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Review: Hughes & Kettner era 1 Acoustic Guitar Amp

(Image credit: Hughes & Kettner)

The era 1 may be the first acoustic guitar amp offered by Hughes & Kettner, but it comes with 25 years of acoustic amp design experience behind it.

That’s because the era 1 was designed in collaboration with Michael Eisenmann, who developed some of the music industry’s first acoustic guitar amps with his company, AER (apparently the model name is a tribute to Eisenmann’s roots).

By combining their collective amp-design know-how, Hughes & Kettner and Eisenmann have developed a revolutionary new acoustic guitar amp design that provides incredibly natural acoustic tone, impressively loud output, a full selection of professional features and a surprisingly compact size.

Measuring less than 14x11x11 (slightly larger than a bookshelf stereo speaker cabinet) and housed in a wood cabinet with a warm cherry finish (a version with traditional black textured covering is available for the same price), the era 1 makes a bold first impression with its gorgeous looks and diminutive dimensions.

But there’s a whole lot of power packed in that small box, including a 250-watt power amp, 8-inch speaker and 1-inch dome tweeter, all of which help deliver crystal-clear sound, four channels, 16 digital effects, versatile 3-band EQ, numerous outputs (including an S/PDIF TOSLINK optical out) and much more.

Channels 1 and 2 are designed for acoustic guitar and/or vocal mic and are fully appointed with bass, mid and treble EQ with switchable modes that tailor the EQ range for steel-string or nylon-string guitars, combo XLR/1/4-inch input jacks with phantom power switch, FX preset select and FX volume controls and switches for engaging a -10dB pad, pre-EQ tone shaping and a mute function. Channel 3 features a 1/8-inch input and volume control for external audio sources, and the effects loop can function instead as a fourth channel if desired.

Despite its small size, the era 1 delivers huge performance when it comes to sound quality and versatility. Even at the full master volume setting, the sound remains crystal clean and undistorted—even when performing guitar and vocals at the same time, and the output is loud enough for solo performers in small venues or for use as a monitor on stage with a full band.

The effects, which include lush reverbs, delay, chorus and multi-effects, are well-suited to acoustic guitar and vocals alike. Best of all, the acoustic guitar tones are rich and resonant, retaining full acoustic character but at greatly increased volume levels.

LIST PRICE: $1,529
MANUFACTURER: Hughes & Kettner,

● A compact acoustic guitar amp with a 250-watt power amp, 8-inch woofer, 1-inch dome tweeter, digital effects and much more.

● Channels 1 and 2 each feature an EQ mode switch that tailors the EQ response and frequency range for steel-string or nylon-string guitars.

Despite being about the size of a bookshelf stereo speaker, the Hughes & Kettner era 1 is a powerful full-range PA system that amplifies acoustic guitar, vocals and external audio sources at impressive volume levels for small venues and full-band onstage performances.

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Chris is the co-author of Eruption - Conversations with Eddie Van Halen. He is a 40-year music industry veteran who started at Boardwalk Entertainment (Joan Jett, Night Ranger) and Roland US before becoming a guitar journalist in 1991. He has interviewed more than 600 artists, written more than 1,400 product reviews and contributed to Jeff Beck’s Beck 01: Hot Rods and Rock & Roll and Eric Clapton’s Six String Stories.