  2. An amplifier will have their construction the other way around to the first method above, so a tube pre-amp will feed a solid-state power (output) amp. As far as I am aware, this is the most common type of hybrid amplifier as it doesn't require an output transformer to achieve modern power levels. This type seems to be very common with VOX hybrid amps.

Individual hybrid amplifiers will be discussed further in relative guitar amplifier reviews at the links further down.

Acoustic Guitar Amplifiers

Specifically designed for electro-acoustic guitars, these amps are made in such a way that produces a very clean, clear and subtle sound even at higher volumes. This is achieved in two ways. Firstly, by the acoustic amplifier not only featuring a regular speaker that is often voiced more cleanly compared to a regular electric guitar amplifier, but also by featuring a tweeter to add some detail and higher definition to the tone and overall sound.

In addition to this is the fact that most electro-acoustic guitars have battery powered circuits that amplify the output signal a fair bit more than an electric guitar. This means that when you plug your electro-acoustic guitar into a standard electric guitar amplifier, or the other way around, you get either unwanted distortion or low volume.

In some ways, an acoustic guitar amplifier is similar to a keyboard amplifier as they have a relatively flat frequency response so that neither the power amplifier or the speakers add any unwanted distortion or colour. 

Bottom line, you do need an acoustic amplifier for an electro-acoustic guitar and an electric guitar amplifier for an electric guitar, there's no way around it other than an amplifier that offers both options in one. Even then I still think you're better off with individual amplifiers that are specifically designed for their specific guitar type.

Acoustic guitar amplifier reviews will be added in due course.

Head Amplifiers

Head amplifiers use a separate speaker as opposed to a combo amplifier which is described further down. Whether to buy a head amplifier or a combo is all a matter of how big the venue is that you're going to play at and therefore how loud you want to be. If you watch any big gig, you'll see massive speakers with the amplifier sitting on top (head). This combination is known as a head and cabinet. The 'head' being the amplifier and the 'cabinet' being the speaker unit which is usually underneath the amplifier. Combining separate pieces allows more power to be produced.

So, if you want to fill a massive auditorium or a large outdoor arena, you’ll need this set-up with at least a 100-watt head amplifier and a 4 x 12″ speaker cabinet. Although many musicians mic the amplifier to the PA system which allows a specific amp that they like the sound of to be used.

As an on-stage guitarist, you'll need to be able to hear your amplifier above the noise, so a loud enough amp which gives you that is absolutely necessary. The bigger the venue, the bigger amp you'll need and head amplifiers with separate speaker units offer that. A head and cabinet set up will tend to be heavier than a combination amplifier.

Head amplifiers will tend to dominate the guitar amplifier reviews for the higher priced amps.

Combo Amplifiers

A combo amp is a combined unit that consists of an amplifier and a speaker together in one box, case or unit so to speak. These are ideal for small gigs and venues such as halls and pubs/clubs etc. Today’s combo amps are more than enough to fill these smaller venues although some musicians will still use a PA system and just turn the amp down a bit, possibly?

Combo amplifiers are usually lighter and therefore easier to manage than the separate combination of a head amplifier with an additional speaker unit. Guitarists who practice at home will almost always use a combo amplifier. These amps will be covered right through the various guitar amplifier reviews for many price ranges.

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Note: Please be aware that everything changes in time least not musical equipment. Therefore, as time goes by, there will eventually be newer models of many, if not all of these guitar amplifiers available as new ideas and advanced technology comes into play.

Guitar Amplifier Reviews
for Amps Around $/£100 or Less

If you're just starting to play the guitar or you're on a tight budget then take a look at these very well-priced amplifiers. I'm almost certain you'll find something to suit your needs as manufacturers today are well aware of the need for lower priced equipment.

Ideal for;

  • practice
  • beginners/kids
  • lower budgets

Guitar Amplifier Reviews
for Amps Around $/£200 or Less

These Guitar amplifiers are a good improvement from the previous section as you'd expect as we are effectively doubling our money with a jump from £/$100 to £/$200. Having said that, it's well worth the extra if you can afford it as you can get quite a lot more for the extra, and to be honest, it isn't a great deal of cash for a half decent amp.

Ideal for;

  • beginners
  • intermediate players
  • home practice
  • band practice
  • small gigs (possibly needing a PA system)
  • low-moderate budget

Guitar Amplifier Reviews
for Amps Around $/£300 or Less

Although it's true to say you don't always get what you pay for, I've tried to make it easier with these guitar amplifier reviews so hopefully you will do.

The guitar amplifiers in this section are pretty good amps as you would expect, and, if you're a beginner and buying for the first time, it is worth purchasing at this level if you can afford to. That is if you're pretty sure you're staying in it for the long run of course.

These amps are ideal for the following;

  • beginners
  • intermediate players
  • home practice
  • band practice
  • small gigs
  • moderate budget

I hope to upload more guitar amplifier reviews in the near future.

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Best Guitar Amplifier Around $/£100

Best Guitar Amplifiers Around $/£200

Best Guitar Amplifiers Around $/£300

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