Sometimes, using a single guitar amplifier simply doesn’t provide the power and volume required for a performance. Many guitarists, therefore, incorporate two or more guitar amps into their rig to maximize dynamics and tone.
So can you daisy chain guitar amplifiers?
Daisy-chaining guitar amplifiers is certainly possible. The simplest way to achieve this is by connecting the guitar to the input of one amp, then outputting the signal to the input of another amp. However, there are certain measures which must be taken to avoid noise issues.
Daisy-chaining guitar amplifiers is essentially the process of sending the guitar’s output to multiple amplifiers.
This increases the total volume and impacts the overall tone of the guitar rig. There are several ways to achieve this, some of which are very straightforward, and others that require more consideration.
In this guide, I’ll explain why it is possible to daisy chain guitar amps and the different ways you can go about achieving this.
How to Connect Two Guitar Amplifiers Together
I’ll start by explaining the simplest method for connecting two guitar amps, which requires the least equipment. All you’ll need to do this two standard instrument jack cables, two amplifiers, and an electric guitar.
Although this method is the easiest, there are some potential trade-offs that I’ll get into later.
First of all, you’ll need to check the number of inputs and outputs included in your guitar amplifiers. One of your amplifiers must have two or more inputs, otherwise, you’ll need to use one of the methods I’ll describe later in this guide.
If both of your guitar amplifiers have multiple inputs, it doesn’t matter which order you set them up in. On the other hand, if only one of your amps how two or more inputs and the other has only one, you’ll be plugging your guitar into the amp with multiple inputs, so it should be positioned first in the chain.
Once the two amps are positioned (with the multi-input amp first) you’ll need to grab two instrument jack cables. One of the cables should be plugged into the guitar’s output, with the other end plugged into the first input on the first amplifier.
Then, plug the second guitar cable into the second input on the first amplifier. The other end of this cable should then be plugged into the first input on the second amplifier, and the daisy chain is formed.
You might be wondering how the input from the first amplifier can act as an output, sending the guitar signal to the input on the second amplifier. This is because the vast majority of inputs on a dual-input amplifier are in parallel and connected. This vital fact is what makes this simple method possible.
A common issue you might find when using this daisy-chaining technique is that the outputs from the two amplifiers are out of phase with one another. This means that the waveforms are canceling each other out, leading to certain frequencies being subdued.
Phase issues are quite easy to hear. If you can tell that the outputs don’t sound as full-bodied and substantial as they usually do, simply take the speaker cables from one of your amplifiers and reverse them. This will instantly put the amplifiers in phase with each other and rectify the issue.
Using Effects Pedals to Connect Guitar Amplifiers
If neither of your guitar amplifiers has two or more inputs, there is another method you can use to connect them. This is a method I personally use and it involves using an effects pedal that has stereo outputs. Many popular stompboxes have two outputs installed for signal splitting.
Let’s say you have a pedal like the popular Electro-Harmonix Micro Pog, which is an octave shifter. This pedal features two outputs, labeled ‘Effect Out’ and ‘Dry Out’. This is designed to facilitate signal splitting, which allows you to send two separate outputs from the pedal into your two amplifiers.
This technique is used by many guitarists and bassists. It allows them to separate their dry and wet signals so that they can be sent to two amplifiers. However, you can use a dual-output pedal solely to link two amplifiers and play the identical signal from both of them.
Using the Micro Pog as an example, you’d need to plug your guitar into the input of the pedal using a standard instrument jack cable. Then, a second jack cable would need to be plugged into the ‘Effect Out’, with the other end plugged into the input on your first amplifier.
Another jack cable should then be plugged into the ‘Dry Out’ and sent to the input on the second amplifier. This will successfully link the two amplifiers, with the pedal acting as a middle ground between them.
- One thing to bear in mind when using this method to connect two amplifiers is that the signals will only be identified when the Micro Pog pedal is turned off.
Once the effect is engaged via the footswitch, the signal from the ‘Effect Out’ will be subjected to the pitch-shifted effect, and this will play through the second amplifier.
If you use multiple effects pedals in your signal chain, you can deliberately isolate certain effects and send them to the second amplifier. This is a great way to thicken up your tone, as it means that when you engage the chosen effects, the clean sound of your guitar will still be present in the dry amplifier.
Bass guitarists often use this technique if they are playing in a two or three-piece band. It creates the illusion of a second or third guitar double-tracking the notes that they play, and allows them to be more precise when sculpting their processed tone.
Check out this YouTube video on daisy-chaining vintage amps.
Buffered AB/Y Splitters
Another easy way to link two guitar amplifiers together is by using a device known as an AB/Y splitter. However, before you rush off to find any old splitter, you need to make sure that the one you use is buffered.
AB/Y splitters are hit and miss when it comes to the signal clarity and performance they offer. You can find many cheap options which will likely do a decent job, but if you’re looking for maximum reliability, a dedicated AB/Y switching box like the Orange Amp Detonator is your best bet.
It’s also important to make the distinction between passive and active splitters. Passive ABY splitters weaken the guitar’s signal as it is transmitted to your multiple amplifiers, halving the strength.
Therefore, if you’re intent on maintaining the natural tone and signal strength of your guitar and amplifier, passive ABY splitters will likely leave you disappointed. Active splitters improve this issue, but they also tend to color the tone of the guitar, particularly cheaper ones.
That’s where buffered ABY switches come in. Using a buffered splitter ensures that the signal strength is maintained, and it also improves the performance of all of the other pedals in your signal chain.
Buffered AB/Y devices commonly include useful features such as phase switching, ground loops, and impedance matching. This allows you to tailor the settings of the pedal to ensure they’re optimally suited to the two or more amplifiers you’re hoping to daisy chain together.
The more affordable option would be to go with a passive AB/Y splitter. If you run into noise problems, such as an increase in electrical humming or issues with ground loops, you can combine the splitter with a D.I (direct input) box. These devices are commonly used in live performance settings.
This would require you to simply plug the guitar into the input on the D.I box. Then, hook your first amplifier up to the output of the D.I box, before connecting the other output to the second amplifier.
This method is quite reliable, but there’s no guarantee that both of your amplifiers will sound exactly like they do when you use them on their own. This is because the D.I Box may cause the coloration, and the input impedance of both amps combined will be different from when they are used individually.
The table below presents a breakdown of the methods I’ve outlined in this guide.
|Direct Connection via Amp Inputs
|Quick, easy, and minimal equipment required
|Potential for ground loops & unwanted noise
|Wet & Dry Effects Pedal Outputs
|Reliable, low-noise, more control over effects
|The pedal must have dual outputs
|Affordable, easy to make the connection
|Prone to signal strength loss and noise issues
|Buffered AB/Y Device
|The most reliable method, no-noise, combats all issues
|Most expensive solution
Can you use two guitar amp heads with one cab?
It is possible to connect a pair of amplifier heads to the same cab, but only if the cab is in stereo. This is because when the cab is in stereo mode, it can separate the speakers into two isolated groups.
I have written an article that discusses Combo Amps vs Head and Cab, it includes some extra information on this topic. You can find it here.
What is a guitar amp’s effects loop?
Effects loops are a feature that allows you to isolate certain pedals and effects in a signal chain. It consists of an additional input and output section located between the preamp and power amp stages of the amplifier.
Why are D.I boxes used with guitar amps?
D.I boxes are designed to convert an unbalanced audio signal, or an instrument signal with a high impedance, into a format that is more compatible with a guitar amplifier or other device.