Are you better off with a non-electric acoustic?
Above is a Seymour Duncan SC SA-3SC acoustic guitar pickup. The cost of it is reasonable for what it is, and for some is a better option compared to buying an electric-acoustic guitar.
It is possible to get an acoustic guitar pickup for under 10 bucks, so it's not like you have to spend big to electrify an acoustic guitar. However, what I'm going to concentrate on here is whether or not having a non-electric acoustic is worth it or not.
Short answer: Yes.
Owning an electric-acoustic is nice because you can plug it in and send the signal through a mixer or amplifier. However, you may find more often than not that it wrecks the tone of lower-cost acoustic guitars.
Low-cost electric-acoustic guitars don't really sound that good electrified for three reasons. First, the preamp (the thing that makes it electrified) has electronics that really aren't that great. Second, the pickup used isn't that great. Third, the preamp is a bit of a tone-wrecker.
In proper electric-acoustic guitar construction, where the preamp sits is not supposed to affect the tone, and in most instances, it doesn't. However, on low-cost construction, the preamp can wreck the body resonance and cause the overall sound to be "tinny" at best where full-bodied chords really don't ring out that well.
A cheap spruce-top acoustic with an add-in pickup is a good combo
(Side note: Why a spruce top? Because it projects well. And fortunately, spruce top acoustics can be had for cheap.)
Let's take a standard cheap dreadnought-shape acoustic with a spruce top, such as the Epiphone DR-100 - which by the way is a great acoustic guitar.
If you take that guitar and add in the Seymour Duncan pickup from above into it, believe me, you will love the recorded sound you get.
The best part however is that this kind of combo can work with any standard dreadnought-shape acoustic with a standard round sound hole.
You're going to EQ it anyway...
The tradeoff to using an add-in pickup is that it's passive and you have no volume or tone controls...
...but being you're going to set EQ while recording to get the best sound of it anyway, you won't miss those controls. And the fact you don't have to fumble around with 9-volt batteries is a huge plus.
Go ahead and get that non-electric acoustic
If the only thing stopping you from buying a non-electric acoustic was the fact it doesn't have a preamp, but you loved it otherwise, buy it anyway.
There are many acoustics out there with no electronics in them that sound wonderful. If you find one you like in the guitar store that plays great and sounds right, just buy the thing and don't think twice about it.
When you record, use an add-in pickup. Or, if you're daring, try a microphone on a stand (although the add-in pickup is a lot easier to deal with.)
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