5 Tools to Ensure Amazing Acoustic Gigs & Recording Sessions

Every musician knows you could walk into a park or cafe with just your acoustic guitar and make some lovely sounds. That’s the beauty of an acoustic—it’s tremendously portable, and it can deliver the basic tonal goods without any further enhancements such as amplification, stompboxes, and so on.

But, hold on, is going au naturel truly the best way to attract loyal listeners?

The audio production values of recordings and live shows—from arenas to local bars—have improved to the point where even sporadic or disinterested consumers of music can likely tell the difference between a stunning acoustic guitar tone and a lackluster one. Perhaps more importantly, your artistry deserves to be portrayed with the best sound possible. Great sound seduces ears, and, hopefully, your talent and charisma will do the rest.

To that end, music equipment manufacturers have devoted tons of time, technology, creativity, and financial investment to ensure musicians possess the absolute finest tools to craft superlative performances—on stage, in the studio, during composition and production sessions, and even at rehearsal.


Today, acoustic guitarists have the capability to dial in impeccable tones that sound as if they were recorded in the best recording studios in the world. Don’t cheat yourself—and your guitar—by settling for anything less. Here are five musical marvels that will provide everything you need to produce spectacular sound every time you set up to play an acoustic gig.

Dedicated Acoustic Amp

Savvy buskers performing in bus stations and other public areas know the drill—you need to be heard to entice bystanders to listen and toss tips into your guitar case. Getting heard often requires an amp, but not just any amp—a good acoustic amp that serves a variety of real-world needs. For example, it can tailor your sound to the venue at hand, ensure your playing is audible when performing with another musician or a full band, add the option to include a vocal mic, and, in some cases, provide an input for running backing tracks and other media.

In addition, today’s acoustic amps are designed to reproduce the wide frequency and dynamic ranges of an acoustic guitar. In the olden times of the ’60s and early ’70s, if a performer wanted to amplify a pickup-equipped acoustic, he or she often plugged into an electric-guitar amp. Not ideal. What typically happened was the audience would be beset by a shrill, high-midrange timbre that “approximated” an acoustic tone, but that was hardly a pleasing sound. Even current electric combos and stacks offer EQ controls and speakers that are not optimized for delivering an organic and natural acoustic-guitar tone.

Old Tube Guitar Amp

Fishman offers four acoustic amps that accommodate most every performance situation from a solo acoustic singer-songwriter to an acoustic instrumentalist in a band. The two-channel Loudbox Mini and Loudbox Mini Charge are excellent options for traveling troubadours as they are extremely portable. Both amps offer 60 watts of power—which can produce enough volume to be heard almost anywhere—separate instrument and microphone channels, Bluetooth connectivity, aux inputs, a feedback-fighting phase switch, and reverb and chorus effects. For those who like to play where available power is not an option, the Mini Charge has a rechargeable battery that delivers up to 18 hours of use, so you can boldly go where other performers may fear to tread.

Loudbox Mini Charge

If your strummin’ and pickin’ occurs in a band format—or if you play large venues as a solo artist—the 120-watt Loudbox Artist and 180-watt Loudbox Performer can project your artistry out to the audience. Both of these two-channel amps provide independent instrument and mic inputs, onboard 24-volt phantom power for using condenser microphones, Bluetooth connectivity, 3-band EQ, aux inputs, digital effects, and feedback-fighting controls.

Again, while you don’t need an acoustic amp to take your act to different locales, an amp can enhance sonic quality, help ensure your sound reaches the outer regions of the audience, and, in most cases, offer up mic inputs that transform the amp into a mini P.A. system. That’s a lot of upside.

Loudbox Mini Charge

Natural-Sounding Pickups

You obviously need an acoustic-electric guitar to use an acoustic amp. Many acoustics already provide onboard pickup systems, so that’s not a problem. What is a problem is if your favorite guitar is not an acoustic-electric, or if the sound of your current pickup system doesn’t deliver the natural tone you want.

One easy solution for achieving a fabulous acoustic sound is to get a do-it-yourself soundhole pickup that doesn’t require any modification to your guitar. You simply pop the pickup into the soundhole of your acoustic and you’re done. Fishman offers a lot of pickup options, but here are three real-world scenarios that can be easily accommodated with the right system.

Super-Natural Sound

Few things beat a good microphone capturing the tone of a wonderful acoustic guitar. An even better option is having the ability to blend a miked sound with a magnetic pickup to tailor your tone to any situation. The Rare Earth Mic Blend Soundhole Pickup does just that. The system includes a humbucking pickup and a cardioid microphone mounted on a mini gooseneck that picks up sound mainly from its front—your strings—and rejects most unwanted sounds from the sides. You can adjust the mic/pickup blend control to achieve the perfect mix of the two different sounds. The microphone includes a bass extension/roll-off to manage low-end frequencies that could make your tone too muddy and boomy or too thin. Battery power is required for the mic, but replaceable mini batteries are already mounted into the system, and they provide up to 100 hours of play time.

Beat the Band

Acoustic instruments and loud bands can be a mix made in hell. Signal bleed, feedback, and an inability to be adequately heard over the electric players (or horn section) are all constant worries. However, the Fishman Neo-Buster Soundhole Pickup and Feedback Buster marries a passive humbucking pickup (no batteries required) with a flexible, elastomer soundhole cover that guards against unwelcome resonances and the resulting feedback. Play loud and proud!

Awesome Imaging

If you’re not afraid of a little DIY guitar modification—or have access to a reputable guitar tech—you can install some tech sorcery into your acoustic of choice. The Ellipse Aura Pickup & Preamp System deploys Fishman Aura Acoustic Imaging technology to blend in the audio “images” of acoustic models recorded in pro studios with great microphones into your instrument. You can download up to four Aura images into the preamp at a time, and blend those timbres with the system’s onboard Acoustic Matrix undersaddle pickup. There’s a whole lot ‘o’ tonal firepower in this system, and, thanks to the Aura Imaging, the opportunity to create incredibly beautiful and natural acoustic textures is right at your fingertips. The soundhole-mounted preamp also includes automatic feedback control, a phase switch, and low-frequency tone shaping.

Powerful Preamp

Whatever acoustic-electric—or pickup-equipped—instrument you have, the sound can be gloriously enhanced by plugging into an acoustic preamp. A full-featured preamp can add tonal flexibility to even the hippest acoustic amp, as well as provide incredible sonic textures when recording in your home studio, or even in a big pro studio.

For example, the Platinum Pro EQ/DI Analog Preamp offers 5-band EQ with sweepable mids and a low-frequency filter, a near-effortless one-knob compressor, a phase switch and notch filter for feedback control, two EQ modes for guitar or bass, an onboard chromatic tuner, and a +12dB volume boost with level control. The stompbox design easily integrates into a live rig, or you can plop it on a tabletop for home-studio tone tweaking.

Platinum Pro EQ

If you want your preamp close at hand as you dance around during performances, the miniature Platinum Stage EQ delivers some of the tone-enhancing power of the Platinum Pro, but can fit on your belt (a belt clip is included) or in a coat or back pocket. You get 4-band EQ with sweepable mids, a volume-boost switch, the guitar and bass EQ modes, and a phase control to contain feedback.

Dazzling DI

Direct boxes are typically simple yet indispensable recording tools that can also provide a clean direct feed to a live-concert mixing board. Commonly for bass and keyboard signals, some recording engineers use a DI to expand their tonal options for acoustic guitars. They will position the usual microphones but augment the miked sounds by taking a direct signal from the acoustic guitar’s pickup. This technique gives them the ability to use the shimmer and air captured by the mics, and blend those sounds with the drier, cleaner, and more pristine signal of the DI feed.

But what if you had a DI packed with signal-processing features that upped the sonic possibilities higher than a satellite?

The Aura Spectrum DI is just that—a powerful tool for dialing in myriad acoustic sounds. In fact, as it incorporates Aura Acoustic Imaging technology that captures the images of miked acoustic guitars, you can use the Aura Spectrum to “go direct” without having to mic your guitar at all, but still get the organic and realistic sound of an instrument captured with the finest microphones in a pro studio.

Aura Spectrum on stage

There’s a dizzying collection of images already loaded into the Aura Spectrum—128 to be exact—and a front-panel slider categorizes the selections as dreadnought, orchestra, concert, jumbo, nylon, 12-string, bluegrass, and user images (16 slots available). Remember that DI/mic blend technique that engineers love? You can do the same—sans microphones—by using the blend control on the Aura Spectrum DI to determine the audible percentage of the Aura image versus the dry acoustic-guitar sound. Additional tone-tweaking options include 3-band EQ, a one-knob compressor, and automatic feedback suppression. There’s also an effects loop and an onboard chromatic tuner.

The Aura Spectrum is far more than a DI. It can deliver a robust clean tone, but if you use it for just that operation alone, you’re missing the point—a whole lot of points, in fact. This is an incredible tool for crafting almost cinematic acoustic sounds without even touching a microphone.

Effects Processing

The four previous tools we’ve discussed are absolutely wonderful choices for guaranteeing a great gig, but they are perhaps more aimed at players who want conventional acoustic tones. For those who prefer to craft unique acoustic sounds, a preamp with more signal-processing options is key. With 4-band EQ and a low-cut switch, onboard compression and boost, a selectable phase inverter for feedback control, and a Class-A preamp, the Fishman ToneDEQ Preamp EQ is a formidable tone-shaping machine. But it adds two reverbs, two delays, two choruses, a flanger, and tremolo to the sonic recipe.

ToneDEQ on stage

The quickest way to reignite your creative fire is to kick in a little delay, chorus, or reverb to add vibe and mystery to a lick that may have been boring you a bit. Suddenly, what was once ordinary is transformed into something so mood-enhancing it would work in a film score, or the chosen effect could inspire a new riff, a surprising and ear-catching sound, or an entire song. Experimenting with effects to add enhanced spectral dimension and a cinematic atmosphere to your acoustic sound is not only fun, it’s also a way to intrigue listeners and draw them deeper into your performance.

Own that Gig

The gear you choose to expand and clarify your artistic voice is a personal choice. But getting the right gear for the gig can still take some research and testing. Even players who decide to stick with just an acoustic guitar should try out a bunch of signal processors to ensure that a minimalist approach best suits their music and style. Some musicians regularly audition different tools throughout their careers—perhaps seeking to improve their sound, or maybe to erode comfort zones and force themselves into undertaking new creative challenges.

We’ve suggested five categories of acoustic gear that can really level up your performance game—acoustic amps, pickups, preamps, DIs, and effects processors—but it’s up to you to determine which tools resonate with your own perception of what sounds remarkable. Your job is to blow minds. Make sure you have the tonal versatility and sonic muscle to do just that.