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Your Amplifier Salesman Is Lying to You

  08/03/10 03:12, by , Categories: Edward Lapple , Tags: a440, amp, amplifier, lee de forest, sine wave
Edward Lapple

When the friendly man in the music store smiles reassuringly at you and says the 1000-watt, 8-speaker monster stack that you are about to finance is the hottest amp in the world, Watch It! He’s Lying. When your session bud tells you his ‘57 Tweed Twin is the mellowest amp that there is, he’s lying.

It’s a huge conspiracy perpetuated by the mavens from the very top boardrooms. But here, we speak the truth and the truth is, Amplifiers…. don’t. That’s right, Virginia, there is no such thing as an amplifier. So, the question is, who really understands audio power? The musician seeking an amp or a whacked-out Star Fleet Hollow Deck Junkie mesmerized by the Replicator….  Probably, the Hollow Deck Junkie.

Amps do not amplify. They reproduce, and without a nine-month wait; they are better than bunnies, they do it at the speed of light, or Warp One, Mr. Stupid.

For years we have been deceived by the lie that amplifiers, well… amplify. I think that you are ready to receive the real deal, that arcane knowledge. Forget that Mr. Nicholson spent the day with a few good men and admonished them saying, “You can’t handle the truth.” Yes you can.

Amplifiers do not amplify. They never have and they never will. If you could invent a true amplifier you would have a perpetual motion machine, mixed into the fountain of youth and then poured over a pile of magic beans. It ain’t happening!

Your amp does not amplify, it replicates. You start with a tiny signal generated by the strings on your guitar vibrating over a magnetic pick up. Now this is close to real magic. Your plucking of the strings creates a minute disturbance in a magnetic field and a miniscule varying voltage is created. By miniscule, I mean small, maybe 1/45th of the power required to energize your pocket flashlight. See what I mean by magic?

So how can you amplify your musical musing, in such a manner that the posse sitting in row ZZ Nosebleed, at the rear of the stadium can “Rock Out” to it?  The fact is that you can’t. But you can get there from here. Let me explain.

There is NO electronic amplification. What we do have is replication. We replicated that 100-millivolt signal, produced by your guitar, with a much larger clone. A clone of maybe 50,000 watts. We create a circuit with a mass of power flowing through it. We plug it into the wall and thousands of watts, direct from Hoover Dam or your friendly neighborhood nuke plant, course through the cables. Then we send your measly 100-millivolt signal into the device and that device, colloquially called an “Amplifier,” shapes the river of power into an exact copy of our guitar’s signal. Well, almost exact, these clones are never perfect, but that’s another article.

The father of these clones is a man named Lee De Forest, who, in 1906, invented the triode tube. From De Forest’s triode tube sprang radio, television, transistors and the computer. Also the deceptive misnomer, amplifier.


We will now skip the humor for one paragraph and learn a little theory. This won’t hurt a bit. Your guitar produces a sinusoidal or “sine” wave. It’s more complex than that, but we don’t care at the moment. Take a look at the illustration. That’s “A” 440, the “A” below middle “C", the “A” string on your guitar, and it vibrates at 440 times per second. It doesn’t matter if its amplitude is large or small, 440 vibrations per second is “A". Mr. De Forest’s device allows us to combine a large electrical current flow with our puny “A” 440 guitar signal and it molds a giant “A” 440 COPY.

An analogy of what our “amplifiers” do would be a photocopy machine. You put your original in, push the 200% button and then press Copy. Bingo, you now have a copy that is twice as large as your original. Please note here that your original did not grow, it was not amplified, but the copy is twice as large. Our musical electronic copying machines, or amplifiers, if you must, are much more powerful than the photocopier. They take a 100-millivolt signal, which is about a millionth of a watt and produce a 50,000-watt copy. The equivalent photocopy would be 50,000,000,000% larger than the original.

Just remember that there is no free lunch. An architect can’t take a model of a shopping center and say “Poof” and there’s an instant mega-mall, and you can’t really amplify a signal. You have to bring in the power to create it. However, you just might want to continue using the term “amplifier.” Just imagine telling your roadie that there was a problem, onstage, with your copier.

So, how can you apply your newfound knowledge? The fact is that you can’t. It doesn’t matter if you call it replicate, amplify or Christmas, the results are the same. Think of reading this article as an enjoyable Sunday drive. You buy a little fuel; see a few sites and then wind up at home. Yes, an enjoyable Sunday drive, in the Twilight Zone.


This entry was posted by and is filed under Edward Lapple. Tags: a440, amp, amplifier, lee de forest, sine wave


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Comment from: tommy

No sh*t. Funny how things work out.

08/05/10 @ 02:16
Frank Butler

Great article Ed-Now I understand why my Fender Hot Rod Deluxe Copier has such great tone-r.

08/28/10 @ 07:03