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Amplifiers & Effects

Electric instruments have a big role to play in the world of music, but there's a catch: they need amplification to do it! For that matter, even acoustic instruments need to be boosted when they're playing big venues. And while an amp alone can handle those tasks, many of the sounds in modern music (the signature distortion of rock and metal, for instance) rely heavily on effects units to shape the basic tone into something even better. If you're new to your instrument, then consider this selection of amplifiers and effects the doorway to your future sound - and your instrument will be the key that opens it up, once you've got your hands on your brand new hardware!

In the world of amplifiers, there are amp stacks and combo amps. For beginners, a combo amp is usually the way to go, since they combine the amp circuitry and the speaker together into one unit. Check out models like the Marshall MG Series MG30CFX 30W 1x10 Guitar Combo Amp and the Fender RUMBLE 25 1x8 25 W Bass Combo Amp for a few examples of this type. For the biggest professional setups, on the other hand, a combo amp may not be quite beefy enough. That's where stacks come in, based on a head (such as the Peavey 6505+ 120W Guitar Amp Head) paired up with a speaker cabinet. You can even find some pre-made amp stacks here, like the Line 6 Spider IV HD150 150W and 4x12 Guitar Half Stack, to save you the legwork of shopping for both parts separately.

Many amplifiers have effects built in, but even those that do are no substitute for a well-equipped pedalboard. There are literally thousands of effects to choose from, some of which (like the Boss TU-3 Chromatic Pedal Tuner) are more like accessories that don't directly impact your sound. Others will transform it completely. For example, two of the most popular effects are the Fulltone OCD Obsessive Compulsive Overdrive Guitar Effects Pedal and the Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer Effects Pedal - these are both overdrive pedals, and together with a good amp, they'll take an electric guitar's sound from its default, vintage-like tone all the way to the high-powered distortion of a modern rock anthem.

Amps and effects don't have to be just for guitars and basses, either - nor do they have to play out loud. While the vast majority of amplifiers fit into the categories we've just been through, some exceptions would be amps made for keyboards and electronic drums, which can generally be used to amplify just about any instrument as long as you can attach a pickup or microphone. And if you want to practice the guitar or bass without waking up the neighbors, be sure to look into headphone amps as well: they'll push all the sound you love, but to your ears instead of a loudspeaker, so you can keep the sweetness to yourself... until you're ready to share, that is!
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