No one hears themselves the way they sound to others. This simple reality must be understood and somehow corrected for by anyone recording music. This is why performers in the studio wear headphones while recording and why a small acoustic amplifier is a necessary piece of gear for an acoustic guitar playing, singing song writer. The Behringer Ultracoustic AT108 acoustic amplifier more than does the job.
As the owner of eight completely acoustic guitars, I thought a lot for years about trying amplification. I probably never hesitated with ambivalence about any other purchase in my life. Much to my delight, together with a passive, inexpensive hole-mounted pick-up (the Seymour Duncan SA3SC Woody) , an inexpensive Audio- Technica vocal microphone and this Behringer AT108, I can hear a fullness and richness that actually makes good instruments sound even better!
At least as importantly, it allows me to hear myself more the way I am heard by others who will not hear me, as I do in part, from the resonations inside my skull.
One of the most universal and predictably shocking experiences anyone who records their own voice is struck by is how different it sounds when recorded than it does when they are singing or speaking it. The mechanics of this ubiquitous situation are not difficult to fathom.
To hear what those listening hear, you have to arrange things so as to hear the sound coming TO you, not FROM you. That is where an amplifier comes in handy. It aims your own sound back at you so you can hear something a lot closer to what an audience would hear.
When we ‘hear’ ourselves without any external amplification or direct audio feedback, we are ‘hearing’ a combination of the sounds being processed through our ears as well as those vibrations and sounds that are created by the vibrations in our heads. The people who hear us, only hear us through their ears. The two experiences are not the same.
To discover how we really sound to others, we can go about it two ways. First, we can go ahead and record ourselves then listen and be astounded at how different we sound from how we thought we were sounding while recording, or we can put our practice through electronics – either through an external amplifier or through headphones, so that we can hear ourselves more closely to the way we will be heard by others.
As an acoustic guitar player, I recently invested in a small, specifically acoustic amplifier, the Behringer Ultracoustic AT108, and have found the results to be simply astounding as I can now, for the first time, practice my songs until they sound the way I would like them to sound to others before recording them.
For a small amplifier that successfully replicates, electronically, the deep richness of an old tube acoustic amplifier, this Behringer AT108 provides amply volume for both the instrument and separate input voice, along with a three section equalizer, to provide the self-accompanying guitarist with the sound of what s/he really sound like to others. It can, initially, be a rather shocking experience!
Technically, this AT108 is at the low end of the famous Behringer line. Although the company is based in Germany, this box is built in China to their specifications. Solidly built and encased in a brown vinyl wrapping, it sports:
– 15 Watts of Power amp output,
– An 8″ dual-cone full-range loudspeaker with 4 Ohm impedance and a power
rating of 20 Watts,
– Inputs for an instrument (1/4″ TS mono connector,) a microphone ( Balanced
XLR) and for CDs (1/4″ TRS stereo connector,)
– A headphone output connector ( 1/4″ TRS stereo connector, and
– Three (Low, Mid and High Range) frequency controllers.
The unit measures approximately 13 X 14 X 7 inches, weighs just over 11 pounds and is easily portable. It comes delivered with 13 feet of instrument ready plug-in cabling.
Finally, to answer a question I had that caused me to hesitate for years before buying a small acoustic amp, it does NOT make an acoustic guitar sound, in any way, like an electric guitar. The sound is that of a deepened and amplified acoustic. The natural tones are enhanced, not rendered tinny or ‘electrified.’
It is at home in a room when you are alone practicing or on a stage in a small venue. The 15 amps pack a wallop and it can blast pretty loudly for its petite and easily portable configuration..
At a current on line retail of somewhere between $75 – $95, an entire enhanced world of acoustic playing, practicing and listening is now open to me. The Behringer AT108 just might turn out to be one of the smartest investments I have ever made on behalf of my acoustic guitar playing, singing and recording.