The Best Acoustic Electric Guitars - Under $300, $500, $750 & $1000

The Highest Rated Acoustic-Electric Guitars

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Because of the convenience and extra value that they bring, acoustic-electric guitars continue their prominence in the market, to the point where they often outnumber regular acoustic guitars in both online and physical stores.

Here we feature the best of these pickup equipped acoustics, updated for 2021, now with expanded sections that cover four popular price ranges: under $300, under $500, under $750 and under $1000.

Acoustic-electric guitars remove the need for complex mic placements, and greatly reduce the gear you need to be heard, be it on stage or in the studio. With these instruments, all you have to do is plug into a PA system or acoustic amp, and you're all set. While miking acoustic guitars still produces the best sonic results, pickup and preamp technology is catching up and is being used for practicality, even in home recordings.

If you're on a limited budget, then you might like to also look at our guide to Cheap Acoustic Electric Guitars Under $200.

The Best Acoustic Electric Guitars:

Author & Contributors

Alexander BrionesAlexander Briones

He's written about and researched music gear for many years, while also serving as a music director at his local church, in addition to teaching guitar, bass and mentoring young musicians.

The Best Acoustic Electric Guitars Under $300

Gretsch G9520E Gin Rickey

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 40+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$249
Gretsch G9520E Gin Rickey Acoustic-Electric Parlor Guitar

The Gretsch G9520E is unique in this guide for two main reasons, first it has a compact parlor body, and second it has a magnetic soundhole pickup.

The body is based on old parlor guitars of the past, compact and really easy to play. This smaller body results in warmer tone that emphasizes midrange frequencies.

It also sports aesthetics that give it an old school overall vibe.

Instead of the usual under-saddle piezo system, this one comes with a Gretsch Deltoluxe magnetic soundhole pickup, which gives it a distinct gritty and throaty amplified tone, ideal for folk, blues and rock styles.

Specifications:

  • Body Shape: Gin Rickey Parlor
  • Top: Basswood
  • Body: Basswood
  • Finish: Black Semi-Gloss
  • Bridge: Walnut
  • Neck: Nato
  • Neck Profile: C Shape
  • Fingerboard: Walnut
  • Fingerboard Radius: 12"
  • Number of Frets: 18
  • Scale Length: 24"
  • Nut Width: 1.6875"
  • Electronics: Gretsch Deltoluxe Acoustic Magnetic Soundhole Pickup (Passive)

Pros

Owners tout this as a very blues friendly instrument, with its distinctly throaty tone that sounds great by itself and when plugged in. Playability is another positive trait commonly mentioned, which also speaks positively about its overall build quality. Finally, owners feel that this is a very good deal if you know what that you're getting a modern recreation of the iconic "blues box" parlor guitars.

Cons

This is not meant to produce clean and full sounding traditional acoustic tones.

Overall

The Gretsch G9520E is a nice stage-ready parlor guitar that will appeal to enthusiasts of blues, folk and rock music.

Yamaha APX600 Thin-line Cutaway

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 650+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$300
Yamaha APX600 Thin-line Cutaway Acoustic-Electric Guitar - Black

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Acoustic-Electric Guitar Under $300.

Yamaha is the go-to brand when it comes to student friendly instruments, and this holds true in the acoustic-electric guitar market, thanks to the highly rated APX600.

Its thinline body is designed to be comfortable, while the cutaway allows for easy access to higher frets.

For plugging in, it features Yamaha's System 65A preamp piezo pickup system, with 3-band EQ, and built-in tuner.

More importantly, this guitar is built to Yamaha's quality standards, with emphasis on making this guitar easy on the hands for both beginners experienced guitarists alike.

Specifications:

  • Body Shape: APX Thinline
  • Top: Spruce
  • Body: Mahogany
  • Finish: Black, Natural, Vintage White, Old Violin Burst, Oriental Blue Burst
  • Bridge: Rosewood
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Neck Profile: Not Specified
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Radius: 15.75"
  • Number of Frets: 22
  • Scale Length: 25"
  • Nut Width: 1.6875"
  • Electronics: System 65A Preamp with Built-in Tuner (Active - requires 2 x AA batteries)

Pros

Fun and easy to play are good summaries of how most users feel about this guitar. And while most of the comments are from younger or new guitarists, even experienced players appreciate how comfortable this guitar feels to the hand. It also gets a lot of commendations for its amplified sound, which seems bigger than it actually is.

Cons

Speaking of big sound, it's thinline body means that acoustic projection and low-end can be limited - this means it's quieter than larger guitars when not plugged in.

Overall

When it comes to budget and student friendly instruments, it's hard to go wrong with Yamaha. This is highly recommended for those who want a comfortable and affordable stage-ready guitar.

The Best Acoustic Electric Guitars Under $500

Yamaha FGX800C

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 150+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$320
Yamaha FGX800C

At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated Acoustic-Electric Guitar between $300 and $500 along with the Washburn Woodline O12SE.

The FGX800C is part of Yamaha's FG Folk Guitar line, and so it doesn't stray too far from traditional design.

It has a dreadnought body with solid spruce top, a popular configuration that many prefer for its good projection and low-end.

The back and sides are crafted from Nato, forming its dreadnought shape with cutaway for easy upper fret access.

The neck is meant to be easy on the hands with its thin neck profile, 15.75" radius, and 1.675" nutwidth.

It comes with Yamaha's System 66 electronics, with sonic flexibility courtesy of its 3-band EQ with adjustable middle frequency. As a bonus, the preamp comes with a built-in tuner.

Specifications:

  • Body Shape: Dreadnought Cutaway
  • Top: Solid Spruce
  • Body: Nato
  • Finish: Gloss Natural
  • Bridge: Walnut
  • Neck: Nato
  • Neck Profile: Thin
  • Fingerboard: Walnut
  • Fingerboard Radius: 15.75"
  • Number of Frets: 20
  • Scale Length: 25.5"
  • Nut Width: 1.675"
  • Electronics: Yamaha System 66 (Active - requires 2 x AA batteries)

Pros

While this guitar is not the cheapest, it is widely considered as a great value guitar, given it's solid spruce top combined with Yamaha's reputation for quality. Many are pleased at its thin profile neck, which is described as very easy to play. Plugged-in tone also gets a lot of positive comments, along with its full sounding acoustic projection, thanks to its dreadnought body.

Cons

There are some experienced guitarists who recommend swapping out the plastic saddle and nut with bone or TUSQ. There are also a few who aren't too impressed with the tuners.

Overall

The Yamaha FGX800C combines modern playability with conventional solid top dreadnought design.

Epiphone Dove Studio

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 425+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$369
Epiphone Dove Pro Acoustic-Electric Guitar

The Epiphone Dove Studio (formerly known as Epiphone Dove Pro) is a reproduction of the classic Gibson Dove guitar. While it is unfair to expect it to have the same high-end specs and tone, it does impress enough guitarists to warrant a spot in this list.

At its core is a combination of solid spruce and maple, which gives it a subtly brighter tone when compared to conventional spruce and mahogany body acoustics.

To retain as much of the guitar's acoustic sound as possible, Epiphone equipped the Dove Studio with discrete Fishman electronics, with controls that are mounted on the underside of the sound hole.

Specifications:

  • Body Shape: Dreadnought
  • Top: Solid Spruce
  • Body: Select Maple back & sides
  • Finish: Gloss - Violin Burst
  • Bridge: Rosewood
  • Neck: Hard Maple
  • Neck Profile: SlimTaper "D" profile
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Radius: 12"
  • Number of Frets: 20
  • Scale Length: 25.5"
  • Nut Width: 1.68"
  • Electronics: Fishman Sonicore pickup and Fishman Sonitone sound-hole preamp (Active - requires batteries)

Pros

The Epiphone Dove Studio continues to work its old school magic into the hearts of guitarists, new and experienced alike. Its classic styling seems to be a major part of its appeal, as most reviewers attest to. Value for money comes in as close second, with many satisfied that they are getting a great looking solid guitar at a very justifiable price point. It is used in many different musical styles, including country, folk and even rock.

Cons

While there are many who appreciate its discrete electronics, there are a few who feel that it is too limited for stage use. As expected of guitars in this price range, there are some who made minor setup adjustments to better enjoy the instrument.

Overall

With its classic styling and long standing legacy, the Epiphone Dove Studio is a good affordable acoustic-electric to add to anyone's guitar collection, be it a beginner or a pro.

Gretsch G5024E Rancher

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 100+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$370
Gretsch G5024E Rancher Acoustic-Electric Guitar

The Gretsch G5024E easily stands out from other acoustic electrics with its triangular soundhole and stylish pickguard.

It carries over Gretsch' brand of eccentric design for acoustic players to enjoy at a very affordable price point.

And it's not just about looking different because it does follow conventional acoustic guitar builds with its solid spruce top, scalloped X-bracing and laminated mahogany back and sides.

It comes with the Fishman Sonicore under-saddle pickup and Isys+ preamp system, which comes standard with many good acoustic-electric guitars on the market.

Specifications:

  • Body Shape: Dreadnought
  • Top: Solid Spruce
  • Body: Rosewood
  • Finish: Gloss Sunburst / Gloss Natural
  • Bridge: Mahogany
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Neck Profile: Not Specified
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Radius: Not Specified
  • Number of Frets: 21
  • Scale Length: 25"
  • Nut Width: 1.6875"
  • Electronics: Fishman Sonicore Pickup and Isys + Preamp System (Active - requires a 9V battery)

Pros

With its playful old school appeal, many consider the Gretsch G5024E as a fun instrument to practice and perform with. Build quality and aesthetics are often cited in reviews, with many reports of the guitar eliciting positive response from friends and audiences. There are also reports from users who are very happy with both its amplified and acoustic sound.

Cons

There are no standout complaints, but I can understand how some will skip on this guitar simply because it doesn't look like traditional acoustics do.

Overall

If you want an eccentric workhorse guitar to match your style, then the Gretsch G5024E may be a good match for you.

Washburn Woodline O12SE

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 10+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$459
Washburn WLO12SE

At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated Acoustic-Electric Guitar between $300 and $500 along with the Yamaha FGX800C.

With its all mahogany body and orchestra body shape, the Washburn Woodline WLO12SE has a warm tonality that many are looking for.

It features a solid mahogany top with scalloped x-braces that allow the top to vibrate more freely, adding to the overall resonance and clarity of the sound.

It houses a Fishman Isys+ electronic preamp and pickup system with built-in tuner, a popular combination used by many guitar manufacturers, including those that cost more.

It also features NuBone nut and saddle, something that's usually only seen on more expensive acoustics.

Finally, the OS12SE is meant to be pleasing to the eyes, with its rosewood and maple binding, and distinct looking rosette.

Specifications:

  • Body Shape: Orchestra
  • Top: Solid Mahogany
  • Body: Mahogany
  • Finish: Gloss
  • Bridge: Ovangkol
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Neck Profile: Not Specified
  • Fingerboard: Ovangkol
  • Fingerboard Radius: Not Specified
  • Number of Frets: 20
  • Scale Length: 25.5"
  • Nut Width: 1.6875"
  • Electronics: Fishman Isys 301T preamp with tuner (Active - requires a 9V battery)

Pros

It's hard to deny that the Washburn Woodline O12SE is a looker, and it probably helps a lot with its high ratings. Users describe it as having a mellow warm tone that's great for more nuanced playing styles like fingerpicking. Action and playability also get commended often, with many describing it as very easy to play. Finally, many users are pleased with its clean build, down to the small details.

Cons

While many appreciate its warm tone, it probably will not do it for those who prefer the brightness and punch of spruce topped guitars.

Overall

The Washburn Woodline OS12SE is a great buy for those looking into an affordable yet serious mahogany topped workhorse.

The Best Acoustic Electric Guitars Under $750

Takamine GJ72CE

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 100+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$630
Takamine GJ72CE Acoustic-Electric Guitar

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Acoustic-Electric Guitar Under $750.

The Takamine GJ72CE features a jumbo cutaway body, a shape sought after for its extra projection and full sounding bottom-end.

It has a solid spruce top, but instead of the usual mahogany, Takamine equipped this guitar with flame maple for the back and sides, which enhances the upper frequencies to balance out the extra low end brought about by its jumbo body.

The body is joined with a slim mahogany neck with a 12" radius 25.4" scale length rosewood fingerboard.

This guitar also features Takamine's distinct split saddle design, which is meant to improve intonation and overall sound.

Being the company that pioneered the built-in pickup and preamp configuration, Takamine did not pull any punches with the TK-40D preamp, which comes packed with tone shaping features, including 3-band EQ with mid contour, and it also allows you to bypass the EQ in case you want to utilize a pedal or rackmounted EQ.

Other features include built-in tuner, and notch filter.

Finally, Takamine is known for not compromising aesthetics in their instruments, so they put top, back and fingerboard bindings on this guitar.

Specifications:

  • Body Shape: Jumbo Cutaway
  • Top: Solid Spruce
  • Body: Flame Maple
  • Finish: Gloss Natural
  • Bridge: Rosewood
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Neck Profile: Thin
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Radius: 12"
  • Number of Frets:
  • Scale Length: 25.4"
  • Nut Width: 1.6875"
  • Electronics: Takamine TK-40D (Active - requires a 9V battery)

Pros

Tone is a one of the main reasons why guitarists rate the Takamine GJ72CE highly, impressing even those who own more expensive guitars. Acoustic projection is described as big and full, and owners are just as impressed with its plugged in sound. Build quality also gets a lot of thumbs up, with many positive comments pointing to the quality of the wood used, fretwork, and overall aesthetics.

Cons

Note that some players find a jumbo body to be too bulky and uncomfortable, even more so for younger or smaller players.

Overall

If you are looking for a reasonably priced jumbo acoustic-electric, then this is for you.

Seagull S6 Original Burnt Umber QIT

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 20+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$649
Seagull S6 Original Burnt Umber QIT 041831 Acoustic-Electric Guitar

The Seagull brand is well known for attention to detail, and more importantly, they provide premium quality at more reasonable price points.

This version of the S6 Original showcases much of what Seagull is all about, with its quality tonewood selection which includes a pressure-tested compound curved solid spruce top, and wild cherry for the back sides.

This guitar features a modified dreadnought shape body with integrated set neck crafted from silver leaf maple.

Like all Seagull acoustics, this one features a slim headstock that positions each tuner directly in line with the bridge, this results in straight string pull that helps improve tuning stability.

Finally, it is equipped with Quantum I electronics with 2-band EQ and built-in tuner.

Specifications:

  • Body Shape: Modified Dreadnought
  • Top: Solid Spruce
  • Body: Canadian Wild Cherry
  • Finish: Semi-Gloss
  • Bridge: Rosewood
  • Neck: Silver Leaf Maple
  • Neck Profile: Not Specified
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Radius: Not Specified
  • Number of Frets: 22
  • Scale Length: 25.5"
  • Nut Width: 1.8"
  • Electronics: Seagull Quantum I (Active - battery required)

Pros

Owners are certainly impressed with the overall quality of the instrument, which translates to great tone and playability. Users describe its acoustic tone as bright and clear, while the bass knob on the preamp adds a bit more low-end as needed when plugged in. Its attention to detail and high quality fretwork are also often praised. Many owners appreciate that this guitar is handcrafted in Canada.

Cons

Not many complaints when it comes to quality and tone, but there are a few players who are put off with its slim headstock design. The included preamp is also a bit limited in terms of EQ control, when compared to what others offer.

Overall

If quality matters more to you than traditional looks, then definitely check this out.

The Best Acoustic Electric Guitars Under $1000

Martin D-10E Road Series Dreadnought

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 125+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$849
Martin D-10E Road Series Dreadnought Acoustic-Electric Guitar

With their long history of building guitars since 1833, and long line of big name artist endorsers, C.F. Martin & Co. is an acoustic guitar brand that's hard to miss. Even more so when you consider that they were the ones who developed the popular dreadnought design.

The D-10E updates their classic dreadnought design with modern electronics and makes it more accessible.

It features a solid sitka spruce top with non-scalloped x-bracing, paired with sapele sides and back that form its ever so familiar dreadnought shape.

It also features Martin's famous square tapered headstock.

All this results in tone that follows after the many dreadnoughts that they've made, only this one is more accessibly priced.

The D-10E comes equipped with a discrete preamp and pickup system from Fishman called the MX-T system, which is an upgraded version of their Sonicore. It mounts inside the soundhole with tone and volume control, and it even has a discrete display for its built-in tuner function.

Specifications:

  • Body Shape: D-14 Dreadnought
  • Top: Solid Sitka Spruce
  • Body: Sapele
  • Finish: Satin Natural
  • Bridge: Richlite
  • Neck: Select Hardwood (Depending on Wood Availability)
  • Neck Profile: High-Performance Taper
  • Fingerboard: Richlite
  • Fingerboard Radius: 16"
  • Number of Frets: 20
  • Scale Length: 25.4"
  • Nut Width: 1.75"
  • Electronics: Fishman MX-T (Active - battery required)

Pros

The Martin D-10E is recommended by many as a good entry-way into the world of premium acoustic guitars, it is also a good choice for those who are looking to get their first Martin guitar. As expected, it is also well received for its familiar tone, and many are also pleased with the discrete design of its built-in electronics. It is also rated highly for being a great value guitar, because it gives you real Martin tone and build quality at a reasonable price (compared to most Martin guitars).

Cons

Not everyone is happy with the limited controls provided by its discrete preamp system. There are a few who comment that the built-in tuner is not as responsive as they had hoped.

Overall

Thanks to the D-10E, we can have a good quality solid-top Martin guitar without going over $1,000.

PRS SE Angelus A50E

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 70+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$899
PRS SE Angelus A50E Acoustic-Electric Guitar

PRS is known mostly for their quality electric guitars, but they have been applying the same quality standards to their acoustic guitars, resulting in highly rated models like the SE Angelus A50E.

This guitar sports a PRS shape called angelus, with solid spruce for the top paired with figured maple for the back and sides.

It also features PRS special hybrid X-brace/classical bracing, which combines X-bracing with classical bracing for improved resonance and structural stability.

PRS opted for Fishman GT1, a discrete pickup and preamp system with volume and tone controls mounted on the underside of the soundhole.

Finally, this guitar comes with nice cosmetic touches, including PRS' signature bird inlays and it even comes with bindings that match the rosette.

Specifications:

  • Body Shape: Angelus
  • Top: Solid Sitka Spruce
  • Body: Figured Maple
  • Finish: Gloss Natural
  • Bridge: Ebony
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Neck Profile: Wide Fat
  • Fingerboard: Ebony
  • Fingerboard Radius: 12"
  • Number of Frets: 20
  • Scale Length: 25.3"
  • Nut Width: 1.6875"
  • Electronics: Fishman GT1 Preamp (Active - requires a 9V battery)

Pros

Market sentiment can be summarized into these two descriptions: beautiful and well made. Owners describe the guitar as a work of art, clean and well built down to the small details. It also impresses owners with its sound, which is described as big yet chimey. Playability is also often commended, both by experienced and new players. Plugged in sound also gets approval from most, if not all of the owners.

Cons

There are a few who comment that the action is a little too high, they recommend getting it professionally setup to improve overall playing experience. The guitar's preamp, with its soundhole mounted volume and tone knob, is a little too simplistic for some guitarists.

Overall

This is another high quality plug and play acoustic-electric guitar that's easy to recommend.

Taylor 214ce Rosewood Grand Auditorium

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 125+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$999
Taylor 214ce Rosewood Grand Auditorium Acoustic-Electric Guitar

Taylor established their reputation for premium quality acoustics with a distinctly clear and trebly tone that many have embraced and the 214ce Rosewood showcases what Taylor is all about.

It features a solid sitka spruce top and layered rosewood for the back and sides, all of which form its Grand Auditorium body profile. This shape is based on the classic dreadnought, but with a narrower waist and a sleek venetian cutaway, which gives it a distinct overall appearance and results in Taylor's trademark "zing".

This model comes equipped with Taylor's Expression System 2 electronics featuring piezo crystals that are positioned along side the saddle instead of pressed under, and according to Taylor, this makes the resulting tone more transparent and natural.

Specifications:

  • Body Shape: Grand Auditorium
  • Top: Solid Sitka Spruce
  • Body: Rosewood
  • Finish: Satin Natural
  • Bridge: Ebony
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Neck Profile: Not Specified
  • Fingerboard: Ebony
  • Fingerboard Radius: 15"
  • Number of Frets: 20
  • Scale Length: 25.5"
  • Nut Width: 1.6875"
  • Electronics: Taylor ES-2 (Active - requires a 9V battery)

Pros

Reviews are full of compliments pertaining to its overall quality, owners are impressed at its build quality, from aesthetic details to neck setup and string action. Many are also pleased with how good it sounds, both when miked and when plugged into a PA system. And while this is not a cheap guitar, it is often described as a great value guitar, mostly because it provides real Taylor quality at a relatively accessible price point.

Cons

There aren't any consistently reported complaints about its performance, but note that the body size can be a bit too bulky for younger players.

Overall

With its high ratings, the 214ce Rosewood is highly recommended for those who want to get into premium acoustic-electric guitars that goes beyond traditional dreadnought shape.

Special Option

The following guitar had a price increase just a couple of weeks after we published this edition, and although that means it is now ineligible to be included in our recommendations above, it's such a good guitar that we decided to retain a mention of it here.

Taylor 214ce-K Koa Grand Auditorium

97
GEARANK

97 out of 100. Incorporating 100+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$1099
Taylor 214ce-K Acoustic-Electric Guitar

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Acoustic-Electric Guitar Under $1,000 (the price went up the next month after this edition was published).

The 214ce-K is a variation of the popular 214ce from Taylor, carrying over the same Grand Auditorium shape and overall build, with the main difference being the use of Koa for its back and sides.

Koa sits somewhere in-between the focused midrange sound of mahogany and the snappy treble of maple, which gives this model a bit more midrange and high frequencies.

Everything else follows the same formula that makes 214ce a market favorite, including having a solid sitka spruce top, ebony bridge and fingerboard, Tusq nut and saddle, 15" radius fingerboard with and it comes with Taylor's Expression System 2 electronics.

Specifications:

  • Body Shape: Grand Auditorium
  • Top: Solid Sitka Spruce
  • Body: Layered Koa
  • Finish: Satin Natural
  • Bridge: Ebony
  • Neck: Sapele
  • Neck Profile: Not Specified
  • Fingerboard: Ebony
  • Fingerboard Radius: 15"
  • Number of Frets: 20
  • Scale Length: 25.5"
  • Nut Width: 1.6875"
  • Electronics: Taylor ES-2 (Active - requires a 9V battery)

Pros

Thanks to its combination of premium build quality, playability and tone, the Taylor 214ce-K snags the top spot in this guide, with almost perfect ratings at popular online retailers. Reviewers are pleased with its looks, describing it as stunning and awesome, while others comment that it sounds even more beautiful than it looks. Other owners point to its smooth playability as its best trait, some even comment that it beats out other more expensive acoustics in their collection.

Cons

Given its use of Koa wood and Grand Auditorium shape, the resulting tone is significantly different compared to traditional dreadnought style guitars.

Overall

If you want nothing less than the best rated acoustic-electric guitar in the sub $1000 price range, then this is for you.

Things to Consider When Buying an Acoustic Electric Guitar

In this section, we clarify essential factors that you should consider when buying acoustic-electric guitars. The main goal is to help you find one that you'll enjoy playing while also fitting your budget and performance requirements.

Types of Acoustic Pickups

The main thing to remember about different types of acoustic guitar pickups is that none of them are inferior to the other, they just have different strengths and weaknesses. They’re all also available in different price tiers and levels of quality, so don’t discount any acoustic guitar pickup out of hand.

There are three main types of acoustic guitar pickup, first of which is the piezo pickup, and this is the most common type in production acoustic-electrics today. The other two main types include magnetic, and transducer. For ease of reading they’re laid out below.

Piezo

The term piezo refers to the use of piezoelectric crystals that convert vibrations into an electric current. Piezo pickups are inexpensive to produce, and as such are the most commonly found pickup in acoustic-electric guitars. Piezo pickups generally have a bright tone and strong mid-range response, thankfully they are bundled with preamps that help make the sound more like an unplugged acoustic guitar. While there's nothing better than a true miked acoustic tone, sound quality of piezo preamp systems have steadily been improving, which is good for both guitar players and manufacturers.

Magnetic

Contrary to popular belief, magnetic pickups are used on both acoustic guitars and electric guitars. These pickups usually sit in the sound hole of a guitar, so they don’t require any drilling or permanent modification. They’re also commonly an aftermarket addition with a few exceptions.

These pickups have a more metallic sound than either a piezo or a transducer pickup, though high-end models generally produce a better approximation of an acoustic tone.

Transducer

Transducer pickups are considered to be the best option available if you’re looking for authentic acoustic tone. They have a very rich and complex tone, and retain the general flavor of your guitar’s voice. The only flaw with this pickup type is that it produces more feedback than either piezo or magnetic pickups.

Active vs. Passive Pickups

Something to keep in mind when looking for pickups is that you’re going to have to choose between an active or passive pickup system. A passive system simply transfers the signal from your strings to whatever you’re using to amplify it, while an active pickup boosts your signal through the use of a battery.

A passive pickup doesn’t produce a very strong signal, which can result in a small amount of volume and an anemic tone. However, the signal can either be boosted at the p.a., your amp, or the most versatile option' via an Acoustic Preamp. Active pickups don’t require any external technology to boost, though they do require a battery, but some people still use acoustic preamps for the tone shaping and DI benefits. Note that most acoustic-electric guitars that are available on the market today come with active preamps.

Tonewoods

There’s a lot of debate surrounding tonewoods, so we’re just going to list the basic qualities of the main ones used by the guitars in this guide.

Basswood

Although technically a hardwood species, it's actually reasonably light and soft. These properties tend to reduce the high-end projection, which is probably why Gretsch have chosen it for some of their parlor guitars to help emphasize their mid-range.

Spruce

Spruce is the most commonly found top wood on a guitar (the side which faces out while you play). It has a bright tone that’s well suited to strumming or fingerpicking, especially when paired with mahogany.

Nato

This is sometimes referred to as "eastern mahogany" due to it having a similar appearance. Tone-wise, guitarists do compare it with mahogany with many saying it's a little brighter. It often gets used by guitar manufacturers due to being somewhat similar to mahogany but cheaper.

Maple

A very hard and dense wood and is most often used on the back and sides but you will occasionally find it used as a top wood. It has great projection but tends to emphasize the mid frequencies too much for many people's taste as a top wood.

Mahogany

Mahogany emphasizes bass and mid-range frequencies, and as a general rule has a fairly dark tone. Koa, another commonly found tonewood, is very similar to mahogany.

Sapele

Sapele is a bit denser than Mahogany and produces a slightly brighter sound. Taylor says it adds "top end shimmer" to the guitars they use it on.

Rosewood

Rosewood is brighter than mahogany though not as bright as spruce. When paired with spruce the resulting tone is very bright and focused, making it well suited to lead and fingerpicking.

Koa

Also known as Hawaiian Koa because it's a native Hawaiian species. It's a dense hardwood which emphasizes the mid to high overtones and as it ages it tends to 'open up' adding warmth to the mid range. It's mainly found on high-end guitars due to its high cost.

Laminated vs. Solid Top

The difference between laminate and solid wood is that laminate is several thin sheets of wood glued together, while solid wood is a solid piece of wood. The glue that binds the pieces of laminate together reduces the amount that your guitar vibrates, which in turn lessens your volume and frequency production (tone). Solid wood resonates more efficiently, so instruments that use it are louder and sound better. On the flipside, laminated woods are more cost effective, reliable and resilient to weather changes.

As a general rule, if the specifications don't say the top wood is solid, then it's laminate.

Best Acoustic Electric Guitar Selection Methodology

The first edition was published in 2017 and the latest edition was published on April 21, 2021.

The selection criteria we used for putting guitars on the short-list to be considered for this 2021 edition were:

We then put popular guitars onto our short-list giving us 91 models to analyze in more detail - you can see them in the Music Gear Database.

We collected over 12,000 relevant reviews, ratings and forum discussions and processed them using the Gearank Algorithm to produce the rating scores out of 100 that you see above. Finally we selected the highest rated guitars in each of the four price brackets, sub $300, sub $500, sub $750 and sub $1000 to recommend.

For more information about our methods see How Gearank Works.

About the Author and Contributors

Here are the key people and sources involved in this guide's production - click on linked names for information about their music industry backgrounds.

Lead Author & Researcher

Alexander BrionesAlexander Briones

He's written about and researched music gear for many years, while also serving as a music director at his local church, in addition to teaching guitar, bass and mentoring young musicians.

Drawing from his experience in performing and recording, he teaches guitar and bass and mentors young artists to be better musicians. And when he is not busy playing or tinkering with musical gear, he puts on his entrepreneurial hat, which helps fund his passion for collecting guitars, mecha figures and Gunpla kits.

Contributors

Mason Hoberg: Supplemental Writing.
Jason Horton: Supplemental Research, Editing and Illustrating.

Media

Main/Top Image: Original photograph by Justin Higuchi, modified by Gearank.com and available under Creative Commons CC BY 2.0 license.

The individual product images were sourced from websites, promotional materials or supporting documentation provided by their respective manufacturers.

The videos above have been embedded in accordance with YouTube's Terms of Service.

Comments

What are the best acoustic

What are the best acoustic-electric guitars for left handed For the price?

Hello Eddie,

Hello Eddie,

As of now, we don't have enough data regarding left-handed acoustic-electric guitars to give you specific recommendations. But generally speaking, you can look into the left-handed guitar options offered by the brands featured in this guide, they should have similar qualities as their right-handed counterpart.

Note that symmetrical non-cutaway body acoustic-electric guitars can be flipped over for use by left-handed players, but modifications on the nut and saddle may be required to accommodate the reverse orientation of the strings.

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