row of different guitar and keyboard amplifiers

What Is the Difference Between a Keyboard Amplifier and a Guitar Amplifier?

Wondering if you can use your guitar amp with your keyboard? Why should you buy a separate amp for your keyboard? These are the questions that plague the mind of every beginner. They often find themselves wondering what exactly is the difference between the two.

If given the choice, it can be quite difficult to decide which one to buy. Although keyboard amps can be used with a wide variety of instruments, they still fall short in some cases. On the other hand, if you use a guitar amp for a keyboard, you run the risk of distorting the sound.

What Are Keyboard Amps?

Simply put, keyboard amps are regular amps that you can use to amplify the sound of your keyboard. They reproduce crisp and accurate sounds with as little distortion as possible. They are especially helpful when you play in a band as they help you boost your sound.

The basic design of these amps includes a loudspeaker and an electronic amplifier, integrated into a cabinet. They often include a 3-4 channel mixer which allows multiple keyboards to play at the same time.

As a result, you’ll find that you can control the tone of several different keyboards at the same time. This is especially true for the progressive rock genre where you may need numerous synths, electric, and semi-electric keyboards.

Most of these amps use a semiconductor circuit to produce the amplification effect. These amps often vary in size, quality, and output power. The cheaper and mid-ranged ones can be used for smaller venues and practicing, while the larger ones can be used for spacious venues.

Most practice amps produce about 20-30 Watts of power and use a 10-inch speaker to produce the sound. Mid-priced amps may produce about 50 to 75 Watts of power and include a 12-inch speaker. Lastly, larger amps that you use at clubs and ballrooms may use a 15-inch speaker and produce 300 Watts of power.

What Are Guitar Amps?

A guitar amplifier, on the other hand, is an electronic device that boosts up the signal from any kind of guitar such as electric, bass, and acoustic guitar. You can find them in either of two ways, a single power amplifier or an amplifier with a speaker.

The single amplifier circuit version requires you to use a separate speaker cabinet while the combo amplifier is the perfect portable unit that contains both.

Typically, there is a wide range of sizes available for these amplifiers. From 6-inch speakers for beginners to big combo amplifiers for professionals, you can find your perfect match.

The Major Differences

The major differences between a guitar amplifier and a keyboard one are:

  1. Keyboard amps face challenges with amplification. For one, you need your amp to reproduce sturdy low-frequency sounds for deep basslines. On the other hand, you also need to reproduce the crisp high-frequency notes accurately.This is due to the fact that the keyboard includes a wide range of frequency response from very deep bass notes to very high treble ones. For this purpose, the keyboard amps include bass reflex ports to allow for accurate low-frequency response and a tweeter for the high-frequency ones.  The sound a guitar amp produces is designed for a specific range of frequencies for the guitar. It doesn’t work outside this frequency. 
  1. Keyboard amps are generally for low distortion so that the sound is as accurate as possible. Guitar and bass amps often modify the frequency range and add distortion to the sound. They tend to roll off on frequencies that are very high. In other words, guitar amps purify the sound of the guitar and add coloration to it, whilst keyboard amps simply reproduce the input signals.
  1. Most guitar and bass amps are single units, often needing a separate speaker. The keyboard amps are almost always combo ones. These integrate the speaker, the amplifier circuit and controls all in a single package.
  1. They have different inputs. A guitar amp usually only includes a single input while you can use a keyboard amp with a number of different inputs. This way you can play multiple keyboards with the same amplifier or plug in your microphone as well.
  1. Some keyboard amps use a compressor to protect the speaker circuits from any damage from high volumes.

An Alternative Solution?

A PA speaker with onboard EQ controls can often double as a keyboard amp. This is because these speakers also provide a wide range of frequency response. It can be a viable alternative to a keyboard amp in various situations. For instance, you can use it if you’re performing solo and want to amplify your vocals as well.

That being said, Keyboard amps tend to be more portable. They effectively reduce the size of equipment on stage and allow you to connect multiple instruments through multiple channels.  Also, you can control your own stage tone and volume, ensuring the best sounds possible.

Another huge advantage of the amp over the other options is that there is no need to separately monitor your sounds.

Parting Notes

While a guitar amp may help you boost up the sound over a specified frequency range, a keyboard amp has the ability to cover different instruments. Whether it’s the electronic drums, piano or samples, a keyboard amp will reproduce accurate sounds with low distortion.

Moreover, the multiple channel inputs mean you can connect numerous instruments at the same time. This tends to save you money and space. On the other hand, a guitar amp is specifically for amplifying the guitar’s sounds only. It modifies the sound while only offering a single input.

Your choice depends on the type of function you require. Whatever you choose, ensure it has the correct Wattage and size according to your venue.

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