What is the Difference Between Acoustic Guitar and Electric-Acoustic Guitar

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difference between acoustic guitar and electric acoustic guitar

Essentially the difference between an acoustic guitar and an electric acoustic guitar is the ability to be able to amplify an electric-acoustic.

The short answer is that they are the same thing except that one has built in electronics and one doesn’t.

There are a couple of other things, but there are more similarities than differences. Read on to learn more.

First let’s take a look at what they have in common and then we can see their differences.

Table of Contents

The Similarities

Acoustics and electric acoustics are pretty much the same except for one thing. let’s see What’s the same about them and how they both differ to electric guitars.

Playing without amplification

acoustic guitar amplification

Both acoustics and electric-acoustics can be played acoustically – that is to say that they don’t need to be amplified to play them.

An electric guitar won’t produce much sound if it’s not plugged in because it has a solid body and no way for sound to resonate.

On the other hand acoustic guitars and electric-acoustic guitars a-like have a hollow body with a sound-hole that resonates sound so you get volume without any means of amplification.

Usually an acoustic guitar unplugged will have enough volume to accompany someone singing. It won’t drown out the singer but you can still hear it when someone is singing along to it.

An electric guitar on the other hand would be too quiet to accompany a singer. It would also be too dull, and not have the resonance to sound good without amplification.

Strings

Being essentially the same instrument except for one thing – acoustics and acoustic-electrics use the same type of strings.

Electric guitars on the other hand have their own type of string.

If you want to learn more about choosing the best strings for your acoustic guitar check out: How to choose strings for your acoustic guitar

Materials

An acoustic and an electric-acoustic can be made of exactly the same materials and often they are.

A guitar manufacturer will often produce an acoustic guitar and make an acoustic-electric version that is exactly the same except for the fact that the acoustic-electric is able to be amplified.

The Differences

O.k. so essentially the two are exactly the same except for a couple of things.

Amplification

electric acoustic EQ
EQ Closeup: By RalfSkjerning (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Electric acoustics come with a built in pre-amp and input.

This means that you can plug a lead into that electric-acoustic, just as you would with an electric guitar, and play it through an amplifier. Or you can plug it in for recording if you weren’t using mics or didn’t have recording mics available.

Electric-acoustics also typically have a built-in EQ and volume control that you can adjust from your guitar.

There are amps that are especially designed to be used with acoustic-electric guitars – so typically you wouldn’t plug into an electric guitar amp but you can.

There are ways you can amplify an acoustic guitar that isn’t an electric-acoustic guitar – for example putting on a clip on mic – but this doesn’t make it an electric-acoustic. An electric-acoustic is a guitar that has in-built electronics.

(By the way, you might wanna learn about using acoustic guitars on an electric amp on the blog.)

Cutaway vs Non-Cutaway

The other distinguishing feature which is often, but not always present, is that electric-acoustics usually have a cutaway in the body of the guitar. You can compare a guitar with a cutaway and without in the image below.

acoustic electric and cutaway

Acoustic guitars that don’t have in-built electronics typically don’t have cutaways. You can find them but they are the exception to the rule.

Part of the reason for this is that a cutaway can change the character of the sound and it can also serve to reduce volume and resonance.

Of course, the advantage of a cutaway is that it gives you easier access to the higher frets on the guitar.

And of course you can get electric-acoustics without cutaways too but it’s more common for an electric-acoustic to have a cutaway.

Price

If a guitar brand makes a guitar in both an acoustic and an electric acoustic version, the electric-acoustic version usually costs slightly more. This is because you are also paying for the electronics.

Summary

O.k. so we’ve taken a look at all of the similarities and differences between acoustic guitars and acoustic electric guitars.

We’ve seen that electric-acoustics are more similar to acoustic guitars than they are to electric guitars. In fact they are basically the same thing with just a couple of differences:

  • Electric-Acoustics have built in electronics which allows you to easily plug in to an amplifier or mixing desks
  • Electric-Acoustics often have a cutaway in the body whereas non-electric acoustics usually don’t
  • Electric-Acoustics cost slightly more than the same guitar without electronics
difference between acoustic guitar and electric acoustic guitar

Often manufacturers make the same guitar as an acoustic and as an electric acoustic. Everything else on the guitar is usually the same except that one has built in electronics and often a cutaway.

Hopefully you are now more familiar with the differences between acoustic and electric-acoustic guitars.

Both acoustic and electric acoustic guitars are reviewed on this site. To browse the reviews, see: SixStringAcoustic.com’s Acoustic Guitar Reviews

FAQs

Can you play an acoustic-electric guitar without plugging it in?

Yes, you can play an acoustic-electric guitar without plugging it in. It functions like a regular acoustic guitar, producing sound acoustically through its soundhole and the vibrations of its strings. The added electronics allow you to amplify the guitar by connecting it to an amplifier or a sound system when desired, but it can still be played unplugged like a traditional acoustic guitar.

By Nate Pallesen

Nate is just your average (above average) guitar player. He's no Joe Satriani, Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page - wait this site is about acoustic guitars (sorry) He's no Django Reinhardt, Chet Atkins, or Michael Hedges, wait? who!? He's no Robert Johnson, Eric Clapton or Ben Harper - more familiar? Anyway you get the point :-)

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