Creating and maintaining a full guitar setup requires time, effort, and most importantly, money. Even if you budget your initial purchases to a tee, those hidden maintenance costs can quickly add up over time. So, if you’re planning on adding an amplifier to your setup, it’s important to figure out just how many watts it’ll use.
The average guitar amplifier uses anywhere between 20 and 200 watts an hour. The reason why that range is so vast is that energy consumption can widely vary depending on your amp’s model, size, and quality.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to determine how many watts your guitar amp uses, make sure to read on. Below, I’ll also explore the difference that varying wattage levels have on an amplifier’s performance, so consider this your ultimate guide on your amp’s energy consumption.
How To Figure Out How Many Watts Your Guitar Amp Uses
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question “How many watts does a guitar amp use?” That’s because each model boasts a different design, and, as a result, needs varying levels of energy to function.
So, let’s look over some of the most important factors to consider in order to figure out how many watts your guitar amp uses:
Depending on their purpose, amps come in different models, each with varying energy needs. Generally speaking, there are three main types to choose from:
- Practice amplifiers. These are small and designed for the casual player (home use or practice sessions). Since they’re usually the smallest and less powerful of the three varieties on this list, they also have the lowest energy requirements, ranging from 10 to 30 watts.
- Combo amplifiers. These amps are a bit larger and more versatile, suitable for both practice sessions and small performances. Most of them fall within the 40 to 60-watt range; however, some even go up to 100.
- Head and cabinet amplifiers. As the name suggests, these are the largest of the three, coming as a unit designed to be used together. The “head” houses the amplifier, while the “cabinet” contains the speakers. These range in power from 100-200 watts; however, some can even go as high as 300 or even more, depending on size and configuration.
Working off of that last point, size is another major consideration to keep in mind when trying to determine the wattage of your amplifier.
Generally speaking, the larger your amplifier, the more energy it’ll need to operate. However, there are still some exceptions to this rule. For example, a feature-heavy amp of higher quality might require more energy than a lower-end model even if it’s smaller. However, when every other variable is kept the same, size will be the determining factor when it comes to the amp’s energy requirements.
The way you use your amplifier can also affect its wattage. When the device has to work harder to produce a certain sound, its energy needs will inevitably increase. So, if you were to use the same amplifier in a small practice room and in a 200-seat venue, it would require more power in the second scenario.
That’s because, in a bigger venue, you’d need to increase the volume, thus having the amplifier work harder.
Though you might’ve not expected music genre to be one of the factors that determine an amplifier’s wattage, the truth of the matter is that different music styles have varying sonic requirements.
This whole concept revolves around something I’ve already mentioned – your amplifier will require more energy if it needs to work harder. A slow ballad will likely come out sounding clean and natural even if the amp uses a lower voltage. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about a heavy metal solo.
In an effort to make everything mentioned above more applicable to everyday life, I’ve compiled a comparison table that features some of the most popular amplifier models and their respective wattage ranges.
With that said, keep in mind that these wattage ranges are approximate and that variations can still be seen across the same model line. With that little disclaimer out of the way, let’s dive right into it:
Table: How Many Watts Do Some of the Most Popular Amplifiers Use?
|Marshall DSL40 CR||40 watts|
|Fender Blues Junior||15 watts|
|VOX AC15||15 watts|
|Peavey 6505+||120 watts|
|Line 6 Spider V 240||240 watts|
|Orange Crush Pro CR120C||120 watts|
|Orange Micro Terror||20 watts|
|Orange Rockerverb 50 MKIII||50 watts|
|Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier||100 watts|
|Blackstar HT-5R||5 watts|
|Roland JC-120||120 watts|
|Ampeg BA108||20 watts|
|Hartke HD75||75 watts|
|Markbass CMD 102P||300 watts|
|Aguilar Tone Hammer 500||500 watts|
|Gallien-Krueger MB Fusion 800||800 watts|
|Trace Elliot ELF||200 watts|
If your specific amplifier didn’t make the list, you can simply try to find its closest alternative and make an educated guess, making sure to account for all of the factors outlined above.
Once you’ve figured out your amp’s wattage, you can use this calculator to see how much you’ll have to spend on electricity for it.
What Difference Does Wattage Make in an Amp’s Performance?
Now that you have a better idea of how many watts you can expect each of the above amplifiers to require, it’s time to discuss the difference between lower and higher wattage models.
Though wattage isn’t the end-all-be-all factor to consider when getting a new amp, it can still make quite a bit of a difference in its performance. Let’s see how:
The first difference you’ll notice between amps with different energy requirements is their price. Generally speaking, higher-wattage amps will cost more than their low-wattage counterparts both upfront and in the long run.
That’s because they usually provide a better, more powerful performance, though that’s not always a given. For that reason, there are also some exceptions to the wattage-price rule mentioned above.
Depending on the brand, design, and durability of a specific low-wattage model, it might even cost more than a higher-wattage model. However, when every other variable stays the same, the price will vary solely depending on energy requirements.
I’ve already mentioned the general correlation between size and wattage, so I’m not going to repeat anything I’ve said above. However, I do want to note that size will have an impact on weight and portability, which is something to consider, especially if you’re getting your amplifier for a specific purpose.
This also means that larger, more expensive models aren’t as practical as their low-wattage counterparts, which is why I always recommend the latter for those who’re just getting started.
Though this may come as a surprise to some, an amp’s wattage can heavily impact its tone. That’s why models with specific energy requirements are better suited to certain genres than others, as explained above.
For example, amplifiers with more headroom (more on that below) produce a sharp, dynamic tone, whereas their low-wattage counterparts give the sound a more saturated quality. What does this translate to in real-life examples?
High-wattage amplifiers are best suited to lively, high-volume genres like metal or hard rock. On the other hand, jazz or blues music can sometimes sound much better on lower-wattage models.
This term refers to the amount of power an amp can handle before the sound begins to distort. It determines the sharpness and quality of the music that comes out of the speakers, which is why models with more headroom often require more energy.
So, if sufficient headroom is a priority for you, chances are you’ll have to invest in a high-wattage amplifier.
This is yet another feature I’ve discussed above, so you already know that it’s positively linked to wattage. Unlike everything else that’s been mentioned thus far, though, there aren’t many exceptions to this rule.
Unless you find a freakishly efficient amplifier, if you want more volume, you’ll have to invest in a higher-wattage model.
With all that said, I want to note that an amp’s wattage is far from the only factor that’ll impact its performance. So, if you’re in the process of choosing a model, make sure to rely on criteria like quality, design, portability, tone, and volume first before considering its wattage level.
However, if you’re trying to get an amplifier based on how much it’ll cost to run moving forward, finding an exact wattage range is a must. You’d be surprised at just how much the right amplifier can affect your sound, so don’t take this decision too lightly and start doing some research.
I recommend crafting a list of your preferences and priorities and ranking each model you’re considering based on that. For example, if you’re on a tight budget, cheaper models get a 10 in that category while high-end ones get a 1 or 2. Tally the points at the end to see which amplifier would best suit your needs.
It’s impossible to give a single, specific answer on how many apps a guitar amplifier uses. These devices have varying energy requirements that depend on their type, model, size, and the way you use them.
With that said, most of them have average requirements that hover around 20 and 200 watts an hour, so that’s something to consider when trying to determine how much adding an amp to your guitar setup will end up costing you. Moreover, it’s important to note that higher wattages don’t always equate to better performances.