Having been a Maton player for many years, the one thing I have come to love is the big sound you get from these guitars when plugging them into a PA. Maton manufactures its own pickups, an essential part of maintaining the sound of both the instrument and its internal amplification system. After much research and development, the Maton AP4 Pickup system was created in the late ’90s. The innovation continued when Maton, in conjunction with guitar legend Tommy Emmanuel, developed the APMic system. The APMic utilises both the piezo-based system and a microphone, which is located in the body of the guitar to pick up on the natural acoustic qualities of the instrument.
If you’ve ever been lucky enough to see Tommy Emmanuel live in concert you will know the power, tone and dynamics he gets out of his guitar. Now Maton have come up with the AP5 Pro, and with it reached a new level of control.
The AP5 Pro features separate microphone and piezo input controls, allowing the blend of both microphone and piezo levels prior to sending the actively combined signals through the tone circuits and master volume. The cardioid microphone system allows for a greater microphone level before feedback and is mounted directly to the pre amp casing via an adjustable arm, giving you more control of your sound by moving the position of the microphone.
The audio path has been scoured of electrolytic capacitors, as these are known to affect high quality audio. As a result the AP5 Pro is much cleaner, with less fur in the sound, and doesnt suffer from tonal quality degradation with time.
The pre-amp is mounted on the top side of the guitar so it’s easy to get your hands on if you need to tweak things during a song. The bass, treble, mid and mid sweep controls have been designed and manufactured for the AP5 Pro and have a nice linear feel to them. The FQ (mid sweep) goes down much lower and has a wider frequency band (600Hz to 2.4kHz) to give greater control of your specific sound.
The AP5 Pro system uses 2 x AA batteries that are externally mounted so easy to change. According to Maton’s website, AA batteries have almost twice the stored energy of a 9 volt, and therefore give a longer operational life.
Time to plug it in and see how the performance matches up to the promise. For a first trial I plugged into my AER compact 60 acoustic amplifier, and then went direct into my mixer and a pair of Mackie 450s.
The guitar provided for this review is a Maton ER90C. It’s a dreadnought guitar with an AA spruce top, Indian rosewood back and sides and a rosewood fingerboard.
I started with the EQ set flat and the microphone off. The guitar instantly jumped into the room. The sound is clean and punchy and the frequencies well balanced. Time to play around a little bit more.
I dialled in the microphone to about 50% and the guitar really came to life. The mic added a nice bit of sparkle in the top end and brought back the nice airy acoustic sound that is sometimes lost with a piezo pickup.
The adjustable arm that the microphone is mounted on is approx ¾ of the way down the sound hole, with the mic facing out of the guitar. I adjusted it so that the mic was nearer to the neck of the guitar and, as expected, this added a bit more warmth without losing any clarity. Moving the mic closer to the bridge added a slight boost in the mids and a bit of brightness. Personally I preferred the mic in the centre of the sound hole where it has a nice acoustic balanced sound.
As mentioned above, the beauty of this pickup system is that you can adjust the level of the piezo. When this is turned right down the guitar is only using the mic. With the mic on 60% and the piezo on 80%, the guitar sounded alive and showed beautiful overtones. I played a few Chet Atkins tunes with this setting and it sounded fantastic – the perfect combination of having the clarity of the pickup and the air of the acoustic sound. The bass, treble, mid control and the mid sweep allow you to get so much character and tone from your guitar.
If you were in a situation where you are recording with a mic and a DI, or plugging into a PA system, you’d be guaranteed to get a great sound from the AP5 Pro.
The AP5 Pro doesn’t bring with it all the bells and whistles that some guitars have – there’s no onboard tuner or flashing lights – but what you do get is a user-friendly system that has the diversity to suit almost any musical genre. Of course it is only designed for Maton acoustics, but it is available as a retro fit. And did I mention Tommy Emmanuel uses them? Enough said then.
Chet O’Connell is an Auckland gutarist/vocalist currently working with the Midge Marsden Band, Jackie Clarke and the Class of 58. He also works as a solo artist and with various corporate acts.