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Thread: Small acoustic amp for mandolin AND guitar

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    Registered User CelticDude's Avatar
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    Default Small acoustic amp for mandolin AND guitar

    I'm thinking about a small acoustic amp that would work with both a mandolin and a guitar. Mostly it would be for jamming at home or friends; for any gigging I would use it more to control the sound, and put a mic in front of it if needed. The guitar has a sound hole pickup, while the mandolin would use a mic, so I want an amp with both 1/4" and XLR inputs, which most have. The obvious (to me) choices are the Marshall AS50D, the Fishman Loudbox Mini, or one of the Acoustic brand amps, either the 15 or the 30 watt. Also, and I hate to mention the "B" word here, is the Behringer ASX450.

    I'm a little conflicted about the price range. Part of me just wants to get a small, under $200 (or even <$100) amp for banging around at home with pedals, and if I do start gigging regularly in the future, get a better one (trading or selling the cheaper one.) Another voice says get the best one I can, once, and use it for everything. Hence the range in my above choices.

    I'd like to hear from anyone who's used any of these, or from anyone who's used a different one that they think was great. Or any other advice (go ahead, recommend a ham sandwich even tho I'm asking about different grilled cheese flavors...)

    Thanks

  2. #2
    Gene @ RSM
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    Default Re: Small acoustic amp for mandolin AND guitar

    Although I don't have any advice on a specific brand or price range for your amplifier dilema, I am of the opinion to get what you need now AND a bit more for what you MIGHT (within reason) need in the future.

    I've gone the "get enough to get by and save money" route and have generally wished I had gone the extra money and picked up an item with more power,versatality,etc.

    BTW, I too have been Jonesing for that Fishman Mini but haven't had an opportunity to do a comparison.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Small acoustic amp for mandolin AND guitar

    The best are the AER acoustic amps, but probably too pricey.

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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Small acoustic amp for mandolin AND guitar

    If you're going for option #2 and getting the best you can, I'd second Mike's advice about AER amps. Not cheap, but they sound great and they're extremely well-made (German) amps. I've used the smaller Alpha amp for gigs in tiny venues like coffee shops, where there just isn't much room and I need a little sound reinforcement.

    One drawback to the Alpha if you're using it for two instruments like guitar and mandolin, is the single EQ section for both the 1/4" instrument and XLR mic inputs. You could have the mandolin and guitar plugged in at the same time, but you'd have to adjust EQ differently for each instrument. The slightly larger Compact 60 does have separate EQ on the two channels, but it's a bit limited on the mic channel with just two bands. That might work okay if the mic is a good match.

    If you decide on one of the other amps you mentioned, make sure the XLR input has phantom power, in case you want to use a condenser mic at some point. The AER amps have that (I've used it with my clip-on mini condenser mic on mandolin), and the Marshall amp you mentioned has it, but I'm not sure about that Fishman model or the Acoustic amps. If you're looking in this price range, I'd also recommend the Ultrasound brand of amps. They're a good bang for the buck, and they do have phantom power on the XLR input:

    http://elderly.com/brand/130N_ultrasound.html

  5. #5

    Default Re: Small acoustic amp for mandolin AND guitar

    My Cube 60 was stolen and I replaced it with the Alpha since my experience with is that I only play the mando though it and it is basically my D.I. with my own monitor. My curiosity was piqued by the ZT Lunchbox Acoustic http://www.ztamplifiers.com/products...acoustic.html# but it doesn't have the low Z out for the board.

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    Default Re: Small acoustic amp for mandolin AND guitar

    I have a Roland KC-110 and like it a lot. They built it for keyboards but it's 30w, a nice clean sound, flat response, 3 channels in. Also will run on 8 AA batt's for 8-10 hrs, which is sometimes handy. Not the cheapest but very good electronics and sturdy.
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    Registered User saintjohnbarleycorn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Small acoustic amp for mandolin AND guitar

    I am also looking for info on this http://www.musiciansfriend.com/ampli...stic-combo-amp

    Has anyone actually tried one out? I like the size and weight. Also my violin uses the redeye pre which is phantom powered, which this does have.
    "I'm still not dead" j barleycorn

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    Registered User Mark Seale's Avatar
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    Default Re: Small acoustic amp for mandolin AND guitar

    Another brand to look at is AAD (Phil Jones Amps) I heard John Jorgensen's quartet last year and they were all running these including Jason Anick on violin. They had a great sound and there are a few options in the lineup now.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Small acoustic amp for mandolin AND guitar

    On the high end, AER is hard to beat and you'll own it forever. The Roland line also has a lot to offer for more modest money. As far as the 'B-word', if you're really just going to use it at home to mess with pedals, then maybe OK. Just don't count on them for gigging. I had good luck, but their line is so variable you never know what you'll get. Even without talking about tone quality, I never really trusted in it on the reliability side. But I always carried a backup anyway. For messing around at home when nobody is counting on you, well OK, they fill a niche.
    Last edited by Tim2723; May-19-2012 at 7:11pm.
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    Registered User CelticDude's Avatar
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    Default Re: Small acoustic amp for mandolin AND guitar

    Thanks for all the good advice. It does make sense to just get the better amp. For me, that is the Marshall or something equivalent. The AER's are out of my price range (around $400). The Ultrasound looks like a contender. I am confused though; Musicians Friend has them, but they are UltraSound Dean Markley. Did DM buy them out? I'm borrowing a friend's Behringer, and the sound isn't bad, on guitar anyway. Haven't tried the mandolin yet. But lots of reviews, and people here, question reliability. So no Behringer.

    Question about speakers: does size matter? The Fishman and the Roland's have 6.5" speaker(s), which seems small for a guitar, although probably good for a mandolin. Eight inch seems like a good size for both.

    The good news is that the Fishman, Marshall, and Acoustics are all locally available for testing. Not sure yet about the UltraSounds.

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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Small acoustic amp for mandolin AND guitar

    Quote Originally Posted by CelticDude View Post
    Question about speakers: does size matter? The Fishman and the Roland's have 6.5" speaker(s), which seems small for a guitar, although probably good for a mandolin. Eight inch seems like a good size for both.
    Going back to your first post, you said "The guitar has a sound hole pickup." That usually implies a magnetic pickup, or a combination magnetic and something else. Is that what you're using?

    In my experience, that type of pickup usually (though not always!) implies a guitar player who likes some deep bass response "thump" from the guitar, since that's the thing that magnetic pickups do so well. It comes with some trade-offs in "natural" sound, but boy do they sound good for bass!

    So, are you a guitar player who likes a good healthy bottom end in the tone? If so, then yeah... 6.5" speakers wouldn't float my boat either.

    In fact, none of these options we've been talking about would do that.

    If you're "that" kind of guitar player (and I'm one too, and so is my partner in our mandolin & guitar duo), then you need to start thinking about a powered PA speaker instead of an acoustic amp. Because no acoustic amp really covers this range. Even a small powered 8" PA speaker like the Electro-Voice ZXA1 will outperform acoustic guitar amps because it's an actual bi-amped PA speaker designed to cover a full range.

    I like the sound of my AER Alpha for what it does, but that ZXA1 and a compact 4-channel mixer just blows it away for "oomph" on the low end.

    If you're not that kind of guitar player, then we can return to the regularly scheduled channel of talking about small acoustic amps.

  12. #12
    Registered User CelticDude's Avatar
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    Default Re: Small acoustic amp for mandolin AND guitar

    FP,

    You are correct about the type of pickup. It's the Fishman Neo-D (or I should say, it's on order). However, it was bought not because of my style, but because it were cheap! It's going into a small-body Guild, so a bit more bass is probably welcome. But I do have a somewhat light style, and finger-pick a lot. It's probably not the best for this, but cheap, and easy, seem good to me at this point. So yes, back to small acoustic amps, which I seem to have narrowed down to 3, although I'll try others on my next trip to GC.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Small acoustic amp for mandolin AND guitar

    Well, with that resolved, then:

    Quote Originally Posted by CelticDude View Post
    The good news is that the Fishman, Marshall, and Acoustics are all locally available for testing. Not sure yet about the UltraSounds.
    Seems like a logical Step Two to me.
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    Default Re: Small acoustic amp for mandolin AND guitar

    If you want the most pure acoustic sounding amp for guitar, mandolin, and in my case fiddle, look no further than the Ultrasound. I've tried a lot of them, and none come close. They come in different wattage- one sure to meet your budget. I'm not sure of the Dean Markley connection, as mine is a few years old. The company in W. Des Moines Iowa only makes acoustic amps. So they're not an offshoot of an electric amp company. The guitar/dobro player in one of my bands was so blown away by the sound of mine that he went out and bought one for himself. I play a 100 wt. one, but am thinking of going up to 250 watt one. The best part about them, besides the sound is their small size and light weight.
    Chief. Way up North. Gibson 1917 A model. JL Smith 5 string electric(black). 1929 National Triolian resonator mandolin. 1935 Dobro resonator mandolin with pickup. Harmony Batwing electric. Fender FM- 60 E 5 string electric. J Bovier EM-C 4 string electric . Rickenbacker 5002 V58 electric mandolin. Cigar box mandolin with pickup. Custom made "Jett Pink" 5 string electric- Bo Diddley slab style.

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    Long , Strange Trip Jim's Avatar
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    Default Re: Small acoustic amp for mandolin AND guitar

    Early on you said you didn't want to mention the B word but you had looked at the Behringer ASX450. I have one and would have to say DON'T get one mine was a huge disappointment. However, the cheapest 10w Behringer acoustic amp that I have has been dependable and quite sturdy has an xlr input and a 1/4 inch as well as a CD input. It is also at least as loud as the asx450 and weighs alot less. I have used it in small coffee shops and a couple bars and it was loud enough and easy to carry too. Almost everything mentioned on this thread is better but the little Behringer is OK.
    Jim Richmond

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    Destroyer of Mandolins
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    Default Re: Small acoustic amp for mandolin AND guitar

    Jim, you made the point better than I did. Behringer products are so dang variable. I had great luck with mine. They can be OK
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    Okay, I'm with you fellas tburcham's Avatar
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    Default Re: Small acoustic amp for mandolin AND guitar

    Fishman Loudbox Artist. I love mine. 120 watts of power. Combo connectors on both channels. Effects on both channels, both channels have phantom power. Wonderful natural sound. We use mine with two condenser mics set up a few feet in front of the band. Vocals and instruments are clean and natural sounding.
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    Registered User Wayne Bagley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Small acoustic amp for mandolin AND guitar

    I just purchased the Fishman Loudbox Mini. I'm using it on a Godin A8.

    I'm loving it. It's all I'll ever need. Find one and plug into it. I'm sure you won't look and further.

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    Registered User CelticDude's Avatar
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    Default Re: Small acoustic amp for mandolin AND guitar

    I found this article that says Dean Markley bought Ultrasound Amps in 2007:

    Dean Markley buys UltraSound Amps

    They also gave them a new look last year, according to this article. I'm guessing Elderly still has some with the old look. Presumably (hopefully) they didn't change the electronics any. Or maybe even improved them?

    Jim: I'm borrowing an ASX450, because my guitar player has one and likes it. He has gigged with it, and so far, so good. I'm not impressed with the sound, but it's not bad either. I'll take a closer look at the 10W model; I didn't realize it had the XLR input.
    Last edited by CelticDude; May-20-2012 at 10:40pm. Reason: respond to posts sent while I typed

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    Registered User Mark Seale's Avatar
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    Default Re: Small acoustic amp for mandolin AND guitar

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post
    If you're going for option #2 and getting the best you can, I'd second Mike's advice about AER amps. Not cheap, but they sound great and they're extremely well-made (German) amps. I've used the smaller Alpha amp for gigs in tiny venues like coffee shops, where there just isn't much room and I need a little sound reinforcement.

    One drawback to the Alpha if you're using it for two instruments like guitar and mandolin, is the single EQ section for both the 1/4" instrument and XLR mic inputs. You could have the mandolin and guitar plugged in at the same time, but you'd have to adjust EQ differently for each instrument. The slightly larger Compact 60 does have separate EQ on the two channels, but it's a bit limited on the mic channel with just two bands. That might work okay if the mic is a good match.

    If you decide on one of the other amps you mentioned, make sure the XLR input has phantom power, in case you want to use a condenser mic at some point. The AER amps have that (I've used it with my clip-on mini condenser mic on mandolin), and the Marshall amp you mentioned has it, but I'm not sure about that Fishman model or the Acoustic amps. If you're looking in this price range, I'd also recommend the Ultrasound brand of amps. They're a good bang for the buck, and they do have phantom power on the XLR input:

    http://elderly.com/brand/130N_ultrasound.html
    It looks like the AER has 24v phantom power, does your 48v DPA work ok with this?

  21. #21

    Default Re: Small acoustic amp for mandolin AND guitar

    from what I can find, AER have 48 v. phantom.
    http://www.aer-amps.com/images/stori...TD_GB_1112.pdf

  22. #22
    Registered User Mark Seale's Avatar
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    Default Re: Small acoustic amp for mandolin AND guitar

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Bunting View Post
    from what I can find, AER have 48 v. phantom.
    http://www.aer-amps.com/images/stori...TD_GB_1112.pdf
    Cool, the link I was reading was from a reseller, possibly outdated info or an older model?

    http://shoppingcart.djangobooks.com/...act_alpha.html

  23. #23
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Small acoustic amp for mandolin AND guitar

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Seale View Post
    It looks like the AER has 24v phantom power, does your 48v DPA work ok with this?
    I never figured out if that was an actual rating or a typo, but the DPA 4099 works fine on my older Alpha amp. The newer Alphas are all rated at 48v, I believe.

    Technical note: The 4099, like most clip-on mini condensers, doesn't actually use full phantom power in quite the same way as a full-sized condenser mic. Miniature mics like this usually run on a low bias voltage, so they can be powered by wireless body pack transmitters. The XLR barrel adapter supplied with mics like the 4099 or the Audio-Technica Pro 35 or ATM350, convert incoming 48v phantom to the low bias voltage the mic needs. The upshot is that this type of mic is fairly immune to dodgy phantom power levels.

    Full-size condenser mics also use internal step-down transformers in the preamp head, but some types will draw more voltage than others, up to the full 48v spec for a few studio condenser mics. The exceptions are tube condenser mics, which have their own special high voltage power supplies and don't draw phantom power at all. And also one or two very specialized (and very expensive) condenser mics from DPA and Schoeps that also require their own specialized high voltage power supplies.

    Probably more than you want to know about phantom power.

  24. #24

    Default Re: Small acoustic amp for mandolin AND guitar

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post
    I never figured out if that was an actual rating or a typo, but the DPA 4099 works fine on my older Alpha amp. The newer Alphas are all rated at 48v, I believe.

    Technical note: The 4099, like most clip-on mini condensers, doesn't actually use full phantom power in quite the same way as a full-sized condenser mic. Miniature mics like this usually run on a low bias voltage, so they can be powered by wireless body pack transmitters. The XLR barrel adapter supplied with mics like the 4099 or the Audio-Technica Pro 35 or ATM350, convert incoming 48v phantom to the low bias voltage the mic needs. The upshot is that this type of mic is fairly immune to dodgy phantom power levels.

    Full-size condenser mics also use internal step-down transformers in the preamp head, but some types will draw more voltage than others, up to the full 48v spec for a few studio condenser mics. The exceptions are tube condenser mics, which have their own special high voltage power supplies and don't draw phantom power at all. And also one or two very specialized (and very expensive) condenser mics from DPA and Schoeps that also require their own specialized high voltage power supplies.

    Probably more than you want to know about phantom power.
    I'm glad that there is a source for this kind of data.

  25. #25
    Registered User Mark Seale's Avatar
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    Default Re: Small acoustic amp for mandolin AND guitar

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post
    I never figured out if that was an actual rating or a typo, but the DPA 4099 works fine on my older Alpha amp. The newer Alphas are all rated at 48v, I believe.

    Technical note: The 4099, like most clip-on mini condensers, doesn't actually use full phantom power in quite the same way as a full-sized condenser mic. Miniature mics like this usually run on a low bias voltage, so they can be powered by wireless body pack transmitters. The XLR barrel adapter supplied with mics like the 4099 or the Audio-Technica Pro 35 or ATM350, convert incoming 48v phantom to the low bias voltage the mic needs. The upshot is that this type of mic is fairly immune to dodgy phantom power levels.

    Full-size condenser mics also use internal step-down transformers in the preamp head, but some types will draw more voltage than others, up to the full 48v spec for a few studio condenser mics. The exceptions are tube condenser mics, which have their own special high voltage power supplies and don't draw phantom power at all. And also one or two very specialized (and very expensive) condenser mics from DPA and Schoeps that also require their own specialized high voltage power supplies.

    Probably more than you want to know about phantom power.
    Always happy to know more about my gear! I'm looking at the AER, the AAD, and the Schertler amps for my violin/4099 setup.

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