I was recently looking for an acoustic guitar amplifier and tested several at my local music shop. I quickly settled on a choice between a Marshall AS50D and a Vox AGA 70. Both had a very nice acoustic guitar sound and enough power for my needs, it was difficult to choose between them. Before returning to the shop for a second test I started to write this review to help me make up my mind which amplifier was right for me.
I'm not going to list all the features of each amp, you can find those easily on the product sites I've listed at the end of the review.
The Marshall AS50D is a 50W, two-channel amplifier with a smart, slightly retro appearance. It produces very high quality sound from its two 8" speakers and dome tweeter. I found the sound of an acoustic guitar is very naturally reproduced. Some reviews complain that there are only two controls for equalization but I found them quite sufficient to tune in a good sound with more or less bass or treble depending on your taste and needs.
The adjustable reverb sounds very nice and its amount can be varied for each channel via a mix control. The adjustable chorus can be used to obtain a nice subtle level of chorus (I don't like too strong chorus myself). Chorus can be switched on or off for each channel.
The amplifier is quite loud and would be sufficient for small rooms and many types of bands. One good feature is a built-in limiter so you can turn the volume right up to use the amplifier's full power without distortion.
What About The Marshall's Weak Points?
Not really a weakness, but it is more bulky and heavier than the Vox. Not that it's really heavy, but if you want to walk far with it or use public transport then the Vox will be much easier to carry.
Although I was very impressed with the sound of the AS50D at first, it was the small size that tempted me towards the AGA 70.
Vox AGA 70
The AGA 70 acoustic guitar amp is a recent comer from the Vox, another legend best known for its electric guitar amplifiers. Like the AS50D it features 2 separate channels with jack or XLR inputs. One of the channels sports a tube pre-amp that boosts the sound and makes it rounder and warmer.
I was initially attracted by this amps small size, but when I tested it the sound quality was also excellent. With its 70 watts it is a little louder than the AS50D. I found it suffered a little in comparison to the Marshall though in the transparency of the acoustic sound.
Don't get me wrong, the sound is very pleasant, particularly from the tube, and the four equalizer controls for bass, middle, treble and colour offer a broad range of sounds. It will certainly please a lot of players.
But for me, it didn't do quite such a good job of rendering my acoustic guitar's natural sound. I think this is probably largely due to the difference in speakers. The Vox has only a single 6.5" speaker, coupled with the smaller cabinet size the sound seems a little trapped compared to the range of the Marshall.
In addition to the four equalization controls the AGA also offers very effective adjustable reverb for each channel. It also has separate auxiliary line inputs that can be used in parallel with the instrument channels, but there is no level control for the inputs.
The weaknesses of the AGA, in addition to the sound, are the chorus and the control knobs. Each channel has a switchable chorus that gives no control over the effect which was too strong for my taste. This made it more or less useless.
The control knobs have a rather flimsy appearance that didn't appeal to me. Some of you may like them though.
Both amps have very good feature sets for acoustic guitar players. While they both offer very pleasing sound, I find that the Marshall has a more transparent and natural sound with broader range.
The best results from both amps were obtained with the bass level turned well down. The sound was also improved by placing the amps on a stand off the floor.
After a second visit to the shop to compare the two amps again I finally settled on the Marshall. I would have been very pleased to take the smaller and lighter Vox amplifier, but not at the expense of missing out on the superior sound of the AS50D.
Marshall AS50D, http://www.marshallamps.com/product.asp?productId=43.
Marshall AS50D Acoustic Amp at Amazon.com.
Vox AGA 70, http://www.voxamps.com/aga/.
VOX AGA70 Acoustic Guitar Amplifier at Amazon.com.
If you enjoyed this post sign-up for more free guitar tips from Not Playing Guitar delivered by email or to your RSS reader.