Finding a perfect electric guitar is hard enough. Finding an amplifier that will perfectly match your guitar and be just right for your taste is even harder. That is especially true if you are a novice and don’t really know where to start. It seems like you have figured out the basics of electric guitar, what to look for and avoid. Maybe it took a week or a couple of months. And NOW you have to do the same thing about amplifiers? Unless you are a very enthusiastic person with a need to understand every single detail of how tech works, the task will seem a bit daunting. I know it, did for me the first couple of days. There are so many varieties of amplifiers you can choose from that your head might spin. The first rule for me is to always (ALWAYS!) set a budget. I have gone over and under the budget because I just got too excited about a specific model and then ended up eating instant ramen for a couple of weeks. That’s probably not your, or anyone’s, goal. So after deciding on a budget there are hundred and one more decisions to make. The main one in case of amplifiers is deciding what type of amplifier you want. The two main types are solid-state and tube amps. There are, of course, other varieties and hybrids but this particular article will be about difference between these two. Hope you will get a couple of tips about what is what and decide which one suits you the best.
Let’s start with a solid-state. This type of amplifier (often called transistor) is sort of an amp for every day, working person who cannot afford to pay a lot for the equipment or maintenance. Don’t get me wrong, there are price differences between solid-states as well. You can find one at a very low price (check out our best cheap amplifiers for beginners post) and then there are ones that go way above $1000 mark.
Solid-state amps are very durable and much cheaper than most tube amplifiers. They are great if you are a beginner and want to practice a lot and not have to pay a lot for maintenance. It is also great for gigging musicians who travel a lot and can’t carry around fragile tube amps in their van.
The thing with solid states is that despite a lot of advantages, professionals still prefer tube amps because they just sound better. While that is true technology has been improving and solid states started to have amazing tone and overdrive. You also have to take into account your level of expertise. As much as people might say that the tone and overall sound of a tube amp are different than solid-state’s, if your ear is not trained properly, chances are you won’t find a lot of differences.
Tube amplifiers (also called valve, sometimes) were the first amps of the market and unlike a lot of other equipment and accessories, they remain the “best” option if you want perfect tone and power from your amp. While professional musicians who can afford the more expensive equipment and maintain costs prefer them, they are usually not the best option for beginners on a budget. The main issue with tube amps is that the tubes themselves are not going to last you a hundred year and more. You have to constantly maintain them and change them. That is why if you are buying a tube amplifier you have to budget for maintenance. Another issue with tube amps is that they are a bit fragile. If you plan on dragging your amp wherever you go then solid-state might be a better idea.
Just To Some Up
- Easier to maintain
- Their quality has been improving through years
- More expensive
- Needs a lot of maintenance
- More fragile
- Usually has better tone than solid-state
The decision is on you. As much as people might say that tune amplifiers are better in tone and overdrive, you still might find a solid-state amplifier that sounds just perfect for you. My and most people’s first amplifier was solid-state and we turned out well (I think…) so if this is your first amplifier try to go easy, definitely do your research, listen to professionals and other people, but at the end of the day make a choice that you know will be the most efficient and best for the sound that you are looking for. In any case, we have a lot of posts about solid-state, tube amplifiers. If you already know your budget you can check out our list of the best amplifiers under $100, or if you have a better budget you can look at amplifiers under $1000. In any case, good luck and have fun!