References on Acoustic Guitar Amplification: Articles and
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:
- AG --- Acoustic Guitar magazine (bimonthly)
- AGGG --- Acoustic Guitar magazine's Gear Guide
(on newstands in Fall 1994)
- EM --- Electronic Musician magazine (monthly)
- Frets --- Frets magazine (now out of print)
- GP --- Guitar Player magazine (monthly)
- HSR --- Home and Studio Recording magazine (retitled
Recording in mid-1994)
- PE --- Popular Electronics magazine (monthly)
- 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
- "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.
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
- "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
- "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.
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.
- "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.
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.
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.
- "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,
- "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
- "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!"
The compiler of this reference list is Tom Loredo. You can
reach him by email at