The Pro’s and Cons of using an acoustic guitar amplifier

Marshall AS50D Acoustic Guitar Amplifier copy

Most of the time, we don’t normally think of using an amplifier with an acoustic guitar; however, there are times when it can be beneficial, and maybe even, necessary… Most people want to hear the natural sound the comes from an acoustic guitar, and to NOT have it potentially “colored” by all the electronics involved with amplifying the signal…

Of course, most of this is dependent upon whether, or not, you have a pickup installed on your acoustic. If not you can always purchase one of a few different kinds. I have a Taylor with a built in pickup and I use an L.R. Baggs model on my Gibson.

If you do have the pickup option available, there are some definite advantages to using an acoustic guitar amp. I can think of at least seven right off the top of my head. But, along with advantages usually comes disadvantages. So let me lay a few of them out here. For starters… the “Pros”…

The Seven Pros

1. Access to more volume

As soon as you plugin, you instantly have more volume potential.  Kinda common sense, I guess, but still… sometimes (even though you’re on the acoustic) you just want it louder.

Also, you change the direction of where the sound is coming from.  Actually, you now have the guitar itself and sound from the amplifier.

2. You can now plug into various pedals

A looper for example… everyone loves playing along to a looped riff or rhythm.  If you don’t, perhaps you haven’t tried one I guess – All kinds of fun!…

Basically, you can now (as with an electric) put your guitar through whatever effects you want.  Have you ever applied distortion (mild distortion) to an acoustic?  You can get some “interesting” tones.

3. On board effects access

An amp such as the “Marshall AS50D” (above) has built in reverb and chorus, which are two of the most effects used with an acoustic (if you’re going to use any at all, that is).  

So you can kind of “polish” your sound a little.  Maybe play a rhythm through the effects – loop that one – and play a standard lead over it – or vice versa… 

marshall acoustic guitar amplifier AS50D
marshall acoustic guitar amplifier AS50D

4. Plug in a mic along-side your guitar

If your amp supports it, you can amplify both your guitar and your voice and “take it to the road (so to speak).”  Again, using the AS50D above as an example which has both line level and XLR inputs, you can potentially play a show without the need for a PA system.  Both these inputs are on their own channels as well.  So they each have independent volume and eq / effects, etc. …

Of course, as with any situation where you are plugging in a microphone, you have to be careful about feedback rearing its “not-so-nice” head.  Its pretty easy to control with the AS50D.  Like with most situations, don’t place your self right in front of the amp.

5. If playing with a band, you can use your acoustic amp as a monitor

If you’re on stage with several other musicians, then perhaps you can split the signal of your guitar to run through the PA and to your amp with the amp sort of serving as a monitor of sorts… it’s an idea at least…

6. It’s just nice knowing the option is available

The ole, “It’s better to have it and not need it” saying comes into play here.  For the most part, it’ll depend upon what you plan to do with the sounds you are producing.  Whether you’re recording or playing live. 

Of course, you could always record the acoustic amp sound and / or plug directly into the console / interface, but that’s not “usually” preferred.

7. You now have a place to sit you’re favorite beverage

Ok, this might not be an “actual Pro,” but it’s kind of a benefit I guess – I just wanted to go with seven (7) instead of stopping with six (6)…

The Cons:

1. Sound is now no longer 100% natural

Normally, the acoustic guitar is meant to be heard without any additional “help.”

It has a beautiful sound all of its own, and altering that can defeat the purpose in most cases. So, again, it really depends on what your “mission” is at the moment.

2. You may need to install a pickup

(As mentioned earlier) Not normally that big of a deal, but due to the delicate nature of an acoustic versus an electric guitar, I tend to shy away from doing too much alterations.

I did install an L.R. Baggs M1 pickup on my Gibson J45TV which involved discarding the rear (closer to the bridge) strap button. Now pickup plug in acts as the strap button (if I were to use it as such).

3. Providing power to the pickup

Not that big of a deal, but still its something extra. In most cases the power supply will be either a 9v or a CR2032 (watch style) battery and very easy to install.

It is “a bit” more of a challenge with the L.R. Baggs M1 pickup, when compared to the Taylor that has a built in pickup. Because with the Taylor, you just push on the battery door on the rear of the guitar and it pops open (9v).

With the L.R. Baggs pickup you kinda of have to maneuver through your guitar strings to get to the battery of the pickup, but still…. not that difficult…

I can’t really think of any other Cons per-say… Maybe having to lug the amp around with you now… I don’t know…

What I normally use my acoustic amp for…

I normally use mine for being to add a looper (Jamman or Boss) to the mix, and never really for recording (although I intend to try it out just as an experiment one day and post it here). For the price, the Marshall referred to in this post a couple fo times now, has a really good sound in my opinion.

In Conclusion…

Bottom line, I think every guitar player could benefit from having an acoustic amp of some sort in their arsenal of equipment. You never know when it might come in really handy…

Hope this helps…

stephen-ruppe-signature

S. B. Ruppe

I like writing and recording music and other audio , checking out new music and recording gear, experimenting with tonal qualities, and just about anything-and-everything related to the subject of audio (music, or other wise)...

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