Buying a guitar amp isn't just a matter of walking into a guitar store and handing over some money. Like any piece of music equipment, you need to put thought and research into choosing an amp. Know how you want your amp to perform, understand your needs and research the guitar amplifier market as thoroughly as you can. Don't buy an amp until you know you've found one that suits you perfectly.
Make a budget -- and remember you get what you pay for. Some small combo amplifiers are available for under $100, while an amp head used in combination with a speaker cabinet can cost thousands of dollars. Combo amps include both speaker and amplifier in one unit, while amp heads and speaker cabinets are separate.
Have a clear idea of the features you want your amp to have, such as separate channels for clean and distorted tone, built-in reverb and presence. Buy an amp with separate channels and built-in reverb if you don't want to purchase a separate distortion or reverb effects pedal.
Read user reviews of guitar amplifiers. Learn from other guitarists how well different brands and models of amps perform. Make an educated purchase by consulting fellow guitarists, not just manufacturers and retailers.
Choose an amplifier that suits your needs in terms of volume. If you want a practice amp for home, buy a small five- to 50-watt amplifier. If you perform in a loud band, buy an amp between 50 and 200 watts. Powerful amp heads with speaker cabinets are common choices for rock guitarists, but running combo amps through a large PA system can also be satisfactorily loud.
Find a guitar store in your town by searching online or in the Yellow Pages. Bring in CDs of songs with guitar sounds you like and ask the guitar experts to identify the amplifier used, or an amplifier capable of producing a similar sound. Ask for recommendations based on your budget and the features you are looking for in an amplifier.
Play your guitar through a variety of amplifiers in a guitar store. Make an educated purchase by experimenting with different brands and models of amplifiers. Adjust the amplifier settings, including volume, gain, equalization and reverb to become familiar with the dynamic and tonal range of the amplifier.