The advent of the keyboard meant a revolution in the amplification industry. Until keyboard amps came into demand, the main amplification process in music was through various guitar amps.
However, piano players who were interested in incorporating a larger sound through the electronic keyboard soon realized that using amps designed for guitar simply did not work, for several reasons:
- The keyboard has a significantly larger range than the guitar. The keyboard emulates the piano, in its most basic incarnation, and so must be able to produce the whole range of notes that a piano can.
- Keyboard range is further extended through the use of different effects, anything from sound effects to the duplication of sounds from other types of instruments.
- In order to effectively reproduce the sound of the keyboard, a lot more power is needed than can be gained through a guitar amp.
- Keyboard players often use more than one keyboard in a performance, in order to produce a range of sounds and effects. Most amps designed for keyboards will have the capacity to hook up to several different instruments.
In order to fulfill these needs, the keyboard amp was invented. These amps often look like those used by guitar players, but have a wider frequency response. This response is due to the fact that the amps use more power and have more robust speakers than guitar amps (the cabinet of a keyboard amp will contain at least three types of speaker, in order to reproduce sounds from across the spectrum).
The makeup of a keyboard amp
Like other types of amp, keyboards use systems with two main components, the head and the cabinet. The head houses the electronic workings, while the cabinet houses the speakers.
In the Head
Preamp The preamp receives the signal from the instrument and manipulates it to the desired sound.
- Power Amp The power amp drives the sound out through the speakers.
In the Cabinet
The cabinet is the area in which a keyboard amp is most likely to contain equipment that a guitar amp will not. Speakers contained in keyboard amps are more varied, as they need to be able to produce a wide range of tones.
- Tweeters will produce the higher frequencies found both in the notes of the piano and among the other instruments that the keyboard can imitate.
- Woofers will help produce notes in the lower ranges.
- Mid-range are the speakers typically found in guitar amps. They are used to produce the sounds most often heard by the human ear.
Many keyboard amps will have a combination of speakers housed within their cabinet, often depending on the experienced musician’s desired sound. While many can be purchased as one unit, most dedicated keyboardists will find that they prefer to purchase the components separately and put them together.
For many, this will include not only the speakers but also the electrical components of the amp such as power amps.