Fender Music Australia | fender.com.au | RRP: $849
As any acoustic player will happily tell you, the design considerations of acoustic amps differ greatly to that of their electric brethren.
For starters, you are dealing with an entirely different set of goalposts, one that puts a heightened emphasis on the profoundly unsexy. Technical traits like clean gain, endless headroom and ample feedback suppression become as important in the acoustic world as more ‘‘colourful’ draws like preamp, tube and speaker drive are to the electric guitar. It’s a completely different ballgame.
Historically, this need for endless headroom has resulted in the release of some very large, very heavy acoustic amps, as a means of scratching the puratanical itch- however, the last few years have seen some massive advancements in acoustic amp technology as it pertains to portability. and nowhere is this more apparent than in something like the new Fender Acoustic Junior.
To put it simply, the Fender Acoustic Junior Acoustic Amplifier is quite simply a gigger/busker’s dream. At 100w and 7kg, it has no business being as light and loud as it is. This loudness is pure and clean also, primarily serving to amplify the natural sound of your guitar and acoustic pickup, rather than impart an additional nasties. The Acoustic Junior is a 100-watt combo with exquisitely rich harmonic reproduction and a PA-like fidelity and dispersion that is really impressive upon first listen.
Testing it with my trusty dreadnought and its factory AP5 pickup, there was an instant familiarity with the Acoustic Junior, not only in its very Fender topography, but also in the way that I was able to dial in a tone with little to no fuss. Even straight out of the box, with all pots at 12 o’clock, it instantly sounded like my guitar – which is more than you can say for a lot of so-called ‘transparent’ acoustic amps out there. Its 8″ woofer and compression tweeter work in concert to create a level of clarity and refinement rarely encountered in amplifiers in this price-point.
Sonic neutrality and clean volume isn’t the only trick up its sleeve though, and despite its classic Fender appearance this amp is very much fitted with many of the new school features that will allow you to do anything from XLR out into the house PA, stream Bluetooth and record via USB all from the same basic interface.
Tonally speaking, it’s an incredibly versatile affair, with eight studio-quality onboard effects on both channels. With lush reverbs like Room and Hall, as well as other time/modulation based effects like Echo, Delay, Chorus, Vibratone, Delay – there’s plenty on offer here in terms of tonal shaping. The dual XLR/TRS inputs allow for a microphone and a guitar to be used simultaneously for busker style setups, while the handy three-band EQ, effect volume pots, phase switch, and master volume control allow you to fine-tune the voice and guitar for better separation.
As if this wasn’t enough, there is also a built-in looper with a 60 second recording time, dubbing, and an undo function. I found this to be a particularly useful function, not only as a home practice and songwriting tool, but also in the live domain, where when paired with other effects and processing, could serve as the solid basis for a ‘one person band’ type setup. This is where the separately sold Fender four button footswitch can certainly pay dividends, allowing for full use of the looping function without taking your hands off the guitar.
On the topic of performance, the fact this amplifier has a built-in tilt back kickstand also means you can set it flat on a table in small spaces or elevate it to project the sound upwards from the floor, which also proves quite handy for further feedback suppression. Weighing a mere 7kg, it’s easily transportable, even meeting the weight requirements of most bicycle pannier racks.There are literally electric guitars heavier than this combo amp-which is saying a lot!
If there’s a song or track you want to play along to, the auxiliary input and Bluetooth functions are very useful and the stereo headphone output is super handy if you’re wanting to practice in a shared living space. Needing to fill the silences between sets or songs, or even just play some music in your bedroom? The Bluetooth function is great, serving as a bluetooth speaker on steroids, albeit with 100w of power.
Something else I really appreciated about this is that if I ever performed a killer set and wanted to have a high-quality recording of it, the built-in USB output means that I could do just that, singing included should I be using the XLR connection. It also means less mess when you’re simply trying to record ideas in your bedroom, writing music. No need to mess around with amplifier programs, get that gorgeous sound and all the effects you desire straight off the bat.
At first when I looked at this amplifier, I was strangely feeling a little overwhelmed. I’m used to having my effects separately on a board where I can have a lot of control over each individual sound, amplifiers just take care of their EQ, gain, reverb, the usual.
In terms of an acoustic amplifier, one that stays true to the ethos of the form while simultaneously propelling it into the future, the Fender Acoustic Junior has to be at the top of the heap. Its insane portability, beautiful tone and modern DSP/Bluetooth functions make it a go to for public performance or home practice.
A jack of all acoustic trades, with enough wattage and headroom to provide more than enough sonic reinforcement for all but the very loudest of Acoustic guitar applications (by which point you are probably mic’ing it up or using the XLR into the live desk anyway), the Fender Acoustic Junior is an awesome entry point for anyone looking to maintain and project the integrity of their acoustic sound into the public domain.
Find out more about the Fender Acoustic range here.