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Best Acoustic Electric Guitar

The acoustic guitar is a great solution to the problem of wanting to be able to play or practice your music, while not wanting to have to plug in and marry yourself to a cable that probably only reaches a few feet from your amplifier. And it’s a good solution, at that. The acoustic guitar can help you to get a classic sound, one that you will enjoy, and one that is more or less hassle-free by comparison.

Best Acoustic Electric Guitars 2018 – Handpicked by Experts

But if you want to be able to project that sound, you can’t just settle on an acoustic guitar, not even if it’s a jumbo design with booming projection. You’ll need pickups. Thus, the acoustic electric guitar came into being. They’re a great solution to both problems, and they are great guitars. Before we talk about specific guitars, let’s look at a quick comparison table, which shows the best acoustic electric guitars out there.

GuitarFretsWoodPickups
Alvarez AF30CE Artist Series Guitar21Sitka spruce top, mahogany back and sidesAlvarez SYS250 Pickup and EQ
Takamine EF341SC Pro Series Dreadnought Guitar21Cedar top, maple back and sidesTakamine CT4 BII Pickup and EQ
Taylor 314ce Grand Auditorium Guitar21Sitka spruce top, sapele back and sidesTaylor ES system
Epiphone EJ-200SCE Cutaway Jumbo Guitar21Sitka spruce top, maple body and backEpiphone eSonic2 Preamp system
Guild OM-140CE Guitar21Sitka spruce top and African mahogany back and sidesFishman Sonitone Pickups
Martin DRS2 Dreadnought Guitar21Sitka spruce top, sapele back and sidesFishman Sonitone Pickups
Fender Tim Armstrong Hellcat Guitar21Mahogany top and laminated mahogany back and sidesFishman Isys III System
Fender Sonoran SCE Dreadnought Cutaway Guitar20Sitka spruce top, laminated mahogany back and sidesFishman Isys III System
Gibson J-200 Standard Jumbo Guitar20Sitka spruce top, maple back and sidesUpgraded L.R. Baggs Anthem Pickup
Gretsch 5022CWFE Rancher Falcon Jumbo Cutaway Guitar21Sitka spruce top, laminated maple back and sidesFishman Sonicore and Isys + Preamp

Now, this is just a quick look at the guitars that we’ll be looking at, and not an exhaustive look, to be sure. However, if you have specific needs, or if you love specific brands, or you’re looking for the best acoustic electric guitar that you can find that meets certain qualifications like being in a certain price range or having a certain pickup or EQ system or a built-in tuner or something like that, then this is going to be useful to you.

If you’re looking to learn a bit more about a specific guitar, or if you want to have a bit more information about a few of the guitars reviewed, however, you should continue reading below, where we discuss the guitars and what they can do for you.

1

Alvarez AF30CE Artist Series Guitar – The Standard Model

Alvarez is a company that makes great guitars for those in the beginner to mid-talent level. There are professional musicians who have played them for some part of their careers (for example, Dave King from Flogging Molly played an Alvarez jumbo acoustic guitar on the first few albums, until he switched over to the Guild GAD line), but they’re not a guitar that you see in the hands of a lot of well-off musicians, who will generally switch them out for some other brand, or for the more expensive, but Japanese-made, Alvarez Yairi line.

All that being said, if you’re new to guitar, or if you’re still learning how to play guitar, or even if you’re a good guitarist who wants a kicking around or ‘outside’ guitar that they don’t have to worry about doing damage to because it’s not very expensive, then this is a good guitar for you, especially if you’re looking for an acoustic electric guitar, and it is regularly suggested to be the best guitar under 500 dollars (or one of the best guitars under 500 dollars, depending on who you ask). It’s not a super cheap guitar from a no-name or knockoff brand, but it’s also not a Gibson or Martin or something like that.

With a 21-fret neck, it’s pretty much your standard acoustic guitar length. It’s got the usual six-string configuration, so it’s not thinking outside the box there, either. The top of the guitar is made out of Sitka spruce, which tends to be the most common wood used in the top of guitars, and the bottom and sides are made out of mahogany, which also isn’t something that is strange or unusual in any way.

For a guitar that tends to be sold around the five hundred dollar mark, it’s a pretty plain guitar (which may be why a lot of them tend to come with deals for either a soft carrying case or a hard shell case. If given the choice, I would always suggest that you get the hard shell case, because they are much sturdier and will last much longer). However, the SYS250 electronics set is a good one, not only because it includes a pickup (which you are sure to need, especially if you’re playing a lot), but because it also allows you a four-band equalizer on your guitar, before you even have to begin to mess with the settings on an amplifier, should you be playing through one or recording or anything like that. You can control not only the volume of your guitar, but you can also control the ‘presence’, treble, middle, and bass, all without even having to walk over to a switchboard or an amplifier. It’s also not a very intrusive EQ, although it is nowhere near as understated as some of the old Fishman EQs and pickup controls that were put on guitars like the Guild and Gibson lines. 

So, if you’re looking for a good guitar for a beginner, or even the best acoustic guitar for beginners that also has pickups, this is a good place for you to start that quest, and a guitar that will last quite some time.

PROS
  • SYS250 EQ and pickup system is a good one
  • Often comes with a case included in the price
  • Decent quality of sound when playing acoustic
CONS
  • Just kind of a standard model, nothing special
  • Not visually ‘wow’ing
2

Takamine EF341SC Pro Series Dreadnought Guitar – The Man In Black Model

No, I’m not sure that Johnny Cash played this same guitar (although I do know that he played a Takamine a few times), but this definitely looks like something that he would have played. Solid black, dreadnought with a cutaway, simple guitar without a lot of flash to it? That sounds like the Man in Black to me.

This is another one of those guitars that is a very standard offering from a company that makes a decent guitar. The EF341SC (in this case, the black model) is a simple guitar, for a simple musician, who is looking to make a decent sound on a budget.

That’s not to say that it’s a cheap guitar, and that’s not to say that the guitars made in China are bad guitars (indeed, until you get up into the 700 dollar range, most guitars are made in China or South Korea).  The Takamine guitars, in general, are a decent option for someone who doesn’t have a lot of money to spend on a guitar, and this Takamine, with its somewhat unusual cedar top and its more standard maple back and sides, is a good representation of what a mid-level guitar should be. It also doesn’t hurt that it comes with a hard shell case (again, a great way to keep your guitar safe, whether you’re on a flight somewhere or just keeping it in the closet while you’re not playing it).

The Takamine comes equipped with the CT4 BII (sometimes written as CT4B2), which is a system that is an equalizer and a pickup. They work together to provide decent sound when you are playing through an amplifier, and if you’re just playing acoustically without plugging in, you’ll find that the Takamine’s combination of cedar and maple produces a good sound that can project much further than you would think it could from the small dreadnought body.

All things considered, this is another great beginner-level guitar, or a good guitar for the kind of person who wants to have a ‘kicking around’ guitar that they can leave by the back door to play out on the porch without having to worry about damaging an expensive guitar. If you’re looking for a serious guitar for recording or for taking on the road or on tour, this probably is not the one that you want to be spending your time and money on, though. Still, a great guitar for learning on, and for just playing around on without having to worry about it too much.

PROS
  • Decently priced and comes with a hard shell case
  • The pickup and EQ system (CT4 BII) is a good one for the money
  • Looks good, and plays surprisingly well for its price range
CONS
  • Just another plain jane guitar, nothing really special about it
3

Taylor 314ce Grand Auditorium Guitar – The Vibrant Sound Model

If you take nothing else away from this review, I hope that you understand that the Taylor 314ce, while it is not a flashy guitar, is a guitar made for the performer, with a body that seems to be more ‘jumbo’ than anything else (and with that single cutaway that is so common in acoustic guitars these days).

Taylor has a reputation for making guitars that can produce a booming sound (which is probably why they call the guitar line the ‘Grand Auditorium’ and doing so with a material that people do not normally think of making a decent guitar. The top is, of course, the requisite Sitka spruce (because it almost seems like there’s a law that you must make a guitar out of Sitka spruce tops), but the sides and back are made from sapele, which you might see more commonly used in things like flooring. Still, for how humble the pieces are, they come together to form a guitar that not only has a great sound, but one that can project that sound throughout an auditorium in a way that is admirable to say the least.

But of course, just because you can be heard when you’re playing an acoustic guitar live on stage, that doesn’t mean that you are going to find that you are being heard well. It’s become somehow weirdly common these days for bands to be mixing old and new; electric guitars and bass on the same stage as the mandolin, the banjo, the acoustic guitar for rhythm, and even the accordion, which is an instrument that has almost never been cool, so how it got into modern music is a mystery. These instruments can combine together, but it is a lot harder to combine them together when you can’t all play through the amplifiers the same. Luckily, with the Taylor ES system, you can just plug into an amp and play through it, just like the electric guitars will.

Where this guitar really earns its wings as possibly the best guitar under 2000 dollars, though, is the fact that it has a great look, a great feel, and a great sound. Honestly, this guitar can compete with guitars that are in the three thousand dollar range. Oh, and when you get it set up properly, by a professional who knows what they’re doing, and then mix that with a good selection of strings for your hands, you may well find that this Taylor acoustic will end up having some of the best action on any guitar that you have ever played.

Just something to think about if you are looking for a nice guitar for that mid-to-high skilled playing that you may want to do.

PROS
  • Beautiful guitar
  • Good projection of sound
  • Good pickup system
CONS
  • Honestly, I have no complaints about this guitar
4

Epiphone EJ-200SCE Jumbo Cutaway Guitar – The Budget Behemoth

If you think that this guitar looks a lot like another guitar on this list, or that you’ve seen this guitar somewhere before, you would be right. You see, years back, Epiphone basically got bought out by Gibson, and Gibson turned it into a company that mostly makes more affordable versions of Gibson guitars. Whereas a Gibson J200 would be in the two to three thousand dollar range, depending on the options, this Epiphone can be had for under 700 bucks almost anywhere in the world. Basically, Gibson mostly uses Epiphone to knock off their own products, using slightly less high-quality equipment and materials, but that doesn’t make them any less of a decent product for people to play.

They’re a good guitar maker in their own right, and there are actually plenty of professionals who play Epiphone electrics and acoustics when touring. If you pop out the pickups in, say, an Epiphone Les Paul and replace them with your preferred (higher-end) pickups, then you have a guitar that feels much like your Gibson Les Paul, and one that, if you drop it and it breaks at the neck or something, you’re not going to spend eight hundred dollars repairing it. 

So how does this Epiphone take on a Gibson jumbo acoustic with a single cutaway work? Well, it stacks up pretty nicely, believe it or not. To begin with, it comes with 21 frets and some very ornate in-lays, to be sure. It looks just like the more expensive Gibson model, just not as fancy. The finish (in this case, it’s called ‘vintage sunburst’) is good, too, especially considering the difference in price. The neck is the same shape as it would be on a Gibson acoustic, too, which is nice.

The big difference, as is true with so many Epiphone reproductions of Gibson guitars, is the pickup. While the Gibson line would use a higher-end pickup, the Epiphone uses the eSonic2 preamp and the Shadow NanoFlex pickup under the saddle, with a NanoMag pickup (also from shadow) at the fingerboard. The preamp has a nice tuner on it which is simple and easy to use, but I do have a complaint about the whole system. It requires the use of a weird battery size (using two 2032 lithium watch batteries), while most other preamps use a 9V battery. This allows them to cut down on weight while also increasing battery life, but I’ll be honest; if you can notice the difference in weight between a 9V and the two lithium watch batteries, that would be a shock.

As for the pickups, they combine to produce a good sound that you will enjoy, whether you’re playing them through a practice amp in your house, or playing them through a series of amplifiers and a PA system at a show. 

Definitely a good guitar for the money, and a good guitar for someone who wants that jumbo sound and that Gibson look, but without paying the price for a decent used car to get it.

PROS
  • Beautiful replication of the Gibson design
  • Good pickup system, and with a preamp with built-in tuner
  • Plays well, and sounds good acoustically
CONS
  • Weird batteries are always a hassle to deal with. If you’re a guitarist, you have dozens of 9V batteries in your house (or in your footpedals), but you probably don’t have a bunch of watch batteries on hand
5

Guild OM-140CE Guitar – The Underdog

Guild guitars are one of those guitars that guitarists know about, and nobody else, and not even all guitarists know about them, which is a real shame. They produce guitars that are comparable to anything from Gibson or Martin, at a lower price (though their high-end line gets up into the Gibson and Martin price ranges), but for some reason they don’t seem to get nearly as much love as the guitars from Gibson and Martin and the more well-known makers.

Which is a shame, really. Guild acoustics are quality guitars, and their electric line isn’t anything to sneeze at either. As with so many guitars, the top is a Sitka spruce, while the back and the sides, in this case, are made from beautiful and rich African Mahogany. These woods combine to give you a very manageable, sturdy, and yet beautiful sounding guitar.

If you’re looking for that guitar that will ‘wow’ people with its look, this probably isn’t it. It looks like a plain-Jane kind of guitar, one that wouldn’t stand out if not for that classic Guild crown and column. But if you pick it up and play it (assuming it has been properly set up), you will find a good action, a good feel to the neck, and a sound that is on par with any three thousand dollar acoustic guitar that you might find out in the world.

Of course, this isn’t just an acoustic guitar, which is great for those who are looking to find a guitar that they can take touring with them and play at live shows through an amplifier. Even better, this guitar not only sounds great when plugged in, but it also will be able to project its sound even if not plugged in to an amp. It uses the Fishman Sonitone pickups, and if you know anything about Fishman, they’re one of the ubiquitous names when it comes to acoustic guitar pickups. And the price of this guitar, while putting it squarely in the ‘professional grade’ range, will also mean that you are going to not end up having a heart attack if you bring it on tour with you and something happens to it (thought let’s not pretend you’ll be happy about that sort of thing). 

Honestly, this is one of the better electric acoustic guitars on the list, and at a price that makes it competitive. Definitely something that you should check out if you’re looking for the best electric acoustic guitar that you can find, and one sold at a decent price.

PROS
  • Fishman Sonitone pickups mean high quality sound without breaking the bank
  • Well-made and with great sound quality, even when not plugged in
  • Affordable for a professional-grade guitar
CONS
  • Not ornate or flashy-looking at all
6

Martin DRS2 Dreanought Guitar – The Martin Option

I’m not trying to say that this is the only Martin guitar in the world that has pickups, mind you, but if you’re looking for the best, I would argue that this is the option that you should be taking a look at.

To begin with, if you’re looking for a guitar that screams ‘Martin’, this is the one. It has everything that you expect from a Martin acoustic; an understated beauty and class to it, none of these ornate or fancy inlays or flashy finishes. It’s simple wood, a simple pick guard, a simple bridge, and a simple neck and square headstock, all brought together to make a guitar that sound wonderful and plays wonderfully. 

The DRS2 has, as usual, the Sitka spruce top, but as with the Taylor 314ce, it makes use of sapele to form the sides and the back of the guitar. This gives you an amazing sound with a wood that is a lot easier to work with in the factory.

Just like the Guild mentioned above, Martin makes use of the Fishman Sonitone pickup in order to make sure that your guitar not only sounds beautiful, but that it picks up the highs and lows. 

There’s not much to say about the Martin guitar that isn’t said by the Martin name, but if you’re looking for a great Martin guitar with a pickup, here’s the guitar that you should be looking at.

PROS
  • Fishman Sonitone pickup provides fantastic sound quality
  • Great acoustic sound out of the guitar
  • Affordable price for a Martin guitar
CONS
  • Looks plain
7

Fender Tim Armstrong Hellcat Guitar – The Punk Model

Many people know Tim Armstrong, also known as ‘Tim Timebomb’ (and formerly nicknamed ‘lint’ before he got big) for his work in Operation Ivy or Rancid. Depending on where you stand on punk music, he’s either one of the few more modern punk singers that you know of, or you think that he’s a huge corporate shill who sold out (and let’s face it, with a deal from Gretsch and Fender for a custom guitar line, it’s hard to argue that he’s not selling out at least a bit). 

That being said, the Hellcat acoustic guitar from Fender is a serious guitar. Named after Tim’s record label, Hellcat Records, and with the logo from said label as inlays, it’s a guitar that doesn’t cost much, but can be a good guitar for playing around, learning, and even as a starter guitar for a musician on the go.

In a shocking twist, the guitar’s body is made entirely out of mahogany wood, foregoing the lighter spruce tones. This provides a sound that delivers, even when you’re playing it acoustically. Of course, if you’re the kind of person who wants a guitar that looks simple and classic and less ostentatious, then this is not the guitar for you. The inlays are either the Hellcat record logo, or they’re the skulls that have emblazoned so many albums that Tim has been involved in. Not saying that this is a bad thing, but if you’re looking for something simple-looking, this may not be the guitar for you.

For electronics, it comes with the Fishman Isys III system. This provides decent quality sound (as most Fishman systems do), while also giving you an active preamp.  It also has an easy-to-use tuner, which is nice if you’re playing out and about and you don’t have the knowledge to be able to tune on the fly by ear. 

It’s a good guitar for the money, and might be the best acoustic electric guitar under 500 bucks that you can find if you’re looking for that more ‘punk’ aesthetic out of your acoustic guitar. However, I understand why some people might not want to buy this guitar due to the kind of cheesy look of the inlays.

PROS
  • Fishman Isys III electronics package
  • A lot of guitar for not too much money
  • Plays well and has a distinctive look
CONS
  • The guitar looks a bit cheesy, especially if you’re not into the whole ‘punk’ aesthetic
8

Fender Sonora SCEW Dreadnought Cutaway – The Surfer Classic

Years back, Fender had an ad campaign that depicted their guitars being played out on the beach. This was around the time when the Beach Boys were a big band, and Fender, wisely, rode that wave to profit. 

This is the modern reissue of the guitars in many of those advertisements. It looks a lot like a Fender Stratocaster in the neck (which makes sense, since they basically use a Fender Stratocaster neck design for this neck), with a body that is a single cutaway dreadnought-style body. This allows them to get a good sound out of the acoustic guitar, while not making it too terribly different from one of their very famous, even iconic, guitar designs.

If you like Fender guitars in general, you won’t be unhappy with the Sonora.  With a top made out of Sitka spruce, and a body and back made out of laminated mahogany, it has good sound and decent resonation. With the dreadnought design, it manages to put out a decent amount of volume when not plugged into an amp, and even better, it just seems to project well, especially for the size of the body.

As far as electronics go, this Fender guitar, too, features the Fishman Isys III package, which means you’re going to get decent clarity of sound out of the pickups, along with an active preamp that includes an easy to use tuner. It’s a decent pickup and preamp system for the price, to be sure.

All things considered, if you’re looking for a guitar that gives off that ‘Beachgoer’ vibe, maybe to play some acoustic surf music on or to jam around the beach fire, then this is a good solution for you, and one that is quite affordable as well.

PROS
  • Fender Stratocaster-style neck
  • Fishman Isys III package
  • Good resonation and tone, even when not plugged into an amp
CONS
  • Just kind of a weird neck shape for an acoustic, really
9

Gibson J-200 Standard Guitar – The Country Classic

When it comes to long-running guitar lines, the Gibson J-200 is definitely up there. It’s been in the hands of a lot of famous acts as well, including people like The Who’s Pete Townsend, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley (though he eventually had a custom line made for him that was a J-200 with some custom inlays and look), and more. If it’s a big country or rock outfit that has ever played an acoustic song on an album or live, there’s probably one of these involved in there somewhere. They’re a prized guitar among many musicians, and the price reflects that.

What makes it so special isn’t just that this is the kind of guitar that so many famous musicians around the world have turned to, nor the fact that it is such a long-running guitar line (it has been made, in one form or the other, since 1937, which means that the guitar line will be turning 80 this year), nor the ‘Gibson’ logo on the headstock. It’s the fact that this is such an amazing guitar to play. If set up properly, the action is easy, and the sound that it produces from the jumbo body with Sitka spruce top and maple back and sides is magnificent and loud enough to be heard in a music hall. Of course, it’s an acoustic and electric guitar, so you can plug into an amp.

The pickups in this model were upgraded to an L.R. Baggs Anthem pickup. This is a great pickup, and L.R. Baggs is one of the best names in the acoustic pickup game, so you don’t have to be worried that you’re not buying a great pickup or one that you will have to change out at a later date. Now, the one problem that a lot of people do have with this pickup is that you have to reach into the soundhole to adjust it, but if your fingers aren’t huge, you can just reach in one finger and adjust it with ease while on the fly. It’s not as bad as some other systems, and it doesn’t break up the profile of the guitar with an ugly preamp being put into the side of the beautiful wood.

PROS
  • Beautiful guitar with Gibson quality
  • Great pickup
  • Sounds wonderful
CONS
  • Very expensive. This guitar will cost you a pretty penny, even if you find one that is used and in good condition
10

Gretsch 5022CWFE Rancher Falcon Jumbo Cutaway – The Weird Rancher Model

There’s a mystique to the life of the Rancher/Cowboy. Sitting around on horses, hanging out around the fire eating while the cows sleep on your cattle drive, playing old Gaucho songs on the guitar, that’s all part of the lifestyle. This guitar is a wink and a nod to that lifestyle, while also being kind of a reimagining of it. Imagine hitting an old cowboy in the head with a Gretsch White Falcon, and you’ve got kind of the vibe that this guitar brings. It’s basically what would happen if you designed an acoustic model of the White Falcon, really.

This guitar, as with so many others, is made with the classic combination of a Sitka spruce top and a laminated maple back, which is a good start. Then, of course, there’s the fact that the neck and headstock appear to be ripped right off of a Gretsch White Falcon, and those necks are quality necks, and the headstock is somewhat ornate.

All things considered, it may be a bit of a weird looking guitar, but it’s a good one. The Fishman Sonicore pickup, combined with the Isys + preamp, leaves you with a guitar that you can take anywhere and still have it seem like it belongs, whether you’re playing a song acoustically under the stars with friends, or getting ready to lay down some acoustic rhythm guitar through a PA system at a show.

PROS
  • White Falcon looks
  • Good pickup and preamp system
  • Well-designed and sounds great
CONS
  • Just kind of a weird and ostentatious guitar

Best Acoustic Electric Guitar - Buyer's Guide

The world of guitars is one of intricate pieces being put together to help to provide a beautiful tone and sound in a durable package. It’s something that, to an outsider, may be a bit terrifying to look in to. Surely, you have questions, but luckily, here are some answers to cap off this electric acoustic guitar review.

Do I Need A Preamp With Tuner?

Not really, no, but if you don’t already own a lot of guitar equipment, you probably want one. Sure, you can buy a guitar tuner for something like twenty dollars, if you want to. You could also get a foot pedal tuner, like one from Boss, like the TU-3 Chromatic Tuner, if that was something you’d want to do. However, you will need to have a tuner of some sort, especially if you’re just starting out, or your guitar will quickly go out of tune, and an out of tune guitar sounds terrible.

Does Price Equate To The Quality?

Not necessarily. In the guitar world, as in so many other products you might buy, the price really is more tied to the name than anything else. Now, there are some instances where that isn’t the case; for example, the Gibson and Guild are both pretty high up there in price, but they’re both quality guitars. Having said that, there’s easily a thousand dollar difference in price between the two of them, and they will perform similarly. A good recommendation would be to buy all the guitar that you need and can afford, and to test it in person somewhere if you can before buying it. You can get a guitar set up professionally to play better, but you can’t just exchange them in most cases for a different guitar of equal value.

Conclusion


So, today we’ve looked at a couple of great guitars, guitars that are everywhere from the appropriate guitar for a beginner to the kind of guitar that you would pay big money to see someone play live on stage. They are all great guitars, but there can be only one guitar that is truly ‘the best’, after all.

So, which of these guitars is the best guitar? That’s a hard question to ask, because not everyone has thousands of dollars to spend on the most high-end of guitars out there. However, there is one guitar that is both affordable and professional-grade. That guitar is the Guild OM-140CE. It’s a great guitar for the money, made by a company with a long history in the guitar world, and most importantly, it just sounds good when you play it. The guitar is worth the money you spend on it, but it isn’t likely to break the bank like a Gibson SJ-200 would. 

Whichever guitar you pick, though, you will be in for years of beautiful music. Just be sure you take care of it, don’t leave it outside or expose it to too much humidity, and store it properly when not playing it, and you’ll be just fine to jam for years to come.