If you had asked me way back what my favorite musical instrument was, the answer you would’ve gotten would be what is to be expected of a teenage boy: electric guitar. I would’ve said in an annoying voice, with a mouth open half-smile, a scrunched up forehead and a nod, followed by an overzealous air guitar. I might have had more in common with Bill and Ted from Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey than I would like to admit now. Great movie, great characters, but not somebody you would want to spend too much time with in real life. I realize that now that I have grown a job and responsibilities. Now if you ask me what my favorite instrument is I’ll ask you why you are asking me questions that don’t really have answers. Then I will start listing all the reasons there is no such thing as a favorite instrument and then, when I’m being done pretentious I will tell you that I do indeed have a list of instruments I find most fascinating. You won’t find the acoustic-electric guitar on there, because I am also now, guilty of being too pretentious to have such mainstream things be part of my fascination. You are right to guess that I am not that fun to hang out with now that I have acquired the hipster nerve (I am working on getting it surgically removed). The thing is if I was any kind of real musician I would understand how important the best acoustic-electric guitars are to the world of music and how fascinating this instrument really is.
Top 10 Best Acoustic Electric Guitars
If you are observant, you might have noticed that there might be a diminishing level of quality, both in style and sound, with the diminishing price of each guitar on this list. This does not mean that the two guitars at the very end of it (one of which you are reading about now) are some of the worst guitars in existence. It simply means that, me being very considerate of your financial abilities, these guitars are the best in their class. They might not be able to beat out the guitars higher up on the list, but they are definitely the best electric acoustic guitars for the money that you will be throwing down on them. I mean what other guitar in this category is capable of producing a quality sound that comes even closer to the Ibanez Performance Series PF15? It has a spruce top and mahogany back and sides, which means a well-rounded tonal emphasis. It’s electronics are adequate and the comfort of playing it is everything you want or expect for under 200.
- Good electronics
- Okay sound
- Need to change strings
Even at the very bottom of the list you are bound to find something valuable, especially if the list contains items that are the very best of something. And while the description of the previous instrument might have said that it was the best in the price range it represented, this guitar is a close contender. So much so, I have a hard time saying which one stands out more out of their category. The Yamaha FX325A was designed with two things in mind – to make it affordable and to make it viable. They succeeded in one and exceeded themselves in the other. The affordability of this instrument is unquestionable, but the sound is something of a surprise. The spruce top and the meranti back and sides of this guitar combine to produce a sophisticated, pleasant sound that, for the price of the guitar, seems a little out of place. The guitar is comfortable to play and easy to handle, while the electronics have a decent effect on the ability of the instrument to sound good. Overall, any beginner will find it suitable for their needs, while all the professionals will find it sufficient to practice on. Do not get over-excited though, the guitar is this cheap for a reason and eventually you will grow tired of its limited tonality and just good enough sound. Eventually, you will find yourself looking to find something better.
- Good sound
- Strings are too high
- Thin tonewood
Whoever said that it isn’t possible to get a decent acoustic-electric guitar under 300 definitely hadn’t encountered CC-60SCE from Fender. Needless to say what we expect from Fender, but we become more forgiving with their affordable models. However, the guitar we’re talking about is virtually faultless. Yeah, you heard me – it’s that good. This bad boy is marketed as suitable for beginner to intermediate players, which isn’t a trick or anything like that. In fact, it’s just perfect for everyone in that category. Though it won’t be able to handle big gigs, it can easily fill up small venues, such as cafes – be it a solo performance or with a band. CC-60SCE has a solid spruce top (which is surprising for the price) and mahogany body, along with a mahogany neck and walnut fretboard. As you’ve probably understood from the name, this fella has a concert shape with a scale length of 25.3”. It does also feature Fishman® CD Preamp, which is more than decent at this price point. CC-60SCE isn’t only easy to play with its rolled fingerboard edges, but it also sounds bigger than expected – you’re in for a treat, my friend!
- Decent electronics
- Solid top
- Great value for money
- You might like its acoustic sound better
It is funny to think that there is a long succession line of folk-style guitars, all of which carried the traditions into the present and will carry the tradition of making them and playing them into the future. It is even funnier to consider that in some alternate universe these guitars are sentient and an elderly folk guitar is being angry and it’s grand son, Yamaha FGX800C for bringing into the traditional family a new quality, the electronics. It is also possibly true that I need to work on my humor because even I find this hardly funny. Neither do I find this guitar funny or angering. It is actually a very nice guitar with a laminated Sitka spruce top and Nato back and sides. The tones it produces are beyond acceptable and something of a treat at the price range the guitar is located in. Despite its cheapness this guitar delivers on power and beauty. And while it might be a beginner guitar for many, those of you with a taste for affordable quality will find it suitable even for a professional.
- Easy to play
- Great electronics
- Not the best nut
- Not the best strings
The little Martin LX1E Acoustic Guitar (where the E stands for electronics) is a great addition to the collection of any musician looking for a new acoustic-electric guitar. It has a quality of ease to it that is awakened once you hold the instrument. It is hard to tell whether this quality and sense is caused by the reduced weight and size of the instrument, the comfort of carrying and playing it, or the confidence that the sound of the guitar inspires. The sound is a definite contender for being the one reason you feel at ease holding the guitar: enhanced by the sitka spruce top and the mahogany back and sides, the tones of this guitar are incredibly well rounded and pleasant to the ear, heat and the brain. The Fishman Sonitone electronics on this guitar serve as exceptional amplifiers to its power when needed, so that in a crowd of a thousand people, you won’t be the only one feeling at ease and comfortable with the guitar.
- Sound (It’s Martin, for God’s sake)
- Good quality electronics
- Small size – comfortable and compact
- Saddle and nut material is not the highest quality
- Change strings to achieve optimum sound
Not all of the good guitars need to be pricey as the ones above. Some of the best instruments in the world have been bought for what may to some seem like dimes and nickels. Cheap does not mean bad, it means easy to access, which is why the Yamaha L-series LS6 is one of the best affordable acoustic electric guitars out there. The materials alone on this guitar are way above its pay grade. The Engelmann spruce top, combined with the rosewood body produce a sound rarely expected of acoustic electric guitars in this price range. The LS6 stands out among its peers thanks to the unexpected expensive feeling to the sound that it produces. Warm, vibrant and strong, it is comparably superior to those that try to stand up to it in its price range. Which is why the electronics on this guitar make sense – they simply serve to enhance, not redefine the sound. Which should be the case with any acoustic electric guitar.
- Great construction
- Deep, full sound
- Not the highest quality tonewood (but it works well together)
- It is a bit expensive for beginners
Alhambra Guitars have created many notable designs and models, but today we’re talking about their Student line, 3C CW, in particular. The first time you look at it you get the idea that it’s a simple guitar. Closer examination and some playing reveal that this puppy is all about straightforwardness. Solid red cedar top, mahogany back and sides, mahogany neck and Indian rosewood fretboard display some of the qualities of the instruments, yet they aren’t the only virtues. This fella has a single cutaway, which makes it possible to access all the frets with ease. To make it suitable (and thus easier to play) for students, Alhambra has incorporated a narrower nut. This way you won’t have any trouble alternating between various techniques or mastering the use of picks. It has a Fishman E1 preamp and a tuner, making the whole package even more attractive. If you’re looking for something unique, 3C CW might not be the one for you. But if you want an amazing, yet ordinary guitar, then you should definitely check this one out!
- Suitable for students and professionals
- Rich, soft sound
There are many interesting and unique ways to construct a guitar. The Taylor GS mini-e Koa is one of the few guitars to take the idea of unique and weave it into its full existence. The Koa wood is not used with guitars too often, especially when creating the entirety of the body. This instrument on the other hand embraces the wood and uses it both as its solid top, back and sides. The result is not only a unique looking, but a very unique sounding instrument. The unique sound of the guitar is not bad either, being actually quite strong, charming and vibrant. It feels like the Koa compensates for all the power that the decreased size of the guitar would result in. What you get as a result is a very comfortable to play, scaled-down guitar, with a unique sound and a unique look. What else do you need? A little bit of electronics complete this guitar and makes it into one of the best acoustic-electric guitars under 1000.
- Quality tonewood
- Good, easy to use electronics
- Strings (they are not bad, per se, but for such an amazing quality guitar I would choose a better set)
- Price (A bit high for a mini guitar but in my opinion it’s worth it)
Everybody knows a great acoustic-electric guitar when they see one. Everybody does also know a Martin when they see one. What happens when this brand comes out with a wonderful acoustic-electric model? – real magic occurs, to say the least. OMC-16E Mahogany Burst is truly a mesmerizing piece. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at the specs and then listen to the demos. A single glance at some of the features is enough to grasp how much potential this guitar is carrying. This bad boy is entirely made from ovangkol, be it top, back or sides. It features scalloped x-bracing, select hardwood neck and an ebony fingerboard. Moving on to the electronics, OMC-16E comes with Fishman Matrix VT Enhance. These properties reveal why this fella sounds equally amazing plugged-in or unplugged. Its tone is clean, defined, balanced and scrupulous. Even though it’s smaller in size compared to a dreadnought, it’s definitely just as loud and powerful. Man, if you have the money, this is probably one of the best options you can get in this price range. Don’t hesitate!
- Sounds bigger than its body size indicates
- Wonderful sound
- Superb overall quality
- Pricey (yep, that’s the only con we could find)
If the previous instrument was almost the kind that the player did not deserve, this one is definitely made to be an instrument that you can hardly deserve to play. It is made with mastery, confidence and strength in mind. If you do not know or possess the skill to play the guitar as it needs to be played, you hardly deserve to play it. Which is why it is one of the best electric acoustic guitars ever made. It was designed not for everyone, but for those who value music. The Solid German Spruce top combined with the Solid Spanish Cypress back and sides results in a strong sound with tones so elaborately emphasized your ears will thank you for listening to it. Cordoba FCWE Gipsy Kings Reissue is built with traditional flamenco specifications in mind, which gives the guitar the typical fiery, energetic sound expected of a flamenco guitar. It is the perfect guitar if you are looking to liven up your collection with a sound both energetic and relaxing.
- Exquisite construction
- High-quality tonewood
- Professional electronics
- HumiCase for guitar’s best protection
- The only con is that it is expensive as hell and I cannot have it
Acoustic-Electric vs Hollow Body
The acoustic-electric guitar is a distinct instrument, even if you don’t think so. There are hollow body and semi hollow body guitars out there that often will get confused with acoustic-electric guitars. While hollow body guitars do have a lot in common with acoustic-electric guitars, they still lean heavily to the electric side as they are built with the electric sound in mind. On the other hand electric acoustic guitars are not built for the express purpose of being plugged into an amp. They remain mostly an acoustic guitar, to be played acoustically, with the electric component being a comfortable and useful add on. This turns out to be especially useful for musicians who prefer to sound acoustic without “sacrificing” to the electric aspect of the instrument. Country musicians, classical music performers, even guitars that are part of orchestras, find the electric aspect of the guitars to be quite useful when competing with loud crowds of people or instruments alike.
Hollow Body guitars are electric guitars with an acoustic aspect about them. They utilize the acoustic aspect of themselves to enhance the electric sound they produce, and while they are still capable of producing sound acoustically, their main mission is to produce sound through an amp. This means that hollow body guitars, even the hollow bodiest (ha, ha) guitars, are electric guitars. They are built as electric guitars and lack the acoustic capabilities to stand up to any acoustic guitar when played without an amp.
On the other hand, electric acoustic guitars are built as acoustic guitars. The addition of electronics, the amps, bridges, and other items, are there to assist the player in achieving certain levels of volume, or if used creatively, different interesting musical ends. Which is why acoustic electric guitars also do not serve as replacements for hollow-body guitars. The sound that is usually demanded of hollow body guitars is much too heavy and performed in conjunction with other instruments with a heavy electronic bend. The feedback issues that hollow body guitars deal with also translate into electric acoustic guitars and while easily able to fight these issues in specially designed situations, the acoustic electric guitar will have a hard time avoiding these on a rock and roll stage.
Acoustic Electric guitars are known for their warm, vibrant sound that goes well into the world of country music, classical music, blues or a number of other genres that do not require the levels of sustain that heavier genres use. This is why the guitar shines on stage with a band that takes it slow or creates less feedback issues for the player. It also is an extremely useful instrument in venues designed specifically to accommodate the needs of the electric acoustic guitar. This does not mean that the guitar is not capable of playing loud events with a lot of amplification. It means that the musician and the sound engineer need to keep in mind the limitations and emphasize the strengths of the instrument.
To put all the annoying pretentiousness aside, I find the electric acoustic guitar to be one of the most beautiful instruments available. I am in general a big fan of the acoustic guitar. It is a refined instrument that has fascinated and hypnotized the world for a very long time. The acoustic-electric guitar not simply an addition of electronics to the already existing and perfect instrument. It is something way more. The acoustic electric guitar, its creation and subsequent proliferation in the world of music are the reason modern pop music sounds and looks the way it does. In a way the acoustic electric guitar is the reason that rock and roll exists, that blues sounds as good as it does and that you know what punk and metal are. When I say in a way, I don’t mean some round about, butterfly effect type of occurrences followed the creation of guitar resulting in the creation of different genres. The acoustic electric is the reason we have any of those musical genres. So I would say pretty confidently that you should be thanking the acoustic electric guitar for what our culture, and the world’s culture look like today. The instrument has defined how the 20th and the 21st century have sounded so far. Things might be changing and the world might be leaning more towards electronic music right now, but the father, the forefather of all musical things you enjoy (I presume) is the electric acoustic guitar. Why don’t you join in on the culture crafting this guitar has allowed and pick up one of the best acoustic electric guitars yourself.