Guitarists and bassists often face the choice between a dedicated amplifier head and a combo amplifier, each offering its unique advantages and tonal characteristics. But did you know that you can harness the versatility of both options by using a combo amp as a head? In this article, we’ll explore the practical benefits, considerations, and techniques for using a combo amp as a head, allowing you to expand your sonic horizons without investing in a separate amplifier head.
Understanding the Combo Amp
A combo amplifier, as the name suggests, combines both the amplifier head and the speaker(s) into a single enclosure. Traditionally, combo amps are known for their simplicity and all-in-one design, making them convenient for gigging and practice.
Using a Combo Amp as a Head: Benefits and Considerations
- Tonal Flexibility: One of the primary benefits of using a combo amp as a head is the ability to leverage the amplifier’s unique tonal characteristics while connecting it to external cabinets for added versatility. This flexibility allows you to shape your sound to suit different musical styles and performance environments.
- Cost-Efficiency: If you already own a combo amplifier, repurposing it as a head can be a cost-effective way to expand your rig’s capabilities. You won’t need to invest in a separate amplifier head, which can save you money.
- Portability: When using a combo amp as a head, you can enjoy the convenience of a compact and portable setup, ideal for smaller gigs, practice sessions, or jamming with friends. You can transport your combo amp and external cabinet separately, reducing the overall weight and size.
- Consistent Tone: Since the combo amp’s amplifier section remains unchanged, you can maintain the consistent tonal qualities you love while experiencing the enhanced projection and dynamics of an external cabinet.
- Speaker Matching: When choosing an external cabinet, you have the flexibility to select one that complements the combo amp’s built-in speaker. This matching can lead to a more balanced and harmonious overall tone.
Steps to Use a Combo Amp as a Head
- Select the Combo Amp: Choose a combo amp that you already own or one that suits your tonal preferences. Ensure that it has an external speaker output, often labeled as “external speaker” or “extension speaker.”
- Choose an External Cabinet: Pick an external speaker cabinet that complements your combo amp’s built-in speaker and enhances your desired sound. Consider factors such as speaker size, type, and impedance matching to ensure compatibility.
- Connect the Combo Amp to the Cabinet: Use a speaker cable to connect the external speaker output on your combo amp to the input on the external cabinet. Ensure that both the combo amp and the cabinet are powered off before making any connections.
- Set Up and Adjust: Power on your combo amp and external cabinet, and set the combo amp’s internal speaker to “off” or “mute” mode if applicable. Adjust the volume and tone settings on both the combo amp and the external cabinet to achieve your desired sound.
- Experiment and Fine-Tune: Experiment with different settings on your combo amp and external cabinet to find the perfect balance of tone, volume, and projection. Be sure to fine-tune your sound during rehearsals or soundchecks to ensure it works well in a live performance setting.
Using a combo amp as a head is a practical way to expand your tonal options and enjoy the best of both worlds: the simplicity of a combo amplifier and the versatility of external cabinets. By repurposing your existing gear and following these steps, you can unlock a world of tonal possibilities and adapt your rig to various musical contexts, ultimately enhancing your guitar or bass playing experience.