While there are a wide variety of guitars out there with numerous variations of pickups and woods, there are basically three types of guitar amps:
Tube or Valve amplifiers – original amps used since the dawn of electric guitars. Tube amps, by the nature of their technology, introduce a warm distortion to the sound that is pleasing to most guitarists.
Solid State Amplifiers – Solid-state amps use transistors for their preamp and power section. They require little or no maintenance, are lighter to transport and produce a very clean tone.
Hybrid Amps – These amps usually combine a tube preamp with solid-state power section to provide the warmth and “musicality” of tubes with the durability and lightweight of solid-state. There are some manufacturers which combine both tubes and solid-state technology in the power amp itself. Hybrids have been very effective in bridging the gap between solid-state and tube amplifiers.
Configurations – Guitar amps come in a variety of different sizes and two basic configurations:
* Combos – short for “combination” are amplifiers that combine the speaker and the amplifier in one box. These amps come in two different styles: open back and closed or sealed back. The closed back combo produces more low-end than an open back.
* Separate Amp Head and Speaker Cabinet – The amplifier and speaker cabinet are in two separate cabinets. This allows you to combine different enclosures with different amp heads. You can also add multiple speaker cabinets to an amp head for more volume and coverage. (* To avoid damage, this should only be done following the amp manufacturers recommendations) Divided into two separate units, is also more convenient to transport.
Deciding what configuration is right for you depends on where you plan on playing. If you’re doing small club dates, teaching or you’re a student yourself, a combo would most likely do the job for you. If you do a lot of outdoor gigs and big rooms and auditoriums, you’ll probably do well with a basic 4x12 (four 12” speakers) cabinet with a separate amp head (known as a Half Stack). Two 4x12 cabinets stacked on top of each other with the head on top is commonly known as a “Full Stack”.
Think carefully about how and where you’ll be using the amp before you make your decision.