Guitar amplifier

Guitar amplifier
Mesa Boogie Mark IV, a guitar combo amplifier

A guitar amplifier (or guitar amp) is an electronic amplifier designed to make the signal of an electric or acoustic guitar louder so that it will produce sound through a loudspeaker. Most guitar amplifiers can also modify the instrument's tone by emphasizing or de-emphasizing certain frequencies and adding electronic effects.

Amplifiers consist of one or more circuit stages which have unique responsibilities in the modification of the input signal. The power amplifier or output stage produces a high current signal to drive a speaker to produce sound. One or more preamplifier stages precede the power amplifier stage. The preamplifier is a voltage amplifier that amplifies the guitar signal to a level that can drive the power stage. There may be one or more tone stages which affect the character of the guitar signal: before the preamp stage (as in the case of guitar pedals), in between the preamp and power stages (as in the cases of effects loop or many dedicated amplifier tone circuits), in between multiple stacked preamp stages, or in feedback loops from a post-preamp signal to an earlier pre-preamp signal (as in the case of presence modifier circuits). The tone stages may also have electronic effects such as equalization, compression, distortion, chorus, or reverb. Amplifiers may use vacuum tubes (in Britain they are called valves), or solid-state (transistor) devices, or both.

There are two configurations of guitar amplifiers: combination ("combo") amplifiers, which include an amplifier and anywhere from one to four speakers in a wooden cabinet; and the standalone amplifier (often called a "head" or "amp head"), which does not include a speaker, but rather passes the signal to a speaker cabinet or "cab". Guitar amplifiers range in price and quality from small, low-powered practice amplifiers, designed for students, which sell for less than US$50, to expensive "boutique" amplifiers which are custom-made for professional musicians and can cost thousands of dollars.



The first electric instrument amplifiers were not designed for use with electric guitars. The earliest examples appeared in the early 1930s when the introduction of electrolytic capacitors and rectifier tubes allowed the production of economical built-in power supplies that could be plugged into wall sockets, instead of heavy multiple battery packs, since rechargeable batteries wouldn't be lightweight until later on. While guitar amplifiers from the beginning were used to amplify acoustic guitar, electronic amplification of guitar was first widely popularized by the 1930s and 1940s craze for Hawaiian music, which extensively employed the amplified lap steel Hawaiian guitar.

Tone controls on early guitar amplifiers were very simple and provided a great deal of treble boost, but the limited controls, the loudspeakers used, and the low power of the amplifiers (typically 15 watts or less prior to the mid-1950s) gave poor high treble and bass output. Some models also provided effects such as spring reverb and/or an electronic tremolo unit. Early Fender amps labeled tremolo as "vibrato" and labeled the vibrato arm of the Stratocaster guitar as a "tremolo bar" (see vibrato unit, electric guitar, and tremolo).

In the 1960s, guitarists experimented with distortion produced by deliberately overdriving their amplifiers. The Kinks guitarist Dave Davies produced early distortion effects by connecting the already distorted output of one amplifier into the input of another. Later, most guitar amps were provided with preamplifier distortion controls, and "fuzz boxes" and other effects units were engineered to safely and reliably produce these sounds. In the 2000s overdrive and distortion has become an integral part of many styles of electric guitar playing, ranging from blues rock to heavy metal and hardcore punk.

Guitar amplifiers were at first used with bass guitars and electronic keyboards, but other instruments produce a wider frequency range and need a suitable amplifier and full-range speaker system. Much more amplifier power is required to reproduce low-frequency sound, especially at high volume. Reproducing low frequencies also requires a suitable woofer or subwoofer speaker and enclosure. Woofer enclosures need to be larger and more sturdily built than cabinets for mid-range or high-frequency (tweeter) speakers.


Two combo amplifiers

Guitar amplifiers are manufactured in two main forms. The "combination" (or "combo") amplifier contains the amplifier head and guitar speakers in a single unit which is typically housed in a rectangular wooden box. The amplifier head or "amp head" contains the electronic circuitry constituting the preamp, built-in effects processing, and the power amplifier. Combo amps have at least one 1/4" input jack where the patch cord from the electric guitar can be plugged in. Other jacks may also be provided, such as an additional input jack, "send" and "return" jacks to create an effects loop (for connecting electronic effects such as compression, reverb, etc.), an extension speaker jack (for connecting an additional speaker cabinet). Some smaller practice amps have stereo RCA jacks for connecting a CD player, iPod or other sound source and a 1/4" headphone jack so that the player can practice without disturbing neighbours or family members.

Kustom 200 bass amp - amp head and speakers, 100 watts RMS, two channels, two 15" speakers, 1971

Some amplifiers have a line out jack for connecting the amplifier's signal to a PA system or recording console or to connect the amplifier to another guitar amp. In but most styles of rock and blues guitar, the line out is not used to connect the guitar amp to a PA system or recording console, because the tonal coloration and overdrive from the amplifier and speaker is considered an important part of the amplifier's sound. However, players do use the line out to connect one guitar amplifier to another amplifier, in order to create different tone colors or sound effects.

In the "amp head" form, the amplifier head is separate from the speakers, and joined to them by speaker cables. The separate amplifier is called an amplifier head, and is commonly placed on top of one or more loudspeaker enclosures. A separate amplifier head placed atop a guitar speaker enclosure or guitar speaker cabinet forms an amplifier "stack" or "amp stack". Amp heads may also have the different types of input and output jacks listed above in the combo section. In addition to a 1/4" input jack, acoustic guitar amplifiers typically have an additional input jack for a microphone, which is easily identified because it will use a three-pin XLR connector. Phantom power is not often provided on general-use amps, restricting the choice of microphones for use with these inputs. However, for high-end acoustic amplifiers, phantom power is often provided, so that musicians can use condenser microphones.

Amplifiers used with electric guitars may be solid-state, which are lighter in weight and less expensive than tube amplifiers. Most guitarists, particularly in the genres of blues and rock, prefer the sound of vacuum tube amplifiers despite their higher cost, heavier weight, the need to periodically replace tubes and need to re-bias the output tubes (every year or two with moderate use). Some companies design amplifiers that require no biasing as long as properly rated tubes are used. Some modern amplifiers use a mixture of tube and solid-state technologies.

Since the advent of microprocessors and digital signal processing, "modeling amps" have been developed in the late 1990s, these can simulate the sounds of a variety of well-known tube amplifiers without needing to use vacuum tubes. Amplifiers with processors and software emulate the sound of a classic amp well, but from the player's point of view the response of these amplifiers may not feel the same as the digital modeling does not accurately model all aspects of a tube amplifier.

A wide range of instrument amplifiers is available, some for general purposes and others designed for specific instruments or particular sounds. These include:

  • "Traditional" guitar amplifiers, with a clean, warm sound, a sharp treble roll-off at 5 kHz or less and bass roll-off at 60–100 Hz, and often built-in reverb and tremolo (sometimes incorrectly called 'vibrato') units. These amplifiers, such as the Fender "Tweed"-style amps, are often used by traditional rock, blues, and country musicians.Traditional amps have more recently become popular with musicians in indie and alternative bands
  • Hard rock-style guitar amplifiers, which often include preamplification controls, tone filters, and distortion effects that provide the amplifier's characteristic tone. Users of these amplifiers use the amplifier's tone to add "drive", intensity, and "edge" to their guitar sound. Amplifiers of this type, such as Marshall amplifiers, are used in a range of genres, including hard rock, metal, and punk.
  • Bass amplifiers, with extended bass response and tone controls optimized for bass guitars (or more rarely, for upright bass). Higher-end bass amplifiers sometimes include compressor or limiter features, which help to keep the amplifier from distorting at high volume levels, and an XLR DI output for patching the bass signal directly into a mixing board. Bass amplifiers are often provided with external metal heat sinks or fans to help keep the amplifier cool.
  • Acoustic amplifiers, similar in many ways to keyboard amplifiers but designed specifically to produce a "clean," transparent, "acoustic" sound when used with acoustic instruments with built-in transducer pickups and/or microphones.

Vacuum tube amplifiers

The glow from four "Electro Harmonix KT88" brand power tubes lights up the inside of a Traynor YBA-200 bass guitar amplifier

Vacuum tubes (valves) were by far the dominant active electronic components in most instrument amplifier applications until the 1970s, when semiconductors (transistors) started taking over for performance and economic reasons, including heat and weight reduction, and improved reliability. High-end tube instrument amplifiers have survived as one of few exceptions, because of the sound quality. Typically, one or more dual triodes are used in the preamplifier section in order to provide sufficient voltage gain to offset losses by tone controls and to drive the power amplifier section.

Rear view of a tube (valve) combo guitar amplifier. Visible are two glass output tubes, six smaller preamp tubes in their metal tube retainers, and both the power transformer and the output transformer.

The output tubes are often arranged in a class AB push-pull connection to improve efficiency; this requires another triode or dual triode to split the phase of the signal. The tubes of the power amplifier stage are almost always of the pentode or beam tetrode type (also known as "kinkless tetrodes", hence the KTxx nomenclature). Some high power models use paralleled pairs of output tubes (four or more in total) in push-pull. Except for the light negative feedback from the secondary end of the output transformer to the driver stage, most amplifying stages work in "raw" open-loop mode. Some designs employ current feedback via unbypassed cathode resistors.

Since most tubes show "soft clipping" gain non-linearity, applying an input signal high enough to overdrive any stage tends to produce favorably natural distortion. Today, most vacuum tube amplifiers are based on the ECC83/12AX7/7025 (dual triode) tubes for the preamplifier and driver sections and the EL84/6BQ5 or EL34/6CA7/KT77 or 6L6/KT66 or 6V6 tubes for the power output section. Some use the KT88/6550 beam power tubes in the output stage. The differing codes for equivalent tubes generally reflect those used by the original European or U.S.A. based manufacturers. These tubes are now mainly manufactured in Russia, China and Eastern European countries. Some amplifiers, such as the Marshall Silver Jubilee, use solid-state components in the preamp, most commonly diodes, to create distortion, a design feature known as diode clipping.

Tube instrument amplifiers are often equipped with lower-grade transformers and simpler power regulation circuits than those of hi-fi amplifiers. They are usually not only for cost-saving reasons, but also are considered as a factor in sound creation[citation needed]. For example, a simple power regulation circuit's output tends to sag when there is a heavy load (that is, high output power) and vacuum tubes usually lose gain factors with lower power voltages. This results in a somewhat compressed sound which could be criticized as a "poor dynamic range" in case of hi-fi amplifiers, but could be desirable as "long sustain" of sounds on a guitar amplifier. Some tube guitar amplifiers use a rectifier tube instead of solid-state diodes specifically for this reason.

Unfortunately, most amplifiers offer a fixed amount of sag, and this fixed amount can only be attained at full volumes. A small minority of amplifiers offer sag control via either multiple rectifiers or the Sag Circuit (a non-traditional power supply design patented by Maven Peal® Instruments). Amplifiers with multiple rectifiers can offer up to two sag settings (amounts), while the Sag Circuit provides a Sag control knob, which allows range of sag control at all volumes (by interacting with a wattage control knob).

Some models have a "spring reverb" unit that simulates the reverberation of an echoic ambient. A reverb unit usually consists of one or more coil springs driven by the preamplifier section using a transducer driver similar to a loudspeaker at one end and an electro-magnetic pickup and preamplifier stage at the other end that picks up the long sustaining spring vibration, which is then mixed with the original signal. Some guitar amplifiers have a tremolo control. An internal oscillator generates a low frequency continuous signal which can modulate the input signal's amplitude or the output tubes' bias, thereby producing a tremolo effect.

Tube amps have the following technical disadvantages in comparison to solid-state amps. They are bulky and heavy, primarily due to the iron in power and output transformers. Solid-state amplifiers still require power transformers, but are usually direct-coupled and don't need output transformers. Glass tubes are fragile, and require more care and consideration when equipment is moved repeatedly. Tube performance can deteriorate slightly over time before eventual catastrophic failure.

When tube vacuum is maintained at a high level, though, excellent performance and life is possible. They are prone to pick up mechanical noises (microphonic noise), although such electro-mechanical feedback from the loudspeaker to the tubes in combo amplifiers may contribute to sound creation. Tubes benefit from a heater warm-up period before the application of high tension anode voltages; this allows the tube cathodes to operate without damage and so prolongs tube life. This is of particular importance for amplifiers with solid-state rectifiers.

Tube amps have the following technical advantages over solid-state amps. Compared to semiconductors, tubes have a very low "drift" (of specs) over a wide range of operating conditions, specifically high heat/high power. Semiconductors are very heat-sensitive by comparison and this fact usually leads to compromises in solid-state amplifier designs. When a tube fails, it is replaceable. While solid-state devices are also replaceable, it is usually a much more involved process (i.e., having the amplifier tested by a professional, removing the faulty component, and replacing it).

For working musicians this is usually a huge problem by comparison to looking in the back of a tube amp at the tubes and simply replacing the faulty tube. In addition, tubes can easily be removed and tested, while transistors cannot. Tube amplifiers respond differently from transistor amplifiers when signal levels approach and reach the point of clipping. In a tube-powered amplifier, the transition from linear amplification to limiting is less abrupt than in a solid-state unit, resulting in a less grating form of distortion at the onset of clipping. For this reason, some guitarists prefer the sound of an all-tube amplifier; the aesthetic properties of tube versus solid-state amps, though, are a topic of debate in the guitarist community.

Solid-state amplifiers

Most inexpensive guitar amplifiers currently produced are based on semiconductor (solid-state) circuits, and some designs incorporate tubes in the preamp stage for their subjectively warmer overdrive sound. Tubes create warm overdrive sounds because instead of cutting the peaked signal off, they more or less pull the peaked audio information back (like natural compression) which creates a fuzzy overdrive sound. While this is a desirable attribute in many cases, the tube's characteristic will "color" all the sounds at any volume, unlike solid-state.

High-end solid-state amplifiers are less common, since many professional guitarists tend to favor vacuum tubes. Some jazz guitarists, however, tend to favor the "cleaner" sound of solid-state amplifiers, preferring not to color the sound of their guitar with the tube distortion and compression so popular with rock, blues, and metal musicians.[citation needed]. Solid-state amplifiers vary in output power, functionality, size, price, and sound quality in a wide range, from practice amplifiers to professional models. Some inexpensive amplifiers have only a single volume control and a one or two tone controls[citation needed].

Hybrid amplifiers

A tube power amp may be fed by a solid-state pre-amp circuit, as in most of the Original MusicMan Amps, Fender Super Champ XD and the Roland Bolt amplifier, which is thereby classed as a 'hybrid' amp. Randall Amplifier's current flagship models, the V2 and T2, use hybrid amp technology. Alternatively, a tube pre-amp can feed a solid-state output stage, as in models from Kustom and Vox. This approach dispenses with the need for an output transformer and allow modern power levels to be easily achieved.

The Roland Micro Cube, left, a small and portable digital modeling amplifier.

Modeling amplifiers

Modeling amplifiers use amplifier modeling to simulate the sound of well-known guitar amps, cabinets, and effects, as well as simulating the way traditional speaker cabinets sound when mixed with different types of microphones. They may also be an original creation not meant to simulate any particular real world guitar amp at all, instead allowing the user to create their own unique sound. Such as the original creations of companies like AcmeBarGig or Peavey. This is usually achieved through digital processing. Modeling technology offers several advantages over traditional amplification. A modeling amp typically is capable of a wide range of tones and effects, and offers cabinet simulation, so it can be recorded without a microphone. Most modeling amps digitize the input signal and use a DSP, a dedicated microprocessor, to process the signal with digital computation. Some modeling amps incorporate vacuum tubes, digital processing, and some form of power attenuation.

Acoustic guitar amplifiers

These amplifiers are designed to be used with acoustic guitars, especially for the way these instruments are used in relatively quiet genres such as folk and bluegrass. They are similar in many ways to keyboard amplifiers, in that they have a relatively flat frequency response, and they are usually designed so that neither the power amplifier nor the speakers will introduce additional coloration.

To produce this relatively "clean" sound, these amplifiers often have very powerful amplifiers (providing up to 800 watts RMS), to provide additional "headroom" and prevent unwanted distortion. Since an 800 watt amplifier built with standard Class AB technology would be very heavy, some acoustic amplifier manufacturers use lightweight Class D amplifiers, which are also called "switching amplifiers."

Acoustic amplifiers are designed to produce a "clean", transparent, "acoustic" sound when used with acoustic instruments with built-in transducer pickups and/or microphones. The amplifiers often come with a simple mixer, so that the signals from a pickup and microphone can be blended. Since the early 2000s, it has become increasingly common for acoustic amplifiers to be provided with a range of digital effects, such as reverb and compression. As well, these amplifiers often contain feedback-suppressing devices, such as notch filters or parametric equalizers. [1]

Amplifier configuration

A 3 x 6 stack of Marshall guitar cabinets for Jeff Hanneman of Slayer

In the case of electric guitars, an amplifier stack consisting of a head atop one cabinet is commonly called a half stack, while a head atop two cabinets is referred to as a full stack. The cabinet which the head sits on often has an angled top in front, while the lower cabinet of a full stack has a straight front. The first version of the Marshall stack was an amp head on an 8x12 cabinet, meaning a single speaker cabinet containing eight 12" guitar speakers. After six of these cabinets were made, the cabinet arrangement was changed to an amp head on two 4x12 cabinets, meaning four 12" speakers, to enable transporting the amp rig.

In heavy metal bands, the term "double stack" or "full stack" is sometimes used to refer to two stacks, with the main amplifier section of a second amplifier serving as a slave to the first and four speaker cabinets in total. Another name for the "Head & Cab" that comes from the 1960s and 1970s is "Piggyback". Vox amp stacks could be put on a tiltable frame with casters. Fender heads could be attached to the cab and had "Tilt-Back" legs, like those used on larger Fender combo amps. Typically, a guitar amp's preamplifier section (known as a 'pre') provides sufficient gain so that an instrument can be connected directly to its input, and its main amplification section (known as the 'power stage') sufficient power to connect loudspeakers directly to its output, both without requiring extra amplification.

Some touring bands have used the appearance of a large array of guitar amplifiers for aesthetic reasons. Some of these arrangements include one or more actual guitar cabinets, while others do not. In reference to a photograph (left) taken during an Immortal gig, showing that what appeared to the audience to be a wide formation of equipment was actually only the fronts of amplifiers mounted on a large frame, Gizmodo writer Rosa Golijan investigated the phenomenon and found that it was "not too uncommon".[2]

Another arrangement, often used for public address amplifier systems, is to provide two stages of amplification in separate units. First a preamplifier or mixer is used to boost the instrument output, normally to line level, and perhaps to mix signals from several instruments. The output from this preamplifier is then connected to the input of a power amplifier, which powers the loudspeakers.

Performing musicians that use the "two-stage" approach (as opposed to an amplifier with an integrated preamplifier and power amplifier) often want to custom-design a combination of equipment that best suits their musical or technical needs, and gives them more tonal and technical options. Some musicians require preamps that include specific features. Acoustic performers sometimes require preamps with "notch" filters (to prevent feedback), reverb, an XLR DI output, or parametric equalization. Hard rock, metal, or punk performers may desire a preamplifier with a range of distortion effects. As well, some musicians have specific power amplifier requirements, such as low-noise design, very high wattage, the inclusion of limiter features to prevent distortion and speaker damage, or biamp-capable operation.

With the "two-stage" approach, the preamplifier and power amplifier are often mounted together in a rack case. This case may be either free-standing or placed on top of a loudspeaker cabinet. If many rack-mounted effects are used, the rack may be a large unit on wheels. Some touring players need several racks of effects units to reproduce on stage the sounds they have produced in the studio. At the other extreme, if a small rack case containing both preamp and power amp is placed on top of a guitar speaker cabinet, the distinction between a rack and a traditional amp head begins to blur. Another variation is to combine the power amplifier into the speaker cabinet, an arrangement called a powered speaker, and use these with a separate preamp, sometimes combined into an effects pedal board or floor preamp/processor.

Preamplifiers are also used to connect very low-output or high-impedance instruments to instrument amplifiers. When piezoelectric transducers are used on upright bass or other acoustic instruments, the signal coming directly from the transducer is often too weak and it does not have the correct impedance for direct connection to an instrument amplifier. Small, battery-powered preamps are often used with acoustic instruments to resolve these problems.

Distortion, power, and volume

Power output

For electric guitar amplifiers, there is often a distinction between "practice" or "recording studio" guitar amps, which tend to have output power ratings of 20 watts down to a small fraction of a watt, and "performance" amps, which are generally 50 watts or higher. Traditionally, these have been fixed-power amplifiers, with a few models having a half-power switch to slightly reduce the listening volume while preserving power-tube distortion. The relationship between perceived volume and power output is not immediately obvious. A 5-watt amplifier is perceived to be half as loud as a 50-watt amplifier (a tenfold increase in power), and a half-watt amplifier is a quarter as loud as a 50-watt amp. Doubling the power of an amplifier results in a "just noticeable" increase in volume, so a 100-watt amplifier is held to be only just noticeably louder than a 50-watt amplifier. Such generalizations are also subject to the human ear's tendency to behave as a natural compressor at high volumes.

Power attenuation can be used with either low-power or high-power amplifiers, resulting in variable-power amplifiers. A high-power amplifier with power attenuation can produce power-tube distortion through a wide range of listening volumes. Speaker efficiency is also a major factor affecting a tube amplifier's maximum volume. For bass instruments, higher-power amplifiers are needed to reproduce low-frequency sounds. While an electric guitarist would be able to play at a small club with a 50-watt amplifier, a bass player performing in the same venue would probably need an amplifier with 200 or more watts.

Distortion and volume

Distortion is a feature available on many guitar amplifiers that is not typically found on keyboard or bass guitar amplifiers. Tube guitar amplifiers can produce distortion through pre-distortion equalization, preamp tube distortion, post-distortion EQ, power-tube distortion, tube rectifier compression, output transformer distortion, guitar speaker distortion, and guitar speaker and cabinet frequency response. Distortion sound or "texture" from guitar amplifiers is further shaped or processed through the frequency response and distortion factors in the microphones (their response, placement, and multi-microphone comb filtering effects), microphone preamps, mixer channel equalization, and compression. Additionally, the basic sound produced by the guitar amplifier can be changed and shaped by adding distortion and/or equalization effect pedals before the amp's input jack, in the effects loop just before the tube power amp, or after the power tubes.

Power-tube distortion

Power-tube distortion is required for amp sounds in some genres. In a standard master-volume guitar amp, as the amp's final or master volume is increased beyond the full power of the amplifier, power tube distortion is produced. The "power soak" approach places the attenuation between the power tubes and the guitar speaker. In the re-amped or "dummy load" approach, the tube power amp drives a mostly resistive dummy load while an additional low power amp drives the guitar speaker. In the isolation box approach, the guitar amplifier is used with a guitar speaker in a separate cabinet. A soundproofed isolation cabinet, isolation box, isolation booth, or isolation room can be used.

Volume controls

A variety of labels are used for level attenuation potentiometers in a guitar amplifier and other guitar equipment. Electric guitars and basses have a volume control to attenuate whichever pickup is selected. There may be two volume controls in parallel to mix the signal levels from the neck and bridge pickups. Rolling back the guitar's volume control also changes the pickup's equalization or frequency response, which can provide pre-distortion equalization.

The simplest guitar amplifiers have only a volume control. Most have at least a gain control and a master volume control. The gain control is equivalent to the distortion control on a distortion pedal, and similarly may have a side-effect of changing the proportion of bass and treble sent to the next stage.

A simple amplifier's tone controls typically include passive bass and treble controls. In some cases, a midrange control is provided. The amplifier's master volume control restricts the amount of signal permitted through to the driver stage and the power amplifier. When using a power attenuator with a tube amplifier, the master volume no longer acts as the master volume control. Instead, the power attenuator's attenuation control controls the power delivered to the speaker, and the amplifier's master volume control determines the amount of power-tube distortion. Power-supply based power reduction is controlled by a knob on the tube power amp, variously labeled "Wattage", "Power", "Scale", "Power Scale", or "Power Dampening".

Use with other instruments

Musicians often run sound-sources other than guitars through guitar amps. For live performances, synthesizers and drum machines or keyboards are often put through guitar amps to create a richer sound than can be obtained by patching the direct-outs right into the PA system. Guitar amplifiers can add tonal coloration, roll off unwanted high frequencies, and add overdrive or distortion. Deep Purple's Jon Lord played his Hammond Organ through a distorted Marshall amp to create a sound more suitable for heavy rock. String instruments and vocals are also put through guitar amps to add distortion effects. Some blues harp players also use guitar or bass amps to create a warmer overdrive sound for their harmonica playing; 1950s-style "tweed" amps are often used for this purpose, such as Fender Bassman combo amps.

Recording engineers occasionally run pre-recorded parts through miked guitar amps, a process called re-amping. When a guitar part is recorded "dry" (e.g., without effects or distortion), straight into the mixing board for a recording, this gives the producer and mixing engineer much more flexibility to create new re-mixes or new tones from the recording. If a guitar player records an electric guitar part that is run through a chorus pedal and a distortion pedal, there is little that can be done at the "mix-down" stage to change the sound of this recording, beyond "tweaking" the equalization and modifying the level. Since re-mixing or mixdown can take place weeks, months, or even years after the original recording session, it may be impossible to have the guitarist come in to re-record a new part.

If the dry guitar sound is recorded, though, the mixing engineers can add any effects they want to the signal and then re-play it through a miked guitar amplifier which is being recorded. The effects, amplifiers, cabinets, and miking processes can be changed to any combination. When a dry guitar has been recorded, it can be a useful tool for "updating" an older recording. For example, if a band wants to re-release a 1980s-era album on which the guitar has a very dated 1980s sound, with heavy flanging and artificial-sounding electronic distortion, the band can update the guitar sound by re-amping the dry signal and using 2000s-era effects.

Mixing guitar amp signals with other signals is also done by some musicians. Chris Squire of Yes produced his bass guitar sound by playing through a guitar amplifier with its bass turned down, treble turned up, and volume turned up well into distortion; the miked guitar speaker signal was then mixed with a direct-input (DI) signal, a technique that has been used for processing synth keyboards as well. A bass guitar can also be played through a bass amp in parallel with a distorted guitar amp by using a DI box; the bass amp provides the low frequencies, while the guitar amp – which is not capable of reproducing the lowest frequencies of the bass guitar– emphasizes the upper harmonics of the instrument's tone.

See also


  1. ^ Note: This style of amplifiers should not be confused with the brand of guitar and bass amplifiers called Acoustic, still available in second-hand music stores.)
  2. ^ Golijan, Rosa (22 September 2010). "The Concert Speakers Are A Lie". Gizmodo. Retrieved 16 January 2011. 

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