Combo Amp: What Is It And What Are The Types?

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  May 23, 2022

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A combo amp is an all-in-one musical instrument amplifier, often used to practice or perform in a small space. The term “combo” refers to the fact that this type of amp combines the amplifier circuitry with one or more loudspeakers in a single cabinet. Combo amps are most commonly used in musical genres like blues, rock, country, and pop.

Besides the classic combo amp with a guitar speaker, there are many different types of combo amps that come with different speakers and different features.

Let’s take a look at each of them.

What is a combo amplifier

What’s a Combo Amp?

What it is

  • A combo amp is a one-stop shop for all your sound needs. It’s got all the circuitry, tubes, or digital processors you need in one convenient package.
  • It’s perfect for anyone who’s tight on space, or just doesn’t want to lug around a bunch of gear to every gig or rehearsal.
  • A basic combo amp has four channels of equal power. You can use it on two pairs of full-range speakers.

Why You Need One

  • If you’re a musician, you need a combo amp. It’s the only way to get the sound you want without lugging around a ton of gear.
  • Plus, it gives you more control over the sound of your speakers and more power than you’d get with two separate amps.
  • Just be careful when you’re bridging your amps together, because it can be risky.

Do Speaker Sizes Affect Sound Quality?

Size Matters

  • Smaller speakers can hit those high notes like no other, so if you’re looking for a tweeter, you’ll want to go small.
  • On the other hand, if you’re looking for a booming bass, you’ll want to go big. A 15″ speaker will give you more of that low-end than a 10″ one.
  • But size isn’t the only thing that matters. The design of the cabinet can make a big difference too. An open-backed cabinet will give you a different sound than a closed-cabinet design.

Size and Sound

  • Those old 4 x 10″ Fender amps with open-backed cabinets are a blues player’s dream. You can get a range of tones from smooth to searing.
  • If you’re looking for a big rock sound, you’ll want to plug your guitar into a 100-watt head with one or two 4 x 12″ cabinets.
  • Some guitarists even prefer four 4 x 12″ cabinets, which may explain why they have hearing problems.
  • Nowadays, companies can customize their amps by combining a certain size cabinet with a certain size set of speakers.

Guitar Amplifiers for Different Applications

Live Performance

  • If you’re looking to rock out in front of a crowd, you’ll need an amp that can handle the pressure. No need to worry though, ’cause Sweetwater’s got you covered! We’ve got amps from the basic beginner’s amp to those drool-worthy Fender, Vox, and Marshall reissues.
  • With modern modeling amps, you can get the sound of a live amp without having to lug around a ton of gear. Plus, you can get some pretty sweet digital effects with these bad boys.

Studio Recording

  • If you’re looking to get studio-quality sound without breaking the bank, you’ll want to check out the Line 6 POD series. These provide an amazing array of amp models, as well as some awesome digital effects.
  • You can also get some great sounds with boutique amps and vintage reissues. Just be prepared to shell out some extra cash for these babies.


  • When it comes to practice, you don’t need to break the bank. You can get some great sounds with a basic beginner’s amp.
  • If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also check out modern modeling amps. These can give you the sound of a live amp without having to lug around a ton of gear. Plus, you can get some pretty sweet digital effects with these bad boys.

What Amp Should I Get?

Combo Amp or Head and Cabinet?

So you’re trying to decide whether to get a combo amp or a head and cabinet? Well, it all comes down to how big of a venue you’re playing in. If you’re playing in a club or a small hall, then a combo amp will do the trick. But if you’re looking to rock out in a huge auditorium or an open arena, then you’ll need a stack with a 4 x 12″ cabinet and a 100-watt head.

But don’t forget, some players still prefer a smaller amp, like a Vox AC30, for its unique tone. Then you can just mic it up and run it through the PA system (if it can handle it, of course).

Pros and Cons

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of combo amps and head and cabinets:

  • Combo Amp Pros: All-in-one unit, lighter, easier to transport
  • Combo Amp Cons: Limited power, may not be enough for larger venues
  • Head and Cabinet Pros: High-powered, more control over tone, can fill larger venues
  • Head and Cabinet Cons: Separate pieces, heavier, more difficult to transport

So there you have it! Now you can decide which amp is right for you.

Comparing Combo Amps and Amp Heads + Speaker Cabinets

Amp Heads

  • An amp head is like a tiny wizard, it takes your guitar’s signal and turns it into something magical!
  • It’s like a little genie in a bottle, granting your wishes of making your guitar sound louder and better.
  • The amp head is the brains of the operation, it’s the one that makes all the decisions and does all the heavy lifting.

Speaker Cabinets

  • Speaker cabinets are like the bodyguards of your sound, they protect your precious guitar signal and make sure it gets to the audience.
  • They’re like the bouncers of your sound, they keep the riff-raff out and make sure only the good stuff gets through.
  • Speaker cabinets are the muscle of the operation, they make sure your sound is loud and proud.

Combo Amps

  • Combo amps are like the one-stop shop for your sound, they have both the amp head and the speaker cabinet in one convenient package.
  • They’re like the all-in-one solution for your sound, no need to worry about buying separate pieces and trying to match them up.
  • Combo amps are the ultimate convenience, just plug in and you’re ready to rock!


Combo Amp Vs Modeling Amp

Combo amps are the OG of guitar amplification. They’re made with vacuum tubes, which give them a classic, warm sound. But they can be a bit of a hassle to lug around and their tubes can wear out over time. Modeling amps, on the other hand, are lightweight and reliable. They use digital processors to recreate the sounds of a variety of different amps and effects. Plus, you don’t have to worry about tubes wearing out. So if you’re a gigging musician who needs to cycle through several tones in a set, a modeling amp is the way to go.


Is a combo amp a tube amp?

Yes, a combo amp is a tube amp. It’s basically a tube amp that comes with a speaker cabinet built-in, so you don’t have to buy a separate amp and cabinet. It’s a great option for those who want the classic tube sound without having to lug around two separate pieces of gear. Plus, it’s more affordable than buying a separate amp and cabinet. So if you’re looking for a classic tube sound without breaking the bank, a combo amp is the way to go!

Are combo amps good for gigging?

Yes, combo amps are great for gigging! They’re lightweight and easy to transport, so you don’t have to lug around a ton of gear. Plus, they’re powerful enough to fill a room with sound, so you don’t have to worry about your sound getting lost in the mix. Plus, they’re versatile – you can get a variety of tones from a single amp, so you don’t have to lug around multiple amps to get the sound you want. So, if you’re looking for an amp that’s great for gigging, a combo amp is definitely the way to go!

Can you run a head through a combo amp?

Sure, you can run a head through a combo amp, but why would you want to? After all, combo amps are designed to be all-in-one solutions, so why bother with a separate head and cab? Well, the truth is, it can be a great way to get more control over your sound. With a head and cab setup, you can choose the exact amp head and cabinet that you want, giving you more control over your tone. Plus, you can switch out the head and cab whenever you want, allowing you to easily upgrade your rig. So, if you’re looking for more control over your sound, a head and cab setup might be the way to go.


When it comes to amps, combo amps are a great choice for those who are tight on space or don’t want to lug around multiple pieces of gear. They offer a lot of versatility and control over your sound, and can provide more power than the sum of two channels with a woofer. However, it’s important to remember that bridging two amps together can be tricky and can increase the risk of damaging your gear. So, if you’re looking to get the most out of your combo amp, make sure to do your research and learn the ropes before you dive in! And remember, don’t be afraid to ROCK out with your combo amp!

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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