When and why would I need a pre-amp? Also, when and why would I need a cabinet? I know absolutely NOTHING about when I might need this stuff and I don't know how to use it.
what amp do you use now????
the preamp is the one that gives you your sound......
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If you have a combo amp, like you said in a previous post, you don't need these things. A pre-amp is already in amps and active guitar pickups (correct?) to amplify the weak signal from the guitar. A cabinet is the speaker and it's casing, the wood.
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Pre-amp is exactly what it's called; any processes or effects your signal goes through before reaching your amp. Combos have pre-amps already built in to them, but you can also buy effects pedals or rack-mounted modules to give your guitar more sounds.
You need a preamp to give you gain and shape your tone. Thats why if you run your guitar straight to the FX return, it has a warm, clean tone: theres not EQing happening and no gain. The cabinet has speakers. Without it, you get no sound unless you have a combo. And you only need a separate preamp if you use a rack poweramp.
if you have a combo amp or head, you have both a pre-amp AND power amp already

in simple terms, the pre-amp is what "makes" or "sculpts" the sound, the power amp is what makes that signal powerful enough to drive the speaker in the combo, or a seperate speaker cabinet

the signal path goes guitar>pre amp>power amp>speaker(s)

now, you can buy seperate pre-amps and power amps, of which there are thousands of different kinds...and example would be buying a mesa/boogie triaxis preamp, and pairing with a mesa/boogie 2:90 power amp, but it would still go guitar>preamp>power amp> speaker(s)
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Amps are made up of a Preamp and a Power amp. (and speakers if a combo)

Preamp is where the signal processing is added. Distortion, EQ, Onboard Effects are all added here. It then sends the signal to your Power amp, which amplifies it ( ) and makes it loud enough to drive the speakers.

Cabinets are used in conjunction with Heads - Heads are a preamp and power amp stuck together in one box for convenience. However it is also possible to purchase preamps and power amps seperately - mostly in rack form - which allows the user to combine two brands and create unique and original tones, for example I could buy a Mesa preamp and have it going into a Marshall Power amp. Using this setup I would get the American voicing and signal processing from the preamp circuitry, but also a British flavour from the Marshall (British sounding) power amp.

It's also worth noting that valve power amps add warmth to the signal as they make it louder, whereas solid state power amps are designed (generally) to amplify the signal without colouring it at all.
Last edited by bartdevil_metal at Feb 14, 2009,