How much does the Amp affect the sound of Power Chords?

I’ve just started learning power chords and I’m finally getting the hang of muting the appropriate strings, but they still sound like crap. Even my husband, a room away, says they sound “dull”.

Would it make a difference with a better amp? I have a small 15-watt Peavey Audition that has only low and high for EQ, and an on/off button for Lead oh and volume, of course. No amount of fiddling seems to make a difference I’ve tried both my Squier Bullet and PRS Soap Bar II with it. I was planning to get a better amp someday, but it might be sooner now as I can’t see using power chords if they really sound this bad. It is not enjoyable at all.

Though I love rock, having grown up in the 60s and 70s my current plan has been to get my first acoustic guitar, and I’m enjoying playing plenty of rock songs that don’t seem to use power chords (as far as I can tell anyway).

I’ve been looking at amps at Sweetwater (going there the 28th, oh gosh, I should hide my credit cards!)

Thanks for all advice. I’m off to fiddle with the 3 knobs on my amp and guitar tone controls now just in case I missed something.


Hi Rebecca, I’m not familiar with your amp but a quick look online suggests there’s no gain adjustment? Typically, on the amp side of things, that’s what’s going to give you that crunch and depth we all associate with power chords. With yours, you mention the volume, have you really cranked it? You want the speaker to effectively not be able to cope with the signal to distort, so highest volume on the guitar and amp will tell you (in combination with my next point) if it’s NAD time :wink:

The other thought / question i have is what pickup position you’re using? Bridge will usually give you the most typical power chord tone in my experience, have you messed around with those, have you noticed a difference?

All of this is in my relatively limited knowledge by the way, no doubt there’s be better advice coming!! :slight_smile:

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I got a black star mini amp when I started and also sounded like :poop:. I decided to practice without the amp because I knew the problem was me not having a good technique.

I normally still practice without amp when I’m practicing and I only connect it when I play songs. This is probably not the best advice but I do it for my own sanity.

Now that I’m getting better and my power chords sound not so terrible I want to get the boss katana 50 since a lot of people here in the community recommend it. Justin also has a video about it.

But It is totally normal the sound is not great in the beginning no matter what amp you own.

You could try an overdrive pedal or a distortion pedal. Will be cheaper than an amp. Also if you are looking for lush overdriven sounds with an amp only, that’s going to get pretty loud :metal:

Edit: the Boss Katana amp suggested by Carlos might be the way to go, these have the effects (pedals) built into them so you could try a variety of sounds :+1:

Not in English, but you can hear the different sounds this amp can produce.

At any rate, it’s a very inexpensive piece of equipment and can’t be expected to produce sounds you might have heard from other recordings.

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I suggest you go on YouTube and search for a video that is demonstrating the Boss Blues Driver pedal. The reviewer will almost always first play with a “clean” tone (pedal OFF) and then with the pedal ON. Then you’ll know if a distortion/overdrive pedal will provide the sound you are looking for.


now i want this pedal :heart_eyes:

First question is does it sound good when playing open and barre chords? If so then it’s probably technique. If not then you need to tweak the amp or replace. Secondly have you just tried turning it up? Amps generally ( there are exceptions) don’t sound great at low volumes. Turn up and then see what it’s like.

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Some education on the signal chain will help. In your case the amp you have is limited, so something with more features can help.

I like lots of stuff to fiddle with, so have a processing unit that gives me pretty much anything I can think of as an emulated model. This is nice on one hand, but also means I had to spend extra to get a powered speaker to get the sound out.

There are some things I don’t agree with. I come from the viewpoint of a systems electrical engineer. This means I look at a signal chain from start to finish, so from guitar pickup to what I hear. I prefer to have the breakup and distortion all done early in the chain, then have the amplification for the speaker be done as clean as possible.

I see one comment on trying to get the speaker itself to break up. that is certainly something folks have done, but requires very high volume and is likely to significantly shorten the speaker lifetime. Not something you’d do at home.

Amps that are “good pedal platforms” are typically kind of boring on their own. They are set up to be clean and allow the pedal sound to come through without making much change to it.

I saw someone mention the “lead channel” button on your peavey - you should try that and see what you get. I’d expect it to sound more crunchy, and the Peavey site says that is what to expect. Fiddle with the guitar volume and the pickup as well. setting the volume at 10, and using the bridge pickup will typically get the most input level and therefore push the amp hardest.

That amp only has one volume knob. That means that you do need to have the volume up to get more distortion out of the amp. When you go shopping, watch for an amp that has “gain” and “volume” knobs. “Gain” will usually adjust the input level to the distortion circuitry and “volume” will allow you to use that distortion without the in-room sound being too loud. The salesman can help you understand when you get to Sweetwater and will have options.

Things to consider:

  • Do you want to buy pedals or a multi-effects processor?
  • Do you want an all-in-one style amp with different “channels” for the distortion you want to produce, or a clean amp for pedals?
  • Do you want a processor that can do lots of sounds, but need to add additional cost of clean amp to be able to hear it?

I imagine I am now generating more questions. :slight_smile:


Here’s a good YouTube video to help you decide if an overdrive/distortion pedal like a Blues Driver makes the sound you are after. I make no apologies for the presenter LOL!

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Hi Luna,
imho, the amp is ‘your’ sound.
It’s what makes the sound so it will be what you sound like.

I just watched a couple videos of this amp.
Sorry to say. Yep, to ‘me’ it sounds pretty… yawn.
Good thing is it looks like it’s transtube which I love, in my redstripe bandit, your audition amp, it helps, but only a bit.

I assume ya got your lead button in? looks like that’s your distortion button. I could be wrong, but I think of power chords being played distorted.
If it really is transtube. Turn it up. transtube is supposed to simulate a tube amp and since you only got a vol. control, the louder you play it, the more ‘natural’ distortion you should get. Like tubes being pushed is the idea behind the transtube circuit from peavey.

Perhaps, for better tone, try turning up the bass and turning down the treble? That helped with my audition 20 I have, but only a little.
I had a peavey audtion 20, similar to yours in that it’s small and 12w. But my 20 was from the '80’s so didn’t have transtube. It also had a couple of drive switches and a 3 band eq. Turning down the treble and the bass up only kinda helped it.
fwiw, my audition 20 was the worst sounding amp I have. To me, it sounds like a '60’s hand held AM transistor radio. That’s not so good.

Get your credit card out when ya go by the music store. Play some amps. I’m gonna guess near anything will have better tone than what ya got. Just use your ears when your testing them out and find one that you like the tone of in the price range you need it to be in.
Try cleans and distortion while your looking. I lean to clean tones and imho, great sounding clean is generally just more expensive.
imho, you’re gonna have to spend a little bit of bread. Looks like your audition was a $90 new.
I got a peavey bandit silver stripe back in the 2000’s. If memory serves me, it was a $300 amp round abouts. But it does sound pretty good. To me, the red stripe one sounds even better and I have both. The red stripe I use often, the silver stripe one is in the other room and don’t get played so much.
I’m guessing this day and age, you should be able to get in the game of a better sounding amp for somewhere between 150-300.

All that said. While I was happy with my bandits I still wasn’t satisfied. Spent even more and started going with tube amps. They break up sweet usually. They usually sound real good clean too. I usually play between then two ideas. However tube amps=more dollars. It just depends on what your willing to spend. I hear good things about the monoprice china tube amp for a cheap, good sounding tube amp. I never played one, but they get pretty good reviews. Also seen reviews of them just stopping working too. ??? But I suppose that could be any amp as they are all man made and will break in the end most likely.
fwiw, the tube amps I went with are a used supro blues king 12 for $400. It’ll play your distortion power chords real good I’d guess. It also plays some real sweet bell like cleans too. I like it and would get another if it breaks.
For me, I still wasn’t happy with my sound. Back to the music store. I landed on a fender '65 princeton reverb amp reissue. Real pricey. Like 1200 with a 20% off coupon from my music store. But my goodness. What beautiful tone. Bad thing about the prri is it has only a vol. control also. Just like your peavey. For the prri to start to distort, ya gotta turn it up. While it’s only 12w, I assure you it gets just plain loud before it starts to breakup. But when it does start breaking, it’s pure ear candy.

So that was my quest for a amp that sounded good to me. Unfortunetley I just had to keep going up in price to get where I wanted to be.

Side note. Many folks here can likely recommend you a modeler amp that they like that will sound good too. Tech has come a long way. Myself, I just like the tones of early tech amps, tubes. It’ll be your choice. Most likely depending on how much you want to spend.
But do spend something. Liking your sound is worth a lot in my book.

I really don’t like the sound of my audition 20. I gave it to my boy who don’t play. But if he decides to learn to play, my audition 20 will be a good starting point for him. But to me, it’s only a place to start. Near any amp sounds better than my audition 20 I think. My guess this would hold true for your audition too.
Sorry if I’m being hard on your audition amp, I don’t mean to be mean. I’ve just been where your at and can surly relate to how your hearing things. I feel I can express my feelings honestly.

Have fun shopping… :slight_smile:

Your amp is what you sound like… :wink:

Sorry for my rambling post…

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Power chords are for chugging

That amp don’t chug.

You could add a pedal but it’s still going to be a weak amp


Agreed. But I actually think it’s probably not possible with that amp. I suspect that the power amp would start to overdrive well before the speaker starts hitting its limits.

And I also suspect that’s what @Notter meant (?).

A lot of people do like to get power amp overdrive. However, that’s usually with decent valve amps and, yes, they get very loud unless you use a load box.

With a cheap solid-state amp that’s not designed to to this, it’s going to sound dreadful.

The Blues Driver is a great shout. It’s a great pedal and it seems to consistently come out as a favourite pedal of many players. In the blind test of overdrive pedals Rabea did at Andertons, the winner was a Blues Driver.

If you do get a Katana, the Blues Driver is one of the pedals that’s built in, and is also one of the default settings.




The sound coming out of your amp is the only sound that matters from an electric. An upgrade will make a huge difference.


Thanks for this, it is the exact amp I have.

And thanks to everyone else who responded. After watching the video and reading the first replies I went back and tried again, every so often calling out to my husband for opinions we first determined I wasn’t fretting the 6th string hard enough because I was concentrating so much on muting 1-3.

Then I played with the volume on amp and guitar, messed around with guitar tone some more (only 1 tone knob on my PRS for those who don’t know the guitar) and things finally sounded quite a bit better. Not as great probably as a much better amp but something I can live with for now, at least till I find out whether the song Cocaine sounds okay or not.

The Lead button can’t really be used, as far as I can tell with the amp volume above 4, the feedback is crazy and it all sounds horrid at a much louder volume. I swear it sounds nothing like it does in the video.

After my main practice session today, I’ll mess around with this some more, and, @Notter I’ll try it with my cheap Strat which has humbuckers and more than 1 tone knob so maybe selecting the bridge for that one will make a difference.

As to a new amp, right now it’s between that and an acoustic. If I can get this amp working well enough, I’ll hold off so I can get perhaps that Katana 50, @CarlosAP (I doubt I’ll ever need more watts than that anyway). I’ve seen it mentioned in the Community before and it does get good reviews. And assuming I get an electric acoustic, I’ll use my little Peavey for that.

I’d love to just get it all at once while I’m at Sweetwater, but the hubby is hoping to get a nicer Bass, too and the amp that was bundled with his original bass, is a lot less desirable than my current one.

I’ll let y’all know how it goes, Thanks again. :grinning:


@HappyCat I meant to reply to your post, too. While I love the idea of a tube amp (I’m a bit of an audiophile having grown up with a brother and dad who I followed around to music stores listening to different speakers and receivers back in the 70s), I’ll have to hold off for now though I may ask a Sweetwater rep to let me listen to a couple, just to see mind you… maybe in a couple of years, when I win the lottery or something. :laughing:

Been doing a little more looking around online… I’m starting to drool a little over the Boss Katana MK II… and it’s at the lowest price it’s been in the last 5 months…

okay, really, I MUST go practice!

Your trip to Sweetwater is something I’d love to do. Too bad I can’t sit in the back seat repeatedly asking “are we there yet”… :weary:

One thing that may be a useful task before the trip would be to study songs (listen with concentration on the guitar sound) you want to play, both now and in the future. When I did this, I was surprised to learn that most of the stuff I liked had very little distortion. That is an important part of your amp or pedal choice. A good understanding of what you are going for will narrow down your choices to something you can work with while you are at Sweetwater.

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There is a great interview on the Pedal Show withNoel Gallagher. He talks about the oasis sound and how he used very little in the way of pedals and the sound was all about the various amps and guitars he used. You might find some incite there.


Here is the link.


I don’t know what to say about this. Power chords on an acoustic sound good independent of any amp. I would have to hear what you are playing to pass any judgement. Maybe start with dialing back the volume and tone controls a bit on your guitar.

EDIT: Have you tried the two note power chords as well as the three note power chords? Some players prefer one over the other.