View Full Version : simple (cheap) performance setup

09-22-2013, 10:26 AM
The small group that I play uke with sometimes has gigs in acoustically horrible settings -- like school gymnasiums, nursing home lobbies, etc. No PA is provided. It may become hard for us even to hear each other, and my tenor uke also sometimes gets drowned out by the other instruments (mandolin, clarinet, flute). I'm thinking of getting a simple mic + combo amp setup to increase the uke volume (no voice). Any suggestions? Is there any other hardware I need (besides cable and mic stand)? Any problems with such a setup?

Thanks for any help!

Jim Hanks
09-22-2013, 11:37 AM
You'd get better results with a pickup, but if that isn't an option,a mic can work. Main problem is that you're tied to the mic - have to be right on it to get a consistent volume. Also you need to consider what rooms you're targeting. The same setup is not going to work for both school gym and nursing home lobby, but I'd say don't even try for the gym - really no PA for a gym? That's just hopeless. :-)

09-22-2013, 02:40 PM
Thanks. The gym had PA but they didn't offer it to the instrumentalists, only the singer. My uke is a Kala acoustic only, and my budget doesn't allow a 2nd one right now. From what I've read, adding a 3rd party pickup is not always a good idea, and an external mic yields better sound, even though it has the problems you mention.

We rarely know more than a month or 2 ahead (at best!) where we're going to play next, and let's just say we're not in a position to negotiate. We're just a bunch of retired folks having fun.


Doug W
09-23-2013, 03:35 PM

Do you have a budget in mind? I agree with Jim about gyms. You can't play them without a sound system and only a powerful one will get your sound through the lousy acoustics of a gym and even then the sound will suck. Don't play in gyms, they aren't fun.

It all starts with how much you are willing to spend, but it never ends, there is always something new to buy.


09-23-2013, 04:36 PM
Yeah, I first posted here when I saw how much a good mic or speaker can cost -- and how many different options there are! I don't have a specific budget in mind but I'd rather not go over $100 (for both mic + combo amp/speaker). Certainly less would be better, but I know that would also mean less quality. Portability is important too -- we have to hump our own gear, and let's just say we've all been around the block a few times.

I agree about gyms too, but like I said, we play where they want us to or we don't play.

Doug W
09-23-2013, 05:26 PM
So how about if each member of the band buys a Shure SM48, around 50 bucks + an XLR cord + mic stand (not quite as nice as the SM58 but OK). Then you all visit a used gear store and split the cost of a 6 channel powered mixer + speakers. Or go the Ebay option for the powered mixer and speakers.

I understand what you are saying about dragging around gear. I am almost 61 and I don't drag around any more than I need, to a gig. Especially since the majority of our gigs are either free or we end up making gas money + free coffee.

09-24-2013, 01:34 PM
Helpful advice, thanks. We have yet to see gas money! :)

Since the others in our group are generally able to crank out more volume than I am, would a mic just on my uke and a small amp/speaker help to balance the overall sound?


Doug W
09-24-2013, 02:27 PM
Yes that would do the trick. Are you looking at a particular model of amplifier?

I don't really have any good advice on a cheap mic other than the Shure that I mentioned earlier. Between the 3 steady members of our band we have a variety of mics but mostly use our SM57s for instruments and SM58s for vocals. Both of those models run around $100 each.

I have not experimented with any of the new or old acoustic instrument input / mic input amplifiers so I can't give you any advice about those.

09-25-2013, 04:38 PM
Thanks again. I've been looking at combo amps like the Danelectro Honeytone but I'm certainly open to suggestion. As for mics, the GLS Audio ES-57 advertises itself as a Shure SM57 clone, gets good Amazon ratings, and sells there for $30. But again, I'm not committed to anything yet.

We have a gig this weekend playing in a parking lot (go figure). Mics and a sound service have been promised, but we'll see ...


11-01-2013, 01:35 PM
I know it's been a while, but I hope I'm ready to move ahead with this. I've got on my xmas list a GLS ES-57 (SM57 clone) mic and an Orange Crush micro combo amp. Would connecting the mic straight to the amp work all right, or would a preamp in between the two be necessary? (Or if not necessary, then still desirable?)

Thanks again,

Doug W
11-02-2013, 04:03 AM

Does this version of the amp have an XLR (microphone cable) input as well as a 1/4" mono guitar chord input? If there is no XLR input you would need a preamp since the guitar input is a line level input and the mic is a balanced input.

If it only has a 1/4" mono guitar input you could use and impedance transformer to plug the mic in but that may not give you the volulme you are looking for.

Reviews on the mic you list up there are pretty good. Have you been able to go to a music store and try out the setup you are thinking about?

11-02-2013, 10:23 AM
Thanks. As far as I've seen (online and in stores) the amp has only a 1/4" input. But nearly everything I've read online indicates that a preamp would be a good idea. I'm thinking of the ART Tube MP, but suggestions are welcome.

Unfortunately, I live in a small town and the nearest decent music stores are a hour's drive away. But it sounds like a visit for a "test drive" would be worth it.

11-02-2013, 10:29 AM
Forgot to mention in the previous post that I've ordered an XLR to 1/4" cable to connect the mic to the amp. From Amazon, so easily returned if necessary.


11-04-2013, 03:30 AM
Have you seen the blog on making your own undersaddle pick up?


the link also gives detail on where to find the piezeo cable.

If you are handy with a soldering iron, it may be of interest.

11-09-2013, 09:39 AM
Thanks, but I'm not really interested in an attached pickup.

Doug W
11-14-2013, 01:30 AM
Go with the ART Tube preamp.

11-14-2013, 04:03 AM
I'd go with a dedicated acoustic amp, even if you are using it with a microphone. It's going to have a more proper voice for an acoustic instrument. And if you're playing in a gym, you might need more wattage than the Orange will give you.

Take a look at Crate. They make some terrific acoustic amps that are quite affordable and good-sounding.

04-11-2014, 11:17 AM
Thanks! I got a Vox Mini3, and I use an impedance transformer to plug the mic into the Vox's "instrument" jack (it has a mic jack too but evidently that is also hi-Z). While the amp is small, so far it's perfect for my needs. If we start playing bigger venues I'll look into something more potent. Any opinion on the L.R. Baggs acoustic preamps? Several of them are even battery powered, which is a plus for me (outlets are often not readily available where we perform).