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 Michal Kelly Hybrid Special. Street price $799 to $999.00.
This is a great 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 25.75 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 definitely 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 3 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 D'Addario NYXL 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 really 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 with a Triple Shot mounting ring. You have the ability to get 4 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. When I find the time I'll update this blog with a demo video of the upgraded A6.
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!