As an avid contributor on many music forums, one question that many travelling and touring guitar players ask is: Will a guitar amp work with any with any power supply it is plugged into? Are guitar amps dual voltage? As a curious writer, I took the time to research this topic, and here is what I found.
Not all guitar amps are dual voltage. Many guitar amps work with only one standard electrical voltage. However, there are few guitar amps that are dual voltage and can have different electrical voltages. These amps have a built-in transformer and a voltage selector switch to choose the power supply’s voltage.
Later in the article, we’ll talk about some of the best dual-voltage guitar amps available today. And I’ll follow that up with some advantages of having a dual voltage amp and whether you need one. But first, let’s talk about what a dual voltage guitar amp is.
What is a Dual Voltage Guitar Amp?
A dual voltage guitar amp is a guitar amp that can work with the two standard electrical voltages. For those who don’t know, the two standard voltages used in the world are 120V and 240V. 120V at 60Hz is used predominantly in the Americas. 240V, on the other hand, is used predominantly in Europe and other parts of the world.
In essence, a dual voltage guitar amp will work when connected to either a 110V or a 240V power supply.
As I mentioned earlier, dual voltage amps are not as common as single standard voltages. That’s because there is not a huge market for it. Many guitar players certainly don’t need a guitar amp that will work with different voltages. So amp manufacturers simply don’t make them.
Inside a dual-voltage guitar amp, there is a built-in transformer that steps up or down the voltage of the power supply to a voltage that is suitable for the guitar amp to use. What do I mean by this?
Let’s say your guitar amp operates on a 220V power supply, and the available power socket outlet supplies 110 volts of power. The built-in transformer in a dual voltage guitar amp will step up the 110V power supply from the socket-outlet to a 220V power supply, which is needed for the amp to operate at its best.
There’s usually a voltage selector switch on these guitar amps that allows you to choose the power supply’s voltage. What this switch does is change the transformer’s settings to accommodate the power supply’s voltage.
On some amps, there is a dial with more than two voltages to choose from. Some have three, four, or even five different voltages to choose from. An example is the
Benefits of Dual Voltage Guitar Amp
What’s the point of a dual voltage guitar amp?
For many guitarists, spending extra cash for a dual-voltage guitar amp is simply not worth it. And I’ll explain why later in this article. However, the only situation where having a dual voltage guitar amp is crucial is if you’re a touring or traveling guitar player. Why is that?
As I mentioned earlier, different countries have different voltages. In the United States, and other countries in North and South Americas, and some parts of Asia, the standard voltages are 110V and 120V. In Europe and some parts of Africa, the standard voltage is 230V and 240V. And some countries have a 220V power supply.
The point I’m trying to make is there are many different voltage levels in different countries, depending on their power systems.
If you are a guitar player that travels all around the world playing shows with your instruments and gear, this is something you should definitely be concerned about. You need a guitar amp that will work with different voltages so that they can be used in many parts of the world. And that’s what makes a dual voltage guitar amp very useful.
The advantage of having a dual voltage guitar amp is you can take it along with you and use it with power supplies with different voltages if you are a traveling or touring guitarist.
It can be such a hassle carrying a single voltage standard vintage guitar tube amp on the road with you. That’s because you never know the power supply voltage at the location you’ll be playing, which is why I usually recommend dual voltage guitar amps for touring guitarists.
Best Dual Voltage Guitar Amps
Here are some well sought-after guitar amps that work with different voltage power sources.
Mesa Boogie Mark II A Guitar Amp
When it comes to guitar amps, Mesa Boogie has an outstanding reputation as the makers of some of the best-sounding guitar amps. And the Mesa Boogie Mark II A Guitar Amp (on Reverb) is no exception.
This is a vintage amp that was made in the 1980s. And although they are not made anymore, you’ll still find them in good condition online to purchase. It has a built-in 5-band EQ, a drive knob, and a built-in reverb.
And then, there is the voltage selector dial with five different voltages to choose from — 110V, 200V, 210V, 220V, 230V, and 240V. This makes this amp very travel-friendly, and you can use it in pretty much every part of the world.
So, if you’re a touring musician, Mesa Boogie Mark II A guitar amp is definitely an option to consider.
Hiwatt Custom 50 DR-504 Amp Head
The Hiwatt Custom 50 DR-504 Amp Head (also on Reverb) is a classic tube amplifier made in the UK. The Hiwatt brand is not as popular as other guitar amp brands like the Fender or Marshall. But they have definitely earned a spot as one of the most incredible sounding amps, and its users love them.
The Hiwatt Custom 50 DR-504 has 3-band EQ knobs and a presence knob that colors the guitar tone in a unique way.
At the back of the amp head is the voltage selector dial with four voltages to choose from — 105V, 115V, 225V, and 245V. And also, since this is just an amp head, you’ll need a cabinet for it.
Why You Should Choose Single Voltage Guitar Amp over Dual Voltage Guitar Amp
As I already mentioned, most guitar amps single voltage guitar amps. Dual-voltage guitar amps are not made anymore. Most of the dual-voltage guitar amps you’ll find today are vintage amps and are sold on the used market.
Vintage amps, especially tube amps, can be quite expensive. And unless you are very obsessed with its tone, I wouldn’t recommend you purchase one.
If you choose to go with a single voltage guitar amp, there are tons of options to choose from. You can get a guitar amp for as low as 30 bucks if you’re on a budget. And most of the world’s most iconic guitar amps, like the Vox AC30 (on Amazon) or the Marshall JCM800, are all single voltage amps.
The point I’m trying to make is, there are not many dual-voltage guitar amps out there and the best amps available today are all single voltage stand amps.
But what if you are a traveling or touring guitarist? Should you still choose a single voltage guitar over a dual-voltage guitar amp? In my opinion, yes.
You can travel and tour with any amp. An important device you need is a portable transformer. In fact, every touring musician should have a portable transformer. The transformer will be plugged into the power supply socket of whatever venue you’re playing at. And it will either step up or down the voltage to the acceptable voltage of your instruments and guitar amp.
For instance, if you are a guitarist in the United States, the chances are that your guitar amp, effect pedals, or multi-effect processor units will all be in 110V. So if you are traveling to Europe to play gigs, you’ll need a transformer that will step down Europe’s voltage of 220 volts to 110 volts. And then, you can safely plug your guitar amp and other instruments into the transformer’s output. It’s as simple as that.
There are many portable transformers out there. However, one that I’ll personally recommend is the Goldsource Power Transformer (on Amazon). This is both a Step Up and Step Down Transformer. This means if you plug it in a 110 volts power supply, it will step it up to a 220V supply. And when you plug it in a 220V power supply, it will step it down to a 110 volts supply.
You can take this transformer along with you anywhere in the world and plug your instruments, including your single voltage guitar amp, in the output socket, and they will operate without any issues.
It might be considered pricey to some people. But when it comes to power, you don’t want to compromise by buying a cheap, poorly built transformer that will end up damaging your equipment. Investing in a well-built portable will not only last for a long time, it will protect your instruments from potential damage.
In summary, most guitar amps are not dual voltage. However, you can use a transformer to step up or down a power supply’s voltage so that it can work with your guitar amp.