References on Acoustic Guitar Amplification: Articles and Equipment Reviews

This reference list is by no means complete; but perhaps it will help you learn more about acoustic guitar amplification or about specific pieces of equipment you are considering purchasing. I'd love to hear of any additional printed or electronic resources on this topic; send them to me at the address listed below.

The following abbreviations are used below:


General Articles on Amplification Issues

Electrifying Acoustics (various authors) GP Aug 1990
An entire issue devoted to amplifying acoustics, with articles on pickup selection, EQ, discussions with pros, etc. There is some important new eqpt that has appeared since then, but not too much new. 1994 GP issues indicate back issues of this issue remain available.

"Acoustic Guitarist's Guide to Amplification" (Rick Turner) AG Nov/Dec 1990
A general overview in one article, with lots of addresses for manufacturers.

"The Amplifying Maze" (Chris Proctor) AG Nov/Dec 1992 and Jan/Feb 1993
Two part article on amplifying acoustics. Too short to be very informative about technical details, but Part 2 has some interesting descriptions of various pro's setups (Russ Barenberg, John Knowles, Alex de Grassi, Laurence Juber, Preston Reed, Adrian Legg, Harvey Reid, Chris Proctor), with their remarks on why they use what they use.

"Amplification" (various authors) AGGG
A section of the AGGG devoted to amplification issues, with articles on pickups, preamps, EQ, microphone selection, and acoustic amps. Several useful tables summarize what is currently available.

Live Sound Issues

This is a complete field in and of itself, but here are a few articles that discuss some aspects of live sound and equalization whose clarity and brevity might recommend them to performing guitarists.
"The Art of Equalization" (Ethan Winer) PE Aug 1979
Describes graphic and parametric EQ, with clear drawings and a table indicating the effects of EQ in various frequency bands on various instruments.

"Peak Performance Tips for Onstage Sound" (Craig O'Donnell) EM Sep 1988
Very brief (2 page) list of some pointers on the importance of good low frequency sound, power amp headroom, and very basic EQ pointers.

"Live Sound Tip Sheet" (Steve Oppenheimer and Gary Hall) EM May 1990
Lists dozens of tips and problems to watch out for in live sound situations.

"Spectral Management" (Dave Moulton) HSR Jul 1993
Review of qualitative aspects of the various octaves of the audio spectrum, and how to use them to qualitatively affect one's impression of a mix. The lead article in a series by a respected audio writer and teacher (the creator of the Golden Ears audio training CDs).

"EQ Workshop" (Neal Brighton and Michael Molenda) EM Oct 1993
Brief review of EQ issues, listing common adjustments for various instruments. Directed more toward mastering than toward live sound.

Acoustic-Electric Guitars

Descriptions and reviews of guitars that come equipped with pickups and preamps.
"Plugging Into Acoustic-Electrics" (Michael Wright) AGGG
Brief description of the various options, and a table listing sources for Acoustic-Electric instruments.

"Bench Tests: Acoustic-Electric Bonanza" (Harvey Citron)
Reviews the Taylor 710 LTD, Ithaca Guitar Works Oneida, Takamine FP 360S, and Ovation Elite LTD.

Pickups: Reviews and Installation

"Soundhole Solutions: A 19 Pickup Shootout" (Andy Widders-Ellis and Art Thompson) GP Jun 1994
A review of 19 soundhole (electromagnetic) pickups, and discussion of the Sunrise soundhole pickup (considered separately because it was so much better---and so much more expensive ($170)---than the rest). The 19 were divided into two categories: those that sounded good and those that didn't! Only five sounded good to these reviewers: DiMarzio Quickmount ($84), Dean Markley Pro-Mag ($85), Seymour Duncan Woody XL ($129), Seymour Duncan SA-1 Acoustic Tube ($99), and the Bartolini 3A or 3AV ($99/$111). The Bartolini was the highest rated, followed by the Duncan SA-1. Also includes a description and rave review of the Sunrise, which is used by such heavyweights as Leo Kottke, Richard Thompson, David Lindley, Michael Hedges, Phil Keaggy, and Brooks Williams.

"Pickup Voicing" (Rick Turner) AG Jul/Aug 1994
Discusses installation tricks for getting good sound from under-saddle piezo pickups.

Acoustic Guitar Amps

Descriptions and reviews of amplifiers built especially for amplifying acoustics (built in preamps and hi-fi amp and speaker combination).
"New Acoustic Amps: Marshall and Crate Break the Price Barrier" (Art Thompson) GP jun 1994
Review of Crate CA 125D (around $900) and Marshall Acoustic Soloist ($1099). Both amps sounded very good; the Crate was praised for having controls that "are superb for cutting feedback." Reviewers preferred Crate's reverbs but Marshall's chorus; Crate could play louder without distortion.

"Seymour Duncan Tara Amp" (Joe Gore) GP Jun 1992
Review of Duncan Tara amp ($1350); "sounds wonderful and looks groovy." Two channels (?) of preamp and EQ, with no built-in effects.

"Trace Elliot TA 100R" (Stan Cotey) GP Nov 1991
Quite favorable review, but notes it is "rather expensive" ($1850). 2 channels (I think...) of preamp & filters, & built in digital reverb. Four smallish speakers (5.5"?) in a cool looking case. Adrian Legg loves it.

"Acoustic Amps" (Rick Turner) AG Nov/Dec 1994
Review of Centaur A1204V ($468), Trace TA35CR ($699), Guild G-600 Aspen ($899), Crate CA125D ($900), Seymour Duncan Tara ($1350), Daedalus C81-M ($1695), and Fishman Acoustic Performer ($1995). Includes table summarizing features of all amps reviewed. All sounded good, but had various strengths and weaknesses.

Preamp Reviews

"L.R. Baggs Micro Duet" GP Feb 1993
Very favorable review of this expensive onboard unit ($395 plus $99.50 for stereo option), with help of Alex de Grassi.

"Rane MAP 33 Preamp" (Larry Oppenheimer) EM May 1993
Review of the Rane MAP33 Midi Programmable Acoustic preamp, the 2-rack-space "Rolls Royce" of preamps (with a Rolls Royce price tag of $2K). This is a very informative review, including a block diagram of this complicated beast which offers two channels of preamp (mic + pickup) (but with 3 pairs of inputs so you can switch between instruments w/o changing plugs), a vocal mike input, and a line input (for tape, drum machine). The guitar chain has a buffer, low filter, notch filter & 7 band graphic EQ for each pickup; there are lots of output & effects routing possibilities. The reviewer was impressed, and lent it to DeGrassi who seems to have been impressed, too. Both reviews of this machine (see below) comment that it seems more appropriate for live than for studio work, but does fine in either setting. For that price, it had better do jumping jacks, too!

"Rane AP 13 Acoustic Preamp and MAP 33 MIDI Acoustic Processor" (Michael Cooper) HSR Jul 1993
Review of Rane MAP33 & Rane AP13. This is a shorter & much less informative review of the MAP than the EM review. But it additionally reviews the newer, cheaper ($550) non-programmable, non-midi 1-rack-space AP13, which has two channels of buffer, low filter, notch, 7 band graphic, pan & effects loop.

"Fishman Acoustic Blender" (Stan Cotey) GP apr 1992
Very favorable review of this combined piezo/mic preamp ($399.98 preamp, add about $150 for mic and accessories). "A real problem solver."

"Tuffy Hotpatch" (Andy Widders-Ellis) GP Apr 1992
Brief but favorable review of an inexpensive, palm-sized hi impedance to low impedance buffer/preamp, with 3-way EQ switch ($119).

"BBE 386 Acoustic Preamp" (Andy Widders-Ellis) GP Sep 1992
One channel rack mount device with notch filter (for feedback elim), 1 sweepable EQ band, and the BBE "sonic maximizer" process built in, $300. The cheapest (& most limited) rack-mount item I've seen reviewed, though no other item has the Maximizer or any other built in enhancer. "The Enhancer is very musical." Cliff Eberhardt raves about this unit.

"Pendulum HZ-10 Preamp" (Larry Cragg) Frets Apr 1989
Very favorable (but brief!) review of one of the Pendulum Audio HZ-10 series of preamp/parametric EQ rack mount gear. This seems to be the piece of gear that, in the last few years, has come to dominate the pro setting. Phil Keaggy, Leo Kottke, James Taylor, Brooks Williams, David Wilcox (etc, you get the picture) each use 1 or more of them, many others (Hedges, DeGrassi...) use them occassionally. The cheapest model (1 channel of hi-Z buffer with 4 bands of parametric EQ & 2 effects busses) runs $550. They have small preamps that hang at the end of the cord that plugs into the guitar; the main preamp (at the other end of the cord!) is is in a rack-mount case, 1U I believe. Pendulum now has a new 1U *dual* preamp (the SPS-1 Stereo Preamp) that drops one band of EQ, but lets you treat two signals in one rack space. It has not yet been reviewed, and I don't know the price.

"Pendulum Audio Systems HZ-10 Acoustic Guitar Preamp" (David Hicks) GP Dec 1989
Another very favorable review of the HZ-10. "I give it an A+ in all respects!"
Fishman, L. R. Baggs, and Passac also offer small preamp units (for one signal source) in the $100 to $200; I haven't seen recent reviews of any of these. They can be carried on your belt.
The compiler of this reference list is Tom Loredo. You can reach him by email at