Guitar amps have served us well, because they’re not just amplifiers: the cabinet, preamp, and output stage are all processors that provide a unique tone. However, the world is changing, and now there are modeling multieffects that reproduce not just the tone of one amp, but multiple amps and effects. The versatility they bring to live gigging compared to being locked into one sound is off the hook.

Cerwin-Vega P-Series Although you can feed these multieffects into a conventional guitar amp, that’s adding coloration to something that’s already colored. If your multieffects is emulating the sound of “Guitar Amp A,” and you plug it into “Guitar Amp B,” it’s no longer going to sound like Guitar Amp A. This is why many guitarists are discovering that a flat-response amp, like those used for PA systems, make a great amp for the new generation of modeling-based processors.

Even better, the rise of the “personal PA”—smaller systems designed for coffeehouse gigs, ensembles, presentations, and the like—means that PA systems with the same type of portability as guitar amps (sometimes even more portable) are ideal candidates for amps that suit the new modeling processors like a glove.

The Cerwin-Vega P-Series is a great example of a personal PA series that’s uniquely well-suited to being guitar amps. First, the lineup includes the P-1500X, which offers a 15” driver. This provides the extra bass extension needed for guitar and even bass (remember, a guitar’s lowest note is around 90 Hz). Second, for less demanding bass requirements there’s also the more compact P-1000X, with a 10” driver; or if you play bass and want a lot of low end, you can pair either model with a subwoofer.

However, because these were designed for PA use, tailoring the P-Series for guitar requires some optimizations using the three rear-panel switches. Turning “Enhanced EQ” off gives more midrange articulation, which is desirable for guitar. Also, “Vega Bass Boost” is more for DJ applications and emphasizes frequencies below the guitar’s range; it’s not needed, so turn it off. Turning the “High Pass Filter” switch on reduces the bass frequencies, which makes the system sound more like an open-back guitar amp (I prefer this, because it also “tightens” the sound); switching it to off sounds like a closed-back amp. Just making these three small changes tailors the sound for guitar.

Cerwin-Vega P-Series back switches

There are other advantages to using the P-Series as a guitar amp:

  • It’s designed for pole mounting, so you can get the amp off the floor for better coverage.
  • The dispersion (the ability to spread sound into an environment) is typically better than guitar amps.
  • You can daisy-chain multiple units to increase coverage and power.
  • There are protection circuits and output limiters that keep the sound clean and prevent problems like overheating.

Now that we have the next generation of multieffects based on modeling, it’s good to know we also have the next generation of guitar amps waiting in the wings…even if they’re disguised as PA systems.