When you play electric guitar sometimes it’s easy to forget that you are also playing the amp. An excellent guitar will sound bad played out of a bad amplifier. If you remember this you will be able to balance sound and budget and end up with the best sounding amp for you’re budget.
The first thing you should do is to make a list of your requirements and expectations of this amplifier. What style do you play? How much money do you want to spend? Are you planning on re-upgrading at any point? Are you planning on playing in a band at any point, or just by yourself?
There are two main categories of guitar amps, tube amps and solid state amps. The very first guitar amps were tube amps. A tube amplifier uses vacuum tubes to amplify the sound. Due to the way these amps work they have a very earthy tone when played at any volume. If you play classic rock or blues this is probably you’re best bet. Tube amplifiers very in wattage from anywhere from 1-200 watts. A 5-20 watt tube amp will be good very playing by yourself or recording. When the volume is turned up the amps tubes naturally create that organic overdrive sound that is synonymous with the ’60s. Therefore a smaller amp is going to be able to get this overdriven tone at a lower volume than a bigger amp. This is important if you want clean tone at a high volume for playing in a band. If this is the case you’re gouing to want nywhere from 40-100 watts of tube power.
Solid state amps were introduced in the 60’s but really didn’t gain a foothold until later. Most introductory amps now a days are solid state. As far was wattage is concerned a 20 watt solid state amp will be half as loud as a 20 watt tube amp. Remember this when deciding what to buy. Solid state amps are great for people who use pedal effects or other DSP modules. These amps are able to maintain a clean signal at high volumes without breaking up. If you play Metal or use pedal effects you might want to consider solid state amps. The other benefit of solid state amps is that you never need to swap out tubes which can be pricey. They also tend to be priced lower in the first place. Solid State amps are made in about the same wattages as tube amps. Just for practicing at home anywhere from 10-50 watts is good. If you’re playing in a band you’re gonna want at least 75 but probably more like 100 watts of solid state power.
No matter what you choose make sure you play it in the store and it sounds good to you. Don’t be afraid to crank it up a little to make sure it suits you’re needs as a musician. If you are buying it online make sure the company has a return policy in case it doesn’t sound good and you need to swap it out.