What Size Guitar Amp Do You Need? A Complete Guide


Whether you’re a complete beginner or want to upgrade your rig, one of the most important things you need to consider is the size of your amplifier. Different sizes are suitable for practicing, recording and performing live, and you don’t want to be stuck with an amp that’s too small, or overpay if you get an amp too large.

The Quick Answer

For practice amplifiers, a 5W to 30W amp is suitable and will weigh around 5-10kg and be approximately 40 x 30 x 25 cm in size. For gigging and live performances, a 50-100W solid state amp or a 30-50W tube amp is a good size. Combo amps setups are more compact and smaller than stack amp setups.

Wattage and Volume

Wattage is a measurement of how powerful an amp is, and is one of the factors that affects how loud the amplifier will sound. When people talk about the size of an amp, a lot of the time they are referring to the wattage, but if you’re looking for more info on the dimensions, then I’ll go through that a bit further down in the article.

Guitar amps range in size from around 1W to 150W. Very small amps that have a wattage of under 5W are often called mini, or micro amps. Very large amps which are over 100W often come in “stacks”.

  • Stack amps are made of two components: the head unit and the cabinet (speaker).
  • Combo amps are an all-on-one system which contains both the head and the cabinet.

If you’re choosing a stack amp setup, make sure you are matching the wattage of the head unit and cabinet. Otherwise, you risk blowing the speaker if the cabinet is too small compared to the head.

An increase in wattage will cause an increase in volume.

But this is only one factor to consider, I’ll go through everything else you need to know after we’ve dealt with wattage. For simplicity, if a 10W amp and 100W amp of the exact same model and speaker (cabinet) size, then it would be louder. But how much louder?

The relationship between wattage and volume is not linear. So if you get a 10W amp and a 100W amp and keep all other variables the same, then the 100W amp will still not be 10 times louder than the 10W amp.

Here’s a quick table to show the relationship.

Power (Watts)Loudness Compared to a 1W amp
102 times
202.6 times
503.2 times
1004 times

As you can see, a 10W amp is only double the volume compared to a 1W amp, and a 100W amp is only twice as loud as the 10W amp.

It’s important to keep this perspective in mind when selecting the wattage. The difference between a 10W and a 100W amp is big, but the difference between a 40W and 50W amp is pretty minimal.

Tube vs Solid State Size

So I mentioned that wattage isn’t the only thing to consider. You also need to think about the type of amplifier you’re using. There are two main types of amp:

  • Tube (valve): a tube amp uses valves (little glass cylinders) to amplify the signal produced by the guitar.
  • Solid State: these use transistor circuits to amplify the signal.

Tube amps sound much louder compared to solid state amps. Generally, a 3 times increase in wattage is needed on a solid state amp to sound the same volume as a tube amp. For example, a 10W tube amp, will likely sound a similar volume as a 30W solid state amp.

Notice how I’ve said “sounds louder”. That’s because it isn’t actually any louder. If all variables were kept the same, tube and solid state amps of the same power rating (wattage) would be the same volume. However, tube amps are perceived as louder than solid state amps.

Tube amps compress the sound differently to solid state amps. Tube amps distort the signal at high volumes which is often perceived as an increase in volume. However, solid state amps produce distortion at high volumes which is perceived as just that, distortion, instead of a volume increase.

Cabinet Size and Type

The cabinet also dictates how loud the amp is. Some solid state amps have multiple cabinet options to choose from, as well as power ratings, however this is something you have more control over if you’re choosing a stack amp set-up.

First let’s talk about open and closed back cabinets.

  • Closed back cabinets focus the sound more, since it only comes out of the front of the speaker.
  • Open back cabinets allow the sound to exit from the back and front of the speaker which helps to fill the room and sounds louder in bigger venues.

Now moving onto the cabinet size. The three most popular cabinet sizes are: 1×12″, 2×12″ and 4×12″. A 2×12″ cabinet will sound louder than a 1×12″ cabinet, even when using the same amp, because the 2×12″ creates more air flow. Larger cabinets generally change the frequencies given out. Larger cabinets have more bass than smaller cabinets, again contributing to them sounding louder.

Dimensions

As well as considering the size of the amp in terms of the power rating, making sure you thing about how much space it’ll take up, and how heavy it is. If you’re going to be gigging, then having something super heavy might be a bit of a nightmare. Also, a big amp will take up a lot of space if you’re getting the amp for your house.

To help put things in perspective, I’ll listed some popular combo amps, head units and cabinets, as well as their weight and dimensions so you can see roughly what size you need to look at.

If you’re looking for a very light and compact setup, then a solid state combo amp is a good choice. Tube amps of the same wattage will usually weigh around 2-3 times more than solid state amps. Stack amp setups are good for customisation but heavier and larger overall than combo amps.

Solid State Combo Amps

AmplifierDimensions (cm)Weight (kg)Wattage
Marshall MG10G‎34.9 x 18.4 x 30.54.810W
Fender Champion 2040.6 x 30.5 x 40.65.420W
Marshall MG30GFX48.0 x 42.0 x 22.010.830W
Peavey Vypyr X245.0 x 49.5 x 25.412.740W
Boss Katana 5047.0 x 23.8 x 39.811.650W
Orange Crush Pro CR60C55.0 x 45.0 x 29.020.2560W
Boss Nextone Artist57.2 x 47.5 x 24.816.280W
Boss Katana 100 2×1253.0 x 48.4 x 24.8  14.8100W
Solid State Combo Amp Dimension, Weight and Power (Wattage)

Valve Combo Amps

AmplifierDimensions (cm)Weight (kg)Wattage
Marshall DSL5CR45.5 x 42.5 x 24.512.75W
Fender Bassbreaker 00751.8 x 49.8 x 29.811.07W
Vox AC10C160.3 x 47.3 x 30.711.810W
Orange Rocker1547.0 x 41.0 x 26.013.615W
Marshall DSL20CR50.0 x 42.0 x 25.016.320W
Orange TremLord-3057.5 x 46.5 x 29.029.0930W
Blackstar HT Venue 4058.8 x 48.0 x 26.024.040W
Marshall JMV21560.5 x 51.0 x 26.526.550W
Fender ’68 Custom Twin Reverb50.5 x 66.4 x 21.929.085W
Valve (tube) Combo Amp Dimension, Weight and Power (Wattage)

Head Units

AmplifierDimensions (cm)Weight (kg)WattageType
Blackstar HT-5RH44.3 x 29.9 x 22.812.35WTube
Fender Bassbreaker 15W49.5 x 24.8 x 22.411.5615WTube
Blackstar HT20RH46.7 x 24.4 x 22.19.5720WTube
Orange Dual Terror36.0 x 19.0 x 18.09.7530WTube
Orange Rockerverb 5055.0 x 27.0 x 28.020.7550WTube
Marshall JMV210H74.0 x 31.0 x 21.522.0100WTube
Boss Katana47.0 x 22.8 x 21.58.8100WSolid State
Vox MVX150H52.0 x 21.9 x 19.47.1150WSolid State
Head Unit Amp Dimension, Weight and Power (Wattage)

Cabinets

AmplifierDimensions (cm)Weight (kg)SpeakersMax Power (W)
Orange PPC10826 x 26 x 16.54.051×8”20W
Kustom Defender43.2 x 45.1 x 25.49.301×12”30W
Laney Cub 21270.0 x 42.0 23.014.52X12”50W
Fender Bassbreaker49.5 x 44.5 x 239.521×12”70W
Marshall CODE 21270.0 x 52.5 x 3020.22×12”100W
Orange PPC21OB 2×1270 x 54.5 x 3031.652×12”120W
Marshall JMVC212 2X1269 x 49 x 26.524.02×12”150W
Marshall CODE 41269.5 x 67.5 x 39.024.04×12”200W
Marshall 1960v75.5 x 77 x 36.540.64×12”280W
Cabinet Dimension, Weight and Power (Wattage)

What Size Amp Do You Need?

Before I wrap things up, I wanted to talk about the size of amp you might need depending on your requirements.

Home Practice

To use an amp at home for practicing, then a 10W to 30W solid state amp will be the best size, or a 5W to 10W tube amp. The dimensions of combo amps in this category is around 40 x 30 x 25 cm, and will weigh around 5-10 kg.

Gigging and Live Performances

For gigging and live performances, a 50-100W solid state amp, or a 30-50W tube amp will be a good size. This will likely weigh around 15-25 kg and the dimensions will be around 50 x 40 x 25 cm.

Recording

For recording, a solid state amp that is around 50W or a tube amp that is around 20-30W is a good size. The amp should not have a very high power rating or the volume required may be too high to get a good tone. The weight will be approximately 10-15kg and the dimensions around 40 x 30 x 25 cm.

Here are some more articles you might find useful:

Heather

Hey, I'm Heather. I started playing an electric guitar when I was given a Squier Strat for my birthday around 15 years ago. I now own an acoustic guitar and several electric guitars including my personal favourite, a PRS SE Custom 24.

Recent Posts