This article was updated in November to reflect the best acoustic electric guitars for the upcoming 2018 year.
In the good ole days before the invention of the piezo electric guitar pickup and acoustic electric guitars, the way you used an acoustic guitar in a live performance was to try to mic it. Soundmen across the planet hated this because the method was prone to feedback and the guitarist had to remain motionless otherwise the sound levels would fluctuate.
It was in the 1950's that Gibson first attempted to produce an acoustic electric guitar. However it did not produce a very good acoustic sound. It wasn't until Country Music legend Glenn Campbell asked Ovation Guitars to make him an acoustic electric guitar that the modern version of the acoustic electric guitar was born.
If you plan to do live performances then you will do well with any of these top 10 acoustic electric guitars.
|Taylor 210e Deluxe - Natural||If you need a great-looking guitar that sounds wonderful plugged in, it's hard to beat the Taylor 210e Deluxe.||A+||$1,099.00|
|Yamaha A-Series AC3R Acoutic-Electric Guitar - 2017 Model, Vintage Natural||Designed to be the ideal performance acoustic guitar, the Yamaha A-Series is crafted from the ground up to be perfectly suited to life on the road.||A||$899.99|
|Martin Road Series DRS1 Dreadnought Acoustic-Electric Guitar Natural||The Martin DRS1 Dreadnought Acoustic-Electric Guitar marks the return of the Road Series, which was introduced in 2001, for working and traveling guitarists on a modest budget.||B+||$759.00|
|Taylor GS Mini-E Mahogany Acoustic-Electric Guitar||This premium edition of Taylor’s standard mahogany-top GS Mini comes equipped for live performance with the addition of Taylor’s ES-T pickup, including onboard tone and volume control knobs.||A+||Out of stock|
|Martin X Series 2015 DX1RAE Dreadnought Acoustic-Electric Guitar Natural||The 6-string Martin DX1RAE acoustic-electric guitar features a D-14 platform, a dreadnought body design producing big, round sound.||A||$599.00|
|Martin X Series 2015 DX1AE Acoustic-Electric Guitar Natural||Whether you're a seasoned professional, or a picker-in-training, the Martin X Series DX1AE has got your musical bases covered, with killer craftsmanship, Fishman electronics, and striking beauty.||B+||$599.00|
|Epiphone EJ-200SCE Solid Top Cutaway Acoustic /Electric Guitar, Vintage Sunburst||The Epiphone EJ-200SCE pushes the "King of the Flat Tops," into the future with a spectacular cutaway for total upper fret access plus the eSonic2 preamp system.||A||$429.00|
|Fender Sonoran SCE Acoustic Electric Guitar, Rosewood Fingerboard, Natural (v2)||It's perfect for those who dig vintage styling and seek to ride the wave of Fender's classic Southern California history and vibe.||A+||Check on Amazon|
|Yamaha FGX730SC Solid Top Acoustic-Electric Guitar - Rosewood, Natural||The FGX730SC acoustic guitar offers all the great features of the FG730S with an added cutaway body, 1-way piezo/preamp system with 3-band EQ, adjustable midrange frequency control and chromatic built-in tuner.||A-||$279.00|
|Ibanez PF Series PF15ECE Dreadnought Cutaway Acoustic-Electric Cutaway Guitar Gloss Black||The Ibanez PF15ECE Performance Series Acoustic-Electric Cutaway Guitar uses mahogany back and sides to provide rich, warm lows and sweet sustain.||A||$199.99|
Acoustic Electric Guitar Buying Guide
Buying an acoustic electric guitar is fun! When I am in the market for a new guitar I am like a kid in a candy shop. There are so many options and varieties to choose from it is hard to make a decision.
The most important question you need to ask yourself is "What am I going to use my guitar for?" Am I just going to play at home? Am I going to do gigs with it? Or am I going to try my hand at self-recording? This will determine the type of acoustic electric guitar you are going to purchase and the price point you are looking at.
Basic Components Of A Guitar
The basic parts of an acoustic electric guitar are.....
- The Binding
- The Bridge
- The Fingerboard
- Machine Heads
- Pick Guard
- Fret Position Marker Inlays
- Strap Button
- Tuning Keys
Tonewoods - Different Woods For Different Sounds
Guitar makers and craftsmen, called luthiers, have found that the single most important piece of wood in making a guitar is the top wood. Different woods resonate differently with the sounds. Finger players will want a different type of wood than strummers, and strummers will want a different type of wood than pickers.
After the top wood, the wood used in the back, sides, and neck are the next important wood types used in an acoustic electric guitar.
It is important to remember that the types of wood used in a guitars construction can only do so much. It is just as important to take into consideration the quality of the craftsmanship in constructing the guitar as well as the individual quality of each piece of wood used. You can have a good piece of spruce or a bad piece of spruce. The same goes for the other types of wood used as well.
Here some of the more common types of wood used in crafting an acoustic electric guitar and their own particular qualities.
Spruce is one of the more common woods used in crafting guitars. The most common type of spruce is the Sitka Spruce. It is a very rigid wood for being considered a softwood. It is very lightweight which is why guitar makers and players like it. Spruce gives a very direct sound and keeps its clarity when being played forcefully.
Cedar is a popular top wood because of its warm rich sound. Most guitar craftsmen try to use Western Red Cedar when building a guitar designed for finger players. It is a very responsive wood for those with a light touch.
Mahogany topped guitars have a great punchy sound that works well if you are going to play country music or the blues. When acoustic guitar craftsmen use mahogany in the sides or back of the guitar then it gives the guitar a great range of overtones coming out of it.
When acoustic guitars are made with Sugar, Big Leaf, or Bearclaw Maple, they have a more "true" or "transparent" sound. This means that what is being produced by the guitar is not colored or shaded by many overtones.
Rosewood is known for its high acoustic response rate. This is why it is used so often in bridges. It gives you a complex sound filled with lots of dark and warm overtones. It provides a rich sound both in the low ends and in the mid and high ranges.
Guitar Body Styles
There are 3 basic acoustic guitar body styles. They are the dreadnought, the classic, and the jumbo.
The dreadnought is by far the most popular and versitile of the 3 shapes. It was launched by CF Martin years ago and was named after an old English warship. Its distinctives is its rounded shoulders and the fact that most dreadnoughts join with the neck at the 14th fret.
The dreadnought has by far the most even balance between size, volume, and ease of play.
Next comes the classic guitar body style. I would wager that if you were given a guitar as a child, you played one with the classic guitar body style. These are more commonly called classical guitars. They have the nylon strings and are the easiest to on your fingers to play. They are not as large as the dreadnoughts
Classical guitars have a Spanish origin and accounts for the flamenco style of guitar playing associated with them. They are normally smaller in size than their steel stringed cousins.
Finally we have the jumbo guitar body style. The jumbo guitar lives up to its name. It has a jumbo size and jumbo volume. It was first released in 1937 by Gibson and was used as a rhythm guitar to complement the more precise lead guitars. Jumbo guitars are meant to be used in concert with other guitars. It is not well suited for standing on its own.
7 Things To Look For In Your Next Guitar
There are 7 things you should consider when purchasing your new acoustic electric guitar. The level of importance of each of these things will depend on what you are going to use your new guitar for.
As I mentioned earlier, the tonewood will change the way your guitar sounds. Pay attention to what the top is made of. This is the most important piece on the guitar. Understand that the rarer the wood, the more expensive the guitar will be and hardwoods are becoming scarcer over time.
I just covered the different types of body styles. However remember that the body style will effect both the ease of play and the sound that is projected. Some acoustic electric guitars come with a cutaway body style that gives you easier access to the fret board. You might want to take this into consideration as well.
Also the size of the guitar might matter. If you are just going to use it for home use or maybe take it with you on trips, you might want a smaller size.
The neck can be a very important consideration. If you are like me, I was gifted with short, fat, stubby fingers. A wide neck makes a guitar much harder to play for me. The thickness and width of the neck is generally based on the size of the guitar. Many guitars necks are listed as 12 or 14 fret necks but this is not the size of the neck. This is referring to the amount of frets are clear of the guitar body.
I am one of those people that are in-between sizes. I can play a full sized guitar but a 3/4 size guitar is much easier to play for me.
Tuning Machines Or Pegs
The type of tuning machines, or sometimes called pegs is important. If they are not very good quality then your guitar will need to be constantly tuned. It will lose its tune as you play. Enclosed tuning machines are the best. They resist corrosion and do not get dust in them. They will last much longer.
The Bridge And Fingerboard
The materials of the bridge and fingerboard or fret board do not have a lot of effect on the sound quality. However they do have an effect on ease of play. Some guitar players like to lower the height of the bridge to lower the strings so they do not have to press so hard in order to lay the strings across the frets. The downside to this is that if you lower the strings too far, they can buzz on other frets or will buzz if you press too hard.
The type of finish may have a slight effect on the tone of your guitar. However it is really beyond your control the type of finish that is on your guitar unless you have a guitar custom built for you. Most quality guitar manufacturers are aware of this and choose appropriately.
The finish is put on the guitar to protect it. It is usually one layer of stain or paint followed by several layers of clear coat finish.
Acoustic electric guitars come with pickups and pre-amplifiers already installed in them. These are either placed in a hole in the side of the guitar or mounted inside the guitar body. Some acoustic electric guitars come with not only a pickup and pre-amp but comes with an EQ and a tuner as well. I have even seen some with special effects electronics as well.
You will want to make sure that you have volume and tone controls. The rest is just bells and whistles.
The Best Acoustic Electric Guitars Around $1,000 And Under
Guitars that are in the $1,000 dollar range are not for beginners. They are for experienced guitar players that want the best sound they can possibly get. Here are our choices for a great sounding guitar for an experienced guitar player.
Taylor 210e Deluxe Review
What's more, it features Taylor's dreadnought body style, which gives you incredible projection and volume along with Taylor's signature high-end acoustic ring.
Check out this video of the Taylor 210e electric acoustic guitar. The only difference between the one shown in the video and the one featured here is the finish. The one featured here is a natural finish where the one in the video is a sunburst finish.
Yamaha A-Series AC3R Review
Plus they are easy to play out of the box thanks to hand-rolled fingerboard edges.
And of course, Yamaha's legendary road-ready construction, the A-Series is the guitar to take your playing to the next level.
Pro Guitarist Dave Goodman demonstrates the A Series electro-acoustic guitar models from Yamaha. You will find this video very interesting and understand why Yamaha is one of the most popular acoustic electric guitars on the market.
Martin Road Series DRS1 Review
You can never question the quality of a Martin electric acoustic guitar with the top, back and sides crafted of solid sapele and braced for resonance and projection.
The DRS1 neck is constructed with multilaminate Stratabond for extra rigidity and ruggedness, and the bridge and fingerboard are made of Richlite that achieves a similar look to ebony.
This DRS1 comes equipped with the Fishman Sonitone sound reinforcement system giving it the classic Martin sound that we have all come to love and expect.
Once again the guys at Guitar Center have produced a great video about the Martin Road Series DRS1. Eventually we hope to add them to our list of vendors for all our musical instrument reviews. Take a look at the video and check out all that the Martin Road series acoustic electric guitar has to offer.
Taylor GS Mini-E Review
Wherever you may be — whether on the go or on the couch you will love this guitar. The hardwood mahogany top yields a meaty, punchy response that lively pickers and strummers will enjoy. And Taylor's ES-T electronics produces a rich sound few will equal.
Check out this video of the Taylor GS Mini-E. After watching this video you will totally understand why Taylor is one of the most popular acoustic electric guitars and desired by musicians all over the world. The sound produced by a Taylor guitar is like no other.
The Top Acoustic Electric Guitars Around $500 And Under
Although there are a lot of great acoustic electric guitars under the 500 dollar mark, most of these are most suitable for beginner guitarists or those that are on a tight budget.
There is nothing wrong with these guitars. The will do the job quite well. It is just that they are not considered professional grade acoustic electric guitars.
However I know quite a few musicians that have some of these they use in a pinch.
Martin X Series 2015 DX1RAE Review
Whatever the price point you are comfortable with, I do not believe it is possible to go wrong buying a Martin guitar.
Epiphone EJ-200SCE Review
The J-200 was a radical new design, bigger and bolder than any previous guitar, capable of projecting well beyond that of any other acoustic on the market--a fact that still holds true today with the EJ-200SCE.
Once you watch this video on the Epiphone EJ-200SCE you will be highly impressed by how much guitar you can get for the price. It has such flexibility it makes a great choice for a your first live performance guitar. You can't go wrong with this Epiphone guitar.
Fender Sonoran SCE Review
It has many premium features including a "tight "dreadnought cutaway body shape, resonant solid spruce top with scalloped X bracing, mahogany back and sides.
It has a vintage C-shaped maple neck with dual-action trussrod and matching painted Stratocaster headstock shape.
It also comes with the Fishman Isys III pickup system for that distinct Fender sound.
Once again the guys at Musician's Friend give a great little demonstration video of the Fender Sonoran SCE acoustic electric guitar. If you are a Fender fan, then you will love this great little guitar with a Stratocaster neck and retro colors.
Yamaha FGX730SC Review
The addition of rosewood back & sides and stunning upgraded cosmetics takes the FG730SC to a new level – both for sound and looks.
If you want a solid guitar that is going to get better with age, then you should consider the Yamaha FGX30SC. One thing I have always loved about Yamaha guitars is their crystal clear tone with bright high end acoustics. This guitar doesn't disappoint if you want a great guitar for an inexpensive price.
Ibanez PF Series PF15ECE Review
The Ibanez PF15ECE includes an onboard tuner with your guitar!
If you are just starting out or have a child that wants to learn guitar, this is a great guitar for the purpose and will last you many years. I know, I personally own one.
I was unable to find a real review of the Ibanez PF15ECE. There was a humorous one but I figured that you were serious about choosing the right acoustic electric guitar. However I did find a video that will give you a demonstration of the sound that this entry level acoustic electric guitar can produce.
Why Are Some Guitars More Expensive Than Others?
There is a long list of reasons why some acoustic electric guitars are more expensive than others. One of the primary factors is how and where it is built.
If your guitar is hand crafted in the USA then it will be more expensive than if it was pre-fabricated in a factory in China.
Wood also plays a big part in the cost of a guitar. Premium guitars are made with premium wood where the lower cost guitars are made of laminate woods, also known as plywood. 🙂 Laminate woods do not resonate as well as solid wood pieces. However they are more predictable in different weather types and temperatures. Many players find laminates work great for live stage performances.
Having shared all this with you, I don't want you to think that you will get an inferior guitar. There are many affordable, high quality, guitars at an affordable price point.
Choosing Your Next Guitar
Choosing an acoustic electric guitar is as personal as choosing a spouse. There is no such thing as "this one will do." It all depends on what type of musician you are, your experience level, and what you want to accomplish. However with this list of the best acoustic electric guitars, there is a guitar that will fit your needs and desires.
Personally if you want anything more than just something to pluck at home, there is no reason not to get an acoustic electric guitar. You never know when you might need to plug into a sound system, do a little home recording, or maybe play for a wedding or church service. Better to be prepared than have to come up with a less than optimal microphone situation.
What are some of your favorite acoustic electric guitars? Please feel free to share in the comment section below. Just be nice if I didn't end up choosing your favorite. Maybe I will next year.