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Electric Guitar Amplifier Guitar Amplifiers

Guitar amplifiers have experienced huge strides in technology and capabilities since their introduction in 1933. Current models range from small shelf systems to big stacks with enough power to fill large outdoor venues. However, it is important to understand how they work and what types are available in determining what is suitable for your needs and budget.

What are the main components of guitar amplification systems?

All systems have three basic components: a preamplifier, power amplifier, and speakers. Each of these components is housed together or separately in a chassis. That chassis is typically constructed of wood and covered in a durable tolex, cloth, or fabric. When all components are together in one unit, it is called a combo amplifier.

  • Preamplifier: This section, also called a preamp, receives an electric guitar's signal through the end of a guitar cord. It controls, shapes, and strengthens the signal before it enters the power section. Gain, reverb, and tone controls are commonly found here. The signal may also be run through a series of external guitar pedals as it conducts through this section. However, the signal at this point is weak and still needs a power section to amplify it.
  • Power amplifier: After a guitar's signal is manipulated in the preamplifier section, the power amp adds energy to the shaped signal and sends it to the speakers. Preamplifier and power amps are sometimes housed exclusively together and sold as a "head" unit. An amplifier system's overall power is measured in watts, which is the wattage level of the power amp.
  • Speakers: Consisting of one or more units, speakers convert the guitar's manipulated signal into sound waves that can be heard by the human ear. Speakers, whether in a combo amp or separate cabinet, are carefully matched to handle the wattage and impedance levels of the power amp.
How do you choose between system types?

There are several factors involved in choosing the right system for your needs. However, one of the most significant is determining where it will be used. Small combo or micro head and speaker cabinet systems work great in personal practice, quiet band practice, or recording situations. Some even have a headphone jack for practice in extremely quiet environments. Most of these systems are light, portable, and fall into the 10-50 watt range. However, if you plan to play in larger venues such as concert halls, large clubs, or outdoors, you may want to consider systems with higher wattage ratings, especially if you dont have PA support.

What brands make electric guitar amplification systems?

There are many established brands that make these amps, including Fender, Vox, Gibson, Line 6, Blackstar, Ibanez, Peavey, and others. Fender, Gibson, and Vox are among the oldest. All brands have several specific models, like the Fender Champion, with unique features and designs.

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