What's a hybrid guitar? Well, for many, it is considered to be a guitar that can produce a tone that of an acoustic guitar as well as the magnetic pickup sounds of an electric guitar. It also offers the comfort and playability of an electric guitar.
I have been performing with hybrid guitars since 2015. I do a lot of looping with the acoustic tones and guitar soloing using the magnetic pickups sent through a multi-effects processor.
I used to do my looping with a concert size acoustic guitar and kick on the effects for guitar solos, but the tone is not the best if you're using overdrive with a piezo pickup.
Then one day, I discovered the world of hybrid guitars, and so began the search for my next instrument. I experimented with whatever I could find at the time. I tried the Ibanez Montage, it was a full-size familiar-sounding acoustic but was definitely weaker on its electric guitar tones. I played around with the Italia hybrid guitar, Dean Colt, and Gibson and PRS Hybrids. All nice guitars, but they did not have the sound I was looking for. It seems any hybrid with a metal bridge sounded thin and could not hold a candle to an acoustic guitar plugged in. Although, the piezo under the metal bridge seemed to work nicely for shaping the tone when you blended it with the magnetic pickups.
After spending time with all these different hybrids, I narrowed it down to the next three guitars that made an impression on me.
The Michael Kelly Hybrid Special. Street price $799 to $999.00
This is an excellent hybrid for those who focus more on electric guitar sounds when performing but need acoustic tone in between.
The humbuckers with coil-tapping sound great on this semi-hollow guitar. It handles well, feels a bit like a Les Paul with its 24.75 scale length, and the looks are fantastic.
The acoustic side of this instrument sounds good with its Fishman Powerchip circuitry, but being there is solid wood under the bridge it doesn't sound as acoustically convincing as a hybrid that is hollowed out underneath the bridge. But, with the proper EQ settings, you can squeeze some fat tones out of it, so I would not write the MK Hybrid off.
I think what makes this guitar shine is when you blend the acoustic piezo transducer with the magnetic pickups. The MK Hybrid Special is equipped with a 3-way toggle for the humbuckers and a 3-way switch that allows you to choose between magnetic PUPS, piezo transducer or to blend all the pickups.
There is so much potential for tone shaping when blending the coil tapping humbuckers with the piezo. This guitar will produce the most variety of sounds of the three I am highlighting. You can also take things up a notch with its Y cable friendly output jack and run two different amps. I have not experimented with that feature yet, but that might be the key to getting the best acoustic sound out of this guitar.
It comes with light strings gauges 10 - 46, but I have found that hybrids should have at least 11 - 49 to try and achieve fatter acoustic tones and better performance. This hybrid is worth having in the arsenal as it is one of the most tonally versatile hybrid guitars available.
The Taylor T5 and T5Z. Street price $1899 to around $3799.
She's a beauty, her electric tones are exquisite, you can hear the hollow body characteristics bleeding through, and it sounds amazing! But, her acoustic tone hit a sour note with me. Not that it is a bad sound; it's just not what I expected. I almost sold my T5Z, but with some modification, I turned it into a guitar that I now love.
I ordered it online and did not have a chance to hear it in person beforehand. I was going off a few reviews and Taylor demo videos to get educated on their product.
Eventually, I pulled the trigger when I found mine on eBay. When I plugged it into my amp, the acoustic sound let me down. I knew there was no way I could use this in place of my electric/acoustic guitar. It sounded nothing like it. I was a little surprised because it sounded so good in the demo videos, but it just would not work for what I wanted.
Its acoustic sound is coming from a body sensor pickup that is glued to the underside of the top. The sound that it produces is totally unique. I've had two people now tell me it reminds them of a harpsichord. So yea, this guitar definitely has a sound of its own on the acoustic side.
There is a lot of love out there for the T5 just the way it is, but I'm sure there are folks out there like myself that buy the Taylor T5 online, hoping it will sound similar to their acoustic guitar. It's not even close, so pay close attention to the acoustic tone in videos before you buy, or hear it in person and decide if it's for you or not.
If you are willing to drill a couple of holes in your T5, this guitar can sound amazing with a simple modification. I Installed a Fishman's Matrix Infinity under-saddle transducer on my T5Z and it now captures the sound of an acoustic guitar plugged in. This upgrade can run you around $300 parts and labor but is totally worth it to unlock the potential of Taylor T5 and T5Z. There is a bass boost switch on the Matrix that will fatten up the sound on thin body guitars. I recommend turning it on to achieve the best tone.
Godin A6 Ultra. Street price $1125 to $1250.
I have found the best sounding hybrid guitar out of the box is the Godin A6 Ultra. This guitar nails it when it comes to electric AND acoustic tones. This is clearly what many are shooting for when searching out a hybrid guitar. The ability to sound convincing on both sides of the spectrum. I credit that to its two-chambered body and under-saddle pickup. It has one magnetic pickup at the neck with bass and treble tone controls. The active under-saddle pickup has a Three-band EQ, which does a great job of shaping the acoustic tones to resemble an electric/acoustic guitar. I've tested it alongside an array of acoustics in my shop, and the Godin A6 can hold its own. Side by side comparisons with the Taylor T5 and its body sensor pickup and Michael Kelly Hybrid Special, the Godin A6 acoustic tone is the winner in my book.
The A6 comes strung up with 12's, but I put 11 through 49 on mine to make a little more bend-friendly for guitar solos. It handles great, and I really enjoy performing with this guitar.
If there is a downside to the A6, it would be that there is no bridge pickup to complete the package. The guitar sounds great as is, but I enjoy having a few more tonal options with magnetic pickups, which lead me to upgrade my A6 with a Seymour Duncan P Rail and Triple Shot mounting ring. You can get four tones out of one pickup. A humbucker in series and parallel, single-coil, and a P90. These pickups sound amazing, and if you have a set of them, you can squeeze out 24 different tones using the Triple Shot mounting ring switches in combination with a 3-way toggle switch.
There is one more hybrid guitar that should be mentioned, but I have not had the opportunity to play one yet. New for 2019 is the Fender Acoustasonic. I will be getting one in my shop in the near future, and I'll give you my take on it. It seems quite versatile.
I'm looking forward to playing a hybrid with the name Fender as I owned Fenders since the beginning of my electric guitar days.
In closing, I hope this blog has been helpful for anyone who might be researching hybrid guitars. You can leave comments or questions below, and I'll do my best to answer them. You can check out Guitars On Main's Hybrid Guitar Collection online or in our shop at 84 E. Main Street Mount Joy, Pa. and try them out for yourself!
I had a chance to compare the Fender Acoustasonic to the Godin A6 today. The Fender has ten different tone selections using guitar modeling electronics. They all sound good, but one particular voice sounded the most natural to me. It was position 4 (Alternative Acoustics) using mode B, which is modeled after a Sitka Spruce/Mahogany Dreadnought.
Did it stand up to the Godin A6 acoustic tone? I think it did very well, and I would be happy performing with the tone that is coming from the Fender.
What I did notice between the two is that when they are unplugged, the A6 is louder and sounds better. Its tonewood is very audible. When they are plugged in, the A6 captures that hollow-sounding guitar tone a bit better than the Fender. Being the A6 is not filtered through modeling electronics; it sounds more natural and thicker. But that does not mean it's better, a good tone can be subjective. One thing for sure, they both have great acoustic guitar sound. Next chance I get, I'll make a video of both guitars so you can hear for yourself.
The Fender offers so many tone options that I think everyone will find something they like. It has a sweet built-in overdriven electric guitar sound. If you're plugged into a PA system and have a looper, you can do some cool stuff with it. Personally, I need a little more drive for some of the guitar soloing I do, so I would need to plug into a processor to test that side of the guitar further.
My quick assessment is that the Acoustasonic is indeed a kick-ass hybrid ax. It handles great, it's lightweight and has excellent tones all the way around. There are a lot of features about it to discuss, and I'll get deeper into them on my next update.
That being said, I don't see it replacing my Godin A6 when I am performing. The Godin has two outputs, one for the acoustic pickup and one for the magnetic pickup. I think these hybrid guitars work best when you can run two different amps and really capture the tones that you seek.
I still think out of the box the Godin A6 is the best solution for most players. It's affordable, the quality is excellent, and it sounds great. You'll get more variety of sounds with the Taylor and Fender, but you'll pay a lot more for it too.
Another hybrid guitar that I was comparing with today was the three voice Godin LGXT. It's not really in the same class as the other guitars in this blog. It has a solid body and is strung up with light gauge strings. I was impressed with its acoustic sound being it has no hollowed-out chambers. It has a Custom RMC bridge with pre-amp EQ that produces the acoustic guitar like sounds. I boost the bass to fatten things up. Still not as convincing as the other hybrids, but I think it is good enough. I'll know better once I have a chance to actually use it while performing with a band and see how well it cuts through the mix. I'll put a set of NYXL 11's on it so that it can handle some heavy strumming. My next gig is March 28th, so I'll have an update after that.
The LGXT also comes equipped with 2 Seymour Duncan pickups and a midi jack so that you can plug into a synthesizer. That's a pretty cool feature. You can make that guitar sound like many different instruments. That would be great for recording or performing songs that need a keyboard player using your guitar. You can also program different strings to sound like different instruments.
An example would be bass guitar on strings 4 through 6, and piano on strings 1 through 3. You could be your own jazz combo! I hope to have a synth in the coming months to test out that side of the LGXT.
I have to say; these are all great guitars in their own way, but the Taylor T5, when modified with Fishman under-saddle pickup, is my favorite of the group. I give my Godin almost equal playing time when I do gigs, but there is something unique about the Taylor T5 tone that I do love. If you can afford the Taylor, I would say go for it. You might even like its acoustic body sensor pickup. But if you don't, the Fishman upgrade is well worth it. It made mine a keeper.