Vintage Guitar Amps - Worth the Investment?

Written By Arman Zulhajar on Wednesday, June 6, 2012 | 6:47 PM


When most people think of vintage guitar gear, obviously vintage guitars are the first thing that come to mind, but vintage guitar amps are also quite popular and have risen in popularity with both collectors and players in recent years. Buying a vintage guitar amplifier comes with its own set of rewards and frustrations. Is one for you? Let's find out.

What Makes a Guitar Amplifier Vintage?
There is no quick, easy definition of defining a vintage amp. Sure, the age matters. Any amp that's 30 years old or older is likely to have the vintage moniker attached. Generally, vintage gear is also considered to have more of a personal touch than today's mass-produced equipment. Vintage amps are by definition tube-based (though some older solid state models do crop up now and then) and are made using point-to-point wiring instead of PCB circuit boards. Names often associated with vintage amplifiers include Ampeg, Carvin, Danelectro, Fender, Gibson, Gretsch, Magnatone, Marshall, Orange, and Vox.

Advantages of Vintage Amplifiers
The main advantage of vintage amplifiers, according to aficionados, is the sound quality. For the same reason that music purists prefer tube-driven amplifiers and "old-fashioned" record players, guitar gear purists maintain that vintage amplifiers have an analog warmth and presence that modern-made gear simply doesn't possess. Vintage gear is often easier to fix than modern amplifiers that rely upon complex PCB circuit boards rather than simple point-to-point wiring.

Disadvantages of Vintage Amplifiers
For all the advantages that you hear regarding vintage amps, there are a number of disadvantages. For starters, the amplifiers are expensive, and sometimes the expense is artificially inflated rather than reflecting the true value of the gear itself. Furthermore, vintage amps can break down. A lot. User maintenance is much more of a concern. Also, given the monetary value of the gear itself, you have to be extra careful about damage and theft.

Where to Buy
You're not going to find a high quality vintage amplifier at your neighborhood Guitar Center, that's for sure. Generally, you will buy them from shops that specialize in vintage guitar equipment, though these speciality shops will also sell gear online in places like eBay. It's pretty rare for you to find a real vintage amp in a pawn shop anymore or even on Craigslist, though either is common if the seller, quite frankly, doesn't understand what he or she has. Buying vintage gear online is more common, but shipping guitar amplifiers can be tricky, so make sure the seller is experienced.

Vintage guitar amps can be a great investment as well as addition to your guitar gear collection so long as you make smart, educated choices about your purchase. With the prices of vintage gear going up constantly, your investment will only increase in value over time.




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