Unfortunately, what I didn’t care for so much (and I have heard way too many times, perhaps usually in these situations….) was the sound of the amplified guitar. It was a very thin and almost raspy sound in the treble end and the bass end of the guitar, while present, was artificial sounding and to my ear anyway, rather annoying. This distracted from the musical proficiency they displayed and made me want to leave sooner rather than later. They were playing through a small P.A. system, for what it’s worth.
Now, I don’t really blame them for this. It is extremely difficult to get a natural amplified sound from an acoustic guitar. I’ve written in this space many times about my search for the perfect guitar, which most likely hasn’t been built yet (!), but for me an equally long and frustrating quest has been to find an amplifier that produces that natural sound you get from a good quality microphone hooked up to a good P.A. system. I’ve tried just about all the big names – Fishman, Acoustic, Ultra Sound, Berringer, Marshall, Fender, Carvin, Roland and a few others I can’t recall right now. I have even tried (twice!) the much-ballyhooed AER acoustic amps and in all cases I’ve experienced either thin, artificial sounding treble and mids and/or muddy, boomy bass end. It is frustrating, to say the least, not to mention expensive!
I’ve also tried running my guitar directly into decent P.A.’s and this is somewhat better, but this requires lugging much more equipment to gigs, something these tired old bones object to. I’ve also tried various enhancements such as EQ devices, pre-amps (tube and solid state), reverb units, etc. Those devices usually help somewhat but I’m still not satisfied with the sound overall.
I usually use a guitar that has been retrofitted with a K&K Pure Western passive pick-up. The sound I get is reasonably natural but tends to be muddy unless some sort of pre-amp is used. Pre-amps often boost the gain though, leading to the potential of the dreaded feedback, which can turn off an audience in a heartbeat.
So why not just use a mic, you ask? Because you are bound to staying an exact distance from the mic to get the optimum sound and I find I can never totally relax in my playing when I have to worry about this. Also, if any volume at all is needed the possibility of feedback is high.
So my dilemma continues. Right now I’m using one of the new series acoustic amps from Carvin, which is….. OK. I’m also using a Red Eye pre-amp, which helps shape the sound better than going direct into the amp. For what it’s worth, this is when I’m playing my Martin M-36 with the K&K (muddy sounding unless I’m very, very meticulous with the settings) or my Gibson J-15 with B-Band pick-up (less muddy but also less resonant).
I certainly welcome comment on this. If you have a set-up that allows an acoustic/electric guitar to sound natural, i.e., just like the guitar itself sounds without electronics, only louder, I’m all ears!
Peace & good music,