When acoustic guitar amplifier guru Michael Eisenmann joined forces with Hughes & Kettner to create a brand new acoustic amp, we at Blog Of Tone were excited, curious, and a little bit… apprehensive. What would they come up with? How could Eisenmann improve on his previous designs, which are celebrated by acoustic guitar players worldwide? But he’s done it, and the result starts a whole new era for acoustic amplification. Read the story of how the amp came about, and scroll down to watch our exclusive interview with Michael Eisenmann below!
Playing the acoustic guitar is one of the purest ways to express your emotions through music.
In fact, that’s probably the reason why so many people seem to have a dusty old six-string under their bed and a handful of chords they can wheel out to play around the campfire whenever the need arises.
Anyone can play guitar, after all – and as Thom Yorke of Radiohead once very famously sang – and as many guitarists know, it’s a great way to impress people of both genders. If you can get your fingers round More Than Words while singing in tune, that is.
So why amplify an acoustic guitar at all?
Well, as loud as the boomiest of dreadnoughts go, at some point you’re going to run into a situation where the instrument alone is not going to cut it.
You might be playing shows with a band, or busking on a busy city street corner, or playing as part of an orchestra or ensemble, or similar. And this is when you need reinforcements.
Chances are you’ll know the Michael Eisenmann name if you’ve ever even considered buying an acoustic amp.
He’s designed many of the best of them over the last quarter of a century, after all.
If you haven’t, though, let’s fill you in a little.
After studying electrical engineering in the 1980s, a young Eisenmann was freelancing in his field – developing small speaker systems was a specialty – when he met a local music shop owner by the name Udo Rösner.
The two men bonded over the desire to build a solution for acoustic guitarists wanting amplification. It became something of a fascination for Eisenmann.
Ideas of the perfect acoustic amp
Their dream amplifier had to be small, dynamic, great-sounding, easy to use, and streamlined in appearance. As they talked to more acoustic guitarists about the idea, and presented their works in progress, it became apparent that transparent sound was a necessity.
The perfect acoustic amplifier must color the tone of the instrument plugged into it as little as possible.
In fact, if the guitar player and audience couldn’t notice the difference, then that would be a monumental success.
Kind of boring, when you consider the all-singing, all-dancing MIDI programmable beasts we usually talk about on the Blog Of Tone.
But then an electric guitar amp is an instrument of itself; we praise the influence of preamps and power tubes, and cry over cathode followers – or the lack of them – in our never-ending quest for the ultimate in electric guitar tone.
In the world of the acoustic, transparency is king.
A 25-year journey ends in a new era
Eisenmann has put his hand to a great many killer acoustic amps over the years. The first major player was the Akusticube in 1991, and now, just over a quarter of a century later, we have era 1.
In the meantime, technology has improved, features have come and gone – the good ones stuck around, of course – and shapes, sizes, and sounds have changed.
But what has stayed the same is Eisenmann’s desire for an amp that lets the acoustic player hear his or her instrument, only louder.
era 1 does that, and how. Check out these clips of acoustic guitar genius Petteri Sariola putting the amp through its paces:
But you’ll need to experience it in the flesh yourself to really appreciate era 1’s true majesty.
Everything the modern acoustic player needs
As well as the sounds, era 1 has everything a 21st century guitarist could need:
- Loads of pristine clean headroom (it has a 250-watt power amp) for incredible playing dynamics
- Two identical channels for guitars and vocals, with powerful EQs to get the most out of any instrument or voice type
- Two more channels for adding in anything else you fancy – a smartphone for backing tracks maybe, a MacBook for samples, or a drum machine
- An incredible built-in FX section (with different reverbs and delays, chorus, flanger, and combinations of all of the above). Sure, era 1 is about preserving your guitar’s tone, but sometimes you need FX, be it to flesh out the sound for creative reasons, or to ring your tone to life in a dry room
- A bunch of connections for every situation you could imagine: an FX loop for stompboxes of your own, a DI for sending the amp to the PA or mixer, an optical out to go to high-end studio equipment, a stereo line out, tuner and headphone outs, and more
- Eisenmann-approved size and weight: era 1 has an 8” speaker (and a 1” dome tweeter) and weighs less than 22 lbs./10 kg, and it’s easy as pie to transport and set up. Plus it can easily be mounted on a pole, and it comes with a tilt stand, so you can set the amp at the perfect angle for your ears – or your audience’s
The long and winding road
It’s taken Eisenmann a long way to get this far because perfecting amps is a long process.
Actually, the perfect amp probably doesn’t exist. But with each step, each feedback round from professional and hobby players, he gets a step closer.
One thing is safe to say at this point: era 1 begins a new era of acoustic amplification.
Let’s see where Eisenmann goes from here.
Now watch the interview we did with Michael about era 1, where he tells us his story, and the story behind the amp:
And we’d love to know your thoughts too of course, so leave us your comments below!
First published: June 07 2017. Most recent update: July 26 2017.