Top 5 Best Acoustic Electric Guitars in 2020 Reviews

acoustic-electric guitar buying guide

If we mix the body of a classical or acoustic guitar the electric elements of electric guitar , we get an acoustic-electric guitar. This is also called a semi-acoustic guitar. The acoustic-electric guitar stands out as it can be used with and without a guitar amplifier. It is a clear advantage as you can use it both at home and on stage.

You probably know musicians like Ed Sheeran, Jack Johnson, John Mayer etc. All of these people often or always use this type of guitar.

Acoustic-electric guitars on Amazon

Since you have ended up here, you are probably interested in, or maybe even looking for, an acoustic-electric guitar. If you want to know more about the instrument, keep reading! I want explore the instrument in depth and I will show you the guitars that I think are the best. Let’s get started!

5 Best Acoustic Electric Guitars

I’d like to help you so, below, I found some of the market’s best acoustic-electric guitars. They all have a fantastic sound, and you get a great deal for your money.

Overall Winner: Best Acoustic Electric Guitar Right Now

Best acoustic electric guitar for beginners


Best acoustic electric guitar for intermediates


Best acoustic electric guitar for advanced players


Best classical acoustic electric guitar


Best acoustic electric guitar for kids


Buy your acoustic electric guitar on Amazon

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What is an acoustic-electric guitar?

Briefly explained, an acoustic-electric guitar is an acoustic guitar which has integrated a pickup and an input to a jack cable. In addition, the acoustic-electric guitar also has steel strings as opposed to the Spanish guitar’s nylon strings.

Let’s take a closer look at the acoustic-electric guitar and its characteristics. Acoustic-electric guitar design is very similar to the electric guitar. If we look at the guitar’s body, the difference lies in the fact that the acoustic-electric guitar has a hollow-body. This means that there is a large amount of resonance space inside the guitar. An electric guitar, instead, has a solid-body where there is no resonance space. Most acoustic-electric guitars have what is called a piezoelectric pickup. This pickup reproduces the pure, ’acoustic sounding’ sound of an acoustic guitar. There is also the guitar pre-amplifier which amplifies the signal from the main pickup. The acoustic-electric guitar is almost always equipped with a preamp, which allows you to control volume, tone and other types of sound settings. Often it is possible to change “brilliance”, “treble”, “mid”, “bass” and “volume”. These settings obviously work when the guitar is connected to an amplifier. The sound settings will have no effect on the guitar if you play without amplifier. The acoustic-electric guitar is used in almost all genres. Right from country, pop and to soul and blues. The guitars are available in various forms. The most famous are jumbo, mini (travel guitars), dreadnought, concert and auditorium. Many people also buy an acoustic-electric guitar as their first beginner guitar.

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Acoustic-electric guitar history

You don’t have to go too far back to find the first time the semi-acoustic guitar was used. In the 1910s, people were experimenting with putting telephone transmitters into violins and banjos, to amplify the sound. Patents have even been found of these designs. In the 1920s, leisure musicians began experimenting with attaching carbon microphones to the string holder. It did not work, however, as it gave a rather bad signal. It was not until the 1940s that hollow-body guitars (then jazz guitars) began to be produced with an integrated pickup (electric guitar). But at that time, the acoustic-electric guitar had not yet been invented. Many say it was the Ovation Guitar Company that invented the first real acoustic-electric guitar, some decades later.

In recent years, the popularity of the acoustic-electric guitar has increased significantly. You see more and more famous musicians who only play on a semi-acoustic guitar. The most well-known musicians even get their own signature series of instruments that the public can buy. This has definitely contributed to raising interest in the instrument. For example, Ed Sheeran has partnered with CF Martin & CO., makind an ’X’ signature model of Martin’s LX1E mini-guitar. The guitar sold many units in no time and the collaboration has therefore been a huge success. Ed Sheeran has also chosen to donate a large portion of profits to hospices in England. You can hear more about Ed Sheeran’s guitar below:

Sungha Jung, a South Korean musician who specializes in the technique of tapping the guitar, collaborates with Lakewood Guitars. Here too they have made a signature model of their Grand Concert guitar. However, this guitar costs much more (about $4000) than Ed Sheeran’s ($900).

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Acoustic-electric guitar’s anatomy and functions

I will not explain what the guitar parts are called. It will be explained on this page . Instead, I will go into depth with the guitar’s parts and functions, explaining how they affect the sound. I will also explain how the semi-acoustic guitar stands out from other guitars. Basically, there are 4 design factors that affect and influence the sound of the guitar: the shape of the body & guitar parts, the types of wood, the body’s inner support and the cutaway /lack of cutaway.

The size of the body and the overall size of the guitar  has a great influence on the sound of the guitar and sound. The most simple way to distinguish between sizes is to look at the overall size of the guitar. We actually distinguish between small, medium, large and a child sizes. The smaller the guitar, the more controlled sound you will get. The bigger the guitar, the higher the sound and the more low-end.

The wood types used for the guitar’s top, bottom and sides have the greatest influence on the sound. And why is this? This is because the tones and sounds are created in the guitar’s body. The physical properties of the wood species (eg stiffness and density) therefore affect the tone. All woods have their own unique physical properties. It also means that they have their own degrees of bass, midrange, treble and sustain. Instrument makers can therefore be compared to cooks – they often combine wood types so that they get the desired tone.

If we look at the body’s inner support, then we are talking about how the body’s bottom and top are constructed. The support must both ensure that the guitar can hold the strings tension. And then it must optimize the way in which the vibrations from the strings move up to the head and down through the sound hole.

Cutaway on acoustic electric guitar

Cutaway on acoustic electric guitar

Cutaway is the design of the guitar’s body. Simply  some of the upper body has been cut off. It is always seen in the right side of the body (on right handed guitars – opposite on left handed). The reason you make a cutaway is because it makes it easier to play on the frets that are closest to the sound hole. Guitars with a cutaway, however, have a smaller body so the fullness of tone is compromised somoewhat, but we are talking about a minimal loss. This is due to the upper right part not vibrating as much. If you need to play many high notes, buy a guitar with cutaway. The tone loss is minimal while making high tones considerably easier. The benefits of a cutaway thus outweigh the disadvantages. But, if you don’t plan on playing quite far up the neck, then I think you shpuld choose a non-cutaway.

The special feature of a semi-acoustic guitar is how it is equipped with a pickup. It allows you to plug it into a PA system and enjoy the enhanced sound of the guitar. But the pickup is also good to have if you need to record your guitar. This way you don’t have to record your guitar on an external microphone. Even if you don’t need a pickup guitar right now, it’s still worth considering a pickup guitar – you never know when you may need it.  In addition, there are 3 other benefits of having a acoustic-electric guitar with pickup:

  • You have the opportunity to change the sound of the guitar: some semi-acoustic guitars are equipped with what we call an onboard preamp. So you have the opportunity to control the tone and other sound settings – directly on your guitar. This feature is very useful as it allows you to customize your guitar’s sound to the music you play.
  • You can add sound effects via an amplifier or pedals: you have the additional possibility to add other sound effects such as delay and reverb. It gives some completely different dimensions to your guitar playing. However, these effects are not found on your onboard preamp, but on the guitar amplifier.
  • You can easily determine the volume: if you play with others, you will find it easier to find the perfect sound setup. Two of my friends often play small concerts together. One plays the guitar and the other plays mandolin. The acoustic version of the Mandolin, however, exceeds the volume of the acoustic sound of the acoustic-electric guitar. Therefore, they have the great pleasure of balancing the volume using the guitar’s built-in pickup.
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Various types of semi-acoustic guitars

Basically, we distinguish between two types of guitars. Namely the acoustic-electric guitar and the semi-acoustic, Spanish/classical/classic guitar. Both words will, in general cover the same, but there are actually some very clear differences.

Acoustic-electric guitar: This guitar is characterized by having steel strings, which gives a metallic sound. In addition, the choice of wood is also different from a semi-acoustic classical guitar. The reason for this is that there is a difference between the sound you want. The Acoustic-electric guitar’s tuner peg system is often also made using other materials (often chrome). Last but not least, you will always find fret marker inlays on an acoustic-electric guitar. The Acoustic-electric guitar is available both with and without a pickup.

Classical acoustic-electric guitar: The semi-acoustic classical (or Spanish) guitar is characterized by having nylon strings, which requires a lower voltage and gives a soft tone. With nylon strings you can’t make your music sound particulalry ’rocky’ but you have good opportunities to make the music sound romantic. Nylon strings are therefore perfect for classical music, jazz and Latin. On a semi-acoustic Spanish guitar you also want another sound, and therefore the choice of wood is different. The voice screws are often plastic and the neck is wider than the acoustic-electric guitar. In addition, you will rarely find inlays on this guitar.

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Acoustic-electric guitar buying guide

The range of guitars is huge, and it is therefore difficult to pick out the best of the bunch, especially for the beginner who has no experience. The choice of guitar is very important as many people give up after a short time if they do not have the right instrument. In the following, we will review the most important areas when choosing acoustic-electric guitar and semi-acoustic guitar. After reading the section, you will know which guitar is right for you.

Which guitarist are you?

First of all, you need to decide what kind of guitarist you are/want to be. The guitar you buy should preferably match your playing style and genre preferences, both in terms of sound and design. If you are a beginner or have never played the guitar before don’t worry. Just try to think about what will suit you best.

First question to give to yourself is: how do you play guitar? Do you play with your fingertips or a pick? Do you play melodies or chords? Maybe a bit of everything? When you have answered this, you will find out if your guitar needs a bit of it all (acoustic-electric guitar) or whether it is, for example, only going to be used to play classical music (semi-acoustic Spanish guitar).

Now for another question: When playing finger picking and chords on the guitar. Do you play gently / low, hard / loud or in between?

If you play soft / low, you need to grab a guitar with a small body. A small body requires less energy to create a good sound. It will also mean that you can play louder in relation to a guitar with a big body.

If you play hard / loud, you need to grab a full-body size as the guitar will not be affected so much by your hard playing style.

If you play in the middle, you must grab a guitar with a medium size body. Possibly with a cutaway as it will take a bit of tone.

The next question you need to consider is: Where do you play guitar and which genre do you play?

You should choose a guitar with a small or medium body if you play at home (possibly on the couch or in your bedroom), or even if you play country / blues with your fingertips. You have to pick a guitar with a big body if you want to play with friends or on stage or if you use a pick or play rock.

Do you have any wishes for how your guitar should sound? For example, in terms of volume, warmth, sustain (how long the sound is preserved). The larger the body, the more bass, volume and sustain you will get. The smaller the body, the more clear and focused the sound will be.

Do you sing along with playing guitar? In that case, you need to find a guitar that fits your voice. For example, rosewood is often best suited for singing because it has a midrange that matches the human voice.

You should now be better equipped to choose your guitar!

Before we move on, I just want to tell you about 4 tips that characterize a good guitar: 

  • It stays in tune
  • Playing chords with your left hand is easy on the neck
  • All the tones on the guitar are clear and are not blurred
  • The guitar provides a reasonable amount of volume and sustain

How old are you? If you need to buy an acoustic-electric guitar for your child, then you have to buy a children’s guitar . These guitars are smaller than a regular guitar and are therefore easier to play if you have shorter arms and smaller hands.

Brands

It’s hard to find out which manufacturers are making the bestguitars. Unfortunately, there has been a tendency for more guitars of very low quality to fill more and more Danish music stores. Below I made a list of the manufacturers that are to be trusted and always produce guitars of good quality:

  • A&L Guitars
  • CF Martin & CO.
  • Ibanez  (I’m a happy owner of an AW3000CE acoustic-electric guitar myself!)
  • Lakewood Guitars
  • Norman Guitars
  • Santana
  • Sigma Guitars (owned by CF Martin & CO.)
  • Tanglewood
  • Taylor
  • Yamaha

I would like to end this chapter by giving you some advice: spend as much money as possible on your guitar. Yes, as a beginner, it can seem wild to spend thousands of dollars on a guitar. But if you buy a good guitar then you will experience the following:

  • When you play the guitar, it will sound good. Even if there are only standard chords
  • Playing the guitar will be easy and fun
  • You will get better faster and easier

Also, keep in mind that you can always sell the guitar used! There are both Ebay and  Facebook groups for this purpose. There you can quickly and easily sell an instrument you no longer use.

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