How is a Keyboard Amp different from Amps for other instruments?
How is a Keyboard Amp different from Amps meant for Guitar, Bass or any other acoustic instrument?
Learn more so that you get a dedicated amplifier for your digital piano keyboard.
If you already play with other musicians, you would know that bass players only have to think about the root notes they play, the guitar players usually play the chords or melody.
However, if you're keyboard player in a smaller group of musicians, it's quite likely that you are:
playing the bass
even the melody at times.
And, even if you have the skills to play all those, it's also important for the gear to make them sound as well.
That's why you need a keyboard amplifier that is good enough to reproduce the sound across a wide range of octaves.
Choosing a Suitable Amp
In case you play for gigs, you can either be dependent on the PA available at the venue for keyboards (doesn't give you much control) or you could use a good quality keyboard amp that gives you a lot more control over your keyboard's sound when on stage.
Most keyboard players also struggle to hear what they are playing when onstage, that is where some of these amps can actually be quite useful as they also make an excellent personal monitor, while you use its Line Out jack to run your rig into the PA.
When choosing a keyboard amplifier, it's important to select one that is capable of producing shimmery top end, punchy midrange, and thumping bass.
Besides, it also needs transportable and also loud enough to compete with the rest of the musical instruments present on stage.
In case you want a compact, multi-purpose sound system, go in for something that works well with voice, microphones, keyboards, acoustic and electric guitar, drum machines and backing machines, such as CD and DAT players.
You also get amps that are capable of adding effects, and come with additional features such as loop, ground lift, master level, XLR balanced stereo line out, and the capability to drive an external speaker.
Using a Common Amplifier
There are good reasons why a common amplifier is not used for all musical instruments.
Musical instruments have their own qualities and an Amplifier should take that into consideration while amplifying.
So if you were thinking of using a guitar amp or a bass amp for your digital piano-keyboard, just because it is available or if you are getting it cheap, think twice.
Here are some of the unique aspects of different instrument amplifiers, compared to a Keyboard Amp.
The Standard Ones
Guitar amps are supposed to deliver sounds ranging from a clean, warm sound (used in soft rock or country) to a roaring, natural overdrive, especially when the volume is set near maximum.
Another important task for a guitar amp is to reduce the extreme high frequencies (on the treble side) and to reduce the boom (on the bass side).
So these amplifiers have a sharp treble cut-off at around 5 kHz and a bass roll-off at around 60–100 Hz.
For Hard rock and Heavy Metal
For this style of music, you need an aggressive intensity to the guitar sound at higher frequencies, and that too with distortion effects. So, on these amps you will find distortion effects, pre-amp boost controls, and tone filters.
Can you use Guitar Amp for Keyboard?
A keyboard amp usually has a woofer (for bass), a tweeter (for high-frequency sound) and a midrange speaker in one cabinet.
Guitar amps, on the other hand, are designed to cut bass response, boost the midrange, and on the high frequency side don't go much beyond 10kHz.
So if you use a guitar amp for your digital keyboard, your digital keyboard sound will be squeezed into the guitar's frequency range, which is much smaller than a keyboard’s sonic range.
The result will be less clarity and lower volumes.
Again, don't assume a guitar amplifier will do justice to a Bass amplifier. A Bass amplifier differs from regular electric guitar amplifiers in many ways.
A Bass amplifier has extended bass response and tone controls, which is optimised for bass instruments that produce pitches as low as 40 Hz.
The more expensive, high-end bass amplifiers usually include compressor or limiter feature, which is included to eliminate distortion at volumes near maximum.
An Acoustic amplifier is meant for acoustic instruments such as violin, fiddle, mandolin, acoustic guitar, basically instruments use for quiet genres like classical, pop, country, folk and bluegrass.
Like a keyboard amp, these are designed to deliver relatively flat frequency response, without introducing any additional tonal coloration.
What you need is a clean sound here, so the amplifiers have to be powerful to prevent unwanted distortion.
As mentioned earlier, a keyboard amp has to work with a wide frequency range. Hence, it contains a large woofer (for bass notes), a tweeter horn (for high-frequency notes) and a midrange speaker in one cabinet.
A keyboard amplifier can be used with a range of digital, electric and electronic keyboard instruments, such as synthesizers, Hammond organ-style keyboards, digital stage pianos and electric/digital pianos.
These amplifiers have very low distortion and give extended, flat frequency response for both, bass and treble clef notes.
Note: If you need a keyboard amp for Hammond organ, you may need to go in for one that is specifically made for Hammond organ, since these amps will need to add a warm, roaring overdrive to the organ sound.
For certain genres of music, such as progressive rock, keyboardists love to perform with several synthesizers, electric pianos, and electro-mechanical keyboards.
For such reason, certain keyboard amplifiers come with a simple onboard mixer with multiple inputs, so that keyboardist players can control the tone and level of several digital piano-keyboards using this keyboard amp.
So here are the important features:
Keyboard amps are a great way to make your sound stand apart, when you're sharing the stage with a large ensemble
It's a must-have for solo gigs in makeshift venues that lack a decent sound system
They can also make an excellent personal monitor when onstage
Most also have the ability to add various stereo effects (presets)
They also include a dedicated multi-band EQ for sound shaping.
Most of these are suitable for keyboards, voice, mics, drum machines and backing machines (CD and DAT players)
Separate headphone output is usually provided silent practice.
you can also connect a CD player to the amp and play along.
Here's a video demo of a Keyboard amplifier:
In certain cases, when you connect a microphone to the XLR input of a keyboard amp, you might experience feedback (On some amps, when feedback occurs, you can see LEDs light up).
To reduce/eliminate that, you need to place your equipment in the right manner:
The easiest thing to do is to turn the amps away from your mic. Make sure they are as far away from the mics as possible.
Don't point the speakers at the pickup of the mic.
When using the amp's equalizer, avoid excessive boosts. So try to cut, rather than boost the frequencies.
To increase the volume, it's better to reduce the volume (on your synth or piano) and to turn up the channel or the master volume up.
There are many occasion where, if you're playing in a band, you could experience that your keyboard gets cut out (no sound produced) all of a sudden.
Now there could be a couple of reasons for that:
If you are adjacent to a guitarist (using his/her own amp and at louder levels) then you might get the impression that there's no no sound coming out of your amp. Though it might not be the case, it's best to move away from the guitarist's amp (to make sure there's no interference from the other amplifier).
If the problem still persists (even after moving away), then in most probability, your amp could have gone faulty.
Choosing the Right Specs
You need to choose an equipment with the specs and something that'll suit your requirements.
So for instance, if you have an amp with a smaller mid-range speaker (and is a 1-way audio system), then it'll work best with a single audio source - be it vocals, an instrument or a CD player, to get the best possible midrange.
So if you plan to connect a CD player, another instrument and use the XLR channel to sing, then the results may not be the best.
As soon as you start playing multiple audio sources through it, because it's not a 3-way audio system, you'll start noticing the problems. The sources will start "competing" for volume, with the loudest source suppressing the quieter sources. The problem becomes even more pronounced if you turn up the volume.
That's why you should upgrade to a product with better specs.
Mystery of Wattage
As far as the wattage goes, you need to understand that most of the time it's a marketing gimmick. Most manufacturers just use different terms to give an impression that the product has a higher power rating, whereas in reality it's not exactly true.
So for example, if an amplifier has four 75W channels, most salesmen will market it as 300W of power(4 x 75W = 300W). Though mathematically it may sound right, it really won't sound like 300 watts.
The important thing that you should note is that a single channel equals 75W of power. If you're going to use just one channel (for playing the piano), and play with other musicians in a band, you're only going to get 75W.
Having said that, a keyboard amp with 300W (75W per channel) will always be powerful compared to a 180W (45W per channel), and also more expensive.
Another good thing about amplifiers is that you can always chain them up for more power.
So you can have a couple of workable scenarios if you nee dmore power:
You connect your Synth/Keyboard to a keyboard amplifier and then connect an additional amp to it using a cable.
Connect your instrument to any other amplifier with a line out, and connect a keyboard amplifier to that, as additional source of power.
All About Cost
Upgrading to a better product will cost more, but then you have to pay for a better quality.
The reliability of a product is usually associated with the cost of the equipment. In case you buy a really cheap product, you need to bear in mind that you may have to start your search all over again, and buy another one, in a few years time.
When you compare brands such as Behringer and Roland, you'll notice that most Behringer amps are cheaper compared to Roland.
So does that mean Roland is a better product?
Well, they do have a better brand name, their amps are rock sturdy (suited for gigs), and they have been making amps for quite some time now.
Behringer on the other hand, is more into controllers and audio equipment. Besides, they are better at "reverse engineering". They don't do lot of research and development; they just breakdown the equipment of other manufacturers to understand the basics, and then put it together under a different name. That's one of the reasons their products are cheaper.
Now, that's not a bad thing for you as a customer, because you still get comparatively better quality products at affordable prices.