An 'In House' feature written by Aron Radford
AER Alpha Plus
Boss Acoustic Singer Live
Fishman Loudbox Artist
Fender Acoustic Pro
Bose L1 Compact
AER Compact 60 III
When should I consider buying a PA system?
When the size of your audience or venue increases significantly is the simplest answer. Most 40w/60w acoustic amplifiers will be sufficient for small intermit venues or performances where your core audience are up close and attentive but for larger gigs or venues where there is some marked space between you and the audience (which will also increase ambient room noise) you will need a PA system to cut through and be heard. Generally speaking an acoustic amp (one designed specifically for acoustic guitars) is an all-in-one solution which will often give you the basic tools you'll need to play a guitar, have a microphone input and offer some basic effects like reverb and delay. Many times this is all you need for playing in small clubs or group gatherings. However if you want to play to larger crowds and must cover a larger room (sometime with a lot of ambient noise to cut through), the full-fledged PA system is the route to go. PA’s like acoustic amps do not colour your sound in anyway they simply amplify the original input signal (normally from your preamp and effects pedal board) and give it distortion free volume.
So with any basic PA system you have the advantage of positioning your speakers anywhere you wish to enhance and sculpt your sound. Splitting up your left and right channel speakers and placing them on stands either side of you and the stage to project into higher open space you can create a more dynamic penetrating sound that a floor located acoustic amp unit can not.
So if you already have (and by this stage of your journey you probably will have) an acoustic amp or a dedicated guitar preamp (as part of an effects pedal board) you will have an XLR output ready to run straight into any PA system (either your own or an unfamiliar 'on site' venue owned and operated system) with no need for a mixing board. The PA system will have an amplifier built in and also have powered speakers (monitors) necessary to boost your sound to higher levels without distortion or colouring.
If you wish to use a microphone as part of your set (and you probably will if your performing gigs and interacting with the audience) you will need a mic channel on your acoustic amp or preamp to do so. If you don’t you will need to purchase a small mixing board to accommodate this unless your PA system has one built into it already. PA systems are bigger, heaver and bulkier and will require some logistical planning for transportation and initial setting up before a gig.
So what dedicated acoustic amps are out there that I should be considering?
Well as explained above all dedicated acoustic amps have pretty much the same physical build attributes and functions it's just a question of budget and needs. Clearly how many Watts the amp can put out is a good starting point as this will affect price and practical usage, i.e. in your bedroom or a small club, but here are some of the most popular choices for acoustic guitarist...
So what PA systems suitable for small-medium venues for Weissenborn players are out there that I should be considering?
Just about any PA system will do a good enough job because as we said earlier PA's don't colour your tone, but here are a few systems that are perfect choices for any Weissenborn player considering playing regular serious gigs.
Simply answer to the question 'Should I buy an acoustic amp' is YES, without a shadow of a doubt.
Let me explain why and answer the first question. There are a few fundamental differences that should be highlighted between acoustic amps and electric amps. But first the real difference between the two are that one ‘colours’ the tone of the input signal and one doesn’t. No guessing as to what one us Weissenborn players need to steer towards. Secondly we want an amp that will give us the ability to provide a full range amplification across all frequencies. The first physical difference in making this possible is the presence of tweeter speaker in a dedicated acoustic amp. This gives the us the ability to provide a full range amplification of the acoustic guitar, something an electric amp can not (because of the absence of tweet speakers and speaker range dynamics). A dedicated acoustic amplifier has a wider, flatter frequency response, it is more dynamic and natural and will reproduce the frequencies within your acoustic guitar with more definition and clarity. By contrast, an electric guitar amp is specifically designed to do the exact opposite i.e colour the signal it is amplifying. Its speaker layout and its respective dynamic ranges are a lot narrower and restricting. Ironically many electric guitarists feel that the tone an electric amp adds to their tone by restricting and colouring its dynamic range is relatively MORE important than the electric guitar tone itself. An acoustic amp should NOT change the tone or colour of your acoustic guitar, whereas an electric guitar amp will definitely and purposefully colour the tone and this is where electric guitarists start searching for their preferred colouring choices that different manufactures build into their amps. The best acoustic amps reproduce ‘the low lows and the high highs’ with no distortion, while an electric amp is designed to specifically highlight midrange and treble frequencies that provide the distortion craved by electric guitarists.
Acoustic guitars sound generally rubbish through most electric amps particularly the open backed ones. Open back amps tend to be very harsh sounding, but even the closed back amps are 'slanted' toward reproducing magnetic pickups tone not acoustic tone. They also tend to manifest the most extreme sensitivity/propensity to feeding back. An acoustic amplifier has a wider fuller range of frequency response. It is also likely to have lower distortion before the onset of clipping. In other words, an acoustic guitar amplifier is designed to be more neutral. By contrast, an electric guitar is specifically designed to colour the signal it is amplifying. As an acoustic guitarist you want the acoustic guitar's natural tonal characteristics to be reproduced accurately, nothing added, nothing taken away.
Most acoustic amps have extra features on them as well catering for the acoustic guitarist that most electric amps do not such as multiple channels to cater for different needs such as microphones and piezzo pickups, as well as on board effects like chorus, reverb and delay as well as in a lot of cases specialist EQ parameters such as x2 mid range sweepable adjustments. One thing that usually always comes with an acoustic amp, is an XLR input or a microphone input as well so you can run a microphone alongside your guitar. Most dedicated acoustic amps are a one stop option for any Weissenborn player as they offer everything in one package, amplifier, effects, EQ and speakers there really isn’t any need for anything else.
LD Systems Dave 8 XS
Mackie SRM450 V3
So following on from the previous article on “Effects Pedals & Preamps” we shall briefly turn to the ‘application’ side of your final sculpted tone and discuss ‘Amps and PA’s’. When I first started playing Weissenborn I was confronted almost straight away with these simple questions….
What the difference between an acoustic amp and an electric amp? And should I go to the trouble of buying an acoustic amp for my Weissenborn?
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