The 8 Best Acoustic Guitar Amplifiers
8. Behringer Ultracoustic AT108
7. Peavy Ecoustic E110
6. AER Compact 60/3 Twin Channel
5. Roland AC-60
4. Marshall Soloist AS50D
3. Fishman Loudbox Artist
2. Yamaha Desktop THR10C
1. Fender 100
Why You Need A High-Quality Acoustic Guitar Amplifier
For the most part, an acoustic guitar can amplify itself. Its large, cavernous body and expressive sound hole usually produce just the right amount of volume to accompany the human voice. A lot of open mic nights at small coffee shops don’t even bother to employ a microphone to amplify the singer’s voice, knowing that his or her natural projection will combine with that of any given acoustic to more or less fill the space. Also, giving any additional amplification to artists at an open mic even might just drive away peace-seeking customers.
If you do play at an event that requires additional amplification, and you don’t have an amp of your own, one of three things will happen, depending largely on the acoustic guitar itself. None of these is ideal. If the axe has no pickup of any kind, then there’s nothing that the sound person can do to amplify your playing other than to mic the instrument.
This process often places two microphones in front of the guitar, one near the sound hole and one at about the mid-way point of the neck. The sound projecting from the hole is very bass-heavy, so placing a mic a that point alone will often sacrifice the high end tones. A microphone somewhere up the neck will pick these up and round out the sound. However many microphones you end up using, this configuration severely limits the amount you can move on stage.
If the guitar does have some kind of pickup, then you can run it through the PA system at the venue. The big problems there are that you’re going to end up playing through a different PA at every venue, and you’ll have very little control over the balance between your guitar and your vocals, or over the sound of the guitar itself.
In a third scenario, an overly ambitious sound engineer will combine the two methods, plugging your guitar into the PA system and elaborately placing microphones around it. This will give you the best, most reliable sound profile, but it still suffers from all of the issues laid out above.
An acoustic amp, on the other hand, will give you complete physical freedom (especially with an investment in a high-quality wireless system), as well as complete control over your sound. If something isn’t quite right with the tone, you can make EQ and volume adjustments — as well as effects adjustments with some models — in the middle of a song.
How To Find Your Perfect Acoustic Guitar Amp
An acoustic guitar calls for a certain kind of amplifier. The tone you’re looking for is clean and deep. As such, an amplifier that might be great for an electric guitar could totally destroy the sound of a good acoustic. Imagine putting your Martin through a Vox AC-30 tube combo. At first, that amplifier’s natural warmth might be pleasing to the ear, but as those tubes heated up and lent more and more natural distortion to the sound, your acoustic would sound like a strange electrified wooden monster. That might be just the thing for some genres, but the vast majority of acoustic players need a clean tone that will stay that way.
The odds are that you play an acoustic with steel strings, so we’re going to focus on how different amp features can improve the sound of such an instrument. Fortunately for nylon players, all of these traits still apply, but you’re liable to use them a little less expressively, as your guitars’ pickups are either tiny, built-in microphones or transducers, which will benefit from a flatter amp setting.
A lot of acoustic guitar amps provide you with some form of EQ. Often, this is a three-band EQ allowing you to control bass, mid, and high frequency expressions. Less expensive options might offer less control over tone, and if your guitar has an EQ system built into it, these may suffice. Most players would appreciate the additional control, however.
To that end, look for even more tonal controls like extended EQs, as well as brightness or presence knobs, which can add a lot of clarity to an underperforming pickup. Cheap acoustic pickups can sound rather muddy, but you can breathe new life into that signal with the right amp.
As far as wattage goes, that has a lot to do with your current career status and with your ambitions as an artist. If you’re happy to play small coffee shops on the weekends, a little amp with enough juice to complement a vocal mic should be plenty. Some options even have XLR inputs so you can split your amp between guitar and vocals. If you harbor ambitions of larger venues and crowds, it’d be wise to invest in a higher wattage now, as you can always turn down in smaller settings. Keep in mind that you don’t need to create a wall of sound for any instrument, least of all an acoustic guitar. Any venue that needs that much juice will be equipped to mic your amplifier.
Other Ways To Refine Your Sound
Once you’ve decided on a great acoustic amplifier, you’ll want to look into additional ways that you can define your personal sound. This is the kind of attention to detail that will set you apart from the legions of other performers vying for attention from a beleaguered record industry.
We mentioned above that a lackluster pickup can cause a lot of damage to your sound. If your guitar came with a pickup built in, it might be worth investigating the prospect of an upgrade. You can also add components like internal microphones or transducers to alter your tone.
A good pedal board should become your best friend, as well. These are no longer only the providence of experimental musicians, as a slew of effects pedals have come along over the past few decades that add subtle, specific features to your tone. Invest in high-quality pedals that can control reverb and delay, as well as a good multi-band EQ.