There are a lot of small, portable amplifiers on the market today. For a busker, it is the bread and butter, because without a good amp, you are not even going to be heard properly, let alone found to be a serious musician on the street. If you do not have a good portable amp, you will probably always miss just “a bit” of volume, and never get that right sound for your style. So, the magic question is – what is the best battery powered amplifier for busking?
The Problem with Many Amps
Well, in my experience, there are only a couple of battery powered amplifiers out there that are really capable of bringing the maximum of sound and volume in the loud, crowded streets which are obviously the best spots for busking.
The problem with most battery powered amps is that they are just not loud enough. It is very easy to be fooled while you are in a music store, trying out different amps. They seem as if their volume is more than sufficient, and that they will do the job perfectly.
They sound awesome, and sales people assure you that they are just perfect for you. Well, they are probably fooled too, because while trying them in store, the little fella really seems very loud.
Best Amps for Busking are the Ones that are Loud Enough
But then you get on the street, all excited about your new gear, and what happens? A big fat disappointment because people cannot even hear you! So you turn the volume of the amp to the maximum 10/10 to get the most juice out of it, only to get a very unpleasant distortion and quick death of your batteries.
At home, when you try the amp – again it sounds loud! You don`t even understand how come it is not enough for the street. But, the simple truth is that most battery powered amplifiers were not made out with the buskers in mind.
Sure, often times sales people try to sell them as buskers amp, but it is not what they were made for. They can be great for practicing, for home use, when you are travelling or whenever you need an amp that runs on batteries…except when you need a really loud one!
So being capable of high volume is by far the most important thing in an amplifier that will serve for busking. Of course, there are other things that also play a part in your research for an ideal busking amp.
Weight of the Amp and Sound Quality
As a busker, you are constantly on the move. Every single time you go for a gig, you are carrying your equipment with you. You are a real travelling musician and the heavier and bigger the equipment is, the harder is for you to move around.
Going from spot to spot may be a breeze for someone who is carrying just his acoustic guitar with him and a huge pain for another, who has an electric guitar, pedalboard, mic stand and a microphone, a bunch of cables and especially a heavy amplifier. That might turn out to play a big role in deciding which amp will you choose for your busking adventures – the lighter the amp is, the easier it is going to be for you to move around.
Another thing, of course, is the sound quality of the amplifier. Even though the very first thing that is supremely important is that an amp is loud enough, it is also a big plus if the sound is warm, pleasant and high quality. Our first goal as buskers is to catch the attention of the people who are passing by – this is done by being loud enough. Our next goal is to make them want to stay and watch, to listen to our playing and actually enjoy it. If the sound is bad, they will likely move on quickly.
Also, many amps are made solely for the purpose of playing an electric guitar through it. If you are an acoustic player, these amps will not sound good. If you plug a microphone in, your voice will also not sound very good through these kind of amps, too. There are some amplifiers that cover both of these aspects, but you have to be careful when deciding which one to choose.
How Many Channels do You Need? Do you Play Over Backing Tracks?
Next thing you want to consider when buying an amp specifically made for busking is will you play only one instrument, or will you also sing? If you are going to be playing your guitar while singing at the same time, then you will need an amplifier that has two separate channels (ideally one of them with an XLR input, which is made specifically for a microphone), so that you can connect your guitar in one and your microphone in another. Two channels might also prove to be useful if you are to play with someone else.
On the other hand, if you only want to play your guitar (or any other single instrument), then this might not be your need at all.
Next thing to ask yourself is – will you have any use of playing over backing tracks? Do you want to play a backing track and then solo over it, or record your songs and play only lead parts or even sing over backing tracks? If you want to use backing tracks, then your amplifier must have an input for an mp3 player or a smartphone.
Sound Effects and Battery Life
Maybe not as important, but still a part of the equation is a question of do you need sound effects or just a plain simple amplifier. Many modern amplifiers come with a bunch of the sound effects, but some of them don`t, so this is also something you might take a look at while purchasing your amp. If a fat delayed solo sounds just right to your ears and you cannot live without reverb on your vocals, or perhaps a psychedelic chords with chorus or flanger suit your style, then having sound effects on your amp might be a big deal for you.
Battery life is also important, right? Batteries die out pretty fast and in this case, quality batteries will play a bigger role than an amp of choice. Still some portable amplifiers were made for busking and therefore their builders had come up with a way for their batteries to last longer. Still, it will much more depend on the choice of batteries, but it is also a thing to consider.
Very Few Portable Amplifiers Have Needed Qualities…Choose Wisely
There aren`t many portable amplifiers on the market that can handle busking elegantly and keep you satisfied with your purchase. Most of them fail in the most basic specification – they are just not loud enough. Some of them can handle the loudness part, but fail to satisfy other needs for a moving busker. I have tried many of them, and through my experience found the best so far. If you want to find out what is my number one recommendation for a busking amplifier and the one that I personally use, click here to read more about it.
Thanx for reading, I hope it is helpful for you, and if you want to ask me a question or leave your opinion, feel free to comment below.