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You’ve practiced for months and are finally ready to showcase your talents to an audience, but with the budget you have, expensive new equipment is completely out of reach. All you have in terms of tech is your trusty guitar amp, so what do you do now?
For any musician, new or experienced, growing your gear collection can be pricy, and sometimes hard to commit to. Before jumping in and making the purchase it’s always great to make use of what you have first or put your money where it offers the most benefit.
Thankfully, if you are sitting with a guitar amp, or need to buy a good all-rounder, guitar amps can be multipurpose. The only trouble is, you need to boost your vocals too, and is it even possible to plug a microphone into a guitar amp?
Can I Plug A Microphone Into A Guitar Amp?
Yes, you can plug a microphone into a guitar amp provided that the amp either has a mic input, or you are using a female XLR to male jack (TS) adaptor. You’ll get the best sound by using a mic preamplifier or a pedalboard with a mic input built-in.
If you want to learn how to hook up your microphone to a guitar amp, what kind of outputs you need and how to get the best quality results, let’s get into it.
Can a guitar amp be used for vocals?
If you’re wanting a straight answer to the question, “Can you use a guitar amp for vocals?” The answer is yes. However, there are a few things to be aware of before you commit to using your guitar amp for vocals long-term.
Firstly, vocals through a guitar amp won’t sound as good as they would if you were using a dedicated vocal PA system, and secondly you can bypass this and get it sounding much better by using an acoustic guitar amp, as these are designed to pick up a more balanced range of frequencies.
If you use an electric guitar amp, these are designed to produce a high-end signal, and if you use a bass guitar amp, these are designed to produce more low-end. Either way, both of these wouldn’t translate vocals very well as they will miss out a lot of important frequencies needed to make your vocals sound good.
How do you hook up a microphone to a guitar amp?
If you’ve decided to hook up your microphone to your guitar amp, and are swamped with thoughts like, “But, how do I connect my microphone to my amp?” then the first step to connecting the two is to make sure your microphone’s output can fit onto your amp input.
Generally, microphones have an XLR output, meaning that they will not fit into a guitar amp without an adapter. Some acoustic guitar amps are designed with both a microphone XLR input and a standard ¼ inch jack for the guitar cable. But if your amp only has ¼ inch jack inputs then you will need to get an XLR to ¼ inch TS adapter or a XLR female to 1/4″ jack cable.
Once you have the right input or adapter, simply plug your microphone into the ¼ inch jack on the guitar amp making sure that the amp is off and the volume knob is low. Next, step away with the microphone and ideally have someone else turn the amp on to avoid nasty feedback. Slowly turn the volume knob up until you are happy, and if possible adjust the EQ on the amp.
Where do you plug a microphone into?
Depending on the amp you are using, you will want to look for either a female XLR input on your amp or use the ¼ inch input that you would normally plug a guitar into with an adapter. The input should be located amongst the knobs and other inputs on your amp.
If you only have the ¼ inch guitar input available, you will need to purchase an XLR to ¼ inch adapter to allow your mic to plug into the amp. These adapters are easy to find and won’t break the bank. Plug the adapter into the amplifier and connect your mic with caution.
Do I need an amp for my microphone?
A microphone transforms sound into a signal but does not produce a sound of its own. Before connecting to an amp, the signal produced is weak and might only be slightly audible when plugged directly into certain equipment. For a microphone to work, you will need an amplifier in order to boost the signal enough to produce audible sound.
What kind of amplifier do I need for a microphone?
Deciding what amplifier to use for your microphone widely depends on your intention for use. If you want to record vocals, for example, you will need a microphone preamp or a good quality audio interface. However, if you want to perform live, a good PA system will do the trick.
In the case that you are just starting out, or don’t want to spend a lot of money upfront, an acoustic guitar amp can sort you out until you want to upgrade. Some amps, like the Fender Acoustic guitar amp, even have built-in microphone inputs to get you on the right track faster.
Can I put a microphone in Aux input?
Generally, microphones are not intended to be plugged directly into an AUX input. Microphones do not have a high enough voltage to produce good quality sound without a microphone preamp, and most microphones require an XLR input to plug in.
However, high impedance, non-balanced microphones can be plugged into an AUX input and produce sound, although expect a weak, noisy signal.
To get the best sounding result when plugging a mic into an aux input, use a mic pre-amplifier like the Rolls MP13 Mini microphone preamp…
Can I put vocals through a bass amp?
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and it is possible to use a bass amp for vocals. The main thing to keep in mind when resorting to using your bass amp for vocals is that bass amps are designed to work very well for low frequencies and not so much for high frequencies.
Vocals tend to have a much higher range of frequencies than guitars in general, so don’t expect the quality to sound amazing. However, if a bass amp is all you have, it will work without damaging your system or needing any additional equipment.
What amps do singers use?
Most singers use PA systems to amplify their vocals as these produce high-quality sound and can be used to plug in other instruments as well. PA systems are generally made up of a mixer, an amplifier, and a set of speakers. They are made for “public address” allowing them to produce high-quality sound for lengthy periods.
For singers on the go, with tighter budgets, there are more portable options available, like the battery-powered Roland Mobile Cube.
Electric guitar amps with mic input
On their own electric guitar amps aren’t always a good choice for boosting vocals due to their high-end frequency production dominance, hence why they don’t come with mic inputs.
However, if you want an affordable electric guitar amp that you can use for vocals too, pair a quality electric guitar amp like the Fender Frontman Guitar Amp, with an XLR to ¼ inch cable adapter so you can plug your mic with an XLR output into the amp. The vocals won’t be as high quality as a PA system, but it will work, be more portable, and save you the hefty investment.
Can you plug a condenser mic into an amp?
Condenser microphones need something called phantom power to power their capacitor, something that guitar amps do not have. Thankfully, there is a way to bypass this, by simply providing your mic with an external power source before plugging it into your amp.
The best way to do this is with a quality preamp with phantom power (48v) built in such as the ART Tube MP Studio Mic Preamp, or a loop station with a mic input like the Boss RC-202 Loopstation, or the Boss RC-500. Either of these options will allow you to plug your condenser mic in, and connect to your guitar amp for quality use of your mic.
ART Tube MP Mic Preamp
Microphone to amp cable
If your amp has a microphone input, you can simply plug the microphone output cable straight into the amp without problems. However, if your amp only has a guitar input, usually a ¼ inch TS input, then you will need to purchase an adapter cable.
The adapter cable you will need is a female XLR input to ¼ inch TS output adapter.
Can you plug a mic and guitar through the same amp?
It is possible to plug both a mic and a guitar into the same amp, provided that the amp is a two-channel amplifier. This means that the amp can have two separate inputs running at the same time.
You can then use one input to plug in your mic, or mic adaptor, to boost guitar and vocals at the same time following all the rules mentioned before to keep your amp and your ears safe. A great middle of the road option is the Fender Acoustasonic 40
Musician life isn’t always a walk in the park, but there are many ways to get around the block without spending a fortune on pro equipment before you need to. Hopefully, this article gave you the much-needed answers you were looking for. Plug in, and get out there!