Decent Budget Acoustic/Electric and/or other options?

Discussion in 'Acoustic Heaven' started by gregulator450, Jan 13, 2020.

  1. gregulator450

    gregulator450 Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,617
    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2014
    Location:
    The Dry Side
    Hey folks,

    A good friend and I are looking to put together an acoustic duo to play the local wineries and pubs, and I will need to electrify an acoustic one way or another. I will have have a budget of $300-500, and am not sure what are the best options out there. Here are the directions I'm thinking of going:

    1. Install a piezo/preamp in my budget Jasmine acoustic. The guitar plays and sounds much better than its price point, which is why I'm seriously considering this option.
    2. Install a pickup and the Tonewood Amp on my existing acoustic. I would like to hear from anyone who has experience with the Tonewood Amp.
    3. Buy a new or gently used acoustic/electric. What is good out there for under $500?
    Most everywhere we will play has a supplied PA, and many have backline gear.

    Also, what other gear would I possibly need?

    Thank you for your input!
     
  2. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Friend of Leo's

    Age:
    75
    Posts:
    4,541
    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2018
    Location:
    Washington
    My preference is always to find an acoustic guitar that you really like and then install a pickup that will work best for the venue that you will be playing in. The first part is up to you - if you like the sound and playability of what you have, drop a pickup in (or have it done).

    I do install lots of pickups and while I have some preferences they basically fall into three categories. First ares sound hole magnetic pickups. They are quick and easy, usually don't feed back badly, have their own sound which you may like or dislike.

    Second are under saddle transducers (Fishman and all the others). Installation is slightly tricky and slightly invasive. The transducer goes in the slot under the saddle. You need to sand the thickness off the bottom of the saddle (assuming you are happy with the action). Most of the time there is a preamp of some sort - it might mount in the sound hole or be part of the jack assembly. There is frequently a battery that needs to be mounted inside the guitar. Many times the double stick tape on electronics or battery bags doesn't stick.

    The third kind are soundboard or bridge plate transducers - I install units made by K&K. They stick or glue to the bottom of the bridge plate - K&K provides instructions and a little jig to line them properly. I use gel CA whenever I install them. The K&K can be used with a preamp or not - many people prefer an external DI for impedance matching - you might want to talk to the sound engineer at your venue.

    Most pickup installations require reaming the end pin to fit a jack. It is possible to do that with a unibit but also possible to damage your guitar. I broke down a long time ago and bought the correct reamer - I highly recommend finding someone who can do this for you.

    There are other options - some UST installations also have a little internal mic that can be blended. Each one of these has its own characteristic sound, the K&K are slightly prone to feedback at high volumes. UST's can be a little tricky to balance across the strings and can slightly weaken the bridge, particularly if you have very high saddle. All of them are within your budget.

    I have no experience with the Tonewood amp, but I do know that it is NOT a pickup itself - basically it adds some effects to an A/E guitar.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2020
    Harry Styron and KelvinS1965 like this.
  3. guitphil

    guitphil TDPRI Member

    Posts:
    32
    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2006
    Location:
    Texas
    fwiw, i have always found Yamaha to make a great sounding electric acoustic and usually for not much $$. I own 3 of them. an APX gut string a CPX and also a 70's FG. all three are excellent guitars and have served me well. but to the point, the electronics in my Yamaha's sound really good to me. The FG-180-1 that I have sounds great unplugged. The APX and CPX, not so much but through an acoustic amp and / or PA they work really well. I got the FG for about $170, the CPX for $150, and the APX for $300.
     
  4. KelvinS1965

    KelvinS1965 Tele-Holic

    Posts:
    886
    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2014
    Location:
    Wokingham England
    Just wanted to thank Freeman Keller for that detailed post as I'm in a similar position to the OP (good luck by the way!), but don't currently have an acoustic. Might have the chance of a used Martin that has no electrics fitted, so would have to fit something.

    Will be following this thread with interest. :)
     
  5. uriah1

    uriah1 Telefied Gold Supporter

    Posts:
    22,339
    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2011
    Location:
    Around
    Yamaha has some pretty good quality at most price points.
    solid tops too.
    imho
     
    studio1087 likes this.
  6. DADGAD

    DADGAD Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    2,243
    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2003
    Location:
    Earth
    Another voter for Yamaha. I own three and I’m ready to buy a fourth. Probably a parlor.

    [​IMG]
     
    studio1087 likes this.
  7. FenderGuy53

    FenderGuy53 Poster Extraordinaire

    Posts:
    7,217
    Joined:
    May 14, 2008
    Location:
    Marion, NC
    The Martin Road Series guitars are very nice, in sound AND size, and come loaded with Fishman Sonitone electronics, which sound quite good, IMHO. I own the dreadnaught (DCRSGT) and grand performance cutaway (GPCRSGT) models, either of which sell for around $900, new, but can be had used, for around $700-800.

    If you prefer another guitar brand/model, then you can buy Fishman's Sonitone electronics separately.

    For amplification with a small footprint and a big sound, you can't go wrong with Fishman's Loudbox Mini BT, for around $400, new.

    Anyway, my $.02. ;)
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2020
  8. Carbondeath

    Carbondeath TDPRI Member

    Posts:
    7
    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2019
    Location:
    Midwest
    I have a Guild Troubadour that has a DeArmond soundhole pickup, and it's a fantastic player. It has a soundhole pickup built in, which sounded way better than anything else plugged in around the price range. The fit and finish were the biggest selling points.

    They have a few different sizes around the same price. I would just go and try them out. With acoustics I feel that you NEED to play them before you buy one. You may end up loving these, or any of the other companies. Yamaha and Breedlove would also be fantastic choices.
     
  9. Whatizitman

    Whatizitman Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    4,088
    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2018
    Location:
    WV
    I'm of the opinion that there is no such thing as a good sounding plugged in acoustic. The best you can hope for is to get as close as you can (which is still not nearly close enough, IMO). There will always be folks who claim their solution is as good as a properly mic'ed soundhole, and they will either be lying or in denial to deal with their cognitive dissonance.

    If you are in the market, just get a guitar you can stand acoustically that is in your budget, and that has a built-in pickup and EQ. The overall design and quality of guitar has little to do with the tone when plugged in. Only the bridge, pre-amp, and EQ are carrying the load.

    If you want to use what you got, either get a decent soundhole pickup and/or mic and some preamp option if you don't want to alter your guitar, or install a K&K. Don't bother with a typical under the saddle piezo.

    Just make it all plug-in easy for you and the soundman. In the end the tone chase matters little. It's going to quack, lack sustain, and sound basically artificial, regardless of design. It's an acoustic guitar by design. Not an electric.

    Want a good plugged in acoustic tone? Play a semi-hollow body. It won't sound like a mic'ed acoustic guitar. But it will at least sound like it's meant to sound.
     
  10. Bluetelecaster

    Bluetelecaster Tele-Holic

    Age:
    57
    Posts:
    815
    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2019
    Location:
    Waynesville NC
    I just ordered the Fishman matrix vt for my Martin d15. The installstion instructions seem pretty straight forward.
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2020
  11. harpdog

    harpdog Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

    Posts:
    352
    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2013
    Location:
    near Chicago
    If you can bump up the budget a little, the Taylor Academy series are excellent and play sweetly.
     
    studio1087 likes this.
  12. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Friend of Leo's

    Age:
    75
    Posts:
    4,541
    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2018
    Location:
    Washington
    Thanks Kelvin, let me elaborate a bit. First, if you can find a acoustic guitar that meets all of your playability criteria AND has a factory installed pickup then I suggest buying it. Frankly there is not a lot in the OP's budget for new guitars, but a few have been mentioned here. Most factory A/E guitars will have an under saddle transducer with an active preamp built it. Many of those have a tuner which is kind of nice on stage. Also many factory A/E guitars have cutaways, I guess the assumption is that if you plug in you play up the neck - that may or may not be advantageous. My caveat here is to play the guitar before you buy it, which of course you should do with any guitar purchase.

    Second option is to buy a used A/E guitar - that effectively raises the budget but it adds some complications. The choices will be much more limited and you need to be able to evaluated used guitars. All the usual things apply - neck angle, condition of frets, structural issues PLUS does the electronic package work?

    Third is to add a pickup to an acoustic guitar that you like. Most of the after market pickups are not particularly invasive as far as their installation - its not like you have to cut a big hole in the side to install the electronics. You do need to properly drill the endpin out and if you want to remove the electronics its hard to go back to a straight endpin. On a few guitars there might be issues installing the sound hole electronics - I've had to work around braces. I personally don't like UST's themselves from an engineering and structural problem. I have had a couple of them that were almost impossible to balance between strings. But they do work and that is what most manufacturers install from the factory and they are well within the OP's budget (assuming he already has an acceptable guitar.

    And I do agree with Watzitizman's opinion that none of them sound like a good acoustic played into a good mic but that is often not practical - we have come to accept the sound of these pickups as well as their limitations.

    Ps - we have just had a fairly good discussion about pickups themselves so I won't repeat that

    https://www.tdpri.com/threads/good-accoustic-pick-up.989063/
     
    KelvinS1965 likes this.
  13. KelvinS1965

    KelvinS1965 Tele-Holic

    Posts:
    886
    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2014
    Location:
    Wokingham England
    Thanks for the extra reply...all duly noted. :) I'm not expecting a perfect acoustic sound when plugged in; it's going to be accompanying my voice, so there is more to offend the ears than just the guitar. :D

    I did try a huge range of acoustics recently, from £99 Fenders through Martins, Taylors and Epiphones, right up to a (well over budget, but tried it just to see what the extra money got) Gibson J45. Came home with nothing, but have the chance to borrow some acoustics from two different friends, one being the non-electro Martin.

    I built (assembled) my avatar Esquire from parts, so I'm confident about fitting some kind of pickup/sensor, but the basic guitar has to feel right to me and right now I haven't tried anything I got on with: Closest was an Epiphone EJ160E, but Andertons have sold out now (1/3 off so a decent saving). Of course it would be easier to buy one with electrics already installed, plus I'd know what it sounds like plugged in.

    I smiled at Whatizitman's comment about the semi-hollowbody: I have a Gretsch centre block G5622T but I think it's going to get sold as after a year I'm not really enjoying playing it and being gloss black it's not a great choice to drag round local pubs/open mics. Probably better off selling it while it still looks new...
     
  14. Guitarteach

    Guitarteach Poster Extraordinaire

    Posts:
    9,947
    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2014
    Location:
    UK
    Yamaha...

    next?
     
    FenderGuy53, uriah1 and studio1087 like this.
  15. LGOberean

    LGOberean Doctor of Teleocity

    Age:
    66
    Posts:
    11,955
    Joined:
    May 31, 2008
    Location:
    Corpus Christi, Texas

    @gregulator450 since you haven't chimed back in on your thread yet, I'm going to take that as a sign that you've not yet pulled the trigger on a guitar. I agree with the other suggestions of Yamaha guitars. although that's not my recommendation. Don't get me wrong, I think they're good guitars for not much money, as has been observed. I just have a preference.

    And @Carbondeath has already mentioned the brand I'd recommend: Breedlove. Your profile isn't that specific about your location, but I'd hazard a guess that you are at most just 3-4 hours away from Bend, Oregon, and that you already know of Breedlove guitars, even if you haven't tried one. I'm also betting that they're in a lot of shops in your area of the state. I know Guitar Center is a Breedlove dealer. with a budget of $400-$500, you can get one brand new and under warranty.

    I own two Breedloves. The first one I bought new in 2008, at my local GC. It's Breedlove's version of a dreadnought, which is bigger than any other dread I've ever played. I call it the love child of a dread and a jumbo. Then in 2016, I bought a Breedlove Concert sized model used, again at my GC.

    Breedlove T-shirt, 3.jpg

    Over the last dozen years, I have played hundreds of gigs with these two guitars. They play well and sound good. I humbly submit a video from one of my gigs as evidence to support my claim. It sounds good to me, anyway (the guitar, not my playing).



    Both of mine are imports, not MiB (and by that I mean "Made in Bend," not "Men in Black"). And they're both older MiK models from now discontinued series. (You can tell the older Breedlove guitars by the stylized script letter B logo on the headstock. Since 2014, IIRC, they've spelled out the "Breedlove" name on the headstock.)

    But I have played dozens of Breedloves over the years. Every time I go into the acoustic guitar room at my local GC I pick up a Breedlove or two. The feel and quality of build has always been consistent. The import models now are MiC, and the Discovery and Pursuit series offer models from $350-$500. The built-in electronics and piezo UST systems are either Fishman or L. R. Baggs.
     
  16. gregulator450

    gregulator450 Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,617
    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2014
    Location:
    The Dry Side
    Hey guys, I have been traveling for a few days and was radio silent. Thanks for all the feedback! I got a lot of answers here to consider...

    Yamahas... I have yet to meet one I don't like. I will have to check out their lineup.

    I am a fairly capable tech and would do my own install if I decide to modify my existing acoustic. Thanks to Freeman Keller for the detailed info on the available types of pickups and their installations!

    I had not considered Breedlove because I figured they are too far out of my price range. I will have to take another look! (I am about 5 hours from Bend.)

    A fellow forum member offered me a good deal on a tonewood amp/sound hole pickup that he can't use because of some other mods he did to his guitar, so I am gonna pick it up and give it a go, and also shop around with all these great suggestions.
     
  17. Donnie L

    Donnie L TDPRI Member

    Posts:
    57
    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2011
    Location:
    Louisville, Ky.
    Yamaha is great . I recently got a new FG for about $375 - I had a budget of $1500 and settled on the Yamaha - It did need a nut job - I Bought it from Sam Ash direct on eBay, it’s one of the best acoustic guitars I’ve ever played
     
    studio1087 likes this.
  18. KC

    KC Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    4,179
    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2003
    Location:
    Missoula, Montana
    Keep your eyes peeled on the Stupid Deal page -- Breedlove turns up there once in a while -- I bought one of their parlor guitars with a builtin pickup / preamp / tuner for $299 there the other year and I've been very happy with it. Though the K & K sounds better, the UST in the Breedlove is completely usable, especially with a little compression. Built quality & sound are both very good. It's a neat little guitar, and shockingly loud.
     
  19. nico

    nico TDPRI Member

    Posts:
    41
    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2003
    Location:
    Seattle, WA
    A used Yairi is a great value for the money.
     
  20. Mad Kiwi

    Mad Kiwi Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    2,949
    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2009
    Location:
    Land of the Long White Cloud
    A bit of blasphemy here but im really impressed with my Epiphone masterbuilt. It has a slide to balance piezo with "nanomag". which gets very full and nice sounding amplified.

    Most reviews rave about them and i have to admit, its pretty damn good.

    Check this video out.

     
IMPORTANT: Treat everyone here with respect, no matter how difficult!
No sex, drug, political, religion or hate discussion permitted here.