The reality seems to defy logic. If a guitar is well made and additional quality equipment is added to it, it is logical to assume that the price would be higher. When it comes to guitars, the opposite is more often the case and there is a good reason for it.
To the person experienced with acoustic guitars and with those hybrids commonly referred to as “acoustic-electrics,’ there is no mystery. To the general public, though, the situation seems illogical. There is, in fact, a pretty straight-forward explanation. It is simply this: Adding electronics to an instrument designed to generate it’s own sound actually compromises both the structural integrity as well as the tonal quality of that acoustic-by-design guitar.
Because it is understood that the instrument will be, at least sometimes, played plugged in, often some mild, but important, compromises are made in the construction of the instrument that now needn’t be quite as perfect acoustically. This is also not likely to be acknowledged.
Because manufacturers understand this, they also understand, though are not apt to acknowledge this either, that the instrument is simply worth a bit less. Perhaps a couple of rather famous examples will help illustrate the point.
Gibson builds some of the finest, handmade but mass produced, guitars in the United States. Their line includes both acoustic and electric models as well as a selection of acoustic-electrics. Two of their best known acoustic steel-string acoustics are the Hummingbird and the J45, Both are available as either totally acoustic (as “True Vintage” models) which are built to be as consistent as current manufacturing realities allow with their original design and manufacturing specs, as well as acoustic-electric hybrids.
I don’t mean to pick on Gibson, Most major guitar manufacturers of acoustic instruments (including Martin and Guild) do the same thing.
While the same basic woods, dimensions and assembly processes are followed for each, the pure acoustic versions are (considerably) more expensive.
There are parallel examples with every major and many “boutique” manufacturers of guitars. This fact does not make acoustic-electric guitars somehow bad or undesirable. It is just information that may help explain something that seems rather odd.
It is important, also, to remember that there are four major types of guitars.
1. Acoustics which are not wired for electric amplification at all. Their sound comes from the resonance of the strings with the carefully constructed body;
2. Acoustic-Electrics which take a guitar designed to be an acoustic and then add electronic pick-up equipment to them so that they can be played either way;
3. Electric guitars can be either solid or hollow bodied but are designed, from the outset, to be played with integrated amplification machinery built in. Solid bodies tend to be more popular with rock guitarists and hollow bodies with those who play the blues, and
4. Hollow Body Electrics built so as to be fully playable as acoustics (without plugging them in.)
The kind of music you play, the feel and sound you like, economic realities and your own aesthetic preferences all come into play in choosing which type of guitar is best suited to your needs.
There are other alternatives as well. For example, many guitarists who perform with acoustic instruments, prefer using an external microphone to playing a guitar with built in electronics.
For the best possible acoustic sound, greater satisfaction is apt to be found in a purely acoustic (non electrified) guitar. For the best possible electric sound, the converse is obviously true. Hybrids, whether in guitars or automobiles, always need to compromise something about the purity of one or both things that have been brought together to accomplish a successful blending of both.
When it comes to guitars, the Hybrids are usually somewhat less expensive. It is too bad the same cannot be said for cars!
As with so many things in life, having things both ways is a ubiquitously human quest, but one not often satisfied or truly satisfying over time.