Soren Reiff's Mesa Boogie Mark IV

Best advice – buying a guitar amp

I’ve written about how you optimize your practicing, and what you should consider if either you or someone you know should invest in a guitar. Today I’ll write my best advice if you or someone around you is considering buying a guitar amp.

Once again I’ll start to mention that this is written to advice beginners, or to inspire you if you are a serious guitar player with years of experience, and therefore a person people would turn to, to get your help in buying guitar related stuff 🙂

My best advice on buying a guitar amp

This one is probably an advice many parent will love because it’s very short and clear: don’t!!

What? … Yes, if you are about to start playing electric guitar, don’t buy an amp.

“Why not? … I got an electric guitar and want to practice?! … You just wrote that I should buy an electric guitar instead of an acoustic, why shouldn’t I have an amp too??”

Soren Reiff's Mesa Boogie Mark IV

My Mesa Boogie Mark IV
This is a super amp with tons of possibilities … but do you need that?

Ok, let me explain. If you just bought an electric guitar, I’ll asume you’re not very sure about  the following things:

How do your guitar sound thru different type of amps? How do you sound on your new guitar? Who are you going to play with? What style(s) are you going to play … and would that be the only type of music you’ll be playing? Are you going to play in several different bands? … and are all these bands within the same style? If you’re playing in different bands … or in no bands, but want to jam with people how are you going to come from one place to another?

See – there is several things you should consider, before you buy a cool looking amp that can play loud as ….

Therefore I suggest: don’t buy – but borrow.

Often there are several amps in a rehearsing studio. You can probably borrow some of them if you ask politely. Maybe you have friends who have an amp that you can borrow for an evening every now and then. After a while you will slowly start to figure out what you like about some amps and dislike about others. Not because a salesman in a shop or a stranger thru an add tells you “that this is a killer amp”, but because you have tried it in different constellations.

My big brothers amp - an Ampeg VT-22

My big brothers amp – an Ampeg VT-22.
Again a killer amp – it sounds so great … clean and warm. But I wouldn’t try to dial in an overdriven sound from this!

Maybe the cool looking amp that your eyes love is killing your back. Maybe the amp that sounds so warm because it starts to crank up the moment the volume is around 3, starts to annoy you since it’s impossible to dial in a clean sound, that you had no idea off would be needed. Or the other way around – the amp with tons of headroom sounds cold and sterile, and you realice that the 30 watt combo in the rehearsing studio has a much warmer and full tone. No one can tell you what you need … but you. When you know that, and can describe what you’ve tried and your likes and dislikes, you can get advices – and use those advices.

What do you do in the meantime since you want to practice at home?

Well you can get many small boxes for that – small boxes that is made for practicing with headphones. I know Vox has made some for instance – I haven’t tried them, so I can’t recommend them … but I can recommend the idea. I’ve had several different types of such thru the years … easy to carry around, and some of them sounds real great (ok, some don’t).

Another solution could be to go on E-bay and find a used Mesa Boogie W-twin. It’s with tubes and it’s actually an pre-amp/overdrive pedal, that you also will be able to use when you borrow an amp – AND it has recording out. This means that you can connect it to your stereo and it sounds like an amp … not a pedal thru a stereo, but an amp!! In addition to this, you can later on use it when you are going to record guitar as a preamp in the studio. I’ve used one for many many tracks, when I’ve been recording either guitar or bass – so that would be a great solution!

Hope this has inspired you – all the very best

Soren

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2 thoughts on “Best advice – buying a guitar amp

  1. Pete Gunner

    Hi there Søren- thanks for a very good piece of advice – the idea of ‘getting around’ a few different amps is excellent. The only problem there is that maybe some beginners find it difficult to get into practice rooms /locations to try these different amps. There was a time, in the not too distant past, where many retailers loaned out amps to future customers – I’ve done that many times- but then you have to have a good and trustworthy relationship with the shop! Even as a quite experienced (old!) guitar player like me, I find it’s still hard to decide which amp is the best for me and my guitar(s). I’ve had Vox, Marshall, (I’m British!) but many years ago in ’78 I bought a Music Man 6o w with 1 12″ speaker – initially I had a bit of trouble with the original speaker, but found that a Celestian was the answer. This amp has followed me around for many years- reliable, good varied sound -close to Fender, but not quite- but still I look around for other amps. I tried a Vox AC15 a couple of weeks ago- stunning little amp- took a look at my bank account, and decided to wait! Maybe one thing I’d like to state, after I’ve been playing guitar for a lifetime almost, don’t sell your amp that you’ve had for a good time for something that impresses you at first. I did this way back in 74 – I had an AC 30 TB with me from England, sold it because I was impressed by the chorus effect and clear sound of a Roland JC 120 – what happened up in my head?? Sold a Marshall Bluesbreaker too, but that was because the taxman was after me–a few good instruments were sold to satisfy him!
    One last thing- effect boxes. When I was hospitalized a couple of years ago, I had a little Zoom effects modul with me, and my trusty Tele, with a set of really good Sennheiser ‘phones. I was really surprized at the variation and quality of the sound- think maybe it got me out of hospital quicker!
    Cheers to you, Søren. Pete Gunner

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Thanks for sharing Pete.
      And it’s true – never sell old amps og guitars … you will wake up one morning missing them 🙂
      I’ve also doen things similar to your storries … I swapped a Fender super reverb from the seventies with a small Polytone, I must have been out of my mind. I’ve also had a smalle Zoom for practicing on holidays – it was worn out after some years and trips around the world 🙂
      All the very best
      Soren

      Reply

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