Acoustic vs. Acoustic-Electric guitars

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Kwesi, Nov 22, 2012.

  1. So, I'm thinking about picking up an acoustic-electric guitar for Christmas... despite making practically no progress playing electric in the past few months that I've owned it. Aaaaaaanyway, I tried a handful at this point and it really seems the that the straight up acoustics sound considerably better than the aegs. Is this just happenstance or have you guys noticed something along the same lines?
  2. lowfreq33


    Jan 27, 2010
    Endorsing Artist: Genz Benz Amplification
    If you're looking at say, two $300 guitars, one AC, one AC/E, if you take away the cost of the pickup, preamp, wiring, and extra labor, you end up with more money to put towards better materials and construction. I don't think the electronics being present are necessarily a factor in the unamplified tone.
  3. AnchorHoy


    Dec 29, 2008
    New Jersey
    I've noticed the same thing, but I think that on average it's less a matter of "cheap" construction than it is design compromises that strengthen one set of goals at the expense of others

    Yamahas, for example, are very much like that. I had a CPX-700 12-string for a couple of years that sounded absolutely stunning through the PA, but just a bit dull when played purely acoustic. A new CPX-700 6-string I tried was exactly the same, and the difference was even more pronounced with a new APX-700 (thinline body), which was severely lacking in bottom end and had a comparatively weak midrange as well

    The last two mentioned give a clue to the point I'm trying to make: the only significant difference between a CPX-700 and an APX-700 is body depth. They are otherwise identical - same builder, body shape, materials, construction specs, etc. There's simply not enough volume inside the box of an APX for it to sound good as a purely acoustic instrument, and that was the result of an intentional design choice - to make it more "electric-player friendly" than its full-depth stablemate

    To take the comparison a bit further, lets back up a bit to the CPX. The general dimensions of a CPX are very close to the 'fingerstyle standard' Martin OM. In fact, it fits in an OM case perfectly. I just happen to also have another OM-sized guitar with a cutaway, that was built with the design strongly biased towards purely acoustic response and the factory pickup system pretty much stuck in there as an afterthought. Two things jump right out when you do a direct A/B comparison between those two guitars: the OMC is light as a feather compared to the Yammy, and it is also much more prone to feedback. In this case the design goal of excellent pure-acoustic response actually works against you when it's being amplified by the PA, since the top is overly sensitive to being driven by an outside source like moniters. Under identical conditions, the CPX works much better and I think it is likely that the comparatively heavy build and somewhat less-responsive top bracing has a lot to do with that

    To boil it down as far as possible: which do you value more, great tone and sensitive response when unplugged or great tone and sensitive response when played through a PA? In my experience, unless you're ready to drop some very serious coin towards the goal - say, $3000 or more for the guitar and multi-source pickup system, plus another $1500 or so for a Pendulum SPS-1 - you are very unlikely to be able to get both out of the same instrument

    Also try to keep in mind General Patton's famous dictum:

    "Perfection is the enemy of Good Enough" ;)
  4. Please define AEGs, are you talking the simple addition of electronics or something like a Fender Thinline?

    The addition of a piezo and the electronics routing shouldn't have a significant impact on tone.
  5. Yeah, just normal acoustic guitars that I can plug up to an amp as necessary. Nothing special.
  6. This is what I was thinking. I've tried a handful of Epiphone's that sounded really nice so if I grab one that's probably where I'll look.
  7. I think electronics add cost, so you might be getting less acoustic for the money, but I don't think having electronics is a bad thing.

    Depending on how serious you are, plugging in might require an acoustic amp or PA, possibly an external preamp.
  8. JTE


    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    The thing is, all those lovely resonances and vibrations that make a good acoustic guitar a good acoustic guitar work against it being a good amplified acoustic. Those frequencies that make it sound great also are very lively so they increase the probability of feedback. So, the better ones have more sophisticated EQ built into them, and often the ones that sound best amplified do NOT sound that great unamplified.

    So if your objective is primarily an acoustic guitar that you can occasionally plug in and you're not too concerned about a great acoustic sound while plugged in, get a good acoustic and buy a sound-hole pickup for it. It won't sound any worse than that horrible rubber band twanginess that passes for acoustic guitar sound on so many live shows, live TV, and even recordings (especially rock players who don't know squat about acoustic guitars, and anyone whose acoustic sounds like Taylor Swift's).

    If your primary objective is to have a good amplified acoustic sound, build your search around getting a great amplified sound and pay less attention to the unamplified sound.

    For frame of reference, my ideas of a great acoustic guitar sound are centered around Stephen Stills (especially on "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes"), Neil Young (just about anything from the "Harvest" album, as well as the song "Tell Me Why" from "After The Gold Rush"), Jackson Browne on the first album (sometimes called "Saturate Before Using"), Jorma Kaukonen's sound on the first live acoustic Hot Tuna, and lots of early Eagles tracks.

    Note that all of them also spent a LOT of money to get the sound of their acoustic guitars recorded and out to an audience in a big arena. It's totally NOT the same as the simple "Taylor guitar with a Fishman piezo" sound that sounds like a plastic guitar.


  9. colcifer

    colcifer Esteemed Nitpicker Supporting Member

    Feb 10, 2010
    A Galaxy Far, Far Away
    You would not regret getting a Taylor Big Baby.