Analogue synths have made quiet an impression over the past few years,
Most mainstream producers like Mike Dean have videos on YouTube showcasing their talent on synths.
Due to the somewhat “comeback” of synths,
me and the team have been experimenting with synth programming more than anything over the past few weeks,
Mainly for sound design purposes.
One of our newer interns asked a question that brought up the title of this article during one of our design sessions.
I thought it would be a good idea to write out a full article about this topic, in order to help out anyone that might have a similar or related question with regards to this.
Or to anyone that might only have a guitar amp to use at this particular ttime.
Or to the skilled producer using a synth with a guitar amp deliberately.
So let’s get into it
Can you plug a synth into a guitar amp?
You can plug a synth into a guitar amp by getting a 1/4 inch jack to a 3.5 mm adapter and then using the line or headphone output if the instrument doesn’t have a 1/4 inch out. Be careful to keep your synth volume moderate because you run the risk of frying your speakers at high volumes.
If you’re a complete beginner I recommend plugging your synth into a mixer rather than a guitar amp.
Never the less, if you’re looking to experiment with sounds and add colour to your synthesizer output, you have the option of running your synthesizer through a guitar amp.
I’d recommend you turn down the synth output down alot because the guitar amp would be expecting instrument level and guitar-like impedance,
So you have to take that into account to avoid any mishaps in the process.
To offer more insight below are ways in which you can record your synthesizer output safely:
Record with your Audio Interface
This is basically the best way you can record your synth if you’re looking for the original sound of the synth without much distortion,
any alteration or noise interference.
Since the connection is direct and doesn’t involve alot of other connections you’re almost guaranteed a clean and original sound.
If you’re using an audio interface that comes with two inputs,
All you pretty much have to do is plug your synth up directly into the interface using the line or instrument inputs.
Make sure to adjust the volume of the synth to an optimal level depending on your synthesizer.
If you’re looking to record a synth this way you better get an interface that has the right inputs and outputs.
Most focusrite audio interfaces can work in this instance and I recommend you get one.
Record with a Pre-amp
Another option you could consider is using a pre amplifier,
Most producers opt for this because of the warmth and the presence in the output of the synth that comes with using a pre amp.
Preamps will certainly differ and each one will add flavours and subtle touches of it’s own,
Therefore you can experiment and figure out what sound you’re looking for and which preamp can properly deliver that intended output.
Keep in mind that while recording with a pre amp might be ideal,
Some pre amps may cause the output signal to lose its original texture and fidelity,
Therefore go for a pre-amp that won’t alter the sound in a negative way, like the ART Tube MP.
Record with a guitar amp
Although this might be tricky and risky to do, there is a work around and I’ll explain how you can safely run and record your synthesizer with a guitar amp.
The first step..
is making sure that your synth volume is turned all the way down before you hook it into the guitar amp because synthesizers output a line-level signal which means its already pre-amplified.
It goes through further amplification when you run it through a guitar amp,
so to account for double amplification you have to turn down the volume of the synthesizer and only start to increase it to reach a suitably audible stage after it’s been plugged into the guitar amp.
You risk blowing your speakers if you don’t follow these instructions.
this is a precautionary measure to avoid damaging your preamp.
Due to the limit in the frequency response of a guitar amp (70Hz to 6kHz),
You’ll want to stay away from heavy synth bass patches as they can easily damage your guitar amplifier.
This is the only catch when it comes to using your synthesizer,
Simply stay away from any bass or bass-ish presets if you want your guitar amp to live through the day.
If you want to play synth basses or bass patches you’re better off running your synth into a keyboard amp because it has a wider frequency response,
Typically, the lowest note on a keyboard A0, is around 27Hz,
Therefore most keyboard amps will have a pretty good frequency response to bass and the like.
Another alternative is simply using a bass amp, to avoid any unnecessary headache,
It will accommodate any low frequencies without posing any threat to the amp.
If you don’t have a keyboard amp or bass amp, you can try to limit the lower frequency response of your guitar amp by reducing the low End of the guitar amp before playing any bass,
This is the least effective option you have.
Let’s now look at the ways in which you can hook your synth into a guitar amp.
There are basically two ways you can achieve this;
The obvious way is to hook your synth directly into the input of the guitar amp,
In order for the synths audio to be sent to the amps gain, and to be further proceeded by the amp.
The second way involves utilizing a guitar pedal,
this is a great way to sort of mess around with the texture of the synths output because you’ll run your synth sounds through a guitar pedal before it is sent to the amp.
therefore you can go for any guitar pedal that works for you in order to change how your synth sounds,
most producers opt for this method of running a synth when they need a new arena of the same sounds to play around with,
since guitar pedals are meant for guitars, they work best with low level signals,
therefore make sure your synth volume is turned all the way down before connecting it to the pedals,
then after connecting your synth to the pedals you can then gradually increase the volume of the synth until it reaches an optimal stage for you.
as I’ve described in the article you now have a general idea about how guitar amps work,
therefore plugging a synth into a guitar amp is very possible and doable so long as;
you don’t play the synth at a high volume while its plugged into a guitar amp,
and also make sure to avoid heavy bass synth presets.