15 Aug 2016
Guitar players need to decide between getting a guitar amp head or combo at some point or another. Some guitar players have their own personal preferences on the guitar amp head vs combo debate and they might not be able to defend either decision as entirely rational.
However, it is important to note that the guitar amp head vs combo debate does not just come down to aesthetics. There are some very clear differences between the two amps and some of them are going to be better for some gigs than the others. Some of them might even be better for some musicians than others.
Head and Cab
When people see rock stars performing live, they note that, in most cases, those rock stars use some variation of the head and cab amp. People usually recognize the head and cab amp before they recognize other types of amps for that reason. However, just because the professional rock stars use amps like this does not mean that those amps are inherently better or that people need to always follow their example.
There is no doubt that, to many people, the head and cab amps just look a lot more impressive on stage. Indeed, rock stars who are trying to fill an entire stadium or stadium-sized area really need something that is capable of doing so. This is where a head and cab amp comes into the play.
People who play gigs in smaller areas would be in a situation wherein a head and cab amp might often be too loud for their purposes. Even rock stars that play in bars or in smaller clubs might be better off with combo amps or amps that are otherwise relatively small. People do like loud music but they need loud music that is in the right volume range.
In terms of weight, head and cab amps are heavier than combo amps but they do come in two pieces. Therefore, people can split up the weight which may make it easier to get the amps into the van at the right time. All amps are heavy at the end of the day and there is only so much that anyone can do in order to get around this issue.
The aesthetic aspects of head and cab amps might be enough to drive people to choose these devices even if they are less effective than combo amps. Some musicians tend to care about upholding a certain image, especially the musicians that play certain genres of music. It is true that if a certain amp is important for musicians of a certain genre, it actually might make more sense to just go with the one that seems to provide musicians what they need on that level.
Combo amps literally position the head and cab parts of the amp in one convenient package. Some people might think that this theoretically makes them the same as the head and cab amps. However, it should be noted that with acoustics, the positioning of different parts really can make all the difference.
Combo amps have open backs. Therefore, the sound quality is very different. People can expect a much airier sound quality with combo amps and some musicians might be specifically looking for a sound quality just like that. With some genres of music, that airy sound quality can be ideal.
Country, pop and blues musicians have often never had a problem with combo amps. The very loud head and cab amps have often been exclusively used by the rock musicians. Many people believe that the tonal quality of a combo amp is just better than the tonal quality of a head and cab amp, especially when people aren’t being very careful with the volume.
Furthermore, lots of newer musicians try combo amps because the combo amps are almost always less expensive. Plenty of beginning musicians have no choice but to go for the more affordable equipments. Some of the people who prefer the head and cab versions of amps probably choose them just because they are superior status symbols which might be more important when it comes to the image of their groups or bands. Combos may very well be the more efficient choice for amps and practical people always choose those.
Head and Cab vs Combo Debate
It should be noted that there are lots of other considerations outside of this debate. Different amps have different features that can influence the tonal quality of the music itself. They also have different features in the ways so that people can switch between different types of sounds altogether. In most cases, the existence of these features or the types of features available makes more of a difference when it comes to choosing a head and cab amp or combo amp.
This debate is now becoming an old debate because there are lots of different types of amps in the market today. In fact, when people look up for references to this debate, they find that many of them are from somewhat older sources. There are amps that have been altered and enhanced by digital technology today. There are also amps that have been streamlined to become more efficient even if they are larger or smaller than what people expect.
People can invalidate a debate through technological advances in some cases and that might well be the case with the guitar amp head vs combo debate. However, there would still be musicians who prefer the vintage amps that they used when they were still learning the art. Therefore, this debate is going to exist in some form regardless of the technological advances that have occurred over the years.