Which amp is right for you? This list will help you decide.
2. Thirty One-derful Flavors. Whether it’s a tube, solid state or modeling amp it should be appropriate for the style of music you play. Are you playing blues? Maybe you want a Tweed Deluxe style of amp. Metal? How about a Mesa Dual or Triple Recitfier? It’s really difficult to make an amp do something it wasn’t designed to do even if you put pedals in front of it or run it though different speakers. When I was first starting out I had an amp that wasn’t cutting it in the tone department. While it had plenty of power, bells and whistles, it was all wrong for the type of music I was playing and what I was hoping it would do. Rather than sell it and buy something else, I ended up buying a couple of Celestion speakers for it to change the sound. It certainly changed the sound, but the sound still sucked even with the extra money spent. Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda.
3. Cream Or Sugar? Do you prefer preamp or power amp distortion? Check into master volume amps if you like to control the grind on the front end and the volume on the back end. If you’re playing out live and can push an amp to the edge of power tube, speaker and transformer saturation maybe you want a more classic, non-master type design. Similarly, if you run a lot of pedals it’s a good idea to find an amp that can handle that kind of front-end assault and provide the necessary headroom. It may sound simple common sense and it is, but if you’re chasing the latest and greatest trend you may get caught up in the wrong details and miss out on the most important part…what is right for you.
4. Swiss Army or Exacto? There are players who love to fiddle with their guitar’s volume, tone and pickup selectors. These purists are probably going to prefer a straight-up, single channel amp that focuses on great tone with minimal electronics to interfere with the sound. On the other hand, maybe you need channel switching to cover more ground. Many gigging musicians like the idea of all-in-one designs that focus on function and practicality rather than just one distinct tone. There are amps that have three, sometimes four channels able to capture radically different levels of gain and tone. They will always sound different than a single channel amp but that certainly doesn’t make them bad, just more flexible for those who need it.
5. Grease Monkey. These days it’s easy to find amps that combine great tone as well as FX right in one box. Modeling amps excel in covering a lot of FX territory that can satisfy all but the most discriminating players (and even some of them). Perhaps you already own several delays or studio quality reverbs and would prefer to use them rather than what a manufacturer of an amp will give you. If that’s the case make sure that the amp you’re looking at has a high quality FX loop in it to make the best use of your favorite boxes. Maybe it even has a footswitchable bypass so you use the FX at certain points in the song. Your choice.
6. The Chiropractor Factor. Let’s face it, aside from the cool factor of a full stack there is nothing desirable about hauling around a heavy amp. Make sure when you check out an amp that it’s not only something that you can comfortably pick up without having to see a doctor, but you have a vehicle that can accommodate it. Nothing sucks more than knowing you have to ask a favor of a friend to carry or transport your gear for a jam. There are so many amp options right now that unless you absolutely have to have the biggest amp at the store you can easily find one that does what you need without the size.
7. Combo Platter. Let’s say you’ve got a few amps already and like the speaker configuration in them. Nobody says you need to continue to buy more cabs when you already have plenty of speakers. Nobody says you can’t “borrow” the speakers from another combo or cab (even if it doesn’t cosmetically match) to make more effective use of your space. Then again having a combo can make a lot of sense if you need everything in one package. All depends on your purpose. I regularly borrow the speaker from my 1x12 Boogie MK III combo for my Carol Ann OD2r head since it has an EV100 speaker in it. Works great!
8. Size Matters…Speaker Size That Is. We all love the 12” speaker, but there are plenty of other sizes that work fantastically. Rather than go with the crowd, maybe you like the sound of a 15” bass speaker. Maybe an 8” or 2x8” cab? 10s are great and are found in many classic designs (4x10 Bassman anyone?), and there are a ton of amps from Silvertone to Airline to Valco that use interesting configurations. All the way down to the mighty 6” in the Tweed Champ, every speaker type and size offers a unique tonal color.
9. New or Pre-Owned? It works great for cars and it works just as well for amps. Besides the thrill of the chase, there is money to be saved when buying used. Depending on what you’re looking for, you might be able to shave hundreds or even thousands off of the price of a new one (all depends on the amp/rig). There is also the case that your chosen amp is no longer being made. Remember that not all older or hard to find amps are collectible or vintage, but some can be true tone gems. True story: I recently needed to get that Billy Gibbons “Eliminator” tone for a track and was able to pick up a Legend “Rock n Roll 50” 1x12 combo on Craigslist for $200. It’s got a Celestion 80 speaker in it and sports a solid state power amp and tube preamp section…and most importantly that Billy Gibbons “Eliminator” tone. Gimme All Your Bargain!
10. Van Gogh or Volkswagen? Some people buy amps as an investment while some others could care less about the monetary value of an amp as long as it serves them in tone and function. This is an important question to ask yourself because you can spend a lot of unnecessary money on the wrong choice. There are many “special edition” models available but they may only have a small difference from the stock version, or even less, like a signature or special color. These are compelling if you want to build a collection but matter very little if you just want the sound. A yellow Marshall Superlead is near impossible to find (from what I understand they only made about five full stacks in 1972 with that color), but it doesn’t sound any different from a black one made in the same era. The collectability and price will reflect that difference, I assure you.
Hopefully some of these ideas will help put a light bulb over your head when considering an amp purchase. It’s only after many bad purchases and some excellent ones that I’ve learned a little bit about this topic. Now it’s your turn…what tips can you share that you’ve learned from amp life experience?
See ya next month!
Steve is best known for his recent work on Guitar Hero III, the multi-platinum selling video game that is turning gamers into guitarists by the thousands. A guitarist/composer/producer, he holds a B.A. in Music Performance and Composition and spends his days and nights writing music for games, film and television. He’s also a rabid tone fanatic and amp enthusiast always looking for a unique sound. His original music can be found on iTunes and at myspace.com/steveouimette.
Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters are designed to offer a fat midrange and a smooth top end.
Billy Corgan was looking for something for heavier Smashing Pumpkins songs, so Joe Naylor designed the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One pickup. Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters have a fat midrange and a smooth top end. This pickup combines the drive and sustain of a humbucker with the percussive attack and string clarity of a P90. Get beefy P90 tone plus amp-pummeling output with the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One.
Patented Railhammer Pickups take passive guitar pickups to a new level with rails under the wound strings lead to tighter lows, and poles under the plain strings offer fatter heights. With increased clarity, the passive pickup’s tone is never sterile.
Railhammer Billy Corgan Signature Z-One Pickup Demo
For more information, please visit railhammer.com.
Designed for utmost comfort and performance, the Vertigo Ultra Bass is Mono’s answer to those who seek the ultimate gigging experience.
Complete with a range of game-changing design features, such as the patent-pending attachable FREERIDE Wheel System, premium water-resistant and reflective materials, shockproof shell structure and improved ergonomic features, the Vertigo Ultra Bass takes gear protection to the next level.
The Vertigo Ultra Bass features:
- Patent-pending FREERIDE Wheel System that allows for wheels to be attached on the case in no time, giving you the option to travel with it seamlessly
- Upgraded materials, including a water-resistant 1680D Ballistic Nylon outer shell, plush inner lining and new reflective trim for maximum backstage and night visibility
- Enhanced protection with a shockproof shell structure and heavy-duty water-resistant YKK zippers for protection from the elements
- Improved ergonomics and functionality including added back support and load-lifting detachable shoulder straps with side release buckles
- Flexible storage options with added space for touring essentials
The Generation Collection of acoustic guitars features the exclusive Gibson Player Port designed to offer a unique and immersive sonic experience.
The G-Bird, the newest addition to the Generation Collection--represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird colliding with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port to add a new dimension to the G-Bird sound. The Gibson Player Port allows players to hear more of themselves as the audience hears it. With a tone that is crisp and resonant, all of the Gibson Generation Collection acoustics are designed to be comfortable to hold and play for long periods of time. All Generation Collection guitars feature the Gibson Player Port, slim, lightweight bodies, a flatter fingerboard radius, Walnut back and sides, Sitka spruce tops, and a stunning Natural finish. Additionally, the new G-Bird, and the G-200 and G-Writer are equipped with LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup systems which amplify deep bass and crystal-clear highs.
The G-Bird represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port adding a new dimension to the G-Bird’s sound. The G-Bird features a stunning solid Sitka spruce top and solid walnut back and sides for the ultimate in crisp, resonant tone. This square-shoulder dreadnought delivers all the rich low end and well-balanced mids and highs the original Hummingbird is famous for. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with chrome Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning. The utile neck, with its easy-playing Advanced Response neck profile, is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Modeled after Gibson’s pioneering small-body parlor acoustic guitars from the 1930’s, the G-00 is a top choice for blues and fingerstyle guitar performances. Despite its more compact size, the G-00 achieves a full, balanced sound. The G-00 fills any room with rich tones-which players can hear like never before, with the exclusive Gibson Player Port. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-00 is handcrafted in Bozeman, Montana, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustic guitars. The G-00 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-00 parlor-sized body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-00 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
The G-45, a round-shouldered jumbo, adds the Gibson Player Port to its famous “Workhorse” J-45 style body, which is Gibson’s best-selling acoustic guitar of all time. On the G-45, players can now hear more clearly than ever how this beloved guitar responds to every style and technique of playing. Powerful one moment and soft the next, the G-45 delivers all sounds with incredible dynamic range in an elegant, medium body size. The G-45 is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-45 features a slightly thinner round shoulder body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-45 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Gibson’s impressive range of square-shouldered guitars have become an expressive standard for rock, pop, folk, and country artists. The G-Writer is known for its wide range of sounds, from gutsy and loud, to soft and sweet; they are superb for all styles and shine, whether strumming chords or fingering intricate solos. The G-Writer comes ready for the stage or studio with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system and the ear-opening Gibson Player Port. The G-Writer is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-Writer features a slightly thinner cutaway body, is more comfortable to play and provides effortless access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Writer is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
Gibson built its first “Super Jumbo” SJ-200 as a custom order for country and western singer and film star Ray Whitley, who desired a big, loud, and deep flat-top over which to croon. The SJ-200 quickly became a staple of cowboy singers and horseback troubadours, and then country music, 60’s folk stars, and onto every acoustic guitar genre that has followed. Ray would be proud to hear the booming sound from the Gibson Player Port on the new G-200, which comes ready for the stage or studio with a LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-200 is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. The G-200 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-200 cutaway jumbo body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and provides excellent access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-200 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
G-Bird | Generation Collection
For more information, please visit gibson.com.