Guitarists who like to bring a little music to city streets and maybe make a bit of extra cash on the side face the problem of having their tunes drowned out by traffic noise or carried away on the wind. Traditional amplifiers requiring a power source are no help and while there are battery-powered units around, we don’t think any are as elegant or convenient as the solution developed by Laurie Nicoll of Victoria, Australia. His sound hole amplifier, or “SHamp” is a compact amplifier that fits into the sound hole of an acoustic guitar to give it that bit of extra oomph when you need it.
The SHamp features a specially designed speaker and a 4-watt amplifier that fits neatly into the guitar’s sound hole. Nicoll says the unit won’t affect the sound quality of the guitar because most of the sound comes from the soundboard and the unit itself has two vent slots to allow natural sound from inside the guitar to blend with the amplified sound of the SHamp.
The SHamp will fit most circular sound holes – 3.75-inch (96mm) to 4-inch (102mm) – with no modifications required. It comes with rubber mounting strips that are placed on opposing sides of the SHamp which allow the device to sit snugly in the sound hole. It is made from lightweight materials giving it a weight of 8-oz (250g) and, since it is centrally located, it won’t unbalance the guitar.
The device is powered by an external 18-volt battery pack which is small enough to attach to the guitar strap or a belt. Nicoll says the two rechargeable 9-volt batteries supplied with the device will provide around 75 minutes of continuous playing, while up to 5-6 hours of playing is possible with two good quality 9-volt alkaline batteries.
The single cable connecting to the SHamp splits into a power lead which plugs into the external battery pack and a cable that plugs into the guitar’s pickup jack. The device comes with self-adhesive lead clips that keep the cable in place. Niccol says these shouldn’t damage the guitar surface but they’re optional if you have any doubts.
The SHamp will only work on guitars with a bridge type pickup, with or without a pre-amp – it has built-in pre-amp/bypass modes for use in either mode. It will also work with effects units, although a short lead is required if using a small unit mounted on the guitar or a longer lead will be required if you’re using floor pedals.
Controls on the SHamp are located well below the strings to be out of the way when playing and allow the device to be quickly turned off or on – when breaking into a solo for example – while the sound can also be adjusted with the volume/tone controls.
While it may not go up to 11, the SHamp is sure to appeal not only to buskers, but guitarists looking for a simple way to pump up the volume a bit at impromptu jam sessions and rehearsals.
SHamp is available for AUD299 (approx. US$268) from the SHamp website.
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