Any suggestions? I am considering an EQ pedal to get rid of that Piezo sound.I believe playing through a bass amp helps, but I'd rather just tote a small amp -like a Champ.
An EQ pedal might get you where you can tolerate the reduced "quack", noting that it won't come close to what the Aura does.
Depending on your requirements and personal preferences, I never found a guitar amp suitable for my purposes. Went to the Fishman Loudbox (several actually) and became a fanboy. Its tone stack is designed for acoustic instruments.
Piezo quack is caused by the extremely high impedance of the the piezo element (10M ohms, as in million) reacting with electronics on an amplifier designed for lower impedance inputs (less than 1M). There are excellent but expensive fixes like the Aura ($350) and the Radial PZ-Pre ($300), but there are also less expensive options like the K&K Pure Preamp ($100) and the JJB Electronics J2 (about $120, but not currently available). If you are going into a PA system, something like the Radial StageBug S-4 is something I've had good luck with. Any decent PA system has more than enough EQ adjustment to give you a good sound. Not sure about a guitar amp, they may lack some high end. Many modern bass guitar amps have excellent high frequency response and work well as acoustic amplifiers (in my experience), so that's a possibility. Of course, many acoustic amplifiers are designed with piezo pickups in mind, and there are plenty out there. Just find something with a very high input impedance and half the battle will be won.
Aura = Images, which are wonderful, essentially adding back into the signal path the essence of the guitars' acoustic properties that the pickup strips out.
"Expensive" is subjective, of course as I personally saw it as a critical investment.
fwiw and ymmv of course
The OP's question was "less expensive than Fishman Aura." I tried to give some less expensive options, along with an explanation of the cause of the problem. I've only been playing a few years, I'm not all that good, and I don't have a lot of money to spend on gear, so a critical investment for me is a new set of strings. I appreciate top of the line gear, and know there is good reason for some people to buy it. But for the rest of us, the less costly option might be the only investment we are able to make.
Well, my first response applies.
If you're into a little DYI, this would be a good start: schatten-pickups.myshopify.com...micro-pre That will get you down to an impedance that many different amps will be happy with.
The Fishman Spectrum Aura pedal has a few reso images as well as many acoustic guitar images, and you can find them used for much cheaper than the Douglas model. Also more versatile if you ever wanted to use it with a conventional acoustic guitar.
'Jerry D and Tommy E' 2 hrs
'Crestwood Resonator ? ' 1 day
'Port Orford Stomp' 1 day