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Buying a New Amp

So you’re thinking of buying a new amp? Oh what a great day when you get to go amp shopping. I frequently have conversations with my clients and students about this subject. I love talking about gear! Here are some ideas to think about when you are considering buying a new amp.

Let’s say that you are an intermediate player. You’ve been playing for a year or two. You have a small practice amp that sounds great in your bedroom or garage, but when you play with a drummer, it’s not loud enough. I would highly recommend getting a 2×12 amp so you’d have enough power to play in any band situation. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term “2×12”, this means that the amp has 2, 12-inch speakers. So of course a 1×12 has one 12-inch speaker and so on. I believe that a 2×12 should be your goal. This will ensure that you have an amp that you will never “outgrow”. Meaning you will never need more power. You may catch the “gear bug” like me and want to add more amps to your collection! But you want to get an amp that will last you forever, or for as long as you want to keep it. My first amp was a Peavey 1×10. It sounded great for practice, but it couldn’t keep pace with a full band. My second amp was a Marshall JCM800 100 watt half stack. My dad bought it for me in 1986 and I still have it to this day. Now when thinking about wattage, I really believe that most 2×12 amps will have plenty of wattage for you. Therefore I won’t get into how much wattage you’ll need for each different situation.

In another article, I’ll talk in more detail about the differences between half-stacks, full-stacks, and 2×12’s and more. For our amp shopping today, we’re going to be looking at 2×12 amps. Now, let’s get back to our amp shopping! I recommend figuring out what your budget is going to be. I suggest $700 and up for a 2×12 amp that’s going to stay with you for a few decades. Find a guitar store near you that has lots of variety in brands and size in new amps, maybe even used amps. Bring your guitar along and play every 2×12 amp that seems cool. By playing your guitar through the amps, you’ll know exactly how it will sound and feel.

Another thing to consider is digital vs. tube amps. If you’re looking to get some built-in effects, you can look at the digital amp companies like Line 6. Standard effects such as reverb, delay, flanger, and more are built in to the amp and can be a nice bonus. I’ve got a Line 6 Flextone II and I love the versatility that it offers. If you want to get a tube amp, you could be looking at a great sounding amp with only a few different tones. That doesn’t mean that you should pass over looking into a great Marshall, Fender or Mesa 2×12. These are the classic amps that the digital amps are “modeling”, or trying to sound like.

After playing through a few great new amps, go home. That’s right. Don’t buy anything quite yet. Let your experience sink in a little. The rest of the week you’ll be thinking of those amps and comparing them in your head. After a couple of repeat visits to the guitar shop, you can narrow down your choices and make a decision. I think it’s better to spend a couple of weeks thinking about it rather than fall into an impulse buy. Remember that you want to buy an amp that you’re going to love for years and years. Good luck! 

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