You wouldn’t play a bass through a guitar amp, and you wouldn’t plug a guitar through a keyboard amp. Well, maybe you would, but it wouldn’t sound as good as it could.
You also shouldn’t use an electric guitar amp with an acoustic guitar if you’re concerned with your tone. Many guitarists choose dedicated acoustic guitar amps, and these can be a great purchase. Here are a few tips to help you pick out a great acoustic guitar amp.
Make sure that the amp is suited to your guitar’s pickups. Acoustic guitar pickups come in a variety of designs. Most acoustic guitar amplifiers are designed for piezo pickups, which are standard with most acoustic-electrics. If you’ve got a really fancy passive pickup, buy an amp that’s designed for it, or you won’t be getting your money’s worth.
The main difference between an acoustic guitar amp and an electric guitar amp is the electronics that are used to augment the tone of your acoustic, so it’s very important to find an amp suited to your guitar. Some acoustic amps even have multiple settings for multiple types of acoustics, and a select few even have an XLR input which will allow you to mic your acoustic when you need to.
Play it. Regardless, you should never buy an acoustic amp unless you’ve played through it. There’s simply no better way to hear what an amplifier has to offer. Visit your local music store, and play as many acoustic amps as you can get your hands on. Experiment with controls and EQ. If your guitar has an equalizer on it, turn it off or leave its settings in the middle. Leave the guitar at a moderate volume of about 75% of its total power (you may not be able to change the guitar’s volume, depending on the type of pickup that you own). Try to get a great sound from the amp alone, without messing with your guitar’s settings.
The best acoustic guitar amps are the ones that will keep you playing. Remember, you’re going to be toting this thing around to gigs and practice sessions, so don’t make the mistake of choosing an amplifier that’s frustrating or difficult to work with. Take your time and select an amp that really augments your guitar’s tone.
Don’t worry too much about digital effects. Most acoustic guitar amplifiers have terrible effects, and if something like flange is important to you, you should buy a separate pedal. The one exception is reverb, as most acoustic guitarists will use a touch of reverb in their live performances. Be sure to check this effect out before you settle on an amp. Acoustic guitar amps from Crate have a particularly clean sounding reverb setting, by the way.
Do you have any other tips for evaluating acoustic guitar amps? Post in the comments section below.