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Thomann's Cool Online Guides: Guitar Amps

2. History

Prehistory
(1920-1950)
Early electric guitars were no more than acoustic guitars with primitive magnetic pickups attached. Their goal was simply to create an amplified version of the acoustic guitar sound, but neither the pickups nor available amplification and speaker technology were really up to the job, and even at this time the electrified guitar had a distinctive sound of its own. It was not until the Fifties though that this would begin to be seen as a virtue.

Fifties

The near-simultaneous emergence of Fender and Gibson’s revolutionary solid-body guitar designs necessitated the parallel development of dedicated guitar amps. Both companies entered the market, although Fender’s contribution is far more significant from today’s perspective. At this point, any form of distortion was still seen as undesirable - though a flat and uncoloured sound may have been sought, it was certainly not achieved.

Early Sixties


Along with their choice of guitars, the Beatles’ early career is closely identified with the clean and clear sound of the Vox AC-30 amplifier, and Vox amps were widely adopted by anyone who could afford them. The ever-increasing size and noise of audiences forced bands to turn up as loud as they could, often using several amps chained together. It’s no coincidence that the sonic possibilities of distortion and feedback were first discovered around this time, though only later in the decade would they begin to be exploited fully.


Late Sixties

The ‘throw away the rulebook’ spirit of the Sixties was nowhere more influential than in the recording studio - in this arena The Beatles led and all others soon followed. Early examples of guitar-based sonic creativity include the famous feedback introduction to ‘I Feel Fine’ (’64) and the fuzz bass on ‘Think For Yourself’ (’65). By 1966, The Beatles’ seminal ‘Revolver’ album featured a number of tracks with distortion, and the Stones’ huge hit ‘Satisfaction’ was based around a simple three-note distortion riff. Almost every big hit during the rest of the decade was built on overdrive, from The Lovin’ Spoonful’s ‘Summer In The City’ to Cream’s ‘Sunshine Of Your Love’, and of course most of Jimi Hendrix’s work.

Sixties distortion was achieved either by turning the guitar amp up to full volume – equipped with just a single volume control at the time – or by using a new invention; the ‘fuzz box’. Nowadays, distortion pedals are a commonplace part of every guitarist’s setup, but their novelty in the late Sixties cannot be overstated. The very idea of guitar ‘effects’ was in its infancy, but a few units had a profound impact on the sounds in the charts, including various distortion/fuzz pedals, Hendrix’s wah wah, the Leslie speaker cabinet and various tape-based delay units such as the WEM Copycat.


Early Seventies

The happy accident that led guitarists to discover distortion in the Sixties had one unfortunate side effect - the sound could only be produced at deafening volumes. The fuzz box was one solution to this problem, and amp manufacturers also responded by adding a master volume control to their designs. This enables the preamp section to be cranked up sufficiently to produce distortion, while the power amp volume is reduced to compensate. On most modern amps these controls are labelled ‘gain’ (preamp) and ‘volume’ or ‘master’ (power amp).

Late Seventies– Present

While heavy rock got heavier and heavier from the Seventies to the Nineties, other styles emerged which explored the possibilities of marrying cleaner sounds to the rapidly expanding array of available effects. Many Eighties rock bands including The Police and U2, would have sounded very different without digital delay and chorus. For all but the heaviest of shredders therefore, a versatile amp today, is one capable of producing both clean and overdriven sounds at high volume.
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Terms and Conditions for participation
in online competitions

Note: Participation in an online competition runs independently from any purchase at Thomann GmbH. The following Competition Rules apply when participating in any online competition run by Musikhaus Thomann:

  1. Competition

    1. The competitions are organised by Thomann GmbH, CEO: Hans Thomann, Hans-Thomann-Straße 1, 96138 Burgebrach, Germany.
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      By pressing the "send" button the participant accepts the aforementioned terms and conditions.
    3. The participant is responsible for entering their email and/or postal address correctly. Entries to the competition will be logged electronically.
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Guitar Amps overview

Toontrack Superior Drummer 3 Upgrade Roland SH-01A gray Toontrack Superior Drummer 3 Varytec LED Theater Spot 100 3000K Digitech SDRUM Strummable Drums Boss Katana Mini Fender Standard Telecaster MN BB Kala Spruce Mahagony Sopran Ukulele Arturia KeyLab Essentials 61 Stairville Octagon 20x6W Tourpack 4 Darkglass Alpha Omicron Bass Distortion Arturia KeyLab Essentials 49
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Toontrack Superior Drummer 3 Upgrade

Virtual Drum Production Studio (Download)Upgrade from Toontrack Superior Drummer 2 to Superior Drummer 3 Based on meticulously recorded samples of high quality drums, Recorded in 11.1 Surround by George Massenburg in the Galaxy Studios, Over 230GB...

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Roland SH-01A gray

Roland SH-01A gray, sounds of the classic roland sh-101 synthesizer via acb technology; new unison, chord, and four-voice polyphonic modes expand on the original's sound palette; built-in sequencer with 64 patterns; arpeggiator with 3 playback modes, note hold, 3-way transpose...

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Toontrack Superior Drummer 3

Toontrack Superior Drummer 3 (ESD); virtual drum production studio; extensively produced drum software, based on meticulously recorded samples of high end drums; recorded in 11.1 surround sound at the Galaxy Studios by George Massenburg; over 230 GB of raw, unprocessed...

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Varytec LED Theater Spot 100 3000K

LED Theatre Spotlights With Fresnel lens and 3000K colour temperature, Replaces conventional stepped lens spotlights of the 500 - 650 W class, Adjustable beam angle via manual zoom, Very quiet temperature-controlled fan for quiet operation, Light source: 100 W...

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Digitech SDRUM Strummable Drums

Digitech SDRUM Strummable Drums, drum machine in stomp box format, creates drum patterns based on scatches and strums across muted strings, 5 studio quality drumkit sounds, 12 different hats/rides styles, stores up to 36 differents songs, 3 song parts programmable...

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Boss Katana Mini

Modelling Combo Amplifier for Electric Guitar 3 Basic amplifier types selectable (Brown/Crunch/Clean), Analogue multi-stage gain circuit with 3-Band analogue EQ, Channels: 1, Power: 7 W, Equipped with: 1x 4" speaker, Cabinet construction: Closed, Controls: (Mono): Gain, Volume, Bass, Middle,...

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€98
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Fender Standard Telecaster MN BB

Electric Guitar Mexico, Alder body, Maple neck, Modern "C" neck profile, Fretboard: Maple, 21 Medium jumbo frets, Nut width: 42 mm, Scale: 648 mm (25.5"), Pickup: 2 Standard Tele Single Coil, 3-Way toggle switch, Volume knob and tone knob,...

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€595
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Kala Spruce Mahagony Sopran Ukulele

Kala Spruce Mahagony Soprano Ukulele, Soprano body size, 348 mm scale, overall length 533 mm, Spruce top, Mahogany back and sides, Mahogany neck, 12 nickel silver frets, Black Walnut fingerboard, Black Walnut bridge, chrome, geared machineheads, Aquila Super Nylgut strings,...

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€78
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Arturia KeyLab Essentials 61

USB MIDI Keyboard 61 Velocity-sensitive keys, 8 Velocity dynamic pads with aftertouch, A Clickable encoder, 9 Rotary control, 9 Faders, 13 Keys, Transport section with 4 function buttons, LCD display, Pitchbend and modulation wheel, Chord Play mode, Mackie /...

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€249
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Stairville Octagon 20x6W Tourpack 4

Stairville Octagon Theater 20x6W 4x Tourpack incl. Flightcase, 20x6W CW / WW / A, Complete Tourpack with 4 pieces Stairville Octagon Theater 20x6W in a stable roadcase. Professional LED Theatre Spot with infinitely adjustable colour temperature. The, Octagon Theatre is...

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Darkglass Alpha Omicron Bass Distortion

Effect Pedal for Electric Guitar Provides the distortion and flexibility of the alpha-omega in a smaller format, With the two distortions, it offers the same harmonically rich, various sounds as its big brother, Knobs: Blend - mod - level...

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€269
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Arturia KeyLab Essentials 49

USB MIDI Keyboard 49 Velocity-sensitive keys, 8 Velocity-sensitive pads with aftertouch, 1 clickable encoder, 9 Rotary control, 9 Faders, 13 Buttons, Transport section with 4 function buttons, LCD display, Pitchbend and modulation wheel, Chord Play mode, Mackie / HUI...

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€199
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