There are many myths floating around in the guitar community about amplifiers. Many myths claim that better tone can be achieved by certain “tricks of the trade”. Surprisingly, there are a great number of these myths that even the experts themselves sometimes believe- so it can often be hard to separate amplifier fact from fiction.
Figure 1 – The wealth of amplifier types, models, and effects have created a great deal of myths as to which particular way to go is best.
The most common misconstrued belief in the amplifier market is that twice the wattage means twice the volume. This could not be further from the truth, as it is actually true that ten times the wattage means tice the volume. Essentially this means that that 10 watt amp that comes with cheap guitar bundles is only half as loud as that new 100 watt amp you’ve been looking at with a passion. So what really determines sound? Wattage does have a big part in how loud an amplifier sounds, but so does the class of amplifier, speaker efficiency, and speaker surface area. Higher watt amplifiers can play lower wattage sounds better, because they have more power- but it is very important to test an amplifier out before purchasing it based on wattage levels.
Another interesting belief is that performances require high wattage amplifiers- often over 100 watts or more. This isn’t necessarily true, since a tube amplifier can do around 2-3 times the volume a solid state amplifier can. Basically, solid state amplifiers use transistors for signal gain, while tube amps use “tubes” or “valves”. Aside from sounding much better at higher volumes than solid state amplifiers,tube amplifiers can also usually outperform a 100 watt solid state amplifier with a 30-50 watt tube amplifier. When tone and volume is a big concern, tube amplifiers are the way to go.
Figure 2 – We all have to start somewhere- but keep in mind that the amplifier in most guitar bundles produce poor tone and sound quality. Even still, a 100 watt amp is technically only twice as powerful as most of these small amplifiers.
Hybrid technology isn’t everything that hybrid technology has become to be in today’s society. Hybrid cars, for instance, serve a purpose to save the owner gas money and help the environment. One would likewise think that hybrid amplifiers that incorporate both tube and solid state amplifier technoogy would be the best of both worlds. Sadly, this is far from the truth. These hybrid amplifiers will usually have one tube or valve in the preamp section. This does little to nothing for the final output and tone, although there are some exceptions to the rule. Mainly, these types of amplifiers are used as a marketing ploy- and serve to trick buyers into saving money on a hybrid tube amplifier, rather than spending the extra cash.
When dealing with amplifiers, there are many things to remember when purchasing them. More wattage doesn’t mean better tone, or even that much more volume. Solid state amplifiers generally sound poor at high levels, and usually fall short of tube amplifiers. Lastly, don’t be fooled by hybrid amplifiers- they usually are a marketing ploy. It is important to go out to a local musician’s shop and test out amplifiers before purchasing them- even if it means ordering on the internet afterwards to get a better deal.