I remember how excited I was when Fender introduced its first acoustic amps—the Acoustasonic Series—back in the mid ’90s, and it turned out to be totally warranted. I’ve enjoyed using the Acoustasonic Junior 2x8 combo I bought way back when on countless gigs, and it still works despite being a bit banged up. Fender has introduced myriad variations on the Acoustasonic over the years, and new Acoustasonic 40 rekindled my interest because it’s designed on the original principles—simple, solid, and affordable—yet comes in a package that’s even smaller and way lighter than my old Junior.
The Acoustasonic 40 has what Fender calls a “brown and wheat” color scheme—consisting of a dark brown front grille, brown control face, and tan texturedvinyl covering—and is about the size of a toaster. Weighing in at slightly over 16 pounds, it was a cinch to carry around to various test sites, including my ridiculously overcrowded office, where its tiny footprint made it right at home.
Testing turned out to be a no-manual-needed affair, which is always nice. You can plug a guitar or a mic into either channel’s convertible input, and both channels feature the same 3-band EQ and reverb. There’s a mini-jack auxiliary input, a minijack output, and an XLR direct out.
I tested the amp using a Taylor 514ce equipped with an onboard Fishman Prefix pickup and preamp system. The first thing that caught my ear was the sheer amount of sound the Acoustasonic could deliver. It was a big surprise coming from an amp pushing a mere 40 watts through a pair of 6.5" speakers. Removing the back panel revealed that the speakers were surrounded by foam, and the sound was more full with the foam in place. One thing was clear when I did a side-by-side comparison with my old Acoustasonic Junior: Fender has figured out how to get bigger sounds from smaller packages over the decades.
With all the knobs set at noon, the tone was very present without being too brittle. I like some booty in my acoustic sound, and I was able to get it with a slight bass bump to the EQ. There was good headroom, and the sound didn’t become muddy when I did some funk-bass style thumping and plucking. Individual notes were well defined, and chords sounded full and didn’t break up much even when I strummed hard with a pick.
Vocals from a Sennheiser e835 dynamic microphone sent through an XLR cable into Channel 2 sounded crisp and clear. So did selections from an iPhone via the auxiliary input. Players who don’t sing might want to try running a second guitar signal into Channel 2; I found a solid complementary tone via a Fishman Blackstack passive magnetic pickup set in the Taylor’s soundhole.
My Acoustasonic Junior had one tragic flaw: no balanced direct line out. But that’s rectified here, and I used it to send a signal via XLR cable into a powered QSC K10 enclosure. The digital hall reverb had nice depth, and I appreciated being able to adjust its level separately on each channel to suit my guitar and vocal tastes. I plugged in a pair of ear buds, and the main speakers automatically muted—perfect for practicing. Very cool.
Fender’s Acoustasonic line currently consists of four models that range from 15 to 150 watts. The Acoustasonic 40 strikes me as ideal for players and singers searching for a straightforward amp for practice or coffee houses, which can be easily expanded via the P.A. for bigger gigs. It delivers a lot of bang for the buck, and has a sound that truly belies its super-small size.
PRICE $199 street
CONTROLS Channel 1: Combination 1/4"/XLR Input, Volume, Bass, Middle, Treble, Reverb; Channel 2: Combination 1/4"/XLR Input, Volume, Bass, Middle, Treble, Reverb
EXTRAS 1/8" Aux In, 1/8" Phones Out, XLR Balanced Line Out
POWER 40 watts
WEIGHT 16.2 lbs
KUDOS Lightweight and compact. Surprisingly big sound from such a small amp. Very affordable.