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The Sidemen of the System

Amplifiers and preamplifiers don’t get much attention—but they’re essential to your system’s sound

Quick-name three jazz artists. Who’d you pick? Bird? Miles? Hub? It’s a pretty safe bet you didn’t pick Jimmy Cobb or Paul Chambers. Great as they are, they’re best known as sidemen. They seldom get the recognition that the hotshot saxophonists and trumpeters tend to receive.

Amplifiers and preamplifiers are like the sidemen of the stereo world. The sexier components-the speakers, the turntable and the CD player-often attract most of the attention and innovation. Meanwhile, amps and preamps often sit unnoticed in an equipment rack, humbly doing their jobs. However, amps and preamps are no less important than any other component in a system. In fact, they might even be more important than jazz sidemen. After all, you can play a gig without a drummer, but you can’t play a CD without an amp.

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