- What Makes an Acoustic Guitar Amp Unique?
- What to Look for in an Acoustic Guitar Amp
- How We Made This List
- Top 5 Acoustic Guitar Amplifiers
What Makes an Acoustic Guitar Amp Unique?
An acoustic guitar amplifier is quite different than an electric guitar amp. It’s more akin to a keyboard amp, where the aim is not to “color” the sound, or introduce a whole lot of character. Instead, a good acoustic amp simply amplifies your acoustic guitar’s original tone and reproduces it nearly unaltered, only louder.
An acoustic guitar amp is perfect for the gigging musician who needs to go from venue to venue with his or her acoustic guitar, and needs to be heard loud and clear and cut through the noise of the crowd. Of course, the home or studio musician can absolutely benefit from an acoustic amp. If you want any effects whatsoever applied to your acoustic guitar sound, or perhaps you want to use a looper pedal to either practice or write songs, you’ll need to amplify your acoustic guitar somehow. You can also easily record your acoustic guitar by feeding the output of your acoustic amp into your audio interface, or putting a microphone in front of the amp.
Gigging musicians will appreciate the various bells and whistles acoustic guitar amps tend to have, such as multiple channels so singer/songwriters can sing and play at the same time, effects to make the acoustic guitar tone more interesting, and much more which we’ll cover shortly.
Are acoustic guitar amps just suitable for acoustic guitars? Definitely not. Any acoustic or acoustic/electric stringed instrument can be plugged into them such as a ukulele, and as we briefly touched on they are also quite suitable for vocals. While you can plug an electric guitar into one, you’ll likely be disappointed as you start searching for something besides a super clean tone. Acoustic amps are not equipped to handle the ideal electric guitar frequency range, nor do they sound good when overdriven. If you’re looking for small yet gig-worthy elecric guitar amps, we encourage you to hop over to our best small tube amp guide.
What to Look for in an Acoustic Guitar Amp
The main thing you should look for when narrowing down your research is to figure out how much power/volume you need out of your acoustic amp. In other words, ask yourself what are your ideal uses? If you currently gig or plan to in the future, it’s a good idea to get an amp that can handle those types of volume levels. When amp shopping, this will translate into the number of watts and also the physical size of the speaker inside the amplifier.
The acoustic guitar amps we recommend in this guide are ordered from loudest (most watts), to quietest (least watts). Don’t worry, even the “quietest” ones are not exactly quiet; After all we’re talking about amplifiers here. Our wattage recommendations go from 120 down to 10, which should cover a wide range of uses.
If all you’re going to use this amp for is home practice or very intimate gigs in small venues such as a coffee house or an open mic night stage, something between 10 and 30 watts of power should suffice. As you play in larger and louder places like a loud pub or bar or a small-to-medium sized live music venue, you might opt for something in the 50 watt range, up to about 100 watts. The loudest requirement would be if you intend on jamming with a band, and/or playing live in rather large venues. In that case, a minimum of 100 watts is what’s recommended to keep up with drums/bass/electric guitar, and possibly even as high as 200 or 300 watts. There will come a venue size that’s too large for any amp to handle, and in that case what will probably happen is that you will take the D.I. output of your acoustic guitar amp and feed it to the venue’s sound engineer so that he or she can plug you into the house PA system. Your acoustic amp will then be pointed towards you rather than the audience, and serve as your own personal monitor so you can hear yourself play. You’ve probably seen this type of setup when watching your favorite popular bands perform live.
Ok, so we’ve established that number of watts is probably the #1 thing you should look at. What else?
- Number of channels - Acoustic guitar amps can have multiple channels. It’s not like electric guitar amps that have a clean and an overdrive channel. Acoustic amp channels are almost always identical, and basically let you plug in multiple instruments at the same time. A very common use of this is an acoustic guitar in channel 1, and a microphone for either vocals or more guitar amplification in channel 2. If you sing and play at the same time, or your partner sings and you play, definitely look for a multi-channel amp.
- Inputs and Outputs - The more sophisticated the amp, the more I/O options it has. This can be anything from accommodating both a ¼” and balanced XLR into the main input(s), to an auxiliary input where you can plug in a portable music player or laptop to jam along. In terms of outputs, look for a headphones output for silent practicing or monitoring, and direct outputs so you can feed you amp’s signal to a recording device, mixer, etc. An effects loop can be a handy inclusion as well.
- Built-in effects - Regardless of whether you already have a pedalboard full of effects pedals or a digital multi-effects unit, look for an acoustic guitar amp with built-in effects. You’ll be able to use the amp’s effects in a pinch if you just need a touch of reverb or chorus, or apply effects to the vocals that are plugged into your second channel. Acoustic guitars don’t typically need loads of effects, so the basics included in a lot of amps are more than enough.
- Weight/size/portability - Unless you have a huge tour bus and roadies that do all the heavy lifting for you, the size and weight of your acoustic amp matters. The rule of thumb is the greater the watts and speaker size, the larger and heavier the amp. Make sure to look at the dimensions and weight of the amps you’re interested in to make sure you’ll be comfortable lugging them around the house and to and from gigs.
How We Made This List
We compiled a list of all the acoustic guitar amps currently available on the market, and grouped them based on their watts. We combed through several online communities where guitarists hang out to see which amps are being recommended more than others, and we also spent days reading through reviews from places like Amazon, Sweetwater, and Musician’s Friend, as well as YouTube demos. Once the top 5 list was formed, we went to our local music shops and took the amps for a spin ourselves to verify everyone’s claims.
It’s hard to pick the “best” gear since that term is highly subjective; depending on budget, needs, and skill level it means different things to different people. Since it’s hard and somewhat unfair to compare a 10 watt practice amp to a 150 watt gig-worthy amp, we chose the best ones per their size “class.” Our recommendations start with the most powerful one at 120 watts, and go down to the most compact one at 10 watts. Start at the top, and if you feel the amp we’re recommending is too much amp for you, move down to the next one in the list!
Top 5 Acoustic Guitar Amplifiers
Let’s go over the highest recommended acoustic guitar amps, starting with the loudest and most powerful, down to the quietest and most compact.
Fishman Loudbox Artist
Power: 120 Watts
Speaker Size: 8”
Weight: 25.5 lbs
Best For: Performance, small/medium venues, monitoring, band practice alongside drums and guitar amps
The acoustic guitar amp we’re selecting as the best high-wattage amp also happens to be one of the best overall acoustic amps out there, regardless of size. The 120-watt Fishman Loudbox Artist is an amplifier that hits all the marks - it’s loud, crystal clear, multi-channel, portable, versatile, and boasts an impressive effects section. Fishman has a long history of making top-rated guitar pickups, but their foray into acoustic amplification is proving quite successful. The Loudbox Artist is definitely a more premium amp and unfortunately its price tag reflects that, but hopefully after this review you’ll see why the price is well worth it.
As is the case with most acoustic guitar amps, the Fishman Loudbox Artist looks nice, with a classic earth-tone color palette that will match your acoustic guitar nicely. For a 120 watt amp it’s surprisingly compact and portable. It measures 13.5” H x 15.5” W x 11.5”D, and only weights about 25 lbs. It sports an 8” woofer and 1” tweeter, and the separation of woofer and tweeter in a high-end amp like this leads to better bass response, better frequency balance and more defined mids and highs. In terms of versatility, the Loudbox Artist has two identical channels, both of which accept either a ¼” or balanced XLR source (in other words, all acoustic guitars and microphones are fair game). Each of the two channels has its own control strips of knobs where you can adjust the Gain, a 3-band EQ (Low, Mid, High), an Anti-Feedback knob (turn this knob to identify and kill the feedback frequency), Phase inverter switch, Effect A level, and Effect B toggle. In terms of general controls, the Aux Level knob controls the volume of whatever you have plugged into the Aux Input on the back of the amp, and unsurprisingly there’s a Master Volume knob as well. To round out the front panel you have a Channel Mute button which mutes everything (good for plugging/unplugging your guitar noiselessly), a Tweeter level knob, and a Phantom power switch if your microphone needs it. On the back of the amp you’ll find a D.I. Out jack (pre EQ) per channel, and a combined Mix Output (post EQ). These handy outputs allow you to send your signal to a mixer or the PA of a larger venue, either as a single mix or each instrument independently. To sweeten the deal, each channel gets its own Effects Loop as well. The Aux Input has both a ¼” and an 1/8” input, and both can be used simultaneously.
Part of the reason why this is one of the best acoustic amps around is because it sounds fantastic, and nothing is really left out. A user review says it best:
“The sound quality is nearly identical to the sound my guitar puts out on its own...”
With 120 watts on tap and an 8” woofer, it can get loud enough for a small-to-medium sized venue, with enough volume to cut through crowd noise. For bars and coffee houses it has ample volume, and you won’t be turning it up anywhere near 100%. Being the most powerful amp we recommend in our guide, we wanted to make sure we’re recommending an amp that can keep up with the rest of the band; You should have little trouble keeping up with drums, electric guitars, and a bass. By itself, the Loudbox Artist is probably not enough for larger venues, but in that case just use the D.I. Out to send your signal to the sound guy, and use this amp as your stage monitor.
By being a little sneaky you can even turn this amp into three channels. Say for instance you have two vocalists and an acoustic guitar; You can use the XLR input in channels 1 and 2 for the mics, and use the AUX input for the acoustic guitar. You’ve got multiple channels, volume, EQ, effects, Aux inputs, D.I. Outs... there’s really nothing missing and we can’t think of a gig or venue situation where the Fishman Loudbox Artist would not provide the flexibility to handle it. The effects section is a bit odd since you can select the level of the effects section A, but effects section B is either 100% present or not at all (you can turn on section B effects with the Effect B On switch on either channel). Effect section A has Reverb 1 (a little warmer), Reverb 2 (the difference is subtle but it’s a little brighter), Delay, and Echo. These effects have a dedicated Time knob to adjust the length of the delay or room size/reverb tail. Section B effects are modulation effects and include Chorus 1, Chorus 2, Flanger, and Slap Echo (these have a dedicated Rate knob to adjust them). The effects sound fantastic. If you have a pedalboard already and have your effects covered that way you might not care too much about them, although you could always apply them to a vocalist (or another instrument) that plugs into the second channel of your amp. All the effects sound lush and warm without being over-the-top. If you’re doing solo acoustic gigs Ed Sheeran style, you can definitely use the amp’s effects and all you would have to bring with you is a tuner pedal and a looper.
Bottom Line: The only reason we would not recommend this amp is if you don’t anticipate ever playing your acoustic guitar outside your home. If that’s the case, the loudness and input/output flexibility of the Loudbox Artist might not be enough for you to justify the rather steep price tag. Aside from that, it’s hard for us to point out an acoustic guitar amp that is outright better. It’s got the sound quality, the clarity, the power, and flexibility any gigging or serious studio guitarist would need, and for that it is the Best of the Best.
Fishman Loudbox Mini
Power: 60 Watts
Speaker Size: 6.5”
Weight: 19.7 lbs
Best For: Performance, small venues, monitoring, band practice alongside a quieter band
Somehow Fishman manages to squeeze some big and loud sounding amps in surprisingly small packages. We feel that way about the Fishman Loudbox Artist, and even more so with the Fishman Loudbox Mini, the smallest in the Fishman acoustic guitar amp lineup. This is a 60 watt, 2-channel acoustic amp with built-in effects and some decent I/O options. While at first it seemed strange to recommend two amps from the same manufacturer and series back-to-back, the reviews and recommendations don’t lie; For an amp in the 60 watt range, the Fishman Loudbox Mini is hard to beat.
Like its big brother the Loudbox Artist, the Mini looks great. You’ll definitely be proud to show this one off on the stage. Despite being a pretty loud and powerful amp, it’s quite compact and easy to lug around, weighing just under 20 lbs and measuring 13.7”W x 12”H x 9.7”D. Unfortunately it’s not the most rugged acoustic amp out there. Users have reported that it’s easily dinged up if you knock it around. The cabinet dents easily, and for some owners the brown vinyl has peeled off after little use. There’s a slip cover made specifically for it that numerous reviewers recommend getting if you care to keep it looking its best, especially if you carry it to and from gigs frequently. It’s unfortunate that its quality of materials doesn’t match its good looks. Fortunately, complaints seem to be limited to cosmetic issues, and users reported the electronics and internals continue to work great even after extensive gigging with and even accidentally dropping the amp.
The Loudbox Mini has two channels - an Instrument channel with a ¼” input, and a Mic channel with an XLR input (unfortunately the mic channel doesn’t have phantom power so you’re limited to a dynamic mic, or a condenser mic that’s internally powered). The former has a 3-band EQ, and the latter has a 2-band EQ. The Instrument channel has Reverb and Chorus built-in, while the Mic channel is limited to just Reverb. On the rear of the amp are two Aux Inputs (a ¼” jack and a 1/8” jack), and a Mix D.I. Output (post EQ) which you can use to output the amp’s signal elsewhere like a mixer or recording device. It does not have a headphones output, which is a bit of a letdown.
The Fishman Loudbox Mini’s sound quality is truly where this amp shines. With 60 watts of power, a 6.5” woofer, and 1” tweeter, there is plenty of loudness on tap and your guitar’s original tone will translate beautifully with plenty of low-end feel and clear highs. We only tested this amp with steel-string acoustic guitars with which it sounds great and reproduces the guitar’s sound very well, but one review we read mentioned having some trouble getting great results using a nylon-string guitar. Despite its very compact size and light weight, with its 60 watts and 6.5” woofer the volume and presence the Loudbox Mini can generate is definitely more LOUDbox than it is Mini. We would say this amp’s power is ample up until you get to a gig in a medium-to-large size venue, or you need to keep up with loud bandmates. However, a review we found suggests the Loudbox Mini has no trouble keeping up with a band:
“I recently played a short show with a full rock band (unshielded drums, bass, electric guitar) in a mostly full auditorium that holds 600+ people. Per the amp's instructions (helpful little book), I turned the master up to full and the gain up to about 6/10 (gain distorts the sound, so you max the volume first)...only to have to turn it down because I was too loud!”
Aside from its clarity and loudness, the effects are limited but sound great. The reverb is quality, and the chorus on the Instrument channel can be dialed in from “mild” to “thick.”
Bottom Line: If the Fishman Loudbox Artist’s 120 watts are a bit too much and you’re looking for a versatile 2-channel acoustic guitar amp that can transition from the living room to a small gig, the Fishman Loudbox Mini is a fantastic choice. It’s still not what we would consider budget-priced, but no acoustic amp in the 60-watt range sounds this good. The only marks against it we can think of are the build being a bit delicate, no built-in delay effect, no phantom power for the Mic channel, and no volume level for the Aux Input. If you can look past these things, this is definitely the best you can get in the 60 watt range.
Power: 50 Watts
Speaker Size: 2 x 8”
Weight: 35.3 lbs
Best For: Performance, small venues, monitoring, band practice alongside a quieter band
Marshall enters the world of acoustic guitar amps with some solid contenders. The next one down our list, and the favorite in the 30-50 watt range is the Marshall AS50D. The AS50D is often compared to the Fishman Loudbox Mini - they’re within 10 watts of each other, have similar features, and they’re priced similarly. We’ll compare their sound quality and features to help you decide which is best for you.
The Marshall Acoustic Soloist AS50D is a beautiful looking amp. Marshall has a ton of experience designing electric guitar amps, and their expertise shows in this one. It has a vintage styling and that classic Marshall look. The reinforced corners are very nice, as is the heavy-duty real leather handle, and the knobs look and feel solid. The Tolex covering is superior and more durable than that on the Fishman Loudbox Mini, but unfortunately the AS50D’s grill cover is very thin and users have reported it’s easily punctured or otherwise damaged. Regardless, it’s apparent that Marshall put in lots of attention to detail with the look and feel of this amp.
When it comes to portability, the Fishman wins that battle. Despite being 10 watts less powerful, the Marshall AS50D is bulkier and 15 lbs heavier, weighing in at 35 lbs. That’s a shame, as it seems other acoustic guitar amp manufacturers have been paying more attention to weight and portability. In terms of I/O, the Marshall boasts slightly more features than the Fishman Mini. It’s a 2-channel amp with the first channel being the Acoustic guitar channel with a ¼” input, volume, and 2-band EQ, and the second channel being a Microphone / Aux channel. This second channel has an XLR input, a ¼” input, and stereo RCA inputs, as well as a 2-band EQ (the stereo RCA aux input means you might need an adapter cable like this one to more easily plug in your iPad/iPhone/Android/laptop). Like the Fishman Mini, the effects section includes Chorus and Reverb. Chorus has Speed and Depth controls (which can tend to sound a little harsh if both knobs are turned past 12 o’clock, so you’ll want to avoid that). The Anti-Feedback features are slightly better than the Fishman. The Fishman only has a Phase inverter switch, and the Marshall AS50D has that plus a Notch switch with which you can use the Frequency knob to find and get rid of the offending frequency. The back of the amp gives you an Effects Loop, ¼” Line Out for recording, and an XLR D.I. Out (pre volume and pre EQ, post chorus and reverb) for sending your signal to the house PA if you’re playing in a large venue. The Footswitch jack is compatible with a Marshall M-PEDL 2-Way Footswitch, which you can use to toggle the reverb and chorus on and off (ideal for live performance).
Now for the big questions: How does it sound, how loud does it get, and how does it compare with the Fishman Loudbox Mini? Well, this is a 50 watt amp with two 8” speakers, as compared to the Fishman Mini’s 60 watts and single 6.5” woofer. Because of the two larger speakers, the Marshall produces a better bottom end. If feeling more bass is important to you, you’ll prefer the way the Marshall sounds. In terms of sheer sound quality, you won’t really find fault in either the Marshall or the Fishman. Both sound really great, capturing your acoustic guitar’s sound and character very accurately. The AS50D has plenty of power for acoustic performances in small/medium sized venues, small bars, and coffee houses. You could even keep up with a drummer so long as he or she is not a hard hitter. However just like the other amps on this list, when it can no longer power the room by itself just use the D.I. Out to send the signal to the venue’s PA system and the AS50D becomes an excellent monitor.
Bottom Line: Of the qualms we have with the Fishman Loudbox Mini, the Marshall AS50D fixes a couple of them (namely the superior build quality and the Mic channel supplies phantom power). It’s a little bit pricier than the Fishman, and not what we would call a “budget amp.” Between the two it really comes down to personal preference. Personally, we would probably choose the Fishman over this one because of the 15 lb difference in weight and the lower price tag. If we gigged heavily we might favor the Marshall because of its better build quality. We also can’t discount that more people will tend to have an affinity for the Marshall brand as opposed to Fishman. Marshall’s extensive experience with amps is evident here, and if you opt for this one you’ll be getting an amp that sounds as good as it looks.
Fender Acoustasonic 15
Power: 15 Watts
Speaker Size: 6”
Weight: 10.5 lbs (4.76 kg)
Best For: Very small venues, home studio, solo practice
Fender’s line of acoustic guitar amps has been going strong for quite some time, and the smallest one in their lineup is quite the gem. The Fender Acoustasonic 15 is our pick for best acoustic amp in the low-watt/practice amp range. The Acoustasonic 15 is simple and lightweight, and it carries the legendary Fender name which means you’re getting rock solid reliability and a great sound.
This is a very compact and portable amp, measuring about 11 inches in both height and width, and weighing 10.5 lbs. It also looks really nice with its brown/wheat color scheme, and the build quality is solid. In testing it we were impressed by its sturdy case, with its metal corner guards for protection. We couldn’t find any reviews faulting its build quality and reliability, though that’s probably also a function of people not taking this amp on the road as much. The I/O of this amp is minimal but functional. It’s a dual-channel amp - channel one has an XLR input for a microphone, and channel two has a ¼” input for your acoustic guitar, each with individual volume control. The second channel has a 3-band EQ, and the only built-in effect is chorus with a knob to adjust the amount of chorus to apply. Aside from a headphones output, there’s no other I/O like an effects loop, aux in, or D.I. out. From the I/O you get the feeling this amp is designed with home and studio use in mind, all the way up to very small and intimate solo performances.
Speaking of, the Fender Acoustasonic 15 has 15 watts on tap, which power a 6” speaker. That’s not a whole lot of power, but for such a small package this acoustic amp still packs a respectable punch. You probably will not be heard over a loud crowd, and it’s definitely not enough to keep up with a band. For solo performance in a quiet venue or a singer/songwriter duet, you can definitely make it work. Just be aware that it is nowhere near the power of a Fishman Loudbox Mini, so if you frequently gig but still want a compact and portable amp, we suggest you look at that one instead. The Acoustasonic 15 sounds very nice, but where the 6” speaker causes it to suffer is the bass response. The lows can get muddy compared to the other amps on this list. Sure, the EQ has a BASS control but the limitation here is really the small speaker.
Bottom Line: The Fender Acoustasonic 15 is a great compact and portable budget acoustic amp. Calling it gig-worthy is a stretch, unless the gig is in a very small and relatively quiet venue. We lament the lack of built-in reverb, no aux in, no D.I. output, as well as lack of phantom power in the mic channel. Still, for its very budget-friendly price tag, you shouldn’t expect it to have all the bells and whistles. All in all this is the Best Bang for your Buck.
Power: 10 Watts
Speaker Size: 2 x 3”
Weight: 4.4 lbs
Best For: Very small/intimate venues, home studio, solo practice, recording
The last of the top 5 acoustic guitar amps we’re recommending is the smallest, lightest and most portable. The Yamaha THR5A has plenty of versatility despite being a single channel amp. Per its size it can produce a respectable volume level, and with a full-featured effects section and optional battery power, this is a very fun acoustic guitar amp that will inspire you to play, practice, and record.
The Yamaha THR5A has kind of a retro-vintage look and the build quality is solid. It’s a very light 4.4 lbs and has the smallest footprint of any amp on this list, measuring 10.67”W x 6.57”H x 4.72”D. You can power it with a normal power supply or 8 AA batteries which will give you about 8 hours of play time. Battery power is a very handy feature to have if you’re carrying this one around the house or to a friend’s house to jam or record. Yamaha packs a surprising amount of features in the THR5A. Looking at the top panel it has a built in tuner, a MIC TYPE knob to select between different types of microphone models, and a BLEND knob which sets how much direct signal vs. simulated mic signal you want. The EG CLN option is an electric guitar amp setting, and in that case the blend knob turns into a gain knob so you can dial in some overdrive. As you can imagine it’s not the best sounding overdrive, but it's passable. You get a MASTER knob, a TONE knob to go from a darker to a brighter sound, and two EFFECT knobs which control a variety of effects - compression, chorus, delay, and reverb are all available. A main VOLUME control rounds out the knobs. In terms of I/O you have a ¼” instrument input for your guitar. Remember, this is a single channel amp so there’s no second channel for a microphone. You get a 1/8” AUX input, and a headphones output for silent practicing (though with an acoustic guitar you can’t really be completely silent). The back of the amp has a USB port, which allows you to easily record into your favorite DAW software.
The Yamaha THR5A is rated at 10 watts, or 5 watts per each of its two 3” speakers. 10 watts is not a lot for a solid state amp, but it’s still not a quiet amp by any means. Reviewers have mentioned being able to do restaurant and coffee house gigs with it. For band practice alongside other instruments or gigs in large rooms with lots of ambient noise, the THR5A’s 10 watts simply won’t cut it. Its ideal use is home practice and recording. Considering its speaker size limitation, this is a very high quality sounding amp. This reviewer describes it well:
“...more like a high end stereo than a guitar amp... The darn thing makes you want to practice.”
For practice this amp is truly ideal. The AUX in means you can plug in an MP3 player and jam along with any track. The fact that you can power it with batteries and have several decent quality mic models and effects at your disposal means it’s very self-contained and you can have a lot of fun with it, and if you’re feeling inspired and want to record what you come up with the USB output lets it interface with your computer recording software. Several people also mentioned using their electric guitar with it with pretty good results. It’s no substitute for an electric guitar amp, but considering you can plug in headphones it could be a great amp to take with you on your travels and silently practice, or jam out late at night when everyone is asleep. Nylon string guitar, mandolin, and ukulele players have reported great results with this amp as well.
Bottom Line: Just because it’s the lowest watt amp in our recommendations does not make the Yamaha THR5A strictly a beginner amp. This is an amp that can grow with you as your playing matures. It has a budget-friendly price tag, and includes way more features than other amps this size. If you’re looking for a true gig-worthy acoustic guitar amplifier with a microphone and instrument input you’ll want to look at something else, but for jamming, practicing, and recording at home or very intimate live work it would be hard to recommend anything else.