Updated: Apr 19
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Getting started with electric guitar is an exciting prospect and it opens to door to many opportunities! However, before we can get to shredding we need a few pieces of equipment. One of the most vital pieces of equipment is a guitar amp!
Guitar Amplifiers originated in the 1920’s as a way to make a guitar loud enough to be heard with a Big Band Jazz Ensemble. Most woodwind instruments and other stringed instruments (such as the piano) had enough natural resonance to fill a room. But, a guitar on it’s own could not produce enough sound to be heard over the rest of the band. So, they began to build amplifiers based upon modified PA system speakers to increase the guitars output.
There are many very good guitar amps you can choose from today. But, here are a few which I have personal experience with that seem to be especially good.
Some amplifiers have different use cases and so I will divide the amps into a few use-case categories that I think will be useful.
SMALL AMPS (“DESKTOP AMPS“)
For the player who doesn’t plan on playing in public and wants something that is lightweight, easy to carry, and still offers a decent tone for playing in a small room “desktop“ amps are the way to go. Most of the options listed here can be powered either by a power cable or with a bunch of batteries for mobile playing.
Several of my local students like to bring these to their lessons because they are easy to carry and still provide plenty of sound.
THE BOSS KATANA MINI - $99 A very neat little amp that has numerous benefits. It’s bigger brother (mentioned later in this article) has been lauded for it’s pleasant tone and flexibility. Not only does this amp have Clean, Crunch, Lead, and Brown amp channels available, it also comes loaded with 50+ BOSS guitar pedal effects. These pedal effects include multiple types of reverb, delay, wah, flanger, phaser, and much more.
YAMAHA THR5 STEREO AMPLIFIER - $199 The THR5 (catchy name, right?) is another small amp that has many different use cases. In particular, this amp includes a basic form of Cubase AI, which is a popular program for recording music. Like the Katana, it comes with a bunch of clean to distorted channels and can be loaded with numerous effects.
These middle-of-the-road amps are great for rocking out in your room at home or for small gigs. Generally, these are a great place to go for an inexpensive and flexible amp.
FENDER MUSTANG LT-25 - $149 The Fender Mustang line of modeling amps have a TON of cool things to play with! The LT-25 has the benefit of maintaining relative portability while producing plenty of sound. One of the cool features of this amp is the ability to emulate a bunch of Fender’s classic amps. While not perfect, the sounds you can get from the amp are sure to not disappoint!
BLACKSTAR 20W DIGITAL STEREO COMBO - $159 This 20 Watt amp is one of my favorites. Because of the unique stereo speaker setup you can get more bass out of this amp than many others in it’s class. This amp is also capable of being loaded with numerous effects and presets which add another level of value.
There are amps that are way bigger than the ones listed here, but I chose these options because they are big enough to do a small to medium size gig while also still being easy enough to carry for short distances.
BOSS KATANA 100 MK2 -$359 OR BOSS KATANA 50 MK2 - $269 My main personal amp is a Boss Katana 100 (the first version) and I use the GA-FC foot switch so I can control the amp without having to touch it. This amp has a ton of benefits including it’s ability to be loaded with presets, the access it provides to Boss’s library of 50+ effects, and a huge community of over 10,000 users to help you get the most out of your amp.
MARSHALL M-DSL40CR-U - $750 This amp is completely different than everything else on this list. Rather that being a modeling amp that emulates the sounds of other amps, this one produces a genuine sound through Tubes. The distortion that you get out of this amp will be undoubtedly better than anything else on this list. However, that does come with a hefty price tag and it does not include any of the effects or presets abilities modeling amps have.
All in all, no matter what you buy on this list you’ll have a solid amp. Today, it’s really easy to come by good gear. Just be prepared for a learning curve when you get it! A big part of getting a good sound is knowing your equipment and developing your sound over time.
So get to it!
Written by Donnie Emmack