Acoustic Electric Guitar Reviews for 2017: Get the Best Instrument for the Money

List of Electro-Acoustic GuitarsAre you thinking about gigging it on a Saturday night? You won’t have quite the impact you’re looking for with an acoustic guitar alone – even a really great one with a mic. So, what’s the solution to get heard? An acoustic electric guitar!

When the price jump up to an acoustic electric is either the same or barely higher than a standard acoustic, it’s worth it for the advantage to plug in.

If you want to cut down on size, find a cutaway that increases comfort, and not have to pick or strum so hard, this buying guide is for you!

 

How to Choose an Acoustic-Electric Guitar

While the traditional acoustic guitar hasn’t changed much, the invention of pickups certainly changed the strumming game. You now have a plethora of new everything, from brands, styles, and pickup technology to really get on par with your favorite troubadour.

So, where do you even begin to choose? Start with your preferences. You can opt for the conventional acoustic to plug in and project those natural tones.

You can opt for a smaller body guitar to better fit your frame without compromising on sound.

If you need to travel and want to take your own music with you, you can do that too. Throw in a few pedals to tweak the sound, add a clean boost to enhance your solo, or simply let your acoustic work its magic through the soundboard or the amp.

You don’t have to be a pro player to strut your stuff on an acoustic electric git. Beginners will enjoy the medium-low action the hybrid offers, the on-board tuner (on some guitars), and the convenience of not having to remain static on stage due to the limitations of a mic. With all that said, it’s time for you to narrow down your options with the customized lists you’ll find below!

Taylor GS Mini-e Koa guitar
SMALL BODY
4 of the best small body acoustic-electrics
LX1E Little Martin Travel Guitar
TRAVEL
5 of the best travel acoustic-electrics

Best Acoustic Electric Guitar for the Money

At some point during your guitar shopping spree, you’re going to have to acknowledge your budget constraints. Just like everything good, it keeps getting better with more and more cash. But, you can quickly run up the costs with this and that feature if you’re not set on your price range.

Purely for your convenience and to do justice to exceptional, first-rate guitars, we’ve provided budget categories for you cost-conscious buyers. You don’t have to do all the filtering yourself, and you’ll be able to stick within your means while still getting a value buy with tons of quality.

Whether you only have $200-$300 to spend, or even $500-$1000 to splurge, there’s a guitar that’s waiting to prove itself to you. Our lineups are far from being a dime-a-dozen instrument. According to the masses, they’re worth every dime spent!

Glen Burton GB150BCO Acoustic Electric Guitar
UNDER $200
5 of the best electro-acoustics under $200
Yamaha APX 500 III Guitar
UNDER $300
6 of the best electro-acoustics under $300

A-Z of The Best Acoustic Electric Guitar Brands

Almost everyone has an idea in their minds of what brand they think is superior to the rest. While we can think of a few that can compete quite heavily head-to-head against each other, there’s always a golden gem brand that can deliver quality and value for an unbeatable price.

This is probably going to be the only place where we ask you to set aside your preferences. It’s all about finding everything you want on your guitar to your exact specifications for the right price. It’s a tough order to fill, but it can be done with one of the accomplished brands below!

Bridgecraft USA

Speaking of getting everything you want in your guitar, Bridgecraft USA promises “you will receive what you want — the way you want it.”

Far from being a tall order to fill, Bridgecraft delivers quality instruments for the best, affordable prices.

Not only are they a family-owned company in the business of guitars, they aim to be a leading source of musical instruments and everything else you need to get started and playing today!

Epiphone

This company has been around for well over a century. Even though Gibson is its parent company now, it wasn’t always so. In fact, Epiphone was Gibson’s leading competitor before its acquisition.

While Epiphone is synonymous for providing affordable guitars modeled after Gibson’s high-end ones, they also hold their own with their distinct archtop guitars and many other original models.

Epiphone has been wielded by more than 40 noted musicians, Les Paul being one of the most famous Epiphone players. If there’s an affordable guitar with quality and reputation on its side, it’s Epiphone!

Fender

This American brand is a household name among music zealots. It’s a name where you immediately pull up mental images of the famous Stratocaster and Telecaster electric guitars. While they’re not the originator brand for electric guitars, they certainly made a name for themselves that made all other brands forgotten.

If you want a custom guitar, they can do it. With their Custom Shop, you can outfit, create, or mimic any style to truly have a one-of-a-kind instrument.

They’re also dedicated to helping newbies learn the tricks of the guitar trade with their new 2017 Fender Play video subscription guitar lessons. If there’s a brand that’s dedicated to their customers, Fender is certainly one of the best in the industry

Ibanez

Over a century of music know-how under their belt, Ibanez is definitely a brand worth buying from. With a long order of many models of guitars on their conveyor belts, there’s one that’s definitely for you.

Their Performance Series guitars are economical, high-quality, and Japanese-made guitars.

You can trust that Ibanez is going to do their best to keep up with its competitors. This is evident with the new technologies they deliver to make for an unparalleled playing experience for a guitarist with a budget!

Kona

Kona Guitars is just a babe compared to other guitar brands, but they’ve certainly hit the nail on the head when it comes to providing what players want.

The brand was established in the South, by talented musicians from the South. They’re in the business of showing the world how the South defines a high-quality guitar. Obviously, their Southern pride has tugged heartstrings with the masses as their guitars are exceptional instruments with fantastic prices!

For the beginner or pro player who want an affordable guitar with premium features, Kona does it! If it was anything less than remarkable, it wouldn’t do justice to the honky-tonk brand.

Martin

You might be afraid to even mention the name “Martin”, just in case you end up spending money you don’t have. It’s world-wide reputation has been earned, and part of it is due to its very old roots when it was established in 1833.

As an authority brand in the music industry, you know you you’ll get serious quality. But, you don’t always have to spend serious cash.

Surprisingly, we’ve found some affordable Martin guitars that every player will appreciate, no matter their skill level. If this sounds like something you’ll definitely be interested in, Martin won’t disappoint!

Ovation

Ovation Guitars may be known for their round-back shapes, but they’re also famous for their budget-friendly prices. Even their upper-level guitars are affordable when considering their high-quality features.

They also specialize specifically in electro-acoustic stringed instruments. Sounds like they’re filling the tall orders of guitar players without much trouble. This certainly deserves acknowledgment with a standing “Ovation” – get it? Let’s give this economical brand a round of “Applause” – yes, we did it again.

R.W. Jameson Guitar Co

This distinguished brand truly dedicates their manufacturing expertise towards all players of all ages and skill levels. They believe that high prices shouldn’t discourage you from pursuing your curiosity, hobby, or passion.

So, they provide excellent, high-quality guitars for prices that will floor you. Can you have quality and value from one brand and one guitar? Jameson believes so, and they’ve done it. Expect the best guitars for the best prices anywhere, hands-down!

Seagull

When you buy from Seagull, you’re getting a lot more than just a guitar. You’re buying their unparalleled customer service, unequaled guitar-making expertise, and their custom touches that no other brand duplicates.

Seagull is a Canadian brand that is proud to announce that since 1982, they’ve made all their guitars in the North American country. Their work ethics, from using sustainable and reclaimed wood to dedicating meticulous attention to the small details, like a reverse head stock, makes for a world of difference in quality.

Speaking of “world”, their guitars are available across the globe. Getting a world-class guitar is right within your reach thanks to Seagull!

Takamine

We can say thank you to this Japanese brand for being one of the first to bring out acoustic electric guitars to the market, and to pioneer the preamplifier-equalizer components.

With having access to and inventing advanced technologies that no other brand can deliver, Takamine releases a limited edition guitar every year with their latest electronics with premium touches to really please the guitar crowd.

When you see a Tak price, you know it’s going to be a high one. The quality is in every bit deserving, but we may have an affordable option for you yet!

Taylor

If there’s a best of the best brand in guitars, Taylor has claimed the spot, and it wasn’t self-claimed. Music enthusiasts have given them this honor due to their innovative technologies, exotic tonewoods, and their patented, bolt-on neck design.

This brand is anything but amateur or budget. Taylor Guitars is the creme de la creme of them all, and their prices match their reputation.

However, we’ve done our due diligence, and we have more than one Taylor to offer in our lineups. Are you intrigued? It’s a Taylor, you should be!

Traveler Guitar

Do you want a guitar that’s out of the ordinary? A truly, unique guitar that’s made for the road? Traveler Guitar has revolutionized the portable guitar industry, and only the mobile and out-of-the-box artist is worthy to wield one.

While the brand had humble beginnings, it’s now one of the most successful guitar companies to release full-scale travel guitars around the world.

If you’re a mobile musician, you can’t go wrong with a Traveler Guitar!

Yamaha

This brand is a giant in not just the guitar industry, but musical instruments from pianos, violins, to drums, and more! Even so, their reputation doesn’t stop at just music. You might own a Yamaha home appliance, computer product, or sporting good, and their reach still doesn’t end there.

With such a wide variety of expertise in the manufacturing world, you know you can trust that they will have the guitar you want. They’re known for excellent prices, superior quality, and supreme performance.

Yamaha, a household name? Obviously. Yamaha, a brand you can trust for value and quality? Absolutely!

Acoustic-Electric Guitar Buying Guide

person playing an acoustic electric guitar

Beginners vs Advanced Guitarists

If you’re a beginner to using a guitar in general, there are many great and affordable options for you to find the best acoustic-electric starter guitar! Spending somewhere in the $100-$300 price range can have the potential to land you a decent starter guitar so that you can graduate to and justify the costs on an even finer one later on.

But, for intermediates and the pros, not only will you have to spend more, you will have to do some heavy lifting about specific features such as the best soundboards, amp systems for less interference and distortion, and the best tonewoods to get more bang for your buck!

Electric-Acoustic Guitar Body Styles

While this might have a lot to do with personal preference, as all things guitar-related, it also has a huge impact on sound and performance.

For comfort, you should look for a body style that performs well and forms to your body when sitting or standing.

For the best sound, this factor can depend on a lot of things, but the soundboard is one of them. Some acoustic guitars feature specially designed cuts to maximize both sound and comfort.

While each manufacturer and brand have their own specialized specs to create their version of a body style, they’re somewhat similar from guitar to guitar. Here are the common body styles for acoustic electric that also apply to acoustic only guitars as well.

Dreadnought

First having come about in 1916, the dreadnought body is known for its large size and large soundboard. Bluegrass players love the driving and powerful force of sound from the wide waist, busty bouts, and 14-fret necks. If you’re a heavy strummer or you like the boomy tones of a bass-rich guitar, the dreadnought body style is ideal for you!

Auditorium and Grand Auditorium

The auditorium body style is sometimes referred to as an orchestra body. It’s relatively similar to a dreadnought body but it’s mid-size and has a smaller neck. Its gorgeous, curvy body was a style that Eric Clapton hit the stage with in 1992!

The grand auditorium, on the other hand, has a sexy hourglass silhouette with a 16 inch lower bout and slimmer waist that’s much more defined than the dreadnought. Because of these dynamic specs, it provides a much greater range of volume with balanced sound versus the smaller style auditoriums.

Concert and Grand Concert

The smaller bout of 13.5 inches on a concert body isn’t a bad thing. If you’re on the smaller side or if you prefer the bright twang of a pluck, then the concert body style will be your pick of the litter.

The grand concert body is slightly larger with a lower bout of 14-14.5 inches. The heftier bottom allows for a more powerful and louder mid-range versus the concert styles.

Jumbo

If you’re a self-proclaimed cowboy and all you want is boom, bang, and punch, the jumbo 17 inch lower bout might just be for you. It’s considered the classic cowboy guitar since it’s big, loud, and resonates deeply.

Because it’s so big, it can be uncomfortable to sit and play with, so it’s more commonly used with a strap while standing. If stage performances are better rated with you standing and pacing the floor while jamming, you might want the jumbo!

Minis

Travel, backpacker, and mini acoustics are for children and travelers who want something lightweight, easy to play, and easy to pack. While the smaller size might disqualify it as your on-stage instrument, many manufacturers are coming up with innovative technology and designs to counteract the compromise on sound and quality.

Acoustic Electric Guitar Preamps

With all this talk about about preamp systems, you’re probably wondering what they are! Between all the use of preamp, power amps, pickups, and other guitar terminology, they can get thrown around interchangeably leaving you with a vague understanding and how they contribute to tone, sound, and balance. Let’s get into the nitty gritty!

Benefits of Preamps:

A preamp is exactly what it seems like – a preamplifer. It picks up vibrations from the strings and converts that into a signal to be sent to the proceeding amplifer to be sent to the speakers. The result? Amplified sound, and when it comes to acoustics, you need all the help you can get to make sure you’re heard!

There are many reasons to appreciate a preamp that includes:

  • Increased gain
  • Boosted low signals
  • Change or adjust tone
  • Adjust volume or equalizer
  • Lower or clean up output resistance
  • Balance signals

Tone

A preamp includes controls for tone. The tone stack in acoustic electric guitars are generally changeable with equalizers and drive controls that can regulate tonal voices by switching between resonance such as warmth, bright sounds, or transparent note intonation. Others like the outright distortion or overdrive.

Gain

A gain control is also the drive control and may or may not be found on a preamp. This controls the power levels of your signals. Preamps without a drive control already have a fixed amount of gain built into it which is predetermined at the ideal range for best operation.

Other preamps might only allow for increased gain to barely push into overdrive of the input signal. Either way, all preamps come with a volume control that can increase or lower the signal at the preamp circuit.

Power Amps

While this all sounds good and dandy, you need to consider whether or not your preamp can be efficient enough to drive a power amp.

For example, if you plug into a .7V power amp and you get good sound – great! However, if you plug into a 1.25V power amp and find the signals are weak, it’s not the tonal lack of the power amp that’s the problem. The preamp signals are too weak to be driven to the powerful 1.25V power amp. The issue is the sensitivity input of the power amp is too high for the preamp to be driven well.

You will need to check your preamp’s average output to ensure the input sensitivity of the power amp is compatible.

Power amps are rated in volts and generally come in .7V, 1V, and 1.25V. Most preamps don’t produce strong enough output to power a 1.25V. Most manufacturers don’t rate the average output of their preamp which makes things even harder in determining compatibility. What you can look for is the “line level“, “dBu”, or “dBv” information when researching this aspect of your acoustic electric guitar.

Active Pickups

Preamps are what you would consider “active” pickups because they require a power source of energy to boost signals. This is why many preamps that are pre-installed into acoustic electric guitars require either a AA or 9 volt battery.

Passive pickups are directly plugged into an amplifier but typically lack the ability to increase gain.

The use of preamps alone should never be relied upon for great sound. You must consider its power strength to drive whatever device you plug into and the most appropriate output connector plug.

Put Yourself First!

With many different aspects to consider on a guitar, including tonal inclinations which are subjective, a guitar that sounds good to you is the best place to start.

Check out videos, demonstrations, and visit specialized guitar shops to get an idea of what you want. If you are not sold on getting an acoustic-electric, you might want to check out these electric guitars to factor into your decision.

Just remember, at the end of the day, the guitar is only going to sound as good as the one strummin’ it!