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Old 12-25-2011, 07:29 AM
rstl99 rstl99 is offline
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Default Acoustic amp choice - Ultrasound, Fishman, AER?

Hi all,
Merry Christmas and Season's Greetings, first of all.

My choice for an acoustic amp is settling between two choices:
1. Ultrasound DS4 (will go check it out this week)
2. Fishman Loudbox Artist (would have to order it in, no one local stocks it)

My needs are playing acoustic guitars and voice, and occasionally jazz archtop guitar. I believe both amps would do this well, in my price range.

Another option has come up:
3. Someone offered to sell me his AER Alpha 40w amp.

He's asking $100 more than I would pay for either 1. or 2. New they go for twice as much as the other two. I've read about AER and they're evidently top of the line amps. This Alpha has guitar and voice inputs, apparently great, true sound, but not as many features/effects as the other two. But I am drawn to the quality of the sound it has, and the light weight. I'll go try it out in a couple of days.

Any thoughts on how AER stacks up against Ultrasound and Fishman, and whether I should go with a used Alpha instead of either of the 2 new ones?

Thanks.
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Old 12-25-2011, 08:14 AM
DavidE DavidE is offline
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I would guess that 40 watts would be grossly underpowered for most situations. When I had Ultrasound amps, they sounded good but were not loud at all for their stated power rating.

If you will be using the amp as your only means of amplification, I would choose the Fishman because it's likely the only one of the three to be sufficiently loud for some gigs though the others might sound better. But what good is sound quality if you can't be heard? I have an older loudbox and it can soundd decent with some tweaking.

Good luck in your quest. I'm sure others will disagree with me.
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Old 12-25-2011, 10:28 AM
tammuz7000 tammuz7000 is offline
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I have the fishman loudbox 100 and love it. I tried the artist and it was very nice. The AER sounds great but in a price comparison its pretty pricey..

I have not heard the ultrasound and can only say good things about the fishman. If you can find a loudbox 100 for a good price i would jump on it since they dont make them any more....
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Old 12-25-2011, 10:31 AM
buzzardwhiskey buzzardwhiskey is online now
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I own the Ultrasound and have set up the sound for a performance using the Alpha.

The Ultrasound is warmer and less sterile. That's good and bad. Subjectively, it's louder than the Alpha. Vocals sound rounded-off.

The Alpha is precise. It's a little PA, though it's slightly less loud.
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Old 12-25-2011, 10:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rstl99 View Post
Hi all,
Merry Christmas and Season's Greetings, first of all.

My choice for an acoustic amp is settling between two choices:
1. Ultrasound DS4 (will go check it out this week)
2. Fishman Loudbox Artist (would have to order it in, no one local stocks it)

My needs are playing acoustic guitars and voice, and occasionally jazz archtop guitar. I believe both amps would do this well, in my price range.

Another option has come up:
3. Someone offered to sell me his AER Alpha 40w amp.

He's asking $100 more than I would pay for either 1. or 2. New they go for twice as much as the other two. I've read about AER and they're evidently top of the line amps. This Alpha has guitar and voice inputs, apparently great, true sound, but not as many features/effects as the other two. But I am drawn to the quality of the sound it has, and the light weight. I'll go try it out in a couple of days.

Any thoughts on how AER stacks up against Ultrasound and Fishman, and whether I should go with a used Alpha instead of either of the 2 new ones?

Thanks.
Hi rstl99…

I have/use UltraSound AG-50 (DS-4 is the current generation) which are great for both guitar and vocals, and are loud enough even for aggressive stages when I put the amp up on a stand and 3-4 feet directly behind me. I've been using UltraSound Amps for 6 years now.

The AER alpha is less power/projection than either the UltraSound or Fishman, and the double speakers of the UltraSound affect both output and dispersion of the sound, and tone of the vocals...which don't sound as good through single speakers.


The AER also only has one set of tone controls for both channels whereas the UltraSound has individual channel control of both volume and tone.

My impression of my rigs playing through the amps in discussion (K&K dual source with a pickup and mic) are both the AER and UltraSound sound like my acoustics only louder whereas the Fishman sounds like my guitars playing through an amp. Vocals only really sound normal through the UltraSound.

It really comes down to which sound one is looking for.

If I were to invest in an AER it would be in the $1800 with dual speakers/channels. It not only has more power, but again the dual speaker array which amplifies singing/speaking voices so much more naturally.

In the price range you are looking at ($450-500) the UltraSound DS-4 is a clear winner. Again with the Loudbox it is a single 8'' with tweeter as opposed to dual speakers, and as a singer, that is what separates it for me.

I've auditioned a lot of small acoustic amps and the ones with single 5'', 6'' or 8'' speakers just do not provide warm voice rendition. They all have to be pushed too hard to try to get the vocals to match the quality of the guitar...and they still end up sounding harsh or edgy or muddy vocally.

The California Blonde II on the other hand is a wonderful single 12'' woofer with a tweeter which will handle guitars, bass, vocals etc. It is in reality like a powered PA cabinet with a mixer built in. It's also double your budget ($800 new). My gigging partner uses one of these.


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Old 12-25-2011, 11:13 AM
lewddude lewddude is offline
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the answer is the SA220 "Fishstick" I played outside on the street corner and it was crystal clear at both ends of the street...










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Old 12-25-2011, 01:14 PM
rstl99 rstl99 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by buzzardwhiskey View Post
I own the Ultrasound and have set up the sound for a performance using the Alpha.

The Ultrasound is warmer and less sterile. That's good and bad. Subjectively, it's louder than the Alpha. Vocals sound rounded-off.

The Alpha is precise. It's a little PA, though it's slightly less loud.
Precision vs warmth... I think I'd tend to sway toward a bit of warmth, actually, I'm not a 100% purist. Good comparison of Alpha to a little PA. That helps me put it into perspective. Thanks!

Quote:
Originally Posted by ljguitar View Post
The AER alpha is less power/projection than either the UltraSound or Fishman, and the double speakers of the UltraSound affect both output and dispersion of the sound, and tone of the vocals...which don't sound as good through single speakers.

The AER also only has one set of tone controls for both channels whereas the UltraSound has individual channel control of both volume and tone.

My impression of my rigs playing through the amps in discussion (K&K dual source with a pickup and mic) are both the AER and UltraSound sound like my acoustics only louder whereas the Fishman sounds like my guitars playing through an amp. Vocals only really sound normal through the UltraSound.

It really comes down to which sound one is looking for.

If I were to invest in an AER it would be in the $1800 with dual speakers/channels. It not only has more power, but again the dual speaker array which amplifies singing/speaking voices so much more naturally.

In the price range you are looking at ($450-500) the UltraSound DS-4 is a clear winner. Again with the Loudbox it is a single 8'' with tweeter as opposed to dual speakers, and as a singer, that is what separates it for me.

I've auditioned a lot of small acoustic amps and the ones with single 5'', 6'' or 8'' speakers just do not provide warm voice rendition. They all have to be pushed too hard to try to get the vocals to match the quality of the guitar...and they still end up sounding harsh or edgy or muddy vocally.
Great comparison, thank you! Sounds like the DS-4 is more what I am looking for (vocals and guitar) for the reasons you state. Alpha sounds like a very well put together little amp, great sound clarity and "purity", but with some shortcomings, especially due to it being the "started model". I can see myself being overall happier with the DS4. Sounds like my first step is to try one out this week (especially with my jazz archtop to see if it's got a decent tone for that kind of music). I don't know how the AER gets such apparent "great sound" through a single 8" speaker, leave it to the Germans for their ingenuity I suppose...

Quote:
Originally Posted by tammuz7000 View Post
I have the fishman loudbox 100 and love it. I tried the artist and it was very nice. The AER sounds great but in a price comparison its pretty pricey..

I have not heard the ultrasound and can only say good things about the fishman. If you can find a loudbox 100 for a good price i would jump on it since they dont make them any more....
Thank you for that. Might come down between the Fishman Artist and the DS4, but only the latter is available locally for me to try out, so... As you say, the AER Alpha is pricey for what it gives you, feature-wise. The seller's asking price for his used one is higher than new price for the other 2...

Quote:
Originally Posted by DavidE View Post
I would guess that 40 watts would be grossly underpowered for most situations. When I had Ultrasound amps, they sounded good but were not loud at all for their stated power rating.

If you will be using the amp as your only means of amplification, I would choose the Fishman because it's likely the only one of the three to be sufficiently loud for some gigs though the others might sound better. But what good is sound quality if you can't be heard? I have an older loudbox and it can soundd decent with some tweaking.
Thanks. I currently don't perform anywhere, this would be for in-house solo playing and recording, jams, and the odd musical recital in a small place, not competing with louder instruments. So the higher volume of the Fishman would not be an advantage for me over the other 2. More about sound quality, features, etc.
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Old 12-25-2011, 02:39 PM
soma5 soma5 is offline
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I have experience with the Ultrasound and the AER Compact 60, which is akin to a larger Alpha. Both are really good amps. I prefer the Compact 60 right now but that could change. The Ultrasound is a LOT less expensive and it's close. I play in a duo situation sometimes with another guy and his Compact 60. The two of these amps together will fill a reasonable-sized venue. They are quite amazing. Of course, it is really easy to balance our sound...
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Old 12-25-2011, 05:39 PM
DLeeWebb DLeeWebb is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by soma5 View Post
I have experience with the Ultrasound and the AER Compact 60, which is akin to a larger Alpha. Both are really good amps. I prefer the Compact 60 right now but that could change. The Ultrasound is a LOT less expensive and it's close. I play in a duo situation sometimes with another guy and his Compact 60. The two of these amps together will fill a reasonable-sized venue. They are quite amazing. Of course, it is really easy to balance our sound...
Good advice...my recommendation would be similar. Go with the AER if money is not an issue. I don't think that you can do better than Ultrasound for the money though...
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Old 12-25-2011, 08:08 PM
mutantrock mutantrock is offline
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The Ultrasound is very good and you can always plug it's output into a PA if you are playing a loud gig and then use the Ultrasound as a monitor. I have used my Ultrasound for various smaller venues and it is so natural sounding on guitar and vocals.
I have seen used Fishman SA220 systems as low as $500 and it is very nice higher powered alternative to the combo amps you are looking at.
Good Luck!
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Old 12-25-2011, 11:44 PM
briggleman briggleman is offline
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This is one of the few times I have a different opinion than that of ljguitar (Larry).

I find duel speaker systems to muddy the sound where as single speaker systems clarify the sound. The fishman series of amps use individual speakers for the various frequency ranges with the exception of the Performer. The Loudbox 100 and artist provide the power, the most flexible connection options, and ease of use (light). The DS4 is a good sounding acoustic amp. However, When pushed beyond its 12 o'clock volume setting, that is where I hear the double speaker muddy sound start to show up. Now this type of sound is great for electric guitar, but not for acoustic. I also do not like the fact Ultrasound uses the 8" coaxial speakers effective stacking the speakers like speakers in most cars. This I believe causes another form of sound projection interference.

However, if you choose the Ultrasound or the Fishman, you will be getting good to great acoustic amps. Both are in your price range, but I think you would find the fishman 100 or Artist a lot more to your liking than the DS4.

Again, my opinion and you asked. Larry plays out a lot more than I do so for that type of playing, please take his advice. I come from a engineering point of view and only play out monthly with 3 other guys with most of my time spent in my little bedroom studio enjoying my own sounds. The Loudbox 100 is great for both.

Brad
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Old 12-26-2011, 12:13 PM
buzzardwhiskey buzzardwhiskey is online now
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Both ljguitar and briggleman have good points and advice. The DS4 does "round off" the tones and I can hear it quite well especially when I sing through it. The Fishman Loudbox 100 I've tried is more flexible and sharper but is also a little "brittle".

I think it's just extremely difficult/impossible to make the perfect amp at this price point and this size/weight. The engineering issues just can't be overcome. So choose your poison.
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Old 12-26-2011, 12:24 PM
tammuz7000 tammuz7000 is offline
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If you can't hear the loudbox try the fishman mini to get an idea of the sound. The artist will just give you way more watts and more head room...

I got my loudbox at bestbuy a few months ago with the $200 deal and $50 bestbuy card so I couldnt pass it up and am very pleased with it. I used it on a few gigs with the DI out and it worked great and it sounds fine in the living room with a mic into it.

I would have liked to have heard the ultrasound but none around here to try.
I know Hello Music has had the AER on a bit back for a deal...
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Old 12-26-2011, 02:23 PM
rstl99 rstl99 is offline
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Thanks for additional thoughts re: Ultrasound vs Fishman.

As "buzzard" indicated, engineering issues associated with producing something with good features and decent sound at that price range can't be gotten around. Both those amp families seem to do a reasonably good job of it, with some compromises and tradeoffs. Most people have indicated impressions of Ultrasound to be more "rounded/warmer" and Fishman "sharper/sterile". Since one of the major reasons for my acquiring an acoustic amp is to be able to practice/play my jazz archtop, I may tend to lean on the Ultrasound "warmer" sound. Either one would be good for me, no doubt. Too bad I can't A/B test them with my guitars and ears, but such is life.

Speaking of Ultrasound, the shop that sells them here is quite pricey (!). I know I'm in Canada but selling the DS4 at $575 cdn when I've seen it as low as $389 us online gives me some frustration. Maybe I'll go try it out at the store, and if I like it, order one in from the US and hope the shipping/taxes/customs charges don't negate the savings This shop also has a couple of used Ultrasounds, a Pro250 and a CP100. Would these offer head-room or other advantages over the DS4? (albeit for higher cost and more weight...)

Someone else offered to sell me a Trace Elliott TA70CR from the 80's (?) at a reasonable price, but I gather this is a rather heavy amp and has probably been superceded by better gear with more features, so not worth serious consideration? (weight IS an issue for me, lugging an amp to friends' houses for jams etc.)
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Old 12-26-2011, 02:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rstl99 View Post
... I currently don't perform anywhere, this would be for in-house solo playing and recording, jams, and the odd musical recital in a small place, not competing with louder instruments. So the higher volume of the Fishman would not be an advantage for me over the other 2. More about sound quality, features, etc.
For your current needs, it sounds to me like the Ultrasound DS4 would fit the bill quite nicely, especially if you can get a one at a good price. (I paid about $350 for a used one in perfect condition from a fellow AGFer a couple of years ago - great value at that price!)

I can't respond to briggleman's note that the DS4 starts to sound muddy when turned above the 12 o'clock position. I hardly ever have to run mine up past 2 o'clock, and have not noticed any muddiness at all to that point. That's pretty loud on mine. If I need more volume than that, I usually go out to a PA and turn the DS4 back down to stage monitor level, though I have gone from it's Line Out to a single powered speaker, mainly for better distribution of sound rather than more volume per se.

I really don't think you can go far wrong in choosing among the amps you're considering. I preferred the DS4 for my needs. Here is it's Owner's Manual, if it helps. http://www.ultrasoundamps.com/pdfs/AG-50DS4.pdf

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