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What's needed for electric acoustics to connect to a PA?

Discussion in 'Acoustic Heaven' started by rockymtnguitar, Feb 24, 2021.

  1. rockymtnguitar

    rockymtnguitar Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

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    We have a small informal group and we’ve been invited to a least one casual gig in the next few months. We’re also looking to play some open mics, etc. We consist of a guitar player (me), a guitar/mandolin player, a singer, and a percussionist. All of the acoustic guitars involved and the mandolin have pickups. None of us have done this sort of thing before and we know nothing about PAs, etc. Apparently one of the locations will have a “sound guy.”

    What do we *need* to connect the instruments to a PA? DI box?

    What would be *handy* to connect the instruments to the PA? EQ pedal? Tuner? Chorus/Delay? Boost?
     
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  2. AJBaker

    AJBaker Friend of Leo's

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    You can go straight to a PA without any problem.

    A DI box is better (but I don't think it always makes a big difference, it depends on the length of cable and type of mixer).

    A preamp and eq give you more flexibility and tweaking, and some effects like reverb, chorus or delay can give you some nice textures to play around with.


    A tuner is handy and having one is a given these days.
     
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  3. beyer160

    beyer160 Friend of Leo's

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    Unless your pickup has a balanced XLR output, it's always best to use a DI.
     
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  4. northernguitar

    northernguitar Friend of Leo's

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    +1. Greatly adds flexibility for routing a cable to the board.
     
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  5. bondoman

    bondoman Tele-Holic

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    Lots of PA's these days are actually multi channel powered mixers. So depending on how ancient the venues PA is all you'll really need is a 1/4" instrument cable.
     
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  6. northernguitar

    northernguitar Friend of Leo's

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    If the board is more than 20' away, that's gonna be a long run on a 1/4 cable. I'd rather a DI at my feet and an xlr run to the snake or board.
     
  7. AJBaker

    AJBaker Friend of Leo's

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    But at a small gig the guitar might only be 3 metres away, so jack to board would be fine (though yes, DI is better).
     
  8. rockymtnguitar

    rockymtnguitar Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

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    Great, thank you all. Anyone want to offer opinions about all-in-one solutions such as the Boss AD10 versus just using a single DI box and nothing else?
     
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  9. northernguitar

    northernguitar Friend of Leo's

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    Good DI will be quiet, and your guitar will sound like your guitar. A preamp box like that adds effects, eq, compression, etc options.
     
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  10. Dacious

    Dacious Poster Extraordinaire

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    DI is $50, 100 for a fancy schmancy one. The Behringer DI actually works well. If you're in a bar with a short cord a DI is clutter.

    Often you will find el-acoustics sound clangy plugged straight in, and it can't be fixed just on the guitar eqs. Plugging into a line input or dropping the mid eq on the board slightly often controls the nasaliness of a piezo saddle especially.
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2021
  11. nickmsmith

    nickmsmith Tele-Meister

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    I've never had any issue running an acoustic straight into the mixer with 1/4 inch, on more portable PAs.. on big ones with snakes, a DI box is necessary for a few different reasons.

    When I gig, it's with a compact setup, and 1/4 inch to mixer, to powered speakers has been great for me, for a good while now.
     
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  12. Axis29

    Axis29 Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    My only caveat here is that the Behringer DI didn't work for me with my JJB or my K&K. I tried a Baggs Para-DI as well, with no luck. I ended up with a RedEye and couldn't be happier! A bit more expensive, but for this style pickup, I think they kick behind.
     
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  13. uriah1

    uriah1 Telefied Gold Supporter

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    Tonebone pre z

    Great build quality
     
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  14. Old Deaf Roadie

    Old Deaf Roadie Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Get the brown LR Baggs box. No muss, no fuss, and a happy sound tech. I have literally had a hundred or more experiences with guitarists who use it, and every last one was smooth as silk.
     
  15. Chiogtr4x

    Chiogtr4x Doctor of Teleocity

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    You say that you all have pickups,
    but you don't mention if they are active or passive, which basically means are the pickups powered with some sort of built-in preamp with battery.

    ( note: usually with a Volume and Tone control(s) on the instrument, but my Martin's original system was indeed an active pickup/ preamp- but no controls on the guitar- the current one now has controls)
    A passive pickup, usually needs a 'power boost' to make that pickup signal loud enough to be heard ( adequately) through a PA or acoustic amp.
    My experience ( with my PA ) system is having to turn the PA channel ( and its Gain trimpot) almost the way UP when someone has just a pickup, w/o a preamp- to equal the volume of those with a preamp, whether built-in or a pedal- and these channels are only up 1/3 on their Volume faders...

    * most preamps include some form of EQ ( tone shaping), many have Reverb, chorus, delay effects

    I actually plug straight into PA with my guitar's pickup/preamp. ( I sit right next to PA), No DI box, and I just use PA Reverb. Sounds great.
     
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  16. darkwaters

    darkwaters Friend of Leo's

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    I've gone straight to a PA (sometimes with a couple of effects pedals to boot) without any problems for years now. An EQ pedal is handy if you run into feedback or just want to shape your sound a little more. I'm sure a DI couldn't hurt, but I've never felt that I needed one.
     
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  17. Ziggy587

    Ziggy587 Tele-Meister

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    The reason you want to use a DI is because a guitar/bass signal is high impedance and a mixer input is expecting a low impedance signal. While not using a DI box does work, it's really not optimal and can cause issues. Check out these articles.

    https://www.sweetwater.com/insync/di-boxes/

    https://www.fender.com/articles/tech-talk/why-you-should-consider-using-a-di-box

    You can get a great passive DI box for not a lot of money, so there's no reason NOT to use one in my opinion. I have an old ART PDB which has been great. It seems they don't make that model anymore, but they have a new DI box with more features (they also have other models with more inputs/channels). ART products are built like tanks.

    Keep in mind that you can use traditional effect pedals before the DI box. You can utilize the channel's EQ on the mixer if need be, and you can add a couple of pedals like a tuner and chorus if need be. That Boss preamp thing linked above looks awesome. If you would utilize all of the features it has then go for it! But it is kind of pricey if all you need is DI and maybe chorus or something.

    The great thing about a simple passive DI box is that you can repurpose it if you ever needed to. So you may need it for acoustic guitar now, but you can use it for any high impedance instrument in the future if you ever needed to (electric guitar, bass). An acoustic preamp/processor will only ever be good for an acoustic guitar. Just something to consider.
     
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  18. teletimetx

    teletimetx Doctor of Teleocity

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    Depends on the venue to some degree. Sure, with a lot of smaller venues, going straight to PA works fine. A lot of venues are not necessarily going to be a super high fidelity experience - but that's fine. If you're playing in a honky tonk, it's a honky tonk. A lot of smaller venues usually have a person who is somewhat familiar with the sound system; don't be afraid to ask. Some venues just expect you to know. If you know where your gig is, go visit it in advance and find out what you can before your gig.

    Some venues "require" a DI - particularly if there is a sound engineer/sound person handling the mix. For a "small informal group", simpler will probably be better. Depending on the gig, showing up early - or as specified in your performance agreement - to get all the kinks worked out is always a good idea.

    A simple, passive DI works fine, particularly if there is a sound person handling the EQ and mix. Long term, you may want to have a DI with some EQ. I think you'll find a wide range of opinions on using other effects. I've seen a wide range of usefulness; IMO, simpler is better. I've seen a few with the multi-effects pedal work their way into sounding like crap. Too many choices, not so good.

    For the multi-instrumentalists, I can't always recommend a two-channel DI - you may find that whatever setting you use for a guitar won't be optimal for the mandolin. It may seem more complicated to run your second instrument through a different box, but on the fly, you might appreciate not having to set and reset your EQ and level each time you switch instruments. That's an observation from experience. In any event, try everything out as much as possible before the gig.

    Even if you have a sound person doing the FOH, it can also help to have someone at the venue, family/spouse/partner/friend who can give you a second opinion, even if not professional, on how you sound.

    For the last ten years, prior to the lockdown, I played a weekly gig in a house band, with a different guest artist(s) every week. Saw all kinds of rigs; many players went direct to the board; it works ok. Also saw plenty of L. R. Baggs DI boxes and quite a few Red Eye boxes and both of those were consistently good and used by people who knew what they were doing.

    I've always kept a simple passive DI in my gig bag, just in case.
     
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  19. telestratosonic

    telestratosonic Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    I use a Tech21 Acoustic Fly Rig. Works for me.
     
  20. Guitarteach

    Guitarteach Doctor of Teleocity

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    Unless the desk has a dedicated Hi-Z input a 1/4” to XLR Di Box is what you need in a kit of useful stuff. These can be passive or active (battery or phantom power from desk)

    I use a Radial Stagebug Active DI and it makes a huge difference to my tones, exp. the piezo in my mandolin which is really thin and anaemic without. I use it with Bass too and getting guitar into my desk & DAW. Just super useful to own.

    A passive DI or an active with a battery is a safest minimum unless you know the desk can provide 48v phantom power.

    There are also acoustic preamps in pedal form will give you more tone shaping and perhaps some reverb fx.

    You do not explain the pickup types in the instruments - piezo, magnetic, controls on the instruments. If they have batteries and tuners built in then you should be able to just plug and play with guitar cables though if its not too far to the desk. If we know details, we can be specific.

    I’d just go early with some passive DI boxes and a mix of guitar and long mic cables and be ready for anything. Modern mixers can often deal with both 1/4” and XLR but that is not guaranteed... don’t assume anything, there can be ratty old gear at some venues.

    Another option is inline mini-monitors - this lets you hear yourself and send on a signal to the desk. We use a couple of those in our band.

    and another very useful option is an amp like a Marshall AS100 - this has two instrument inputs and a mic input. Just plug in and go. I gigged small venues with an acoustic trio (2 guitars/percussion & vox) using one for years. That last option means you can also roll up and play anywhere with power and it would feed a PA.
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2021
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