Are you tired of lugging around a heavy amplifier along with external pedals? Boss has a new acoustic amplifier that might just solve your problem. The AC-22LX ($399 street) weighs just under nine pounds and somehow feels even lighter. The simulated wood cabinet, roughly 12.5 by 8.5 by 10.5 inches, houses a pair of five-inch speakers powered by five watts each. It offers an impressive array of features, including a looper, drum machine, reverb, and chorus, while producing a sound much bigger than one would expect from such a small, low-powered amplifier. To enhance portability further, the AC-22LX can be powered with eight AA batteries instead of its included AC power adapter.
The basic features of the AC-22LX include an instrument channel offering a 10M impedance 1/4-inch input, as well as a mic channel with an XLR input and optional phantom power. The instrument channel offers volume plus a three-band EQ section, while the mic channel has volume, treble, and bass controls. Reverb can be applied to both channels, and chorus is available on the instrument channel. The amp also offers mono or stereo line outputs, a recording/headphone stereo output, and a USB connection or optional Bluetooth that supports audio in and out of a computer or mobile device as well as access to additional features.
Beyond the Basics
While the core features of the AC-22LX are typical of small combo amps, the additional features are where things get interesting. An onboard Rhythm Box provides direct access to five different rhythm patterns with a tap tempo button. You can expand the available rhythms by pressing a button or by choosing from a longer list available only from an external app. The built-in looper is operated via an external footswitch (sold separately) and offers the standard behavior of many single-button loopers: record, play, overdub, and double-tap to stop.
The most intriguing feature of the AC-22LX is the stereo simulation that Boss calls Air Feel. A six-position switch lets you choose between a dry, direct sound, and various options named after common stereo miking techniques, such as XY, AB, and ORTF. These settings leverage the twin speakers in the AC-22LX to produce a stereo effect. With such a small speaker cabinet, these settings don’t produce an obvious stereo sound, but they do add different degrees of openness, ambience, and air to the sound.
While the amp controls offer a lot of flexibility, the app, available for iOS, Android, Mac, and Windows, opens up many more possibilities. You can choose from different reverb and chorus types and tweak many parameters to dial in your sound. There are additional percussion patterns available, and you can even create a set list containing a sequence of settings to be used on different songs.
Given its small footprint and low wattage, the AC-22LX produces a surprisingly full sound with a warm, round tone that is very pleasant to play through. The sound emphasizes the midrange, as expected from such a small cabinet, but in a complementary way.
The AC-22LX produces only moderate volume—I was able to play with the amp about 75 percent of the way up, sitting on a table directly facing my guitar a few feet away, without feedback. However, it does fill a small room, especially with the Air settings engaged. The amp would be ideal at home, for playing an acoustic house concert, or for a small coffee shop gig. For larger venues, you could use the stereo line out to feed a house system while using the amp as a stage monitor.
The built-in looper and percussion effects are very useful during practice sessions, although some may find the available beats and the one-button looper operation limiting for live performance. I’d prefer to see XLR DI outputs, support for a dedicated stop/clear button for the looper, and the ability to program additional drum sequences. However, the existing features and capabilities of the amp are impressive as they are, combining good sound with a great deal of flexibility in a tiny, ultra-lightweight package.
This article originally appeared in the January/February 2024 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.