‘Where Have all the Full-Stacks Gone…’ Guitar & Bass Amplifier Sales in 2017

by Christian Wissmuller • in
  • Survey
• Created: July 10, 2017

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So let’s start with the “bad news”: only 30 percent of the participants in this month’s dealer survey – sent out to over 500 MI retailers across the globe – reported that guitar & bass amplifier sales are up, compared to last year, while nearly 43 percent are observing a downwards trend.

When you peel back the layers of this poll’s replies, though, the overall picture is decidedly more nuanced. Many reported that bass amp sales are, in fact, robust and that both used guitar amplifier and smaller amplifier sales are up.

“Small tube amps are definitely hot, while stacks are basically non-existent,” observed Nori Wenworth of Wenworth Music in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada – a trend agreed upon by many. Among them, Tim Brown of Faversham, Kent’s (UK) E Street Music, Ltd.: “Nobody wants big amps anymore! Smaller amps seem to be outselling bigger amps four-to-one now.”

The issue seems not to be only price (although that is, no doubt, a factor). Shrinking club and stage sizes, plus a desire for more easily transportable gear seems to be leaving the full- and half-stacks that used to be on every aspiring guitarist’s wish-list more and more a thing of decades gone by.

Internet competition for sales, technological advances, and stylistic shifts were additional issues frequently brought up by the retailers represented in this survey – read on to learn more about what’s hot (and not) in guitar & bass amps right now…

Have you been noticing any significant trends in the guitar & bass amplifier market?

“We are selling a lot less amps and guitars than I sold two years ago. The guitar amp market is very slow. More online sales every year have made the music store a place for lessons, repairs, and other services. Without that, the community would not need a store. Manufacturers like Gibson and Fender have not supported the USA, or the American economy…They are now just investors looking for 400 percent profits, while they expect the smaller stores to make a 15 percent margin. Hopefully our new government will help, and I do see a LOT of optimism for the future, despite journalists’ efforts to undermine good things.”

Rodney Lindner

Lindner Music

Watertown, South Dakota


“Student level stuff flies out the door.”

Paul Lewis

Lewis Music Store

Kissimmee, Florida


“Entry and mid-price amps support our lesson program. High-end are great for

demo, but we sell very few.”

Dave Lynch

Guitar Workshop

Sacramento, California


“Our customers with high-end amps are more apt to have them repaired than to replace them.”

David St. John

Gard’s Music

Montebello, California


“We have had significant growth in all price points of bass amplifier sales thus far in 2017.”

Chris Teesdale

Willis Music Company

Lexington, Kentucky


“Nobody wants big amps anymore! Smaller amps seem to be outselling bigger amps four-to-one now.”

Tim Brown

E Street Music, Ltd.





“Selling more acoustic guitars, less electrics, very few basses. We are a small store in a small town. Band and orchestra rentals and sales keep us in business.”

Lawrence Jamieson

Walton Music House

Walton, New York


“Entry-level instruments like guitar, bass, and uke are starting to sell again to younger kids. I am hoping that it becomes a trend of this age group tiring of their cell phones, putting them aside, and taking interest in music.”

Jeff Elias

Interesting Music Shoppe

Cannington, Ontario



“Things are somewhat flat here. No complaints though. From what we are hearing from our suppliers, things must be pretty slow all over.”

Paul Tobias

Tobias Music

Downers Grove, Illinois


“Bass amps and anything related to bass are higher than projected.”

Matt Duncan

Sweetwater Sound

Fort Wayne, Indiana


“With product developments and popularity increasing in the in ear monitor market, smaller combos have been our best sellers for players. The bass amp market seems to be hot as well with the bass guitar being used in almost every genre of music. In general, small to medium size amp sales have been quite strong, in both the beginner and step up tube amp price ranges.”

Mark Janzen

Janzen Brothers Music Company

Winkler, Manitoba



“We’re used to older customers buying down-size, going to smaller combo amps, but now the younger market is also moving away from large bass rigs, and going to small combos or small heads and small cabinets. Smaller is easier to transport, and easier to fit on shrinking club stages.”

Allen McBroom

Backstage Music

Starkville, Mississippi


“The formulas for amp sales are: brand name = low margin + no work to sell, versus: non-brand name = high margin + lots of work to sell. We used to embrace the second formula but lately have carried more of the brand names. We live in a rough time for margins!”

Anthony Mantova

Mantova’s Two Street Music

Eureka, California


“Decline in both guitar sales and lessons. Just not the same interest in guitar we traditionally had.”

Kevin Walters

Central Penn Music

Palmyra, Pennsylvania


“For guitar amps we’ve seen an increase in tube amp sales, as the individual pedal market continues to be solid. Players want a warm, clean platform for their pedals. For bass amps, high power and low weight seem to be a preference for our bass-playing friends.”

Paul Elliott

Upton Music

Keizer, Oregon


“People are looking for good deals on used amps. Experienced players prefer tube, and newer players seem to like onboard DSP. And lighter weight amps!”

Frank Kames

Lynchburg Music Center

Lynchburg, Virginia


“There are a ton of inexpensive, imported amplifiers in the marketplace… They are basically designed for big box stores that lack ‘real’ salespeople (sorry guys). We’re not terribly interested in pushing the standard fodder. We stock some higher-end amplifiers that are made in the USA and we’re doing very well with them. Expensive? Sure. But not ‘crazy’ money and we get LOT of trades from the sales, which boosts our used amp inventory, which we like a lot.”

Tim Bascom

Morgan Music

Lebanon, Missouri





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