Advice on basic guitar amps for self-taught beginner.

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tony.hicks
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Advice on basic guitar amps for self-taught beginner.

Postby tony.hicks » Sat Mar 29, 2008 4:41 pm

Claire (my 16 year old daughter) started teching herself the guitar about 18 months ago and last summer bought herself a Fender CD140SCE electro-acoustic (about £200). She often plays it as an acoustic but sometimes likes to "plug it in". As a temporary measure I've made up a cable so she can connect it to the disc input on my hi-fi but we have to use the magnetic input for sufficient sensitivity and therefore the equalisation is awful. Even turning the bass down to minimum she still gets feedback on the E-string.

She would like to get a proper guitar amplifier but we know very little about them. Should she just get a very basic 10W unit for about £50 to £70 or is that likely to be a waste of money (she's quite good at music and already has a grade 8 distinction for the Flute). A local music shop has suggested one of the Laney acoustic amps, I think it was the LA30C. Would that be a much better buy? Are there alternatives that are better value or produce a "better" sound?

She mainly wants something that sounds acurate and is good for an acoustic guitar, but knowing teenagers I'm sure she'd also like some "effects" as long as they don't detract from the quality of the basic system when they are switched off. At the moment she just wants it to use at home and school/college with small groups of friends, but if we could get something suitable for small performances without having to spend lots of money then so much the better.

Keep up the good music. I first started buying your albums when I was at university in the mid 70's and my wife and I have recently seen you a couple of times in the Taunton area where we now live. Claire says she wants to come too when you're next in this area.

I've passed on the word to a friend of mine who'd never heard of you before so he and his wife saw you for the first time last year at a performance that I was unfortunately unable to attend because of other commitments.
Tony H

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Russ Gannicott
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Postby Russ Gannicott » Sun Mar 30, 2008 8:12 pm

Hi Tony,
I expect there will be a few varied ideas in response to your question as the subject of acoustic amplification is quite subjective and there are few hard and fast rules. There are however a few points it does pay to look out for. Remember that what you want to be buying is NOT a guitar amp, rather a small self contained PA in a box. The cabinet should be sealed, not open back and volume should not be artificially boosted due to a 'mid rich' eq curve. Other than very pricey dedicated acoustic amps, preferably with a 12" speaker and horn, the best option can often be a small bass guitar amp or better still an active PA foldback monitor. Both of these options have the drawback of no internal effects and will rely on a stomp box of some sort for reverb and chorus etc. The PA monitor does have the benefit of flexability and can fill various roles in the future such as um.... a PA monitor(!), a personal guitar monitor, an electric guitar amp (with external FX) or even a little self contained PA. If your daughter ever wants to play with other musicians such as a percussionist and/or bass player, I would suggest you look for something that will deliver 50watts at a push, or can cruise along happily at around 30watts. Back to speaker sizes; whatever you settle on, go for the largest speaker you can for the money, as a small speaker tends to be very directional and when playing with other musicians your daughter would need to always be directly in front of the amp to hear herself.
All this is assuming that she wants a self contained system and doesn't intend to rely on 'in-house' PA's..in which case the amp will only be like a pre-amp/nearfield monitor and quite frankly can be as small as you like!
Try out the Laney, but I wouldn't expect it to be much more than an electric guitar amp without a distortion channel for that sort of money.....but there again, like I said this is a subjective issue and I could be totally wrong!
Good luck,
Russ

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Mike Stranks
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Postby Mike Stranks » Sun Mar 30, 2008 9:53 pm

Picking up on Russ's helpful comments, if you're going for a self-contained PA-type monitor have a close look at the Studiospares 'Fortissimo' range.

These are very highly thought of in the live-sound community and are good value for money. Not only do they come with a volume control, but you get three-band EQ - bass, mid and treble - as well.

I've just checked and they still have the 10a - 10-inch speaker plus horn - on special offer at £99+vat. This has 250 watts RMS to play with so plenty in hand!

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Russ Gannicott
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Postby Russ Gannicott » Mon Mar 31, 2008 10:50 pm

Brilliant idea Mike! I was thinking of the little Studiomaster monitors, but I remember hearing a pair of the Fortissimos a few weeks ago and was really impressed by them...I didn't realise they were so cheap! OK, so for around £140 it would be possible to get one of these, a Behringer multi FX pedal and a lead or two....brilliant!
Studiospares site can be a bit slow, but here's the link;
www.studiospares.com/Product.aspx?code=248240
Cheers,
Russ

tony.hicks
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Postby tony.hicks » Wed Apr 02, 2008 9:47 pm

Thanks very much to Russ and Mike for their very helpful comments. Certainly for £99+vat the 'Fortissimo' range sounds unbeatable when your comments regarding sound quality are born in mind.

I probably won't be placing an order until end of April / early May so I'd be grateful for any other comments from anyone, especially if they have any different information.
Tony H

tony.hicks
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Postby tony.hicks » Wed Apr 02, 2008 10:11 pm

I've just been looking a bit closer at the 'Fortissimo' details. I see it has an XLR input connection, is this suitable for direct connection to a guitar using a 1/4" jack to XLR cable? I can't see any input sensitivity in the spec. I think the pre-amp in the guitar just handles equalisation and gives an output in the order of a few mV (which I assume is standard). Is this adequate for direct connection to this PA.

I also see there are models with larger speakers but the 10a looks the best value for money at £99+vat (presumably why Mike suggested it), there's a big jump of an extra £60 to get the 12a so is it really worth it?
Tony H

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Mike Stranks
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Postby Mike Stranks » Wed Apr 02, 2008 10:47 pm

Hi Tony.

I think that your daughter would find that the Fortissimo 10a is quite powerful enough for amplifying acoustic guitar. It has a good dynamic range and can handle bass very well. It should certainly be OK for handling the bottom strings on an electro-acoustic. Clearly it's not designed to be a bass guitar amp, but that's not what you're looking for. Also the 10a is a bit smaller and therefore a bit lighter.

The XLR input on the Fortissimo Actives can take a mic or line signal - there's a button to select which you want. Russ (or others) can advise more on what outputs you'd get from an effects pedal - it may be enough to drive the line input. However, if you get a direct injection box - I'd sugest an 'active' model would be best (needs a 9-volt battery) - you can connect the guitar to the mic input on the Fortissimo thru the DI box. The cheapest active DI boxes are about £15-£20 - the more expensive models are about £150-£175. I'd suggest that a Behringer Ultra-DI DI100 would probably suit - costs about £30. I've got three of these and they're good value for money. If you wanted something a little cheaper, Studiospeares do an active DI for just over £20. I've just provided two for an install and they seem fine.

Of course others may have alternative amps that they'd recommend for acoustic guitar!

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GORDON
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Postby GORDON » Wed Apr 02, 2008 11:25 pm

Well done Russ and Mike for that info on amps etc. It's good to know that we are in safe hands on this Forum when it comes to things of this nature. This info is definitely first class.Good luck with it all Tony. Hilary and I look forward to meeting you soon :D

Best Regards.

G.


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