Ultimate Guide to
Acoustic Guitar Amps

“Unplugged” is a term used to describe musical performances that prominently feature acoustic guitars. Remember those MTV shows from the ‘90s? But nostalgia aside, it’s not really an accurate term. That’s because for large gigs, it is essential for acoustic guitars to be amplified so that audiences can hear them.

For that reason, the majority of modern acoustic guitars are fitted with electronics that enable them to be amplified. Featuring discrete built-in pickups that are able to capture string vibrations and transform them into electrical signals, this technology allows electro-acoustic guitars to be plugged directly into PA systems or specialised acoustic guitar amplifiers.

In this guide, we’re going to take a close look at the latter. Explaining their functionality and advantages over other forms of amplification, by the end of this piece you’ll understand what acoustic guitar amps are fully capable of.

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Written by

Elliot Stent

Most electric guitar amps are built to offer excellent overdriven or distorted tones, as ultimately, they’re the sounds that the majority of rock-orientated players seek. Acoustic guitar amps, on the other hand, are designed to sound as clean and as pure as possible. This is to ensure that the natural sonics of electro-acoustic guitars are precisely reproduced - for an authentic sound and feel.

But while the electric guitar amp market is incredibly diverse, the world of acoustic guitar amps isn’t anywhere near as overwhelming or intimidating. That certainly makes the shopping experience a lot easier! Having said that, there’s still plenty to consider when it comes to finding the perfect acoustic amplifier for you. Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s cover the basics first.

What Is An Acoustic Guitar Amp?

An acoustic amplifier serves the same purpose as any other type of guitar amp you’ll come across; it boosts an instrument’s audio signal and projects its sound through a speaker (or several speakers). However, acoustic amps are optimised to suit the tonal qualities of the pickup systems fitted in electro-acoustic guitars.

For example, plugging an electro-acoustic directly into an audio interface or PA system can sound artificial, processed and thin. However, an acoustic guitar amp can harness and manipulate that sound so that it is more natural to the ear, and akin to an acoustic’s unplugged sound.

But these amps don’t just do the sound of an acoustic guitar justice. That’s because they can also be used to really enhance the tone of your instrument and take it a step further. For example, there are some great affordable electro-acoustic guitars out there, but in order to remain cost-effective - a lot of these will be equipped with dull and anaemic-sounding pickups. Acoustic amps can therefore be used to spruce up the sound of poor pickups, mostly via their powerful preamps and onboard EQ sections. Which brings us nicely onto the next section…

What Features Do Acoustic Guitar Amps Have?

EQ Controls

Acoustic guitar amps may be designed to suit acoustic guitars, but their control-sets aren’t too far removed from their electric guitar amp counterparts. EQ sections can be found on both, so if you’re already an electric guitar player; the tone-shaping experience should be fairly familiar. And when it comes to tailoring the sound of your instrument; nothing is more effective than your amp’s EQ controls.

Typically marked ‘bass’, ‘middle’ and ‘treble’; EQ knobs allow you to boost and cut key frequencies in your acoustic guitar’s spectrum of sound. Some electro-acoustics also feature onboard EQ controls that serve the same purpose, but you’ll find an acoustic amp’s EQ section to generally be more intuitive and powerful.

Ultimately, EQ controls let you tailor an acoustic guitar’s tone to suit the sound of a specific venue or space. If your acoustic guitar sounds too boomy for instance, you can compensate by boosting the highs on your amp and reducing the bass frequencies.

Microphone Inputs

It’s clear that acoustic amplifiers give you excellent control over your guitar’s sound and enable you to amplify your instrument. But there’s far more to them than that. That’s because acoustic guitar amps can also be used for projecting vocals.

Made to suit singer-songwriters, you’ll find that the majority of acoustic amps are equipped with XLR inputs for plugging in microphones. These therefore let you amplify your vocals through a second separate channel, which would typically feature its own volume control (and sometimes EQ) to ensure that you can balance the levels of your voice and guitar.

Built-In Effects

Premium acoustic amps will boast built-in effects, such as reverb and chorus. Reverb adds ambience to your sound, to give it space, warmth and character. Chorus is a modulation effect that can make acoustics sound almost like 12-string guitars. Effects like this can really embellish your overall sound, for a more professional and studio-esque vibe.

The Boss Acoustic Singer Pro is an ultra-versatile acoustic guitar amp that can do all of the above and more. Also featuring built-in harmony effects for vocals and an onboard looper for developing ideas and enhancing live performances - it's a brilliant product!

Boss Acoustic Singer Pro on Andertons T.V.

Why Do I Need An Acoustic Guitar Amp?

It’s clear that acoustic guitar amps have lots of benefits, and they’re particularly great for busking or small gigs where pure volume isn’t such a factor, but the sound quality is. Acoustic amps also offer lots of control and are far more flexible than traditional PA systems, which aren’t optimised to any particular instrument.

But if you want to use an acoustic guitar amp in conjunction with a PA system, if you’re performing at a large show for example; most products will feature DI outputs that can send the audio to a front-of-house mixing desk. This means that you can still easily get a consistent and malleable sound, while projecting more volume to fill a bigger venue.

The majority of acoustic guitar amps are compact and lightweight, making them quite easy to transport. Acoustic amps from AER are highly-regarded, with their Compact 60 model a best-seller here at Andertons Music Co. Fishman acoustic amps are also popular, thanks to their affordability and broad feature-sets.

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