Randall Bass Amps


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Guitar Amplifiers Buying Guide.

Walk into a well stocked music store and you will be faced a huge selection of guitar amplifiers. What amp is the right match for you and your guitar/s? It can be a difficult buying decision. This guide attempts to make your buying decision a little easier with arming your with some basic tips. On the one hand, it is wise to arm yourself with some research before entering the market for an amp. On the other hand, the quality of amps on the market these days, you could just as easily pick your budget, review a few models in that price range, and make the purchase. So do not stress too much.

What is the right budget

A common adage used by guitarists is that you should always spend as much on the amp unit as you are willing to spend on the guitar. The reason is simple: why diminish your musical talent and the quality of your guitar with an amplifier of lesser value than your instrument. In short, why reduce your guitar's potential by using a lesser quality amplifier. That does not mean that low priced amps are of an inferior quality. The state of amplifier manufacturing processes, that incorporate computer aided technologies, means that unit quality improves while retail prices become lower. This is obviously good news for the newbie guitarist who wants a good amp unit.

At first glance, amps are designed to match the four types of guitars, namely: electric; acoustic; electric bass and electronic keyboard.

Electric Guitar Amps: These are by far the most popular category of amplifiers. But their popularity has a lot more to do with the success of the electric guitar itself.

Acoustic Guitar Amplifiers: The electronics of these amps capture and project the full range of the acoustic guitar's highs, mid-ranges and bass tones. Acoustic guitar amps always have their own speakers and they also generally allow a mic to be plugged in directly along with the line from the acoustic guitars pickups.

Bass Amps: Bass amps are optimized to reproduce and project the low sonorous sounds of the bass guitar.

Keyboard Amplifiers: Simply try to reproduce the sounds made by the keyboard as accurately as possible acting like a PA system.

Amplifier Types

Combo Amps: Contain both the speaker and the amplifier unit in one box. These amps are what you will most commonly find in the market. These are very good for carrying around, as long as they are not too large.

Amplifier Head: Is a single amp unit without any speakers. Amp heads require a cable connection to speakers. You will need real speaker cables designed for handling higher voltage outputs rather than standard instrument cables. This type of an amp is also great for connecting a large number of speakers.

How an amp functions

Converting electrical impulses into audible sound is the basic function of a guitar amp. To achieve this task, amps use two circuits or stages, namely: preamp and power amp. The preamp processes the signal received from the guitar and sends to the power amp and other processes in the amp, such as the EQ and effects loop. The power amp is responsible for boosting the signal from the pre amp and sending it to the speakers according to the wattage specs of the unit.

Vacuum Tube Amplifier

A vacuum tube is basically the same thing that was used in radios about half a century ago.

Tubes, when they are over-driven and heated with electrical current produce the “distortion effect” which explains the popularity of these types of amplifier. Although tube amps are considered an older technology, being replaced with solid state technology, they remain popular for many musicians.

Solid State Amps

This type of amp incorporates newer circuit design and aims to replicate the tonal and sound processing qualities of the older vacuum tube amp models.

So, what type of amp is right for you? That can depend on two things: budget and your musical genre you prefer to play. Both vacuum tube and solid state amps produce reproduce excellent sound quality. Purists argue in favor of the more organic sound quality of vacuum tube amps and their ability to produce that unique analog warmth and fluid distortion. Solid state amps are generally cheaper than their vacuum tube counterparts. So, for budding musicians, a sold state amp can be bought with a smaller starting budget.

The Proper Channel

When research amplifiers, ensure the unit is capable of multiple channels, which can be set independently allowing the user to seamlessly switch between channels. For most musicians, channel switching capabilities is an important feature. Electric guitarists find the ability to channel switch useful to achieve efficient changes between loud distorted sounds and those cleaner rhythmic tones. A footswitch, which is generally supplied with new amp purchases, manages channel switching.

Electrical Power

The power of an amplifier is measured in Watts. This is a measure of the capacity of the amp to power the speakers. Here are a few tips to guide your amp selection, relating to wattage:

a) Higher wattage will mean a louder sound in the same amplifier.

b) Vacuum tubes produce a markedly louder sound per Watt of power as compared to solid state circuits. For instance, a 5 Watt powered vacuum amplifier produces sound similar to a 40 Watt state amplifier.

c) Beginner musicians will find the feature of a headphone jack useful, especially for those practice sessions when you do not want to disturb the neighbors.

Amplifier Effects

Here is a summary of the more common effects inbuilt into amps:


a) EQ: The amp unit will feature 2 or 4 dial knobs that control the range of sound frequencies For instance, increase treble settings for a brighter sound, adjust the middle EQ to full and the treble and bass to zero to achieve a the natural sound of the guitar, add extra bass tones by increasing the bass frequency. As we are familiar with the slider type EQ controls on a home stereo system, then experiment with the EQ controls on an amp. Adjusting the treble higher produces brighter sounds, while adjusting the middle and bass produces rich deeper tones.

b) Effects Loop: An effect loop is controlled by an external chord and facilitates changing the signal carried between the preamp and the power amp.

c) Digital Effects: Many amps offer digital effects like flange, phase, reverb, echo, chorus, pitch shift, etc. Remember we mentioned channels earlier, well channels can control effects which can be preset and assigned to a channel. The channel switcher can then easily switch between different effects presets. In many instances, amps will feature preset effects combinations.


Obviously this is what the world listens to! So it is good to have the best speakers which you can buy. bear in mind that heaver and more expensive speakers are generally translate better sound quality. Better quality speakers facilitate better coloration of the amps signal, thus creating a richer superior sound.

Common speaker types include:

- 8” Speakers: found in smaller amps.

- 10” Speakers: find these in amp for for practice sessions.

- 12” Speakers: find in amps used for performances.

- 15” Speakers: these speakers suit bass amps and built into separate speaker cabinets.

Things to bear in mind

There really are gazillion things that you will need to consider if you sat down to decide what kind of an amp you should be purchasing. While evaluating your amp needs, consider: your musical genre; how many instruments use the same amplifier; how loud is the drummer in your band; what size performance do you plan and at what type of venues.

Some helpful tips

- A 40 Watt solid state amplifier featuring 10" speakers will project adequately in most performance situations, depending on the loudness of the drummer.

- For larger performance situations, a 60 Watt amp connected to a 12" speaker will deliver excellent performance.

- 30 Watt tub amplifier is the pic for a full rock band performance in most contexts.

This guide is a starter for you on the path to buying the right guitar amp that meets your musical style and performance needs.

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