Before I talk about the sound quality of the Boss Acoustic Singer Live LT—which is, with only a caveat or two, pretty darn good—it’s important to note that the ASL LT is light. Look, even fairly compact acoustic amps can still be heavy enough to rupture a disk, especially on those solo gig nights where you’re carrying your entire rig—guitar, effects, preamp, amp, merchandise, mics, mic stand, etc.—entirely on your own aging spinal column. Sound is important, sure, and so is volume. But lightness is a virtue, and at only 22.5 pounds, the LT may not be quite an angel, but it’s earning plenty of good karma in chiropractic heaven.
It’s a virtue that the Boss Acoustic Singer Live LT balances with other virtues, like simplicity, minimalism, good aesthetics, audio flexibility (USB recording and a Mix/DI output), dual mic/guitar channels, a reasonable power rating—bi-amped at 60 watts—and ease of use. The back-tilted front control panel is refreshingly spare, tucking both the XLR-input-equipped mic channel and the 1/4-inch input guitar channels horizontally across the panel’s face, with controls for volume, bass, middle and treble, along with a smart control for each of its independent effects sections, plus a dedicated reverb control for each channel. The guitar channel sports Phase and Acoustic Resonance LED buttons; the mic channel, an Enhance LED button. For the combined output, the amp offers an anti-feedback notch control knob and a master volume.
All of this makes great sense for the self-contained solo acoustic artist playing a small room. (A quite small room, I’d argue, but more on that in a minute.) Why? Because if you sing, you need more than just a fine acoustic amp for your guitar, and to avoid schlepping effects boxes, you may well want just the essential effects on tap, with minimum fuss, on the amp itself. Because mics can sound a bit flat at low volumes without a preamp, the Enhance button adds what sounds like compression and presence; because warmth can be an issue without a guitar preamp, Acoustic Resonance fires up the sound with more woody low-to-high mids. And because on a typical intimate house-concert gig you don’t need to flatten the back row, and chatter should be minimal, 60 watts is often sufficient. Plenty of amps offer comparable features, but there’s an elegance and a Zen focus to this amp that is laudable.
A Sonic Youth
Now, the ASL LT sounds terrific, particularly at its middle volume range. It’s a sophisticated and punchy sound that emanates from the bi-amped 6.5-inch woofer and 1-inch high-frequency tweeter, and there’s plenty of sparkling detail and whoomph for such a small speaker. I ran my Larrivee OM-05, a Martin SC-13E, and a Taylor 114ce into the guitar channel, and a Shure SM57 through the mic channel, and immediately felt gratified by the presence and width of the vocal sound—that Enhance button really fills in the voice’s EQ—and was maybe even a little stunned by how big and punchy my guitars sounded. Imagine feeling like you have to turn the bass knob down on an amp this size when it’s only at noon!
The preprogrammed effects are smartly dialed. The left half of the guitar effects knob’s throw is delay—from a moderate slapback gradually to a wetter slapback; then from a single-repeat quick quarter-note delay to ever-longer and more feedbacking quarter-note delays. Pleasing and with good width. Chorus occupies the right side of the throw and proved especially useful at the lower and higher ends of the spectrum, from a nice subtle detuning effect to a more drenched modulation, though one wishes the top range had ratcheted up the depth, intensity, and especially speed more than it does. Meanwhile, the mic effects knob also boasts delay, which follows the same sonic range as the guitar’s delay and echo, again with slapback to increasing time/regen quarter-note delays, but with a darker, more tape-inspired tone. Reverbs are smooth and fairly transparent, generally, with a savvy amount of pre-delay, though they get a bit steely at the higher end of the throw. The back panel features independent foot controller outputs for each effects section, so you can tailor your time-base hands-free on the gig.
That back panel may be just as key to this potent little amp as the front. That’s because at higher volume levels—and by this I mean anything past 2 o’clock on the master—the mic channel especially can begin to get crunchy, and the separation between mic and guitar loses its fidelity. I found a few ways to ameliorate that. Let the channel volume do more of the work (think 1–2 o’clock or more) and adjust the master accordingly. Turn off the Enhance LED button when pushing more volume with the amp, as it’ll get distorted much quicker, and you honestly don’t need it at higher volumes—the power section will do all the enhancing you need. (Enhance is ideal for lower volume settings where vocals can very often sound a bit flat.) And of course, when you’re belting, it’s always a good idea to back off the mic anyway.
One last point about this little powerhouse (no, not the affordable price point, but that doesn’t suck, either): it’s versatile and adaptable to different musical settings. Yes, you can use the back-panel XLR/DI output and the 1/4-inch recording/phones output to send signal to a house PA, while retaining the ASL LT’s great tone shaping, effects, and preamp qualities. Yes, that also means the ASL LT is a terrific, portable monitor for all your gigs, even bigger ones. And yes, you can use the USB output to record your performances direct to a computer or smart device, again, retaining control over EQ, effects, and overall sonics the way you dictate. (Do get the optional foot controller so you’re really producing as you play.)
There’s one last aspect of the Acoustic Singer that is really worth mentioning. It’s a practice amp that doubles as a song machine. It’s so light and so small that you’ll keep it in your hotel room, bedroom, or studio, and you’ll have a gig-quality PA at any time and any place. Look, guitarists typically write acoustic-based songs or craft guitar instrumentals sitting on the side of the couch or studio chair and strumming and singing into the free air. Nothing wrong with that.
But the Boss Acoustic Singer Live LT lets you tap into a certain live electricity at apartment volumes, in kitchen-sized spaces, and at motel room locales. That’s creative gold right there. It’s true that the amp won’t supply the audience for you, but on second thought, the version of you that passes through its circuit board may well help you find one.
AMP Two channels, 60W bi-amped; XLR (mic), 1/4″ (instrument), and 1/8″ TRS (stereo aux) inputs; XLR DI out; 1/8″ headphone/rec out; USB B port
SPEAKERS 6.5″ woofer; 1″ dome tweeter
DIMENSIONS 11.81″ x 14.37″ x 10.68″; 22.5 lbs
OTHER 3-band EQ; reverb, delay/chorus (guitar); delay/echo (mic);
anti-feedback notch control; optional footswitch
MADE IN Malaysia
PRICE $399.99 street
This article originally appeared in the March/April 2021 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.