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My son wants an acoustic-electric guitar. The one he picked out has a preamp. I know absolutely nothing about guitars, so does he need a seperate amp if this one has a preamp?

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To answer your question: Yes, he will need a separate amp if he wants to plug the guitar in and amplify the sound.

A preamplifier (preamp) is an electronic amplifier that prepares a small electrical signal for further amplification or processing. The preamp is inside the acoustic-electric guitar (the preamp makes up the electric portion of acoustic-electric guitar) and allows for the acoustic guitar to be plugged into an external amp and make some loud noise.

A preamp looks like this. And an amp looks like this.

Your son can still play the acoustic-electric guitar without an external amp, but the sound will not be amplified. If you are buying him a Fender Acoustic-Electric I recommend buying an external amp similar to one of these:

$ - Fender Acoustasonic 15 1x6" 15-Watt Acoustic Combo

$$ - Fender Acoustasonic 100 Acoustic Guitar Amplifier

$$$- Fender Acoustasonic 150 150W 2x8 Acoustic Guitar Combo Amp

$$$$ - Fender Eric Clapton Signature EC Twinolux 40W 2x12 Hand-Wired Tube Guitar Combo Amp Tweed TWEED

Note: You don't have to buy a Fender amp because you have a Fender guitar, but I personally like to buy the same brand just for compatibility reasons.

Good luck!

EDIT (Thank you JimR for mentioning this): Make sure you check out the Fender Mustang Amps. They are great amps at an affordable price

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I would add one thing to this otherwise excellent answer... Look at the Fender Mustang amps and see if any of them are appropriate for your sons use. The added effects and flexibility (and low price) are pretty good for a beginner and give lots of flexibility. The lack of flexibility for my first guitars and amps almost drove me away from playing since I had the choice of 2 sounds... Acoustic without reverb or acoustic with reverb. :) –  JimR Nov 22 '13 at 4:39
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