Wesman Todd Shaw started playing the guitar when he was 12 years old. He loves nothing more than to pick one up and pluck some strings.
For the ultimate in guitar versatility the small body acoustic electric guitar seems to have the position cornered. Smaller than a dreadnought, these guitars are full sized and only the smallest adult humans could find them overly large. The even tonality where neither bass nor treble responses are dominant are another major virtue here; and when you factor in electricity and acoustic/electric pre-amp and pickup, you've got a package which can be used by just about any guitarist for nearly any style of music.
A performing musician needs amplification. While playing into a microphone can do the job it requires the microphone and amplification for it be of a certain quality. It also requires the guitarist to stay stationary in front of the microphone. Today's performing musicians have endless superior options with acoustic/electric guitars.
Why buy a fine small body acoustic/electric guitar?
If you only play guitar alone in your bedroom you simply do not need amplification unless you just want it. A very reasonable desire. But if you play acoustic guitar with a group of musicians who perform together, you're going to have to have an acoustic/electric guitar and amplification.
These five fine small body acoustic/electrics represent the state of the art in pre-amp and pickups for acoustic guitars. Their orchestra model or 000 body sizes make them suitable for any sort of steel string guitar playing whether it be fingerpicking, flatpicking, or chordal rhythmic accompaniment.
While it is true older guitars tend to sound better because they've been played for years, there has never been a better time to buy a guitar than today. This is the golden age of guitar building. It wasn't yesterday, it is now. There has never before been so much knowledge and technology combined with so much competition in the market as there is right here and now. The best guitars in history are being built today, not yesterday.
1. The PRS Private Stock Angelus Cutaway
Paul Reed Smith is one of the most revered men in guitar in the entire world. There are reasons for this, and all of them have to do with one thing, and one thing alone - his manufacturing some of the most beautiful guitars in the world to both the eyes and the ears. Paul Reed Smith is an absolute icon of guitar building, a true industrial capitalist hero, who happens to make works of art used to make further works of art.
It used to be I'd never think of Paul Reed Smith at all when I thought of fine acoustic guitars, but the fault was my own. It is true these fine steel string acoustics produced by PRS are all rather expensive. You do get what you pay for though.
It is amazing to me that someone new can come along, someone like Paul Reed Smith, and take something more or less already perfected in its forms, such as any type of guitar - and still find a way to become such a legend in the manufacture of the thing. But there really isn't a mystery here at all, all Paul Reed Smith ever did was take the forms of guitar we are all so familiar with and make ones which are consistently as beautiful and good as the very best of anyone else.
These guitars start off on the low end being very expensive. There is no set tonewood recipe for these guitars. The upper echelon guitars have asking prices up to fifteen thousand dollars. So you see what you're up against here. The least expensive one I've seen sold for five thousand dollars. These guitars represent the finest of guitars. There are absolutely guitars as fine as these by Paul Reed Smith, but there aren't any better guitars in the world.
Again with the specifications of PRS Angelus cutaway guitars, these are private stock guitars; and what this means is they're made from only the most premium woods Paul Reed Smith has been able to purchase. So they go for premium prices. No two slabs of wood are alike, even be they from the same tree. They'll have different properties, and a master craftsman like Paul Reed Smith knows what will do what. The specification list in bullet points below is just a guide, these are not assembly line guitars where every one is the same, there can be different tonewood specifications and different appointments. Each PRS Angelus cutaway is very much a unique snowflake.
PRS Private Stock Angelus Cutaway features:
- PRS Private Stock Angelus Cutaway
- Solid European Bearclaw Spruce Top w/ Koa Binding and Black/Maple/Black Purfling
- Solid East Indian Rosewood Back and Sides w/ Koa Binding and Black/Maple/Black Purfling
- Natural High Gloss Nitro Finish
- Mahogany Neck
- Ebony Fretboard
- Koa Bird Inlays
- Wide Neck Shape
- Fishman Matrix Pickup System
- Volume/Tone Knobs Inside Soundhole
- Bone Nut/Saddle
- Ebony Bridge
- Gotoh Tuners w/ Ebony Buttons
- East Indian Rosewood/Koa Rosette
- Adjustable Truss Rod
- Weight: 4.5 lbs
- Private Stock Number: 5656
- Hand Signed by Paul Reed Smith
- Specs Sheet Hand Signed by Paul Reed Smith
- Deluxe Hardshell Case by Ameritage
PRS Angelus Cutaway Private Stock
2. Taylor 914ce Grand Auditorium acoustic-electric guitar
During much of the 20th century you could talk about American guitar manufacturing and use the automotive industry phrase 'big three,' in the context of guitars. People would know what you were talking about, and they'd know you were referring to C.F.Martin & Company, Gibson, and Fender.
Well, there were always more than three great guitar manufacturers in the USA; but there is no way you could still use the term 'big three' because there aren't three, but four giants of guitar manufacturing in the nation. Taylor guitars has clearly and absolutely etched itself into the paradigm, and into the upper echelon of it too.
Have you ever heard someone throw a famous person's name into a conversation in order to elevate their personal relevance? It's called 'name dropping.' Well, perish the thought. I have not formally met Bob Taylor. But I kinda feel like I know him a little because I've on several occasions stood within arms reach of the man while he spoke about and showed some of his new models of Taylor guitar. But more importantly I've had my own two hands and ten digits all over dozens and dozens of Taylor brand guitar, and they never fail to impress.
There are limited editions of Taylor grand auditorium guitars which will cost more than this Taylor 914ce grand auditorium, but this is the benchmark for their most dressed up Indian rosewood acoustic/electric. For more cash you can get one with Brazilian or Madagascar's rosewood; but the benchmark 914ce is a masterwork guitar; and of sufficient quality to be anyone's personal treasure, and a family heirloom too.
I've seen these Taylor 914ce guitars played in every acoustic guitar genre you can think of. Taylor guitars have such a comfortable neck and from the factory such perfection in the fit, finish, and set-up they like the PRS could sometimes seem to be playing themselves while you hold one. Then the Taylor Expression System has always been and will always be on the cutting edge of acoustic/electric electronics. You own one of these and you cover every base outside of those where you need a solid body electric or a classical guitar.
Taylor 914ce Grand Auditorium acoustic-electric guitar features:
- 4 lbs, 12 oz.
- Natural Gloss Finish
- Grand Auditorium Body Shape
- Sitka Spruce Top
- Indian Rosewood Back and Sides
- Ebony Armrest
- Tropical Mahogany Neck
- Ebony Fretboard and Bridge
- Bound Ebony Peghead Veneer
- Ebony Binding
- Paua and Koa Purfling
- 25.5" Scale Length
- 1.75" Neck Width at Nut
- 15" Radius
- Standard Carve Neck Profile
- Taylor Ascension Fingerboard and Headstock Inlays
- Advanced Performance Bracing
- Paua and Koa Single-Ring Rosette
- Gotoh Gold Tuners
- Tusq Nut
- Micarta Saddle
- Expression System 2 Electronics
- Mother-Of-Pearl Headstock Logo
Taylor 914ce Grand Auditorium Cutaway ES2 Acoustic Electric Guitar Natural
3. Gibson 1928 L-1 Blues Tribute Acoustic/Electric Guitar Vintage Sunburst
The legend of early blues guitar, Robert Johnson, author of so many famous tunes you've been hearing your whole life had supposedly sold his soul to the devil in exchange for musical virtuosity. There are only 3 pictures of the man in existence, but the most famous of them is the one where he's holding one of these guitars. So quite wisely, Gibson reproduced them and added electronics. That way you won't have to make any deals late at night at the crossroads.
This guitar is an American legend, just as is the late blues man of so much fame, mystery, and intrigue. I'm not going to suggest that by purchasing one of these guitars you will transcend time and space and reach mystical musical heights; but you're more likely to do so with a great guitar like this, than without it. This Gibson 1928 L-1 Blues Tribute is likely a far superior guitar to the one Robert Johnson owned simply because in today's day we have so much more sophistication and technology involved in it all. Oh, and electronics.
At just a little over three thousand dollars this guitar is priced very well for what you get. You get a thermally cured Adirondack spruce top; and that in and of itself usually costs about two thousand bucks. This guitar has been in production in recent years, but the new 2016 version can be distinguished for its engraving on the truss rod cover.
German engineering is something noted as significantly advanced the world over. Gibson is using Plek technology to ensure the play-ability of its fine guitars. When I say the golden age of guitar building is now, there are a lot of highly technological reasons this is true. Below are the rest of the specifications for this Gibson gem:
Gibson 1928 L-1 Blues Tribute acoustic-electric guitar features:
- Body type: L-1 small body
- Cutaway: Non-cutaway
- Top wood: Adirondack Red Sitka Spruce
- Back & sides: Mahogany
- Bracing pattern: Scalloped
- Body finish: Nitrocellulose lacquer
- Orientation: Right handed
- Neck shape: V
- Nut width: 1.77" (4.49cm)
- Fingerboard: Rosewood
- Neck wood: Mahogany
- Scale length: 25"
- Number of frets: 19
- Neck finish: Nitrocellulose lacquer
- Pickup/preamp: Yes
- Brand: L.R. Baggs
- Configuration: Soundhole mounted preamp
- Headstock overlay: None
- Tuning machines: Vintage open back 3-in-line
- Bridge: Rosewood
- Saddle & nut: Bone
- Special features: Finish
- Case: Hardshell case
- Accessories: Owner's manual
- Country of origin: United States
Gibson 2016 1928 L-1 Blues Tribute Acoustic-Electric Guitar
4. Takamine LTD 2015 Renge-so acoustic/electric guitar
Takamine guitars are named after Mt. Takamine in Japan, and at the base of the Takamine mountain grow a specific flower, the Renge-so. This beautiful limited edition Takamine guitar is thus named for both a mountain and a flower. Truly, the beautiful inlay work on this guitar looms large above the fold of most others as though it were mountainous in its pedigree and worth.
It's a damned fine guitar. Takamine makes a lot of damned fine guitars, and most especially these days, Takamine makes perfectly exceptional acoustic/electric guitars. And this is another one of them.
The exceptional inlay work on this limited edition Takamine is of three materials: green heart abalone, mother of pearl, and blue stone. Should you bring one of these guitars to the party, everyone is going to be looking right at you, or really, your guitar. Yes, keep your eyes on this one when you take it out and about with you. The Takamine LTD 2015 Renge-so will turn some heads, win hearts and minds, and play beautifully too.
This guitar is priced at just over three thousand dollars. The link just above is to amazon.com where you could buy one. This is a 2015 limited edition guitar. So what I'm saying is it may not be reproduced, and the link up there may well go dead at some point in the near future.
- Top: Solid Spruce
- Back: Solid Rosewood
- Sides: Rosewood
- Neck: Mahogany Gloss Finish
- Fingerboard: Ebony
- Fingerboard Inlay: RENGE-SO (green abalone and mother-of-pearl) Body Purfling: Wood Purfling (Blue)
- Nut Width: (42.5mm)
- Electronics: CTP-3
- Case: GC500
- Finish: Gloss black
Takamine LTD2015 RENGE SO
Takamine Ltd 2015 Renge so
5. The Yamaha AC6R acoustic/electric guitar
Yamaha is one of the first guitar manufacturers you think of when you think of very high value and quality for beginner or intermediate level player's guitars. One should never hesitate to suggest Yamaha as the preeminent go to brand for persons just starting out or looking to upgrade to a better guitar. But Yamaha offers a lot more than just beginners and intermediate level player's guitars. They have a damned fine professional line of instruments too.
Priced at just over two thousand dollars this guitar is the steal of the bunch. The most bang for the bucks are right here with the Yamaha AC6R acoustic/electric guitar. It's quality is impeccable, and its appointments are modest and understated. I absolutely love that this guitar has an ebony fingerboard and bridge and is sold in this price range, where you usually get rosewood fingerboards and bridges. Ebony may or may not be 'better,' per se; but to me it is classier, more attractive, and just feels right.
This is all solid wood construction here. A Sitka spruce top and east Indian rosewood back and sides. The neck, as with almost every good acoustic guitar's neck, is mahogany. Like the Takamine above, this guitar will be in short supply. Even shorter supply than the Takamine Renge-so. Only 20 of these fine Yamaha guitars will be sold in North America. The thing sounds amazing in the video, especially in the fingerpicked intro.
The electronics here are all brand new to Yamaha. The new S.R.T. preamp, an exclusive Yamaha technology, incorporates a piezo pickup system with a built-in microphone (System 63 S.R.T.), modeling technique specific to each guitar model. The S.R.T. system lets players choose from three different mic settings that can be blended with the piezo pickup, delivering on the often-elusive dream of providing studio-quality sound while playing live on stage. In addition, the S.R.T. system's feedback detector cancels feedback frequencies in live situations. Further specifications below:
- Limited Edition Made in Japan
- Only 20 Guitars Available in U.S.
- Nitrocellulose Lacquer Finish
- Concert Body with Cutaway
- Solid Sitka Spruce Top
- Solid Indian Rosewood Back & Sides
- African Mahogany Neck with open gear gold finish tuners
- Ebony Fingerboard, Bridge and Bridge Pins
- Bone Nut and Saddle
- Abalone Sound Hole Rosette
- Rosewood Fingerboard Binding
- Mahogany Body Binding
- SRT System 63 Modeling Preamp with Built-In Tuner
- SRT Saddle/Piezo Pickup
- Nut Width 1.7”
- String Length 25.59”
- Includes Hardshell Case
Yamaha AC6R Acoustic-Electric Guitar
© 2016 Wesman Todd Shaw
Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on July 08, 2019:
Indeed Guild is among the best I know of, Patrick Clark, and I've little doubt your OM-120 is fantastic.
American made Guild is extremely fine stuff, and the Asian made isn't bad at all.
Patrick Clark on July 08, 2019:
Why is Guild never in these lists? I just got a Guild OM-120 and it's phenomenal. I didn't get the electric version because it was listed as "blemished" thus cheaper though I could find nothing wrong with it. Guild makes gorgeous and very playable guitars at great prices yet never make these lists. A guitar of that quality for less than $600 is hard to pass on.
Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on August 09, 2016:
Hey Fiddleman! I think ol Bob Taylor realized from the start that trying to beat Martin at Martin's game was a bad idea. Santa Cruz, Bourgeois, and Collings are all in the business of trying to out Martin the Martin guitars.
That Taylor won't have the volume or crisp thump of the Martin, but plugged into an acoustic amp it is almost without competition. I think only Takamine makes electronics as good as Taylor does for the plugged in play.
Fiddleman on August 09, 2016:
Well howdy Wesman, been a while since I read one of your hubs but you know me just had to check this one one since it is about guitars. One of the fellas who comes to the barbershop every now and again recently purchase a Taylor 914ce. He is tickled pink!! The guitar does have electronics and plays like a dream but compared to my Martin HD-28 it falls short.