The Most Flexible Setup for Amplifying My Acoustic

Discussion in 'Acoustic Instruments' started by CrazyFingers, Mar 26, 2008.

  1. CrazyFingers

    CrazyFingers Member

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    I have read most of the posts around here regarding acoustic guitar amplification. Lots of great information.

    I recently started doing some small house-party gigs--just me, one other acoustic guitar and one electric guitar (plus vocals). Guitar: Taylor 412--no electronics. I strum, flatpick, and fingerpick.

    I have been using used a Fishman Rare Earth sound hole pickup through my Roland Cube30. This worked OK but I wasn't crazy about the tone. It sounded too "electric" and I would prefer something that lets the woody tone of the guitar come through. I know there are other (better) options for low-volume amplification. However, I may be asked to play with our band as well (drums, bass, 3 guitars including me). In this setting, I would really like the acoustic guitar to cut through and sound like an acoustic guitar.

    If possible, I would like to use the same/similar for both situations. Is this asking too much? The options as I see 'em (summarized):

    Pickups
    Mic (external)
    Soundhole
    Mic (internal)
    Combo (e.g. Fishman blend)
    Internal mounted pickup (e.g. K&K mini)

    Amplification
    Direct to PA (with or without external DI/preamp)
    amp (acoustic or clean electric)


    I realize each choice has tradeoffs, but do any of these combinations offer a good balance of acoustic tone and flexibility or should I plan to have different setups for different situations?
     
  2. David Collins

    David Collins Member

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    Baggs iMix, no question. Your needs are exactly what this system excels at.
     
  3. royd

    royd Member

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    mikes are out. externals don't work well in band situations and internals never sound right to me.

    soundhole pups can sound pretty good. I like the Baggs M1 and the Sunrise


    personally, I don't care for under-the-saddle pups although they do have some significant strengths. I just prefer soundhole pups to them.

    surface mounted pups like the K&K or McIntyre. These can sound very good and very accurate but can be feedback prone or if placement is not good, they sound off.

    blends... always sound better to my ears but are more expensive and complicated.

    I would recommend starting with the M1 and then if you need another source, adding an Ibeam or some other surface mount.

    As for what to plug into, I have never played an acoustic amp that I was satisfied with.
     
  4. RustyAxe

    RustyAxe Member

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    I'm happy with my Roland AC-60 (but if I had it to do over I'd get the AC-90). For intimate venues it works fine by itself. Nice reverb and chorus effects, great stereo sound. For larger gigs or with a band I take the line level stereo XLR out (there's also a mono 1/4 out) to the mixer, and by leaving the master volume up the AC becomes my personal monitor. It also has a tuner bypass, options for two foot switches ... and it wasn't too very expensive.

    I currently use an LR Baggs M1A in one guitar ... like it fine. My Tak has a UST with the Tak preamp (I like it less). I'm going with a Baggs I-Beam in my new D-35, it sound great in my friend's D-35 ... but I'd like to also try out K&K Pure Western Mini with an external preamp. Decisions!
     
  5. jbryant3

    jbryant3 Member

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    Crazy...a little more onfo please...are you saying you already have a PA that you play through? I know a few folks that use the Fishman you have and it sounds fine. You may want a pre-amp like the Baggs PADI. This gives you a DI interface with the PA and a lot of sound control at your fingertips. My rig right now is the Baggs LB6 pickup with a dedicated end-pin preamp. This is the pickup that James Taylor has used for many years if you like the sound he gets live. Another piece of equipment in my chain is the Aphex Acoustic Exciter. This thing is amazing! Sounds like you removed a blanket from your original sound. So if you don't need all the control at your fingertips I'd suggest the LB6 with pre-amp and the Aphex. You're probably getting too much of an electric sound because of using the Roland for acoustic guitar. There are a lot of great acoustic amps out there but IMHO it will always sound better through a PA. Hope this helps.

    Jim B
     
  6. 62Tele

    62Tele Supporting Member

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    Currently I'm using a combo setup - K&K soundboard pickup and a Baggs M1 active. The K&K does everything up to band volumes, the pair blend very well (I agree with royd that blends sound better) and I can run the M1 alone in very loud settings. You can also run the K&K/M1 to the mains and the mag only to the monitors to reduce feedback and optimize tone in louder settings.

    I hadn't liked acoustic amps until I got ahold of my Genz Benz Shen Pro. It has enough power (200 watts) to serve as a small PA (you can even run extension cabs) or personal monitor in a band setting, and two channels with a tube pre that does a beautiful job with vocals as well as acoustics. I think a lot of folks end up not liking acoustic amps because they are trying to do sound reproduction with less power than many car stereos. For the setting you describe, you could handle the parties with the K&K's and the band stuff with your Rare Earth. The amp will do very well with both - run the line outs to the PA with the full band for more spread.

    I bought my kids Cube 30's and they are pretty darned good for what they are, but there is no comparison to the Genz Benz for acoustic tone. Really night and day.
     
  7. CrazyFingers

    CrazyFingers Member

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    Thanks for all the comments--really great information that I will put to immediate use!
     
  8. bazooka47

    bazooka47 Member

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    K&K mini-western works for me. Very natural through my AER Compact 60, or right into the board. Even sounds decent through a guitar amp.
     
  9. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    the general principles at work in all these responses are:

    a pickup that just hears the strings will let you get loud, but not sound as "real", e.g., soundhole, under-saddle

    a pickup that hears the wood or the air will sound more true, but will be trickier to EQ and less stable at higher volume, e.g., contact transducer, microphone.

    a system that combines one of each type can give the best of both worlds, and can be tailored to the situation, e.g., bluegrass jam vs. playing with bass & drums.

    an acoustic amp is just a little portable p.a., so get one powerful enough to give a truly accurate sound at volume, or don't bother.
     
  10. 62Tele

    62Tele Supporting Member

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    walterw - bingo. Just pick your fav's.

    Only thing I would add is that the pickups are generally getting so good EQ really isn't that big a deal.
     

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