As an amateur guitar player, a guitar amplifier is often the easiest way to elevate your music. However, without any firsthand knowledge, the search for your first amplifier will be overwhelming.
Combo amps are ideal for home practices and small gigs. These amplifiers combine an amp, preamp, and speakers, and their portability allows you to plug a variety of instruments, even a microphone, to adapt to your musical needs.
Continue reading this article to discover what is a combo amp and why it’s the best choice for beginners.
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What is a Combo Amplifier and How Does It Work?
Derived from its name, a combo amp combines a preamp, amplifier, and speakers in the same box. These are suitable for beginners because they are easy to use, budget-friendly, and portable.
They can offer you ample volume, which is perfect for practice sessions and small performances.
Here are the three main components of a Combo Amp.
The first part of the amp is called the preamp. This is composed of the circuitry of the combo amp, which delivers the sound produced by the guitar to the power amp and removes interference.
It also includes the control panel, which you can use to customize the sound you want to project.
The second part is called an amplifier. This is the part that receives signals from the preamp. Using transistors or vacuum tubes, it processes these signals into a higher voltage powerful enough to be projected on a speaker.
The last part is the speaker. The speaker is also called an electronic transducer, which means that it converts electrical energy into sound. The amplifier’s output produces a louder and better sound than the original.
Types of Combo Amplifiers
Before choosing a combo amp, you should first consider your music genre. Whether you’re going for pop, jazz, or heavy metal, amplifiers can make a difference in producing sound. Here are the different types of amps for guitars you can choose from.
1. Combo Tube or Valve Amp
Tube amps use outdated vacuum tubes that amplify input signals from the guitar. This type of amp produces the kind of distortion that some guitarists want. If this is the type of sound you are looking for, then the Tube Combo Amp is for you.
However, one of the downsides to having a tube-based combo amp is the weight. Tube amps are heavier and more expensive compared to other types because they use transformers. This amp is suitable for guitar players who only use the amp in one place.
2. Solid-State Combo Amps
Solid-state amps use solid-state transistors and circuit boards, which produce a clean sound without any distortions. Suitable for jazz guitarists, solid-state amps are lighter and less expensive, so they are the practical choice for beginners.
3. Modeling Combo Amps
Modeling combo amps are also called digital amps. These amps use digital technology and contain microprocessors to stimulate sound.
Modeling amps can be used to mimic tones. They have presets and built-in modes, so you can choose the sound that suits your needs. Some modeling amps are programmable, which means you can customize them according to your preference.
4. Hybrid Combo Amps
A hybrid amp is a combination of a tube and a solid-state amplifier. If you want to have the authentic tone of tube amps and the flexibility of solid-state types, then this is for you.
However, not all guitarists like to use these amps because they are not as good as solid-state or tube amps in fulfilling their respective purposes. These are also more expressive than modeling amps.
Advantages of Combo Amps: Why Get Them?
1. Portability and Convenience
Combo amps are a great choice for beginners because of their portability. You can bring them to practices and performances without the hassle of hauling a separate speaker and amplifier.
Compared to buying an amplifier and a speaker, combo amps are generally less expensive. They also provide ample amplification for your needs, especially when paired with a pedal.
Combo amps are good for beginners because they are easy to use, compact, and versatile.
How About an Amp Head and Cabinet?
Amps and cabs work as a two-piece set. The amp head is the amplifier, which is connected to the cab, which is short for cabinet. The cab is a set of speakers that receives input from the amplifier.
Unlike combo amps, these come separately but are connected using speaker cables. This type of amp is mostly used for live performances. The larger the speaker cabinets are, the more they deliver a full-bodied sound.
If you’re planning to perform on stage with large crowds, Amp Heads and Cabs is the right choice.
What is a combo amp? Combo amps, with their simplicity and all-in-one design, are perfect for beginner musicians.
They’re a convenient solution to amplify your instruments or even record music at home. With many available types of amps for guitars, choose one that suits your style and sound preference.
Sam Stephenson is a writer who grew up in Washington, North Carolina. He was 2010 and 2015 ASCAP Deems Taylor / Virgil Thomson Prize winner and a 2019-2020 Guggenheim Fellow in General Nonfiction. His books have been published by W.W. Norton, Alfred A. Knopf, and Farrar, Straus and Giroux