Keyboard amplifier

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A small keyboard amp capable of mixing the inputs from two keyboards. This amplifier would be suitable for at-home practice, but it would not be loud enough for a rehearsal or live performance.

A keyboard amplifier, used for the stage piano, synthesizer, clonewheel organs and similar instruments, is distinct from other types of amplification systems due to the particular challenges associated with keyboards; namely, to provide solid low-frequency sound reproduction and crisp high-frequency sound reproduction with a relatively flat frequency response and low distortion. It is typically a combination amplifier that contains a two, three, or four-channel mixer, a pre-amplifier for each channel, equalization controls, a power amplifier, a speaker, and a horn, all in a single cabinet.

A notable exception to the "low distortion" rule is keyboard amplifiers designed for the Hammond organ or clonewheel organs, such as the vintage Leslie speaker cabinet and modern recreations, which have a tube amplifier which is often turned up to add a warm, "growling" overdrive to the organ sound.

Design[edit]

A US Navy keyboardist playing his Yamaha keyboard through a Roland keyboard amp.

Since keyboards have a very wide range of pitches, keyboard amplifiers have to provide solid low-frequency sound reproduction and crisp high-frequency sound reproduction. This distinction affects the design of the loudspeakers, the speaker cabinet and the preamplifier and amplifier. They usually include tuned bass reflex ports or vents for increased efficiency at low frequencies. Since keyboard amplifiers have to be able to reproduce very high notes, they are often equipped with a horn.

While electric guitar amplifiers are typically designed to modify the tone of the guitar (e.g., by adding distortion and rolling off high frequencies), keyboard amplifiers intended for general use for a range of keyboard applications usually have very low distortion and extended, flat frequency response in both directions. The exception to this rule is keyboard amplifiers designed for the Hammond organ, such as the vintage Leslie speaker cabinet and modern recreations, which have a tube amplifier which is often turned up to add a warm, "growling" overdrive to the organ sound.

Unlike bass amplifiers and electric guitar amplifiers, keyboard amplifiers are rarely used in the "amplifier head" and separate speaker cabinets configuration. Instead, most keyboard amplifiers are "combo" amplifiers that integrate the amplifier, tone controls, and speaker into a single wooden cabinet. Another unusual aspect of keyboard amplifiers is that they are often designed with a "wedge" shape, as used with monitor speakers. This permits them to be used as monitor speakers (with the amplifier in front of the seated keyboardist, aiming up at them) which is more suitable for a seated keyboardist.

Keyboard amplifiers often have an onboard three or four-channel mixer, so that multiple keyboards (e.g., a stage piano, synthesizer, and clonewheel organ) can be plugged into one amplifier and so that keyboardists can control the tone and level of several keyboards. In some genres, such as progressive rock, for example, keyboardists may perform with several synthesizers, electric pianos, and electro-mechanical keyboards. Keyboard amplifiers often have onboard reverb effects.

Most inexpensive to mid-priced amplifiers currently produced are based on semiconductor (solid-state) circuits. Solid-state amplifiers vary in output power, functionality, size, price, and sound quality in a wide range, from practice amplifiers to professional models. The smallest, most inexpensive practice amplifiers may have only two channels with volume controls and one or two tone controls. Home practice amps have from 20 to 30 watts of power, often through an 8" or 10" speaker. Small keyboard amplifiers designed for small band rehearsals have 50 to 75 watts, a 12-inch speaker, and possibly a tweeter. Large keyboard amplifiers designed for shows in large clubs or halls have 200 to 300 watts of power, a 12-inch or 15-inch speaker (or two 12-inch speakers), and a horn-loaded tweeter.

Some keyboard amps may be equipped with a compressor or limiter to protect the speaker from damage when the amplifier is being used at high volume levels. Some keyboard amps have an extension speaker jack, which enables the amp to be connected to a second speaker cabinet.

Use of subwoofer[edit]

Keyboardists who want powerful low end may use a subwoofer cabinet designed for a PA system. Subwoofers can only produce frequencies up to about 150 or 200 Hz, so a subwoofer cabinet must be paired with a full range speaker to obtain the full tonal range of an electric piano or organ. Keyboard players who use subwoofers for on-stage monitoring include electric organ players who use bass pedal keyboards (which go down to a low "C" which is about 33 Hz) and synth bass players who play rumbling sub-bass parts that go as low as 18 Hz. Of all of the keyboard instruments that are amplified onstage, synthesizers can produce some of the lowest pitches, because unlike a traditional electric piano or electric organ, which have as their lowest notes a low "A" and a low "C", respectively, a synth does not have a fixed lowest octave. A synth player can add lower octaves to a patch by pressing an "octave down" button, which can produce pitches that are at the limits of human hearing.

Several concert sound subwoofer manufacturers suggest that their subs can be used for instrument amplification. Meyer Sound suggests that its 650-R2 Concert Series Subwoofer, a 14-cubic-foot (0.40 m3) enclosure with two 18-inch (460 mm) drivers, can be used for bass instrument amplification.[1] While performers who use concert sound subwoofers for onstage monitoring may like the powerful sub-bass sound that they get onstage, sound engineers may find the use of large subwoofers (e.g., two 18″ drivers) for onstage instrument monitoring to be problematic, because it may interfere with the “Front of House” sub-bass sound.

Rotating speakers[edit]

A medley played on a 1935 Model A Hammond organ through a Leslie speaker.

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A simple chord sequence played on a Hammond organ through a Leslie speaker.

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A keyboardist playing a live show with a big Leslie cabinet (visible to his right).
A Leslie speaker in a clear plastic cabinet

The Leslie speaker is a specially constructed amplifier/loudspeaker used to create special audio effects using the Doppler effect by rotating the speakers or a sound-directing duct. Named after its inventor, Donald Leslie, it is particularly associated with the Hammond organ but is used with a variety of instruments as well as vocals. The Hammond/Leslie combination has become an element in many genres of music. The Leslie Speaker and the Hammond Organ brands are currently owned by Suzuki Musical Instrument Corporation. Due to the large size and weight of the Leslie Speaker, some keyboardists use a rotating speaker effect unit instead, and plug the unit into a regular keyboard amp. The most expensive rotating speaker effect units can create a realistic-sounding recreation of the real Leslie speaker system.

Brands[edit]

Peavey[edit]

Peavey's smallest keyboard amp is the KB 1. It has 20 watts, an 8" speaker, and "2 separate channels with a 2-band EQ per channel and a headphone out." [2] This amp would be suitable for in-home practice. The next keyboard amp in the Peavey line is the KB 2. It has one ten-inch speaker "four separate channels, including a mic input on channel 3 and a monitor input on channel 4", a "2-band EQ per channel, headphone out, FX send/return, and balanced XLR out", and it is rated at 40 watts.[3] This amp would be a good model for at-home practice. It could be used for a rehearsal for a quieter genre of music, such as folk. The KB 3 has 60 watts, a "12" speaker with tweeter...[,] 3 separate channels each have 2-band EQ and Channel 1 has mic input." There is also a balanced XLR main out, an effects send/return and a "headphone out with level control."[4] Peavey's KB 4 puts out 75 watts through a 15-inch speaker. The onboard mixer has a "2-band EQ and main effects send/return", the "Mic/Line channel has 3-band EQ and effects send/return plus monitor input with level control and assign, and a headphone out with level control." [5] This amp would be suitable for rehearsal or small venue shows (e.g., a coffeehouse).

Roland[edit]

Roland's smallest keyboard amp is the CM-30 Cube Monitor. It delivers 30 watts through a 6.5-inch speaker and it has "3 input channels, with one XLR mic/line input and 2 additional AUX RCA and stereo mini-phone inputs, making a total of 5 simultaneous inputs possible."[6] i Roland's KC-60 delivers 40 watts through 10" speaker. It has "3 separate channels that include 1/4" line, XLR mic, and aux inputs...[,] channel and headphone outputs plus low and hi EQ."[7] Roland's KC-150 is delivers 65 watts through a 12" speaker and piezo tweeter. It has "4-channel capability, 2-band EQ, XLR mic input, and RCA stereo auxiliary input."[8] Roland's KC-350 delivers 120 watts through a "12" speaker and horn tweeter". It has "4-channel operation, 3-band EQ, XLR mic input, output select switch, and shape switch for quick tonal adjustment."[9] This amp could be used for rehearsals and mid-sized shows. Their KC-550 delivers 180 watts through a 15" speaker and horn tweeter. It has the same channel and EQ features as the KC-350. This is a good amp for larger show venues. The "flagship" of the KC line-up is the KC-880 Stereo Keyboard Amp. It has "5 channels of stereo input (4 stereo channels and stereo aux in), 320 [watts] of power and Roland's popular DSP effects already built in." It has two "12-inch woofers and two horn tweeters".[10] This amplifier could be used for large venue shows such as outdoor concerts.

Yorkville[edit]

The 50 KW has 50 watts of power, a 10" woofer and a 3.75" tweeter. It has "2-channel operation", with "Channel 1 optimized for microphones with an XLR and a 1/4" input" and "Channel 2 optimized for line level and keyboard sources with 2 phone jack inputs and 2 RCA inputs"[11] The 50 KW is wedge-shaped, so it can be used as a monitor for a seated keyboardist. The 200 KB delivers 200 watts through a 15" woofer and a horn tweeter. It is a four-channel amp. Channels 1 and two have an XLR and TRS phone jack. "Channel 3 has a TRS phone jack input", and "Channel 4 has one TRS phone jack and 2 RCA jacks" There are treble and bass tone controls for channels 1 and 2.[12] This amp would be suitable for mid-to large-sized shows.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "650R2 Subwoofer". Meyer Sound Laboratories. Retrieved April 24, 2010. 
  2. ^ "Peavey KB 1 20W 1x8 2-Channel Keyboard Amp". Musician's Friend. Retrieved 2013-05-26. 
  3. ^ http://www.musiciansfriend.com/keyboards-midi/peavey-kb-2-keyboard-amp
  4. ^ "Peavey KB 3 Keyboard Amp". Musician's Friend. Retrieved 2013-05-26. 
  5. ^ "Peavey KB 4 75W 1x15 3-Channel Keyboard Amplifier". Musician's Friend. Retrieved 2013-05-26. 
  6. ^ "Roland CM-30 Cube Monitor". Musician's Friend. Retrieved 2013-05-26. 
  7. ^ "Roland KC-60 Keyboard Amplifier". Musician's Friend. Retrieved 2013-05-26. 
  8. ^ "Roland KC-60 Keyboard Amplifier". Musician's Friend. Retrieved 2013-05-26. 
  9. ^ "Roland KC-350 120W Keyboard Combo Amp". Musician's Friend. Retrieved 2013-05-26. 
  10. ^ "Roland KC-880 Stereo Keyboard Amplifier". Musician's Friend. Retrieved 2013-05-26. 
  11. ^ "Yorkville 50KW 10" 2-Channel Wedge Keyboard Monitor". Musician's Friend. Retrieved 2013-05-26. 
  12. ^ http://www.musiciansfriend.com/keyboards-midi/yorkville-200kb-4-channel-keyboard-amp

See also[edit]