Amplifier guide for colossal Playing


How to Choose a Guitar Amp

So you got an electric guitar, cool! Now you gotta find something to make that thing talk, so you start watching videos like- Best metal amps /Top rock amps or best beginners guitar amps. And then you will find 100 options which will eventually confuse you. Long story short, you first need to know what you are actually looking for, to find precise amp that you wanna go for. Let first help you to understand the concept of amp that will suit your needs.

CAUTION- All the clarification mentioned below is just the tip of ice berg. Amplifier is an electronic device; engineered and assembled with precise knowledge. That precise knowledge is not discussed here keeping in mind that the reader may not be an engineer.

Types of amplifiers and the difference

Guitar amplifiers are manufactured in two main forms: a "combo" contains the amplifier and one or more speaker(s) in a single unit. A separate configuration is available as well, with a separate amplifier (the "head") on top of one or more cabinets, each of which contains one or more speakers. Well, here are types: - Vacuum tube (Tube) amplifiers, Solid-state amplifiers, Hybrid amps and modelling amps.

Vacuum tube amplifiers: -

Vacuum tubes (called "valves" in British English) were by far the dominant active electronic components in most instrument amps applications until the 1970s, when semiconductors (transistors) started taking over. Summarizing the whole gibberish, tubes represent the vintage technology that powered all electronics during the middle of the 20th century. They deliver great tone in many guitar amps, but require periodic maintenance and tube replacement.

Tube enthusiasts believe that tube amps produce a "warmer" sound and a more natural Overdrive sound. Typically, tube amps use one or more dual triodes in the preamplifier section to provide sufficient voltage gain to offset tone control losses and drive the power amplifier section. While tube technology is, in many ways, outdated, but tube amps remain popular since many guitarists prefer its sound because tube amps are noted for their warm, creamy tone. They create distortion when they're overdriven; ideally, a player can roll back her guitar's volume to play clean parts and then slide right into an overdriven lead by cranking back up. Now you know how Steve Vai did that magic without touching amp or pedals? Well, I did...

Solid-state amplifiers: -

Here the conventional thinking is that solid state circuitry can produce better-quality clean power at a much more affordable price. The solid-state technology; a more recent development requires virtually no maintenance. Solid-state amps often get a bad rap for lacking warmth, but their crisp, clean sounds are tough to beat. Many Jazz and metal guys go for solid-state amps since they're hard to overdrive, and these players purely rely on pedals or processor for distortion.

Most inexpensive guitar amplifiers are based on semi-conductor (solid-state) circuits, and some designs incorporate tubes in the preamp stage for their subjectively warmer overdrive sound (see Hybrid amplifiers). Solid-state amplifiers are much cheaper to produce and more reliable, and they are usually much lighter than tube amplifiers. Solid-state amplifiers vary in output power, functionality, size, price, and sound quality in a wide range, from practice amplifiers to professional models.

Hybrid amps: -

Combining the best of each type of amp into one package, these amps use an actual tube in combination with the solid state power section of their amps. Many hybrid amps use a tube in the preamp section and solid state circuitry in the power section to create a tube tone without requiring the use of power tubes. So why do they do it? It’s because they can.

Modelling amps: -

Micro processor technology allows the use of digital onboard effects to create numerous different sounds all within the same amplifier. These are known as modelling amplifiers, and they can be programmed with simulated characteristic tones of different existing amplifier models (and speaker cabinets—even microphone placement), or adjusted into your taste. Many amps of this type are also programmable by way of USB connection to a computer.

 Modelling amps use digital processors to simulate the sound of old-fashioned tube technology. Using software that “models” the sound of tube amplifiers (and cabinets), these amps put the sound of numerous amps in one box. Modelling amps are programmable, and often have built-in digital effects such as delay, chorus, etc. Some include digital or analogue outputs with speaker simulation for going direct into a recording interface or PA system.

More about combo or Head and cabinet

If you’ve heard guitarists talking about amps, perhaps you’ve heard the terms “head”, “cab”, “combo”, and “chassis”. Often, manufacturers will offer the same amp in multiple configurations to better suit the playing customers. For those of you who are new to the land of guitar gear, those terms refer to different formats for a single amplifier.

Head and Cab: -

The first configuration is a head and speaker cabinet. This is two separate wooden boxes: one for the amp chassis and another for the speaker(s). It allows you to mix and match heads and cabs to see which speakers and cabs work for which gigs or recording sessions and it comes in 2 pieces, so of course it has a portability advantage as you can divide the load.

Combo: -

 The combo amp is a favourite in metro cities, where a player might potentially carry his or her entire rig on a local train or bus to the gig. Having the whole amp movable by one handle is a luxury. Also, lots of players talk about having a “grab-n-go” amp, which would be something easy to grab quickly and head out to a rehearsal or small club gig. Other benefits to a combo are that it’s normally less expensive than the matching head/cab version and it requires one less cable to carry since the speaker cable is often contained in the chassis itself and a head/cab version would need you to plug in a speaker cable between the head and cab every time you played.

Since each version has its own benefits, I’ll leave it up to you to decide which one you most prefer.

Does size matter, ‘watts’ it all about?

Wattage literally means an amount of electrical power expressed in watts. And meaning of watt is the SI unit of power, equivalent to one joule per second, corresponding to the rate of consumption of energy in an electric circuit where the potential difference is one volt and the current one ampere.

In simple words Wattage is a measure of electrical power described most simply as voltage (volts) times current (amps). But what does that mean when it comes to speakers? Despite conventional wisdom, it really isn't a good indicator of how loud a speaker will play. Instead, it's an indicator of how much power a speaker can physically take without distorting or physically breaking (whether that be from fried voice coils, blown speakers, or cooked crossovers; either ways it’s a mess). Each amp is different in how it handles electricity.

So don’t judge an amp on its watts. Many young musicians buy 100 watts amp because they want to show it off to their friends. If you ask them why did they opted for a huge amp their reply is gonna be ‘because clarity’ or ‘because its volume’. Trust me it doesn’t work that way. You are going to play in a room or a small venue how much volume do you need? It’s all about how you use that thing. Let me give you an example: -

In 2009, my band took participation in battle of bands in some college in Mumbai. We were absolute beginners back then. I had no processor or effect pedal but we used to play death metal; so basically only distortion effect was needed. I had invested in a good 15 watts amp which had smooth distortion and descent reverb. When our drummer saw me leaving for the gig (which had head count of 100) with that puny amp, he started laughing hard, claiming that my sound engineering fees are drained down the toilet. As we reached the venue, I hooked up my amp with shure sm57 which went to PA system. We rocked hard that evening with my massive wall of distortion. Who is laughing now? Smart eh? That sir, I am.

Effects and additional features

While tone and volume should be your foremost considerations, you should also determine what extra features you really need. Built-in effects are great if you want a no-hassle, all-in-one package, but they may not be as flexible as external effects pedals and processors. An effect loop is useful for effects like digital reverb and delay, but it’s not essential if your effects consist of a few stomp boxes. Line outputs with speaker emulation are helpful for home recording, and external speaker outputs are great for expanding your live rig. Bottom line: don’t pay extra for features you’ll never use.

Other additional features you might encounter include use of spring reverbs, which can be very natural sounding, while others use digital reverb. Effects loops jacks allow you to add stomp boxes or rack units after the preamp section of the amp to avoid amplifying any effect noise. Some amps allow you to switch between different preamp channels usually going from a clean tone to a distorted one. Check to see if a footswitch is included. Digital amps often require the purchase of an additional multi-function footswitch to change tones remotely. Many amps are famous for their built-in effects. Tremolo is another effect many amps feature (great for surf guitar.) Modelling amps usually contain multiple built-in digital effects.