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Acoustic Lead Series Amplifiers

August 15, 2012
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A mainstay of backlines from the late ’60s on through the swingin’ ’70s, solid-state Acoustic amps were popular not only with bass players—such as John Paul Jones and Jaco Pastorius—but guitarists too, as evidenced in their use by Frank Zappa, Albert King, and Pat Metheny. However, Acoustic’s new models are nothing like their products of yore, with their oversized speaker cabs with blue trim and built-in high-frequency horns. These days, Acoustic is going for big tones in affordable packages that are lightweight and have clean and modern looks.

All of the models in the Lead Series on review here—the G20, G35FX, G100FX, G120 DSP, and G120H DSP—feature black cabinets with classy salt-and-pepper grilles framed in British-style white piping, retro looking “stove” knobs, and blue lighted power switches. The construction was generally solid, and the tones I got using a Gibson SG Standard and Fender Telecaster were pretty impressive. Bottom line: If you’re looking for maximum bang for your buck when shopping for a guitar amp, you’d be smart to put aside any preconceived notions about non-tube technology and give these solid-state Acoustics a shot.

G20G20

Though just a step up from the tiniest amp in Acoustic’s Lead Series line (the 1x8 G10 combo), the G20 is a little growler with a big bite. Offering a single 10" speaker and two channels, the super portable G20 is ideal for beginners, teaching studios, or as a backup for live gigs. Its honest tones range from shimmering clean to more searing rock flavors, and thanks to the powerful Mid-Shift control, I was able to get punishing modern metal textures as well. The G20 can serve many tonal purposes, and for under $70, it’s a steal. My only problem with the G20—and all the other Lead Series models—is that the headphone output simply doesn’t do justice to the tones. A slight drag for such a cool feature that, when used in conjunction with the MP3 input, turns the amp into an anytime practice rig. Still, the G20 delivers way more than its incredibly low price would indicate.

G35FX

Packing enough power and volume to get you in trouble with the neighbors, the G35FX sounds bigger than it looks. And with its tightand- together-sounding high-gain tones and ability to deliver dense and punishing crunch, the G35FX makes a case for getting some run in a band environment too. The G35FX also offers some fine clean tones that are nicely enhanced by the spring reverb (which resides in a flimsy mounting inside the amp’s chassis) and the onboard chorus and delay. You can use the reverb and chorus or the delay and chorus together, but not reverb and delay simultaneously. That’s not a big deal, though. The analog chorus is chewy with just the right amount of mass, while the delay reacts to your picking attack nicely, delivering louder repeats when you dig in. If you’re looking for a little more tonal versatility than the G20 offers, as well as more volume and punch, the G35FX may be just right. It definitely hits the sweet spot of power, price, and features.

G100FX

Upping the power considerably, the G100FX is a 1x12 fire-breather that features the same complement of EQ and effects as the G35FX. And though it’s 65 watts louder, the G100FX doesn’t exactly put the 35FX to shame—it simply brings some more clean headroom and bottom-end heft to the party. The reverb is quite remarkable sounding, considering that it’s derived from a small tank that’s bolted to the chassis, and it adds a lovely ambient air to clean tones and sparkling chords. It may not do the super-drippy surf thing, but it’s a definite plus to the amp’s sonic vibe. Ditto for the smooth-sounding delay, and the chorus is also voiced very nicely for a variety of textures— from subtle wash to a chewy warble.

The G100FX delivers muscular clean tones and biting overdrive, as well as more modern metal textures. Key to this once again is the Mid Shift control, as it is the determiner between thick, classic-rock raunch or punishing, Dimebag-esque, scooped midrange tones. With the added bonus of an effects loop and a footswitch jack for channel select and toggling the chorus on and off (footswitch not included), the G100FX is an excellent choice as an affordable, portable, gig-ready amplifier.

G120 DSP

More watts, more effects, more everything, the G120 DSP seamlessly integrates 16 effects into a high-powered 2x12 combo. The G120 DSP’s clean channel displays a gig-ready amount of girth and volume by the time the Volume control hits nine o’clock . It’s also armed with a semi-parametric midrange equalizer, but whether I was using a Telecaster or a Gibson SG, not much EQ tweaking was needed. The amp’s basic tones were musically right where they needed to be, and I was able to conjure funky, double-stop chordal stabs, Andy Summers- like moonscape shimmers (thanks to the chorus/reverb preset), and ethereal, spacious- sounding reverbs. All of the effects offer useable, musical textures without any filler presets that you would never use. The G120 DSP’s crunch tones deliver a goodly amount of bark with humbuckers and single- coils. And while I wasn’t able to go from crunch-to-sparkling clean with my guitar’s volume control, the G120 DSP does boast a range of distortion tones that can thrive in a variety of settings—be it blues, classic rock, or metal. With a footswitch (not included), you’re able to switch channels and turn the effects on or off, which greatly adds to the amp’s stage viability.

G120H DSP

Sporting the same features as the G120 DSP, but in head form, the G120H DSP provides a formidable bass knock while roaring through a matching Acoustic 412A cab. For heavy, chugging rhythms, the G120H DSP through that big 4x12 box gives you an authoritative attack that an open-back combo simply can’t. With my Gibson SG, I was able to elicit throaty, on-the-verge-of-breakup lead tones by keeping the Gain down around ten o’clock. With the Gain nearly cranked, I dialed up some searing distortion that was equally at home in blues, rock, or extreme metal. The amp’s clean tones also benefit from the closed-back 4x12 treatment by offering extended and tight low-end response with single-coil or humbucker-equipped guitars. Bottom line: If you’re looking to strut some big-time rock onstage, the G120H DSP paired with the low-cost 412A cabinet will get you there while leaving enough change in your pocket to buy an 18-pack for the rehearsal. What a killer rig for a great price!

 

Specifications

CONTACT acousticamplification.com

G20

PRICE $69 street
CHANNELS Two
CONTROLS Gain, Lead Volume, Rhythm Volume, Bass, Mid, Treble, Mid Shift
POWER 20 watts
SPEAKER Acoustic 10" ceramic
EXTRAS 1/8" MP3 input, 1/8" headphone out
WEIGHT 16 lbs
BUILT China
KUDOS Insanely affordable. Super portable with meaty, nononsense tones.
CONCERNS Headphone output doesn’t do the amp’s tone justice.

G35FX

PRICE $149 street
CHANNELS Two
CONTROLS Gain, Lead Volume, Rhythm Volume, Bass, Mid, Treble, Mid Shift, Effects Mix
EFFECTS Spring reverb, delay/chorus
POWER 35 watts
SPEAKER Acoustic 12" ceramic
EXTRAS 1/8" MP3 input, 1/8" headphone out
WEIGHT 22.5 lbs
BUILT China
KUDOS A tight and powerful-sounding package with volume aplenty for gigs.
CONCERNS Headphone output doesn’t do the amp’s tone justice.

G100FX

PRICE $249 street
CHANNELS Two
CONTROLS Gain, Lead Volume, Rhythm Volume, Bass, Mid, Treble, Mid Shift, Effects Mix
EFFECTS Spring reverb, delay/chorus
POWER 100 watts
SPEAKER Acoustic 12" ceramic
EXTRAS 1/8" MP3 input, 1/8" headphone out, effects loop
WEIGHT 31 lbs
BUILT China
KUDOS Excellent combination of tone, volume, and portability.
CONCERNS Footswitch not included.

G120 DSP

PRICE $299 street
CHANNELS Two
CONTROLS Gain, Lead Volume, Rhythm Volume, Bass, Mid, Treble, Mid Shift, Mid Frequency, Effect Level, Effects Select
EFFECTS Six reverbs, five delays, five modulations
POWER 120 watts
EXTRAS 1/8" MP3 input, 1/8" headphone out, effects loop
SPEAKER Two 60-watt Acoustic 12" ceramic
WEIGHT 42 lbs
BUILT China
KUDOS Cool clean tones and tough distorted textures. Nice sounding effects.
CONCERNS Footswitch not included.

G120H DSP

PRICE $249 street
CHANNELS Two
CONTROLS Gain, Lead Volume, Rhythm Volume, Bass, Mid, Treble, Mid Shift, Mid Frequency, Effect Level, Effects Select
EFFECTS Six reverbs, five delays, five modulations
POWER 120 watts
EXTRAS 1/8" MP3 input, 1/8" headphone out, effects loop, two 8Ω speaker jacks
SPEAKER Tested with Acoustic 412A cabinet ($229 street)
WEIGHT 24 lbs
BUILT China
KUDOS Half-stack heaven at an affordable price. Great range of sounds.
CONCERNS Footswitch not included.

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