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.
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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.
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.
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!
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…
And one last all around demo:
Blackstar HT Series HT-1 1W 1×8.
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.
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.
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:
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.