In addition to Ælien's node above, there are a few additional items to consider.

  • Price:
    If you follow Ælien's advice and do your homework, you'll know pretty much what you want. Now is the time to search prices and write down the best deal you can find. Since the markup on gear can be very thin, you may get a better deal through mail-ordering. My suggestion is if the difference between the mail-order place and the store in your home town is not that far apart, pay the extra. It solves several problems at once. Should your gear break under warrantee, it is easier to bring it in to Bob, the repair guy at the Local Music Store. Additionally, isn't it great having a local store for your small items, such as when you need a capo or a set of strings? Help the local guys stay in business.

  • Use your Ear:
    I've seen several folks buy an amp without plugging anything into it and cranking it up. They read that it was reliable and somebody recommended that brand. Unfortunately, they end up being dissatisfied quickly. The amps are all there, plugged in and waiting for your test drive. The whole purpose of having them out is for you to play and listen, then decide on which one you want to bring home.

  • Another note on wattage:
    Does a 50 watt amp sound half as loud as a 100 watt amp? The answer is no. The sound volume is rated on a logarithmic scale called decibels. Tossing aside the mathematics, as a general rule if you want something that is twice as loud, add a zero. A 500 watt amp can put out twice as much eardrum-bleeding sound as a 50 watt amp. As a general rule of thumb, unless you're playing for a large audience in an arena, a nice 50-65 watt amp will be more than enough for the dedicated player. I personally have a 100 watt keyboard amp, which I use for my electronic Yamaha MIDI drum set and the occasional guitar torturing. If I put the volume knob on three and play, the neighbors complain. I've played outdoors with the amp, and even then with the knob at six it was deafening.

  • New or Used?
    Sometimes it is best to look at used amps if you're really strapped for cash. Make sure you play the amp loudly in the store, and check if the store will give you a warrantee on it. Six months is about average for a store guarantee. Buying from some Joe is riskier, but you can save even more.

Take your time, and play!