David is right about PAs. They are less prone to coloring the sound of an acoustic guitar or miked instrument. Plus you have the added EQ and reverb controls.
I forget if you said in the previous post if you are singing. If you are singing and playing then a PA costing < $500 will probably get you "more bang for the buck" and there's no reason not to get two speakers. You can always bring just one speaker and reserve the second for larger places. For a PA I would recommend considering a PA package. A package has everything you need and many include speaker stands, vocal mics and mic stands.
If you are just amplifying your acoustic guitar an acoustic guitar amp should suffice. Take a look at these here. The UltraSound, Fender, Marshall, and Acoustic brands are good ones to start with.
IMO, if you want amplification for guitar and vocals, the systems designed for acoustic guitars and vocals are better but pricing starts at around $1,000. These are the Fishman, Boseand higher wattage models of the previously mentioned brands. The advantage with higher wattage is the extra headroom and it will actually sound better at lower volumes. When you start pushing an amp or PA near or at its peak you begin to lose sound quality.
Usage is a big factor in determining what to go with. If you are just having once a month jam sessions then an appropriate wattage acoustic amp will suffice (remember - higher wattage provides more headroom which in turn provides better quality sound). Though, my assumption is you are planning to sing and play solo at the occasional coffeehouse as well - true??? Well, something else I am thinking of now is this. Every coffeehouse I've played at in this area has had their own PA system (the house system) and it was used for vocals and instruments. If the coffeehouse(s) in your area have their own system then you may only need the stand alone acoustic amp for your jam sessions???
I am singing, or someone else is. Most of the open mics I go to have their own stuff, but it's hit or miss at the coffeehouses. I am certainly torn. Both options have their plus and minuses. There's much to consider. I am a complete novice in the amplification department. I know a few brands of amps and have done enough research, but am clueless when it comes to brands of PA or small mixing boards.
I appreciate all the help!
Sounds like you have almost the same exact performing profile as myself. I'm an old 60's-type folksinger with a small-bodied Martin acoustic. It has a Fishman Acoustic Natural 1 saddle pickup system. When I have to run it through an occasional PA system, playing with a group, I use a Baggs ParaDI and a Sonic Stomp pedal to bring back that natural acoustic sound. But when I'm by myself, I use a Crate CA-60. It has two channels for mic and guitar. Plus, it has a decent reverb and chorus section. The speakers are a little on the light side but for small coffeehouse venues, it's dang near perfect. It needs a little reconditioning because I've had it for about 10 years and most of the controls are getting pretty scratchy. But it has served my needs really well.
My son is a professional fingerstyle acoustic guitarist and he really likes his twin Mackie SRM-450 powered speaker rig. He runs them from a 4-channel Mackie mixer in stereo. There's a couple of other pedals in the mix, but it's a brilliantly clean, sparkly sound. You probably couldn't go wrong either way. Good luck!
J. D. Woods
I myself have an "old" Crate CA-60, and love the thing. I'm not partial to the new ones; but love the old ones, and they are hard to find. I got a great deal about 10 years ago on mine. I also use an SWR California Blonde that I love also. I am partial to the discontinued SWR Strawberry Blonde if they can be found. I know a shop in the NOLA area that has one and has a good price on it. If I were looking for another amp, I would give this a serious look.
I've owned both the Roland AC-60 and the Fishman Loudbox 100. For what you are doing these would work great. They are very portable, great sound, low hiss (common problem with acoustic amps), both have 2 channels. The Roland was nice because I could mount it on a speaker stand but it was kind of hard adjusting any settings once I had it up high. I recently switched to the Fishman Loudbox and love it. The sound is very clear. The difference in sound between the two is that the Fishman has an adjustable tweeter to adjust the crisp highs with an 8" speaker. The Roland had two 6" speakers and was a little muddier but still fairly clear. Both have reverb and chorus, direct outs, Aux In for iPod or CDplayer, notch filters. Also both are right around your price range. The Fishman mini is only about $300.
All the best
Thanks to all. I've got a lot still to consider. It seems, from the posts, that both are good options depending on my specific needs. I appreciate the feedback about possible specific amps or gear to use. While I've played a while for the joy, I've been playing out more, which has been great fun, too. Keep the posts coming, it's been wonderful reading the wisdom of those more experienced and I've learned a lot.
Thanks to all!
Hard to beat the Roland ac 60 for the money. I've had one for about 2 years and have used it in a variety of situations.
Even when we had to double as a PA for the lead singer it worked well. If the venue was large or noisy you would want an extension cabinet for a "fuller" sound. Reverb and Chorus are good. Compact size and light weight. If you get the carry case you have plenty of room for cables or "just stuff".