Gadgetry: Battery Powered Amps and Mobile PAs

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Some gigs are just beyond the reach of the extension cord, but that doesn’t mean you have to go wholly acoustic. Here are a few pieces of gear that allows the artist to turn up even when they are un-plugged.

The Samson Expedition XP40i

The Samson Expedition XP40i has a simple design that is more PA than guitar amplifier. This two-way system has an 6” woofer with a 1” driver powered along by a 40-watt amplifier. The unit’s rechargeable battery can last as long as 10 hours when operating in ideal low-volume situations.

Each channel of the XP40i has a volume control, and there’s a master bass and treble control for overall tone shaping. Channel one has a combo input that can accept either a XLR mic or standard guitar cable; channel two has both a ¼” phone jack and a 1/8” auxiliary in. There’s also an iPod docking station with its own volume control, great for background music between sets or even karaoke (if need be).

The 18.5 lb Expedition’s molded plastic enclosure features a built-in handle and a receptacle allowing it to be mounted on a speaker stand, putting the sound where it should be – at ear level.

The Expedition sounded natural with both tone controls set flat. While it has enough volume to begin to compete with drums in a full-band setting, it best fits the solo singer-songwriter playing at more moderate levels. (191 words)

The Roland AC-33

The Roland AC-33 amp is loaded with tone shaping controls, effects and features, including the famous (and seductive) Roland stereo chorus which is selectable on each of the amp’s two channels.

Channel one has a single ¼” input with a gain control and three bands of EQ. The second channel has an XLR input and a ¼” input and two bands of EQ control. There’s also a master volume and digital reverb for both channels. Sound reproduction is handled via a pair of 5” full range speakers, providing 30 watts of total power plugged in and 20 watts running off the batteries.

Other useful features include an anti-feedback switch and looping function which samples up to 40 seconds of performance, allowing the fleet-footed to record a segment of performance to solo or harmonize with when using the optional footswitch.

Rather than using a rechargeable cell, the AC-33 uses 8 standard AA batteries. The drawbacks and benefits of this are instantly recognizable: more costly to replace batteries when they lose their charge, but no recharging necessary if you run out of juice at a remote gig … as long as you have replacements on hand.

The AER Compact Mobile

The AER Compact Mobile boasts 60 watts through a single 8” twin cone speaker (the high frequency driver is mounted in the center of the woofer) and weighs a manageable 31 pounds.

The two channel preamp has gain and three-band EQ (with a bright switch) for the ¼” instrument channel, and the second channel hosts a combo XLR-1/4” phone input, line/mic selection switch, gain and two band EQ.  The master section includes digital effects and control for the overall volume, including the RCA aux input.

The birch plywood cabinet is covered with the kind of tough coat used on the bed of pickup trucks, a foam grill and a recessed handle which is still accessible even when the unit is in the included padded nylon gig bag.

The Compact Mobile packs more than enough volume to play with a full band with tone that inspires. For the singer-songwriter, this extra gain allows them to finesse their performance. This professional amp should be a strong consideration for any acoustic guitarist looking for an amp; the ability to run on battery power is just an extra perk.



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