It’s no secret that guitar nomenclature can be confusing, especially when it comes to guitars that can act as both electric and acoustic. Most guitarists are familiar with electric-acoustic guitars – that is, acoustic guitars equipped with a pickup. One style not as many are familiar with are hybrid guitars. Hybrid guitars attempt to combine the best parts of acoustic and electric guitars into one convenient instrument. So why would you need something like that?
Let’s say you’re playing a gig and your set list contains a few songs calling for both acoustic and electric guitars being played at different parts of the tune. Sure, you could play the acoustic parts on the electric, but that’s not going to get you the results you’re looking for. And trying to play an acoustic through a cranked Marshall probably isn’t going to sound great, either. Short of switching guitars mid-song (it’s been done before), there aren’t many great options.
While there may not be a lot of great options, there’s at least one that will definitely fit the bill – the hybrid guitar.
Traditionally, there hasn’t been a huge selection of hybrid guitars on the market, but that’s changing day by day as the demand for these versatile guitars increases. With that in mind, we’ve put together a roundup of the best hybrid guitars on the market. In this KillerGuitarRigs Review, we’ll be covering 5 of the best hybrid guitars on sale today.
In the reviews we looked at tone, playability, looks, and features. If you’re in the market for a hybrid guitar, you won’t want to miss this!
Features: 5 Distinct voice pairs, Forearm & back contour, Blendable piezo/magnetic pickups
Benefits: Extremely comfortable, Exceptional sound quality, Handsome design
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Features: Coil splitting magnetic pickups, Fishman Powerbridge piezo, Flamed maple top
Benefits: Huge tonal versatility, Real electric guitar feel and playability, Reliable construction
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Features: Magnetic single coil pickup, Piezo bridge pickup, Stereophone output
Benefits: Excellent for silent practice, Ultra compact, Full size guitar playability
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- Our Top 3
- Individual Reviews
- How to Choose the Right Hybrid for You
- Final Thoughts
Our Top 3
Starting things off is our Top Pick, the Michael Kelly Hybrid 55. This guitar might be from a lesser known brand, but you definitely shouldn’t let that keep you from seriously checking it out. It offers Telecaster styling with a set of impressive electronics that lets you coax realistic acoustic tones along with some serious electric vibes.
Our Best Budget choice, the Traveler Pro Series was a real triple threat – great acoustic tones, single-coil electric tones, and travel-size convenience all in one affordable package. It’s a beautifully-made guitar and comes in a range of finish options.
The Fender American Acoustasonic Telecaster was the clear choice for our Editor’s Choice award. This is a high-tech hybrid guitar that handles both electric and acoustic tones with equal ease. Not only does it sound amazing, but being a US-made Fender, it offers unparalleled build quality in this category. And it looks fantastic.
Conventional looks with boutique performance.
This Telecaster style hybrid offers a combination of top quality woods and high end electronics, delivering fantastic humbucker growl from the electromagnetic pickups, and acoustic warmth from the saddle mounted piezo
- Solo or blended switching
- Dual or single-coil sounds
- Beautifully made
- Unbelievable price for the sonic variety on offer
With beautiful tonewoods and boutique features, the Michael Kelly Hybrid 55 is a truly flexible gig guitar. It had a C-shaped bolt-on maple neck with a compound radius of 10.5 -16 inches. We thought it was super comfortable. Having that compound radius on the Tele-style body was unusual, but definitely in a good way. Topping the neck was a gorgeous rosewood fingerboard that we found easy to get up and down thanks to the single-cutaway body shape.
It had a lightweight korina body, which is a wood most famously used on the Gibson Explorer. The body did have a flamed maple top, with a stunning tiger’s eye finish. Overall we thought it was a fantastic looking guitar.
The pickup configuration matched the original Michael Kelly 55 series, with a Rockfield Mini Humbucker in the neck position, and a Rockfield SWC Humbucker in the bridge. This gave it some rowdy, beefy tones that we were able to tailor to practically any situation with the 3-way switching found on the control plate, and the push/pull volume and tone pots that let us split the humbuckers for single-coil tones.
The acoustic tones came from a Fishman Powerbridge that had built-in saddle pickups. This was such a neat approach and we found ourselves wondering why more guitars aren’t set up this way. We were able to use the Powerbridge on its own, or blended with the hotter humbuckers. The Powerbridge had a separate, dedicated master volume and a three-position toggle switch on the upper bass bout that let us sculpt our acoustic tones with fine precision.
Verdict: With a Tele-style figure, a beautiful tigers-eye burst pattern and an electrical array that provides the ultimate flexibility, the Michael Kelly Hybrid 55 is one of the best. A Fishman Powerbridge gave it authentic amplified acoustic tones, while the mini and SWC Rockfield humbuckers served up a more raucous edge. We were able to switch from double to single-coil pickup pattern at will, and being able to blend the electric and acoustic tones gave it a real edge. The build quality was great and at this price, it’s a steal for the tonal versatility on offer.
Cutting edge technology and exceptional playability.
The acoustasonic range is the last word in hybrid guitars, and no model embodies that more than the american Acoustasonic Telecaster. It's comfortable, and considering how narrow the body is, offers excellent acoustic performance.
- Premium quality
- Under-saddle piezo paired with a Fender N4 magnetic pickup
- 10 body-type tones
- Very versatile
- Acoustic-like appearance
The Fender American Acoustasonic Telecaster is the Corona, CA brand’s flagship hybrid guitar. As you can probably guess from the name, it was built in the the familiar Telecaster body shape, but unlike an electric Tele, it had a hollow body. The top, back and sides were made from mahogany, and our test model came in a classic 2-tone Bourbon Burst finish. If that isn’t to your taste, it does come in a range of other finishes, from natural acoustic looks to some pretty wild prints.
It had a mahogany neck in a deep C profile, and we found it to be extremely comfortable. Topping the neck was a stunning ebony fretboard that both looked and felt wonderful. The fretwork was as on point as we’d expected, with smooth edges and a mirror finish on the crowns.
It was packed with high-quality hardware, including a modern asymmetrical bridge, with GraphTech Tusq pins and Staggered Fender chrome machine-heads. We found it delivered flawless tuning stability and the intonation was perfect from top to bottom.
The electronics consisted of a Fender and Fishman collaboratively designed Acoustic Engine. Essentially we had a Fishman under-saddle Piezo and an Internal Fishman Acoustic Body Sensor that enhanced the piezo and worked as an acoustic pickup. They were topped off with a Fender N4 noiseless magnetic pickup that delivered the electric guitar tones.
Between them, they modeled 10 different body styles, which we were able to access by utilizing the onboard 5-way switching and the Mod-knob, which blended the pickups. We got sweet, folksy sounds with the piezo that we found to be harmonically detailed and super interesting, right through to the hot, fat, and gritty electric tones with the N4. The body sensor added a ton of depth to the natural acoustic tone, making it sound more like a traditional dreadnought despite its smaller proportions.
Verdict: The Fender American Acoustasonic is a premium hybrid guitar that takes quality to new heights. The marriage between a Fender N4 pickup and a Fishman Undersaddle piezo with a body sensor was absolutely genius. Between the pickups, the 5-way switching, and the Mod-knob, it covered just about every imaginable genre. It served up authentic Telecaster sounds, Nashville vibes, and a whole lot more.
A highly portable hybrid for guitarists on the go.
This is unique hybrid guitar designed for life on the road. If offers a full scale length with a recuced body size and headless design, making it incredibly portable, and even features a stethophone headset for silent practice without the need for power
- Compact Nech-thru-body design
- In-body tuning hardware
- Piezo & single-coil pickup
- Direct silent play
With its defiant, non-traditional looks, the Pro series by Traveler takes travel guitars to a whole other level. Traveler gutted just about every part of a bulky solid-body to achieve the smaller overall proportions of this guitar with its one-piece, neck-thru-body, and detachable lap rest. We thought it looked great.
This compact guitar was made with solid maple, including the neck. Speaking of the neck, we found it to be quite slim and very comfortable. The black walnut fretboard sitting on top was the icing on the cake. The small dimensions made it one of the lightest in the entire roundup. Coming from a company specializing in travel guitars, this wasn’t a surprise.
Being solid body, it wasn’t able to do true acoustic tones without an amp, but with the help of the custom-made piezo bridge pickup, we got some really organic acoustic sounds. We were also able to blend the piezo with the low-profile single-coil magnetic pickup, which led to some super unique tones.
The sound-sculpting capabilities we got from the ability to blend the piezo and magnetic pickups made it extremely practical. We think anyone planning to travel with this guitar will love the combination of versatility and size. We were able to get everything from classic acoustic rhythm tones and sweet fingerpicked sounds from the piezo, through to some nice cleans and even gnarly distorted tones from the magnetic pickup.
While we weren’t able to play to any kind of audience without being plugged in, we were able to practice silently directly from the instrument itself without an amp by using its unique internal resonant system and battery-free stethophone headset.
Our Verdict: Even if you’re not traveling, the Traveler Pro-Series Deluxe is a superb hybrid electro-acoustic guitar. It had a range of tones to play with and the piezo was very responsive with great resonance and harmonics. The dual-rail humbucker gave us great cleans plus some epic overdrive. When we blended the two, we got some super cool in-between tones.
Top level fit and finish with sonic performance to match.
If you only have room for one guitar and you're unsure whether you want acoustic or electric, this model truly lets you have both. As an acoustic it's warm and resonant, and as an electric guitar it offers fat, stageworthy tones.
- Spalt maple
- Chambered mahogany
- Telecaster body-shape
- 3-way switching
- Expert craftsmanship
This Michael Kelly 55 hybrid was released as a 10th-anniversary edition, and offered a slight variation on the Tele design. It came with a gorgeous spalted maple top and a chambered mahogany body with a natural spalted burst finish, which looked sensational. This model was purpose built as a jack of all trades for working musicians looking to get multiple sounds from one instrument.
The set-neck was c-shaped and beautifully crafted from mahogany. We found it to be extremely comfortable and we were also impressed with the quality of the fret work. One thing we were a little disappointed with was the inclusion of a pau ferro fretboard. Considering how beautiful the spalt top was, we thought a rosewood board would have been a much better pairing. Aside from that, it has a ton of high-end appointments, including mother of pearl inlay.
As far as the electronics went, it married a Fishman under-saddle pickup with a pair of Rockfield SWC coil-tapping humbuckers. The 3-way switching made it super user-friendly and let us choose between an acoustic edge, a warm, fuzzy blend, or just pure overdrive.
We were happy to see the inclusion of some high-end hardware, which made up a little for the fretboard. It came with Grover tuning machines, which delivered big in terms of tuning stability, and the out-of-the-box setup was impressive, too.
Our Verdict: The Michael Kelly Hybrid Special is another stunning hybrid model that just screams high-quality. From its exotic-looking wood choices and chambered body to its mother of pearl inlay, this was a guitar that looked far more expensive than its actual price tag. It served up a range of great tones with its 3-way switching and combination of under-saddle piezo and humbucker pickups. As a result, it had plenty to offer any multi-genre guitarist.
Incredible tones and a familiar feel.
PRS has always been an innovative maker, and this SE Hollowbody Piezo proves it. It gives you PRS humbucking pickups and an LR Baggs piezo that can be blended or separated entirely, resulting in a huge range of tones that simply aren't possible with a standard electric or a standard acoustic.
- Hollow body-shape
- Great acoustic resonance
- 2 individual outputs
- Stunning looks
- Reasonable price
The last head-turning hybrid in this roundup was the amazing PRS SE Hollowbody (full review here). With a hardy 5-ply laminated maple top, angled mahogany sides, and distinct f-holes it was an incredibly good-looking guitar. Our test guitar arrived in an amazing Peacock Blue that we think might have been the nicest finish in the whole field. It had plenty of embellishments and included abalone inlay.
The build quality was seriously impressive. If it weren’t for the SE on the headstock, we could have believed this was a US-made model. From the woodwork and hardware to the overall fit and finish, everything was fantastic. In fact, we loved it so much, we included it in our roundup of the best hollow-body electric guitars.
The PRS SE Hollowbody had the wide fat neck profile, which players with smaller hands might not find easy to use. If you like thick necks, though, you’ll love this guitar. It had 22 frets laid into a gorgeous ebony fingerboard that was smooth and so fast.
Played acoustically it wasn’t the loudest, but it still had gorgeous resonance. No doubt thanks to the quality woods and full hollowbody design. When plugged in, we got much of the same gorgeous acoustic tone, but with as much volume as we needed via the piezo pickup. The piezo on this guitar was the custom-designed brainchild of PRS and LR Baggs, and we think it was perfectly paired. As for electric tones, it had 2 vintage-style PRS 58/15 “S” humbucking pickups that served up everything from warm jazzy cleans to hard rock overdrive.
There was a mix/piezo output which we were able to plug into and adjust the blend of both with the two volume controls. One of the nicest things about this setup was that we were able to can blend the two incrementally by layering them in either direction to create some great expressive and textured sounds.
As well as the mixed output, there was a separate output labeled Mag that bypassed the piezo for when we just wanted to play it as a full electric guitar. Another cool feature is we were actually able to feed both outputs to separate amps simultaneously.
Verdict: The PRS SE Hollowbody was an absolute joy to play. Had it not been for the ultra-thick neck, it might have pipped the Acoustasoni Telecaster to the post for the Editor’s Choice title. Not only does the inclusion of both a piezo pickup and humbuckers make this hybrid super versatile, but the dual output feature amplifies that even further. The build quality was sensational. To look at, this was easily one of our favorites in the whole roundup.
How to Choose the Right Hybrid for You
Hybrid guitars are getting more and more popular, but a lot of people, particularly newer players, find themselves confused when it comes time to shop for one. Not only are you looking for acoustic features, but also electric.
For that reason, we’ve put together this Hybrid Guitar Buyer’s Guide to coach you through what you should be looking for when buying your next guitar.
What are Hybrid Guitars?
Hybrid guitars are, as the name suggests, a hybrid between an acoustic and an electric guitar. However, they aren’t the same as acoustic-electric guitars!
Hybrid guitars make use of traditional electromagnetic pickups used in electric guitars, as well as transducers, microphones, or piezo pickups that are in place to capture the natural acoustic vibration of the guitar.
The signals from each pickup can usually be isolated and played as pure electromagnetic or transducer sounds, or they can be blended, resulting in some really full and interesting tones.
Why Use a Hybrid Guitar?
By using a hybrid guitar, you are effectively able to have two guitars in one. Players can switch between acoustic and electric tones without having to change guitars, ideal for those who switch between these tones live onstage. Or perhaps for anyone who might be short of space at home and wants the use of both electric and acoustic guitars.
Hybrid Pickup Types
There are a few main types of hybrid guitar pickups available. Unlike electromagnetic pickups, they usually aren’t visible from the outside of the guitar. We’ve included the most common below.
Undersaddle pickups literally sit under the saddle of the guitar and detect the direct vibration of each string. This results in a very natural tone, and even enables line-in amplification of nylon-strung guitars.
Body Sensor Pickups
Like under-saddle pickups, body sensor pickups are hidden from view. But instead of being located under the saddle, they are usually stuck to the underside of the guitar’s soundboard and detect the vibrations from the top rather than directly from the strings. This results in a more earthy, warm tone that sounds a lot like an unamplified acoustic.
Some manufacturers use microphone pickups, which are exactly like they sound. Small microphones are located inside the body of the guitar to capture the sound at source. They sound very similar to a mic’d-up acoustic, but they take the hassle out of the setup and allow for free movement onstage.
The construction technique and the materials used are far more important on a hybrid guitar than on a standard electric. While tone woods do influence the sound of a regular electric guitar, they don’t have as much impact as they do on an acoustic, or indeed a hybrid guitar.
Alder is a lightweight wood that provides good sustain and clarity.
Mahogany is a heavier wood and gives the guitar a warmer sound. The neck is typically made from maple, which is strong and durable.
Sitka spruce is a real favorite amongst guitar builders and players alike. It is incredibly strong and resonant, with a bright, clear tone.
Maple is less commonly used, but it provides a bright, punchy sound that cuts through the mix.
How to select the right tonewood for your instrument.
Cedar is a highly resonant and lightweight wood, with a mellow tone, and is popular with classical-type and nylon-strung guitars.
Ash is another popular tonewood for hybrid guitars; it has a bright, articulate sound with lots of sustain.
Rosewood is a heavy, dense wood that produces a warm, deep sound. It’s a very expensive wood, so it’s rare to see outside of fretboards on hybrid guitars.
Hybrid guitars can be incredibly versatile tools in a guitarist’s arsenal. They unlock tones that would otherwise not be possible from a single instrument. Whether you’re trying to downsize your collection or you need to be able to be dynamic onstage, a hybrid guitar can help you achieve those goals.
To recap our favorites from this roundup…
If you’re looking for a solid all-rounder at a great price, the Michael Kelly Hybrid 55 is a solid choice. It offers an excellent array of tones and an extremely comfortable playing experience. If you’re looking for the most affordable hybrid guitar you can get your hands on, you’ll love the Traveler Pro Series. If you’re looking for the best there is, and you’re happy to pay for it, the Fender American Acoustasonic Telecaster is our Editor’s Choice. It offers incredible acoustic performance as well as super-amplified tones. It’s a high-tech option, and it looks fantastic.
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