Choosing a Hybrid Guitar

What is a hybrid guitar and do you need one? Basically it is a guitar that does (or tries to) both traditional electric and electro-acoustic sounds using either pickups or digital modelling/electronics and even a combination of these.

Hybrids

Are they acoustic or electric? Well both actually. You can have an electric guitar that can produce acoustic sounds when required through having a piezo pickup onboard or fancy electronics or you can have an electro-acoustic that can produce electric sounds when required through having humbuckers fitted such as on the Taylor T5.

Now though, you can have a Fender Acoustasonic – Tele or Strat (as well as a Jazzmaster soon) – which is a new breed of Hybrid with onboard electronics that produce ‘voices’ of either acoustic guitars or electric guitars or a blend of the two.

Sounds

Some of these hybrids produce very convincing sounds particularly when using pickups and a blend of the digital modelling on board. If you regularly need different sounds from a guitar – without having to change guitar mid song – then a hybrid could be for you, although whichever one you choose will be a compromise, in terms of sound and playability (think string gauge and type, neck size, upper fret access etc). Having said that modern guitar technology means that they are getting closer all the time.

Choice

The hybrid electric guitar market was started by the Parker Fly Deluxe in the early ‘90’s and since then they have gained popularity with other makers joining in.

MusicMan offers a range of piezo loaded electrics, such as the JPX which comes loaded with custom Dimarzio’s and a piezo bridge pickup system for lush acoustics tones.

Fret-King offer the Black label Super-hybrid with split coil double coils and centre single coil pickups, supplemented by the piezo loaded Wilkinson Acoustibridge incorporated into a custom designed direct coupled bridge.

James Tyler/Line 6 offer the Variax range which comes with plenty of digitally modelled acoustic voices.

The Taylor T5 is a hollowbody guitar which is strictly speaking an electro-acoustic but for the humbucker on top and hidden sensors and pickups inside.

Godin’s Multiac range has pickups on top and piezo loaded bridges with synth access available.

Although discontinued now, you might be able to find a Fender/Roland G-5 Strat which infuses a coveted Fender Stratocaster with advanced features realized by Roland’s COSM technology.

At the top end of the market is the PRS Hollowbody II Piezo which looks great but will set you back around £4900 (the SE version has recently been released as well which costs a more reasonable £1349). The Hollowbody boasts a clever PRS/LR Baggs pickup system with dual output jacks and versatile acoustic and electric guitar tones.

So, what’s the cost of having all these sounds to hand? Quite a bit. Although they do start around £500, most are in the £1000 to £2500 mark.

If you want to keep your own guitar and have acoustic sounds on tap, you could try a simulator pedal, such as the Boss AC-3, which will set you back about £99.

Further information:

Music Man JPX
Fender Acoustasonic
Taylor T5
Godin Multiac

James Tyler
Fret-King
Roland G-5
PRS Hollowbody

Links to other pages

Electric Guitars
Acoustic Guitars