The Ultimate Acoustic Electric Guitar Guide

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The Ultimate Acoustic Electric Guitar Guide featured imageOur Guide To The Acoustic Electric Guitar

The choice of an acoustic electric guitar is very subjective. Consider your budget, what sound you are after and where you will mostly be playing as these factors will have a major impact on the ultimate acoustic electric guitar for your particular needs.

What is your budget?

Yes, consider this first. You want to be reasonable and you should include any accessories (amplifiers, cables, effects) that you will need as part of your budget. If this will be your first purchase, choose entry-level to mid-tier acoustic electric guitars. However, if you are an experienced player, consider going with mid-tier to premium instruments.

  • If you are on a budget there are acoustic electric guitars on the market for under $1000.00.
  • For beginners, they can be found for slightly under $300.00.
  • Mid-range is a little more luxurious than the $300.00 one, and they will get a little fancier for around $700.00.

What is your musical preference?

What style of music do you like best? Listen to your favorite guitarists and choose the acoustic electric guitar that they prefer.

Where you most often be playing?

Will you be mainly situated in one location so that a large acoustic electric guitar will work for you? Or do you need something more compact that you can easily pack up and move seamlessly from place to place?

The best acoustic electric guitar can be tricky to find as the combination of electric and the acoustic factors require extra consideration that each one does separately. A guitarist may know what they are looking for in an electric guitar or an acoustic guitar, but the combination of the two is a different matter entirely.

In this, the Ultimate guide, I have researched the top five acoustic electric guitars. However, since the number one listed top acoustic electric is temporarily unavailable, I have given you a substitute for it. Hence, the five top acoustic electric guitars have become six.

This guide covers samples from various price ranges of the ones that you can purchase right now. There are the budget models, the high-end ones and some in between. I am sure that there will be an acoustic electric guitar on this list that you just have to have. Ok, here we go:

Martin DRS2 Dreadnought

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Martin Road Series DRS2 Dreadnought Acoustic-Electric Guitar Natural

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This is a mid-range guitar from Martin, actually one of their most affordable models. It retails for approximately $830.00 and is worth every penny. Martin has extra high standards and that means the DRS2 is a very high quality acoustic electric guitar. In fact, it is most likely the most cost-effective guitar made by Martin. Here are some of its features:

  • It has a solid wood Sitka spruce top.
  • It is the standard Dreadnought shape.
  • It contains Fishman electrics for excellent amplification.
  • All of its hardware is of premium standard.
  • Its neck is nicely tapered.
  • Its tonal character is amazing.
  • This acoustic electric is not flashy, but it is a well-made, quality instrument.
  • The DRS2 sounds wonderful.
  • Deep booming lows with sharp and crisp highs make for the best sound.
  • It has the finish and tonal quality of a guitar that is more expensive.
  • It can be played with or without amplification.

For some reason, the DRS2 Dreadnought is temporarily unavailable, but I really want you to know about it, should it become available again. It’s the best ever! However, there is a close second that you will certainly like.

1a. The Martin Road Series DRS 1 Dreadnought

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Martin Road Series DRS1 Dreadnought Acoustic-Electric Guitar Natural

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The Martin Road Series DRS 1 Dreadnought has some of the same fantastic qualities as the Martin DRS2 Dreadnought.

  • It has a solid wood Sitka spruce top.
  • It is the standard Dreadnought shape.
  • It contains Fishman electrics for excellent amplification.
  • All of its hardware is of premium standard.
  • It has the finish and tonal quality of a guitar that is more expensive for a rock-solid price.
  • It can be played with or without amplification.

It is an affordable Martin Dreadnought, at approximately $760.00. As with all Martin guitars, this is an acoustic electric guitar of understated elegance. Also, of note:

  • It has s a solid Sapele back and sides.
  • It is decorated with a lovely mother of pearl pattern fingerboard with rosette inlays.
  • It has that Martin look and feel of understated elegance.
  • Its tonewoods are of the highest quality.
  • It features a smooth Richlite fingerboard and bridge with a white tusc saddle.
  • It has a low oval select hardwood hand-rubbed neck finish.
  • The Fishman MX-T electronics with an onboard soundhole tuner automates the output which lets you tune up at any time without a pedal.
  • It has chrome enclosed tuners.
  • It has white corlan nut.
  • It includes a hard-shell case.

The Martin Road Series DRS 1 Dreadnought is a true Martin and its excellence in tone, quality, and appearance, not to mention price, are hard to beat.

Gibson J-200 Standard

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Gibson J-200 Standard Acoustic-Electric Guitar Antique Natural Finish

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$4,200.00

As you probably know, the Gibson name is well-known for their premium top-of-the-line products and the J-200 Standard acoustic electric guitar is a fine example of the Gibson quality. This acoustic electric guitar is descended from the legendary Super Jumbo, which was first introduced in 1937. It is no budget model as the price is approximately $4200.00. These features are stellar:

  • It has an enlarged round body style for big sounds and presence.
  • Some say it is the most powerful acoustic electric guitar on earth.
  • It is punchy and has lots of presence.
  • It contains the L. R. Baggs Anthem pickup system.
  • It is made for live performance where the acoustic electric really makes itself heard.
  • Its quality is extremely high throughout.
  • It is definitely expertly crafted.
  • It feels very special in your hands.
  • Guitarists from Elvis to Jimmy Page have owned a Super Jumbo in some form or another.
  • The electronics and hardware are very high end.

Definitely, the Gibson J-200 is for serious players and professionals. Should you choose this gem, be sure to have a great guitar case to protect this valuable instrument. The J-200 is probably the best acoustic electric guitar currently on the market.

Epiphone DOVE PRO

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Epiphone DOVE PRO Solid Top Acoustic/Electric Guitar

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$477.48 $499.00

Epiphone is Gibson’s most affordable brand, but the high quality of the company is maintained in the Epiphone Dove Pro. At around $550.00, it is a great value. It is a modern interpretation of the classic guitar. Dove acoustics have been known and loved for decades. It is a sweet acoustic electric guitar that plays wonderfully, looks stunning and has a super tone. Some features:

  • It does not look like a low-end guitar because the build quality is superb, as Gibson always provides.
  • The tone is excellent.
  • Only a highly trained ear can tell that the ring and sustain are a fraction less than that of an expensive Gibson.
  • It has a solid spruce top.
  • It has excellent hardware.
  • The Fishman electronics in it are the best.
  • There are beautiful dove designs on the fretboard and pick board.
  • It is the very best acoustic electric guitar for the price.

Gibsons have a reputation of excellence and highest quality workmanship and Epiphone is Gibson in every aspect except for the price.

Takamine GN93CE-NAT Nex

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Takamine GN93CE-NAT Nex Cutaway Acoustic-Electric Guitar, Natural

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Guitarists in my world talk a lot about Takamine and they seem to think that it is a top maker of acoustic and electric guitars. The Takamine GN93CE-NAT Nex Is a mid-range acoustic electric guitar that has some really nice touches. It sells for approximately $650.00, but you get a great deal of bang for your buck with it. Its features include:

  • It has a lovely 12” radius rosewood fretboard.
  • It comes in Takamine’s NEX cutaway guitar body.
  • It features a slimline mahogany neck.
  • It plays really quickly.
  • It is comfortable in the high frets.
  • It is ideal for virtuosos.
  • Takamine uses its own preamp system with three-band EQ and gain controls, mid contour switch, notch filter, and EQ Bypass.
  • The back of the guitar is the most visually attractive with its beautiful rosewood fretboard and quilt maple three-piece design.
  • The whole guitar feels and looks more upscale than the price of it suggests.

The body and neck design of Takamine’s NEX acoustic electrics provide a comfortable playing experience. My guitarist friends say that they find this one ideal when they want to switch between electric and acoustic while having a similar playstyle.

Taylor 214ce Deluxe Grand Auditorium

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Taylor 214ce 200 Series Acoustic Guitar, Rosewood, Grand Auditorium, Cutaway, ES-T

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Anytime you find a list of top guitars like this, there will most likely be a Taylor on it. The Taylor 214ce Deluxe Grand Auditorium acoustic electric guitar really is designed for people that want a little electrification to boost their acoustic sounds throughout a large space. And, boost them, it does! At a retail price of approximately $1400.00, it is a real steal!

A grand auditorium body shape guitar, it’s somewhat smaller than the typical dreadnought. That is fine as it allows this guitar to be flexible. It may be combined with the “Expression” electronics system that allows for tonal customization. Here are some of its features:

  • It gives a nice bright sound.
  • It does not have some of the depth and boom that you might want from a dreadnought style auditorium body.
  • It carries the typical Taylor look and feel of quality and care.
  • The body style is versatile.
  • It has a great quality ebony fretboard.
  • It provides excellent playability.

Yes, Taylor is a company with a proven history of turning out some of the finest guitars ever made. Do check out this fine Taylor acoustic electric guitar.

Acoustic Electric Guitar Buyers Guide

Basic Components Of A Guitar


The basic parts of an acoustic electric guitar are…..

  • The Binding
  • The Bridge
  • The Fingerboard
  • Frets
  • Headstock
  • Machine Heads
  • Neck
  • Pick Guard
  • Fret Position Marker Inlays
  • Rosette
  • Strap Button
  • Strings
  • Top
  • Tuning Keys

Tonewoods – Different Woods For Different Sounds

Guitar makers and craftsmen, called luthiers, have found that the single most important piece of wood in making a guitar is the top wood. Different woods resonate differently with the sounds. Finger players will want a different type of wood than strummers, and strummers will want a different type of wood than pickers.

After the top wood, the wood used in the back, sides, and neck are the next important wood types used in an acoustic electric guitar.

It is important to remember that the types of wood used in the construction of a guitar can only do so much. It is just as important to take into consideration the quality of the craftsmanship in constructing the guitar as well as the individual quality of each piece of wood used. You can have a good piece of spruce or a bad piece of spruce. The same goes for the other types of wood used as well.

Here some of the more common types of wood used in crafting an acoustic electric guitar and their own particular qualities.

Spruce

Spruce is one of the more common woods used in crafting guitars. The most common type of spruce is the Sitka Spruce. It is a very rigid wood for being considered a softwood. It is very lightweight which is why guitar makers and players like it. Spruce gives a very direct sound and keeps its clarity when being played forcefully.

Cedar

Cedar is a popular top wood because of its warm rich sound. Most guitar craftsmen try to use Western Red Cedar when building a guitar designed for finger players. It is a very responsive wood for those with a light touch.

Mahogany

Mahogany topped guitars have a great punchy sound that works well if you are going to play country music or the blues. When acoustic guitar craftsmen use mahogany in the sides or back of the guitar then it gives the guitar a great range of overtones coming out of it.

Maple

When acoustic guitars are made with Sugar, Big Leaf, or Bearclaw Maple, they have a more “true” or “transparent” sound. This means that what is being produced by the guitar is not colored or shaded by many overtones.

Rosewood

Rosewood is known for its high acoustic response rate. This is why it is used so often in bridges. It gives you a complex sound filled with lots of dark and warm overtones. It provides a rich sound both in the low ends and in the mid and high ranges.

Acoustic Electric Guitar Buyers GuideGuitar Body Styles

There are 3 basic acoustic guitar body styles. They are the dreadnought, the classic, and the jumbo.

The dreadnought is by far the most popular and versatile of the 3 shapes. It was launched by CF Martin years ago and was named after an old English warship. Its distinctiveness is its rounded shoulders and the fact that most dreadnoughts join with the neck at the 14th fret.

The dreadnought has by far the evenest balance between size, volume, and ease of play.

Next comes the classic guitar body style. I would wager that if you were given a guitar as a child, you played one with the classic guitar body style. These are more commonly called classical guitars. They have the nylon strings and are the easiest to on your fingers to play. They are not as large as the dreadnoughts.

Classical guitars have a Spanish origin and account for the flamenco style of guitar playing associated with them. They are normally smaller in size than their steel-stringed cousins.

Finally, we have the jumbo guitar body style. The jumbo guitar lives up to its name. It has a jumbo size and jumbo volume. It was first released in 1937 by Gibson and was used as a rhythm guitar to complement the more precise lead guitars. Jumbo guitars are meant to be used in concert with other guitars. It is not well suited for standing on its own.

7 Things To Look For In Your Next Guitar

There are 7 things you should consider when purchasing your new acoustic electric guitar. The level of importance of each of these things will depend on what you are going to use your new guitar for.

Tonewood

As I mentioned earlier, the tonewood will change the way your guitar sounds. Pay attention to what the top is made of. This is the most important piece on the guitar. Understand that the rarer the wood, the more expensive the guitar will be and hardwoods are becoming scarcer over time.

Body Style

I just covered the different types of body styles. However, remember that the body style will affect both the ease of play and the sound that is projected. Some acoustic electric guitars come with a cutaway body style that gives you easier access to the fretboard. You might want to take this into consideration as well.

Also, the size of the guitar might matter. If you are just going to use it for home use or maybe take it with you on trips, you might want a smaller size.

The Neck

The neck can be a very important consideration. If you are like me, I was gifted with short, fat, stubby fingers. A wide neck makes a guitar much harder to play for me. The thickness and width of the neck is generally based on the size of the guitar. Many guitars necks are listed as 12 or 14 fret necks but this is not the size of the neck. This is referring to the number of frets are clear of the guitar body.

I am one of those people that are in-between sizes. I can play a full-sized guitar but a 3/4 size guitar is much easier to play for me.

Tuning Machines Or Pegs

The type of tuning machines, or sometimes called pegs is important. If they are not very good quality then your guitar will need to be constantly tuned. It will lose its tune as you play. Enclosed tuning machines are the best. They resist corrosion and do not get dust in them. They will last much longer.

The Bridge And Fingerboard

The materials of the bridge and fingerboard or fretboard do not have a lot of effect on the sound quality. However, they do have an effect on ease of play. Some guitar players like to lower the height of the bridge to lower the strings so they do not have to press so hard in order to lay the strings across the frets. The downside to this is that if you lower the strings too far, they can buzz on other frets or will buzz if you press too hard.

The Finish

The type of finish may have a slight effect on the tone of your guitar. However, it is really beyond your control the type of finish that is on your guitar unless you have a guitar custom built for you. Most quality guitar manufacturers are aware of this and choose appropriately.

The finish is put on the guitar to protect it. It is usually one layer of stain or paint followed by several layers of clear coat finish.

The Electronics

Acoustic electric guitars come with pickups and pre-amplifiers already installed in them. These are either placed in a hole in the side of the guitar or mounted inside the guitar body. Some acoustic electric guitars come with not only a pickup and pre-amp but comes with an EQ and a tuner as well. I have even seen some with special effects electronics as well.

You will want to make sure that you have volume and tone controls. The rest is just bells and whistles.

Recommended Manufacturers

Finally, pay attention to the manufacturer. Depending on what level you are as a player, we recommend these manufacturers.

Accomplished Players

Intermediate Players

Beginning Players

And Finally:

In this guide, I have given you the top five (actually six) acoustic electric guitars on the market today. To recap, they are as follows:

This, The Ultimate Guide to Acoustic Electric Guitars, will help you make that important decision as to which acoustic electric guitar is best for you. Remember first to consider your budget, what sound you are after and where you will mostly be playing as these factors will have a major impact on the ultimate acoustic electric guitar for your particular needs.

Let me encourage you to thoroughly research the options that I have given in this guide and I am sure that you will discover, as I did, that they are the absolute best acoustic electric guitars on the market today. Enjoy the journey!

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Duke Taber has been a Senior Pastor of various churches since 1988. Prior to that, he was involved in the Christian rock scene opening for such notables as Larry Norman, Randy Stonehill, Rez Band, and once played briefly with Darrel Mansfield. Today he is the owner and managing editor of 3 successful Christian websites that support missionaries around the world.Currently he is serving as a Technology Consultant for Living Waters Fellowship in Mesquite Nevada