Most gigging acoustic guitarists know the importance of a great-sounding, reliable preamp/DI box. Not only will a DI allow you to directly interface with a house PA system via the XLR output, but the preamp can help you sculpt the best possible sonic reproduction of your guitar via EQ, blend well with other musicians on stage, and tame potential feedback issues. Last but not least, a preamp amplifies the inherently weak signal from your guitar’s passive pickup and correctly matches impedance values with the rest of your signal chain.
The Acoustic Pocket Amp from Germany’s Palmer Musical Instruments is a versatile, feature-laden musical tool for acoustic (or electric) guitars with piezo, transducer, or magnetic pickups that serves these functions and more. Its diminutive size (roughly the footprint of a drink coaster) makes it super easy to grab-and-go anywhere you need to play.
Even with its small size, the Acoustic Pocket Amp is packed with essential features such as a 3-band EQ section (tuned for acoustic instruments with a semi-parametric mid control with frequency sweep); gain, blend, notch filter, and polarity controls; XLR, 1/4-inch, and headphone outputs; an effects loop; and a stompbox-style mute switch. One unique feature is the three-way “Style” switch, which changes the character of the sound between Vintage, Modern, and Flat settings.
When I explored the preamp in my home studio and on a jazz-duo gig with an acoustic bassist, I used an archtop with a magnetic pickup, as well as my 16-inch flattop acoustic with passive K&K pickups installed. Although I didn’t have to worry about the volume of a drummer, the room was fairly loud, with about 80–100 people in attendance throughout the evening.
I ran the Pocket Amp directly into my amp (at a low-volume setting), and there was plenty of gain and headroom available—more than you’d need for any gig, with or without a house system. This is really more of a “set it and forget it” device, but you may need your reading glasses and a flashlight to see the small words and numbers on the preamp. Still, I appreciated that the white knobs were easy to see on stage.
So how does it sound? At the risk of being cliché, I really couldn’t get a “bad” sound out of it. At every setting, the sound is clear, strong, and very responsive to the playing nuances. In addition to the Style switch, there’s a three-way Mode switch, toggling between A.B. (full-range), A.G. (low-frequency roll-off), and MAGN (for magnetic pickups). Of course, your ears should always be the judge (I preferred the A.B. setting on my guitar with a magnetic pickup, for example). Between these Style and Mode switches and the EQ, there are plenty of tonal variations available. I found that the EQ was fairly subtle, however—I had to really turn the knobs to achieve a significantly different tone. Depending on your taste and requirements, this may be a pro or con. I like the different default Modes and Styles settings in tandem with the EQ, though the switches seemed a little flimsy. I’d probably keep the Palmer on one or two settings in live situations and change more frequently in a studio setting.
INPUTS 1/4″ with -12dB pad, 1/8″ aux in, and tuner thru
OUTPUTS 1/4″, balanced XLR with ground lift, and 1/8″ headphone
CONTROLS Bass (±12dB@100Hz–3dB), Mid (±12dB@150Hz–8kHz), Highs (±12dB@7.5kHz–3dB), Notch (20Hz–400Hz), Blend, Gain (32dB max), Mode (Magn.: magnetic pickup; A.G.: acoustic guitar with low-end roll off; A.B.: full range); Style (Flat, Modern, Vintage), Volume
OTHER 9-volt or AC power; 14.5 ounces (w/o battery); effects loop; polarity; DI pre/post; footswitch (selectable for mute or bypass)
MADE IN China
PRICE $199.99 street
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2019 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.