Please explain to me what’s what and why?

There are many plugins on the Internet. I do not understand. There are amplifiers, pre-amplifiers, pedals. Then there are cabinets, impulse loaders, what are they? And please explain for a live performance what you need and how to use them.

1 Answer 1


I'm assuming you're talking about software. Perhaps it would help us more if you specified the software you're using.

I have no experience using software to alter the sound of your guitar, but can tell you about the hardware equivalents and what they do.

  • Preamps are the first stage of amplification. They usually include some sort of gain to allow you to overdrive the signal and produce a distorted sound that is used a lot in rock and blues. As a simplification, they are used to add overdrive to your sound, each preamp having a different "colour" or personality.

  • Amplifiers are the second stae of amplification, and generally increase the volume of the signal without overdriving it too much (this is a generalisation... some amplifier stages can also distort your sound). They generally add volume without colouring too much.

  • A cabinet is the box where the speaker is hosted. It can give a certain "colour" to your sound, so it's part of the overall tone of your guitar.

  • Pedals are compact units that allow you to introduce some effect to your signal chain. You can add a reverb, a delay (also called "echo" sometimes), phaser, flanger, etc. Some of these can be used before they reach the preamp, some between the preamp and the amp (in the so-called "effects loop").

  • I don't know what an impulse loader is.

If you want to emulate the sound of plugging your guitar to a combo amp, all you need is

Guitar -> preamp -> amp -> cabinet

If you want to introduce some effects, your signal chain could look like this:

Guitar -> effects that affect pitch and tone (wah-wah, overdrive, distortion) -> preamp -> time and phase effects (reverb, delay, chorus...) -> amp -> cabinet

There is not single "right" way to use them. The above is just a very common pattern. It's up to you to experiment to find your own sound.

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    An impulse loader is a generic convolution processor. These can be used to simulate any LTI system, which includes EQ/filters, delay, reverb and (approximately) speakers/cabinets. Normally they're used for reverb or cabinets, because for EQ and delay there are more practical alternatives. Commented Apr 21, 2020 at 12:36
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    It's not really true that amps (you seem to mean power amps) don't affect the signal much apart from boosting. Boosting would be completely irrelevant in software, that's just a trivial multiplication. Actually a power amp can clip/distort just as much as a preamp (though in case of power amps this necessarily comes with such high speaker volume levels that guitarists may choose no to go there). Tube power amps are regularly overdriven at least a bit, since particularly the compression this incurs is quite desirable. Commented Apr 21, 2020 at 12:43
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    Careful about "assume" -- xkcd.com/1339 and be sure to read the alt-text :-) Commented Apr 21, 2020 at 13:15

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