Wednesday, November 14th 2018.
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Guitar amps are an important part of sound formation for both electric and acoustic guitars. Acoustic guitars, of course, are capable of creating a good sound without the use of an amplifier system. Many musicians still choose acoustic models with built-in pickups (or attachable pickups) in order to project or change the sound produced by their guitars. Electric guitars are virtually useless without an amplification system.
Types of Guitar Amps
There are basically two types of guitar amps. Each can be found today both second hand and off the assembly line.
Vacuum tube amps are named from their active electrical component. These amps were the only kind available from the 1930s to the mid ‘60s. The construction of the tubes meant that they were hard to transport as well as costly, as they had to be replaced every year. Still, they remain popular for their sound.
Solid state amps came about with the use of semiconductors. These amps did not have to be replaced as often as the vacuum tubes, as the name suggests the insides were packed more tightly and less prone to being shaken loose. They were also much lighter and therefore easier to transport. They also do not require the warm up that tube amps need.
Components of the Amp
A guitar amp has two major sections, the head and the cabinet. The speakers are housed in the cabinet, while the electronic parts are stored in the head. These sections can be purchased together (as a combo amp) or separately.
All parts of the amp are responsible for producing the unique sound of the guitar. Guitar heroes are known for messing around with all parts of their instruments and amplification systems to produce signature sounds. Often, Fender amps or those designed by other companies are abused in ways beyond the designer’s wildest dreams. Often these changes result in companies like Fender designing effects pedals and built in drives on the amplifiers in order to reproduce the sounds, although in some cases, like Eddie Van Halen, no one has been able to copy his choppy sounds.
Parts of the Amp
The preamp is where the signal from the guitar is first sent. This electric device manipulates and distorts the signal to the programmed sound.
The power amp sucks in the air used to drive the sound through the speakers.
The speakers are the output for the sound. There can be several speakers located within the cabinet of the amp.
Perhaps the most well known effect of a guitar amp is distortion. Distortion was not always a part of the amplifier’s makeup, but with the popularity it gained in the ‘70s manufacturers such as Fender began to incorporate distortion dials on their amps, and today there are distortion knobs on almost all guitar amps.
Many musicians will use the same amp for a combination of instruments. It should be noted, though, that there are amps designed specifically to different instruments. Guitar amps will produce a different frequency from keyboard amps, and so forth.