Choosing The Best Amp For Me
What Type Makes The Best Amp?
There are four types of amps to consider: tube, solid state hybrid and modeling amps. Choosing the best amp for your purpose can be an overwhelming experience when encountering all the amp choices available. In this article I will help you understand the different types of amps and their applications. I will also include my own experience and observation of each type. To choose the best amp, you need to understand what each type is and how it is designed to be used.
The term “Tube Amp” typically is referring to an amp that has tubes in both its power section and its pre-amp section. These are the preferred amp choice by many professional guitarists. Tube amps are known for their warm sound and ability to get real tube tone and feel. Tube amps are heard on more legendary songs than solid-state amps. They are a great choice if you are planning on using pedals to alter their sound. Most tube amps have clean and distortion channels, and they will sound louder than solid-state amps of the same wattage. Tubes will wear out, requiring replacement.
I choose to play tube amps when I want traditional tones. I love the point at which the amp begins to misbehave. This causes the tubes to saturate, resulting in a sought after musical tone. Even small tube combo amps get a bit loud when turning up their volume to hit their sweet spot.
A quality tube amp is usually the most authentic way to achieve a great guitar sound. Tube amps are heard on most recordings featuring the greats. I am, however, happy to own solid state amps for events where my tube amps would be too loud. I like solid-state amps for when I want to play through an amp with built in effects.
Solid-state amps use transistors, not tubes, for their power or pre-amp sections. Transistors are very reliable and seldom need repairs. Many solid-state amps have both clean and distortion channels. Their clean channels are known for extremely clean tone. You can play pedals through these amps, but they will not have the musical reaction a tube amp will.
The distortion on solid-state amps can get highly saturated with long sustain at low volume levels. This makes them a good choice for achieving heavy distortion at gigs where loud volume is an issue. Solid-state amps are, in many cases, the right choice for use in apartments and lesson rooms.I use my solid-state amps for practicing. I also use a solid-state amp at my small coffee shop gig. My tube amp simply would be too much amp for the room.
Many solid-state amps have a convincing drive tone. I would not prefer them over a tube amp for a serious recording and gigs. I do like their consistency, since they sound the same every time I turn them on. My tube amps can have issues due to the tube being abused during travel and wear. Solid-state amps are more affordable than tube amps with the same feature set, and they weigh quite a bit less than tube amps.
Hybrid amps combine tube and solid-state technology. Some hybrids feature a tube in the preamp section and solid state circuitry in the power section to create a tube tone without the need for power tubes. A hybrid amp can fill a void by allowing you to use it with your pedals, and at a lower volume, while achieving a tone closer to an “all tube” amp, but with the weight and price range closer to that of the solid-state build. My experience with hybrid amps has resulted in good tone at smaller gigs where my larger tube amps would have been too loud. I like my hybrid amps with my pedal board better than my pedals with my solid-state amps, but not as much as my preferred choice of using my pedal board with my more expensive “all tube” amps.
Modeling amps are programmable and use digital processing and software to simulate many traditional amps, cabinets, and a variety of effects, such as reverb, modulation, and delay. These amps are a great choice for direct recording into a “DAW” recording system, and for practicing, without the need of additional effects. In essence, everything you need and all the versatility is in one box to play any style and achieve elaborate effects patches. There are digital modeling amps available without tubes, and also hybrid style modeling amps available where a tube is part of the circuitry to help the modeling technology react more like a tube amp.
Modeling amps are my first choice for practicing and laying down demo ideas in the studio. Modeling amps are designed for the gigging musician who is looking for a convenient package in one amp. With all the necessary sounds for the gig and who is not requiring a giant loud tube tone. Modeling amps are designed to run directly into a PA system. Modeling amps can come extremely close to emulating the characteristics of an “all tube” amp. A modeling amp is a good choice for players who are required to have low stage volumes. Places of worship and small venues aren’t into loud amps.
The Best Amp
A tube amp is the right choice for a player who does not want to compromise a traditional authentic tone. They are not relying on the amp for the effects. A solid-state amp is a good choice for the player who wants a lightweight, less expensive, low maintenance amp. A hybrid amp would split the difference between an “all tube” and a solid-state amp, giving the player a more authentic traditional tone, but with less tubes to maintain than the “all tube” type, and a better pedal platform than a solid-state build.
Modeling has everything a player can use in one box. They include direct recording capability, however sacrificing some of the tone an “all tube” amp would produce. Modeling amps are not as easy to navigate as most solid state, hybrid, and tube amps. They come with easy to follow manuals and are far less difficult to manage, once you start to work with their settings and features.
There is no such thing as the best amp, but there are amps that best fit the needs of what you are doing.
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