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Choosing a first amp is overwhelming.

Discussion in 'Amp Central Station' started by hawkman, Feb 28, 2021.

  1. hawkman

    hawkman Tele-Meister

    Dec 9, 2017
    Got my first electric this week. Thought I've had my amp lined up by then but don't.

    I'd be playing in my home. Family present. I work from home so I can imagine getting loud at times when the family is at work/school. I like rock and would want some distortion/overdrive/whatever.

    Watts: I don't understand how much/little wattage is necessary and what is overkill.

    Looks: I admit I like how something "looks" as well. Any Fender Tweed is sexy, IMHO, yet the stark silver on some Fenders is ugh. But I'm willing to forgo looks for the right sound/deal. (i.e. a whitish Monoprice is ugly but could work).

    Pedals: I don't know. I'd probably like to use pedals for fun at some point. I thought some amps can't take pedals...(modeling amps maybe).

    Size: I am the king of clutter and don't have much space to begin with, so smaller is probably better.

    You get the idea. This isn't so much of a "brand/model" request as a basic explanation of what is needed.

    My struggle is that I tend to start at Point A (low $, basic needs), then move up the ladder towards nicer, more expensive stuff. This goes for any hobby or interest. Also, with all the used stuff out there, I'm constantly having to look up reviews for a model that I haven't heard about.

    I almost ordered a Katana Air yesterday. Screw it that it's probably plastic, but it seems to sound great but then I look up the forum on it and start hearing about the Cube, the Fly 3, etc...and the Katana Air stays in the shopping cart....

    Please help me sort it out. Thanks.
  2. swervinbob

    swervinbob Tele-Afflicted

    Jul 10, 2018
    Marshall DSL40cr. Sounds pretty good at low volume because it has two good master volumes. Can rattle the windows and sounds really good when you get the power amp cooking.
    Maguchi, Tim S, GratefulDean and 2 others like this.
  3. fasteddie42

    fasteddie42 Tele-Afflicted

    Dec 10, 2016
    Tip of the Mitt
    fender pro junior in tweed would be a great starter tube amp.
  4. Dismalhead

    Dismalhead Poster Extraordinaire

    Feb 16, 2014
    Antelope, California
    I'd recommend a small solid state amp like a Fender Champion 20 or the Orange Crush 12. You'll get some nice built-in effects including distortion, they're quiet enough to not disturb the neighbors if you don't want to, they're cheap (less than $150 new), and they're really small. If you ever want to play with a drummer they're not going to be loud enough though.

    I've got a herd of tube amps and I just recently switched to playing through my little Champion 20 for home use. Great little amp.
  5. hepular

    hepular Tele-Holic

    Feb 17, 2019
    abilene, tx
    1. volume knobs on guitars and amps still work. believeth not too mucheth of the hype re: 'bedroom amps' or attenuators. that said, amps with decent master volume controls are cool so that you don't HAVE to play at "when are the cops coming" volumes to get a good raunchy break up.

    2. i firmly believe in buy it once. (i also do most of my practicing unplugged, so i've solved the "quiet" problem THAT way). figure out what it is that you want to sound like, dig around, then buy the best amp for that sound you possibly can at the best price and relationship you can. the whole guitar/amp culture seems to be, to me, like some bizarre permutation of one-night stand culture combined with a harem.

    3. pedals: are you adrian belew? if not, you need 5 pedals, maybe. 4 if your amp has reverb. 3 if your amp has reverb and some sort of vibrato/tremolo.
  6. PhredE

    PhredE Tele-Afflicted

    Sep 25, 2017
    Suburban PDX, OR
    Have to agree with previous posters.

    Start out relatively simple and get the handful of tones/tone types that are important to you. Since you're not playing out, having huge amounts of power/volume is not an issue now.
    You might also consider a headphone out/line out type output for headphone practice -- it may not be important now, but may be later. There are several good practice amps that are affordable and have good set of built-in effects/features. Heck, good inexpensive pedals are the norm now, so you can always add later what an initial purchase might lack up front.

    Plus, if you hold off for a bigger / more pro type amp, you will have more time to better research and work up to that later.

    Just my 0.02.
    Good luck.

    PS. IME: I have spent huge $ in the past on gear. Looking back, had I to do it over, I would not have done that. Instead of dumping money into guitars and amps, I would have started lessons earlier and kept them going longer. Sometimes, lessons are a better investment in the long run.
  7. BobbyZ

    BobbyZ Doctor of Teleocity

    Jan 12, 2011
    Snellman MN
    Bought a Katana for my granddaughter, for about 200 bucks it's actually not that bad. Might give you some idea of what you want to hear when you go down the amplifier rat hole later on.
    It is a cheap amp, but at least it's cheap.
    Most new amps are cheap too, they just cost a lot more.
    jfiffik, breadfreak, Drew617 and 9 others like this.
  8. sswoverl

    sswoverl TDPRI Member

    Feb 28, 2019
    Kokomo, IN
    I totally get where you are coming from. I started into my guitar phase about 7 years ago. I knew nothing about the gear, but needed something I could throw a mic in front of and play for gigs. For me it was a Fender Mustang II v.2 at the time. It was good for home.

    Here's a quick breakdown of what I've learned in the time since, particularly relating to your stated objectives:

    Tubes - You probably don't NEED to go this route but if you did, you're likely wanting to go with something under 5 watts, or at least something that power scales downward. There are a few companies making inexpensive heads that will do 1 or 2 watts. Probably plenty for the house. You'll likely find yourself wanting to pickup a pedal or two to get some sounds sooner than later. A lot of folks will go for a Fender Champ or a Vox AC-4. Other folks would say grab the inexpensive Laney or Monoprice small amp options.

    Solid State
    I'm guessing a 20-40 watt Solid State would do for you. They notoriously have "less than stellar" built in distortions and overdrives. But don't have much else in the way of other effects other than reverb (yes, some will do chorus). Likely means that you'll be looking for a pedal or two. But with SS being cheaper than tube, you may have some extra cash to throw at them. I'd probably just look for a pawn shop Peavey.

    Modelling amp

    This is probably the way I'd go if I were you. I did when I was in your shoes. All the effects you could want, paired with some relatively decent amplifier simulations that give you a wide array of options. The downside is learning the UI to customize, but many times, they can be connected to a PC for greater ease of programming. again, 40 watts is probably all you'd ever need for at home. Boss, Fender do some good stuff in this realm.

    I'd say for any of these segments, be looing at the used market. That way, if you end up in something you don't quite like, you can sell it for about what you had in it. I've moved through WAY TOO MANY amps over the last 7 years, and the only reason I could afford it was because I bought used, and only bought when I knew the deal was really good.
  9. drewg

    drewg Tele-Meister

    Feb 8, 2020
    Pacific Northwest
    So, reverb, tremolo and... what other three?
    hawkman likes this.
  10. beyer160

    beyer160 Friend of Leo's

    Aug 11, 2010
    On Location
    The best thing to do is take a trip to the biggest music store you can get to, and play everything- even stuff that isn't in your price range. You'll pretty quickly figure out what you like, and what you don't. The key to this is that you need to play at least the same type of guitar that you have at home- it's no use evaluating amps with a Les Paul if you have a Strat at home.

    YouTube demos and the opinions of strangers can be helpful, but nothing like playing the stuff yourself.

    Good luck!
    glen851, SRHmusic, elihu and 6 others like this.
  11. ataylor

    ataylor Tele-Meister

    Jan 27, 2009
    I got the Champion 20 for my young daughter to learn on and have found myself borrowing it myself. It sounds a lot better than I expected. Yeah, some of the amp and effects settings lean towards meh or okay, but the basic Fender 50s/60s amp tones and the basic effects like reverb and tremolo are really pretty solid. If Fender made a limited run in blonde or tweed or something, I'd maybe even pick one up for myself!

    I lucked out with my first — and so far only — amp: the now-legendary Vox Pathfinder 15R. I'd recommend one without hesitation except they're very hard to find now that Vox realized they were way too much bang for buck and discontinued them.
    Ronzo, Dismalhead, Stubee and 2 others like this.
  12. hepular

    hepular Tele-Holic

    Feb 17, 2019
    abilene, tx
    was being magnanimous . . . disirregardless of ike turner's recollection, what's the over-under on Hendrix's pedal-board? Joe Pass?
    hawkman likes this.
  13. Milspec

    Milspec Poster Extraordinaire

    Feb 15, 2016
    The old advice of buying the amp with the best cleans in the power level that you need still applies. You can always add to a clean tone amp, can't always remove from the other.

    I think something in the 5-12 watt level is right where you want to be and there are a TON of options in that power range. I think the Princeton remains the all-time best choice and even some old lesser known vintage amps provide that tone with some visual mojo.

    My favorite for home use has always been Head units instead of combos. I set the cab against the back wall and the amp head within reach to adjust as needed (saves all the walking back and forth).
    timbovee, hawkman, howardlo and 2 others like this.
  14. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Tele-Afflicted

    Feb 3, 2021
    Austin, TX
    My neighbor just got a Fender Champ X2, they're really low cost and sound pretty good for a budget all tube amp. I say "budget" not because I know yours. But because you don't need to think about racks and stacks and amps that have 1 signature tone until you've had a chance to figure out what tones you like. You can get a Supro or a Super Reverb or a Marshall and they're great. But figure out what type of music you'll want to spend most of your time playing, by then you may want a different amp anyway.
    hawkman and loopfinding like this.
  15. AJBaker

    AJBaker Friend of Leo's

    Oct 3, 2010
    Buying used is a good idea, there's lots of choice at good prices.

    I would suggest a simple tube amp somewhere around 15w, with a 10" or 12" speaker.

    My favourite is the normal Vox AC15 (with a minor treble cap mod).

    It's cheap, sounds great clean and driven with just about every guitar, works ok at home volume (though that's not its main strength), and can handle many gigs (if it's not loud enough, quite often is the kind of gig where you mic the amp).

    The two channels have different characters that complement different guitars, and one channel even makes a decent vocal amp for small gigs!

    Its ONLY drawback is the weight.
    carpenter and hawkman like this.
  16. loopfinding

    loopfinding Friend of Leo's

    Jun 19, 2011
    europe endless
    a blues jr, pro jr, hot rod deluxe, or super champ are all floating around on the used market pretty cheap and all will take care of your needs beyond a point of "growing into" them. peavey classic 30 same deal as well.
  17. Richie Cunningham

    Richie Cunningham Tele-Afflicted

    Jul 4, 2020
    Midwestern United States
    The Fender Mustang LT25 is an 8” modeling combo with built-in effects and a well designed user interface that sounds like a bigger, more expensive amp. I almost never use pedals with it, but it takes them well. It’s about the least spendy amplifier I would recommend to someone starting on electric.
    ricardo1912, hawkman and DougM like this.
  18. bgmacaw

    bgmacaw Poster Extraordinaire

    Feb 11, 2006
    Near Athens GA USA
    I also recommend a modeling amp that fits within your budget. The Boss Katana or the Fender Mustang series are good choices. This will help you discover what amp and effect sounds you like the best. From there, you can begin planning/plotting your next upgrade. Remember, the amp is part of the instrument when it comes to electric guitar.
    SRHmusic, Ron R, hawkman and 3 others like this.
  19. unixfish

    unixfish Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Apr 20, 2013
    Northeast Ohio, USA
    A used Fender Mustang III V2 will run you $100 to $200. Good sound, and can be turned way down and still sound good.

    I bought one I bought on sale, because I did not know what amp sound I was after. I still have it because it is "close enough" to the sounds I want. Many people here gig with them, or have gigged with them.

    For very little money, you may really like it, or you will find a sound you really like for a next purchase. Yes, these modelers take a bit to "find the sound" you are looking for, but a little bit of time and discipline will get you there.
    SRHmusic, hawkman and Blue Bill like this.
  20. MilwMark

    MilwMark Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Apr 29, 2013
    near Arnold's
    The reality is you won’t know what you like or how to set it up for awhile.

    I play in three bands in different genres. I’ve recorded albums. I love big tube and SS amps on stage and in the studio.

    I’ve tried everything at home. EVERYTHING.

    Get a Roland MicroCube. Cheap. Reliable. Sounds great. Feels great. Multiple models so you can start to understand what sounds you like.

    My secret for basic familiar pop-to-Classic rock tones is to set to the “stack” model. Put the drive and volume about 11 o’clock and the master to about 9 o’clock with a dash of reverb. With the guitar volume rolled back that will give you about 75db at 1-2 meters. Most families and neighbors can tolerate that.

    I’ve played radio shows on mine. Sounded great. We’ve played quiet indoor shows through them.

    I may have tipped @Chiogtr4x over the edge of shared my secret settings when he was on the edge of buying.

    Best advice is download a dB meter. Meter your TV or stereo at 1m for “typical” practice volume and max acceptable. Store them on your phone and compare amp volume to see if you can stay in the acceptable range with sound and feel you like. Hint - anything intended to play live with will have a heck of a time sounding and feeling right at 75 dB.
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2021
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