Review: BOSS AD-2 Acoustic Preamp
I’ve been playing more acoustic dates lately. And if I’m being completely forthright, my tone hasn’t exactly been spectacular.
Now look, my Breedlove Passport C250/CME is probably one of the best acoustic guitars you can get for the money — I nearly stole mine for a scant three hundred bucks out the door — but plugged straight into the board, it sounds a bit lacking. Dull. Flat. Boring. Pick your adjective.
Of course, I could blame this on the constant rotation of mostly mediocre sound guys I work with, the limited control set on the guitar itself, the reflections in the room or perhaps even the solar positioning of the earth and moon in relation to Jupiter — but I’m not a guy who likes to make excuses.
Which is where the Boss AD-2 Acoustic Preamp comes in.
The AD-2 promises quite a bit: natural, studio-quality acoustic sound while performing on stage. And let’s be clear — somehow replicating the complex resonance of an unplugged acoustic guitar through an amplified system is no small feat.
So let’s just say that I went into this experience with a healthy dose of skepticism.
During my first set with the AD-2, I set the Acoustic Resonance and Ambience controls to noon. Later, I cranked the Ambience knob all the way up, but was pretty happy with the amount of resonance and left that alone. And that was that. I was sold.
Allow me to explain.
Due to their design, most acoustic guitar pickups just aren’t able to reproduce the same rich, resonant complexity that unplugged acoustic guitars are know for. So the AD-2 steps in, listens to what you’re playing, and thanks to some “sophisticated under-the-hood processing with multiple interlocked parameters,” does its best to recreate that complexity.
And, honestly, I think it works. Of course, higher settings on the Resonance control can sound overly processed, but I tend to be more of a strummer than a fingerpicker on acoustic, so your style and/or might dictate otherwise. But even when I handed my guitar to a buddy and went out into the house to listen to some A/B testing during a break, there was no doubt that what was coming through the PA sounded more dynamic — and downright better — when the AD-2 was engaged. Even the drummer agreed!
Bag of Tricks
Aside from its primary function, the AD-2 packs in a few other nifty features.
Foremost among them is a studio-quality reverb that’s been optimized for acoustic guitars (controlled by the aforementioned Ambience control). That said, if you’re a reverb geek — don’t get too excited. Even maxed out, the reverb is fairly modest. But it is great for adding just a little bit of space to your sound. Emphasis on the words “little bit.” So even if reverb isn’t your thing, you still might find yourself inching that control up on the AD-2.
Other tricks include a notch filter for feedback reduction, a pair of outputs for connecting your guitar to an amp or a PA and a mute function for tuning or switching guitars on stage.
There’s also a hidden option that allows you to split out the ambience and process it separately on the board.
What the AD-2 may lack in sex appeal, it more than makes up for in utility. This is a great tool for acoustic guitar players looking to enhance their sound on stage. And it’s BOSS — so you know it’s built to last. Plus, for under $100, it’s something you can just as easily throw in the bag as strap down on the pedalboard. There’s plenty to like here.
That said, the thing eats batteries. I used the AD-2 for about four, maybe five hours before I had to swap in a new one. So if you’re someone who likes to go with battery power, make sure you have a backup (or two) in the gig bag.
Note: This review was originally featured in Tone Report Weekly