Do Acoustic Electric Guitars Sound Good Unplugged | The Unplugged Encore

Acoustic-electric guitars—a fascinating blend of the traditional and the modern, the acoustic and the amplified. The appeal of these versatile instruments has steadily grown, thanks to their ability to cater to diverse musical genres and performance settings.

The keyword for our conversation today is “unplugged.” Do acoustic-electric guitars sound good unplugged? Let’s embark on this melodious journey to discover the answer.

Electric Guitars

The goal of this article is not only to discuss the topic at hand but also to delve deeper into the nuances of acoustic-electric guitars. By understanding their construction, functionality, and the factors affecting their sound quality, we can arrive at a more informed conclusion.

Acoustic vs Acoustic-Electric Guitars: A Quick Recap

Guitars, like all things in music, come in many shapes and sizes, each with its unique sound and appeal. To understand acoustic-electric guitars better, we first need to differentiate them from their acoustic counterparts.

An acoustic guitar is a stringed instrument with a hollow body, designed to resonate sound naturally. As the strings vibrate, the sound travels through the bridge to the soundboard, creating a warm, rich, and organic tone that’s unmistakably acoustic.


Enter acoustic-electric guitars. These are essentially acoustic guitars fitted with an electronic pickup system. This addition enables you to amplify the guitar’s sound, offering the best of both acoustic and electric worlds.

The pickup system usually consists of a pickup, preamp, and an onboard tuner, allowing you to adjust and refine the sound.

While acoustic and acoustic-electric guitars share many similarities in their construction, the main difference lies in their versatility.

Acoustic-electric guitars can be played both plugged and unplugged. This flexibility allows musicians to adjust their sound based on the performance environment, making them ideal for both intimate gigs and large-scale concerts.

The Heart of Sound: Anatomy of an Acoustic-Electric Guitar

Understanding the construction of an acoustic-electric guitar can provide insights into how they sound when unplugged.

The guitar body plays a crucial role in the sound of an acoustic-electric guitar. Made from different types of tonewoods, it functions as a resonating chamber, amplifying the sound created by the vibrating strings. The size, shape, and material of the body significantly influence the guitar’s tone and volume.

An acoustic-electric guitar uses a pickup system to convert string vibrations into electrical signals. The pickup doesn’t affect the guitar’s unplugged sound but plays a pivotal role when the instrument is amplified.

Not all pickup systems are created equal, and the type can impact the guitar’s overall sound quality.

The preamp is another component exclusive to acoustic-electric guitars. It amplifies the signal from the pickup and often includes controls for volume, bass, treble, and midrange.

While the preamp does not influence the unplugged sound directly, it allows musicians to shape their sound when plugged in. Understanding the role of a preamp can help us appreciate the overall versatility of acoustic-electric guitars.

The Unplugged Sound of Acoustic-Electric Guitars: What to Expect?

When evaluating the unplugged sound of acoustic-electric guitars, one can anticipate a rich and diverse auditory experience. These instruments are designed to provide the organic warmth of traditional acoustics, with nuanced differences owing to their construction and electronics.

Typically, high-quality acoustic-electric guitars rival their acoustic counterparts in tonality, with variations primarily influenced by factors like tonewood, body shape, and craftsmanship.

While they may not match the volume of pure acoustics due to their electronic components, these guitars excel in delivering a clear, resonant sound. Whether in a cozy home setting or a small venue, acoustic-electric guitars offer a delightful unplugged performance, making them a versatile choice for a broad spectrum of music genres and playing styles.

Tonality and Volume: A Close Comparison

While every guitar is unique, it’s generally accepted that high-quality acoustic-electric guitars can match their purely acoustic counterparts in terms of tonality.

In fact, the tonewood, craftsmanship, and body size often have a more significant impact on sound quality than the presence of electronic components. However, when it comes to volume, purely acoustic guitars might have an edge due to their fully hollow bodies.

Effect of Body Size and Material

The body size and material of an acoustic-electric guitar greatly influence the unplugged sound. Larger bodies often provide more resonance and lower frequencies, leading to a fuller and louder sound.

Conversely, smaller bodies might produce less volume but can offer brighter tones. The choice of tonewood can also affect the guitar’s sound, with different woods contributing to various tonal characteristics.

Influence of Pickup and Preamp System

Although the pickup and preamp system do not directly affect the unplugged sound of an acoustic-electric guitar, the space they occupy in the guitar body might influence resonance and, in turn, the overall unplugged sound.

However, modern guitar design and technology have made this impact minimal in many models.

Acoustic-Electric Guitar Manufacturers and Their Unplugged Sound

Exploring the world of acoustic-electric guitars reveals a diverse landscape of manufacturers, each offering their unique take on unplugged sound. Brands like Fender, Gibson, Ibanez, and Taylor stand out, each infusing their guitars with distinct characteristics.

Fender’s Acoustasonic series, for instance, is celebrated for its versatile tonality, blending comfort and rich acoustic qualities. Gibson’s offerings, like the Songwriter model, merge traditional craftsmanship with modern flair to produce dynamic, resonant tones.

Ibanez, known for balancing affordability with performance, delivers warm, balanced sounds in their AE series, suitable for a variety of musical settings.

Lastly, Taylor’s 814ce showcases their commitment to premium quality, yielding a guitar with full-bodied, expressive tones. These manufacturers, among others, continue to shape the acoustic-electric guitar landscape, offering musicians a wide array of choices to find their perfect unplugged sound.

Fender’s Take on Unplugged Acoustic-Electric Sound

Fender, one of the industry’s stalwarts, is known for producing versatile acoustic-electric guitars. Their guitars, such as the Fender American Acoustasonic series, are designed with both amplified and unplugged performances in mind.

Offering a blend of comfort, playability, and rich unplugged sound, Fender’s acoustic-electric guitars are a great choice for various music genres.

Fender American Acoustasonic Series Review

The Fender American Acoustasonic Series embodies Fender’s innovation and craftsmanship. This series of acoustic-electric guitars is designed to offer a plethora of tonal possibilities, whether you’re plugged or unplugged.


  • Unique Acoustasonic body shape for comfort and resonance
  • Blend knob to mix electric and acoustic tones
  • Multiple voicings for versatile sounds


  • Excellent tonal versatility
  • High-quality construction and materials
  • Comfortable to play


  • Higher price

All in all, the Fender American Acoustasonic Series provides a fantastic balance between acoustic richness and electric versatility. While the price may be a bit steep, the range of tonal possibilities and top-notch construction make it a worthwhile investment for any serious musician.

Gibson: Traditional Craftsmanship, Modern Sound

Gibson, another titan in the guitar industry, has a rich history of making high-quality acoustic and electric guitars.

Their acoustic-electric models, like the Gibson Songwriter, maintain traditional craftsmanship while integrating modern technology for a versatile and captivating unplugged sound.

Gibson Songwriter Review

The Gibson Songwriter blends the company’s legendary craftsmanship with modern electronics. It’s a guitar designed to deliver an expressive and dynamic sound whether you’re on a big stage or in a cozy living room.


  • Solid spruce top and rosewood back and sides for a resonant sound
  • LR Baggs VTC pickup for natural amplified tones
  • Hand-scalloped bracing for improved resonance


  • Rich, resonant unplugged sound
  • High-quality construction
  • Comfortable playability


  • High-end price tag
  • Might be too large for some players

    The Gibson Songwriter is a testament to Gibson’s commitment to quality and sound. The guitar’s beautiful design and resonant, expressive tone make it a pleasure to play, both unplugged and amplified. It’s definitely a worthwhile investment for any performer who values tonal richness and dynamic range.

Ibanez: Balancing Affordability and Performance

Ibanez is renowned for delivering quality at affordable prices. Their acoustic-electric guitars, such as the Ibanez AE series, are designed with an emphasis on both plugged and unplugged performance. These guitars offer a balanced and warm unplugged sound that can hold its own in various musical situations.

Ibanez AE Series Review

The Ibanez AE Series offers a fantastic balance between affordability and performance. These acoustic-electric guitars are designed with both the performer and hobbyist in mind, providing a versatile and warm unplugged sound.


  • AE body shape for balanced sound and comfortable playability
  • Solid top for improved resonance
  • Onboard tuner and preamp for live performance versatility


  • Affordable price point
  • Balanced and warm unplugged sound
  • Comfortable body shape


  • May lack the tonal richness of higher-end models

Build quality may not be as robust as the pricier alternative Ibanez AE Series is a standout in its price range, offering a warm, balanced sound and comfortable playability. While it might lack the tonal depth and build quality of higher-end models, its affordability and versatility make it an excellent choice for beginner and intermediate players.

Taylor: Unplugged Sound and Premium Quality

Taylor Guitars is synonymous with quality and innovation. Their acoustic-electric guitars, like the Taylor 814ce, are known for their superb playability, robust build, and exceptional unplugged sound.

Taylor’s commitment to quality tonewoods and innovative construction techniques contribute to their rich, full-bodied unplugged sound.

The Taylor 814ce embodies the company’s innovative spirit and commitment to quality. Designed to deliver a full-bodied, expressive unplugged sound, this guitar is a testament to Taylor’s fine craftsmanship.


  • Solid spruce top and rosewood back and sides for a rich, full sound
  • V-Class bracing for improved resonance and sustain
  • Onboard Expression System 2 pickup and preamp for natural amplified sound


  • Exceptional unplugged sound
  • High-quality construction
  • Excellent playability and comfort


  • High-end price point
  • Might be too large for some players

    The Taylor 814ce is a premium acoustic-electric guitar that excels in delivering a full-bodied, expressive unplugged sound. While the price tag is substantial, the investment is justified by the superb build quality, innovative features, and excellent playability.

Factors to Consider When Evaluating Unplugged Sound

When evaluating the unplugged sound of acoustic-electric guitars, several factors come into play. Understanding these aspects can guide your decisions whether you’re purchasing a guitar or simply trying to appreciate the unplugged sound of your existing instrument.

Your personal taste and the music genre you play have a significant influence on what you consider a “good” unplugged sound. Whether you prefer a bright, crisp sound or a warm, mellow tone, the “right” sound is highly subjective and varies from person to person.

The quality of the guitar itself—its construction, materials, and design—all impact its unplugged sound. Higher-quality guitars generally offer superior sound, but even budget-friendly options can sound great with the right setup and care.

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The environment you’re playing in can also affect the sound. Smaller rooms may amplify the sound more than larger, open spaces. Even factors like temperature and humidity can subtly influence how a guitar sounds.

Frequently Asked Questions

In this section, we will be delving into some of the most common inquiries and curiosities that surround our topic.


Yes, you can play an acoustic-electric guitar without an amplifier. The guitar will function like a regular acoustic guitar, producing sound through its hollow body.


While the pickup itself does not directly affect the unplugged sound, its placement can slightly influence the resonance of the guitar body, potentially altering the unplugged sound.


Yes, several factors can improve the unplugged sound of your acoustic-electric guitar. These include using quality strings, ensuring your guitar is properly set up, and taking care of your instrument by maintaining appropriate temperature and humidity conditions.


Yes, the size of the guitar can significantly impact its unplugged sound. Larger bodies tend to produce more volume and lower frequencies, while smaller bodies may offer a brighter tone.


Do acoustic-electric guitars sound good unplugged? Based on our exploration, the answer is a resounding yes. While they might not always match the volume of pure acoustic guitars, acoustic-electric guitars can deliver a rich, nuanced unplugged sound that can captivate listeners.

However, it’s essential to remember that many factors—ranging from personal taste to the quality of the instrument—can influence the perception of “good” sound.

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