If you’re looking for an electro-acoustic guitar these days you’re spoilt for choice – there are some great-sounding pickups and preamps out there on some beautifully constructed instruments. Many, though, follow a fairly routine brief in terms of specifications and visuals – cutaway flat-tops rule the roost.
Here, then, are five alternatives to the norm; electro-acoustic guitars that offer something a little different – aesthetically, tonally, or both…
This one will really stand out in a crowd. Aside from the classic Gretsch ‘Savannah Sunset’ orange finish, here we have an acoustic guitar with a Bigsby B70G tremolo bridge with ‘wire’ arm, a Fideli’tron humbucking pickup and ‘Rancher’ triangular sound hole.
It’s not the lightest acoustic on offer but construction would have needed to be industrial-strength to allow for that there Bigsby. So unsurprisingly the top is a laminate (spruce), while the back and sides are laminated mahogany. The neck is also mahogany, with a 25” scale length, 16 vintage-style frets and rosewood fingerboard with Gretsch’s signature ‘thumbnail’ inlays..
Controls are limited to a single volume rotary, so you’d need to apply any EQ externally, and there’s only really the one big, fat, amplified tone here, but what the G5034TFT lacks in sonic versatility and subtlety, it makes up for in the looks department. Yeehaw!
Godin have been pushing the boundaries of guitar design for a while now and a recurring theme throughout their offering has been the notion of providing an electric-feel neck on an acoustic, or electro-acoustic instrument.
The Godin A6 Ultra is one of the current models which ticks this, and a few other boxes. The ‘best of both worlds’ approach has resulted in an instrument more akin to electric construction than a traditional electro-acoustic, so sacrifices pure acoustic tone and volume for playability and versatility, but then this is a guitar fairly and squarely designed to be plugged in.
Combining a full-fat Godin humbucker with an under-saddle transducer, each with independent output sockets, and a specially voiced custom preamp with independent volume and tone controls, here you have a broad range of acoustic and electric tones to switch between, or mix together. There are independent slider volume and tone controls for each pickup – 3-band EQ for the acoustic transducer and treble/bass for the humbucker.
A chambered maple body with solid cedar top keeps unwanted feedback at bay, and the 25.5” scale-length mahogany neck with rosewood fingerboard does make you feel more like you’re playing a solid body electric.
Well-known for their ‘love-them-or-hate-them’ composite ‘bowl-back’ bodies, Ovations have something of a cult following and offer something genuinely different, both sonically and aesthetically, from the typical mahogany, rosewood or maple-bodied flat tops.
The 2078AX features a solid sitka-spruce top on a deep-contour bowl which, combined with a unique multi-soundhole arrangement, provides maximum acoustic output and sustain. The bowl design also makes this a comfortable instrument to play, seated or standing.
The OP-Pro Studio preamp offers 3-band EQ plus onboard Exciter and Compressor/Limiter, controlled via ‘Expressor’ and ‘Drive; sliders to give precise control over the output dynamics. Ovation’s patented pickup features separate elements per string, and senses the vibrations of both the string and the guitar top, aiding string-to-string balance.
Available in Natural or Black Cherry Burst.
The original Masterbilts were archtops, favoured by the big bands in the 1930s, and soon equipped with one of the new electric guitar-type pickups which were becoming available.
Eighty-something years on, and the guitar manufacturers have learned a few things about amplifying acoustic guitar tones too, and so the new Epiphone Masterbilts revisit the archtop designs of yesteryear but with technology which simply wasn’t available at the time.
An eSonic HD preamp and Shadow NanoFlex HD under-saddle pickup combination allied to the f-holed archtop gives a rich and complex amplified tone – certainly an alternative palette to an amplified dreadnought, or other flat top.
Construction comprises a maple laminate body with arched solid spruce top, 25.5” scale-length glued-in maple/mahogany laminated neck with rounded ‘C’ profile and ebony fingerboard. Cosmetic finishing touches include a (mercifully imitation) tortoise scratchplate. Available in Vintage Natural or Vintage Sunburst.
The secret ingredient here is the ‘TransAcoustic Actuator’, a device mounted on the inner surface of the guitar back which vibrates in sympathy with the strings and, in turn, relays those vibrations to the guitar body. Aside from enhanced volume and tone, this also allows the guitar to generate natural reverb and chorus effects without the need for external effects processing.
A pickup system, the piezo-based System70 TransAcoustic+, is also included for conventional electro-acoustic output and this interacts with the actuator to give full-bodied amplified tone, with controls for reverb (choice of small room or hall), chorus and line-out volume, mounted in the top side of the instrument. The volume control doubles as an Actuator on/off switch. The necessary batteries are discreetly concealed in a pull-out end pin.
The jumbo body comprises rosewood back and sides and a solid Engleman spruce top. The neck is 5-ply mahogany with rosewood fingerboard and 20 frets.
The great thing about all these electro-acoustic guitars is that they will fit in any collection. No matter which guitars you already own, there’s always space on the wall for just one more!
For an equally quirky selection of electric guitars see here.
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