Many people don’t know about electroacoustic guitars, have never seen one, or have never played one. Skepticism still surrounds these beautiful musical instruments as, like you, many might not know the advantages of playing an electric acoustic guitar.
Electroacoustic guitars are simply the best of both worlds. They have the capabilities and volume of an electric guitar with the tone and sound of an acoustic guitar.
These are the ideal rigs for live performances as you can plug them directly to an amplifier or PA system and enjoy the amped sound of an acoustic guitar without the need of a complex mic set-up.
I’m here to help you choose the ideal electroacoustic guitar for you if you’re a beginner if you’re on a budget or both. And now that we’re at it, you can take some time to check this article to imrpove your guitar playing skills and go up from beginner to intermediate in no time.
- 1 How much budget are we talking about, exactly?
- 2 A brief history of electroacoustic guitars
- 3 Following this guide, you will learn
- 4 What is an electroacoustic guitar?
- 5 Why should you pick an electroacoustic guitar?
- 6 What to look for in an electroacoustic guitar
- 7 The best 10 budget acoustic – electric guitars
- 8 The ideal budget rig for your acoustic-electric guitar
- 9 Final Considerations
How much budget are we talking about, exactly?
We’re talking guitars cheaper than a PlayStation 5 or an entry-level laptop. And, if you’re feeling confident enough, we double that budget for your rig. However, we’ll also be discussing cheaper $$$ options that can even include the amplifier, which are alternatives for those of you who only want to learn or practice at home. More so, most budget amplifiers you can find for about $$.
If you’re already familiar with acoustic-electric guitars (I’m talking about how they work and how to recognize a good one), you can jump straight to the guitar selection on the menu. However, I strongly recommend you give this guide a read.
Before we continue, here’s what you’re looking at:
A brief history of electroacoustic guitars
Gibson was one of the first companies to build pickups within acoustic guitars.
Following this guide, you will learn
- What is an electroacoustic guitar;
- How does an electroacoustic guitar works;
- Why should you pick an electroacoustic guitar;
- What to look for in an electroacoustic guitar;
- The top budget acoustic-electric guitars;
- The ideal budget rig for your acoustic-electric guitar;
- Final Considerations.
What is an electroacoustic guitar?
An electroacoustic guitar looks like their acoustic siblings. However, the electro-acoustic alternative, whereas identical in properties, construction, and even components, has electronic components within its body.
The electronic parts allow you to plug the acoustic-electric gear into a soundboard or an amp. The components, depending on the guitar, may be:
- Piezo pickup;
- Magnetic pickup;
- Built-in microphone.
Electroacoustic guitars use preamp systems and “undersaddle pickups” to amplify the acoustic sound. Some guitars include built-in microphones you can blend with the pickups for a more balanced tone. Additionally, these guitars include a 3-band EQ with gain control and tuner.
An undersaddle pickup only amplifies the sound of the strings while none of the body’s sound. These pieces get the vibration at the end of the strings and not at the middle. Thus, they have a thin and bright sound with a strong attack.
Understanding how an electroacustic guitar works is pramount for you to choose the best budget electroacustic guitar in 2019. Thus, let’s take a look at its three kinds of pickips before we continue.
Takamine is one of the most coveted brands for electroacoustic guitars.
Electroacustic guitar pikcups
The piezo pickup is the most common type of pickup for electroacoustic guitars. These are also common in advanced electronic systems, so, if you find them, it means you’re looking at a quality instrument.
Most pickups are magnetic pickups. Whether passive or active, these pieces work in a similar fashion: it has a series of magnets wrapped in wire coil that catches on the string’s vibrations. In other words, these mics translate the energy created by the vibration into electricall signals you can amplify.
A piezo pickup, though, is different. Firts of all, you can’t see it on the guitar, unlike magnetic pickups which are placed under the strings, between the neck and the bridge. Piezo pickups are inside the instrument, which is why it’s the ideal choice for electroacoustic guitars.
Lastly, electroacoustic guitars may also have a built-in microphone inside it’s body, along with the electronic components that will allow you to plug it into an amplifying system.
Some top-notch electroacoustic guitar will use sensors, built-in microphones, and piezo pickups at the same time.
Additionally, an acoustic electric guitar also has a built-in preamp. These preamps amplifiy the pickup signal before it goes to the amp. The piece often comes with tone controls, 3-band equalizers, and a tuner.
The preamp usually requires batteries of some kind, which is why batteries are often included when you buy an electroacoustic guitar.
Electroacoustic guitars are louder and have more sound options than acoustic guitars.
In summary, here’s what the electroacoustic guitar includes:
- An acoustic guitar body, which of course includes the neck, the bridge, the body, and the strings;
- A piezo pickup;
- An optional built-in microphone;
- Electronic components;
- Plug output.
Now that you know something about how they work, it’s time to descipher why you should pick one.
Why should you pick an electroacoustic guitar?
An electroacoustic guitar sounds like an acoustic guitar when you amplify it. More so, most of these instruments are acoustic guitars when played unplugged. More often than not, they even have a brighter sound than their more regular counterparts.
You need to be aware of the difference between these pieces and the “semi-acoustic guitars,” which are hollow or semi-hollow electric guitars.
The acoustic-electric guitar has the same acoustic properties and components as the acoustic guitar. The difference is the electronic it has, as we saw in the section above. However, these electronics don’t change the raw sound of the instrument.
Now, an acoustic guitar is a truly timeless instrument you can use to practice, songwriting just as good as a piano, and even play live. So, why choosing an expensier electroacoustic guitar? Well, first of all, despite what you might think, it doens’t really costs that much more money.
Simply put, an electroacoustic guitar is the best, even the only alternative when playing live or rehearsing with a band. Especially if you’re on a budget, a budget mic just won’t cut it for an acoustic guitar. Even if it’s the acoustic guitar alone, it will always sound below the crowd’s noise and get lost beneath the lead singer.
More so, an acoustic guitar limits you to a static movement as you play in front of the mic, often times sitting. Even more, you’ll have limited harmonic and acoustic overtones, and close to none customization of your sound from your end. It means the sound engineer is the only one who can more or less tweak your sound.
Whereas with an electroacoustic guitar you have various sound options from your end, like the amplifier, and even from pedals and preamps, if you choose to. The guitar site Sweetwater does a great job at talking about preamps:
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In summary, here are the advantages of using an electroacoustic guitar:
- It has the sound and shape of an acoustic guitar, even if it’s unplugged;
- You can plug it to make it louder by using a preamp/pedals/amp sound setup;
- It has a bigger sound projection;
- It has advanced pickup electronics;
- It amplifies harmonic overtones, whereas an acoustic guitar with a mic can’t do it;
- It has comparable prices compared to acoustic guitar. Although it’s fair to say these are slightly expensive.
On the downside, you can find:
- It requires a power source (batteries);
- You need to change electrical components as they can fail;
- It requires an extra-amp to play it plugged-in.
Overall, it’s about your personal preferences and needs. Either way, I must say the advantages of an electroacoustic guitar are putting it strongñly on the winning edge.
If you’re a beginner, there are factors you should consider. For starters the quality of the electronics is paramount and you may find plenty of sub-par instruments on the budget side of things.
Let’s dive into the things to consider:
What to look for in an electroacoustic guitar
Here’re the top considerations for buying an electroacoustic guitar.
Let’s be honest here, yeah? How the guitar looks is definitely one of the most important things you’re looking for, especially if you’re planning to play live.
Fortunately, elegant, exotic, alluring and attractive designs usually belong to quality instruments. In summary, you’ll be looking for tonewoods colors, shapes, details on the fret, plug designs, etc.
Don’t stress yourself over this. If you find a guitar with color and design that appeals to you, it’s probably for you.
The design and color of an electroacoustic guitar is probably the first thing you’re looking for.
Shape and size
An electroacoustic guitar has the same size, shape, and form as an acoustic guitar. More so, you can find different shapes that can fit your own playing style and comfort (according to the size of your body, arms, and hands).
Additionally, it doesn’t matter if it’s small, big, or medium-sized as you don’t depend on its own acoustic box to amplify the sound. Because you can amplify your playing with pickups, just be sure to pick something that’s comfortable for you and where you can play to the best of your abilities.
Just like acoustic guitars, these instruments are suited for beginners. So, in order to find an electroacoustic guitar where you can shine, you need to search for quality strings. Top strings brands are Elixir, Martin, Ernie Ball, D’Addario, and Fender, so keep an eye out for that.
The strings are the same as the acoustic guitar, and they can be nylon, steel, and bronze. Nylon is the softer material, so it’s best for beginners as it’s easy to play.
Steel comes in second, as it’s a sturdier material but produces a louder sound -unplugged- than the other two. Hence, it works best for rock genres, however, it’s intended for guitar players with at least intermediate skills.
And, finally, bronze strings (made with copper and zinc) are the most common category. They produce a “clear, bright, bell-like tone,” as guitar site Reverb notes.
As guitar site the Hobgoblin explains, guitar strings come in three gauges: medium, light, and extra light. The thinner they are, the easier they are to play, the easier they get out of tune, and vice-versa. The medium gauge also produces better sound, but it’s harder to play. There’s also a heavy gauge, but it’s so uncommon to see and buy you shouldn’t even consider it.
I recommend going for the well-rounded light bronze strings, in particular, phosphor coated bronze like this one as they last longer. If you prefer steel, though., I recommend going for NY steel like this one.
Pick nylon if you’re on a learning path. If that’s the case, take some time to check this guide about how to play leading guitar. Otherwise, you should know nylon strings create a softer, mellower tone, perfect for acoustic music. They are also softer and easier on fingers, which are both a good option for beginner guitar players and pros looking for a light practice.
Are you planning to take your guitar everywhere? Then pick something that is comfortable to carry!
Acoustic-electric guitars are, basically, acoustic guitars with a maximum volume amplification. It means you can still carry your guitar anywhere and play some blues everywhere (campfire on the beach, your girlfriend or boyfriend’s house, college,..) and play!
What I’m trying to say is, even when it’s an electroacoustic guitar, be sure that it still has a nice volume unplugged and it’s not excessively heavy.
Sometimes, you just don’t know where you’re going to end up with your guitar. You should consider taking an amplifier everywhere might be a bit of a hassle.
Sound quality and pickups
Every musician has a great ear for sound quality, so I fully trust this is also the case for you. I’m still giving you some tips, though.
Other than quality strings, there are other factors you should consider if you want to get a great acoustic and amplified acoustic sound.
The guitar frequency range is something you must consider. I’m using the music encyclopedia portal Recordinology to share this concept with you. These are the fundamental frequencies in the playable range of a guitar in-tune.
The typical electric guitar frequency range goes between 80 Hz to 1200 Hz. 80 Hz represents the lowest hearable note, while 1200 Hz represents the highest hearable note. It’s the same frequency you should look for in an electro-acoustic guitar.
Last but not least, let’s talk about pickups and electronics. Pickups are responsible for amplifying the sound and maintaining the fidelity and quality of the melodies you play. The pickup is the output, and the quality of the music is highly dependent on this factor.
You can check the video bellow hear pickup sounds yourself, as my words won’t be enough. Either way, keep reading after watching the Reverb clip.
Let’s review, then:
- Magnetic or transducer style pickup: these are common in electric guitar, and you can find them inside the acoustic hole of an electroacoustic guitar. It produces a crisp, natural sound. Lastly, these pieces are active, features a 3-band EQ, and require a battery.
These are my personal favorites, and they work better with steel strings. I personally recommend the $ LR Baggs iBeam. These pickups sound better with steel or bronze strings.
- Soundhole pickup: similar to magnetic pickups, they produce a warm, bright sound when amplified by an electric guitar amp. Soundhole pickups may be passive or active and plenty of sound customization options. On the downside, these pickups go underneath the strings, like a bridge in the acoustic hole. Thus, the output plug, within the acoustic hole, might be a bit uncomfortable.
I warn you: although the sound of these mics is great, these guitars are hard to play because the pickup becomes an obstacle for your strumming. Reverb recommends the $$ Di Marzio Black Angel Acoustic Soundhole Pickup.
As the mic is so close to the strings, it’s best to use light or extra light bronze or nylon strings.
- Piezo pickup: these are the most popular option for electroacoustic guitars, and for a good reason. Piezo pickup systems often come with an undersaddle pickup plus a mic. Both pieces go within the acoustic hole and maintain the essence of the instrument. Both pieces also offer distinct tonal quality as you blend them together.
I personally recommend the L.R. Baggs Anthem, although it’s a $$$ installation- piece. Additionally, I must add undersaddle pickups work better with nylon or bronze strings. Although light steel strings can also make a good choice if you’re looking for a stronger, louder sound.
Either way, there’re plenty of options out there and it’s all about your personal preference and playing needs. There are some brands that are always a good choice, like L.R. Baggs, Seymour Duncan, and Di Marzio.
Piezo pickups are probably the best option for electroacoustic guitars.
I must add the preferred option for recording an acoustic guitar is using a microphone. However, piezo pickups are the best option for playing live, rehearsing with a band, or practicing at home. As piezo pieces go under the bridge saddle, they ensure higher sound fidelity as they pick the vibration of the guitar’s body.
As I said before, an electroacoustic guitar may cost about the same as an acoustic guitar, so this is a no-brainer.
However, you have a whole bunch of brands, features, shapes, sizes, designs, and quality to choose from. More so, if you’re planning to buy an electroacoustic guitar, it means you’re either planning to buy an amp or you already have one. So we must take that into consideration -even if you already have it, we’re on a budget, remember?
Best buck-for-your-money electroacoustic guitar brands include Fender (made-in-Mexico or made-in-Taiwan Fender especially), Epiphone (Gibson’s cheaper alternative), and Takamine.
Keep in mind these brands can go up from a budget $300 instrument that includes the case, a strap and more, to a high-end $2,000 shipping with nothing but the guitar. However, it’s still better than choosing cheap brands like Dean, Martin, Aria, or even Squier.
The best 10 budget acoustic – electric guitars
I’m dividing my pick into two categories: low-budget starter pack and budget behemoths. I’m guessing you can guess what they are all about.
If you need further help, you can check this guide about how to choose the perfect guitar according to science.
Budget Behemoth (top 5 mid-tier budget acoustic-electric guitars)
1. Epiphone DOVE PRO Solid Top
The first acoustic-electric guitar on the list is an Epiphone instrument. Epiphone, as I said before, is the economic series from acclaimed guitar builders Gibson. And even though it’s cheaper, microphones, electronics, and design usually keep the same quality as top Gibson guitars.
The Epiphone Dove Pro is at the top and ships for mid $$$ budgets.
The Solid Top is a superb entry-level Gibson guitar. It’s a full-sized maple guitar with an orange-tinted oil finish, a dovetail neck joint, and a classy rosewood fingerboard. It features a Fishman Sonitone piezo pickup plus a Fishman Sonitone onboard preamp.
The pickup and preamp electronics ensure the guitar is loud and crisp, while the dovetail neck provides sound resonance. This well-made guitar is easy to play and features a tone that can fit most ears.
Another choice is the Epiphone Hummingbird Solid Top. You can check a similarly priced guitar on Amazon.
2. Takamine GD30CE-NAT Dreadnought Cutaway
The GD30CE-NAT is a budget Takamine acoustic-electric guitar that even though it has rough finishes, you won’t help but worship it. With its huge body -as it’s a “dreadnought”- people will notice it and notice you wherever you go. And with the potent sound it makes, it can fill a room with its melody, even if you’re playing beneath a band.
This Takamine instrument is made of mahogany, which produces a resonant, rich sound. It features an easy to play rosewood fingerboard and a pin-less rosewood bridge. It has a Takamine TP-4TD preamp system with a 3-band EQ for versatility in your performance with a Takamine-branded Palathelic piezo pickup.
3. Fender CD-60SCE Dreadnought
The Fender CD-60SCE is a great choice because of the incredible value it offers. In fact, it’s one one of Fender’s most popular items in the market right now.
This is a great solid top acoustic – electric guitar with mahogany on the back and the sides. It has a smooth fingerboard edges. Its old-school look features a Venetian cutaway that ensures your fingers will move easily to the upper frets.
The tone is warm, classy, and everything you’d expect from a big guitar. The guitar is very loud, even unplugged, so it’s a good choice for people looking for versatility and portability.
Just like the Epiphone guitar, it features Fishman electronics and a Fishman undersaddle pickup.
There are other Fender acoustic-electric guitars going for budgets that will surely fit your needs, which are also a great choice. I personally recommend the Fender T-Bucket 400 CE Cutaway.
4. Yamaha FSX830C Small Body Solid Top
This one is a superb entry-level guitar. The Yamaha FSX830C is a premium product to invest the full $$$, especially if it’s a promotional bundle.
Its a small-body cutaway guitar with a flat oval neck. Yamaha has marketed this instrument for people with small hands, so it’s a great choice if this is you. In fact, it even ships with light nylon strings, so, it’s not only for small hands but also for beginners.
However, there’s no reason to pick it if you’re looking for a full-sized guitar. But if you’re looking for a smaller guitar, maybe you should check for a ukelele.
The Yamaha FSX830C boosts bass and mids. When you plug it, its sound is close to a dreadnought. It features a System 66 preamp with a 3 EQ adjustment plus a piezo pickup. These pieces are, in my eyes, top-quality.
What I like about this Yamaha electroacoustic guitar is that it’s attractive for both beginners and experienced players. Beginners find it very light and easy to play; while experienced players will enjoy the quality of its finish and its sound.
Another Yamaha alternative, also an Amazon’s Choice, is the Yamaha FGX800C.
5. Jameson Blue Thinline
Lastly, we’re talking about this cheap guitar coming from a little, almost unknown guitar builder. Because of cheap price, you may feel inclined to disregard it. But do not, I assure you, this is worth your time.
The Jameson Blue Thinline is a top-seller and it’s an absolute steal. It’s finished, shiny blue gives it a smart, modern look fitting to its modern sound.
The tone of the guitar will get you going, with its piezo pickups and preamps working nicely to give you enough sound versatility to become fond of the instrument.
I simply like it because of its crazy low price, while the quality is similar to the Yamaha you just saw above. However, the materials are definitely low end.
The low-budget starter pack is just a selection of Amazon bundles. As they are super entry-level, basic electroacoustic guitars, they’re not worth a review each. However, do check them out if they fit your economical needs.
Low budget starter-pack (top 5 low-tier budget acoustic-electric guitars)
The ideal budget rig for your acoustic-electric guitar
Closing up our guide is our selection of the rig you need to amp your guitar. In particular, we’re talking about amplifiers, and we’re just going for three of them, on three different price ranges:
Fender Frontman 10G Electric Guitar Amplifier
This is a small, 10 Watts amplifier with a Fender Special Design Speaker. It features one channel with gain, volume, treble, and bass controls, plus and over-drive select switch. Additionally, it packs a 2-Band EQ.
This amp is a great choice for an acoustic-electric guitar because it maintains sound fidelity. If you go for a Fender guitar, even better.
Orange Crush 20 Twin-Channel 20W Guitar Amplifier, Orange
Orange is a reputed brand regarding guitar amplifiers. They offer a clean, beautiful sound for both electric and acoustic guitars.
The Crush is a 20 Watt amplifier with an analog signal path and a high gain preamp design. Its approach to guitar tone is a no-nonsense delivery of clean and dirty frequencies with a clean and dirty switch with a huge array of options for distorted and overdriven sounds.
Plus, the Orange Crush 20 is rich in harmonic overtones, which gives your guitar that much more versatility.
Furthermore, it achieves a powerful sound with a sheer punch with its custom 8’ Voice of the World Speaker.
Take notice, though, this is also a practicing amp. 20 Watts is still not enough to rehearse with a band, although it’s enough to play with another guitar and even a bass.
A priced alternative is the 20 Watt Fender Mustang Amplifier.
Boss ACS Live 60W
This expensive quality Boss amplifier is suited for vocals and acoustic guitars. It has two channels and features gain, volume, middle, treble, and bass controls, plus other sound customization options.
Because it’s a vocal and acoustic guitar amplifier, this alternative is the one that keeps the highest sound fidelity as it delivers a clean, undistorted sound. In fact, it doesn’t even have distortion, dirty, or overdrive options.
A similar alternative is the cheaper Fishman Loudbox, also a 60 Watts acoustic amplifier. The difference is this one features only one channel, which is why is a more affordable option.
Do you remember anything so far? Pick a budget acoustic-electric guitar with a piezo undersaddle pickups, steel or bronze light gauge strings, and, if you can, made by either Fender, Takamine, or Epiphone. If you follow this through, I assure you won’t make a mistake.
As my final consideration, I’ll simply highlight what would be my own choice for a budget acoustic-electric guitar:
Lastly, be sure to commit yourself with your musical investments as well as your talents. Be sure to practice guitar, at least, every week.
What do you think? Leave your comments below and happy hunting!