What is the Difference Between an Electric and an Acoustic Guitar Amplifier?

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Let’s talk about guitar amplifiers (amps). You got an amp for your electric guitar and you want to plug your acoustic guitar into it. Can you? Should you? Why should I even care about these different types of amps? You a new guitarist and you got a few basic questions about gitar amps. Well, I’m fixin to give you some basic info you need in this article.

What is an Electric Guitar Amplifier?

OK, I ain’t gonna tell you how to build one, but I’m gonna tell you what it is. I mean what is its function and how and why do you use an electric guitar amp.


Go grab an electric guitar and start playing it without amplification. What do you hear? You hear a guitar, but you hear it playing at a low volume. Now really play it. Try to get it to play as loud as you can. Yeah, it gets louder, but still not that loud. the volume is extremely low, especially compared to an acoustic guitar. Think about trying to play in a band with a drum or some other very loud instrument. No one would hear you.

So if you are going to play guitar in public so that anybody besides you can hear what you doing, you are going to need some sort of amplification.

Hence, you need an amp. The amplifier will take the sound of your guitar and make it louder so that others can hear it. So you need an amp, especially with an electric guitar. OK. Now you could use an Amplifier designed for use with electric guitars or one designed for use with acoustic guitars, or one designed for use with something else, like a PA system or even a Keyboard Amp.

There are many options, but the electric guitar amp is designed for use with your electric guitar. It is tailor made for it. What you get with an electric guitar amp is an amplification that changes the sound of the guitar. It doesn’t just amplify, it supplements or enhances the sound. It gives you what some have called a “colored sound.”

Listen to an electric guitar plugged into an electric guitar amp. It gives you an “Electric Guitar-like sound.” It is not a straight sound. It is an altered sound, a “colored sound.” Now you can take your acoustic and plug it into the electric guitar amp. And you will get that “colored sound.” Does it sound right? Well you might want that sound, but probably not. You play an acoustic because you want an acoustic sound. And that altered sound is different than the acoustic sound. You got an acoustic, you probably want a straight acoustic sound, only louder. So what do I do if I want that?

I’m glad you asked. That brings us to the next question.

What is an Acoustic Guitar Amp?

So let’s talk about the acoustic guitar amp. So the electric guitar amp,as we noted above,  gives you a “colored” or “altered” sound. But the acoustic guitar amp has a different purpose. It is solely designed to give you a clean sound. Not altered except that it is louder. You can think of it as a small Public Address (PA) system.

So clearly the Acoustic is designed to simply take the sound that your great sounding acoustic produces and make it so that the guy in the back of the room can hear it. Not like the electric where the sound is manufactured and amplified, the acoustic guitar amp is only amplified.

Now, as noted above, you can take an acoustic guitar and plug it into an electric guitar amp and you will get a sound that is altered. It may not be what you want. But then again maybe it is what you want. It may sound alright to your ears. Some folks do this. Go head and try it. But it probably ain’t what you want, because if you play acoustic, you love the acoustic sound and you want the acoustic sound.

Now lets talk about the other option. You can take an electric and plug it into an acoustic guitar amp. Yes, you can do this. But keep in mind, the electric guitar sound that you are used to is an altered sound. So if you plug that into an amp that doesn’t put these alterations into the sound, you will end up with a sound that don’t sound like you used to hearing an electric guitar sound.

So to put it bluntly. If you want to blow up the natural nice sound of the acoustic you want an acoustic guitar amp. If you want that cool electric sound (in addition to a number of pedals) you are gonna want an electric guitar amplifier.

Someone is probably thinking, “Where is the plug on my acoustic?” Good question. Some acoustic guitars are built with a sound jack and pickups (a way to pickup the sound from the strings and deliver them to the guitar cord) built in. These are called “acoustic/electric guitars. You simply plug in your guitar cord like you would any electric. But what if I don’t have a jack or pickups builtin? You are either gonna have to have some installed or buy a guitar with this setup already done for you.

Do I need an Amp?

Now this brings the real question. Do I really need an amplifier? If you are a new beginner guitarist playing by yourself on an acoustic? Skip the amplifier. Don’t go wasting money. One of the nice things about playing acoustic guitar is that you don’t get all caught up as much in the equipment purchasing game. Postpone doing any of that till you get better.

But what if you are a new beginning electric guitarist? Well, postpone getting that amp till you close to playing in public. Get an IRig or a pocket amp and plug that into your guitar. A pocket amp will get you well down the road , you don’t really need an amplifier. Wait till you learn a little more. Go buy one of those pocket amps and use it before you go purchase a throwaway amp. In a little while you will be in line with all the rest of us at the local guitar shop trying out rig to get the best amp.



OK. you can use an electric guitar amp with an acoustic guitar. You can also use an acoustic guitar amp with an electric guitar. Yes you can do both of these, but you probably don’t want to. The sound won’t be right.

It’s simple. Buy an electric amp if you playing electric guitar. Skip the acoustic amp unless you really gotta get one. But you are a new player, don’t go spending a ton of money on amplifiers. Make use of either a pocket amp or your cell phone plus an IRIG or some other setup before you spend a lot of money on amplifiers.

Worst come to worst, play that electric guitar unamplified. Especially when you trying to keep quiet as I wrote about here.

See you tomorrow, I gotta get to cracking on my daily practice routine.

Keep on Jamming yall….

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