We all know that acoustic guitars don’t always require amplification, but for those occasions in which you do need to plug in, it’s definitely a good idea to use the correct equipment – in this case, a purpose made acoustic guitar amplifier.
In this KillerGuitarRigs Guide, we’ve reviewed the 5 best acoustic guitar amplifiers. When conducting the test, we used the same guitar on each amp – a Martin D10E with the stock Fishman MX-T electronics. Within the test we were specifically looking for cleanliness of tone/lack of coloration, responsiveness to loud strumming, quiet strumming, and fingerpicking, and the overall feature set of each unit.
Where a second input channel was available, we plugged in a Shure SM58 via XLR in order to assess the vocal response from the amps.
Additionally, we’ve provided a handy acoustic guitar amp buyer’s guide.
Keep on reading to learn:
- What are amps made for acoustic guitars?
- Are solid state or tube amps better for acoustic guitar?
- What are the different kinds of acoustic guitar amps?
- What to look for in the best Acoustic Guitar Amplifiers?
And much more!
- Our Top Three Picks
- Fender Acoustasonic 40 – Our Top Pick
- Fender Acoustasonic 15 – Best Budget
- Boss Acoustic Singer Live LT 60 – Editor’s Choice
- Fishman Loudbox Mini BT 60
- Blackstar Acoustic: Core 30
- Buyer’s Guide
- Are Solid State or Tube Amps Better for Acoustic Guitar?
- What Are the Different Types Of Amps For Acoustic Guitars?
- What to Look for in the Best Acoustic Guitar Amplifiers?
- Final Thoughts on Amplifiers for Acoustic Guitars
Our Top Three Picks
Our Top Pick was the Fender Acoustasonic 40. It’s the perfect combination of practicality and performance. It features classic looks, simple operation, and it’s relatively compact. This amp is super versatile, and takes both bedroom practice and small gigs within its stride
Our Best Budget option was the Fender Acoustasonic 15. This is the baby brother of our top pick, the Acoustasonic 40, and it offers an incredible feature set. You’re getting Fender quality, extreme portability, and great tones, all at an unbelievably low price.
The Boss Acoustic Singer Live LT 60 was our Editor’s Choice. This is a premium amp for the discerning acoustic guitar player. It’s ideal for studio use, as well as practice and small to medium size live performances. It looks stunning, and is built to last.
Fender Acoustasonic 40 – Our Top Pick
A tremendous all round workhorse of an amplifier
Fender has a storied history when it comes to amplifier manufacturing, but their reputation has arisen mainly from their electric guitar tube amps, so we were very excited to see how the 40 watt, solid state Acoustasonic 40 performed. This amp certainly looks the part. It’s finished in attractive brown Tolex, as is popular with many acoustic amps, and the fit and finish were solid, as expected from a Fender.
The clean tones were simply fantastic. The two 6.5” speakers reproduced all of the natural punch of the Sitka spruce from our Martin D10, but never did it feel overpowering. We were able to dial in the EQ to accurately portray the sparkly highs we get from this guitar when unplugged, and with very little tweaking, it was also able to reflect the warmth that this guitar boasts with gentle strumming.
The Acoustasonic 40 does feature a second input, so we were able to check the vocal response, and we were more than happy. The second channel gets its own EQ adjustment, so we were able to dial in for both guitar and vocals simultaneously.
As for built in FX, this amp was limited to a simple reverb controlled by a rotary dial, but in all honesty, it didn’t need anything more. The reverb added some nice depth, and at no point did it feel artificial. If you want to play with a backing track, there’s an aux in that will allow you to do so, and should you need to, you can also hook this amp up to your PA system to use as a monitor.
Verdict: We found that the Fender Acoustasonic 40 gave us a great blend of functionality, power, and price. This is a practical amplifier that will suit the needs of almost any acoustic guitar player. The power and overall volume make it suitable for everything from bedroom practice to small indoor gigs, and for the solo artist, the ease of connecting media players for backing tracks make it an attractive prospect.
Fender Acoustasonic 15 – Best Budget
A true practice amp at a price to fit all budgets
The Acoustasonic 15 might just be the perfect practice amp for the acoustic player. It offers almost all of the features of the larger Acoustasonic 40, but comes in at under half the price. As with the 40, the Acoustasonic 15 is finished in an attractive vintage Tolex, and the build quality was equally as good.
The tones were very neutral, in fact, they were almost indistinguishable from the unplugged guitar across the board. While it’s rare to play 15 watt practice amps at full volume, we made sure to check that the single 6” whizzer cone speaker didn’t begin to distort with heavy strumming and high volume. We can gladly report that even when cranked, the little 15 watt Acoustasonic keeps its composure. Similarly, with fingerpicking, we found that it maintained clear note separation, and brought out the highs in the most natural way.
Incredibly, for a sub $150, 15 watt practice amp, it featured a second channel, specifically for microphone use. The mic channel didn’t have individually adjustable EQ, but simply having the facility to plug in a mic was appreciated at this price point.
Built in EQ controls included bass, middle and treble, as well as individual volume controls for each channel. There was a great built in chorus effect, controlled by a rotary dial. It added some presence, but didn’t sound unnatural.
Verdict: We thought very highly of the Fender Acoustasonic 15 . This is a great practice amp, and in a pinch, we’re sure you could probably even use it for small coffee house type gigs. It’s highly portable, well made, and offers sound quality and features that far exceed its price point.
Boss Acoustic Singer Live LT 60 – Editor’s Choice
The looks and performance of a boutique amp with legendary Boss reliability
The Boss Katana series has made a big impression on the KGR team recently for their amazing tones, superior build quality and incredible feature sets. It turns out that Boss makes a great acoustic amp, too. The Acoustic Singer LT60 is a 60 watt, all in one PA/acoustic guitar amplifier designed for the working musician.
Tonally, this was easily the clearest, cleanest amp we looked at. It gave us about as true a representation of our acoustic guitar as we think is even possible, or at least as is detectable by the human ear. Much of the accuracy comes from the fact that this is a bi-amped setup – in a nutshell, this means the woofer and the tweeter in the speaker setup get their own, individual power amp. Without getting too technical, we can absolutely say that this tech works. Whether we were fingerpicking, strumming hard, or playing gentle arpeggiated passages, we felt that the natural character of the guitar was always properly represented.
As you’d expect, there’s individual input channels for a mic and for a guitar, and both feature independent EQ and FX. The vocal channel was responsive and dynamic both with and without a guitar playing simultaneously.
There was full scope EQ on board, including bass, middle, and treble adjustment. The vocal channel offered delay, echo and reverb, all of which worked very well to add some color to our vocals, without disrupting the guitar’s organic tones. The guitar channel offered delay, chorus and reverb, which again didn’t distract from the natural sound.
Verdict: Ever since it was revealed at NAMM in winter 2020, the Boss Acoustic Singer Live LT 60 has been the benchmark for the singer/songwriter acoustic guitar amp and PA combo. It’s highly portable, yet powerful enough for mid size indoor gigs, and potentially even outdoor performance. The sound quality is perfect for studio use, and it could well be the ultimate acoustic guitar amp.
Big power and Bluetooth connectivity in a tiny package
Fishman is a big name in acoustic guitar electronics, and their Loudbox amp series has been a huge success amongst acoustic players, and the Mini BT 60 is a big part of their popularity. First of all, we absolutely loved the design of this amp – it was retro without being kitsch. The build quality was excellent, and included plush, leather effect Tolex, a matte gold panel, and gold accented grille cloth.
The tone test went very well for the Fishman. It offered a very balanced, neutral sound profile through its single 6.5” woofer and 1” tweeter, with no excess coloration, and no particular bias towards any end of the EQ range. We were satisfied with the accuracy of the tones, as well as with the responses to fingerpicking, as well as heavy and gentle chord strumming.
The Loudbox Mini BT 60 does feature 2 channels, 1 for guitar, and one for XLR input mics. There is a master volume control, and both inputs have individual EQ controls, as well as individual gain. Vocal response was good, but a little flatter than we found on the similarly priced Boss ASL.
There are some built in FX, including chorus and reverb on the guitar input, and just reverb on the vocal channel. Overall, the FX were good, but we did find that the chorus sounded a little unnatural.
One of the most impressive features was the Bluetooth connectivity. Pairing was fast and simple, and we were easily able to play backing tracks through the amp to jam along with – a great feature for solo performers.
Verdict: The Fishman Loudbox Mini BT 60 is a great amp if you demand excellent portability and the convenience of Bluetooth connectivity. Sadly, it fell just a little short when it came to the built in FX and vocal response. If you plan to play clean most of the time and you won’t be singing, then this should definitely remain in play.
A decidedly modern take on the acoustic guitar amp
Blackstar have been pioneers in small amp technology in recent years, having revolutionized the micro amp, turning it from a novelty, into a genuine practice tool. The Blackstar Acoustic: Core 30 carries on this trend, bringing acoustic players an amp that is as suitable for bedroom practice as it is in the studio or at small gigs.
We were once again happy with the tone test. We didn’t encounter any particular bias in the sound from the dual 5” speakers, and we found that the note separation and clarity while fingerpicking was amongst the best of any of the amps on trial. In soft strumming we did lose a little of the responsiveness, and with the volume cranked and heavy strumming, we did encounter some rattles.
As with all of the other amps on test, the 30 watt Acoustic: Core 30 featured an instrument in, and a mic in channel. Both had their own EQ, although the guitar channel featured low and high controls, but no mids. The vocal channel did feature a full range of EQ controls, (low, mid, and high). Vocal response was generally good, and we loved the vocal clarity enhancer button, which really tidied up the responsiveness with minimal effort.
The guitar line in also featured an enhance button, but unfortunately it felt a little gimmicky. With enhance on, we lost a lot of the natural tone of the guitar, and everything felt very artificial. The guitar channel did feature chorus and reverb FX, both of which worked very well, complimenting the tones rather than drowning them. The vocal channel also featured reverb, which added some nice depth.
Although we didn’t try it, this amp is also able to accommodate a footswitch, which is a great feature if you’re planning to use this amp for live performances. The USB out was another pleasant surprise, too, as it allowed for direct USB out recording via a computer.
Verdict: The Blackstar Acoustic: Core 30 is a technologically advanced acoustic guitar amp with some great features that make it as at home in the studio as it is on the stage. It was full of nice touches that we didn’t see elsewhere that in many ways made up for the minor flaws. We really loved the kickstand in particular, which allowed for this amp to be used as a monitor and properly positioned to do so.
If you’re new to amplifying acoustic guitars, you’re probably wondering whether there’s a difference between acoustic and electric guitar amps, and whether it’s even worth bothering with a specialist amp. Keep on reading to learn more about why playing an acoustic guitar through the correct amp type can make a huge difference to your playing experience
Are Solid State or Tube Amps Better for Acoustic Guitar?
While this piece isn’t aiming to settle the age old ‘tube amps vs solid state amps for electric guitar’ argument, we are going to explain why one is particularly better than the other when it comes to acoustic guitar amplification.
As the aim of an acoustic guitar amplifier is to create a clean, neutral sound, the best choice in this case is solid state.
Tube amps are widely considered to be the gold standard in electric guitar amplification, but this is mainly because of their ability to break up naturally in an ear pleasing way, without the need for distortion pedals or overdrive FX. Tube amps provide an organic warmth in a way that solid state amps can’t, but as we know, this isn’t the optimum tone for an acoustic guitar.
A solid state amp should not generate breakup or distortion with the increase of volume in the same way as a tube amp. Acoustic guitar specific amps in particular should maintain a clean tone at any volume.
What Are the Different Types Of Amps For Acoustic Guitars?
Just as there are for electric guitars, there are also acoustic guitar amps to serve different purposes, depending on what you need from them. Keep reading to learn a little more about each type
Practice and Travel
The great thing about an acoustic guitar is that you don’t actually need any kind of amplification in order to practice and hear yourself, but there are a few circumstances in which it might be beneficial to have access to an acoustic guitar amp, even at home.
First of all, by playing through an amp, you may well be able to play out through to headphones if your amp has an aux out. This is handy for practicing nuanced techniques, especially if you’re practicing in a noisy or crowded area.
If your amp has an aux in, or even Bluetooth, you can load up a backing track to practice along with. Additionally, if you’re looking to practice with a looper pedal (like Ed Sheeran), you’ll need an amplifier.
If you’re planning to use your amp for travel or busking, consider one that has either rechargeable batteries, or one that can take disposable batteries. This will be especially helpful if you’re playing somewhere without access to mains power.
Amps For the Studio
If you’re planning to invest in an amp for a studio or even for a home studio, you’ll need to go with a model that keeps the recording process as straight forward as you can.
Especially in home studios, recording directly from a mic’d up guitar isn’t always ideal. If the room acoustics aren’t what you’re looking for in a particular take, adding echo, reverb, or chorus through an amp can add the depth you’re looking for without excessively coloring the natural tones.
Amps for Gigs and Live Performances
Depending on the size of the venue, you’re likely going to need something a bit more powerful than what you’d use for bedroom practice if you’ll be playing any kind of live performance. For small indoor venues, you’ll find that amps as small as 40-50 watts are more than sufficient. But, as the venues get larger, or, if they are in outdoor settings, you’ll need even more power in order to meet the volume needs.
What to Look for in the Best Acoustic Guitar Amplifiers?
Once you’ve established how you’ll be using your amp per the above (practice, studio, or performing), you can start to think about the features that you’ll need in your new acoustic guitar amplifier.
Amplifier power is measured in watts, and the lower the figure, the less powerful the amp is. Portable micro amps are available with as little as 3 watts of power, whereas amps for acoustic guitarists playing loud venues can draw as much as 400 watts.
Combo amps house both the amplifier and the speaker within a single cabinet. The size of the speakers varies depending on the power of the amp, but normally range between 6-12”. In some cases, the cabinet houses multiple speakers. The larger the speakers, the more air the amp can move, which results in greater volume. The same can be said for multiple speakers – a 2×12” will be able to produce greater volume than a 1×12” before breaking up.
On Board Effects
While acoustic guitar amplifiers aren’t designed to alter the organic tones of the guitar, they do often have ambient effects built in, designed to replicate some of the more ear pleasing room effects that aren’t always easy to replicate – things like reverb, chamber echo, etc.
If you’ll be plugging in a microphone into your amp at the same time as your guitar, or if 2 or more guitars will be playing simultaneously, you’ll need to make sure that the amp has multiple inputs.
If you’ll be using the same amp for practice and performance, be aware of the size and weight. If you need to be able to easily move between places on public transport or smaller modes of private transport, a 300 watt Mesa Boogie Rosette might not be the best call! If you’re able to budget for both, then this becomes less of a concern.
Final Thoughts on Amplifiers for Acoustic Guitars
Acoustic guitars fully deserve to be heard by your audience just as the luthier who made it intended them to be heard. By plugging into electric guitar amplifiers you aren’t doing your guitar’s tones any favors!
All of the amps featured in this guide are worthy of your attention, but if you’re in need of a reminder of our favorites; our top pick, the Fender Acoustasonic 40 is a superb choice for players looking for something they can gig with, record with, or practice with. Budget conscious players should look to the Fender Acoustasonic 15 for a feature packed and highly portable practice amp. Finally, our readers who are interested in a top quality, powerful acoustic guitar amp and micro PA, should look no further than the Boss Acoustic Singer Live LT 60.