Is there a guitar that will be both a clean sounding acoustic, but can behave well when amplified? Do you have to sacrifice quality in one area, to satisfy the other? Will it lose its acoustic ‘feel’ as the volume rises, or will it maintain its clarity?
These are just some of the common questions people ask themselves before buying one of the best acoustic electric guitars. But which one is the best, and even more importantly, which is the best for you?
Choosing the best Acoustic Electric Guitar is not easy, and when faced with so many options to choose from, can be a daunting decision. But, we are here to help, by reviewing some of the best acoustic electric’s on the market and guide you in the decision making process.
- Top 10 Best Acoustic Electric Guitars In 2021 Reviews
- 1 Martin Road Series DRS1 Dreadnought Acoustic-Electric
- 2 Takamine GN93CE-NAT Nex Cutaway Acoustic-Electric
- 3 Taylor 114e Acoustic Electric
- 4 Fender CD-140SCE Acoustic-Electric
- 5 Epiphone HUMMINGBIRD PRO Solid Top
- 6 Fender Beginner Acoustic-Electric Guitar CD-140SCE
- 7 Kona K2 Acoustic Electric
- 8 Epiphone EJ-200SCE Solid Top Cutaway Acoustic /Electric
- 9 Yamaha APX500III Thinline Cutaway Acoustic-Electric
- 10 Yamaha 6 String Series A3M Cutaway Acoustic-Electric
- Best Acoustic Electric Guitar Buyers Guide
Top 10 Best Acoustic Electric Guitars In 2021 Reviews
1 Martin Road Series DRS1 Dreadnought Acoustic-Electric
As the name implies, Martin’s Road Series of guitars are designed for musicians on the move. The DRS1 is an addition to the range.
Constructed from Sapele wood, with a hardwood neck and Richlite fingerboard and bridge. The pickup is a Fishman Sonitone. The black scratchplate completes the impressive look.
The action is low but without any buzz, the neck stable, and it is a joy to play. As you would expect from a quality manufacturer, the sound is warm and inviting. While the top end rings with clarity, the bass on this guitar is something special.
The electronics are what you might call basic, just a volume and tone, and they are hidden away in the sound hole. The pickup is run on a 9-volt battery with its position also in the sound hole. This will mean removing strings to gain access, which is a little disappointing.
There is something about the sound of guitars manufactured from Sapele that is missing from Mahogany constructed instruments. Maybe as its a denser wood, it holds the vibrations easier, but there is a richness and warmth to the tone that exudes quality. This also means that it is a little heavier, but that is an issue hardly noticed.
There is one issue we would like to address, and that is the ‘made in Mexico’ label. So often a subject of negativity, this unfair bias can be put aside with this instrument. The DRS1 is not so much constructed but lovingly created ‘in Mexico’. It is superbly manufactured.
Another Martin guitar that will enhance the company’s already significant reputation. This is a beautiful instrument and is realistically priced.
It comes with a well made hard shell case.
2 Takamine GN93CE-NAT Nex Cutaway Acoustic-Electric
The Takamine is a good looking guitar with its rosewood construction and spruce top. It has a nice neck made of mahogany and a rosewood fingerboard.
The electrics have a built-in tuner, volume, and a three-band EQ with bypass, giving a wide range of tonal opportunity. More about that later. A deep cutaway allows access to the top frets.
Generally speaking, the action is very good. The strings sit low on the fingerboard with no fret buzz and have a comfortable feel.
What is initially impressive is the finish. Well constructed, it is beautifully made and is visually comparable to much more expensive instruments. It is a well-balanced guitar and sits comfortably when played seated.
When played acoustically it is a great, full, expansive sound. Strumming chords, it sounds and feels like a more expensive instrument, and when individual notes are played, they are loud and precise with no dead spots. When using finger-picking technique, it excels.
All things considered, an exceptional instrument when played acoustically. However, it is when the guitar is plugged in that the plus points really mount up.
To have the ability to be able to create a personal sound is very effective, with an acoustic electric. The three band EQ system allows the option to add more top or bottom end, and its bypass system is a unique feature built-in to the guitar.
This all adds up to a big sounding guitar when amplified, and when returning to an unplugged status, the guitar suddenly sounds a bit thin, which it isn’t. A testimony to the efficiency of the preamp and the EQ.
This is a very good instrument, and for someone looking for a quality acoustic electric guitar that isn’t going to require selling your house an excellent choice.
Designed in Japan and made in China it is a very good option.
No case or gig bag is supplied.
3 Taylor 114e Acoustic Electric
Taylor guitars, synonymous of course with quality and the 114e is no exception. A classic design with its Spruce Top and Layered Walnut Back and Sides. It has a mahogany neck and ebony fretboard with, of course, a truss rod. The cosmetics are attractive and bright and completed with the sound hole decoration and scratchplate.
The tuners are die-cast chromium plated.
It is styled in Taylor’s ‘Grand Auditorium’ style and produces a bright, vibrant tone. Taylor has reduced the nut size for this instrument very slightly, to encourage ease of playing. Electrically it uses the Expression 2 pickup system. The controls are located on the top of the guitar just above the neck, which is a convenient location
This is a full-bodied guitar with a full-bodied sound. It definitely has a warm, rich tone and is very playable. The body design and materials ensure there is adequate volume when played acoustically, and the guitar lends itself efficiently to finger-picking styles. The use of walnut for the body ensure a quality sound but also provide it with durability.
The action though seems to vary a little, so it will be worth ensuring that you get the action setup you want. It is sometimes worth having the action a little higher to allow the guitar to ‘sing’ a little.
The playing feel is good, and the guitar well balanced, standing or seated.
The Expression 2 pickup is located behind the saddle and carries three electric sensors. The sound passes through Taylor’s onboard preamp to create a powerful sound. While it is a powerful sound, the guitar loses little of its warmth and dynamics with both top and bottom ends very prominent.
This is a very good performance guitar and will produce quality in any environment.
The guitar is supplied with a gig bag.
4 Fender CD-140SCE Acoustic-Electric
Very few names conjure up the impression of greatness. Some of the worlds greatest guitarists have used Fender, some of them still do. The company itself though has had a checkered existence from producing greatness to maybe, not so great.
The Fender CD-140SCE is from Fender’s Classic range. This is a nice looking instrument. Solid spruce top with rosewood back and sides and headstock.
This model is described by Fender as being ‘Easy to Play’. It certainly has a nice rolled fingerboard, which makes it an asset for players with smaller hands.
A single cutaway, it has a nice scratchplate and chrome plated tuners and is fitted with a mahogany neck. It carries nylon strings which is interesting and begs consideration as to what market Fender are actually aiming at with this guitar.
It has a crisp sound but still manages to maintain a little depth. The nylon strings give it a very classical sound which will not suit everyone.
It does manage to give off a certain sharpness when played hard, a great asset for blues playing, but still maintains its all-around sound. Using fingerstyle nothing is lost, and both top and bottom ends resonate nicely. One problem with nylon strung guitars is that the bottom end can often overpower the treble end, but in this guitar that doesn’t happen so much.
The warmth of sound can be varied by playing closer to the bridge where the tones are sharper and more pronounced. One benefit of nylon stringing.
This instrument is made in Indonesia, and the quality of construction is very good.
The Fishman/Presys pickup/preamp offers a range of tones, with the controls easily located on the top of the guitar near the fingerboard.
A quality instrument at an affordable price and one Fender should be pleased with.
Comes with a hard case.
5 Epiphone HUMMINGBIRD PRO Solid Top
Epiphone has really gone out of their way to make this a visually attractive guitar. The bright sunburst finish with dark mahogany back, and sides offering a nice contrast.
The rosewood neck inlaid with pearled parallelogram inlays. And an attractive headstock with Grover nickel machine heads and pearled inlay and a creatively designed, etched scratch plate complete the decor.
A Shadow preamp and Shadow Nano Flex pickup system make up the electrics.
It doesn’t have a cutaway, but then I suspect this guitar is designed for a more rhythmic approach to its intended use.
The construction and build is excellent.
It certainly has a very C & W appeal to its design.
The neck is undoubtedly smaller than on most full-size guitars. It is straightforward to feel comfortable with it, and being lightweight, this makes it very easy to hold and play.
Immediately noticeable is the volume of the guitar when played acoustically. It is quite loud and carries a punchy sound full of resonance. Chords are clear and bright sounding, and it rings with clarity.
Given that this is not a high-end guitar in terms of price, the quality may surprise you.
Epiphone may, in the past, have suffered from a poor man’s Gibson description, but that impression is long gone, and guitars as good as this is the reason why.
Well made, great sound, good fittings, and it all adds up to a quality instrument.
The Shadow preamp/pickup system is developed in Germany. The control panel sits on the top of the guitar and includes controls for Volume, treble and bass eq and a dynamics control. There is also a low battery indicator light.
Given the volume of the guitar unplugged, the amplified version is not so loud as you may expect. Adequate is how to describe it.
A very good guitar from a quality manufacturer at a cost-effective price.
No gig bag or case.
6 Fender Beginner Acoustic-Electric Guitar CD-140SCE
This is an older version of the Fender Acoustic-Electric previously reviewed. It carries much of the same equipment and as such is really just a variant. The finish and construction has remained the same with its Spruce laminated top and mahogany back and sides.
It is well made and in its classic design, quite appealing visually.
The cutaway is the same as its successor as are the electrics. These are the Fishman/Presys pickup/preamp with its tone and volume controls and built-in tuner.
As with its successor the guitar makes a good sound and given the cost is good value for money.
The later model carries a rolled fingerboard, but this model has a NATO neck. These can often be a little hard to play, especially for beginners, which is where this model is aimed.
The most significant difference between this instrument and its follow up though, is that this guitar carries steel strings, whereas the later model is nylon strung. The reason for the difference in the neck configuration I suspect.
As a beginner picking up this instrument, it will not be found to be very easy to play. The stiff fingerboard allied to steel strings may make life a little difficult.
A reasonably competent player though will generate a good sound. With the steel strings it will be an entirely different experience to its nylon strung successor both acoustically and when amplified.
This guitar does have a more conventional feel to it, and certainly is quite loud when played. Top and bottom end are prominent, and there’s a certain ring to the sound.
At the lower end of the price spectrum the guitar represents good value, and while the sound is good, it does not deliver the richer sounds you will get on instruments with much higher prices. But then you wouldn’t expect it to.
It is what it is, and does its job very well.
It does not come with a case or gig bag.
7 Kona K2 Acoustic Electric
Another guitar with a Spruce top and mahogany sides. Very popular for Dreadnought style instruments. This comes with a neat cutaway allowing access to 20 frets, and gold colored cast tuners. The neck and fretboard are rosewood, and there is an adjustable truss rod. The electrics are a three band Piezo system.
This instrument differs from some of its competition by being very low profile and not so deep, thus making it easier to hold and for some easier to play.
It is made in China and comes with a 10-year limited warranty.
When considering the guitars low profile, you might expect the sound to be a little thin when compared with fuller size instruments.
This is not the case with this guitar. The volume of the acoustic is quite loud and sustains very well. This is quite surprising given the box size. It resonates well and holds its bottom end.
Not surprisingly, however, it is easy to play. And comfortable to hold because of its reduced body size – it sits comfortably, and the action is fine. With those aspects, it compares to a guitar many times its price.
Having said that it might not be a ‘concert’ instrument, but at the price, it was never going to be. It is, however, an excellent guitar in most other aspects, and its ease of playing make it great value.
As with all instruments that are ‘delivered,’ it is always best to give the guitar a good looking at before racing into a live performance, and wondering why things aren’t quite right. The adjustable truss rod allows any neck corrections, and the jack socket should just be checked for tightness. Strings, of course, are personal as is the playing action.
All of these things can be sorted out and when they are, you are left with a great guitar, at a very affordable price.
The electrics might best be described as adequate. They will not set the concert hall shaking, but then they are not designed to. They are there to amplify an acoustic instrument, and they do this albeit with a very basic sound. The controls sit on the top of the body allowing easy access but are modest in their capabilities.
Overall a good guitar, realistically priced, that is well made and attractive, and easy to play.
Now, this is a big boy. Made in Indonesia but assembled and set up in the US, Epiphone has come with a full body that looks the part. Maple body and a Spruce top, finished in a traditional sunburst finish, with a decorated bridge and scratchplate – you can’t say it doesn’t attract attention.
One significant variation to its predecessors is the cutaway, allowing full neck access.
It is reminiscent of the big ‘jumbo’ guitars and is designed to sound big. We will discuss that soon.
The guitar is fitted with Grover Rotomatic machine heads, and the electrics courtesy of the two Shadow pickups and the e-Sonic stereo preamp system. Controls include a volume and basic eq., with a chromatic tuner and LED indicator. The electrics require two Lithium coin-style batteries.
It has a maple neck that is a slightly tapered ‘d’ shape. Pearloid fingerboard inlays complete the visual attention the guitar almost demands.
This will be a guitar that doesn’t suit every player. Being so large it might be a little difficult to handle even though it is well balanced. Just the sheer size of it means you really have to ‘wrap yourself around’ it.
Not really has to be the answer. The sound is nice, balanced with not too much bottom end, but when compared with the other jumbos not as full and rounded. That might be unfair because at less than a third of the price this guitar is excellent value, but if you are expecting a ‘200’ it won’t sound quite like it.
It is fuller and richer than a standard size Dreadnought and its clarity is impressive.
The electrics are maybe not as good as they might be, but once again the price tag says its good value. The amplified should is clear and precise, but there aren’t too many eq options.
It is a good instrument. Well made and impressive to the eye. It will be an asset to any player.
No case or gig bag/
9 Yamaha APX500III Thinline Cutaway Acoustic-Electric
The Yamaha APX500111. By any standards a classic of its generation. It has a solid spruce top with rosewood fingerboard. It is beautifully balanced, and with its thin line body easy to play for people at any level. A slightly narrower neck allows ease of playing.
For a thin line body this guitar offers a beautifully rounded sound, suitable for most environments, whether just playing at home or on stage, it provides all you need. The cutaway provides ease of use to the top frets.
The piezo pickup and System 66 preamp gives volume control and a 3 band equalizer. There is also a built-in digital tuner.
When played acoustically, the sound is not spectacularly loud but is clear and consistent. It will not sound like a full-size guitar or a jumbo, so it shouldn’t surprise you if it doesn’t.
The thin line determines its acoustic possibilities, but unplugged it is still a quality sound. It is difficult to find a criticism but if there is something, then maybe the bottom end is a bit lifeless. But then the overall size of the instrument will dictate that, and this is hardly noticeable.
When amplified it is outstanding. The pickups and preamp offering a range of possibilities that make live concerts a must.
When the jack lead goes in, it comes alive, and it starts to do what it was designed to do. And it has been designed to be brilliant when amplified and very good acoustically.
It is built with Yamaha quality using the very best materials.
A lot has been said and written about these guitars, and it is quality. Furthermore, it is quality at a reasonable price.
10 Yamaha 6 String Series A3M Cutaway Acoustic-Electric
Yamaha’s A3M, made in China, is a full-bodied instrument in the dreadnought style with a single cutaway.
The top is made from Sitka Spruce with a mahogany body and a mahogany neck. The neck is slightly tapered and has rolled edges on the fingerboard. It has die-cast chrome tuners.
The electrics utilize Yamaha’s SRT2 system, which does not come with a built-in tuner. The electrics offer a volume, bass and treble control, and what is termed a blend control, allowing you to move between pick up and preamp to refine the sound.
With this guitar, Yamaha has attempted to produce the perfect concert guitar, and it certainly has a lot of attributes. It is, however, moving towards the middle-value cost wise.
It has a vintage look to it and is attractive, though the style of the electrics might be off-putting to some.
The sound acoustically is full and round, and is quite loud when strummed. Superb for fingerpicking, and the tonal qualities remain, regardless of whatever style it is used for. It has a very dynamic feel to the sound and has a warm low end and the top cuts through nicely.
Well constructed with good materials, and the neck especially has been crafted to ensure it is easy to play.
It is when amplified, that the guitar makes its mark. The pickup/preamp system allow a lot of options to create a unique sound, and the setup is powerful. There is a feedback reducer which is a good asset, and the ‘concert’ feel is undoubtedly there.
This could make a good studio guitar which is something most manufacturers have a hard time producing. The sound is clear and crisp and allows for it to be worked hard.
It is a very good instrument and offers options some of its less expensive competitors do not provide.
It comes with a gig bag.
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