With their acoustically designed curved wood backs and sides, the new Acoustic Pro and Acoustic SFX amplifiers are distinctive looking units that carry equally distinctive feature sets that could sway acoustic players toward one or the other depending on their needs and tastes. The Acoustic Pro is a straight-ahead amp with a stout power section and a speaker configuration consisting of a single 12 and a high-frequency tweeter. The Acoustic SFX features onboard DSP effects, Stereo Field Expansion circuitry (SFX), and a stereo power amp that drives a multi-speaker setup.
This model features two independent instrument/mic channels, each with a set of Volume, Low, Mid Level, Mid Freq, High, and Reverb controls, along with a Phase switch. You also get 1/8" Aux In and headphone jacks, an FX loop with a 2-position level switch, and a balanced XLR out with a Mic/Line switch. Selectable voltage and a ground-lift switch make it easy to get the amp set up for optimal performance here and abroad. The Acoustic Pro’s 12" driver and tweeter are driven by a 200-watt power section, giving the amp substantial volume and headroom.
Tested with a Larrivee guitar equipped with a Fishman Aura system as well as the piezo pickup on a Music Man JP15 solidbody, the Acoustic Pro made it easy to get sounds that represent the qualities of the instrument. The High and Low knobs provide good coverage of the top-tobottom balance and the semi-parametric midrange controls let you dial in the right frequencies to suit a particular instrument. For example, the JP15 sounded best with some upper-mid boost, while the Larrivee acoustic sounded more natural with a little attenuation at a lower midrange frequency. The Acoustic Pro is enjoyable to play through as it willingly pumps out volume without compressing or noticeably coloring the sound. Keeping the onboard digital reverb on the low side enhances dimension without sounding too effecty, and with an FX loop available it’s easy to step up the reverb quality if you so desire; a DigiTech Polara pedal proved a great addition here. Overall, however, the Acoustic Pro does pretty much exactly what an acoustic amp needs to do: make your acoustic guitar sound like itself—only louder.
Taller and narrower than the Acoustic Pro, the SFX version features a stereo power amp (2 x 80 watts) that drives an 8" driver and a side-mounted 6" driver that works in conjunction with the SFX (Stereo Field Expansion) circuit to create a 360-degree stereo image when used in conjunction with the onboard effects. The SFX control adjusts the depth of the stereo presentation, providing a more 3D sound when turned up. Reverb and DSP effects are available on both channels, and the latter come in four flavors: Delay 1 (a single repeat delay with 130ms default and an adjustable range of 100-550ms), Delay 2 (multiple-repeat delay with a default time of 390ms and an adjustable range of 100-550ms), Chorus (1.2Hz default rate and adjustable from .66Hz-10Hz), and Vibe (a Vibratone effect with a 5.66Hz default rate and an adjustable range of .66Hz-5.66Hz). Delay time and rate variations are made by tapping the active effect button twice at the desired interval; a single tap sets the delay/rate to maximum. The Effects Level controls let you independently set the levels on both channels. With DSP under the hood it’s not surprising that this model does not have an effects loop, however, it does retain a balanced XLR line out with a Mic/Line level switch.
The Acoustic SFX is obviously best suited for those who consider delay and modulation to be essential to their amplified acoustic sound, and like to bask in a halo of it when practicing or performing on smaller stages. The DSP effects sound good and are low noise, and when used with a Fishman Aura-equipped Larrivee guitar and a Keisel SH550B semi-hollow with a piezo bridge, the amp delivered a broad sound with the SFX control turned up and effects added. The chorus and vibe helped to fatten up the tones with their distinctive flavors of swirl, and the delay choices provided anything from a short slapback echo to a long delay with multiple repeats. Turning down the SFX control and/or the effects level allows the straight guitar tone to come through more clearly, but I found the speaker complement and stereo power amp to be less able to match the Acoustic Pro in volume and headroom, and here’s where the distinction between these amps becomes very clear.
In the end it’s cool that Fender offers two ways to go with these systems. Choose the Acoustic Pro if you want a tone that more closely captures the voice of your instrument and gives you more volume and dynamic range to play with, or go with the Acoustic SFX if you prefer a more effected sound and want to give listeners the feeling of being in a surround sound environment.
PRICE $999 retail
CONTROLS (Both channels) Volume, Low, Mid Level, Mid Freq, High, Reverb, Phase switch.
POWER 200 watts
EXTRAS Aux In and headphone jacks (both 1/8"), FX loop with level switch (-20dBV/+4dBu). Balanced line out with Mic/Line level switch. Ground lift switch. Phantom power (16v at XLR inputs). Footswitch jack for optional 2-button switcher for reverb bypass. Voltage selector (100-120v/200-240v). Cover included.
SPEAKER Neodymium 12" and high-frequency tweeter
WEIGHT 27 lbs
KUDOS An honest stage amp that delivers clear sound with good volume and headroom. Smart features.
PRICE $899 retail
CONTROLS (Both channels) Volume, Low, Mid, High, Reverb, Phase switch. Effects buttons: Delay 1, Delay 2, Chorus, Vibe. Effects Level and Stereo SFX controls.
POWER 80 watts x 2
EXTRAS Aux In and headphone jacks (1/8"). Balanced line out with Mic/Line level switch. Ground lift switch. Phantom power (16v at XLR inputs). Footswitch jack for optional 2-button switcher for effects bypass and reverb on/off. Voltage selector (100-120v/200-240v). Cover included.
SPEAKER 8" driver, 6" side-mounted driver, high-frequency tweeter
WEIGHT 25 lbs
KUDOS Wide soundstage courtesy of SFX technology. Onboard DSP.
CONCERNS Best suited for intimate performance environments. No effects loop.