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There's a huge difference to my ears between a properly mic'd acoustic and a DI acoustic to my ears. I cannot stand the thin and quacky DI acoustic sound. I was wondering what the best way to replicate the lush, full sound of an acoustic would be short of mic'ing it on stage also. Something that allows for a good open chord strum that doesn't grate the eardrums would be nice.

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  • An acoustic guitar amplifier?
    – Tim
    Jun 1 '20 at 8:37
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    To get the real sound, use a microphone. There are acoustic simulator pedals that employ various technologies including convolution, but I haven't heard really good ones, they all kind of suck. IMO the best option is to get a guitar with a better pickup sound than the one you're not happy with, and maybe an acoustic guitar amplifier for it. Things like EQ and tube preamp simulators can also help reduce the piezo harshness. But eventually you'll have to accept that as the sound of the instrument. Jun 1 '20 at 9:08
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As piiperi commented, there's unfortunately still no 100% satisfying solution to this. While it is now possible to replicate the response of a guitar/room/mic system with convolution processors, that only works if you actually measure the concrete guitar's resonance and the exact pickup behaviour, so that can be cancelled from the response. Else you superimpose one resonance from the reference guitar that might have been used in making the “acoustic simulator” with the quirks of your own pickup system, which results in a very unclean, indistinct sound. The required measurements can AFAIK be done without lab equipment.

Even if you got the convolution process exactly right, I suspect the artificial resonance would cause feedback problems, at which point you might as well use a microphone. So, I would only recommend such acoustic-simulator guitar when you're actually playing an electric guitar (solid or with tone block). In that case, a piëzo pickup or low-impedance magnetic will sound very sterile, but also very clear and malleable, so in this case the convolution processing is just what you want.

For an acoustic guitar, your best bet is to just find the best-fit pickup system, a good amp (in particular preamp, even if the system is active), and dial all parameters in really carefully. Many systems offer some combination between two different pickup technologies. In my experience, for western guitar piëzo PUs aren't actually ideal at all: by themselves they indeed “grate the eardrums” horribly, unless you roll of the treble in which case it sounds just very dull and flat, or if you dial in a more satisfying curve you're in feedback land again. Instead, I would recommend a magnetic PU. Not an electric-guitar high-impedance one, but a dedicated low-impedance active magnetic pickup. Many guitarists don't know that such a PU can actually offer almost as much clarity as a piëzo one, but with less grating transients and more robust to feedback. By themselves, magnetic PUs are still quite unsatisfying (any they're completely useless at picking up corpus percussion), but if you mix them with just a little bit of microphone signal you can get a very decent compromise. The microphone may be either a gooseneck, (internal or poking out of the sound hole) or a contact one. What's best depends on your playing style.

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  • I've not come across 'concrete guitars'. Solid ones are normally made from wood. But i'm sure concrete ones would be more solid.
    – Tim
    Jun 1 '20 at 10:35
  • @Tim well, de facto, they're often made from wood, but actually that's illegal now in some jurisdictions due to fire hazard. For a while, manufacturers toyed around with asbestos, but metal guitarists would complain that it wasn't heavy enough, so steel-reinforced concrete gained quite some traction. The next big trend will be solid gold, at least for those who can't affort plutonium. Jun 1 '20 at 11:52
  • Thanks for this comprehensive answer. I've found a mounted mic I think would work really well in combination with your magnetic low impedance pickup idea. It's a 4099 from DPA if you're interested.
    – Numpy
    Jun 1 '20 at 12:06
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    First concrete guitars, now metal guitarists. I guess the 'industry standard' might well be the construction industry. The steel reinfocement was probably taken from the trussrod idea.
    – Tim
    Jun 1 '20 at 12:24
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    @piiperiReinstateMonica uh, well, it has maybe... a certain charm. As do Honky-Tonk piano, Vox Continental organs, cigar box guitars, melodicas, 8-bit digital synths etc. etc.. Still, I wouldn't say any of these sound actually good or a generally usable replacement for the “real thing” to which they were always just a cheesy approximation. Jun 1 '20 at 20:50
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Line6 Acoustic Variax series is an acoustic (sort of) guitar that I once used and had a great sound for stage situations, at a reasonable price.

This guitar contains a built-in sound processor that allows various instrument simulations and processor-driven open tunings. Might be worth a look... for the sound I think you'll find various demos of its 10/20 presets on YouTube.

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  • I would note that the Variax (at least older models) has a weird sort of smearing latency in its response. It works well for singlenote playing or arpeggios, but in strumming it both makes the rhythms murky and the dynamics indistinct. Jun 1 '20 at 20:55

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