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I'm thinking of taking a y cable splitter from my electric guitar to two practice amps. Is that going to work?

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Scoffed does it. Some guitars have two outputs which is an easy win –  scrowler Sep 4 '14 at 22:01

6 Answers 6

I don't think it will work with just a split cable. One complication is ground loops, which cause hum. I'd recommend to use a stereo pedal, or a dedicated AB/Y pedal. You might still get hum, but there are some remedies, like rotating the power plug 180 degrees and plug it in again for one of the amps, using an AB/Y pedal with ground lift, having isolated power for your pedals (e.g. Voodoo Labs), having both amps plugged into the same power outlet etc.

I've tried these things but still have a lot of hum when using two amps, so sometimes there seems to be no cure. But you might get lucky so just try it!

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+1 @Meaningful Username, My experience agrees with your answer. An AB/Y is a better way to go then a passive splitter. As far as hum, I have enough already from my single coil P90s. –  filzilla Sep 4 '14 at 19:57
Make sure both amps are plugged in the same outlet if at all possible. –  greggo Sep 4 '14 at 20:59
@greggo: Yes, good point! I'll incorporate that in my answer. I have this setup, but still get hum, I'm beginning to think I am not supposed to use two amps... –  Meaningful Username Sep 5 '14 at 7:13
@filzilla: Luckily I am in Sweden, where that type of hum is not as bad as in the US. I've got P90's/Tele single coils and they're quite quiet. –  Meaningful Username Sep 5 '14 at 7:31

There may be a 'perfect' solution using a nice little sub-mixer, but frankly, yes, it can be done... & has been done many times over the years.

Relative volumes may depend on the impedance of the inputs on each amp, but the overall sound is up to you to balance up until you like it.

Edit - perhaps very pertinent right now, the new band Royal Blood has the UK No1 album this week with a prime example, 2-man band, drums & bass - I found this thread from before they were even signed, on how he does it - http://basschat.co.uk/topic/223363-royal-blood/

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Yes it is possible. I don't really know if the cable you are referring to will work (I don't see why not) but, what I have seen is people using pedals to do this. There are some pedals that have 2 exits that are the same.

So, you can use that pedal to plug your guitar into two different amps.

This is what El Ten Eleven do. They use a pedal like that (I think it is a delay one) and they plug the bass/guitar to a bass amp and a guitar amp.

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Let me give you the physicist-who-plays-a-bit-of-guitar answer: "yes and no. it depends".

Here is why:

A guitar can have different kinds of pickups, but these have in common that the power in the signal they (the pickups) produce is quite small. Now electrically, power is voltage times current. Some "high impedance" pickups produce a high voltage and little current, while other produce a lower voltage and more current.

Either way, a preamplifier is used to "beef up" the signal and make it capable of being carried around over cables. Cable have "resistance" (which will make the signal weaker) and "capacitance" (which kills higher frequencies).

If you have a high impedance output, you are more sensitive to "capacitance" - so if you split the signal and send it to two amplifiers, you may lose some of the high end of the sound (but you could boost it with a graphic equalizer if you needed). And if you split a signal to two amplifiers, you risk having twice as much cable, and thus twice as much capacitance - meaning more high frequency cutoff. Either way, if your guitar has a preamp built in, then this is not something to worry about.

So as I said - "it depends". Keep the cables short and you will get away with it just fine.

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"each gets only half as much signal as it would otherwise get" erm, no! The amps are in parallel, and their inputs have each a much higher impedance than the pickups. Perhaps it'll sound different if you plug the second amp in (guitar PUs have inductive impedance, so an ohmic load makes for a high-cut), but the overall signal strength won't be much different: it's not that the amp's input power halves, rather the guitar's output power doubles. — The real problem with setting amps parallel, as already said by the other answers, is ground loops. –  leftaroundabout Sep 5 '14 at 0:47
@leftaroundabout - you are right. I was thinking in terms of matched amplifiers and forgot about the impedance mismatch. So there's really just the capacitive loading, and the potential for ground loops. I have edited my answer a bit. –  Floris Sep 5 '14 at 0:59
Impedance matching is just one of many good-practise design aspects that's blatantly neglegted by guitar electronics... though in defence, in the audio range a transmission low-output-impedance to high-input-impedance can actually work very well, just not for the horribly uneven characteristic of an electric guitar. — As for capacitive loading: that is actually a relevant sound aspect, but it's mostly due to the guitar cable! Amps represent a mostly Ohmic load. –  leftaroundabout Sep 5 '14 at 6:51

Yes, but it's good practice to keep both amps on the same electrical circuit (try using the same outlet for both) to avoid hum or even electrocution (usually mild, but dangerous on a wet floor).

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Yes, you can do it with a passive Y-splitter. If there is an increased hum / ground loop problem you can use a direct box for one of them. Plug the guitar into the the DI input, connect amp A to DI through and amp B to DI output, for example. However, there is no guarantee the either amp will sound the same as it does on its own, because the input impedance of both of them coupled together (directly or though the transformer in the DI box) will be different, which may or may not affect the tone, depending on the guitar and the amps.

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