Ashdown Acoustic Radiator 1

Like other brands such as AER and the old Trace Acoustic, Ashdown's Acoustic Radiator 1 amplifier combo (AAR-1 for short) packs its power into a compact, lightweight box. It's easily transportable by its detachable leather shoulder strap.

Of course, the closed-back, furniture-style enclosure needs care, and lacks the vinyl version's corner protectors, but an optional amp cover is available to help protect it from knocks. Behind a sturdy mesh-metal grille sits a 150W eight-inch speaker with dual concentric tweeters that are permanently in circuit.

Save for some of the knobs visually obscuring the various push-button facilities, the vertical control panel is easy to manipulate. The channels are arrayed from the bottom up: channel one - for your instrument - kicking off with volume and a gain switch for active or passive systems.

Above this are bass and treble (with 15dB of boost and cut), phase reverse and EQ shape switches, and a switchable notch filter sweeping 70Hz to 350Hz with a fixed amount of cut.

The mic channel, which handily provides phantom powering so that capacitor mics can be used without needing an outboard supply, provides low-impedance jack and XLR inputs and two-band EQ. Intended primarily for instrument or vocal mic'ing, this channel also proves satisfactory for running, say, accompaniment CDs.

However, since the amp's reverb isn't channel-assignable, playing accompaniment material dry (as you'd invariably want to) will mean that reverb can't separately be applied to the instrument channel without resorting to an external effect unit - either in-line between guitar and amp, or via the combo's rear-panel FX loop.

An LED clip indicator is a facility shared by both channels. Initially, it seems unduly sensitive to input gain levels, until you realise it's of the bicolour variety. As long as it's pulsing green you're okay; only if the LED turns red might you need to back off a bit.

The digital reverb's internal workings are upgraded from the original AAR-1's, but the controls, located directly under the master volume, are unchanged, as are the presets. Along with reverb level and an in/out switch, there are buttons to select a hall or a plate, and whether these modes have a short or long decay.

Nice and simple, although some prospective buyers might hanker after a few delays and a chorus or two.After all, these are effects which are commonplace even on budget acoustic amps these days.

Particular praise is merited for the fluid, well-damped smoothness of all the amp's controls. Yet we were puzzled by the absence of any power light: there isn't one on the front panel, and the mains switch on the rear panel isn't illuminated either.

The only visual indication of something happening is from the clip LED - by which time you know that the amp is up and running.

Sounds

Packing a suitable 100W-style punch, the AAR-1 has an impressively natural sound, delivered in an unforced manner.

Dual tweeters might imply an intrusive, easily overcooked high end, but the frequency gradient is seamlessly integrated - even when the mid-dip/bass-and-treble-boosting shape feature is activated, something that adds sparkle, not brittleness or harshness.

Coupled with a well-controlled mid-range, the bass end is handled elegantly too, endowing progressively creamy, almost valve-like warmth. All good stuff - and that goes for reverb quality as well.

MusicRadar Rating

4.5 / 5 stars
Pros

Classy, good-looking amp. Keen price. Natural, pro-calibre sound.

Cons

More effects and channel-assignable reverb would be useful.

Verdict

Additional onboard FX might broaden the AAR-1's appeal, but its virtues of giggable power, portability and quality sound are very attractive.

Accessories

Removable leather carry-strap included. Optional amp cover (£24)

Additional Features

Four digital reverb presets (hall or plate, short or long)

Audio Output Power

100

Available Controls

Active/Passive Select Bass Clip LED Master Reverb Master Volume notch Notch Frequency Phase Reverb Shape Treble Volume

Cabinet Material

Cherrywood

Channels

2

Connectivity

Effects loop

Country of Origin

China

Depth (mm)

223

Effects

Yes

Effects Type

Reverb

Height (mm)

333

Loudspeaker Type

1 x 8 inch With Integral Dual Concentric Tweeters

Weight (kg)

12

Weight (lb)

26.4

Width (mm)

384

Review Policy
All MusicRadar's reviews are by independent product specialists, who are not aligned to any gear manufacturer or retailer. Our experts also write for renowned magazines such as Guitarist, Total Guitar, Computer Music, Future Music and Rhythm. All are part of Future PLC, the biggest publisher of music making magazines in the world.

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