Battery powered ukulele amplification...

ricdoug

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Over the last year, my interest grew in battery powered amplification.
The ukulele presents itself as the perfect instrument for busking:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Busking

I have played in community events with the Moonlight Beach Ukulele
Strummers, Ukulele Society of America and represented the Ukulele
Underground at a BakitWhy beach party. Amplification has been a must,
due to the ambient noise of large crowds outdoors.

Here are some short reviews of battery powered amps I own and others I
tried:

Danelectro Honeytone:
Loudest of the "pocket amps" I tried. I own two of these. 9 volt battery.
The volume needs to be turned all the way up, for the cleanest possible
sound and use the overdrive control from about 0 to 2 to adjust the
volume. It eats batteries rapidly, so I use MiMH rechargeables. These
last about an hour each. I used one of these attached to my belt at
a Carlsbad Village Farmers Market luau concert and changed the
battery every hour. There is no really clean sound available, but it will
help you cut above the ambient noise.

Roland Microcube:
Works well with uke. Muddies up quickly with the bass notes of an
acoustic guitar. This won't be an issue, if you're playing blues. It has
onboard effects and can be plugged into a larger P.A.. It runs on readily
available AA batteries. Light weight makes it suitable for carrying in your
luggage. Long battery run time - 10+ hours

Roland Street Cube:
Similar to the microcube, with the addition of a controllable microphone
input. It has two speakers, for improved bass response. It handles an
acoustic guitar OK, if you don't play too loud. It runs on readily
available AA batteries. Light weight makes it suitable for carrying in your
luggage. Long battery run time - 10+ hours

Line6 Micro:
It's advertized at 6 watts, but has similar acoustical output as a Roland
Microcube. Works well with uke. Muddies up quickly with the bass notes
of an acoustic guitar. This won't be an issue, if you're playing blues. It has
onboard effects and can be plugged into a larger P.A.. It also has a
controllable microphone input. It runs on C batteries. I would use AA
adaptors (see the photo on the Vox DA5), as AA batteries are available
everywhere. Light weight makes it suitable for carrying in your luggage.
Long battery run time - 10+ hours

Vox DA5:
This amp has a marked increase in acoustical output, over the Roland
Microcube, Roland Street Cube and Line6 Micro. It does better than them
with an acoustic guitar, but is still not ideal for that application. It has
onboard effects and can be plugged into a larger P.A.. It also has a
controllable microphone input. It runs on C batteries. I would use AA
adaptors (see the photo on the Vox DA5), as AA batteries are available
everywhere. Light weight makes it suitable for carrying in your luggage.
Long battery run time - 10+ hours

Ukulele516.jpg


Roland Microcube RX:
The RX does a great job with an acoustic guitar. It lacks a microphone
input, but has onboard effects and an onboard drum machine. There are
4 speakers. It can can be plugged into a larger P.A.. It runs on readily
available AA batteries. It might be a little heavy for your luggage. Long
battery run time - 10+ hours

Roland Microcube RX Bass:
The RX Bass does a good job with a bass guitar. For it's size, we are all
surprized at it's punchy bass tone. It lacks a microphone input, but has
onboard effects and an onboard drum machine. There are 4 speakers. It
can can be plugged into a larger P.A.. It runs on readily available AA
batteries. It might be a little heavy for your luggage. Long battery run
time - 10+ hours

Crate Taxi TX30:
Plenty of acoustical output. No effects. It has a seperate controllable
microphone input. It runs on an internal motorcycle size battery. It can
also double as a powered monitor wedge. It might be a little heavy for
your luggage.Long battery run time - 6+ hours


Carvin S400D:
Best battery P.A. I tried. Hands down. It will play 6 hours at full power
(with the extra internal motorcycle size battery I bought), which should be
more than enough for most gigs. It has 4 channels with various
combinations of XLR, 1/4" and RCA jacks. The "D" model I bought has
onboard "D"igital effects. I also bought the stands and extra speaker, for
more coverage. It is definately too heavy for your luggage!

Setup on the bar at the Ocean House. There was a reggae band set up
on the main stage in the same room. This was the first all battery
powered kanikapila at the Ukulele Society of America. Left to right:
Roland Microcube RX Bass, Roland Microcube RX, 2 Vox DA5's, Crate
Taxi TX30, 2 Danelectro Mini's:

Ukulele512.jpg


Back of the Carvin S400D battery powered P.A.:

Ukulele513.jpg


Playing to a crowd of 100 on battery power:

Ukulele514.jpg
 

ricdoug

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The regular stage at Ukulele Society of America is now completely
run on battery power:

Ukulele515.jpg


At the BakitWhy picnic, Bolsa Chica State Beach, California playing
for 3 seperate beach groups. The audience total was about 100. The
vocals were run through a Crate Taxi TX30, the acoustic guitar was
run through a Roland Microcube RX and the ukuleles were run through
Vox DA5's.:

http://www.bakitwhy.com/2008/08/the-bakitwhy-socal-bbq-a-succe.html :

BakitWhy11.jpg


BakitWhy17.jpg


2802115577_61974b815c.jpg
 

VengefulTikiGod

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Thanks for the tips! I've heard good things about the Crate Taxi series. There is also a Crate "Limo" which is 50W battery-operated, and is shaped like a floor monitor (and big enough to double as one). Crate also, continuing the vehicle-theme, makes a Crate "Bus", which is a bass amp (clever, but I think it's out of production now). Actually, I just checked musiciansfriend, and apparently, the Crate Taxi 30 (not the 15 or 50 though) has been discontinued! You'll have to find one used on ebay or craigslist if you want one.

It seems to me that the Crate Taxi and the Roland Microcube are the best options, as they have both the mic and instrument inputs. Just have each of your band members get one, get a Roland RX bass amp for your bass player, and you've got an extremely portable amplified show.

I'm really pleased with all these new high-quality battery amps and mini PA's that have been coming out recently. They've come a long way since the old Pignoses. It's so hard for small bands playing low-volume shows to amplify vocals without shelling out a ton of money for a PA or trying to scrounge up a spare guitar amp to plug a mic into. I've definitely got my eye on the Crate Taxi or the Street Cube. The Rolands have very good tone in my opinion, and even better effects. Reverb to die for on my microcube.

Thanks for posting this! In our increasingly boxed, wrapped, and pre-packaged society, busking is something that is long overdue for a comeback.
 
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Howlin Hobbit

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It's so hard for small bands playing low-volume shows to amplify vocals without shelling out a ton of money for a PA...

As George and Ira Gershwin would say, that "ain't necessarily so."

Check out this post in my blog for details about my "party box" system. The main box was less than $200 and the mixer was about $65.

If you check out this video or this one here, you'll see that we're running a four-piece band through the party box system. Trust me, the sound was better live than it is filtered through my el-cheapo digital camera.

Throw in the spif stand I swapped for (and a satellite speaker, which I don't own but the party box will power) and you can cover up to a medium-sized club.
 

jjsdad

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Thanks for posting these great recommendations. However, going in the other direction of this thread, what amp is good for some quiet practicing with headphones? I just got my first electric uke and want to practice quietly in bed. My VOX is just a little bit big for that.
 

ricdoug

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It seems to me that the Crate Taxi and the Roland Microcube are the best options, as they have both the mic and instrument inputs.

The Roland Microcube and Microcube RX do not have a seperate microphone input. The Street Cube does and so does the Vox DA5. Check out the Vox DA5. It's a lot of amp for the money and you can play your uke through it, along with a microphone. The microphone input and microphone volume control are on the back of the DA5. Ric

Ukulele518.jpg
 

jjsdad

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This one. Tiny and mondo cheap.

Thanks. But, looks like you need to order the I/O separately from the amp and solder together. My soldering gun is shot I think... plus, I need to buy more solder and ... yea... excuses, excuses... I don't think I've ever successfully built any electronics no matter how simple. :(
 

VengefulTikiGod

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The Roland Microcube and Microcube RX do not have a seperate microphone input. The Street Cube does and so does the Vox DA5. Check out the Vox DA5. It's a lot of amp for the money and you can play your uke through it, along with a microphone. The microphone input and microphone volume control are on the back of the DA5. Ric

Oops, my bad, I meant to say the Street Cube. I did not know the DA5 had mic input--though I think the Street Cube and Taxi are still better options just because of the power. I have a micro cube and, surprisingly loud as it is, I don't think it can move enough air to compete in a group with drums and bass. If the DA5 is anything like that (and it looks the same size as the micro cube), it seems like it might be straining a bit for anything much larger than a solo show. But then again, that's only based on my assumption that it's comparable to the microcube. Tell me otherwise if you think it's a bad assumption.

Edit: Just reread your description, seems that you DID say otherwise, haha. But then again, you did say that it's weak in the bass for an acoustic guitar. Hmm I'll have to play an acoustic through a street cube or something to try it out. I gotta admit I like the effects on those and I could definitely stand something with a better bass output than a microcube.
 
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ricdoug

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If you don't need to run a microphone through it, the Roland Microcube RX handled the acoustic guitar better than the Street Cube. The 4 speakers really create a "wall of sound". The DA5 has the same power output as the Street Cube, but one less speaker. The Street Cube allows you to add effects seperately to each channel, where you can only have effects on the instrument channel of the DA5 and not on the microphone channel. Ric
 

salukulady

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Was curious how heavy it is, so I looked it up.....you've got 13 pound balls.....
 

ricdoug

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Big Balls - AC/DC

I'm upper, upper class high society
God's gift to ballroom notoriety
And I always fill my ballroom
The event is never small
All the social papers say I've got the biggest balls of all

CHORUS
I've got big balls
I've got big balls
And they're such big balls
Dirty big balls
And he's got big balls,
And she's got big balls,
But we've got the biggest balls of them all!

And my balls are always bouncing
My ballroom always full
And everybody comes and comes again
If your name is on the guest list
No one can take you higher
Everybody says I've got great balls of fire!

CHORUS

Some balls are held for charity
And some for fancy dress
But when they're held for pleasure,
They're the balls that I like best.
And my balls are always bouncing,
To the left and to the right.
It's my belief that my big balls should be held every night.

CHORUS

And I'm just itching to tell you about them
Oh, we have such wonderful fun
Seafood cocktail
Crabs
Crayfish