Have you ever tried swapping between an electric guitar and an acoustic during a live performance? If you have, I’m sure you’ve noticed it’s nearly impossible to keep the timing right during important tone changes, as you fumble around with both instruments.
Acoustic simulator pedals come to the rescue here. At the press of a switch they change your electric guitar sound into one resembling an acoustic’s, saving you loads of effort swapping guitars mid-set. Not to mention saving you substantial amounts of money that you may have spent on a real acoustic.
In this article we’re going to look at the pros and cons of these pedals (because there are some disadvantages to using them too). We’ll cover the key considerations you need to think about when buying one of these gizmos and we’ll finally review some of our favourite products and call out their pros and cons.
If you need to dash, here’s the pedals we review. If you’re new to acoustic simulator pedals you should read the whole article so you don’t end up making the wrong type of pedal for your needs.
Our Pick of the Best Acoustic Simulator Pedals
Mooer MAC1 Akoustikar
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Biyang AC-8 Woody Pedal
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Caline Golden Halo Acoustic Simulator Guitar Pedal
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Still here? Wise choice. Here’s what we’re going to cover in this article…
- What is an Acoustic Simulator Pedal?
- How Do They Work?
- Benefits of Acoustic Simulator Pedals
- Do Acoustic Simulators Sound Anything Like Real Acoustic Guitars?
- Who Uses Acoustic Simulator Pedals?
- Buying Guide – Considerations when Purchasing an Acoustic Simulator Pedal
- Number of Simulation Modes
- Do You Need True Bypass?
- Extra Features You’ll Find on Some Acoustic Simulator Pedals
- Round-up & Mini Reviews
- So, Which Should I Buy?
What is an Acoustic Simulator Pedal?
Acoustic simulator pedals allow the guitarist to achieve the sound of an acoustic whilst playing an electric guitar!
How Do They Work?
Acoustic simulator guitar pedals work by altering the signal input that comes from your guitar. As your guitar strings vibrate, they send a signal through your pick ups, which is then passed through your input cable to the effects pedal, and then through the output cable the amplifier.
Acoustic simulator pedals customizing your guitars sound by altering the input signal to produce sounds more similar to mid-range frequencies produced by acoustic guitars.
Benefits of Acoustic Simulator Pedals
By using an acoustic simulator pedal, you avoid having to lug both an electric and acoustic guitar around and can change from an electric guitar tone to an acoustic sound at the convenient press of a footswitch. This way, there’s much less room for error as you swap between acoustic and electric guitar riffs during a gig. Most of these pedals are about the size of a smartphone and weigh very little, making them easy to fit in your gig bag and a comfortable addition to your pedal board.
For most players buying an electric guitar is expensive enough without even considering purchasing an extra acoustic. It seems even more ridiculous to buy a whole extra guitar to play some short introduction sections or a one off song in an acoustic tone, when there are plenty of pretty decent simulator pedals available at a fraction of the price. A guitar simulator pedal could therefore save you hundreds of pounds.
Adds Variety to your Music
Acoustic simulator pedals help you mix up a set by adding an acoustic number or an acoustic section to part of song. This sounds especially cool in heavy metal type playing, for example Metallica’s acoustic introduction in ‘Fade to Black’ adds texture and suspense, for an epic build up to the main riff. Having an entire song played acoustically can also be a welcome break from an otherwise distortion heavy album.
Do Acoustic Simulators Sound Anything Like Real Acoustic Guitars?
In general, they never fully recreate an acoustic tone, but the sound you get may still suffice (plus the benefits above may still outweigh buying an acoustic).
It helps if your electric already sounds very acoustic, for example using a Gretsch guitar with warm tones will sound closer to a real acoustic than a Jackson guitar built for high gain and bright tones. But either way, you still can’t dig in and hit the strings the way you would on a real acoustic.
As an alternative to an acoustic simulator pedal, you could try using the clean channel on your amp (set really clean) with a hint bit of chorus/delay and a footswitch to change settings quickly if needed.
Who Uses Acoustic Simulator Pedals?
Acoustic Simulator pedals are a popular choice amongst extreme metal, classic rock and indie bands. For example, Slipknot’s Jim Root uses the Boss AC-3 Acoustic Simulator in the middle of ‘Dead Memories’ and Richie Castellano of Blue Oyster Cult has been known to use an acoustic simulator during a couple of live performances. Additionally, indie guitarists belonging to the Kooks and Fallout Boy use an acoustic simulator in several songs.
Buying Guide – Considerations when Purchasing an Acoustic Simulator Pedal
Number of Simulation Modes
If you are a seasoned guitar player, you will be aware of what most pedals can do. By fiddling around with the EQ and other settings, you can create a multitude of effects. With an acoustic simulator pedal, they generally have a few set modes such as:
This mode is the simplest (therefore the one I use most), as it simply emulates a mid-sized, standard bodied acoustic guitar with nylon strings. Standard bodied acoustics are usually a similar width to dreadnought guitars (see below) but have a smaller waist creating a curvy body shape. Their design enables them to be played at a range of different volumes but with more balanced tones than acoustics of smaller or larger builds.
For those that like to play an acoustic with a deeper, bass sound and more resonance, this is the mode for you. To be particular, the Jumbo mode simulates the sound produced by the wide-bodied ‘dreadnought’ guitars designed by C. F Martin and Company in 1916, which are well known for their powerful, booming reverberation and increased volume.
The Piezo mode offers a much cleaner and brighter sound in comparison to Jumbo and Standard versions, and mimics tones that would usually be created using a specific piezo pickup found on smaller electro-acoustic guitars. Piezo pickups are different from the standard electric guitar’s magnetic pickups, in that they receive vibrations from the guitar strings and instrument body by measuring the pressure of vibrations, rather than using a magnetic field to produce a signal.
Do You Need True Bypass?
A true bypass circuit lets you remove 100% the pedal’s effect from the guitar signal when it is switched off. The problem is that many guitar pedals, notoriously the Boss collection, have a circuit which is always connected – even when the pedal isn’t in the on position!
Because non true bypass pedals are technically always ‘plugged in’, even when you switch them off, they still affect your tone in some way…. This can’t be prevented unless you modify the pedal. Of course, this isn’t always an option for both novice and experienced players. If a pedal in the off position changes your tone, it is referred to as ‘Tone Sucking’. Wah wah and Fuzz pedals are usually the biggest culprits of causing tone sucking to occur.
If you use true bypass, no circuit portion of one pedal will interact with circuit portions of other pedals, the guitar’s pickups or your amp. Therefore, true bypass pedals mean that you ultimately have more control over what your final setup will be and let you maintain a clean signal running from your guitar to pedals to amp. They also prevent you having to use extra noise gates to adjust signal levels.
Overall, using true bypass is completely dependent on how much tone the guitarist wants to maintain during a set – some notice a big difference others whilst using true bypass others not so much.
Extra Features You’ll Find on Some Acoustic Simulator Pedals
Players like Jeff Buckley and Dave Gilmour have made a career out of their use of Reverb. Wonderful, echoey reverb makes the notes you play persist for longer after the sound is produced. This exaggerates the natural reverb independently of your surroundings, which is good news if you don’t have a convenient cave nearby!
The body knob allows the guitarist to alter the amount of sound produced by the simulated guitar body. The resonance of an acoustic guitar is normally caused by oscillating air in the soundhole – acoustic simulators mimic this and allow the player to change the mellowness and breadth of the guitar sound.
Changing this allows you to adjust the attack and harmonic content of the upper frequencies, producing a similar sound to that of a real condenser microphone. Condenser microphones being optimal due to offering greater sound quality.
Of all microphone types, condensers have the widest frequency response, the best attack response (to capture lively energy bursts e.g: the “pick” of an acoustic guitar), as well as more sensitivity and lower noise interference than other microphones.
Round-up & Mini Reviews
Ok let’s look at each acoustic simulator pedal in more detail. To make things easier for you, we’ve added pros and cons for each one, as well as a video demonstration so you can see them in action. So without further ado, let’s take a look…
Mooer MAC1 Akoustikar
This little gem utilizes the three modes I have already mentioned in its compact, micro-pedal body. Housed in a full metal shell, you can understand why the Mooer brand is considered so reliable.
The Mooer is so tiny that batteries don’t fit inside it and therefore only a power supply can be used. Unfortunately, this isn’t included so you’ll need to purchase one separately. On the bright side, this pedal features top, body and level controls for extra tone control of high end, resonance and volume. Additionally, the Mooer MAC1 comes with true bypass, so that it won’t drain any of your guitar tone when it’s not in use.
It’s compact size and weight makes this pedal one of the more portable acoustic simulator pedals out there, best suited for guitar players on the go, or those shopping on a mid-range budget.
- Inexpensive – Excellent price for good quality sound, the Mooer certainly won’t break your bank account.
- Simple Control Settings – Ease of use makes the Mooer MAC 1 pedal really convenient, in that any beginner player can utilise its features.
- Portable – Considering it’s small size, this pedal is really sturdy and sounds excellent.
- True Bypass – No tone drainage, for good guitar sound when not in use
- Noise interference – The switch can sometimes be noisy when turning the different modes on or off. This isn’t such a huge problem if you’re only going to use one mode.
- Quiet – This pedal can cause volume drops which isn’t ideal, as turning up the pedal’s volume to combat this can result in an unfavourable, tinny sound.
- Lower quality sound – There are better acoustic simulators available at greater prices, but the choice really depends on how much money you have to spend.
The Boss brand is extremely popular and one of the pedals you will likely read about in most acoustic simulator reviews. The AC-3 has a range of tonal controls that allow the guitarist to widely adjust their sound, with it’s electronics all encased in a pretty much indestructible metal case.
This model has all three modes as mentioned earlier, but also includes an enhanced choice and a reverb option. For this reason, the AC-3 can actually double up as a basic reverb pedal (if you’re happy with the other effects of the pedal influencing your sound), which could save you spending a lot of money on another product!
As well as having a great amount of tone and effects control, the AC-3 is also built to use both batteries and a power supply, so you don’t have to worry about purchasing one or the other.
The Boss AC-3 is best suited to experienced players, as it may require a bypass loop to be set up to maintain maximum guitar tone. This can be a little confusing if you’re planning to use it along with several other pedals.
- Durable design – The tough metal casing means you can drop it a few times and it will still work fine.
- Multiple outputs – Allows for quick switching of effects.
- High quality – Produces a realistic, clean acoustic sound which is rather pleasant
- Extra settings – Allows the guitarist to produce a greater variety of tones. This pedal provides a useful reverb effect, which is a must have for most players
- Weight – Heavier and bulkier than other models, this isn’t a replacement for your gym routine but may require extra pedal board space.
- Noisy – Produces a slight hissing sound if the ‘top’ knob is set high which is not ideal.
- Expensive – This is probably one of the most expensive acoustic simulator pedals you can purchase.
- Not True Bypass – This pedal may remove some of your guitar tone when not in use unless you set up a bypass loop
I find this small piece of technology rather retro-esk, looking like it came straight from a 70s gig. Despite being one of the lower priced simulators around, the Aroma AAS-3 is highly versatile. This little pedal has all the standard modes expected from an acoustic simulator, as well as a body knob to enhance acoustic resonance, a top knob to change the gain level and a volume control.
Another bonus of the Aroma AAS-3 is that it’s aluminium alloy case and protective metal bar allow you to stomp away without fear of accidentally moving the tone dials or damaging the pedal’s electronics.
The Aroma AAS-3 is called a micro-pedal for a reason. It’s so small that it requires a 9volt battery supply for power, as batteries won’t fit inside the case. The Aroma will definitely not be difficult to squeeze onto your pedal board!
It’s small size along with it’s durability and versatility make the Aroma AAS-3 an ideal acoustic simulator pedal for travelling/ performing guitarists – just don’t forget your charger.
- Versatile – This pedal offers a lot of sound control, via three controlling knobs and one switch that are all accurate and highly sensitive.
- Great price – The Aroma is the simulator for those wanting the acoustic sound without spending too much money on equipment.
- High quality sound – This pedal produces a pretty decent sound for it’s price, and even though no simulator can truly emulate an acoustic guitar, the Aroma comes pretty close.
- True Bypass – No tone drainage when the pedal’s turned off
- Need to purchase power supply separately – Powered by 9V power supply which is not included in price.
- Noise interference – This pedal can become noisy and ‘hissy’ when the body and top knobs are turned close to maximum
- Volume drop – The Aroma can be quiet and therefore require the rest of your equipment to be adjusted to reduce volume drop. This might not be ideal if you’re playing in a band and trying to match higher volumes of other instruments
With four control dials – mid, bass, high and volume, this pretty little number allows it’s owner to dial in the exact tone they want. The Joyo’s brown interface is quite retro looking and it’s flip open box gives this pedal a pretty funky style. As well as looking cool, this pedal is quite compact, making the Joyo one of the better models to grab instead of taking your acoustic.
For a mid-range price, this pedal actually produces some very nice, realistic wooden tones which are close to the quality of those produced by the Boss AC-3. It’s worth mentioning that this pedal doesn’t have set modes built in so some guitarists may find it less convenient at switching between tones quickly.
Once again, because the Joyo is a micro-pedal it doesn’t take the usual 9v battery and requires an adapter which isn’t included in the package. On the other hand it’s tiny size means this pedal will easily fit onto your pedal board.
Although this pedal is a great size for taking to gigs, it’s plastic cover and case don’t always withstand heavy use and can crack. Additionally, there is no protective bar to stop your shoe pressing against the tone dials, which can lead to them getting damaged or accidentally moved. For these reasons, the Joyo JF-323 is most suited to guitarists looking to play acoustic style less frequently, during shows or occasionally at home.
- Good sound – For the price, this pedal has quite an authentic wooden sound, without too much treble, meaning there is little hiss or interference.
- Cool design – Groovy retro style case and flip open box.
- Portable – Extremely compact, great for throwing in the backpack and adding to your pedal board.
- True Bypass – Less likely to drain your guitar tone when not in use
- Flip case prone to breaking with frequent use.
- Power supply not included – You’ll need to buy one separately and remember that the Joyo won’t take batteries.
- Interference – Can produce a pronounced ‘thump’ when you engage/disengage the pedal
- Low volume – This pedal is a little quiet and cause your output volume to drop when in use
Biyang AC-8 Woody Pedal
The Biyang AC-8 Woody pedal is one of the more budget acoustic simulators on the market. Despite it’s low price, this pedal comes with a quality stainless steel case and WIMA capacitors to ensure a fast, but very low, loss of signal transfer, for a decent acoustic guitar tone.
The Biyang’s design also includes metal, dust proof, sealed pots for longevity and features a true bypass design, to ensure your instrument plays with maximum tone when the pedal’s not in use.
Like the Joyo pedal we previously reviewed, the Biyang uses treble, middle and bass knobs for tone variation rather than the standard, piezo and jumbo modes. This may suit some players more, or confuse things slightly if you prefer to change tone with the flick of a switch.
If you’re worried that this pedal might be more prone to damage due to the price, Biyang offer a free 5 year warranty for peace of mind.
This pedal is best suited to guitarists looking to practice switching between acoustic/ electric sounding parts of songs at home, due to it being quite noisy when turned up loud enough to gig.
- Price – One of the cheapest acoustic simulators on the market
- Lifetime warranty – This pedal will keep going forever.. or you’ll get your money back, it’s a win win situation either way
- True Bypass – Less noise interference when not in use
- Nice aesthetic – The Biyang pedal has a cool, chrome silver look with neat black pots
- Larger size – May not squeeze into your pedal board as easily as other models
- Noise interference – When the ‘level’ knob is turned up past half way, a lot of hiss disturbs the sound quality – this is not great for those that want to perform live and may result in you having to play using a quieter setting
- Less tone control – This pedal lacks the normal mode settings of acoustic simulators, so some guitarists may find it more difficult to change tone compared to other pedals.
Caline Golden Halo Acoustic Simulator Guitar Pedal
The Golden Halo by Caline is a small but cool pedal, with a swirling sun design in it’s centre. Although by far the cheapest pedal we review, it still manages to produce some pretty authentic sounding acoustic tones.
This pedal uses the standard modes as previously mentioned and also comes with top control to adjust high end frequencies, and body to simulate natural acoustic resonance. All of the Halo’s technology is protected inside a sturdy metal case.
The Golden Halo can take both a 9v power supply or battery making it extra portable, and is true bypass to protect from unwanted tone absorption when not in use.
Although the Golden Halo has many advantages considering it’s price, it’s best used as a practice pedal, due to it’s tendency to become noisy when pushed to higher volumes and more extreme settings.
- Very reasonable price – One of the cheapest acoustic simulator pedals on the market
- Convenient – Can use batteries and power supply
- True Bypass – No tone reduction whilst pedal isn’t in use
- Noise interference – When the ‘top’ and ‘body’ dials are set to above 1 o’clock, the pedal starts to get noisy with excess ‘hiss’ and crackling. It’s worth mentioning that the tones produced are actually quite nice below these settings.
- Size – Slightly larger than the previously mentioned micro-pedals, so might take up more pedal board room
- Tone – Has great tone considering it’s price, but more expensive models like the Boss AC-3 can produce higher quality sound at a higher volume
So, Which Should I Buy?
So, by now hopefully you understand that acoustic simulator pedals are designed to customizing your guitars sound, by altering the input signal to produce mid-range frequencies similar to those produced by acoustic guitars.
They can be a convenient addition to your pedal board by allowing the guitarist to quickly swap between acoustic sections and electric parts of a song, without having to lug around a real acoustic guitar.
All five pedals mentioned above hit some marks for making a great pedal. If I had to pick my overall winner, I would say it was the Caline Golden Halo. For an extremely reasonable price, it gives some of the best simulated acoustic sounds at lower volume and effects levels, and has a cool design. Although the Golden Halo may not suit those looking to gig or play at higher volumes, it’s a great way to get a taste of a simulator pedal or good for those that want to practice playing acoustic sections at home.
For someone who likes to throw their pedals in the boot of the car and needs something a little tougher, the Boss is a durable beast that might be best for you. The Boss is also likely the best option for live use due to it’s ability to produce realistic, versatile tones without volume drops. Another advantage of the Boss AC-3 is that it also acts as a reverb pedal, which is usually a must have effect for most performing guitarists.
Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this post and feel more confident in choosing the best guitar simulator pedal for you. Which one would you buy? Let me know below!