Should I get a combo amp or a head and cabinet? This one is actually pretty simple, as it really depends on just how big a venue you are planning to play in. For club dates and even small halls, today’s combos are well-equipped to deliver the power you need to be heard all the way in the back. If your goal is to have enough sonic firepower to fill a giant auditorium or even an open arena, there’s no question that you’ll want a high-powered stack with at least a 4 x 12″ cabinet and a 100-watt head. As an amp_headcaveat to that, some players still prefer a smaller amp – such as a Vox AC30 – for its specific tone, and then simply mic the amp and run it into the PA system (provided the PA will handle it, of course). Remember, a combo is an all-in-one unit, a head and cabinet are separate and usually heavier.
Which is best, solid state or tube?
Here the traditional thinking is that solid state circuitry can produce superior clean power at a much more affordable price, while the scarcity of vacuum tube manufacturers today tends to make tube-based amps more expensive than a comparably powered solid-state amplifier. This has led to some interesting hybrids in which the basic tone is produced by a tube-driven preamp, while the power amp is solid state. Still, the majority of “serious” players will almost always lean towards a tube amp, though the attitude is changing as manufacturers turn out amazing new amps that are based on cutting-edge technology. In the end, choosing an amp with the tones you like, whether solid-state or tube, is the most important thing.
The benefits of modeling explained
Modeling amps offer the best of all worlds. You can buy anything from a basic “practice” amp to a high-end, tube-powered combo that will deliver almost any tone or effect you might need or want, and it will pull double-duty as a great studio amp. These modeling amps provide everything from clean rhythm tones to a full-out overdrive along with many “must have” effects like reverb, chorus, phase, flange, and delay.
What’s more, modeling frees you from the constraints of having to “make do” with a particular amp’s tonal range. Using sophisticated DSP, a 2 x 12″ modeling amp can sound like a vintage 1 x 10″ tweed or a modern 4 x 12″ stack. When you add up all the benefits of a modeling amp, they do make a lot of sense unless you just happen to be a purist who is convinced that only a 1959 Fender Bassman reissue will sound like a 1959 Bassman. For those players, modeling is simply no substitute. And since a player’s individual tone is critical, we concede that each guitarist will decide for themselves whether modeling is for them or not.