Amplifiers At The Music Zoo
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When you need to be heard over that drummer who plays too loud, The Music Zoo's collection of guitar, bass, and acoustic amplifiers will provide a piece that is up to the task! Whether you're looking to shatter windows with a full stack, shake the floor with low end, give your acoustic guitar a bit more presence, or grab a portable combo of any shape, size, or wattage, we're the destination with the best mix of the unique and the everyday must-haves. Buy your next amp online at The Music Zoo or visit our New York showroom to shop today - we're an authorized dealer for all your favorite amplifier brands, and our used inventory is packed to the brim.
As you would expect, the rise of amplifiers coincided with the rise of the electric guitar. The first guitar amps from the '20s through the '40s were often no more than modified yet glorified tube radios or public address systems, integrating new electrical technologies such as electrolytic capacitors and rectifier tubes.
Some of the first successful amplifiers were those designed for the Hawaiian lap steel guitar. There were many amp-builders and distributors during this time period, including Dobro, Stromberg Voisinet, Electro String, Audio-Vox, Rickenbacker, and Gibson. They all contributed to the dawn of the first commercially successful guitar amps of the early '50s - when Leo Fender build the first Fender Super - a 50 watt combo amp with a pair of 12" speakers, seemingly inspired in part by the Dobro "Twin Speaker Amplifier" that was made 13 years earlier.
Leo Fender's "tweed" tolex covered tube-driven amps of the '50s became the go-to guitar amps of the decade in the United States. Across the pond, British guitar amp companies were starting to take shape - Watkins or WEM amplifiers as well as Selmer amplifiers represented some of the earliest UK-based manufacturers. Today, these early tube amplifiers are beloved for not only their clean tones, but the natural harmonically rich overdrive and distortion they produced when cranked - but at the time, these characteristics were seen as unsavory and in an electronics sense, actually meant the amplifiers were poorly designed. Overdrive was essentially an accident, and a product of the low-fidelity circuits, not a purposeful design.
But in the '60s, Dave Davies of "The Kinks" experimented with cutting the speaker in his amp to produce a distorted sound. While not the first guitarist to experiment with this type of distortion, it brought about the strongest public reaction and shifted the amp industry.
The '60s saw the rise of volume ceilings and of Fender's biggest rival, the UK-based Marshall Amplification company. The first Marshall amp, the JTM45, was closely "inspired" by Fender's 1959 Bassman amplifier, which ended up being better for guitar than bass. The biggest changes Marshall made to the circuit were a different tube line-up, using 5881, KT66 or EL34 power tubes as opposed to the 6L6 tubes found in Fender amps. Other notable developments in this time period were pushed forward by Vox, Orange, and Hiwatt in the UK, and Ampeg, Supro (Valco), Gibson, and Epiphone in the US.
In the '70s, when everything was even bigger and even louder, new solid-state amplifier designs also appeared. These amps were cheaper to produce, more reliable, and much lighter. Both tube and solid state designs have positives and negatives, and a well built amp will always give you a great sound! Some of the manufacturers in the '70s and '80s that built solid state amps include Acoustic Control Corp, Kustom, Peavey, Roland, and Sunn.
Then, as musical genres began to require even more distortion, "high-gain" amplifiers were conceived. These amps generally rely on complex preamp distortion and a clean / non-distorted power section, in order to keep the outputted tone tight and clear. While most Marshall's aren't true high gain amps, they kicked off this fad, along with Mesa Boogie in the early/mid 80s, who was soon followed by Soldano, Peavey, Bogner, Diezel, and many others.
Today, the amplifier market is large and extremely diverse. The strong market for vintage amps has created a new market for modern copies of these amps, many made with much better components than the originals. These "boutique" amps surfaced in the '90s. New technologies have seen equal amounts of success - Line 6 created amplifiers that boast "amp modeling technology" using microprocessors to allow one amp to feature a plethora of classic vintage and modern amp tones. These amps have evolved into modern day high-tech modelers such as the AxeFx, Line 6, and Kemper rack amps.
Tube guitar and bass amplifiers represent the original form of electric guitar amplifier circuits. These amps use vacuum tubes or "valves" in their circuits to provide both the coloration and the output character of the amp.
The "preamp" of a tube amp generally features a number of preamp "tubes" generally in the 12AX7 family (US) or ECC83 (UK) family. The "power amp" in American amp designs typically features 6L6 power tubes, while the British amp designs generally feature EL34 tubes. The differences in tone between the two can be very noticeable and these two types became common "subcategories" among all amplifier types. Tube amps can be more difficult to maintain, but many prefer the warmer and more natural sound of their overdrive.
Solid state guitar amps sometimes have an undeserved negative stigma attached to them. It is true that most cheaper amps are made with solid state circuitry, as it is affordable, and more reliable. But many great solid-state amps exist and have existed for many years. Many of the best bass guitar amps, such as Gallien Krueger, Acoustic Control Corp, Trace Elliot, Peavey, and Sunn, are built with solid state construction, as many prefer as clean a bass tone as possible, a feature that solid state amps can provide easily. The Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus amp, is a solid state guitar amp that is highly regarded as both a clean amp and a pedal platform. Plus, with the advent of new Class D solid-state technology found in modern Orange, Darkglass, and Bergantino amps, these solid state amps can respond in a more tube-like manner to playing dynamics.
The first modeling amps were designed by Line 6. These modelers use digital technology to emulate the tones from the most well known tube amps, as well as a variety of effects. Other examples of modeling circuits include the Peavey TransTube preamp circuit and the Roland "Cube" series, both of which use analog modeling technology. Certain types of modeling technology focus less on modeling specific amps and more on modeling the response of a tube driven circuit. These early "student level" modeling amps have paved the way for complex and powerful modern amp modelers such as the aforementioned AxeFx and Kemper. Line 6 also builds a similar and professional quality amp modeler.
Often times, bass and guitar amps can overlap. Some early amps that were designed for bass, most notable the Fender Bassman, ended up working better as guitar amps. Many '70s solid state amps, as well as Ampeg tube amps of the same era, are equally as beloved by guitar and bass players. Depending on the style of music though, some bass players require a cleaner and un-distorted sound and more headroom - qualities that many guitar amps don't provide, which is why dedicated bass amps are still important. Much of the sound of a bass rig also comes from the speaker cabinet. Typically bass cabinets use 10" or 15" speakers, as opposed to the normal 12" speaker size of electric guitar cabinets. These 15" and 10" speakers are more equipped to handle the low end produced by a bass amp.
Acoustic guitars often need a bit of extra oomph - and amplifying them with a normal guitar amp can cause issues with feedback. Acoustic amps such as the Fishman Loudbox are designed with plenty of power, but also feature important acoustic-guitar friendly additions such as a notch filter for fighting feedback, built in "acoustic guitar" related effects such as reverb, echo, and chorus, XLR inputs for the singer songwriter, and a tweeter to aid in midrange projection.