January 12, 2021

If you’re a guitar player, you drag around an amp and cabinet. That’s just how it goes, right? Well, what would happen if your cabinet fell off a building or failed to get packed? Or, what if you simply got tired of lugging the heavy thing around? Could you still play gigs?

The answer is an emphatic yes, and you can still get a great sound.


The obvious reason to play without a cabinet is convenience. Carrying a product such as Carvin Audio’s VLD1 Legacy Drive Preamp Pedal, you can get a great driven tube sound and plug directly into the PA system, or a shared backline amp. Add any number of other pedals like distortion or delay, and you can create any sound you can think of, and the most you’ll have to lug around is your guitar and a pedal board – perhaps in a brief case or other super convenient arrangement.

You could go further with Carvin Audio’s X1 All Tube Preamp Pedal, which offers two channels (a clean “rhythm” channel and a “lead” channel), plus tone control, EQ, and an effects loop.

X1 All Tube Preamp Pedal


If you’ve got your pedal board dialed in and simply need that final stage, you could easily use the MACH100 100W Stereo Pedal Amplifier, which you can use to drive two guitar cabinets or input directly into house sound.

Lightening the load in this way can reduce your stress level locally, but really shows its worth when you start to travel for gigs – especially if you’re traveling by plane. Checking heavy, valuable amp cabinets can be expensive, not to mention worrisome, so having the option to leave your cabinet behind may save the day.

Stage volume

Although we all love what a good cabinet can do, and some classic cabinets define a certain sound, the truth is when it comes to achieving a great stage mix, it’s often crucial to tame the loudness of guitar cabinets. It can be tricky, at times, to get the tone you’re looking for and reign in the stage volume of a cabinet, so it can be really advantageous to go ahead and skip the on-stage cabinet and route your guitar signal directly to house sound.

This gives the engineer the most control, allowing them to create a solid mix where your guitar is crisp, powerful, and not squashing the vocal. This control also helps the engineer to give each band member the best possible monitor mix. Not to mention the more you can reduce overall stage volume, the more your ears will thank you.

Achieving your sound

If you’re used to achieving your unique sound mostly by the virtue of the cabinet you’re using, going without it may take some getting used to. The key is to use other available tools to achieve your sound. Fuzz, distortion, overdrive, delay, reverb, chorus, wah-wah – all of these effects can be achieved with pedals. Once you dial in your sound with either a combination of classic pedals or a modern emulator box, you’ll never have to rely on the cabinet to deliver your unique vibe again.

Dial these in in your practice space using studio monitors or headphones to hear just what you’ll get when the cabinet is removed. Then consider dialing in a cabinet version of your settings, for when you decide you do want to carry to the gig – or those times when you might have to.

At the end of the day, you can definitely gig without a cabinet and you can create an awesome sound, even if you want it mean and dirty. And even if you do still use a cabinet at times, having the flexibility to go with or without is always helpful.

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