The Top 15 Electro-Acoustic Guitars – Worthy Candidates for Plugging in

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Last Updated: Nov-15-2018
We gave our electro-acoustic chart a big refresh to keep it relevant for early 2018, by replacing a few older guitars with some excellent upgraded models. Guitars such as the Epiphone PR-4E and Mitchell MX400 were removed, and in came the exquisite Yamaha A Series A3M, the new PRS SE A50E, the cool Fender Sonoran SCE, and two solid budget models, the Kona K2 and Yamaha’s APX500III.

Performing to a crowd? Recording a quick track? Can’t be bothered fussing around with microphones? It’s time to buy an electro-acoustic guitar!

Since the early 1910s, players and brands have experimented with adding electronics to their acoustic guitars, and have continued to improve and innovate these over the past century or so. These days, the range of electro-acoustics is unbelievable. In fact, it can be a little overwhelming, even if you are an experienced player.

This is why we’ve put together the following chart, that highlights 15 of the best electro-acoustics on the market, that offer both solid electronics and a great guitar playing experience. The following 15 span a wide range of budgets from affordable to premium, so there’s something for everyone. Let’s get started…

Top 15 Best Acoustic Electric Guitars:

ImageAcoustic Guitar / RatingSummaryCheck Price
+ - Martin Road Series DRS1 Martin Road Series DRS1

Total of 4.92/5  

Packing a top-notch mixture of quality tonewood and electronics.

+ - Takamine GN93CE-NAT Takamine GN93CE-NAT

Total of 4.88/5  

A great sounding acoustic with amazing electronics in a nice package.

+ - Yamaha A Series A3M Yamaha A Series A3M

Total of 4.82/5  

A higher-end acoustic with sleek electronics.

+ - PRS SE A50E PRS SE A50E

Total of 4.80/5  

An all-round angelic acoustic with stealthy electronics.

+ - Taylor 114E Grand Auditorium Taylor 114E Grand Auditorium

Total of 4.85/5  

The ultimate country guitar that both the new and experienced will love.

+ - Yamaha FGX720SC Yamaha FGX720SC

Total of 4.88/5  

A great sounding instrument whether it is plugged or unplugged.

+ - Fender Sonoran SCE Fender Sonoran SCE

Total of 4.75/5  

Fender’s retro-inspired dreadnought oozes vintage style.

+ - Fender FA135CE Fender FA135CE

Total of 4.65/5  

An affordable gem that is a slick and modern choice.

+ - Epiphone Hummingbird Pro Epiphone Hummingbird Pro

Total of 4.72/5  

An affordable retro icon with quality modern upgrades.

+ - Fender CD-140SCE Fender CD-140SCE

Total of 4.72/5  

Unplugged sound that is good with plenty of sparkle with good electronics.

+ - Fender T-Bucket 300CE Fender T-Bucket 300CE

Total of 4.63/5  

A beautiful looking guitar that stands out from its peers.

+ - Kona K2 Kona K2

Total of 4.67/5  

A cool slimline electro-acoustic with a surprisingly low price.

+ - Epiphone EJ-200CE Epiphone EJ-200CE

Total of 4.55/5  

Jumbo body with two pickups for plenty of tonal variation.

+ - Yamaha APX500III Thinline Yamaha APX500III Thinline

Total of 4.63/5  

An affordable slimline electro-acoustic from Yamaha

+ - Ibanez V70CE Ibanez V70CE

Total of 4.67/5  

Superb value on offer with this stylish Ibanez electro-acoustic.

Martin Road Series DRS1

Martin Road Series DRS1

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The DRS1 is an all solid wood acoustic electric from the fine people at Martin. The top, back, and sides, are all sapele, which is a highly sustainable tonewood that is similar in appearance and sound to mahogany.

The Fishman Sonitone system is used for the electronics, which features controls hidden in the soundhole of the guitar. This means no hole needs to be cut into the side of the instrument for the preamp controls.

Keeping with the forest friendly theme the fingerboard and bridge are both made from certified richlite. The Martin DRS1 is available in a left-hand model, and also comes with a ply hardshell case. This is a genuinely beautiful guitar with a great voice.

Takamine GN93CE-NAT

Takamine GN93CE-NAT

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The GN93CE-NAT by Takamine features their NEX body, which is a scaled down jumbo. It sports beautiful features like abalone dot inlays, a rosewood headcap, gold die-cast tuners, and a gloss finish to show off the wood grain.

It has a solid spruce top with laminate rosewood back and sides. The real star of this acoustic electric is Takamine’s own TK-400 preamp that includes a built-in tuner.

There are lots of controls to shape and contour your amplified sound with a three band EQ, grain knob, mid contour switch, notch filter, and EQ bypass. This is a great sounding guitar whether you plug it in or not.

Yamaha A Series A3M

Yamaha A Series A3M

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The S.R.T. electronics fitted to Yamaha’s A3M electro-acoustic – part of the brand’s performance-focused A Series – are one of the highlights of this excellent guitar, taking advantage of both mic and piezo pickup input.

This system also comes with a good 3-band EQ preamp that doesn’t leave much of a footprint on the side of the guitar. Which is good, because you wouldn’t want to spoil the elegant design of the A3M.

With an all-solid-wood construction, Yamaha uses A.R.E-treated Sitka spruce on the top with mahogany on the back and sides for a wonderful tone. There’s also a very playable hand-rolled mahogany neck with a rosewood fretboard and 19 frets. Be sure to check out the full review of the Yamaha A3M.

PRS SE A50E

PRS SE A50E

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New for 2018, the PRS SE A50E is a mid-range electro-acoustic that feels very high-end in its design, construction and tone. Featuring PRS’s Angelus body shape, this 25.3” scale length guitar is made with figured maple on the sides and back, and solid Sitka spruce on the top.

With beautiful abalone flying bird fretboard inlays, rosette and purfling, there’s definitely some sparkle to this angelic model, which is matched by the bright, clear tone – replicated naturally through the Fishman GT1 electronics.

This system isn’t the most versatile in controls, but its stealthy soundhole preamp keeps the guitar’s lovely style intact. A great buy! Check out more in the full review of the PRS SE A50E.

Taylor 114E Grand Auditorium

Taylor 114E Grand Auditorium

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The 114E by Taylor is made with the company’s own grand auditorium body shape. The top is Sitka spruce with sapele back and sides. The neck is also sapele with an ebony fingerboard.

The Taylor 114E has a very clean and traditional look with a versatile sound. The electronics it uses is the ES2 pickup system that includes a volume and tone knobs on the upper bout of the guitar.

There is a gig bag included with the guitar making it very portable. This is a great instrument for a beginner or as a backup for the more experienced player. This is a very sturdy instrument that can survive life on the road.

Yamaha FGX720SC

Yamaha FGX720SC

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The FGX720SC is Yamaha’s acoustic electric in this range. It has a solid Sitka spruce top with nato back and sides. The thin finish is hand-sprayed, which allows the guitar resonate and not be dampened by a heavy finish.

The neck is also nato. Rosewood is used for both the fingerboard and bridge. The body features a cutaway so that the higher frets are open to play. Yamaha’s own System 55 1-way is used to make this acoustic electric.

The preamp has a built in tuner and also includes an adjustable midrange frequency control. This is great sounding guitar whether you are plugged in to play to the house, or just sitting on the couch strumming at your house.

Fender Sonoran SCE

Fender Sonoran SCE

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Fender have made a big mark in the sub-$500 acoustic market [INSERT LINK to https://www.guitarfella.com/best-acoustic-guitar/under-500/] with their awesome Sonoran SCE. It oozes retro style with a single-cutaway dreadnought body finished with a choice of some cool vintage-inspired colors including Surf Green and Candy Apple Red.

The body is made of solid spruce, with laminate mahogany back and sides, while the neck is classic Fender – made of maple with a fast feel and 20 frets. The decoration works well, with a unique checkerboard rosette and that iconic Strat headstock.

Finally, the electronics are provided by Fishman in the shape of their Isys III pickup and preamp system with 3-band EQ. Check out the full Sonoran SCE review for everything you need to know.

Fender FA135CE

Fender FA135CE

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As one of the somewhat hidden gems of today’s market, the Fender FA135CE model comes from the legendary Fender. It has an all laminate body with a spruce top and basswood back and sides.

The neck is nato with a rosewood fingerboard. It comes in both a natural finish as well as a 3-color sunburst. The body is a concert shape with a cutaway for a very modern and slick look. The Fishman electronics are the ION-T preamp with a built in tuner.

It has volume control, phase switch, and contour button. The sound does not have the depth of an expensive guitar, but it also doesn’t have a big price tag either.

Epiphone Hummingbird Pro

Epiphone Hummingbird Pro

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There can’t be many more instantly recognizable acoustic guitars than the Hummingbird, and this beautiful Epiphone version is excellent for blues beginners. This vintage icon shows off great retro style, with the elaborately-decorated pickguard and the Faded Cherry Burst finish among other aspects.

But it’s not just a pretty face – this Hummingbird has a great build and tone. The dreadnought body is made with a solid spruce top and laminated mahogany back and sides, while it comes loaded with impressive Epiphone electronics that make it a versatile instrument – one that any beginner can aspire to playing on stage.

For all kinds of blues fingerstyle, flatpicking and slide, it’s a class act from Epiphone – as we elaborate on in the full review.

Fender CD-140SCE

Fender CD-140SCE

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The Fender CD-140SCE has a solid Sitka spruce top with laminate mahogany back and sides. The neck is nato with a rosewood fingerboard. The bridge is also rosewood with a compensated saddle.

The Fender/Fishman Classic 4T active onboard preamplifier also includes a built-in tuner. A tortoise pickguard protects the top from rough strumming attacks. The body is a dreadnaught style with a cutaway which allows easier access to the higher strings. It has a built in tuner and 3-band EQ.

The unplugged sound is good with plenty of sparkle. This is a fine instrument for playing live. Give the CD-140SCE a test drive and find out why we like it so much.

Fender T-Bucket 300CE

Fender T-Bucket 300CE

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RaRating this one below the FGX was one of the hardest things for us to do. The Fender T-Bucket is a great contender even for the number one spot.

Fender got really good at producing affordable high quality electric guitars thanks to the Squire brand, and with the T-Bucket 300CE they are trying to achieve the same thing in the acoustic electric world. This is an instrument that features superb electronics and offers great potential, and if it is in the hands of a professional it sounds better than any other guitar on this list.

The downside is the sound that body produces when you play unplugged is a bit weak, but that’s why you plug it in.

Kona K2

Kona K2

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Guitarists searching for an electro-acoustic don’t have to pay over the odds when guitars like the Kona K2 exist. This slimline acoustic is great for travel and smaller-players, with a 3” deep body.

Made of laminated spruce on the top and mahogany on the back and sides, the K2 looks great, with a dreadnought shape, single cutaway, and choice of pickguard style. While it could benefit from a setup, the overall fit and finish is pretty good for a sub-$100 guitar.

Of course, being in this chart, it is loaded with electronics in the form of a basic piezo pickup and EQ-505 preamp with 3-band EQ. This is a guitar well-worth checking out – as we assert in our full Kona K2 review.

Epiphone EJ-200CE

Epiphone EJ-200CE

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Epiphone continues to deliver the classic looks with the Epiphone EJ-200CE. This is a jumbo body style with a cutaway that is the “King of the Flattops.”

The fretboard has been coronate with pearloid crowns, while the rosewood bridge adds to the flair with a pearloid “mustache.” The pickguard has a flower motif to keep this guitar from getting lost in the crowd. The electronics are from Shadow and feature the eSonic preamp along with the NanoMag and NanoFlex pickups.

The controls include a master volume individual EQ knobs for each pickup, phase switch, and built-in tuner mute switch. This is a great sounding instrument with a big booming voice.

Yamaha APX500III Thinline

Yamaha APX500III Thinline

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There should be no surprise to see another Yamaha on this chart, although this time it’s the affordable Yamaha APX500III – a great guitar for both beginners and experienced players looking for a first electro-acoustic.

With several color choices, this good-looking guitar features a slim single-cutaway body made with spruce on the top and nato on the back, sides and neck. It’s fitted with Yamaha’s System 66 preamp and an under-saddle piezo pickup, which has simple controls including 3-band EQ and a built-in tuner.

It sounds great both unplugged and through an amp, and proves all-round good value. You can read everything on the Yamaha APX500III in the complete review.

Ibanez V70CE

Ibanez V70CE

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One of the most affordable electro-acoustic guitars on this list, the Ibanez V70CE – that we’ve reviewed in full here – will appeal to beginners and players on a budget. With two color choices, it sports a full-size dreadnought shape with a laminated select spruce top, and mahogany back and sides.

It sports a mahogany neck, with a rosewood fretboard and 20 frets, as well as an Ibanez-branded headstock with pretty good closed chrome die-cast tuners.

The electronics on offer are also solid – the Ibanez-designed AEQ200 preamp with an undersaddle pickup, which comes with simple volume, bass and treble controls. It’s a no-frills guitar, but the looks and sound stand up to some of the others on this list. Great value.

The Difference Between Acoustic and Electro-Acoustics Guitar

The answer here is pretty obvious – electronics. An acoustic without electronics relies solely on the vibration of the body to project the sound. The inclusion of electronics gives the added capability of using an amp or soundboard to project the sound of the guitar.

This also allows builders to create instruments that don’t project as well with smaller and shallower bodies. These acoustics actually sound better when plugged in.

Many electro-acoustics are simply the standard acoustic model with the electronics added on. You still have a perfectly functional acoustic, but with the added benefit of being able to plug in. Another bonus is most good built-in preamps include a tuner. This is a nice feature when you’re sitting around the campfire without a tuning fork in sight.

The downside of going electric is that now you have to think about a soundboard, or at least an amp. And no self-respecting guitarist can live without a few pedals to tweak the sound. I mean you only need a volume pedal to control the level, a tuner might be nice, chorus is always appreciate, a nice delay pedal wouldn’t be bad, and you might need a clean boost for those solos. Then again, you might just want to plug straight into the soundboard and just enjoy that amplified acoustic sound.

The Final Word

As you’ve seen from our chart above, the range of electro-acoustics on offer in 2018 is fantastic. Whether you’re an experienced stage performer or just starting your journey with electro-acoustics, we hope our list has given you a little inspiration.

Meanwhile, if you already have a great acoustic guitar and want to convert it into an electro acoustic model, adding a pickup is the obvious answer.

If you are curious about adding a pickup to an existing acoustic and want to know more about the best models for you and your budget, check out our dedicated chart and helpful guide on choosing the best acoustic guitar pickups.


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Comments

  1. How would you compare the Taylor Builders edition ($5,000) with the Ibanez 300 ($500)? I own the Ibanez and enjoy it.
    My dream is the Taylor Builders but my checkbook said 1/10th will work just fine!
    What are your thoughts in comparing the 2. Worth the price difference?

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