If you are looking for a quick answer to this question, here you go!
Is A Distortion Pedal A Preamp?
No, a distortion pedal is an effect unit that alters the sound of a guitar by converting it from a clean guitar tone to one which has high levels of both volume and distortion. The preamp is the device that produces a clean sound, which will then be altered by the distortion pedal.
The Function of the Preamp
The preamp takes an electric guitar’s signal and runs it through an amplifier. The amp (and consequently the distortion pedal) will shape the sound of your guitar for public consumption.
The Function of the Distortion Pedal
A distortion pedal is designed to put out as much power as possible, while at the same time emphasizing certain frequencies of the guitar’s sound. The preamp produces a clean, low-volume sound with very little distortion. The distortion pedal makes the lower volume, already lightly distorted sound much louder and more distorted. The combination of these two effects is what makes up the electric guitar sound that we know today.
Can a Preamp Be Used Alone?
Absolutely! A preamp can be used on its own to create a different sound. One such example is the use of a tube preamp when playing a Fender Stratocaster. Some people prefer the sound that a tube preamp provides; however, most guitarists choose to use both a distortion pedal and a tube preamp. The choice is yours!
The bottom line is that the distortion pedal and the preamp are a team that work together to produce the electric guitar sound that we all know and love. In addition, knowing how one sounds without the other allows you to make an informed decision when selecting equipment for your own complicated rig.
In conclusion, it is no accident that the terms distortion and preamp are used in tandem. If the effects were not combined together, we would not have the electric guitar sounds that we know and love today.