Review: Roland AC-33RW

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Roland’s AC-33RW (current price in Finland: 467 €) is the new sister model to the all-black AC-33. The acoustic combo is finished in a faux-rosewood finish – the same kind as seen on many pieces of furniture.

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The AC-33RW is the company’s smallest amplifier for acoustic guitar and vocal. It can be plugged into a wall socket, using the power adapter included with the amp. Alternatively, the AC-33 also runs on eight AA-size batteries, giving you somewhere between eight and nine hours of continuous use (depending on the type of battery used).

The AC-33RW weighs only a little over four and a half kilos, but is still able to dish out a whopping 30 Watts of power (20 W, if run on batteries)! The cabinet comes equipped with a pair of five-inch speakers, with a bass reflex port placed between them.

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There are two channels on offer in the AC-33RW:

The Guitar-channel, which is meant for use with an electro-acoustic guitar, comprises a volume knob, as well as three-band EQ. The second channel is called Mic/Line, and it is best used for the amplification of a dynamic microphone or a line level sound source (which could also be a second acoustic guitar). Mic/Line only offers you two-band equalisation in addition to its volume control. By the way, you cannot use both of the Mic/Line-channel’s inputs simultaneously! Plugging into the phone jack mutes the XLR-input.

Both channels feature a nice, switchable chorus-effect in two different permutations – Space is a light chorus setting, while Wide will give you quite a fat chorus sound.

The AC-33RW’s master section offers you an automatic anti-feedback circuit, a looper with 40 seconds of recording time, a headphones output for quiet practising, the Reverb/Ambience-control, as well as the master volume.

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Regardless of its diminutive size, Roland’s AC-33RW sports a well-equipped back panel, too:

Next to the power supply input you will find two foot switch connectors. With two (optional) twin foot-switches you can control all looper functions, as well as turn on/off the chorus and/or reverb effects on the fly.

The amp’s output can be sent to a mixing console or a sound-card via the stereophonic line output. The Line Out signal is routed pre-master, meaning you can use the Roland freely as your stage monitor, without inadvertently changing the signal level going to the front-of-house mixer.

The Aux In offers you a choice of two different connectors (RCA and mini-jack), and even has its own level control. The incoming signal is also send through the looper, meaning you can even use your mp3-player to provide the raw material for your live loops.

Roland AC-33 RW

The additional fold-out stand angles the combo for a better listening position, whenever the Roland is placed on the floor.

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The Roland AC-33RW is a very nifty little combo for acoustic guitarists and solo performers. The amp sounds clean and clear, and dishes out a surprising amount of wallop for its compact size. There’s enough power on tap for busking and small-scale, bistro-type gigs. For larger venues I’d suggest turning to one of Roland’s larger models – like the Roland AC-60 – because otherwise the usual din in a pub will most likely drown out your playing.

I tried both channels using the same guitar (a Tanglewood TW1000HSRE), and found out that they’re voiced slightly differently. The Guitar-channel has a perceivable presence lift, while Mic/Line sounds more neutral (with both channel-EQs set to neutral).

There are two small points I’d like to raise, though:

Even if the life of an acoustic performer most probably isn’t as rough as a Rock gig, I would have liked to have seen corner protectors on the AC-33RW. As it stands, you will have to be rather careful not to bump into things with the combo during set-up and teardown, if you want to preserve the Roland’s pristine looks. My second point of criticism concerns the global Reverb/Ambience-control. It would be nice to be able to set different amounts of reverb for each channel – either via separate channel sends or a reverb balance knob. The compromise on offer now is workable, but having different reverb-levels for guitar and vocals would be just that bit more convenient.

I recorded some AC-33RW sounds by miking up the combo:

Fingerstyle with Ambience

Plectrum with Wide-chorus and Reverb

Vocals and guitar

Even though this small unit has been designed specifically to work with modern acoustic-electric preamps, I also tested the AC-33RW with a magnetic soundhole pickup (Seymour Duncan Woody). The Guitar-channel didn’t really offer enough preamp gain for this application, but Line/Mic worked rather nicely:

Magnetic soundhole pickup (Mic/Line-channel)

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The Roland offers a great basic sound, nice effects, and all the most important features. The combo works really well. I’d warmly suggest buying a set of foot-switches to make the most of the AC-33’s cool looper.

Regardless of its small size, the Roland AC-33RW really is a fine little amp for acoustic performers in small settings.

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Roland AC-33RW

Current price in Finland: 467 €

Finnish Distribution: Roland Scandinavia

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Pros:

+ size

+ weight

+ power

+ sound

+ effect quality

+ looper

+ value-for-money

Cons:

– global Reverb-control

– no corner protectors

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