Guide to Guitar Amplifiers

Hello Everyone,
as discussed on another post about the guitars accessories, in this post I will show a guide to guitar amplifiers. The guitar amplifier processes and transforms the electrical signal produced by the guitar pickups into sound. The sound comes amplified through the speakers. Often the amplifiers also contain some effects.

Guitar Amplifiers: How They Work

The Preamplifier: it is basically an electrical circuit. Its main function is to increase the gain of the sound signal coming from the source. In short, it increases the volume. Often in the pre amp you can find effects like equalization, compression or distortion. Thanks also to these effects it is possible to create the classic timbres of various musical genres.

The Power amplifier: its main purpose is to adapt the characteristics of the incoming electrical signal to those of the subsequent speakers. This component supplies electrical power to the signal. There are several models that differ in the category of some components. They are divided into: tube or transistors. In principle there were only tube models. With the technological development these models have been supplanted by transistor models over the years. For ten years the tubes amplifier have returned to use thanks to the warmer sound they produce.

The Speakers: the speakers have the task of transforming the electrical signal into sound waves. They differ in power and amps.

Guitar Amplifiers: the Various Configurations

Combo: the three components are mounted in a single body. The undoubted advantage of this solution is the small footprint. The risk is excessive weight. To overcome this problem many brands have produced a sort of home version, usually not very powerful but certainly excellent for those with logistical problems.

Stack: the preamplifier and power amp are normally assembled in one unit, while the headboard with the speakers is separate. These amplifiers provide excellent sound quality. Often these models take up more space than the Combo models.

Rack: all three components are distinct units. This makes them ideal for experienced technicians, able to play with different combinations of components to shape different sounds.

Stomp Amp: these are extremely small amplifiers. They connect directly to the speakers because they integrate the preamplifier and power amp functions. The advantages of these amplifiers are lightness and portability. Speaking of mobility, reduced spaces and Guitar 2.0, I reviewed a product that contains these components in just a few centimeters. Click here for the review.


Technology has evolved over the years. Each component described above can be built with different technologies. Logically every technology has its pros and cons and also different sound. The choice of the type of amplifier remains personal.

Tube Guitar Amplifier 
Tube amplifiers are the first type of amplifier invented. They are based on the ability of thermionic valves to actively amplify the power of the incoming signal. This type of valve is found both in the preamplifier and in the power amp and generates a very warm characteristic sound. The sound quality is very high and is still considered the best for almost all situations. The disadvantages of a tube guitar amplifier lie in the larger dimensions. Compared to the other models it is more delicate. As a result, prices are also higher.

Transistor Guitar Amplifier 
This type of amplifier uses bipolar transistor technology. It is an amplification instrument based on semiconductor materials and providing a valid alternative to valves. Transistor amplifiers distort the incoming sound less. They are therefore more faithful in reproducing the original timbre. Generally they are also cheaper, less bulky and more resistant than tube amplifiers.

Digital Guitar Amplifier 
Digital amplifiers have been introduced to the market in recent years. They are designed to convert the incoming signal from electronic to digital. The conversion makes it possible to integrate the instrument in digital environments of all kinds and makes it extremely easy to apply effects of any kind.

Here a small small recap

pros: little space
cons: excessive weight

pros: high quality sound
cons: Overall

pros: multiple combinations
cons: bulk, complexity

Stomp Amp
pro: lightness, zero bulk
cons: less characteristic sound

pros: high sound quality
cons: price, bulk, delicacy

pros: price, bulk, delicacy
cons: lower sound quality

pros: versatility, bulk, weight
cons: lower sound quality


Here are some tips for Electric Guitar Amplifiers

as mentioned before, the choice of the amplifier is strictly personal. Everyone will have to see well what the pros and cons are. It is important to evaluate also the use that will be made of it, the space available but also the level of skill.

1. Choose an amplifier with power compatible with the volume you will be playing. It is useless to spend high sums for a very powerful amplifier if you can only play at home. The tube amplifiers give a better sound the more they reach saturation. It is advisable to take a less powerful one to reach saturation first. If you only have to play at home, you can easily allow yourself an electric guitar amplifier with a power of 10 to 20 Watts.

2. Effects. The possibility to connect external effects to the amplifier. The built-in effects allow you to have everything embedded in one device. Logically, the first solution increases the dimensions and the quantity of material to move around. The second solution is certainly more comfortable but certainly less flexible in terms of the final result. As for point 1, also in this case the choice is linked to the final use.

3. Choose a type of amplifier compatible with your level of experience. Rack amplifiers guarantee many possibilities but are difficult to use and configure correctly. If you have to choose the first model, it is better to bet on a Combo or a Stomp Amp. These two models are clearly among the easiest to use.

4. Evaluate the dimensions and weight. If you have to carry the amplifier around often, it is essential to have something manageable. In this case it is better to choose models that are not bulky and above all light.

5. Headphones. The headphone jack is a very important detail. This will allow you to play and study at any time of the day, without disturbing the neighbors.

I hope you found this post interesting too. in case of doubts or suggestions do not hesitate to contact me in private or in comments.

Rock on