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Trace Acoustic TA200 Amp Review

Trace Acoustic TA200 Amp Review

Download Example 1 Reverb Download Example 2 Reverb Pushing Compressor Download Example 3 Cycling through effects Way back when dinosaurs roamed the coffee houses, Trace Elliot made one of

Download Example 1
Download Example 2
Reverb Pushing Compressor
Download Example 3
Cycling through effects

Way back when dinosaurs

roamed the

coffee houses, Trace Elliot

made one of the very first

acoustic guitar amps. They

were small, easy to use,

had a vocal input, and

let you cover a small-tomedium

room without

breaking a sweat.

Fast-forward a couple

of decades: There are a

lot of acoustic amps for

those that ply their trade

in small theaters, clubs,

coffee houses, and the

like. But Trace has jumped

back in the fray, with the

same striking looks as the

original, but loaded with

oodles more features and,

in the case of the TA200,

packing power to spare.

You Can’t Judge an

Amp By Its Cover

When I picked up the

TA200 for this review, I

was rather daunted. “It’s

huge!” I cried woefully,

looking at the case. I lifted

it, expecting to have to lug

it out to my car, and was

very pleasantly surprised—it’s not heavy.

In fact, it weighs a comfortable 20 pounds.

For an amp that pumps 200 watts through

four 5" Celestion speakers, that’s incredibly

light. And when I unzipped the top of

the rather plush and sturdy fitted-canvas

cover, I found a modest-sized, attractive

black cabinet with a familiar curved front

and black metal grille.

Sporting radioactive-green accents, the

TA200’s front panel has two channels,

one with an instrument input and one

with a combination XLR 1/4" jack. The

instrument jack is a smart stereo input,

so if you have a stereo pickup and you

use a TRS cable, the jack splits the stereo

signal between Channel 1 and Channel 2.

However, if you need to use Channel 2 as

a mic input, it turns the stereo signal into

a mono signal. Very clever.

The front panel gives you the usual set

of Gain, Lo Trim, Hi Trim, Notch, the

effects' Parameter and Setting controls,

plus a 6-band EQ and a Master Volume.

There are also several LED indicators

that relay information about the amp’s

functions. Conveniently, the Trim controls

all have a center detent setting you can

feel. When the trim controls are set to the

detent position and the Shape control is

off, the frequency response is flat.

On the back panel, you’ll find a power

switch and AC cord socket, a switch to

turn on back-lighting for the front panel,

sends for plugging into a mixing board,

returns for direct connection to the stereo

power output section, a ground-lift

switch, two balanced DI outs with a pre/

post switch, a jack for connecting a tuner,

and (drum roll please) the 8-pin DIN

socket for the really big and impressive

AFC-6 foot controller.

One knob you don’t have is a control

for the built-in compressor, which is a

soft-knee circuit with what Trace calls

adaptive attack and release times. Here’s

how it works: The TA200 has Gain knobs

on each of the channels, and by turning

up the gain you increase the amount of

compression on the signal. Compression

can add a nice flavor to acoustic guitar,

help you pop out in a mix, or help you

contain an erratic dynamic range—all

good things. The compressor has four

stages, and an LED indicator shows you

where you are. Unlit means there is no

or very low signal; green means signal is

present, below the compressor threshold

and thus uncompressed; orange means

that the signal is high enough for the

compressor to kick in; red means a

very high signal is present, and you’re

in danger of clipping and distorting.

The higher you turn the gain, the more

compression you add. Clever idea, but

I doubt I’m the only person who would

appreciate having a way to turn it off in

some situations.

For feedback busting there’s a tight-bandwidth

Notch filter and a Phase

switch. When feedback starts up, you

slowly turn up the Notch knob until it

goes away. That’s pretty darn idiot proof,

and fairly effective, but if that’s not

enough, then you can use Phase switch to

reverse the phase of either channel, and

that frequently does the trick. When phase

is reversed, a blue LED lights up. One

cool feature about the AFC-6 foot controller

is that Phase is among the controls you

can switch from the floor. If for some reason

you continue to have feedback problems

with both Notch and Phase engaged,

then you can fiddle with the 6-band EQ.

But it’s always good to keep in mind that

Notch and Phase have very little impact

on tone, so it’s best to go there first for

feedback control.

Above the sliders on the 6-band EQ,

you’ll find Frequency Locator LEDs,

which can help you identify frequencies

that are causing feedback. When you hear

feedback, you will see one of the LEDs

above the EQ section light up, even if

nothing is being played. At that point you

can simply slowly pull the slider down

until the feedback stops.

Shape is another feature that comes

in handy, and can be controlled with the

AFC-6 as well. It lights up a yellow LED

to let you know it’s active. This boosts the

highs and lows and cuts the mids, which

can help make some lower-quality pickups

sound less nasal and more natural, and

sometimes it can help a vocal come through

better. The foot controller lets you quickly

pop in and out of the Shape function.

Tone Tinkering

The Trace’s onboard effects are controlled

with a Parameter rotary encoder and push

switch, and a Setting rotary encoder and

push switch, meaning you use the same

two knobs to choose your effect, turn it

on and off, and control the parameters.

Pressing the Setting knob sets a tap tempo

if you’re using delay. On/off and tap tempo

are also controlled with the AFC-6.

There are several effects to choose from,

including Reverb, Stereo Chorus, Stereo

Flanger, Phaser, Tremolo, Analog Delay

simulator, quarter-note mono digital delay,

three 16th-note mono digital delay, and

Stereo Ping-Pong delay (which bounces

the repeats from left to right). The effects

are pretty simple to modify and store. To

change them, turn the Setting knob to

where you want it, and it will be automatically

stored when you turn the unit off.

Forceful and Forgiving

It’s pretty easy to get a good basic

guitar tone once you plug in. Armed

with a Boucher Spruce Goose 000, I

didn’t have to do much to get a satisfyingly

rich and yet brilliant sound. I

dialed in just a taste of reverb, and

right there, I was pretty happy.

The TA200 gets loud, which is great. I

would feel comfortable with it in a fairly

big room full of people, maybe a mediumto-

large sized coffeehouse. At higher volumes,

I’m happy to say it doesn’t set your

teeth on edge, and there doesn’t seem to be

any unwanted boost to the highs and highmids.

When you get back a few feet, the

TA200 has plenty of warmth and character,

and lets the whole range of the guitar sing.

As a stage monitor, this amp could be

incredibly effective as well. You can choose

whether to send the signal out to a mixer

pre- or post-EQ, so you can send a flat

signal to the house and dial in whatever

makes you happy onstage.

I played with the effects for a while and

found some interesting sounds to explore.

The effects are not always transparent,

though you can dial in more natural

sounds with the Parameter control. The

dotted-eighth-note delay was really fun to

play with, though the chorus lent a bit of

midrange. The flanger and phaser seemed

to impact the basic tone least.

The Verdict

Feature packed, lightweight, and perfectly

portable, the TA200 is a solid choice for

small-to-medium rooms. It sounds rich and

full, and the reverb is non-intrusive and

natural sounding. If you require a lot of

effects, then this amp makes that easy as pie,

with two dials and a footswitch. The cover

is fantastic, and it’s included with the price,

as are the footswitch and cable, which is

almost unheard of these days.

There’s a lot more competition in the

acoustic amp market than when Trace built

their first acoustic amps. But Trace packs a

lot of functions and power into the TA200

that are certain to make this amp a contender

for any performing acoustic player

that looks beyond simple guitar and amp

tones to make their musical statements.

Buy if...
you want a high quality, great sounding amp with lots of built in effects in a convenient, painless package.
Skip if...
you aren’t into effects.

Street $1250 - Trace Acoustic -

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