By Adam Perlmutter

Since the mid-1990s, anytime an acoustic guitarist has plugged in at a coffeehouse, there’s a pretty good chance that he or she was using a Fender Acoustasonic—a popular amplifier that delivers good, clean sound, in an affordable, roadworthy package. This mainstay series has gone through several generations and is now joined by a swanky new pair, the Acoustic Pro and the Acoustic SFX, two lightweight digital amps with robust power and lush effects. Side by side, I put them to their paces and found them to be quite the dynamic duo.

Smartly Designed

The Acoustic Pro and the Acoustic SFX look completely different from any previous Fender amplifier, let alone any acoustic amp on the market. Taken together, they’re like Mutt and Jeff, the SFX being the tall relative to the short and squat Pro. Each is housed in a molded plywood cabinet, stained in a butterscotch color, calling to mind midcentury modern furniture. Not only is this design cool-looking, it increase s the amps’ responsiveness and projection.

The amps are lightweight—the Pro is 27 pounds and the SFX is 25—and their handles are integrated into the cabinets, making them easy to carry while providing a cradle for smartphones and tablets. Another thoughtful design feature on each chassis is a durable rubber bottom. And it’s nice of Fender to have included a cover for each amp.

fender-acoustic-amps

The Acoustic Pro

The Acoustic Pro is the more straightforward of the duo. This 200-watt amp has one 12-inch Fender Special Design speaker and a horn tweeter. Each of its two identical channels has a combination XLR/quarter-inch input (making it, of course, a mini-PA system); volume and reverb controls; four EQ controls, low, mid-frequency, mid-level, and high; and a phase switch, for attenuating feedback. Situated between the channels are two eighth-inch plugs, for connecting an auxiliary device and headphones.

When I plug in a Martin OM-28E with the EQ knobs set flat, I’m straight away impressed by the amp’s ability to replicate the guitar’s natural acoustic tone. It sounds much like the guitar does unplugged—except much bigger and more present, just as it does for an Ortega Lizard-CC-GB acoustic-electric ukulele. Whether I strum or fingerpick, gently or vigorously, the amp feels responsive and never harsh or overbearing. The EQ knobs are quite functional, boosting the highs makes for a tone that will cut through for a solo, without any brittleness.

The Acoustic Pro’s reverb might be limited in its flexibility, being controllable only in terms of level. But it has a lush organic quality that, dialed in at 9 o’clock, is perfect for adding shimmer to fingerpicked passages and body to single-note lines. Players who are more adventurous when it comes to sonic manipulation will appreciate the effect loop, located around back, with a quarter-inch send and return.

The Acoustic SFX

As its name suggests, the Acoustic SFX (that’s Stereo Field Expansion technology) is geared more toward the electro-acoustic guitarist. This 2×80-watt amp is tricked out with an eight-inch low-frequency driver, a high-frequency tweeter, and a side-radiating six-inch speaker, plus the horn tweeter. To put it another way, the amp has a wide field of sound—unlike a traditional amp, on which sound is projected forward.

The two-channel SFX has the same basic controls as its portly counterpart, except the EQ section includes only a single mid control and adds an effects level. Each channel has buttons for engaging four effects—two delay types, a chorus, and a vibrato effect. DLY 1 is a slap-back echo, with a single repeat, adjustable between 100–550ms, while DLY 2 is a multiple repeat, adjustable within the same range. CHO is a deep-sweep chorus adjustable between 0.66Hz and 10 Hz and VIB a fast vibrato with a range between 0.66Hz and 5.66Hz.

The button for each effect is illuminated when it’s on, and the range of an effect is controlled by tapping its button. Only one of the four effects can be used at a time, but it can be paired with reverb. It’s great fun to experiment with the effects using the Martin and the uke. The delay is transparent and preserves the acoustic sound while imparting spacey effects; the chorus lends depth and richness; and the vibrato provides an interesting textural departure from the ordinary acoustic sound.

All of the effects in the quarter pair nicely with the reverb; there isn’t any murkiness of sound in any of the combinations. And the effects section’s Stereo SFX control, which adjusts the width of the amp’s stereo image, makes for quite a deep tone.

Great New Tools

With the Acoustic Pro and Acoustic SFX, Fender has introduced two great new tools for the acoustic guitarist, each of which has a warm natural sound and power to spare. The Pro appeals to the broadest audience, its focus being mainly on duplicating the acoustic sound, while the SFX is for the sonic tinkerer. As a bonus, both have a snazzy, woody look that pairs nicely with an acoustic guitar. 


At a Glance: Fender Acoustic Pro

The Specs

Two independent channels with combo ¼-inch/XLR inputs

Volume, reverb, phase, and four-knob EQ on each channel

200 watts

12-inch Fender Special Design loudspeaker plus high-frequency horn

Tilt-back kickstand

Included cover

Optional two-button footswitch

17.65 x 21 x 10.5 inches

27 lbs

PRICE 

$999.99 street

Made in Mexico
fender.com

See it on Amazon.


At a Glance: Fender Acoustic SFX

The Specs

Two independent channels with combo ¼-inch/XLR inputs

Volume, reverb, phase, effects level, and three-knob EQ on each channel

2×80 watts

One eight-inch low-frequency drivers, high-frequency tweeter, and side-radiating  six-inch speaker, plus high-frequency horn

Included cover

Optional two-button footswitch

19.5 x 17.5 x 10.5 inches

25 lbs.

PRICE 

$899.99 street

Made in Mexico
fender.com

See it on Amazon.

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