If you are planning to listen to your own playing at a high volume, you are performing for others, or there are multiple instruments involved in a piece of music, you may want to consider using an amp for your keyboard. However, just because it might be wise to use an amp for your keyboard, does this mean that it is necessary? Let’s take a closer look.
You Don’t Need an Amp for Basic Practice and Playing
The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of keyboards come with their own built-in speakers. These built-in speakers usually are not top quality with the loudest and best sound, but they are generally good enough for some at home practice and playing.
High-quality models may come with some pretty impressive onboard speakers. There are some keyboards which do not have built-in speakers, but these are few and far between. For basic needs, no you do not need an amplifier for your keyboard.
When to Consider an Amp for Your Keyboard
If your keyboard does not come with its own built-in speakers (which is usually never the case), you will need to get an amplifier that can play the sounds you are making.
Moreover, if your keyboard has really bad speakers, and you want to pump the volume up so you can hear all individual notes when practicing, you may also want to consider getting an amplifier.
Next, if you plan on performing a solo piece for a small room of people, you will also want to consider getting an amp. Most onboard keyboard speakers just are not very loud or powerful.
On that same note, when playing in a band with other instruments, particularly if there is more than a single keyboard, you will want an amp. Without amplifiers, multiple keyboards will drown each other out.
What Kind of Amp to Get?
An important thing to know is that there are many different kinds of amps out there; there are special keyboard amps, guitar amps, bass guitar amps, etc. For a keyboard, you want to choose a keyboard amp, although this is not to say that other options may not work.
Keyboard amps tend to be the most convenient, as they are small, portable, and generally not overly expensive. You can choose to go for a low-end keyboard amp, which will let you control volume, treble, bass, and other such basics.
You can also choose to go with a higher-end option, which comes with all of those same features, plus has better and more individualized equalization controls, as well as higher power output and volume. The better and louder your performance needs to sound, the larger and higher quality the amp needs to be.
Keep in mind that keyboard amps usually come with the amp and the speaker in one small cabinet, an all-in-one package. However, many choose to use a normal amp combined with a non-powered speaker as well, although setting this up will take some more time and equipment.
Connecting a Keyboard Amp to Your Keyboard
Most electric keyboards will come with a simple L/Mono line output, which is used to connect to mono speakers and amps.
Most basic keyboard amps are mono, not stereo, so this should work fine. We would recommend going with a mono amp, as this should help make things a bit easier.
All you will need to do is to get a ¼ inch male to ¼ inch male instrument cable. Plug one end into the L/Mono output of the keyboard, and the other end to the mono input on the amp.
Can You Use Guitar Amp For Keyboard?
Technically speaking, as long as all of the inputs and outputs on the keyboard and the amp match up, there is no reason why you cannot use a powered guitar amp or speaker for your keyboard. For instance, if your keyboard has a mono output, and the guitar amp has a mono input, technically you can connect them together.
However, just because most keyboards can physically connect to guitar amps, this does not mean that they are ideal for the job. Guitar amps are built for guitars, and usually for a specific kind of guitar, such as a basic rhythm guitar or a bass guitar. They aren’t designed to handle keyboards.
Guitar Amps vs. Keyboard Amps – The Differences
Although connecting a keyboard to a guitar amp is usually possible, it’s generally not an ideal match. Let’s take a look at the differences between keyboard amps and guitar amps, and why keyboard amps are the much better option for keyboards.
Guitar amps often come in two pieces, the amp and a nonpowered speaker. This means requiring two chunky boxes to produce sounds; this is not always the case, but still a normal occurrence. On the other hand, most keyboard amps are powered, and they come with the speaker built in. In other words, keyboard amps tend to be an all-in-one package with all components contained in a single small cabinet.
Keyboard amps tend to be much more versatile in terms of inputs than basic guitar amps which usually have only a single input for a single guitar. On the other hand, a decent keyboard amp may come with 3 or 4 inputs, which means being able to connect multiple keyboards or microphones to the same amp.
Guitar amps tend to add a good deal of distortion to the sounds they play. While this is fine for playing the guitar, but it’s not fine for playing keyboard. When playing keyboard, you want there to be as little distortion as possible, which is what you will get with a keyboard amp, not a guitar amp.
Guitar amps are designed to work with specific frequencies, which is why there are guitar amps designed for bass guitars and low frequencies, and normal guitar amps designed for the higher frequencies. They don’t have the ability to accurately recreate the very low and very high frequencies which keyboards play.
While technically possible to use a guitar amp for a keyboard, it is not recommended. Get a good little keyboard amp. It’s the best option to go with.
Can You Use Bass Amp For Keyboard?
Yes, it is possible to use a bass amp to play your keyboard. The bass amp should however meet a number of conditions in order to be ideal for use with a keyboard.
It should be an all-in-one powered amp and speaker. This means that the amp and the speaker are both contained in a single cabinet. Some guitar and bass amps come with just the amp, and then need to be connected to a separate speaker. This is not ideal for keyboard playing, especially for basic at home use.
You should make sure that you have a full-range bass amp. Basic bass amps are really designed to play the low frequencies, those deep sounds which bass guitars make. These won’t be able to accurately recreate the mid-range and high frequencies which keyboards can make. Therefore, you need a full range bass amp with the ability to accurately recreate all sound frequencies.
The bass amp should have a simple mono input line. Basic keyboards may only have basic mono jacks, such as ¼ inch stereo jacks. Bass amps also usually only have a single input line for a single instrument. You need to make sure that the keyboard and the amp are compatible with each other.
Some Problems You Might Have
So, while it is technically possible to use a bass amp for a keyboard, and while the bass amp is the better option when compared to a normal guitar amp, both are still not as ideal as real keyboard amps. There are a few issues which you may have when attempting to use a bass amp with a keyboard.
Even high-quality full range bass amps are only so good at recreating the higher frequencies. While they may be able to perform decently in this regard, they still won’t perform like a real keyboard amp.
Bass amps often add some distortion to the mix. This is perfectly fine when playing the bass. However, for keyboards, you need very accurate and distortion-free sound recreation across the board. You will achieve the best sound quality with a keyboard amp.
With a bass amp, you can usually connect only a single input, but real keyboard amps often allow for multiple inputs, or in other words, multiple keyboards and/or microphones.
As is usually the case, equipment which is specifically designed to work with each other is always recommended. While using your bass amp for a keyboard is possible, it won’t be able to perform as well as a real keyboard amp.
For basic needs and for at-home practicing, as long as your keyboard has built-in speakers, you won’t need an amp. However, when it comes to playing for crowds, playing clear music at high volumes, and when playing with multiple keyboards at once, an amplifier will definitely come in handy.