rich menga books search contact

***Secret FSR Fender guitars? Yes, they exist, and they're right here

Amazon links are affiliated. Learn more.

An acoustic electric guitar is a bad idea

Yamaha APX600 BL Natural

You may be tempted to buy one of these. You shouldn't...

...unless it's cheap, and I'll explain why.

It used to be that an electrified acoustic was an expensive thing. There was a point when it cost well over a thousand dollars to buy an acoustic electric. But now? Cheap.

An example of this is above, the Yamaha APX600. To get a thin-bodied (for better comfort) acoustic that looks great, plays great, has a preamp with 3-band EQ, master volume, has AMF (adjustable midrange) slider and built-in tuner used to be something guitarists only dreamed about owning. Today, you can get this and it's ridiculously affordable.

Here is the best selling point of the APX600: It is the ultimate acoustic electric stage guitar. And I'm not saying that lightly.

This is the guitar that players wanted for a very long time. It addresses every single feature request ever made. It's thin yet projects well, has a preamp system that runs on AA batteries (2 of them) instead of that stupid 9-volt, has the midrange slider on top of the 3-band EQ which was already good on its own, is lightweight, and has a slightly shorter 25.0" scale instead of the 25.5" for easier play.

And of course the price is low. It's cheap but good.

Everything has been attended to with this guitar, so what more could you want, right?

Well, this is where reality sets in and why this acoustic-electric along with ALL acoustic-electrics are generally a bad idea.

There is no way to make a piezo pickup sound good at home

How the electric part works in an acoustic-electric is by means of a piezoelectric pickup. The pickup is fed to a preamplifier in the body, that sound is shaped by whatever EQ settings you use on the preamp, then the sound is sent to the output jack.

Never in all the years that acoustic-electric guitars have been made has anyone been able to build one where the electric tone sounds like a proper acoustic guitar. What you get every time is a sound best described as "plastic". The tone has absolutely nothing to it that sounds like an acoustic is supposed to sound like.

In fact, if you stuck a piezoelectric pickup on a solid-body electric, such as "ghost saddles" for Stratocaster or Telecaster that effectively turns one into acousti-phonic guitar; the sound will be nearly identical to an acoustic-electric.

This is why I say that if you're going to buy an acoustic-electric, go cheap and stay there. Throwing more money at one of these will not, repeat, will not make its electric part sound better. Not happening.

The best environment for the acoustic-electric is on stage

Makers of acoustic-electric guitars outright say that the guitar is made for stage use first, and this also true for the Yamaha offering above.

When that piezo is fed to a PA system, then it starts sounding right. On stage is where the acoustic-electric makes perfect sense. Whether it's a small club or a large stage environment, if on the stage and going through the PA, that is what the guitar is made for.

A traditional acoustic guitar recorded with a microphone is always better for home recording

Here is an example of a traditional acoustic guitar that really sings, the Takamine GD20:


This is also an inexpensive acoustic, but it has a trick up its sleeve that is very easy to miss but absolutely necessary.

Look at the bridge. Notice how it is split in two pieces. There is a reason for that. The bridge design splits the resting position of the plain B and high-E strings from the wound E, A, D and G (remember, on an acoustic guitar, the G is a wound string).

That seemingly insignificant bridge setup is actually very significant, because for acoustics with non-adjustable bridges (which most are), that's the only way to have the guitar properly intonated.

In other words, when chording, all chords will be in tune whereas with a traditional single-piece bridge they will not. It is the B string in particular that "goes out" often on single-piece bridges. Not so with the GD20. Where the string rests on the saddle is backed off just enough to where that B rings the correct note anywhere on the fingerboard.

You take a GD20, stick a mic in front of that, and oh yes, that is the recorded acoustic sound you're looking for.

I will have another article soon after this one on how to get a great acoustic recording with just one mic. Watch for it. [Edit] Article is now live. Go read it now.


Best ZOOM R8 tutorial book
highly rated, get recording quick!

***Guitar deals & steals? Where? Right here. Price drops, B-stock and tons more.
🔥 Popular Articles 🔥
Casio F-91W
Casio F-91W cheat sheet
A quick guide on how to set the time, date and a few other tips and tricks.
The BOSS DS-1 is an awful guitar pedal
Yes, I think this pedal sucks...
Casio W59
Casio W59 is better than Casio F-91W
Bigger buttons = better watch.
Gibson Marauder
Gibson's "Norlin era" electric guitars
Norlin era Gibsons are some of the worst guitars Gibson ever made. Find out why.
Fender FSR Mahogany Blacktop Stratocaster HH
The Blacktop Stratocaster Fender got right, FSR Mahogany HH
Blacktop Stratocaster. Remember that one? Probably. Remember the FSR Mahogany version? No? It exists, and it's cool.
Fender Esquire
The 5 types of guitars you should never buy
Some guitars that exist where the day after you buy them, you know you've made a mistake.
⭐ Recent Articles ⭐
Fender FSR Mahogany Blacktop Stratocaster HH
The Blacktop Stratocaster Fender got right, FSR Mahogany HH
Blacktop Stratocaster. Remember that one? Probably. Remember the FSR Mahogany version? No? It exists, and it's cool.
Jackson JS11 Dinky
Jackson JS11 Dinky, the ultimate project guitar?
When it comes to ready-to-mod guitars, it doesn't get much better than this.
Gibson L6-S, a Norlin era beast from the 1970s
Oh, no... not another Norlin era Gibson.
1960 Fender Musicmaster
Fender Musicmaster might be the ultimate retirement guitar
It's real-deal Fender vintage, it's available, and there's one other rather nice advantage to owning one of these.
Gretsch G2655T Streamliner Brownstone Maple
The easiest Bigsby? Gretsch G2655T Streamliner
When you want a Bigsby vibrato on a genuinely well-built guitar for not a lot of money, you go Gretsch.
Epiphone Les Paul Standard 60s Bourbon Burst
Almost perfect, Epiphone Les Paul Standard '60s Bourbon Burst
There is a whole lot of wow to this Les Paul.