When acoustic-electric guitars first began showing up on the music scene, they were like a hybrid version of guitars that would finally make the instrument stand out in a large band with an assortment of instruments that previously overshadowed the regular acoustic and classical guitars during such crowded live sessions.1

These instruments were the catalyst that sparked the wide variety of electric guitars we have today. But how do you recognize these instruments today in the vast array of guitars that are similar in so many ways? And are they any good without electronic amplification? Read on to find out.     

What Makes it an Acoustic-Electric Guitar?

There are so many variations of electric and acoustic guitars out there that it can be confusing to differentiate between some of them at times, and acoustic-electric guitars are one such type. 

Acoustic-electric guitars are simply acoustic guitars that are fitted with a pickup system built into the instrument. The bodies of acoustic guitars are built with thinner sheets of wood, and electric guitars are made of thick slabs of wood. This is the most distinguishing detail that differentiates it from electric guitars and puts it in the category of acoustic guitars because there are electric guitars with hollow bodies and all electric guitars are fitted with pickups. 

The guitar is fitted with magnetic pickups or piezoelectric pickups. These pickups are connected to an amplifier that increases the volume of the guitars while maintaining most of the natural acoustic guitar tone.

How to Identify an Acoustic-Electric Guitar

Acoustic-Electric guitars usually have a pre-amp fitted on the side of the guitar. It is a panel with switches, controls, and knobs for the integrated tuner, tone controls, and equalizer of the guitar. The guitars’ model names will also feature an ‘E’ to indicate that it is an electric variation of an acoustic model. For example, Martin Junior Series DJR-10E, Taylor American Dream AD17E, Washburn EA15ITB, etc.

Does the Acoustic-Electric Guitar Sound Good Unplugged?

While some artists and experts have no complaints about the sound of the acoustic-electric guitar unplugged, others point out that the quality of sound is not as good due to the slight alterations made to the guitar’s body to accommodate the electronics.

However, most opinions on the matter lean towards the positive side and support the view that electric-acoustic guitars sound just as good as regular acoustic guitars when played without an amp.2 The instruments are built exactly like acoustic guitars, and the electronics occupying the body of the guitar do not have an adverse impact on the tone when played unplugged.

Acoustic-Electric vs Acoustic vs Electric Guitar

The body of acoustic guitars is completely hollow and plays a major role in amplifying the sound. It is not occupied by any electronic equipment, and all the resonating space in the hollow body generates a fuller tone with a better quality sound that is louder. 

Acoustic-electric guitars are exactly the same, but the hollow body also accommodates the electronic components that reduce the resonating space and its impact on the sound. To some guitarists this difference is unbearable, while to others it is barely noticeable.

The body of most electric guitars, on the other hand, is first of all made of a solid block of wood or a block of wood that runs down the center of the body to eliminate any feedback. Secondly, all the cavities in the body are carved precisely to the measurements of the electronic components that will occupy them, so there is no space for sound to resonate. Therefore, the body barely plays a role in amplifying the sound and thus doesn’t have a huge impact on the tone.

The tone of the acoustic-electric guitar with and without amplification sounds great. While the acoustic-electric guitars look and sound a lot like acoustic guitars, they don’t sound anything like an electric guitar. However, it is still a versatile instrument that can serve multiple purposes and come handy in different situations.

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1. Jacob, J. (2020, April 14). What Is An Electric-Acoustic Guitar And How It Become Popular? Rock Guitar Universe. Retrieved June 7, 2022, from https://rockguitaruniverse.com/electric-acoustic-guitar/
2. Adam, A. (2020, August 19). Acoustic vs Acoustic-Electric Guitar (Which is Best?). Tone Topics. Retrieved June 7, 2022, from https://tonetopics.com/acoustic-vs-electro-acoustic-guitar/