Acoustic guitar amp and electric guitar amp differ mainly in the sound output and controls.
You can use an acoustic amp for electric guitar or electric amp for acoustic guitar – but the sound won’t be great.
If you are just looking to practice and you don’t have the right amp, then using any available amp is fine. As long as the amp can amplify sound signals from your guitar, they should work – be it acoustic or electric.
However, you will quickly hit into limitations if you need to use effects or expect great and accurate sound.
I have owned both acoustic and electric guitar amps and have tried the different combinations. Playing acoustic guitar with an electric amp or playing electric guitar with acoustic amp.
In this article, I will share everything I learned. Especially when it comes to the difference between acoustic guitar amp and electric guitar amp. Here are the topics I will cover:
- 4 Differences Between Acoustic & Electric Guitar Amp
- Using Electric Guitar Amp For Acoustic Guitar
- Using Acoustic Guitar Amp For Electric Guitar
- Do You Need An Electric Guitar Amp?
- Do You Need An Acoustic Guitar Amp?
4 Differences Between Acoustic & Electric Guitar Amplifier
1. Different tone output
Acoustic guitar amp is designed to produce a clean and bright tone – it’s not meant to alter the incoming sound signals too much.
Whereas an electric guitar amp is designed to produce sound with different effects like distortion.
There will be high mid range and sound won’t be as clean or natural like an acoustic guitar amp.
You can definitely use one over the other to practice. However, don’t expect the most accurate tone.
2. Speakers with different frequency ranges
Speakers built into an acoustic guitar amp have a fuller frequency range – most similar to a PA system. Whereas speakers on electric guitar amps have lower frequency ranges.
Sounds coming from an electric guitar amp have less noise – because they have been filtered out. The speakers on the electric guitar amp cannot produce high frequency sound.
It’s designed this way because electric guitars are meant to be played with mids as the emphasis.
Using an acoustic guitar amp for an electric guitar can produce a sound that’s too harsh if you try to distort it with a pedal. This is because the high frequency tones are not filtered out.
3. Different inputs
Good acoustic guitar amps come with at least 2 inputs with separate channels. This allows you to connect the acoustic guitar and a microphone for vocals at the same time.
Most electric guitar amps can only power 1 instrument at the same time. They may have 2 inputs for different impedance levels but only 1 input should be used at any given time.
It’s quite common for an acoustic guitar amp to have 2 independent inputs and channels – where each of them have their own volume and EQ controls.
This is meant to be used for the acoustic guitar and a microphone but you can also plug in 2 guitars – it will still work. This makes an acoustic guitar amp very useful for teachers – where you and your student can share an amp.
On the other hand, an electric guitar amp may have 2 inputs, but you can only use 1 at any given time. The 2 inputs are for a high impedance instrument or low impedance instrument.
Most electric guitars operate at high impedance. This is why you should connect your electric guitar only to the input 1 (high input).
I have another article explaining impedance in more detail here: Amp With Multiple Inputs & Channels: Can You Connect 2 Guitars?
4. Different Controls
Unlike an electric guitar amp, acoustic guitar amps will not have any overdrive or gain controls and they will not have separate channels for clean or distortion.
Acoustic guitar amps are meant to work only with clean sound. This is different from electric guitar amps who usually have a channel for clean sound and another channel for distorted sound.
This allows the electric guitar amp to switch sound by clicking a button or a switch.
Using Electric Guitar Amp For Acoustic Guitar
You can definitely use an electric guitar amp for your acoustic guitars. The trick is to make sure reverb is down, distortion is not applied and boost your bass, mid and treble to 10.
This settings ensures your electric guitar amp will not apply any sound effects and work solely on amplifying the guitar signals.
What you will get is a warm and natural sounding tone – without any distortion or ringing sound. This should be good enough to practice and even perform live on a small scale like pubs or cafes.
Also, you don’t have to worry about damaging your electric guitar amp or acoustic guitars. I have played like this for years and have not broken any of my instruments yet.
Using Acoustic Guitar Amp For Electric Guitar
It’s not recommended to use an acoustic guitar amp for an electric guitar. You lose the ability for distortion and the sound won’t sound great because acoustic guitar amp operates at higher frequency ranges.
If you need to practice your chords or strumming techniques, then using an acoustic guitar amp for electric guitar should be fine.
However, if you need to play distortion or add any sound effects, then the acoustic guitar amp will not work.
- Acoustic guitar amp does not have controls to add distortion
- Adding a distortion pedal to an electric guitar and acoustic amp will produce sound that’s too harsh because of the high frequency range in an acoustic amp
I suggest you look into cheap electric guitar amps. They will produce much better sound than an acoustic guitar amp.
Do You Need To Buy An Amp For Electric Guitar?
You can definitely practice electric guitar without any amp (or even unplugged to be quieter). However, you will lose the ability to add any effects or distortion – which is very important for an electric guitarist.
I personally have practiced on my unplugged electric guitar a couple of times (in the early days). It’s useful if you don’t want to disturb anyone and just want to practice the fingering.
However, for quiet play, what’s even better is getting an amp for headphones like the Vox AmPlug or buying a cheap audio interface that you can connect to your phone and use your phone as an amp modeler.
With about $50, you have an amp replacement and can play quietly through your headphones.
- Playing Guitar With Headphones: Is It Bad? (Pros & Cons)
- Is Audio Interface Better Than Amp: Differences & Sound Quality
If you don’t need to play quietly then buying an electric guitar amp to play electric guitar is a must. The quality of sound produced depends highly on the amp and pedal. I suggest you get a cheap guitar amp – rather than no amp at all.
Do You Need To Buy An Amp For Acoustic Guitar?
You shouldn’t buy an acoustic guitar amp just to practice at home. Acoustic guitar amps are useful if you need to perform live in a band, pubs or even café – where you have to be much louder.
Another reason to buy an acoustic guitar amp is if you are a teacher and need to share the amp with your student. This way your student doesn’t have to carry his / her amp to you.
Make sure you get an acoustic guitar amp with at least 2 separate inputs & channels. This way you can power multiple guitars at once and have different EQ.
Otherwise, invest in acoustic guitar amps only if you plan to perform or join a gig. I wouldn’t get an acoustic guitar amp to play at home.