Buying a Home Guitar Amp? – Here’s some things to think about!
Playing loud is great fun, makes you want to play, and makes you motivated and enjoy playing the guitar. I also think it’s easier to get good tones when playing loud. However doing this at home can be a challenge, for many reasons. Most of which we will cover below, however, if you are looking for a Home Guitar Amp that you want to play around the house, there are many, many options now. So we are going to go over a few things to keep in mind as well as a few recommendations we think you should consider.
So why didn’t we dive in and first cover the challenges of playing the guitar at home and go over a few things that we all struggle with?
The Home Guitar Amp Challenges
So before we start looking at what Home Guitar Amp to get and what to look out for. Let’s talk about the challenges with amps at home and why it can be awkward getting an amp for home use! What stops you from buying that massive stack? Starting with the most obvious, Volume!
Volume plays a huge part in why a lot of amps can’t be used at home. Especially when looking at tube amps. When using tube amps they can be needed to turn way up for those good, juicy tones. This comes with volume! For most people, playing at home at that volume just isn’t possible.
Size is also an issue people think about when picking a Home Guitar Amp. Don’t want anything too big that takes up loads of room, but then you don’t want something small that sounds “thin”. You have to pick an in-between or pick which one you want to compromise on. Later on, we will take about some ways to get around this issue and some things you can think about when looking for an amp.
Set up, setup is a big one. If you are a gigging musician you might have your lovely Marshall Half stack you use, however, I think we would all agree that it isn’t home friendly and would be a lot of work to set up. On the flip side, a small travel amp would be easy to set up but wouldn’t cut it at a gig. So it is all about finding the middle man.
Let us talk about Volume
So the first big point is volume! That is the main thing that people struggle with when looking a Home Guitar Amp! Most of their issues come down to volume. Playing an old-school tube amp comes with its flaws. Most of the time to get it to breaking point and overdriving you will need to crank the volume and gain. Meaning, getting these sounds at home can be tricky! However, there is something you can do to help with this!
The biggest way you can fix it is by buying an amp with a master volume! A lot of vintage amps only have one gain/volume knob, so if you want to push your amp, you will need to turn that sucker up. Luckily most modern amps will come with a separate gain and master volume knob, meaning you can push the gain while keeping the volume down low!
Worth noting that if you are comparing Tube vs Digital amps, wattage is not the same. They don’t perform the same! A 100-watt Tube amp is not the same as a 100 Watt Digital amp. 100 Watts digital is around 30 watts tube for a rough reference.
No Master Volume? Then What!
Do you already have an amp that you like? Well, there are things you can do to use that one at home. This might be the case if you are a regular performer and need an amp you can gig and practice. The first option is to simply see if the amp has a master volume. If it does this allows you to simply turn it down while keeping the gain and saturation up.
The other option is to get a load box or an attenuator, this is a device that sits between your amp and your cab and can help you either attenuate the volume or run it with headphones and no speaker at all! This is great because you can take that 100-watt Marshall head you play live with, and run it at home in headphones without a cab in sight! Allowing you to practice the guitar with your live rig, running your amp at live levels and using the attenuator to bring the volume down! If you want to know more about these devices, you can check out our review of the Two Note Captor. This is a great option for home and studio and even live use!
What about other uses?
A massive thing to think about when buying an a Home Guitar Amp is whether you will be gigging with it. or will it only be recording? Because this can greatly affect what kind of amp and how big you need an amp to be. We aren’t going to go into what Wattage means and why more watts don’t mean more volume, however, just to keep it simple think, the more watts the louder it will go Clean! So if you want a nice small amp that breaks up at low volumes then you want something small and low wattage to bring down the headroom. However, if you also need to gig with it and need it loud then you might be a bit stuck, luckily we have some options below to help you out.
This is one of the main reasons digital amps are so popular, you can simulate high-output amps at a low volume and also at a low cost! Making them great at-home amps! One huge, and sometimes the main reason people will go digital, is due to features and effects. Digital amps can contain hundreds of effects and options! Take a look at the Boss Katana! Plugging the amp into your computer allows you to access almost every Boss effect pedal and load it up into the amp to use at the press of a button! Everything from Overdrive to Chorus is at your fingertips! All you would need is a small foot switcher and you would have every Boss pedal at your feet!
Do looks matter?
It is worth quickly mentioning looks. Now we all know that looks don’t help you play, but if you are using the amp 100% at home, and plan to keep it in one spot then you might want something that fits and “blends” into the room. So you might want something that fits the colour scheme or texture of the room it is in. Considering a lot of amps come in black, they tend to be eye sore. There are a few options, the biggest one is getting a custom amp or your current amp recovered to whatever colour you want.
There are several companies that I think would be perfect if you were planning to do this kind of thing and we have mentioned them below. So check out the section “Our Suggestions” for some amp manufacturers that would help you get the amp that looks the part.
Other things that might help
We mentioned above about using an Attenuator. However, more and more we are seeing amps come with this built-in. Meaning you don’t even need an extra device. Amps like the Revv D20 (Review Here), Fender Tone Master (Review here) and the new Blackstar line up, all have Attenuators built in, meaning you can bring the output down to like 0.5 watts, allowing you to get all the sounds you want and home level!
Another option that these newer amps have is a DI or Cab simulated output, meaning you can run them into your interface for cab-free recording or use them with headphones directly. Even better when practising in the same room as someone! Features like this also make them great for playing live! You can show up to a gig with your favourite head, and hand the sound engineer an XLR and that is it! No more microphones or cabs are needed on stage!
Our Home Guitar Amp Suggestions
Fender Tone Master
We have done a full review on the Fender Tone Master, which you can check out here. We love this amp and think it is a great middle man between Tube based, old school and modern digital! It is a plug-and-play amp! I have been using one for band and gigs for a while now and am loving it!
We love Rob from RD Amplification! He hand-builds Tube amps! So why is he on this list? Well, two reasons! The first one is that most of his head contains an 8” speaker, meaning you can disconnect the cab and run it through there and get lush tones at home levels. Two, he will build almost anything! You can chat with him about an amp you like and what you will use it for and he will build it! Meaning you can get it to look, sound and perform any way you want!
Boss Katana Mini
I use to use one of these for this exact reason! Home playing! It took pedals well, hade a built-in delay and was super affordable! A great home practice tool and can be run on either batteries or a power supply. Maybe we should do a full review of these amps!
Straight off the line, these are expensive! They are full tube-driven amps, with a very retro, high headroom sound. Think fender black face kind of vibe! However, what makes them amazing is they have a very good, high-quality attenuator. Meaning you can crank the volume while keeping the volume low if that makes sense!
Yamaha THR5 Amp
I have never owned these but have played and heard them many times now. They sound fantastic and are so clever in many ways. The only thing that lets them down for me is the price, they are on the upper end of the scale for a small mini amp. However, they sound excellent and look amazing in any room!
So that are a few things that you need to think about when you are looking at buying a Home Guitar Amp. If you have an amp you like then there are ways around it, if you are in the market for a new amp, we have mentioned a few things to consider. However, with all that being said, the number one important thing to do is to go play amps, even if you have no plans on buying them, play different kinds of amps, and different speakers and you will find something you like. Then you can go from there!
We also have a load of product reviews from various brands that you can check out, and reviews of some amplifiers as well, so we can help with your search! Make sure you head over and give us a Follow on Instagram and Subscribe on YouTube. Helps us massively and helps us continue to bring amazing articles and reviews to you all.
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