Best electric guitar amp for beginners

Looking for the best electric guitar amp for beginners can be a daunting experience. With so many amps styles and features available it’s easy to get lost. Here’s a little advice I’ve compiled from personal experience and discussions with other guitarists about the best electric guitar amp for beginners.

Skip the modeling amps.

The first piece of advice about finding the best electric guitar amp for beginners is this:

If you’re just starting out and haven’t played a lick of guitar, then you should avoid modeling amps.

Modeling amps don’t make the best electric guitar amp for beginners, because it’s far too easy for an aspiring guitarist to get lost in the effects before learning proper technique. In fact, many of the standard effects on modeling amps today can make a person sound better than than actually are.

To some, this may seem like a great selling point, but ask any guitarist – hobbyist to pro- who’s played around and he’ll tell you that it’s much better to know how to play than to just sound like you know how to play.

Leaning on some effect like a crutch will only limit your playing and shorten you musical horizon.

When looking for the best electric guitar amp for beginners, look at straight, traditional amps and skip the modeling. Modeling amps a awesome though once you know the basics and have developed good technique.

How to Choose Your First Guitar Amp

The best place to start is with a small tube amp. This kind of amp is far less forgiving, leaving you nowhere to hide. It sounds counter-intuitive, I know. You’re looking for the best choice and here I am telling you one that will make things more difficult. But think of it as tough love – forcing you to confront your technique and learn the right way to play a chord or scale progression.

Once you get that down, the sky is the limit and your horizon will open up to a whole new world of effects and styles.

Beside learning the basics, avoiding modeling amps and multi-effect pedals in the beginning will allow you to focus on the few basic effects every guitarist needs along the way – Reverb, Chorus, Delay and Compressor. Reverb is a must, and most amps have onboard reverb effects. Once you begin to get the hang of playing guitar and wrap your head around those basic effects you can branch out to other effects and modeling amps.

I acknowledge the allure of modeling amps is great – they offer a plethora of effects and amp simulation at a great price (often cheaper than a basic tube amp), but that temptation can end up holding you back as you learn to play.

It’s best to stay on the path of developing your skill and technique, rather than getting lost in a wilderness of fancy effects.

Best Electric Guitar Amp for Beginners

Here are some recommended amps that fill the need, and provide a solid foundation for your learning.

Tube Amps.

Vox AC4TV.

The Vox AC4TV is a 4W tube amp available in 2 sizes: ‘Mini’ with a 6.5″ speaker and a 1×10″ speaker version. Each is simple to operate and has a control for tone and volume, as well as a power selector switch that toggles between ¼w, 1w, or 4w. It’s a competent amp that’s plenty loud but not so loud you’ll wake the neighbors.

Vox-AC4TV

Its simple set of controls leaves you to focus on playing, but it also leaves room to grow as you master the basics.

One of the great things about the AC4TV is that it has an external cab out connector so you can hook this little bad boy up to external cabinets. Trust me – 4 watts can sound pretty loud when it’s driving a 2×12 cab!

The 10″ currently retails for around $249 new, 6.5″ is $199.

What makes the AC4TV one of the best electric guitar amp for beginners is its versatility. Here are a few demo vids, to give you an idea of the different tones available and the different styles they fit…

 

Rock demo

 

Pop/Jazz demo:

 

Clean demo:

 

And one last all around demo:

 

Blackstar HT Series HT-1 1W 1×8.

Blackstar-HT-Series-HT-1

Another great practice amp in the running for best electric guitar amp for beginners is the Blackstar HT Series HT-1. It’s a 1W tube amp with a single 8″ speaker. It features 2 channels (clean and overdrive), stereo MP3 / line input and external speaker output. It’s use of dual-triode ECC82 tubes provides the crunch and break-up characteristics of a traditional 100w amp at a much lower volume. It also has EQ, Gain and Reverb settings.

It provides a bit more in the way of controls than the Vox AC4TV and retails for $269.

Here’s a demo of the Blackstar HT-1 in action:

Solid State Amps.

If the tubes are out of your price range, here are a couple of great solid state practice amps without the extra bells and whistles to distract you. 😉

Peavey Solo 12w 1×8 Practice Amp.

Peavey-Solo-12W

This member of the Solo series from Peavey is a 12w 1×8″ practice amp and it features TransTube tube emulation (for a “real tube” sound), Master volume control, Lead gain control, 2 channels – Clean and lead, 3-band EQ, ¼” stereo input jack and a Headphone jack.

What makes this one of the best electric guitar amp for beginners is Peavey’s TransTube preamp technology which provides a realistic tube amp tone and response, with the price and stability of a solid state amp – the best of both amp styles. Loud enough to rock, yet the headphone jack allows you to rock in isolation without disturbing others. The line in lets you plug in a CD player or mp3 player to jam with your favorite bands. It currently retails for $79.99.

Orange Amplifiers Crush PiX Series CR12L 12W 1×6.

Orange-Amplifiers-Crush-PiX-Series-CR12L

This little devil is a 12w amp with a 6″ speaker and is the smallest on this best electric guitar amp for beginners list. It features dual gain controls, 3-band EQ, Master volume and Headphone out jack.

The Orange Crush is all about style and portability. It’s distictive look is due to the Orange basket weave Tolex, woven speaker grille, beading and legendary hieroglyphs (PiX) and of course the Orange signature ‘picture frame’ edging. It’s not as feature rich as other models, but that’s the point. It’s simple, portable and just a good basic combo amp. It’s also available in black (why?) and retails for around $99.

Here’s the promotional video of the Orange PiX line of amps, including the stripped down and portable CR12L:

Conclusion.

I believe that the best electric guitar amp for beginners is a straightforward combo amp, represented by the amps on this list. Avoid the bells and whistles of the fancier, feature-rich combo amps until you’re confident you have a solid set of playing chops. Then you can either move up to a modeling amp, or start adding effects pedals to your rig. The great thing about all the amps profiled above is that they provide a solid base for what ever effects you want to add to the mix later on down the road.

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Amps, Effects and Modeling – oh my!

Every guitarist reaches a point in his playing life when he begins to come across terms like “Combo Amp”, “Rack mount”, “Stompbox” and the like. This may happen early in his guitar journey, or much later – particularly if he has played acoustic for many years before venturing into the realm of the electric.

That was me. I played acoustic guitar for over 10 years before I ever picked up an electric. I never paid much attention to terms like “amp head” and “rack mount”. But after receiving my first electric guitar for Christmas one year, I quickly found myself immersed in a world of terminology completely foreign to my otherwise knowledgeable self.

Today, I am going to provide some detail on these terms. (since I was unable to find any decent info on the Internet that wasn’t loaded with too much info).

E n j o y.

What is a Amp Head?

An amp head (sometimes referred to as simply a “head”) is the base amplifier. In it’s simplest definition, the head is the box that receives the signal from the electric guitar, and routes it out to the speaker(s), P.A. system or headphones.

The 50w Marshall JVM205H Guitar Amplifier Head.

It may be solid state (i.e. using integrated circuits and a digital processor to carry the electronic signal) or tube (i.e. Using Vacuum tubes to carry the signal). Tube amps are also sometimes referred to as valve amps.

It is called the head because it historically sits on the top, or at the head, of a speaker stack or cabinet.

The amp head is usually rated by power consumption, ex.: 15w or 30w, meaning it consumes 15 or 30 watts of power while in use. The higher the wattage, the more muscle. Amps today range anywhere from less than 1w to over 400w.

A final word of caution on amplifier wattage: more watts does not always mean louder sound. It’s only a measure of potential power, the ultimate sound quality and decibel level is also a factor of the input and the speaker(s).

What is a Combo Amp?

So, if the amp head is the amplifier itself, what is a combo amp?

The Fender '65 Twin Reverb combo amp

Put simply, a combo amp is both the amplifier and the speakers in a single unit. Combo amps are ideal for learning to play and for practicing, whether solo or in a band. Everything you need to produce sound (outside of the actual instrument) is in a single, self contained unit.

Combo Amps vs. Amp Heads

So which is better, an amp head or a combo amp?

That depends on your desired use. Each has it’s benefits and drawbacks.

Amplifier heads are typically better amplifiers than combo amps. This is because you’re paying top dollar for just the head. Many combo amps have very good amp heads and good speakers, but generally speaking you get a better amplifier for your money when you buy an amp head.

Combos are ideal for practice and learning, but the speaker(s) in a combo amp cannot compete with stand alone cabinets for concerts or live shows.

Most hobbyists will do just fine with a combo amp, while most professionals favor the stand alone amp head with speaker cabinet set up.

What are Effects?

OK, with me so far?

Good.

Now that we know what gets the sound from the electric guitar out through the speakers we can turn our attention to sound effects.

There’s no definitive list of effects, but the most common types include:

  • distortion
  • modulation
  • dynamics
  • filter
  • time-based
  • pitch/frequency
  • feedback/sustain

Much of a guitarist’s sound is the result of their choice of effects.

Effects should be viewed as an added layer of sound put on top of the base sound from the guitar. It’s for this reason that the most important aspect of an amp is it’s ability to deliver good, clean tone without any (unintended) distortion or sound degradation. After all, if you start with a muddy sound, you’re only going to end up with a muddy sound at the heart of whatever effect you’re applying.

Effects can be applied to that sound a number of ways. Here are the 3 most common.

Stompboxes

A Stompbox is an effects pedal, designed to lay on the floor and be turned on or off by the player stomping it with his foot. The stompbox may have 1 or more effects, and a multitude of controls affecting volume, signal, etc..

The Fulltone OCD Obsessive Compulsive Drive Overdrive Guitar Effects Pedal.

The instrument cable is connected from the guitar to the stompbox, and another cable is connected from the stompbox to the amplifier. Sometimes, multiple stompboxes may be chained together, creating a more complex sound as the signal is modified by each box on its way to the amp.

Common pedal effects include:

  • compression
  • wah
  • overdrive
  • chorus
  • flanger
  • phase shifter
  • delay
  • echo
  • reverb

Rackmounts

Lexicon MX400 Dual Stereo/Surround Reverb Effects Processor

Rackmounts get their name from the fact that they are larger than stompboxes and require that they be mounted in a rack, like the kind used in telecommunications and networking.

Rackmounts are larger and usually offer more control over the signal, making for a more complex sound. Since they are not as easily toggled on/off as stompboxes, rackmounts are favored in recording studios or sometimes used in live sound mixing, whereas the stompbox is used by the guitarist at home and on stage.

Some of this separation has disappeared as modern rackmounts can now be controlled by foot switches, much like a stompbox. However, they are still less portable than their stompbox cousins.

Modeling Amps

Fender Mustang III modeling amp

Lastly, some amplifiers provide sound effect features on-board, eliminating the need for the stompbox or rackmount. These are usually called “Modeling amps” as they model the stompbox or rackmount capabilities.

Some newer amps take modeling to a new level, modeling other amplifiers themselves. These amplifier modeling amps make it possible to emulate vintage amps that are often too expensive for the beginner, which makes them great amps for the hobbyist.

Conclusion

The world of electric guitar is much broader than that of the acoustic, at least in terms of gear and equipment available. But that’s part of the allure. After all, who doesn’t love to roll up their sleeves and play around with a different sound now and then?

It may seem like a lot of info, but it can open up whole new worlds of sound to explore.

Happy exploring!

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10 Best Inexpensive Acoustic Guitars for Beginners.

If you’re looking for an affordable acoustic guitar for a beginner, but not one that’s cheaply made then you’ve come to the right place. There are hundreds of cheap guitars out there, with low price tags and low quality. These aren’t them.

These acoustic guitars offer good quality, and great value for their respective price tags.

Many of the guitars on this list might be considered the best acoustic guitars for beginners, but they also make an excellent choice for a backup or travel guitar for the experienced player as well. Worried about bringing your Martin D-16GT on a camping trip for a week? Why not pick up the Seagull S6 instead?

To put it simply, these are good acoustic guitars for cheap.

Without further ado, I present to you….

10 inexpensive acoustic guitars for beginners.

1. Seagull S6

Seagull-S6

Seagull acoustic guitars are made in Canada and come highly regarded. They offer a beautiful sound at an excellent value. The Seagull S6 has a mahogany back and sides, and a solid cedar top. The Seagull S6 blends the warmth of mahogany with the crisp definition of maple.

The rosewood fretboard is easy on the fingers, while the Tusq nut and saddle provide good tone and stable tuning.

This acoustic guitar also features a double action truss rod to help keep it in tune over the years.

At around $399 it may seem a bit pricey, but it it well worth the money. It’s not a cheap guitar, but it’s a good guitar and one of the best in the under $500 price range. I would not recommend it for someone who is looking to try his hand at learning guitar and may not stick with it, but it’s an excellent 1st guitar and a great investment for someone willing to put in the practice time needed to play well.

Here’s a demo/promo video of the Seagull S6 in action:

2. Yamaha FG800

Yamaha-FG700S-soundThe Yamaha FG800 is significantly lower in price (about half the price of the Seagull S6), but still a very good beginner acoustic guitar. It features a solid Nato back and sides, Solid Sitka Spruce top, rosewood fingerboard and die-cast tuners and a high-gloss natural finish.

Yamaha’s legendary value and quality make are present in this very affordable entry-level 6-string acoustic guitar.

Check out the Yamaha FG800 in action:

 

3. Takamine GD20-NS

Takamine-G-340

The Takamine GD20-NS is a Dreadnought body style acoustic guitar and features a Cedar top with synthetic bone nut and bridge saddle, rosewood head cap, and pearloid dot inlays. The back and sides are Mahogany. This is definitely the beginner line of Takamine guitars and while it does not feature the superior sound qualities of the higher end models, it doesn’t feature their higher end price tag either.

Most people agree that the GD20-NS gives you pretty good bang for the buck and makes an excellent acoustic guitar for beginners.

With a beautiful sound, sturdy construction and a pleasing look, the Takamine GD20-NS is a solid beginner guitar offering plenty of room to grow. At  under $300, it’s a solid buy.

Here’s a demo of the it in action:

 

4. Fender CD-140S

Fender-CD-140S

The Fender CD-140S is a full bodied Dreadnought acoustic guitar featuring solid Spruce top and laminated mahogany back and sides. It’s a lower-end Fender and may not have the superb workmanship of the higher priced models, the solid Spruce top and Rosewood headstock and bridge with compensated saddle make it an appealing beginner model.

The CD-140S dreadnought provides a full, resonant sound at a great value (currently under $200).

The 2011 upgrade gives this model a new tortoise shell pickguard and mother-of-pearl rosette design.

Check out the Fender CD-140s acoustic guitar in action here:

5. Epiphone DR-100

Epiphone-DR-100-brstThe Epiphone DR-100 acoustic guitar features a Spruce top, Rosewood fingerboard and Mahogany back and sides giving it an overall balanced tone.

The DR-100 is considered by many to be strictly an acoustic guitar for beginners  – meaning it will not be long before the serious player wants to trade up. But at less than $100, it’s a fine starter guitar for people who aren’t sure they will have the desire or aptitude to stick with playing.

It’s available in 3 different finishes: Ebony, Natural, and Vintage Sunburst.

6. Ibanez PC15NT

acoustic guitars for beginners - Ibanez - AC30NT

The Ibanez PC15NT is a worthy entry in the beginner guitar series, and while you can find better acoustic guitars out there, few are as good at this price. It features a solid Engelmann Spruce top, and Mahogany back and sides. It’s smaller body doesn’t take much away from it’s loudness or crispness. It’s similar to Martins and Taylors in terms of sound and retails for around $150.

You do get what you pay for though, and the PC15NT is geared toward finger picking or soloing. It’s ok for strumming and rhythm work, but not as well balanced for each technique as some other guitars on this list.

See demo:

7. Fender DG-8S

Fender-DG-8SThe Fender DG-8S features a solid Spruce top, and laminated Mahogany back and sides. It has a Rosewood bridge with compensated saddle. The saddle and nut are plastic.

If it sounds a little light on construction, it’s because it is. This is a definite starter guitar – read: you will be trading this in if you pursue playing past the basics. That’s ok though, because this is a great acoustic guitar for people looking to try their hand at guitar playing but who aren’t sure how far they want to go with it.

It’s usually sold in a starter kit package, including things like a chromatic electronic tuner, instructional DVD, strings, picks and strap. Basically, everything you need to sit down and start learning. All for under $200.

There are cheaper starter kits out there, but they’re…well, cheap. In the right hands the Fender DG-8S can really sing (and make a great gift for Christmas 😉 ):

8. Martin LX1

Martin-LX1The Martin LX1 is a 3/4 size acoustic guitar which features a solid Sapele top, back and sides. It also has a Stratabond modified low oval neck and Gotoh nickel-plated tuners with the classic C.F. Martin script logo on headstock.

Being 3/4 size it’s perfect for a travel guitar as well as a practice guitar for beginning students or younger students with smaller hands. It retails for under $300 and includes a gig bag. That might seem like a lot for a 3/4 guitar, but it’s a very good quality 3/4 guitar.

Here’s a demo:

9. Baby Taylor

Baby-TaylorThe Baby Taylor is another 3/4 size dreadnought acoustic guitar and like the Martin LX1, it’s perfect for younger players and those with smaller hands. It’s in the same price range as the LX1 (under $300), and while it’s a good guitar, it’s not as good as higher end Taylors. That’s also true of the Martin LX1 though. It’s simply difficult to provide a high quality instrument at the lower price point.

Don’t get me wrong, the Baby Taylor is still a solid guitar a great 3/4 Dreadnought. It’s got a solid Mahogany top, and Sapele back sides. It’s also got a Tusq nut and saddle for great tone in such a tiny package. A gig bag is generally included also, since it’s a non-standard size.

Here’s a nice demo of the Baby Taylor acoustic guitar:

 

10. Washburn WD10 Series

Washburn-WD10-SeriesThe Washburn WD10 Series has a solid Spruce top and wood Rosette with bone nut and saddle. It may be the bone saddle and nut, or maybe it’s better construction but this guitar sounds like a guitar twice it’s price. That and the fact that its price is less than $200 make this a great acoustic guitar for the beginner or as a backup or travel guitar.

You could do far worse for $250 than this great looking guitar with a nice bright tone and strong mid range.

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