Amplifier Head: What Is It And When Should You Choose One?

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  May 26, 2022

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An amp head is a type of amplifier that does not contain any speakers. Instead, it is meant to be used with an external speaker cabinet. This makes it more portable than a combo amplifier, which contains both the amplifier and one or more speakers in a wooden cabinet.

Amp heads are typically more powerful than combo amps, making them a better choice for larger venues. They also tend to produce a cleaner sound, since the speakers are not being driven as hard.

However, this can also make them more difficult to get a good sound out of if you’re not an experienced player.

What is an amplifier head


An amplifier head is a type of audio device that provides the power and tone for an amplifier. It is the power source for the amplifier and provides the high voltage electricity to the speakers. Amplifier heads are typically used when you require more wattage than what is available from a combo or stack amplifier. Let’s dive into the details to understand exactly when you should choose an amplifier head.

What is an amplifier head?

An amplifier head is the component of an electronic sound system that amplifies a signal before it is sent to loudspeaker components. In musical instrument amplifiers, including guitar, bass and keyboard amplifiers, the amplifier head serves to modify signals produced by pickups or microphones. Generally speaking, when choosing an amplifier head, there are several important factors to consider.

The wattage and impedance are key factors. Wattage is actually a measure of the power that an amp can generate. Impedance refers to the amount of resistance between a source and load in any electrical circuit. Higher impedance values allow higher output from your speakers with fewer potential issues from mismatched components. Amplifier heads also vary in terms of their types such as tube or solid-state designs, which produce either analog or digital sound depending on design preference.

In general, choosing an amplifier head depends on personal preference and intended use of the instrument amplifying system. If you plan on playing smaller venues such as nightclubs or bars that don’t have PA systems, you may only require 15-30 watts whereas larger venues would need at least 300 watts minimum with higher wattage providing greater clarity and presence in larger areas. Of course depending on your needs you may also need a combination of both which is why it’s important to inform yourself about all options available before making a purchase decision!

Types of Amplifier Heads

An amplifier head is an electronic amplifier that has the ability to power one or more loudspeakers. It’s usually used to create a larger sound for live performances. There are several types of amplifier heads to choose from, each with their own strengths and weaknesses in terms of sound quality, power output, and more. Below, we’ll look at some of the most popular types of amplifier heads and discuss when it would make sense to choose each one.


Solid-state amplifier heads provide good reliability and cost significantly less than tube amplifiers. These heads get their name from being built entirely out of solid-state transistors. This type of head produces a different sound than tube amplifiers and can have a harsher, brighter tone with less warmth. It is a great choice if you desire clear sound quality that fares well when recorded in the studio due to its clarity, detail and punchy attack. Solid-state amplifier heads can be found powered or unpowered, so if you need portability, these are an excellent choice as they are usually lighter and will not require extra amplification that would come with their tube cousins.


Tube amplifier heads are guitar amplifiers which use vacuum tubes in the preamplifier and output stages, as opposed to transistors. Tube amps have been around since the 1940s and have recently seen a comeback as guitarists have rediscovered a unique tone that only tube amp heads can provide.

Tube amp heads tend to sound warm and clear. They also respond well to different styles of playing from soft strumming to aggressive crashes. Many tube amps feature multiple channels, allowing you to switch between settings quickly for a variety of tones. A typical tube amp head will be fairly bulky compared to transistor based models, but today’s small and affordable options are very portable.

When considering a tube amp head, it is important to consider the type of power tubes your amp has – they all provide different sounds, ranging from the classic warm round tone of 6L6 power tubes to the brighter cleaner tones of EL34s or KT-88s. It is also important to think about how many watts your amplifier can handle. More powerful amps may be louder but they also require more maintenance like needing their valves changed frequently when used heavily or gigging regularly with them. You should also consider if it is an all-valve design or it features solid state components for effects processing etc., as this will affect price and sound quality accordingly.


Hybrid amplifier heads come in a variety of different powered designs and can combine both solid-state and tube technologies. The hybrid often uses the solid-state component to deliver power while the tube component plays more of a preamp role, providing drive and texture. This type of technology is great for those seeking a versatile amp without having to purchase separate amplifiers.

Hybrid amplifiers have become increasingly popular among modern musicians with many high-end models now available on the market. These heads offer flexibility, combining the two worlds of clean, crisp solid state amplification with warmer, distortion-driven tube components – providing you with an extensive palette of tones from which you can create your own unique style. Hybrid amps also allow for easy access to effects such as reverb or delay within the amp head itself, allowing for tremendous versatility no matter your genre or playing style.

Benefits of an Amplifier Head

An amplifier head is a unit which provides a separate power amplifier for a guitar or bass, essentially combining the functions of a preamp and power amp into one unit. This can be beneficial for musicians in many different ways; from increased versatility when mixing sounds to increased portability compared to traditional amp systems. We’ll discuss the specifics of amplifier head benefits in more detail below.

Greater control over your sound

An amplifier head allows greater control over your sound. By using a dedicated head and cabinet instead of an all-in-one unit, you are able to shape your sound better. You can choose a separate preamp or power amp, or an amp head that allows you to control the mix between both. It’s also easier to match different speaker cabinets according to your tonal preferences with this type of format, as the head and cabinet are usually sold separately from each other. An amplifier head provides more options for output levels, allowing you to select the best amount of wattage for different sized venues and applications. You can also choose between several different input types for various purposes—from instrument/line inputs for hooking up keyboards and synthesizers as well as direct recording outputs from mixing boards, PA systems, and recording consoles. Lastly, having a separate amplifier head gives you access to a wide range of tone controls such as EQ–expanding the range of sounds that you can produce with your instrument setup.

More power

When it comes to amplifiers, more power is always better. An amplifier head allows you to get more power and flexibility out of your amp setup than a combo amp can give.

For instance, an amplifier head can output much higher levels of sound on its own than a combo amp, meaning that you’ll be able to push your sound into higher volumes with greater control and accuracy. Having extra wattage and the freedom to choose any external speaker cabinet further increases the amount of sonic possibilities for exploring creative and dynamic tones. This increases your expressive abilities as a guitarist or bassist.

In addition, having an amplifier head allows you to achieve better results when miking live shows or recording in the studio as there is more room for adjustment between the preamp and power amp sections, which brings more clarity to the signal being sent from your instrument to the speakers. This means that you’ll be able to dial in very specific sounds with ease when playing live or tracking recordings for studio projects.
Such increased versatility makes an amplifier head especially beneficial if you’re playing instruments other than guitar or basses. Keyboards and drum machines stand to benefit significantly from using an amplifier head with their own signal processor onboard or some outboard devices like compressors or reverb units connected before their signal goes into the speaker cabinets. This will make them shine even brighter through your PA system!

Easier to transport

By using an amplifier head, you also streamline your setup for live shows. Because most modern models have built-in DSP features and speaker controls, all the amp needs to do is drive your speakers—not process individual effects or monitor levels. That makes your setup much easier to transport and set up at events, giving you more time to focus on setting up other equipment like lights and keyboards. In addition, amplifier heads generally require fewer cables than a full stack setup because they are designed to be used with PA speakers or active monitors. This helps further reduce the time needed for packing and unpacking before and after a show.

When Should You Choose an Amplifier Head?

Amplifier heads are a great choice for guitar players who want to take their sound to the next level. They offer a range of features that can take your playing to the next level, from a wide array of gain and tone controls to effects loops and more. However, there are certain scenarios when an amplifier head may be the best choice, so let’s take a closer look at when you should choose an amplifier head.

If you need a louder sound

If you want to play in larger venues for your gigs or events, you may need an amplifier head that can produce a higher volume of sound. Amplifier heads are designed to provide the power needed to create louder and more dynamic live sound. When used in combination with speaker cabinets, they can create a very powerful and intense listening experience.

For bands looking to expand their sound and tap into different musical styles, an amp head is a great option as it offers more flavors and capabilities than traditional combos or mini amps. While combos can limit you stylistically if you’re trying to move beyond tried-and-true staples such as rock, it’s possible with an amp head to acquire additional features such as tremolo or distortion boosts.

When using an amp head at shows, be aware that they can be heavy (some weighing up to 60 pounds!). This added weight means that portability may suffer unless you’re willing to upgrade from smaller gig bags for better protection during transport.

Overall, if you need a louder sound for your performances and playing style then investing in an amplifier head could be the solution for better sound quality.

If you need more control over your sound

Amplifier heads offer you more control over your sound. They provide a powerful, raw, and unfiltered sound without the restrictions of an amplifier cabinet. When you buy an amplifier head, you are buying an electronic device that is designed to modify the tone of your instrument and amplify it for use in a live performance or recording session.

The main benefit of using an amplifier head is the selectable range of tone control options. These may include, but are not limited to reverb, boost, distortion and other effects, as well as gain control to adjust dynamics and levels in your mixes or recordings. An accurate tone can be obtained at higher volumes by manipulating the master volume level along with the EQ adjustments on the back of an amp head.

Another benefit to using amp heads is that they can easily be moved around when performing live at different venues with minimal setup time. Heads also come in various power configurations ranging from 15 Watts up to 200 Watts. This means you can choose the right amount of volume according to the size and acoustics of the venue in which you will be performing at.

If you need more flexibility over your sound and want less costly set-up times when playing live shows, then purchasing an amp head could work best for you!

If you need to transport your amp

Using an amplifier head can be a great choice if you need to transport your amp or make small adjustments to the sound. An amp head is essentially the upper portion of an amplifier, consisting of preamplification, tone controls and power amplification. The cabinet (or speaker enclosure) is separate from the head. This allows for a more convenient setup significantly reducing the size and weight.

In addition, most amp heads offer more versatility when it comes to adjusting sound. With most larger amplifiers, making changes involves opening up the back panel of the amp and physically changing settings on potentiometers and switches. Amp heads keep this process much simpler with one or more control knobs on the front panel, allowing for quick adjustment of preamp gain and tone shaping parameters. This means fewer chances for mistake or damage, making changes even easier when you’re in a hurry.

An amp head might also be beneficial when you want to use multiple speakers because they offer increased signal output levels or “headroom”. You’re not limited to using one speaker, as long as they are all designed to work with your particular model of amp head – which allows you some creative freedom!


In conclusion, an amplifier head is a separate component of guitar amplification, typically used in conjunction with a speaker cabinet. An amplifier head gives you more control over sound and tone than a combo amp. It also gives you more flexibility to use different combinations of speaker cabinets to create the sound you want.

For beginners, it may be worthwhile to invest in a combo amplifer so that all components are already combined into one unit. However, for serious players looking for greater range and flexibility in tones and configurations, investing in an amp head can be the ideal solution.

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Neaera and a content marketer, dad, and love trying out new equipment with guitar at the heart of my passion, and together with my team, I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2020 to help loyal readers with recording and guitar tips.

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