How To Choose Your Next Amplifier – The Definitive Guide

How to use Amplifiers

How To Choose Your Next Amplifier

Choosing an amplifier is an important step for every guitarist – this is the definitive guide for you to hit on your choice!For more than 50 years the tube amplifiers have been making the head of guitarists of all kinds with their most diverse timbres. Delivering from clear crystalline tones to hot overdrives!A valve amplifier is by no means an advanced or complicated technology. Quite the opposite. It is, in essence, quite simple equipment.But if you’ve done a research on which amplifier to buy I’m sure you’ve been in the middle of millions of different data and terms, right?I know what it’s like.It is not a simple task to understand the various terms, technologies, types of valves (married or not?), Types of cabinets, pre-valves, power valves, types of loudspeakers, class, component qualities, NOS and all other terms obscure manufacturers love to use!I understand you. I’ve had the same difficulty.Many times this is all used to mask a very enlightening fact:A valve amplifier need not be complex, complete, have many features or even have great power.A valvulated amplifier needs to deliver the timbre you are looking for!The truth about a valve is very simple and needs to be said:In terms of amplifiers valved the simpler, the better!So, I’m going to answer a question that will eventually cross your mind:How to choose a valve amplifier?Today I want to show you which way to go to find the ideal amplifier for your case – which is probably not what you think – and how to do it by spending less than expected.I’ll show you what really matters when it comes to choosing your amp and what to ignore.

You have many options – Defining your styles

Understand what style you are looking for and narrow down your optionsIf you do a quick search on the internet for Tube Amplifiers, you will realize that the options – and price ranges – are numerous, even for the Brazilian market.Usually that’s a good thing, right?  Not always.Having many options to choose from in fact gives us more space to choose, see what details we seek, etc.However, an abundance of options also leads us to a paralysis. We want to analyze each detail, each item in the specification, each irrelevant point becomes “important”.If you’ve ever seen yourself analyzing things like the difference between a 15, 20 or 22 watt amp, have ready delivery, or even considering things like this amp has a x finish and that one y finish, that comes with NOS valves and fiber board of 2mm with point-to-point assembly – know that you are probably a victim of analysis paralysis.The truth is that not all details have the same importance. And it’s easy to get lost in so much irrelevant data while we do not give so much importance to the real ones.If you have made the decision to buy a new amp, it is very important that you know which are the most important and which are the least important. In order, these are the main factors you need to consider – analyze honestly – before investing in a new amp.
  • Type of ring you are looking for (Clean, saturated, super saturated, metal, etc.)
  • Versatility and amp characteristics. (fully connected to the previous one.) Determines what the amplifier is capable of delivering in terms of timbre and power.
  • Power needed: (The amplifier you need to play in places with up to 500 people is different than what you would use in a stadium – but not always :).
These three items are the tripod that will sustain your timbre. Once you have determined each of them accurately, you will be able to filter your search and depart for further analysis of the details.Before that we will detail this tripod and what each of these items mean.

Which amplifier to buy to maximize versatility and use for years!

Versatility is one of the most overrated features that there is. You need less versatility than you thinkWhen we guitarists start picking up new equipment the first thing we usually evaluate is the question of versatility.How will this amp be able to play Pink Floyd? Van Hallen? New clothes? (Maybe not this one = D)However I will propose a different approach.Do you really need versatility?If you play classic rock 95% of the time, but maybe, who knows, someday, you’ll want to play a metal band you do not need  an amplifier that covers both styles .You need an excellent amplifier to play your Classic Rock. When metal time comes you can improvise and be happy.Do you play 90% of the time in bars and small concert venues?So it certainly does not make the slightest sense to want to invest in that 50-watt tube amp already thinking about that stadium show that might show up.Versatility is one of the most overestimated factors when choosing equipment – especially when it comes to expensive equipment such as a tube amplifier.In reality you do not need an amplifier that covers 100% of the styles you play or need to play one day.What you really need is an amplifier that does a great job in the style and situation you find most of the time – style, size of seats, band, drummer, etc.Once you have solved that part and you have the perfect amp for most situations, you can improvise smoothly in other situations – playing with other bands, in bigger places, playing other styles, etc.

You need less power than you ever imagined.

You need very few watts to have a timbre and play live!I have already mentioned in this article that power is probably the factor in which most guitar players make the biggest misjudgments.Today you will learn how to avoid this mistake!All of us guitarists grew up watching our idols playing huge Marshall, Fender, Orange, and so on amplifiers and nothing more natural than tending to want the same kind of amplifier.So if you followed the previous steps you already know how big the places you play and what style you are looking for for your amp in terms of timbre.With these two factors in hand you can already analyze the powers you need.I will demonstrate some parameters to serve as a guide, but consider only as a suggestion:Do you enjoy a saturated timbre (Crunch), play with a live band (places with less than 500 people) and practice at home?  In this case I would evaluate the valves with 10 watts or less.You must already be thinking; Perai, but 10 watts is very little. I can not even cover my drummer with this.This is a common mistake. The truth is that unless you have plans to play in a stadium without using a PA, there are not many reasons to want to invest in something with 50 or 100 watts.Leave that investment for when your band is famous, you have roadies at your disposal and you do not have to worry about volume, weight and price of amplifiers anymore. (I.e.While not getting there, focus on low power and great timbre!

Is it worth investing in a small valve?

The small valves are the pearls of the great studios and can make beautiful on stage too!For a long time ago the small valves were already a fever among the great guitarists at the time of recording.Eric Clapton recorded Layla using the Fender Champ – x watts.  Brian May has mentioned several times that he used a small 1 watt amp on Queen recordings.  Jimmy Page recorded several of the songs on the first Led Zeppelin albums (and toured) using a 12-watt Valcro.Gibson even made a compilation of the 10 big tunes recorded on small amps (http://www.gibson.com/News-Lifestyle/Features/en-us/10-huge-sounds-recorded-521.aspx)If these guys chose small power amplifiers at the time they could choose any other it means something, right?The main learning here is: timbre matters more than versatility and power!At this time you might be wondering: Invest in a small valve? But what if my drummer is a horse? What if I play for over 500 people? And your self is playing in the park, in an open space? What if I go to record in a studio? What if? What if?Many questions that have a simple answer:Microphone your small amplifier.

Buy a microphone ?? But I want an amplifier.

A good microphone can be one of your best investments to play live.If you think it strange to think that instead of buying that tube giant I suggested you buy a small amplifier and a microphone, rest easy. In fact this reasoning is not common among purists.If you are to ask on the web which amplifier to buy will receive all kinds of suggestions. Most of it being pure whimsy.For this simple reason you will rarely see anyone talk that you can rather cover the vast majority of spaces using a simple 12 watt amplifier. Yes, just like many other good guitarists have.The idea is very simple:First you find the amp with the best tone for your taste, that the price fits in your pocket and that the power is ideal in the situation that is more common for you (small bar, rehearsal, play at home, etc).Second, you find a good directional microphone (recommend an SM57 or similar) and learn the basics about microphone an amp. Do not panic. Learning the basics takes little time and is more than enough for a good live timbre.To start position the front mic speaker, slightly off center and test.Third, plug your microphone into the table where you play it, ask the sound guy to leave it flat, and send em!

Learn how to microphone your amplifier anywhere!

Knowing how to microphone your amplifier is the real tool for having versatility.Let’s consider that you did not think the idea of ​​investing in a microphone rather than putting all your money into a new amp.If that’s the case you’re probably wondering, “But I do not know how to microphone my amp. How do I do?”Calm. In fact, things are much simpler than they seem.To get a cool sound from the no-amplifier when it comes to microphone you will need to learn the basics and I’ll explain everything here – stay calm; you do not need to know all the factors, differences, positioning, none of that. Just the basics for now.There are two basic positions you need to know and know the difference. On the axis (front to center of speaker) and off axis (more towards edges).

On the axis – Microphone pointing to the center of the speaker

In this positioning you will capture your sound with an emphasis on high frequencies, but with a good balance in general.If you find the tone very strident when using this placement you can tilt the microphone slightly so that it is slightly diagonal. If it is still strident, go to the second positioning.

Off-axis – Microphone pointing to the edges of the speaker

If you tested the first option and thought it was very strident, rest assured that the solution is simple.Just move the microphone to either side. 2 or 3 inches are more than enough.This modification, just moving the microphone, cuts off the treble and leaves the ring round. Because of this, this is one of the most used features in recordings worldwide.

But how far?

It is very likely that at this time you are asking yourself: How far should the microphone be from the speaker?Valid question.Considering that you have a directional microphone and will play in an environment with other instruments and other sounds you will try to isolate the sound of your guitar as much as possible.Therefore, start microphone with a distance of 1 to 2 centimeters.That simple.