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Author Topic: Advice On Amplifying Acoustics From Mark Hanson  (Read 1816 times)
orsino
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« on: February 18, 2004, 10:12:08 PM »

Amplifying Acoustic Guitars
By Mark Hanson
www.AccentOnMusic.com
February, 2004

I continue to receive questions about amplifying acoustic guitars.
Since there are so many possible combinations of pickups, microphones
and
amplifiers, I can't pretend to know them all. But I will share my
experiences and current preferences.

When I play very small and quiet venues I simply play acoustically.  I
cut my acoustic teeth in the late '60s and early '70s, when good
acoustic amplification consisted of a high-quality microphone through
a P.A.  system.  Players needed to project back then!  Out of sheer
necessity, and at the insistence of several good instructors I had, I
learned to use the entire dynamic range of the guitar (which really
isn't very much), and to create good tone with no amplification.  I
still record using only good microphones.  No direct signal.

When amplification is necessary in a very small venue, I currently use
a Sunrise pickup and an AER 60W acoustic amp.  I get a very nice sound
with that simple setup on my Collings mahogany SJ.  The AER is
compact, lightweight and powerful.  It doesn't color the tone at all,
which may not be what you want!

When I am in a bigger venue with a P.A.  system, I use the Sunrise
through a direct box.  I own a Sunrise preamp, and a Baggs Para
Acoustic D.I.  I use one of those two if I am playing in a venue that
uses a sound system.  The Baggs has EQ and volume controls, while the
Sunrise has
no controls.  Recently I experimented with the Sunrise through a
Demeter preamp, which is the setup that Lyle Lovett has used for
years.  The result was a very nice, warm sound.

When I am playing through a P.A., in addition to the pickup system I
aim a good-quality microphone at the 12th fret of the guitar.  There
has

been discussion about phase cancellation when you combine two signals,
but I have never noticed a problem in my performances.

I prefer a good condenser mike, but, in a pinch, a simple Shure SM-58
works nicely.  If a sound person points an SM-57 (the one they use to
mike guitar amps) at your acoustic guitar, insist on an SM-58 instead.
The 58 has a warmer midrange.  If you use a combination of mike and
pickup, I suggest you try rolling off the treble from the pickup
signal, and rolling off the bass from the mike.

There are many good acoustic amplifiers on the market.  Of course,
what you can afford will have an effect on your choice.  For many
years I used a slant-faced Crate.  It did very nicely for small-venue
gigs, but colored the tone more than the AER does.  Tommy Emmanuel
travels with the battery-operated AER amp.  I have several friends who
swear by Ultrasound amplifiers, and others who continue to use Crate.
You will have to experiment with several to make an informed decision.
Please be aware that some amps simply won't work well with certain
pickup systems.  You need to find a combination that suits you.

Like acoustic amps, good pickups are in great supply, also.  My friend
K.C.  Wait at Pioneer Music in Portland, Oregon, loves the K&K pickup
system.  At the recent NAMM show I saw the new M1 soundhole magnetic
pickup from Baggs.  In addition to sensing the vibrating strings, this
pickup purportedly senses the vibrations of the top of the guitar.
That's a cool concept, but the show was so noisy you couldn't tell how
well it worked!  I have heard good things about it, though, and plan
to experiment with one in a quiet venue.  In the meantime, as I have
for 16 years, I continue to use a Sunrise because of its good tone and
ease of use.

So, if you are in the market for upgrading or adding an amplification
system to your sound, the first thing I suggest is that you take your
time. Experiment with several combinations of systems at your local
music retailers so that you can make an educated purchase.

One last thought: Remember that mostly the sound that comes from your
guitar is created by your hands and your brain.  A good player can
make a mediocre guitar sound pretty good, so keep practicing!

Mark Hanson

Copyright   2004 Accent On Music and Mark D. Hanson





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poki
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« Reply #1 on: March 14, 2004, 04:32:14 PM »

i see John Pearse has a low cost sound board pick up...Would such a pick up work if plugged directly into a computer input jack to be recorded as a wav or mp3?
poki B)  
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Larrivee 0-09K Koa/sitka
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orsino
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« Reply #2 on: March 14, 2004, 04:54:09 PM »

poki,
It will work but I don't think you'll be satisfied with the tone. ASTs usually sound tinny if you don't use some sort of preamp. I use a Schatten Dualie and a Baggs PADI and really like the tone. I don't know how much the JP costs, but I would HIGHLY recommend the Schatten Dualie. Only $55.
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« Reply #3 on: March 15, 2004, 05:20:37 AM »

B) Thanks orsino, the Schatten Dualie sounds like a great choice but i would still need a pre-amp to get best results with this pick-up?  do i understand correct, the pre-amp is used to control tone such as with a graphic equalizer and maybe volume control?...also do you know who carries the Schatten Dualie online?
thanks again poki
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« Reply #4 on: March 16, 2004, 01:51:00 AM »

poki,
The pre-amp boosts the signal from the pup. The pre-amp can be as simple as a small unit with no EQ to very sophisticated units with a lot of adjustable EQ ranges. You should really look at the Baggs PADA. I love mine.
http://www.lrbaggs.com/html/products/produ...s_preamps.shtml
The Schatten Dualie can be ordered directly from Les Schatten at http://www.schattendesign.com/

 
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« Reply #5 on: March 16, 2004, 11:17:54 AM »

Orsino, I also use the Baggs PADI and love it. I have used it on acoustic bass, mandolin, fiddle, etc...

The most important aspect of a "preamp" is to match the impedance of the guitars pickup to the input of the amplifier. Most guitar pickups have a very high impedance (1~4 megohms) and do not perform well when they are plugged into DIs or amps that have impedances that are often much lower. The lower impedance devices literaly "suck the tone" out of your signal. If you get the chance do an A/B comparison between a cheap passive DI and a good one (such as the Baggs, Fishman, JDI, or Avalon (drool) ) you will have no trouble seeing the dramatic impact the impedance matching has on your tone.

One of the reasons that Takamines are so popular as stage guitars is that they have excellent buffering in their on board preamps. You can plug them into just about anything and they will sound like a Tak. I have one to use when I know the sound equipment available is not going to be great.

So when looking at buying a preamp make sure that the input impedance is at least 1 megohm. Higher is better.  B)

Has anyone tried the new Ultrasound DI?
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Ron

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