Amplifiers & Effects
About Amplifiers & Effects
There are many electronic instruments used in modern music, from the electric guitar and bass to keyboards and even orchestral strings such as electric violins and upright basses. Most of these instruments cannot produce sound acoustically - instead, they rely on amplifiers and speakers. Some acoustic instruments can also take advantage of amplifiers, if pickups are built-in or added-on. Amps, as they are often called for short, come in many varieties, all of which are based on one of two platforms: vacuum tubes or solid-state circuitry. Although tubes are older technology, they remain popular due to the warmth they impart to the sound. Solid-state amps, by contrast, produce very clear tone, which makes them well-suited to modeled instruments like keyboards and electronic drums, as well as high-powered setups like those used for the bass.
An amp may be packaged as an all-in-one combo amplifier which contains the electronics and speakers, or as an assembly comprising an amplifier head and one or more speaker cabinets. Typically, combo amps are used for smaller venues or for recording, while "amp stacks" made with heads and cabinets are employed for very large concerts. Most amp manufacturers make models of each type, including popular mainstream marques like Orange, Fender, Marshall and 65amps as well as high-end boutique brands such as Friedman. In some cases, amp builders specialize in specific technologies. For instance, Hughes & Kettner is staunchly devoted to tube amps, while Line 6 is a pioneer in the field of modeling amplifiers: solid-state amps that emulate the tones of other amplifiers, usually hard-to-find vintage units.
Between the instrument and its amplifier, a musician may add effects units to further customize his or her sound. Effects generally come in the form of pedals, and many are considered must-have equipment. For example, overdrive pedals like the venerable Ibanez Tube Screamer are responsible for the signature distortion of rock music. Wah-wah pedals, allow dynamic pitch adjustments and were made famous by artists like Jimi Hendrix. Pedals from mainstream manufacturers such as Boss, Electro-Harmonix and Markbass may be used alongside boutique brands like Catalinbread and Fulltone, and collections of effects are often mounted together on pedalboards to simplify organization. A single pedalboard may include a wide variety of effects, from tuner pedals to compressors and limiters to reverb, chorus and echo pedals and more.