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May 2014
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Acoustic Image Ten2 Combo Amp Review

Acoustic Image Ten2 Combo Amp Review

Download Example 1
Fingerpicked Guitar - Flat/Mild Hall RVB - Tweeter On
Brad Pouleson on Martin DM McIntyre FT HR
Download Example 2
FP & Vox (channel 2) - Flat/Increased RVB - Tweeter On
Brad Pouleson on Martin DM
McIntyre FT HR
Download Example 3
Dobro C Tuning - Flat/No RVB - Tweeter Off
Dustin Busch - Lebeda Resonator
Download Example 4
Chicken Pickin' - Slight Treble Increase - Tweeter On
Dustin Busch - Ibanez AS-103
Download Example 5
Swingle String - Flat/Mild Hall RVB - Tweeter On
Bob Goffstein - Borys BG100 Custom
Download Example 6
Jazz Blues - Decreased Treble - Tweeter Off
Steve Grismore - Epiphone Byrdland
Download Example 7
Tight Chords - Flat/Mild Hall RVB - Tweeter On
Bob Goffstein - Borys BG100 Custom
Download Example 8
Blue Tone Reamp - CH2 Sent to SF Champ - Tweeter Off
Bob Goffstein - Anderson Cobra Special Neck Pup
Download Example 9
Electric Upright Bass - Flat/Mic'd at 18" with condenser
Dan Berkowitz - Azola BugBass
Download Example 10
Upright - High-Pass at 60Hz/Flat EQ - Mic'd at 18"
Dan Berkowitz - '63 American Standard upright w/Revolution Solo wing pickup
Some people skirt convention, developing a fresh take on what it means to create an amp. If you’re an acoustic player, the Acoustic Image Ten2 combo requires a stretch of the imagination just to fathom the path taken in its design. Picture a combo that’s equally at home with string bass, acoustic guitar, hollowbody jazz guitar, keyboards, vocals, and a whole gamut of other string instruments.

But what if this amp we’re imagining had two 10" speakers and a tweeter, measured only 17" high and weighed just 28 pounds? What if this amp pushed eight ... hundred ... watts of power into a little round box—about the same height and weight as a Princeton Reverb amp, except with 67 times as much power—and provided full-range sound from 30 Hz to 20kHz?

That’s just the beginning of what Acoustic Image came up with in the fourth generation of its compact, high-powered acoustic amp, this time called the Ten2. Here are two takes on this rig, first through the eyes of a guitarist (that’s Bob), and then from a bassist’s vantage point (from Dan).

A Guitar Player’s Perspective
By Bob Goffstein
Just as the Acoustic Image (AI) name and philosophy has legendary status among bass players, the Ten2 breaks new ground in versatility by being very suitable for the guitarist and vocalist as well. The core of its increased versatility begins with a true two-channel amp, with features that provide sonic and signal routing solutions like no other guitar amp. I like to think of it as the hand grenade of amps, though its round little body, especially with its tilt-back legs deployed, also speaks to me of my favorite Star Wars robot, R2D2.

Versatility starts at the beginning of the signal chain: the inputs. Each of the two inputs utilizes a 1/4" XLR combo jack. The XLR portion presents 600-ohm impedance and 47 volts of phantom power, ideal for both dynamic and condenser mics. The 1/4" input shows 1 megohm of impedance, optimal for piezo pickup outputs without the need for a separate preamp.

Guitarists will note the absence of channel switching, which is no big loss since the amp is really not designed for rhythm/lead rock/blues work. Its class-D power amp and solid-state preamp are just too clean. With an SPL of 93dB at one watt, the Ten2’s other 799 watts providebeaucoup de headroom and a true high-fidelity platform. You just aren’t going to overdrive anything here (more on that later). Additional cool features for the singer/guitarist are the feedback-controlling notch filter and a high-pass filter that are selectable on each channel. Some high-end instrument pickups utilize a small mic inside the guitar as well as a piezo or magnetic element—easy to accommodate with the Ten2. Alternatively, use an external mic along with your built-in piezo. The Ten2 is ready for that, too.

Onboard effects are yet another set of bullets in the gunbelt of this singing cowboy. Although only one effect can be selected at a time, they may be routed to one or both channels or, of course, neither. In addition, each channel has its own Effect Level control. If you need more, don’t forget there’s a blendable effects loop on each channel, too. I found the onboards to be very sweet in their preset format, though I must admit I had trouble finding a use for the flanger.

An additional, and rather unique, function adding to an already versatile platform is the Ten2’s “Channel 2” switch. In the off position, this little button disconnects the output of the channel 2 preamp from the combo’s power amp, yet it retains its output at the Effect Send jack. You can then connect this output to an outboard power amp to create a true stereo mode.

For example, place a powered PA speaker on a stand and run voice on channel 2 to put your voice up and above the crowd, with full control from the preamp. Another way is to Y-cord the two preamp inputs together and put a delay in line with the output of the send to the input jack of a second guitar amp, which creates a huge sonic stage panorama for your instrument. And there are many more variations on this theme, limited only by your imagination and equipment.

Earlier, I mentioned this is not really an amp for use on rock and blues gigs. While true for the amp by itself, you can put the Ten2 to this task. Take an A/B/Y box and input the same instrument to both channels. Then use the Ten2’s Channel 2 switch to separate the two channels, sending channel 2 to overdrive a blues amp. I tried this re-amp feature with my SF Champ, Tweed Deluxe, and Boogie .22. In each trial I was able to produce tone and volume that integrated seamlessly with the “rhythm” channel 1 sound, and yet delivered a very sweet tube crunch merely by switching channels. The amount of overdrive is controlled by the channel 2 preamp Volume, and the overall volume of the blues machine is controlled by its Gain control.

I then switched to the “Y” input mode and used the two amps together. I gave this arrangement a couple of tweaks, turning off the Ten2’s tweeter and dialing down the highs. Everything seemed in phase and created a composite sound with strong, tight lows and sweet, crunchy mids and highs.

Okay, time to get back to the sound of the amp itself.

For this segment, I called on a few friends with nice instrument setups and better voices than mine, although I did put my two cents worth in for a few tracks. First, we tried acoustic guitar with a piezo pickup. The sound was luscious with tight, authoritative lows and clear, sweet highs. The mids were musical without a hint of nasality. We then added vox to channel 2 and, once again, after a bit of feedback notching for the small studio room, the sound was authoritative yet as neutral as the RE 20 dynamic mic we were using.

Next came dobro in C tuning. The highs again were sweet without the stridency sometimes associated with a metal slide. The low C string growled with Rottweiler-like authority and Muhammad Ali punch. Removing the ’verb added a bit more to this gut-rattling attack. We then plugged in an electric guitar. Using the bridge humbucker produced some superbly clean “chicken pickin’” with all the snap and pluck you might want—no feather left on that bird! Jazz sounds came next, and what a treat that was. Turning off the tweeter and rounding the sound a bit made for a Joe Pass-like tone to die for. Turning the tweeter back on and playing some tight interval chord-melodies really brought out each interval, along with the total harmonic structure of each chord. (Did I mention that Pat Martino uses AI amps?)

While you can use the Ten2 in straight-ahead plug ‘n’play, placing all of its features, power and dynamic range requires some knowledge of signal routing and levels. It is possible to harm the amp, making this more of a proaudio product than most guitar amps. But all this versatility and tonal nirvana—combined with a five-year warranty and AI’s legendary customer service—make it very difficult to find any fault whatsoever with the Ten2.

A Bassist’s Perspective
By Dan Berkowitz
I first tried the Ten2 with my trusty G&L L-2500 five-string bass. The result? A solid bottom end that easily hung in, clear down to the low B. The Ten2 doesn’t have the zing of a typical amp designed strictly for electric bass, but its focus, warmth and lack of boominess create a pleasant bass sound that will fit a lot of your small gig settings. I also tried the Ten2 with a fretless bass—the bottom was once again solid, with the focus of its notes beautifully defined.

I then gave the Ten2 a try with my Azola BugBass electric upright, a beefy axe with a fat bottom end that has challenged many a little amp and walked away laughing. As you might expect, at a blues trio rehearsal the Ten2 provided a pillow of bottom end from its down-firing speaker, while the forwardfacing speaker did a great job of maintaining presence. At a small wine bar gig with this group, I kept the controls nearly flat and turned down the Room Coupling Control a notch. The extremely quick and focused low end got through the mix on the merits of its clean note definition—instead of pushing the mids—keeping the sound smooth and round.

In one last go-round, I plugged the Revolution Solo piezo pickup on my old American Standard upright into the Ten2, and that’s where the high-pass filter and notch filter proved valuable. The variable frequency high-pass (aka “low cut”) filter was great for taming the low end and eliminating those sub-range frequencies that make a speaker cone flop around. The notch filter, in contrast, zeroes in on a narrow frequency band and cuts out instrument resonance that produces feedback on one or two notes. In all, I got a nicely detailed sound with a well-defined, natural-sounding bottom end.

Finally, there’s a secret benefit for bass players: just turn two thumb screws and the head slides right out, ready to hook up to a bigger cab and loaded with plenty of power for whatever situation you might face.

Although it’s a niche piece of gear, the Ten2 offers plenty of versatility for the bassist playing a variety of instruments. You could even double on electric and acoustic basses by plugging one into each input and dialing in separate EQs. Likewise, if you’re playing upright bass with both a piezo pickup and a condenser mic, the Ten2 makes the task a cinch.

We did, however, find the Ten2 just a touch awkward to carry, although its built-in side handles are up to the job. You also need to remove the power cord and speaker cable for safe transporting, but that’s a quick task. The amp actually includes a slipcover with carrying strap and cord pouch that wasn’t available at the time of our review.

A Guitar Player’s Perspective 
Buy if...
you’re a guitarist/vocalist seeking a lightweight and versatile gigging amp for small to medium venues; if you double on bass or keyboard, so much the better.
Skip if...
you play primarily electric guitar in a high-gain style at high stage volume. 
Rating...
5.0  

A Bassist’s Perspective
Buy if...
you need a super-high quality, flexible amp for small or large stages, or you’re an upright player or a doubler.
Skip if...
you need a really loud rig to keep up with a rock band and you like to play it dirty.
Rating...
5.0  

Street $1539 - Acoustic Image - acousticimg.com

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