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Yamaha A3R

Acoustic-Electric Guitar

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Best Acoustic-Electric Guitar (under $1000)

Yamaha A3R

  • Don Makoviney
  • Last Updated: January 22, 2016

If I had to get an acoustic-electric guitar under $1000, I'd buy the Yamaha A3R. While it may not have the brand name cachet of a Martin, Taylor, or Gibson, you will not find a solid top, back and sides acoustic-electric with premium electronics like you will with the A3R. Seriously, you'll pay twice that amount for a brand name. And the user reviews, and pro reviews all concur. The Yamaha A3R is the one to get.


What to look for in a great acoustic-electric guitar under a grand

A great acoustic-electric guitar under a grand will have, at the very least, a solid wood top. It will probably have laminate sides and back. Then there is the “electric” part of “acoustic-electric”. It should ship with a great pickup and electronics.

It should sound great unplugged, as well as plugged in. Not one, or the other.

Editor’s note: Check out our guide for best acoustic guitars under a thousand dollars if you don’t want any electronics.

Lastly, a great guitar in this category should have a reputation for quality, by way of user reviews, professional reviews, and hands-on evaluation.

Our pick

If I had a thousand dollars in my pocket and needed an acoustic-electric guitar for a quickly approaching gig, I’d get the Yamaha A3R. It comes with SRT Preamp/Pickup (which sounds amazing, more on that in a bit) and a super sturdy padded hardshell case.

But about the guitar itself: It has an ebony fretboard, which is a personal favorite of mine, but might not matter to you. The body itself is entirely of solid wood – the top is solid spruce, the sides and back are solid rosewood, the neck is mahogany.

As I’ve mentioned in other guides, the dreadnought shape often has too much bass for me. But this Yamaha has a great midrange sound. Other users have noted the same, like Amazon reviewer John Noland:

The tone is clean, crisp, and balanced with a defined bass that is neither boomy or muddy with its light gauge strings. The sound is immediate, authoritative, and organic like a sunny spring morning. Each note is announced from within this guitar as if it was its last. The intonation is perfect and there are no dead notes anywhere on the fret board.

Another Amazon reviewer agreed:

I tend to like boomy dreads but the A3R had me with it’s subtlety. The tones are very nice across the board with crispy bell like highs and good solid lows.It came set up with D’addario light gauge strings. They sound nice but I’ll likely get some medium gauge when these get tired.

A Guitar Center customer, who has played guitar for 15 years and is a big fan of Taylor guitars also agrees:

I’ve played for 15 years and was shocked that I was playing a Yamaha. Aesthetically, this guitar looks good but is very basic. But close your eyes and listen to the sound and pay attention to the feel. This is a very dynamic guitar. I play a lot of electric and found this guitar to be very smooth. When I plugged it in I was amazed again. (…) For the money, this thing is unbeatable.

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The electronics

I simply plugged it into a little Kustom pa system direct and loved it. I didn’t get to record tracks or perform with a full band, but it sounds promising. In the Strumview.com review, they pointed out the advantages of the Yamaha SRT electronics:

Many acoustic guitar pickups are a simple piezo pickup, located under the saddle, picking up the vibrations of the strings and converting them to an electrical signal. When you play on a “piezo-only” system, you lose all of the “air and wood” quality of the tonewoods and body style of the acoustic guitar (100% lost), ending up with a disappointing, electric and tinny sound that barely resembles the beautiful tones and overtones one would desire when playing an acoustic guitar or amping with just a studio microphone.

Not only does the SRT have both an onboard microphone for picking up the natural acoustic sound of the guitar, but it has a blender to balance between the loudness or “gain” from the piezo pickup without sacrificing that true acoustic sound you would expect from an acoustic guitar.

The microphone also has different modeling capabilities for replicating a close microphone or wide microphone setup.

So, yeah, what those guys said :-)

In fact, go check out the strumviews.com review, as it explains the electronics in a very detailed manner.

Alternate pick

We also like the Taylor 214ce. Clocking in at right about $1000, you’re definitely paying for the brand name. However, this guitar also sounds really great, and plays wonderfully.

This particular model has been around for many years, so we also have a lot of reviews – both professional and regular user reviews to peruse. It has consistently maintained four and five star ratings on all the major retailer sites. In short, it has a great reputation as an all-around workhorse guitar.

A customer on Musician’s Friend noted:

Amazing value for the money. This guitar sounds every bit as good as some competitors that are 3 or 4 times as expensive. The satin finish around the sides and back gives it a great feel. Neck is very comfortable to play and the cutaway gives easy access to the upper frets. I was looking into Martin’s and Gibson’s but ultimately went with this one instead. Play one for yourself and you will be amazed at the sound quality for a laminate sides/back constructed guitar. Huge sound when played acoustically and the Taylor proprietary electronics sound great when plugged in. Can’t say enough good things about this guitar.

An Amazon review had this to say:

I went to Guitar Center and played the guitars and was really impressed with the chimey, shimmering sound of the 214CE, and the smaller more comfortable size vs. my dreadnoughts. In some respects it sounded similar to the Gibson Songwriter Deluxe… very balanced sound across the strings.

The fit and finish was very nice… The thin neck makes playing this a breeze. For those people who are purists and needing to only buy solid wood guitars, you can do so for another $500 – 600, but the 214CE had the sound I was looking for… I find myself picking it up more than my Martin…. it is fun and easy to play…

Acoustic Magazine, in it’s review, was impressed as well:

Acoustically, the DLX really does sound excellent. The tone sits squarely in between the full depth and dynamics of a dreadnaught and the tighter, more pronounced punch you get from smaller bodied instruments. It’s balance personified – and exactly why after years of reviewing guitars it’s fast become my favourite body shape for an all-rounder. The low-end is satisfyingly plummy when fingerpicked or as crisp as a cool autumn evening when flat-picked. Highs are bright and well-defined but lack perhaps a touch of harmonic complexity when put under the microscope – though all but the most experienced of ears will struggle to pick this out.

This guy walked out of Guitar Center with one, here’s why:

I went in to Guitar Center about 6 months ago to trade in my old guitar for a step-up electric acoustic with a budget of about $1200. I went into the acoustic room and setup shop for about 4 hours. I tried everything in that room from Martins, to Breedloves, to Taylors and I just kept coming back to the 214CE. It played great and had that Taylor solid\well-made feeling. It had a beautiful balanced tone that only the higher end Taylors and a few others could match and frankly – I had to strain to hear any difference. I couldn’t believe this thing could hold its own against any guitar in the room. If you can get beyond the solid wood snobery – this is a truly great guiter and a great bargain. After owning and playing it for 6 months, it never disappoints.

Conclusion

Picking a guitar is so subjective and each individual will have their favorites but you should try these if you’re in the market.

Happy playing!


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Best Acoustic-Electric Guitar (under $1000)

Yamaha A3R

Best Acoustic-Electric Guitar (under $1000)

Important Specs

Top Solid Spruce
Back and Sides Solid Rosewood
Body Shape & Style Dreadnought, Single Cutaway
Neck Solid Mohogany
Fingerboard Rosewood
Electronics System 63 SRT
more specs

Synopsis:

The Yamaha A3R is our pick for best acoustic-electric guitar under $1000. The electronics are fantastic, and the all wood construction gives it a great sound. If you're looking for a premium acoustic-electric under $1000, the Yamaha A3R is the one to get.

- M

Sources

  1. Mike Levine, Acoustic Guitar Magazine, 20130101
    Yamaha A3R Review
    “Acoustically, the A3R’s tone is bright and not particularly bassy. Considering that this guitar is primarily designed for acoustic-electric use, its tonal signature makes sense. There’s less bottom end to resonate and potentially cause feedback, and plenty of treble for cutting through a band mix. The acoustic tone is well balanced, and the bass notes ring cleanly and without muddiness. I tried out the A3R in a variety of playing styles. For fingerstyle guitar, it was warm and pleasant, and for flatpicked bluegrass it was crisp and concise. In both instances, the A3R’s lack of bottom was the only negative. The guitar’s tone was also satisfying for intense, rock-style acoustic strumming on open and barre chords (in standard and dropped-D tuning).”
  2. Aaron Schulman, Strumviews.com, 20130201
    Yamaha A-Series Guitars - Complete Comparisons and Reviews
    “Additionally, if I were budgeting to buy a guitar in this price range, I would opt for the extra $200 and pick the A3R over the A1R because the SRT technology is worth far more than the $200 difference. There is simply no comparison between the studio mic capabilities of the SRT pickup system and the inferior piezo only pickups installed in the A1 series.”
Originally published: January 21st, 2016

Important Specs

Top Solid Spruce
Back and Sides Solid Rosewood
Body Shape & Style Dreadnought, Single Cutaway
Neck Solid Mohogany
Fingerboard Rosewood
Electronics System 63 SRT
more specs



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