Common Solid State Guitar Amp Problems and How To Fix Them
Solid-state guitar amplifiers are known to offer more practical advantages over their tube amp counterparts.
These amps are known for how reliable they are and the minimal amount of maintenance they require.
Still, like any other machine, there are times that they encounter one issue or another.
In such cases, it is good to know the solutions to some of the most common solid state guitar amp problems.
For the best solid state guitar amp repair tips and tricks, we’ve got your back.
- What Is a Solid State Guitar Amplifier?
- How Long Do Solid State Amps Last?
- Common Solid State Guitar Amp Problems
- Troubleshooting a Guitar Tube Amp
- How Do You Troubleshoot a Guitar Amp?
What Is a Solid State Guitar Amplifier?
A solid-state guitar amplifier makes use of transistor circuits to convert the electrical signal into an audio wave.
Instrumental amplifiers feature two stages of amplification: the preamp and the power amp.
As their names suggest, the preamp is at the beginning of the circuit, while the power amp is at the end.
In between these amplification stages, the sound can be shaped by different effects like reverb, EQ, tremolo, and vibrato.
Solid-State vs. Tube Amplifier
The physical difference between a tube amplifier and a solid-state amp is that the latter derives its amplification from electronic transistors.
In comparison, the former uses vacuum tubes, which are also known as valves.
Transistors operate quite differently compared to tubes in the sense that they do not pleasantly distort when it is pushed to its limit.
This is why you will find many guitar players making use of a tube amplifier; it provides clean tones even when it is pushed to the max.
Is a Solid-State Guitar Amp for You?
If you play a varied catalog of songs, from pop to heavy rock, and need to quickly pivot during a set, a solid-state guitar amp may be ideal for you.
For instance, you may need pristine clean tones for one of your songs but want to simply press a button to go to a more distorted tone for another track.
All this can be easily achieved using a solid-state amp.
Of course, you do end up sacrificing some of the “feel” of the tube amp. Even so, more guitarists now prefer this wide range of tones from their amp.
Andy Summers of The Police is well-known for making use of the Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus Amp, a popular solid-state guitar amp recognized for being extremely loud.
Even John Fogerty from the Creedence Clearwater Revival uses the Kustom solid-state amplifier.
A solid-state guitar amp is also ideal for guitar players who don’t want to spend too much time and money fixing many issues on their amp.
How Long Do Solid State Amps Last?
A solid-state guitar amp is a combination of several components. It goes without saying that some of these components will wear out over time.
As a result, you will eventually experience issues with your amplifier.
One of the first things that may cause the amp to wear out is the capacitor, especially the ones in the power supply.
The reason why this may happen is mainly due to stress on the amp or high temperatures.
Since the amp is designed to be used, there’s honestly nothing that can be done to prevent this from occurring other than taking care of the equipment and avoiding high temperatures.
One of the best ways to deal with worn-out capacitors is by simply replacing them. Thankfully, doing that is quite simple and also relatively cheap.
Transistors in the output can also cause issues with the amplifier. This can wear out if you continue using them beyond their ratings or even near their max.
The speakers also have an impact on the lifespan of the transistor.
So, even if you decide to repair or replace all the problematic parts in the amplifier, it’s still part of the machine’s regular maintenance that you will need to do every couple of years.
Keep in mind that all of the above applies to solid-state amplifiers. This may differ to a certain extent when you are using a tube amp.
In a tube amp, the valves are the components that will wear out over time.
Replacing these valves is quite similar to replacing the strings on a guitar. This needs to be done more often than maintaining a solid-state guitar amp for it to remain in good shape.
By maintaining your amplifier regularly and using only high-quality components when you need to replace some parts, you can easily expect your amp to last for at least three to four decades.
What Happens if You Leave the Amp on All Day?
Interestingly enough, leaving your amplifier on all day may be a good idea.
In theory, whenever you switch on an amp or any electronic device, it takes some amount of trashing.
This means that constantly turning it on and off can end up destroying the device.
On the flip side, the capacitor will last much longer if you keep your amp switched off. If you do, though, what’s the point of the amp?
Furthermore, leaving it on always will result in a higher electricity bill.
Hence, we recommend switching the amp on and off only once a day and not multiple times.
Common Solid State Guitar Amp Problems
As mentioned, solid-state guitar amplifiers make use of transistor technology instead of tube technology to amplify the guitar’s signal.
Back in the day, guitar amps used vacuum tubes to amplify the sound. With the invention of the transistor, manufacturers found this to be a cheaper and reliable technology.
While solid-state amps are appreciated for how reliable they are than tube amplifiers, it does not mean that they don’t encounter problems.
Thankfully, solid state guitar amp repair is relatively cheap and straightforward.
How Do You Troubleshoot a Solid State Amp?
Solid state amp troubleshooting is simple. In fact, if you found no major issue with it, you will most likely end up fixing it yourself.
Before you begin your solid state amplifier repair, there are a couple of things you need to have ready on you. These include a screwdriver, torch, and a rag cloth.
Start by identifying the source of the issue, preferably right after you notice a problem with the amplifier.
To make an assessment of the cause, here are common issues you might be having:
Poor Sound Quality
If the amplifier turns on but you feel that its sound quality is diminished, you should at least be sure that there isn’t any issue with the amp’s power section.
Is the sound quality pretty much clear but is followed by a rattle? If so, you will need to take a look at the speaker.
It is possible that a loose or damaged speaker is causing this rattling sound.
To fix these issues, inspect your amplifier thoroughly for any obvious signs of damage. Of course, always begin by turning off and unplugging your amplifier from the power supply.
Then, remove the rear panel from the amplifier by making use of a screwdriver.
If you find any loose parts or any component that has completely detached from its original position, it is most likely the reason for the sound issue.
You can simply reattach all these parts, tighten them up, and try using the amplifier again.
Over time, it is possible that certain parts of the amplifier will either be broken or worn out and will need to be replaced.
If you find any part on or in it that is obviously broken or damaged, like the transistor, bring the part to your guitar store or the electrical store to find the exact replacement for it.
It is important that you replace it with the exact same one to ensure your new part is compatible with your unit.
While the back panel is open, it would be best to take the time and clean the dials and pots as well.
It is likely that there will be grime and dust collected in different parts of the amp, which can cause it to malfunction.
Use a mildly damp cloth to properly clean the amplifier’s front panel. As for the interior, use a dry cloth to wipe away any grime or dust.
Once you have checked all the insides and feel you have done everything to fix any issue, you will need to reattach the rear panel.
Screw the back panel firmly to protect the interior of the amplifier from any dust and grime.
Using your screwdriver with you, make sure that you also tighten up any other screws on the machine, such as the handle.
Quite often, you will find that even a single loose screw on the exterior is more than enough to cause an irritating buzz.
It is important that you keep a mental note of which screw goes where. This way, you will find it easier to reassemble the entire amplifier.
After you are done with everything, get ready to test the amplifier. Make sure you keep the volume at the lowest level first.
As you can see, solid state amplifier troubleshooting is extremely simple. Most of the time, you will figure out the issue and fix it up yourself.
Nevertheless, if you feel that the problem is beyond your understanding, do not hesitate to call a professional for expert solid state amplifier repair.
Do Solid State Amps Have Fuses?
Yes, a solid-state guitar amp does come with a fuse meant to protect the amplifier’s circuit from extreme voltage issues.
Solid state amp blowing fuses are common reasons why your amplifier may not be working as it should.
Thankfully (and hopefully), the fix to this problem is as simple as changing the fuse.
If you are in doubt as to how to tackle this issue, you can always consult a qualified repair professional to fix your solid state amp blowing fuses.
Troubleshooting a Guitar Tube Amp
All this while, we have only been talking about solid state amplifier troubleshooting, but there are many of you who make use of a guitar tube amp.
Thankfully, troubleshooting a guitar amp is reasonably simple, too. All you need to do is follow these simple steps.
Step 1: Check for Problems With the Lines.
Begin by switching out all the cords to confirm that there isn’t any problem with the lines.
If the amp is a head, you can try switching speaker cabinets if it’s practical.
Step 2: Check All Tubes.
Make sure to check whether all the tubes on the amp are properly lit up and are warm.
If you notice any of them are cracked, or if they are cold or have a whitish film inside, it most likely needs a replacement.
Step 3: Check All Channels.
You can also try to use other channels on your tube amp. If this works, you can continue using the amp on these channels until you can repair it.
If it does not work, continue the troubleshooting process.
Step 4: Plug it in Directly.
Try circumventing the preamplifiers by plugging the guitar directly into the power amp in or direct in jack. You will mostly find this at the rear of the unit.
If this makes the amp work, the problem is probably with the preamplifiers or the jacks that bridge the amp and preamp.
Step 5: Test the Jacks.
You can also try testing the jacks by bridging the preamp-to-amp connection.
Do this by plugging the guitar into the channel and then plugging a closed dummy plug into them.
The jacks you need to check are the preamp out, auxiliary in, power amp in, and the effects loop.
Step 6: Call in a Pro’s Help.
If the dummy plugs do restore the sound, the jack where they are plugged into will have to be replaced.
If all of these fail, you will have to get the amp professionally examined at a guitar store or the amplifier’s brand’s customer care.
How Do You Troubleshoot a Guitar Amp?
The most common solid state guitar amp problems come with easy-to-follow solutions that hopefully solve these issues.
With this solid state amp troubleshooting guide, these problems can be addressed even by amateurs.
Then again, if any of these fixes don’t work, or if you think your amp is suffering from a way bigger problem, you can always call an expert to have it checked out.
In any case, prevention is still better than cure.
Take care of your amp to ensure that the sound quality stays at an optimal level all the time, as well as prolong the overall life of the machine.