Instrument amplifier

An instrument amplifier is an electronic device that converts the often barely audible or purely electronic signal of a musical instrument into a larger electronic signal to feed to a loudspeaker. An instrument amplifier is used with musical instruments such as an electric guitar, an electric bass, electric organ, synthesizers and drum machine to convert the signal from the pickup (with guitars and other string instruments and some keyboards) or other sound source (e.g, a synthesizer's signal) into an electronic signal that has enough power, due to being routed through a power amplifier, capable of driving one or more loudspeaker that can be heard by the performers and audience.

Combination ("combo") amplifiers include a preamplifier, a power amplifier, tone controls, and one or more speakers in a cabinet, a housing or box usually made of hardwood, plywood or particleboard (or, less commonly, moulded plastic). Instrument amplifiers for some instruments are also available without an internal speaker; these amplifiers, called heads, must plug into one or more external speaker cabinets. Instrument amplifiers also have features that let the performer modify the signal's tone, such as changing the equalization (adjusting bass and treble tone) or adding electronic effects such as intentional distortion/overdrive, reverb or chorus effect.

A Fender "combo" amplifier. The combination amplifier is a preamplifier, power amplifier and tone controls and one or more loudspeakers or drivers mounted in a portable wooden cabinet. This amp's sound is being picked up with a microphone in a recording studio.

Instrument amplifiers are available for specific instruments, including the electric guitar, electric bass, electric/electronic keyboards, and acoustic instruments such as the mandolin and banjo. Some amplifiers are designed for specific styles of music, such as the "traditional"-style "tweed" guitar amplifiers, such as the Fender Bassman used by blues and country music musicians, and the Marshall amplifiers used by hard rock and heavy metal bands.

Unlike home "hi-fi" amplifiers or public address systems, which are designed to accurately reproduce the source sound signals with as little harmonic distortion as possible and without changing the tone or equalization (at least not unless the hi-fi owner adjusts it themselves with a graphic equalizer), instrument amplifiers are often designed to add additional tonal coloration to the original signal, emphasize (or de-emphasize) certain frequencies (most electric guitar amps roll off the very high frequencies), and, in the case of guitar amplifiers designed for electric guitar or Hammond organ, offer the capability to intentionally add some degree of "overdrive" or distortion to the tone. The two exceptions are keyboard amplifiers designed for use with digital pianos and synthesizers and "acoustic" instrument amplifiers for use with acoustic guitar or fiddle in a folk music setting, which typically aim for a relatively flat frequency response (i.e., no added colouration of the sound) and little or no distortion of the signal.


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