The Ideal Guitar Amp: Survey Results

Last month 233 readers filled out the Ideal Guitar amp survey! Based on your responses everyone had a lot of fun, but maybe not as much fun as I had reading all of your comments! Many thanks to all those who took the time to complete the survey.

So, what’s the ideal amp? Let’s find out!

The Ideal Guitar Amp

The following composite descriptions of the Unlimited Budget and Limited Budget Ideal amps are based on the most selected features (in some cases I used the mid-point of a range of selections if they were equal in popularity).

Unlimited Budget

  • Head configuration
  • 50 watts
  • 6L6 power tubes
  • Tube rectifier
  • Treble-middle-bass tone controls
  • Tonality: great cleans and ‘shred’ preamp distortion
  • Two preamp channels
  • $2,500

Limited Budget

  • Combo configuration, 1×12
  • 18 watts
  • 6V6 power tubes
  • Tube rectifier
  • Treble-middle-bass tone controls
  • Tonality: great cleans and ‘shred’ preamp distortion
  • One or two preamp channels
  • $750

Following are the compiled results from each question.

Musical styles:

On average each respondent selected 2 music styles.

  • 80% play rock music.
  • 40% play blues. (DOH! I can’t believe I left this category out. Thanks to all you blues players for using the ‘Other’ category to write in your preference.)
  • 25% play country.
  • The rest are spread out over jazz, metal, fusion, surf, garage, noise, grunge, ska, gospel, swing, “folk noise Americana” and “post-rock biiiing biiiing sounds” (whoever plays that PLEASE send me a sound clip!).


As you can see, it is quite clear that $2,500 seems to be the sweet spot of the ‘Unlimited Budget’ (UB) price point. It’s interesting that there are about as many people willing to pay no more than $1,500 as there are those willing to pay $5,000 for their dream amp!

The ‘Limited Budget’ (LB) sweet spot is wider spanning $500 to $1,000.


When asked “What are you going to do with your ideal amp” the answers were evenly spread across playing at home, jamming, rehearsal, gigging and studio recording. There was slightly more interest in using the UB amp for gigs and in the studio, while the LB amp would get slightly more use at home.

Head or Combo?

The UB amp is slightly more likely to be a head (55%) than a combo (45%). The LB amp is most likely to be a combo as selected by 65% of respondents vs. a head selected by 35%.

Output Power

UB amps will have a fairly wide range of power spanning 30 to 100 watts.

LB amps will be lower powered with 15 to 20 watts being the clear preference. There’s a reason why there are so many amps available in this power range!

Almost all of the respondents who selected the ‘Other’ choice identified a desire for the ability to adjust the power of their UB or LB amps whether that be a continuous adjustment or switching power levels.

Power Tube Preference


Clearly 6V6s and 6L6s are the preferred tube for the ideal amp. As can be seen, V6s are the preferred choice for LB amps while L6s are the UB choice. This makes sense when desired output power is considered: 6L6s produce more power than 6V6s, which matches with the UB vs. LB desired power output.

Power Supply Rectifier
70% of UB amp designers selected tube rectifiers for their ideal amp compared to 50% for LB amps. Of the non-tube rectifier responses most said they didn’t care whether the rectifier was tube or solid state.

Flexibility: Range of Tones

These results surprised me, which makes me think that I didn’t do a good job of selecting the categories. However, the data shows that, regardless of budget, EVERYONE wants an amp that does great cleans and produces shred levels of preamp distortion. That’s surprising because virtually no one said they played shred-type music!!!

Preamp Channels


Predictably, LB amps were designed to be more simple with fewer channels than UB amps. However, there was a strong desire for even the LB amps to have built-in flexibility from 2 channels.

Single Channel Design


These results underscore my belief that the questions regarding tonal flexibility were not well conceived. The above chart shows that in a circumstance where an amp has only one channel, guitarists DO NOT want preamp distortion. That contradicts the Flexibility results shown above where it appears that most guitarists want shred preamp distortion in their amps!

The single channel preamp design question was much more clear than the flexibility question, which leads me to believe that its results are more reliable than the flexibility results.

Tone Controls
No surprises here. Regardless of budget, guitar players prefer treble-middle-bass (TMB) tone controls. They would be found on over 70% of UB amps and 60% of LB amps – 20% of LB amp owners would be OK with treble and bass controls. A presence control was a popular addition for those who selected ‘Other’.


There was widespread response regarding the inclusion of effects. However, no one effect received support from even one half of respondents. The most popular effect is reverb, only one in three think it should be included in their ideal amp.

Thankfully, digital multi-effects were generally ignored by the ideal amp respondents. As can be seen, reverb and tremolo/vibrato were relatively popular, but none of the options provided were wildly popular. That would indicate that guitarists questing after their ideal amp are mostly focussed on tone and not effects.

Combo Configuration
60% of UB amps would feature two speakers and 70% of respondents wanted 12″ speakers in their UB amp. LB combos were more or less evenly split between one and two speakers (49% and 46% respectively), but a strong preference was still shown for 12″ speakers with 65% of respondents selecting them.

The Last Word
When asked what else they would add to their ideal amps, LOTS of ideas were thrown out including:

  • Stand by switch
  • Wheels
  • Various colors
  • Ceramic tube sockets
  • Hand wired circuit board
  • Specific tube rectifier models
  • Switchable negative feedback
  • EF86 preamp
  • Speaker impedance selector
  • Dual power amp – high power for cleans, low power for distortion
  • Fire-spitting jets that flame up during a solo!

Send me an email with your comments about the results of the Ideal Amp survey: