- Best Acoustic Electric Guitar Overall
- Best High End Acoustic Electric Guitar
- Best Budget Acoustic Electric Guitar
- Best 12-String Acoustic Electric Guitar
Best Acoustic Electric Guitar
The acoustic electric guitar combines the best of both worlds for guitar players. On their own, they provide guitarists with a full-on acoustic experience just like any other acoustic guitar does. They can also can be plugged in to an amplifier/speaker during performances or into an audio interface when you’re ready to record. Like any instrument purchase, picking out an acoustic electric guitar is more than just a matter of finding what looks good. We’ve outlined some essentials to consider in our buyer’s guide which you can find below.
Best Acoustic Electric Guitar Overall:
The acoustic-electric guitar is the ideal instrument for the acoustic guitarist who never wants to miss out on an opportunity due to any acoustic limitations of their instrument. These instruments maintain the timbre and feel of acoustic guitars, but are versatile enough to plug in, whether for recording purposes or for amplification in a live setting. When crafted the right way, acoustic-electric guitars are offer the musician a “best of both worlds” situation. Here are the best overall acoustic-electric guitars, selected for their spruce tops which give these guitars a bright tone, electronics systems which accurately re-create the natural acoustic tones without cheap-sounding emulation or tone dissolution, as well as each including a hardshell case to help you protect your instrument.
The Martin brand holds weight in the world of acoustic guitars, so expectations are already high when assessing their work on the DRS2 acoustic-electric guitar. Luckily, they deliver the goods once more, with a fantastic-sounding axe offering all of the craftsmanship synonymous with Martin but enhanced by modern applications that bring this instrument’s capabilities into the future. Read Full Review
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When you think of Paul Reed Smith, you tend to picture the electric guitars the company has produced that have helped them earn a reputation as a quality guitar manufacturer. But relatively fewer people know about their ventures into acoustic-electric guitars which is a shame, because the same standard for quality craftsmanship and sound applies across the board. The PRS Angelus Standard features all the beautiful details and rich sounds that you would expect from the company, but presented in a new light. Read Full Review
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Taylor’s 214ce DLX has features that definitively qualify it as a high-end performance instrument. Ideal for both the studio and on stage, this acoustic-electric guitar’s Grand Auditorium body shape is one of Taylor’s most popular designs. And its Expression System 2 pickup system gives guitarists a wide range of sound to pull out of this axe. Read Full Review
Yamaha is another company that has made a name for itself in a variety of other lines of musical instruments, so much so that they may not get the proper attention deserved for the care and craftsmanship that they’ve put into a product like their A3R acoustic-electric. With a dreadnought body that gives a classic acoustic tone and a SRT electronics system to amplify and capture that sound, this is an ideal axe for guitarists who want to bring an impeccable acoustic approach to the stage and the studio. Read Full Review
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John Mayer’s Special Edition OMJM acoustic-guitar collaboration with Martin was designed to meet the singer/songwriter’s specifications for how an instrument should sound. The end results will be music to your ears, whether you’re a Mayer fan or not. This guitar is easy to play, looks impressive, but most importantly of all, sounds great, thanks to its impeccable build and innovative electronics. Read Full Review
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Best High End Acoustic Electric Guitar:
For many guitarists, purchasing a high-end acoustic-electric guitar is a rite of passage, a moment that signifies that someone is ready not just for immaculate sound, but also ultimate comfort and other features that set high-end instruments apart from the rest of the flock. These are instruments that are really in the big leagues when it comes to acoustic-electric guitars, and can truly bridge the gap when players are ready to take their music-making to the next level. We’ve selected the best high-end acoustic-electric guitars, each featuring a solid Spruce top to provide a bright and rich acoustic tone, scalloped bracing to provide a greater resonance and better response, as well a including customized hardshell case to protect the guitar.
Martin’s Vintage Series HD-28VE takes its classic HD-28 acoustic guitar and modifies it with some updates to bring it into the electric world. This is like the luxury sedan of acoustic-electric guitars because there are so many features that will appeal to guitarists, it’s hard to know where to start. From the precise sound control of the instrument’s electronics to immaculate build to the pristine sound, this instrument is truly a poster child for high-end acoustic-electric guitars. Read Full Review
If looks could kill, the Taylor 614ce First Edition would likely be the first acoustic-electric guitar serving hard time for murder. From the axe’s back and sides’ hand-rubbed Brown Sugar color treatment to the ivoroid Wings inlays on the fretboard, this guitar looks impressive and boasts a sound to match. Whether you’re looking to strum or perform intricate fingerpicking, this guitar’s cutaway shape makes it an ideal high-end acoustic-electric guitar to add to your collection. Read Full Review
Any guitar that includes Bob Dylan in its name is clearly operating on a level higher than most. Replicating the folk legend’s unique SJ-200 with the added bonus of modern electronics, Gibson’s Bob Dylan SJ-200 Player’s Edition is a high-end acoustic-electric instrument that will not only appeal to fans of Dylan, but also to those who are looking for a great-looking instrument that sounds amazing whether plugged or unplugged. Read Full Review
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John Mayer may appear to be a relative newcomer to the world of custom-designed acoustic-electric guitar signature models (especially when compared to similarly grouped guitarists like Bob Dylan), but the singer/songwriter has been collaborating with Martin since 2003. The OMJM John Mayer Special Edition is the latest installment in their partnership, producing an instrument that is smaller in size but packs quite a punch. It provides a playable and classic-sounding experience coupled with modern enhancements that take this guitar to a whole new level of playability. Read Full Review
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Martin’s Retro series are both a blast from the past and a look towards the future, thanks to the classic design inspired by prewar acoustics from golden age and implementations that make their instruments simple to play and easier to amplify. The D-45E represents all of that and more, resulting in a high-end acoustic-electric guitar that benefits from the full sound of a non-cutaway dreadnought body and sophisticated Fishman F1 Aura Plus pickup system. Read Full Review
Best Budget Acoustic Electric Guitar:
For the gigging musician, the acoustic-electric guitar is the weapon of choice mainly due to the fact it’s versatile enough to work in a number of settings thanks to its dual identify as an acoustic guitar and an electric guitar. But if you find yourself mostly playing open mic nights and coffee houses, budget may be a factor in selecting your axe. These are the best budget acoustic-electric guitars which feature rosewood fingerboards for smooth and quick playability, 20 frets that allow players a full range of notes and fretting options up and down the neck, and on-board tone controls that allow for sound EQing before routing the acoustic signal out through a PA or into a recording interface.
Epiphone’s EJ-200SCE looks impressive enough to turn heads, is durable enough for even the most road-friendly troubadour to carry on his back, sounds good enough to be mistaken for a guitar far above its price tag, and affordable enough for the budget-minded guitarist. This acoustic-electric guitar is modeled after Gibson’s J-200, which has been used by a veritable who’s who of rhythm acoustic guitar players over the years. Read Full Review
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Its name may call to mind one of the Lil’ Rascals or the hottest new rapper of the month, but guitarists familiar with the legendary Martin brand would be wise to pay some attention to the company’s LX1E Little Martin acoustic-electric guitar. This instrument is not only tightly compact for easy travel, but its price tag is also little, making this an affordable addition for those seeking a playable, great-sounding example of Martin craftsmanship. Read Full Review
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If you’re looking for a big, traditional dreadnought sound at a reasonable cost, Takamine’s G Series GD10CE-NS is the acoustic-electric guitar for you, offering pristine quality build and tone in one affordable, Venetian-style cutaway instrument. It’s perfect for beginners or those who are looking to avoid taking their prize axe out and about without worry of potentially scuffing it up. Read Full Review
The Ovation brand is well-known for acoustic guitarists around the world, and they’ve got everyone of all playing levels covered, including beginners and intermediate players with their Applause AB24-4 Balladeer acoustic-electric guitar. Taking many of the components that have made Ovation’s Balladeer a beloved instrument over the years, the AB24-4 is a great-sounding, easy-to-play axe at an extremely affordable price. Read Full Review
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Some electric guitarists flounder when they make the jump over to playing acoustic guitar, and that’s usually because they try to play their unplugged instrument the way they would a Fender Stratocaster or a Gibson Les Paul. Ibanez made their Talman TCM50 with these types of players in mind, as this acoustic-electric guitar provides the sound of an acoustic instrument with the feel and playability of an electric guitar. Read Full Review
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Best 12-String Acoustic Electric Guitar:
There are few things that sound as rich and harmonically interesting as a 12-string acoustic guitar. The addition of 6 additional strings to the standard guitar configuration produces a shimmering, chorus-like effect that is hypnotic to listen to; for reference think the intro of the Eagles’ “Hotel California”. We’ve picked out the best 12-string acoustic electric guitars, each instrument featuring a built-in electronic system that allows for tone and volume manipulation to ensure that the signal you’re sending out when you plug in properly captures the acoustic sound of the instrument, a glossy/matte finish to keep the guitar looking smooth and pristine, as well as super-useful hardshell case to keep the guitar protected.
Martin has a reputation for making pristine-sounding, easy-to-play acoustic guitars throughout the company’s history and things are no different when it comes to their 12-string guitars. The GPC12PA4 is the first 12-string in their Performing Artists series, and it’s subsequently been made to be very easy to just pick up and play. Its neck profile makes it easy to hold and maneuver, while the electronics deliver an accurate, purely acoustic sound. Read Full Review
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Acoustic instruments that sport 12 strings can sometimes be a difficult thing to physically handle, if only by design. Taylor has worked around this technicality with their 150e 12-string acoustic-electric guitar, an instrument that not only provides the rich layered sound of a 12-string, but is also equipped with a slim neck and low action that makes this selection extremely playable. Also notable is the relatively low price tag that they’ve attached to this axe, making it one of the more affordable 12-string acoustic-electric guitars on the market. Read Full Review
The iconic Guild sound is applied to the instantly-identifiable 12-string tone with their Westerly Collection F-1512E. Its arched-back jumbo body really allows this thing to sing at a high volume, while the Fishman pickups make sure that tone gets translated as soon as you plug in. It’s a 12-string acoustic-electric experience that you’ve got to hear to believe. Read Full Review
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When you hold the Taylor 556ce 12-string acoustic-electric guitar in your hands, you may experience some sort of a brain freeze/mental computer malfunction as you wonder how an instrument like this is simply so playable. You’ll be further confounded by its rich sound (a by-product of its smart design) and excellent Expression System 2 pickups. Once you’re able to process these realizations, you’ll find that you have a very enjoyable playing experience on your hands. Read Full Review
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Lots of guitars on the market carry an attitude that immediately screams rebel, but that’s typically not a distinction that one would hold for an acoustic-electric 12-string guitar. Gretsch is here to shatter that expectation with their G5022CWFE-12 Rancher Falcon Jumbo 12-String Cutaway acoustic-electric. Not only does this guitar have a distinct look, but it sounds just as dazzling, making this an instrument which truly stands out in a crowd. Read Full Review
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Acoustic Electric Guitar Buyer's Guide
Although acoustic electric guitars can be plugged into speakers or recording devices like their electric counterparts, it’s important to recognize acoustic electric guitars are their own specific type of instrument. For one, they’re built differently than regular acoustics; unlike electric guitars relyingh on pickups to transmit audio signal, acoustic electric guitars most often use a compact piezoelectric microphone attached to the guitar body to pick up the sounds. Here are some other factors to consider when buying an acoustic electric guitar.
Acoustic Electric Guitar Parts
There are different parts that comprise an acoustic electric guitar, and each part can be made from a different type of wood. The top, back, neck, and sides are generally regarded as the most important parts of the body; meanwhile, the fretboard, bridge, and binding also play a significant (if not slightly less important) role in shaping the sound and tonality.
The neck is one of the more easily identifiable pieces of the acoustic electric guitar. This area is where the instrument is held, it houses the frets that enable players to play notes, and it obviously also displays the strings.
Intonation is the system by which an acoustic electric guitar’s notes play in tune as the player moves up the fretboard of the neck. Without proper intonation, a guitar won’t stay in tune and is useless for both live performance and recording.
An acoustic electric guitar’s rosette is a stylized inlay located near the sound hole of the instrument. While the rosette has little to no impact of the sound of an acoustic guitar, it does change the visual appearance and character of the instrument.
The bridge is the small wooden piece located directly below the sound hole of an acoustic electric guitar. This piece anchors the strings and transfers their vibration to the soundboard of the instrument.
An acoustic electric guitar’s frets are the small metal strips dividing the neck and fretboard into smaller sections. These frets are carefully measured into half-step increments and consequently enable guitarists to play different notes on their instrument.
The fingerboard is also referred to as the fretboard. It’s the piece glued to the face of the neck and houses the frets divided by half-step increments.
The tuning keys are the small knob-like pieces located at the top of the acoustic electric guitar on the instrument’s headstock. By tightening and loosening the tuning keys, guitarists raise or drop the pitch of the strings, effectively tuning the guitar.
The headstock is located at the top of the guitar. Its primary function is to hold the tuning keys.
A machine head is an alternate term for the tuning key. These are also sometimes referred to as tuning pegs or tuners.
An acoustic electric guitar’s binding is utilized to compliment the look of the instrument’s body, neck, and/or headstock. Typically comprised of wood or plastic, this component doesn’t do much to affect the sound of the guitar, but gives it stylized character.
As its name implies, the pickguard is designed to help protect the body of the acoustic electric guitar from any wear-and-tear that would occur from strumming and picking at strings. It is located below the soundhole.
An acoustic electric guitar’s finish is another name for the final coating that is applied to the surface of the instrument.
The kind of wood that a guitar is made of has a two-fold effect – it obviously makes a difference in the physical appearance of the instrument, but can also alter the sound/tone of an acoustic electric guitar. As a rule of thumb, the denser the wood type, the warmer the tone of the instrument will be. Conversely, thinner wood leads to a brighter overall sound.
Cedar tends to produce a brighter and more trebly tone. Because of its quick response, many players who favor fingerstyle picking prefer to play cedar tonewood instruments.
Spruce is generally regarded as the standard for acoustic electric guitar tops. It provides excellent resonance and is responsive to a high velocity of sound.
Mahogany and kao emphasize more of the mid-range/low-end side of the spectrum when it comes to acoustic electric guitar sounds. Its “punchy” tone has made it an ideal choice for country and blues players.
Maple has a low response rate and internal damping, so it is generally only used for the side and back of acoustic electric guitars, as opposed to the top. Its dry and high-end favoring tone makes it an excellent axe for musicians playing live with other instruments, as it tends to cut through the mix with greater ease than other types of acoustic electric guitars.
Rosewood provides strong mid and high tones and is one of the more popular woods used on acoustic electric guitars. With a strong attack and sharp resonance, it is also used frequently for bridges and fretboards.
Just as regular acoustic guitars are built in a variety of body shapes and styles, acoustic electric guitars often follow the same format. Most acoustic electrics can be categorized into one of four body type categories: parlor, classical, Dreadnought, and concert/full size.
The Concert style concert, commonly referred to as a full-size, is generally regarded as the standardized size for adult-size acoustic guitars. They provide a good range of tones, although the Dreadnought style guitar is more adept at handling lower, bass tones; this is because it is the largest of guitar styles and features a large and deep body.
Parlor style guitars are smaller than concert style guitars and easier to transport. One of the biggest differences for classical guitars and the other types of guitars is the fact that they use nylon strings instead of steel strings. They’re also designed for a fingerpicked style and subsequently produce a very different sound than the other kinds – much warmer, and better suited for styles such as flamenco and, of course, classical. Classical guitars also have a wider fretboard than any other type of guitar.
While most acoustic electric guitars amplify their sound using a compact piezoelectric microphone attached to the body of the guitar, they also employ other features working to produce the final sound. These models require a preamplifier that amplifies the audio signal before routing to an outside speaker like an amplifier or a PA. This device is built into the guitar’s body as well, and also allows players to adjust parameters such as volume, EQ, and tone.