THE LATEST ADDITION TO ROLAND’S roster of acoustic amplifiers is the 30-watt AC-33, a tiny powerhouse that may prove to be the most popular of the pack, rather than the runt of the litter. For starters, the AC-33 offers the option of battery power, which is good news for acoustic buskers who typically have to make do with lessthan- optimal-sounding electric-guitar amps. Offering roughly eight hours of run time on eight AA batteries (nine hours with nickel metal hydride rechargeable), the AC-33 should allow subway serenaders to put in a solid day’s work, far from any, well, AC.
While the amp’s volume may not cut through the sound of a train entering the station, it’s enough for times in between, for small clubs, or for the increasingly popular house concert. In fact, I would be hard pressed to imagine many situations where you would need more power. In a large venue where a P.A. would normally be available, you could either just plug directly into it or run a feed to the mixer out of the AC-33’s line outputs, using the amp as a personal monitor. Roland has configured the amp ideally for exactly this type of situation: Neither the amplifier’s two channel volumes nor the master volume are reflected in the line-out send level, so if you are using the AC-33 largely as a personal monitor and need more volume from the amp in order to hear yourself better, you can raise your monitoring level at any time without increasing the level of the signal that you are sending to the main P.A. through the line-outs. Conversely, the EQ and effects—chorus and reverb—are sent to the P.A. through the line-out sends, putting you in control of the tone and the ambience of your sound, while the soundman merely adjusts your overall level through the main system. A flip-out bar on the amp’s bottom points it up toward your ears, enabling you to hear yourself better when playing with drums. There is no provision for mounting on a mic stand, however.
The AC-33’s second channel offers phono and XLR inputs that can be used for a vocal mic, another instrument, or as a separate input for acoustic guitars that have dual-source pickup systems. Maybe it is the economy, but I am seeing more and more “one man bands” out there with players using loopers to add instrumental and vocal parts. These performers will have one less thing to carry if they employ the AC-33, as it comes with a 40-second Phrase Looper, controllable from the amp face or with an optional footswitch.
I played an Ovation Kaki King, and a Martin Performing Artist through the AC- 33 with differing results. The Kaki King sounded very much like its acoustic self through the amp, and quite similar to its sound when amplified through my recording setup and speakers. The Martin, equipped with a Fishman Aura system, sounded significantly more natural through my recording monitors than through the AC-33, where it seemed to encounter some phasing issues that created a slightly harsh high end (something that Roland says may have to do with the Fishman system). Some guitars always match up better with certain amps, and, of course, amplifier speakers are no match for studio monitors.
I also played electric guitar through my laptop using Native Instruments Guitar Rig 4 modeling and monitored it through the AC-33 to great effect. The full-range response of the amp accurately reproduced the various amp models in the software without lending additional coloration, and it also handled drum loops easily.
All considered, for small room concerts, outdoor busking, and especially personal monitoring, the AC-33 could be just the amplifier you’ve been waiting for.
CONTACT Roland, (323-890-3700); rolandus.com
PRICE $558 retail/$399 street
CONTROLS Guitar Channel: Volume, Bass, Middle, Treble controls, chorus switch. Mic/Line Channel: Volume, Bass, Treble controls, chorus switch, Reverb/Ambience Knob. Anti-Feedback on/off switch. Looper Rec/Play/Overdub button, Stop/Clear Button. Aux Level Knob, Master Volume
POWER 15 watts per side using AC adaptor; 10 watts per side with alkaline batteries.
EXTRAS Aux In jacks (RCA type, stereo miniature type) Line Out jacks (1/4" phone), headphone jack (stereo 1/4" phone), footswitch jacks (1/4" TRS phone)
SPEAKER Two 5" Roland speakers
WEIGHT 10.6 lbs
KUDOS Big sound in a small package. Ideal for personal monitoring.
CONCERNS High end can be a little harsh.