Best Classical Guitar With a Pickup

The best classical guitar with a pickup is the Cordoba C5-CE since it offers great tone and playability for the affordable price tag.

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Classical guitars with pickups allow you to perform in loud spaces without worrying about a microphone picking up noise. So what are the best classical guitars with a pickup?

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In this article, I’ll cover my top picks for fully-hollow classical guitars that have built-in pickup systems, like the Cordoba C5-CE. These are different from nylon electric guitars, which are thinner and may be chambered. Check out my other article on the best nylon electric guitars if you want to know about thinline or crossover models like the Cordoba Stage and Godin Grand Concert.

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Brogan’s Quick Take

The best classical guitar with a pickup is a deeply personal choice, but options like the Cordoba C5-CE, Ibanez GA35TCE, and Cordoba GK Studio Negra offer a perfect blend of traditional sound and modern amplification, catering to dynamic performers and those seeking adaptability.

5 Best Classical Guitars With Pickups

Alright, let’s talk about the best classical guitars with pickups.

My top picks are:
  • Cordoba C5-CE
  • Ibanez GA35TCE
  • Cordoba GK Studio Negra
  • Yamaha CGX102
  • Cordoba C7-CE CD/IN

And below you can compare my top picks side-by-side:

FeatureCordoba C5-CEIbanez GA35TCECordoba GK Studio NegraYamaha CGX102Cordoba C7-CE CD/IN
Top WoodSolid Canadian cedarSpruceSolid European spruceSpruceSolid Canadian cedar
Back & Sides WoodMahoganyMahoganyIndian rosewoodNatoIndian rosewood
Neck WoodMahoganyMahoganyMahoganyNato/mahoganyMahogany
Fingerboard MaterialRosewoodRosewoodRosewoodRosewoodRosewood
Scale Length650mm650mm650mm650mm650mm
Nut Width52mm52mm50mm52.4mm50mm
Pickup/PreampFishman Presys IIIbanez T-bar II Undersaddle/AEQ210TF PreampFishman Presys BlendSystem 68NFishman Presys Blend
Tuning MachinesCordoba Gold with Pearl ButtonsIbanez Gold ClassicalCordoba Gold with Pearl ButtonsCoveredCordoba Gold with Pearl Buttons
FinishGloss PolyurethaneHigh Gloss PolyurethaneHigh Gloss PolyurethaneGlossHigh Gloss Polyurethane
Body TypeClassical with CutawayClassical with CutawayClassical with CutawayClassicalClassical with Cutaway

1. Cordoba C5-CE Classical Acoustic-Electric Guitar

The Cordoba C5-CE is my pick for the best classical guitar with a pickup. It’s a great choice for guitarists who want the traditional sound and feel of a classical instrument along with the convenience of amplification plus the freedom of a cutaway.

Some of the key features that make the C5-CE stand out include:

  • Solid Canadian cedar top for warm, rich tone
  • Mahogany back and sides for balanced sound
  • Fishman lsys+ system with EQ and built-in tuner
  • Lightweight construction for comfort and playability
  • Hand-inlaid wooden rosette and high gloss polyurethane finish for elegant aesthetics

Pros and Cons of the Cordoba C5-CE:

ProsCons
High-quality tonewoods for great soundSlightly higher price point than some entry-level options
Built-in pickup system for easy amplificationNylon strings may take some getting used to for steel-string players
Lightweight and comfortable to play
Beautiful appointments and finish

Compared to other classical guitars with pickups like the Yamaha NTX700 or Takamine GC1CE, the Cordoba C5-CE stands out for its warmer, more traditional classical guitar voice.

The Fishman lsys+ system is also a major advantage, providing a natural amplified sound. Controls let you shape your tone in multiple ways.

In summary, the Cordoba C5-CE is a beautifully crafted, great sounding classical guitar that gives you the flexibility to perform acoustically or plugged in. Its quality construction and electronics make it an excellent value for any classical guitarist looking to play amplified.

2. Ibanez GA35TCE Thinline Classical Acoustic-Electric Guitar

The Ibanez GA35TCE is an excellent classical guitar with a pickup. It has impressive sound and build quality for its price range.

The GA35TCE has a solid spruce top, which gives it a bright and responsive tone. The mahogany back and sides provide warmth and resonance. The thin-line cutaway body allows easy access to higher frets. The onboard Ibanez T-bar II undersaddle pickup and AEQ210TF preamp provide clear amplified sound with 2-band EQ and built-in tuner.

Key features:

  • Spruce-topped mahogany
  • Mahogany back and sides
  • Thin-line cutaway body
  • Ibanez undersaddle pickup
  • Ibanez AEQ210TF preamp with 2-band EQ and tuner
  • Rosewood bridge and fretboard
  • Gold classical tuning machines
ProsCons
Solid spruce top provides bright, responsive toneLaminate back and sides not as rich as all-solid wood
Thin-line cutaway body allows easy upper fret accessNarrow neck takes adjustment for some
Built-in electronics provide convenient amplification

Compared to other classical guitars with pickups in its class like the Cordoba C5-CE, the Ibanez GA35TCE holds its own. The Cordoba has a solid cedar top which some prefer for warmth, but the Ibanez’s spruce provides more projection. Both have quality electronics.

In summary, the Ibanez GA35TCE is a well-made classical guitar with electronics. Its solid spruce top, thin-line cutaway body, and onboard pickup and preamp make it a strong choice for an affordable amplified nylon-string guitar.

3. Cordoba GK Studio Negra Flamenco Classical Acoustic-Electric Guitar

The Cordoba GK Studio Negra is a superb classical guitar with a pickup, perfect for guitarists seeking a high-quality instrument with amplification capabilities. This guitar boasts a winning combination of premium tonewoods, expert craftsmanship, and advanced electronics.

The GK Studio Negra features a solid European spruce top, which produces a bright, clear, and well-balanced sound. The Indian rosewood back and sides add warmth and richness to the guitar’s tonal palette. The mahogany neck with rosewood fingerboard ensures comfortable playability and smooth action.

Key features:

  • Solid European spruce top
  • Indian rosewood back and sides
  • Mahogany neck with rosewood fingerboard
  • Spanish fan bracing and flamenco-style build
  • Fishman Presys Blend electronics with 4-band EQ, phase control, and built-in tuner
  • Piezo undersaddle pickup and internal microphone with blender
  • Maple binding and purfling
  • Inlaid wood mosaic rosette
  • Cordoba Black & Gold Floral tuning machines
  • Savarez Cristal Corum High Tension nylon guitar strings
ProsCons
Solid European spruce top delivers bright, clear toneHigher price point compared to some other models
Fishman Presys Blend electronics provide versatile amplification optionsCutaway design may not appeal to traditional classical guitarists
Flamenco-style build offers responsive playabilityDefault high-tension strings may require adjustment period for some players
Premium tonewoods and craftsmanship ensure excellent sound quality

The Cordoba GK Studio Negra stands out for its superior tonewoods and advanced electronics. The Fishman Presys Blend system, with its combination of undersaddle piezo pickup and internal microphone, provides a more natural and dynamic amplified sound than many competitors.

In conclusion, the Cordoba GK Studio Negra is an exceptional choice for guitarists looking for a high-end classical guitar with top-quality amplification. Its solid European spruce top, Indian rosewood back and sides, and Fishman Presys Blend electronics make it a standout instrument in its category.

4. Yamaha CGX102

The Yamaha CGX102 is a fantastic choice for a classical guitar with a pickup, offering excellent value for its price point. This instrument provides the traditional feel and sound of a classical guitar, enhanced by the convenience of built-in electronics.

The CGX102 features a spruce top, which delivers a bright and articulate tone with excellent projection. The nato back and sides, along with the nato/mahogany neck, contribute to the guitar’s balanced sound and comfortable playability. The rosewood fingerboard and bridge add warmth and richness to the instrument’s tonal character.

Key features:

  • Spruce top for bright, articulate tone
  • Nato back and sides for balanced sound
  • Nato/mahogany neck for comfortable playability
  • Rosewood fingerboard and bridge for warmth and richness
  • System 68N electronics for reliable amplification
  • 18 frets for extended range
  • Savarez D’angelico Light Tension strings for easy playability and great tone
  • Classical body shape and non-cutaway design for traditional aesthetics
ProsCons
Affordable price point for a quality classical guitar with electronicsNon-cutaway design may limit upper fret access for some players
Spruce top delivers bright, articulate tone with excellent projectionNato back and sides may not provide as much tonal depth as higher-end tonewoods
System 68N electronics provide reliable amplificationGloss finish may be prone to smudging and requires regular maintenance
Light tension strings offer easy playability and great toneCase not included with purchase

Compared to other classical guitars with pickups in its price range, such as the Ibanez GA3TCE or the Cordoba C5-CE, the Yamaha CGX102 stands out for its traditional non-cutaway design and the inclusion of light tension strings. While the Ibanez and Cordoba models feature cutaway designs for easier upper fret access, the Yamaha’s non-cutaway body maintains the classic aesthetic many players prefer.

In summary, the Yamaha CGX102 is an excellent classical guitar with a pickup, offering a combination of quality tonewoods, reliable electronics, and easy playability at an affordable price. Its spruce top, nato back and sides, and System 68N electronics make it a strong contender for players seeking a budget-friendly amplified nylon-string guitar.

5. Cordoba C7-CE CD/IN Classical Acoustic-Electric Guitar

The Cordoba C7-CE is another great classical guitar with a pickup, offering a perfect blend of traditional craftsmanship and modern electronics. This instrument is ideal for players seeking a high-quality nylon-string guitar that can be easily amplified for stage or studio performances.

The C7-CE has a solid Canadian red cedar top, which provides a warm, rich, and responsive tone. The Indian rosewood back and sides complement the cedar top, adding depth and complexity to the guitar’s sound. The mahogany neck and rosewood fingerboard ensure smooth playability and comfortable action.

Key features:

  • Solid Canadian red cedar top for warm, rich tone
  • Indian rosewood back and sides for tonal depth and complexity
  • Mahogany neck and rosewood fingerboard for smooth playability
  • Fishman Presys Blend pickup with 4-band EQ and digital tuner
  • Spanish fan bracing and cutaway design for enhanced projection and upper fret access
  • Bone nut and saddle for improved sustain and clarity
  • Savarez Cristal Corum strings for balanced tension and excellent sound
  • Der Jung gold tuners with pearl buttons for precise tuning stability
ProsCons
Solid cedar top and rosewood back & sides deliver exceptional tone qualityHigher price point compared to entry-level classical guitars with pickups
Fishman Presys Blend pickup system provides versatile amplification optionsCutaway design may not appeal to traditionalists
Cutaway design allows easy access to upper fretsGlossy finish may be prone to smudging and requires regular maintenance
High-quality materials and construction ensure durability and longevity

Compared to other classical guitars with pickups in its class, such as the Yamaha NTX700C or the Takamine TC132SC, the Cordoba C7-CE stands out for its use of premium tonewoods and its advanced Fishman Presys Blend pickup system. While the Yamaha and Takamine models offer similar features, the Cordoba’s solid cedar top and rosewood back and sides provide a distinctively rich and nuanced sound.

In conclusion, the Cordoba C7-CE is a top-tier classical guitar with a pickup, combining the best of traditional luthiery with state-of-the-art electronics. Its solid Canadian red cedar top, Indian rosewood back and sides, and Fishman Presys Blend pickup system make it an excellent choice for serious players demanding both acoustic and amplified performance.

Important Factors for Choosing a Classical Guitar with Pickup

When selecting a classical guitar with a pickup for live performances, several key factors should be considered. Firstly, the guitar’s overall sound quality is crucial. A well-crafted instrument with a solid top and quality tonewoods will provide a rich, balanced tone that translates well when amplified.

Secondly, the type and quality of the pickup system are essential. Piezo pickups, such as the Fishman Presys Blend or LR Baggs Anthem, offer a clear and natural sound, while microphone blend systems like the Yamaha AP1 provide a more nuanced and acoustic-like tone.

Thirdly, the guitar’s playability and comfort should be taken into account, as this will affect the performer’s ability to execute techniques and play for extended periods. Features like a smooth neck profile, well-dressed frets, and a cutaway body design can enhance playability.

Additionally, the guitar’s aesthetic appeal and stage presence may be a consideration for some performers. Lastly, reliability and durability are critical for live performances, so buyers should look for guitars with sturdy construction and high-quality electronics that can withstand the rigors of frequent use.

Price Points and Quality

Classical guitars with pickups are available at various price points, each offering different levels of quality and features. In the entry-level range (around $200 to $500), you can expect laminated tonewoods, basic pickup systems, and minimal onboard controls. These guitars are best for beginners, casual players, or local performers wanting an instrument on a budget.

Mid-range guitars ($500 to $1,500) often feature solid tops, better quality tonewoods, and more advanced pickup systems like the Fishman Presys Blend or B-Band A1.2. Examples include the Cordoba C5-CE and Takamine TC132SC, which offer improved sound, playability, and versatility.

High-end classical guitars with pickups ($1,500 and above) have premium materials, such as solid rosewood back and sides, Sitka spruce tops, and top-of-the-line electronics. These instruments deliver exceptional tone, craftsmanship, and performance features.

Ultimately, you should choose a price range that aligns with their skill level, performance needs, and budget, while considering the potential for long-term growth and investment in their instrument.

Pros and Cons of Pickup Types for Classical Guitars

Different pickup types for classical guitars offer distinct advantages and disadvantages that influence the amplified sound. Piezo pickups, like those found in the Fishman Presys Blend or LR Baggs Element systems, are popular for their clear, detailed, and feedback-resistant sound. They excel at capturing the guitar’s natural tone and dynamics, making them suitable for a wide range of playing styles and genres.

Piezo pickups work on the principle of piezoelectricity, where pressure or stress applied to a material generates an electrical charge. When a string is plucked, the vibration is transferred through the saddle to the piezo pickup, which then converts it into an electrical signal. However, some piezo pickups may lack warmth and depth, producing a thin or “quacky” sound.

Microphone blend systems, such as the Yamaha AP1 or Seymour Duncan Mag Mic Blend, combine a piezo pickup with an internal microphone to capture more of the guitar’s acoustic character. This results in a richer, more organic tone with improved midrange and bass response. The drawback is that microphone blend systems can be more prone to feedback and may require careful EQ adjustments.

Evaluating Tonal Qualities and Playability

When shopping for a classical guitar with a pickup, either online or in-store, you should focus on evaluating the instrument’s tonal qualities and playability. To assess tonal qualities, start by playing the guitar acoustically, listening for a balanced, rich, and resonant sound across all strings and positions.

Pay attention to the clarity and sustain of individual notes, as well as the overall projection and volume. Next, plug the guitar into an amplifier or PA system to evaluate the amplified sound. Listen for a natural, dynamic tone that closely matches the acoustic sound, without excessive harshness, feedback, or noise.

Test the pickup system’s response to different playing techniques, such as fingerpicking, strumming, and tapping, to ensure it captures the nuances of your playing style. To gauge playability, check the guitar’s neck profile, fret condition, and action.

The neck should feel comfortable and easy to navigate, with smooth frets and no buzzing or dead spots. The action (string height) should be low enough for effortless fretting, but not so low that it causes buzzing or intonation issues.

Test the guitar’s responsiveness and ease of play across different techniques and positions, paying attention to any discomfort or strain. If shopping online, read reviews and watch video demonstrations to get a sense of the guitar’s tonal qualities and playability. If possible, visit a local music store like Guitar Center or Sam Ash to try out different models in person and compare them side by side.

Essential Accessories for Classical Guitars with Pickups

To get the best performance out of a classical guitar with a pickup, you’ll need to choose your accessories carefullly.

First, a high-quality instrument cable is crucial for transferring the guitar’s signal to an amplifier or PA system without noise, interference, or tone loss. Look for cables with durable connectors, reliable shielding, and low capacitance, such as the Monster Acoustic cable or Mogami Gold series.

Second, a preamp or DI box can help optimize the guitar’s signal, providing EQ, volume control, and impedance matching. Pedal-style preamps like the LR Baggs Para DI or the Fishman Platinum Pro EQ offer comprehensive tone-shaping options, while compact DI boxes like the Radial PZ-DI or the Rupert Neve RNDI provide transparent signal conditioning.

Third, an amplifier or PA system that complements the guitar’s tonal characteristics is essential. For smaller venues or practice, consider acoustic guitar amplifiers like the Fishman Loudbox Mini or the Fender Acoustasonic 40. For larger stages, a PA system with a high-quality acoustic guitar microphone, such as the Shure SM81 or the Neumann KM 184, can provide excellent sound reinforcement. My personal setup includes a condenser mic going into the Bose L1 line array PA system.

Additionally, accessories like a sturdy guitar stand, a padded gig bag or hardshell case, and a humidifier can help protect and maintain the guitar’s condition. When choosing accessories, prioritize quality, compatibility, and reliability to ensure the best possible performance and longevity for your classical guitar with a pickup.

Best Classical Guitar With Pickup: Conclusion

You have many options for great classical sound with pickup systems from different brands. Cordoba C5-CE and C7-CE are great options, while higher-end options include the Cordoba GK Studio Negra.

Nylon Guitar With Pickup: FAQ

Below are a few frequently asked questions about classical guitars with pickups.

What classical guitar plays like an electric?

If you’re looking for a classical guitar that plays like an electric, the Cordoba GK Studio Negra and the Cordoba GK Pro Negra are excellent options to consider.
These guitars have a traditional flamenco construction and a slender mahogany neck, giving them a similar feel to an electric guitar.
They also come equipped with a pickup system, allowing you to easily amplify your sound.
With their unique blend of classical and electric features, these guitars are perfect for players who want a versatile instrument.

Are electro-classical guitars good?

Well, it depends on what you’re looking for. If you want the versatility of being able to plug in your guitar and play through an amplifier or PA system, then an electro classical guitar might be a good choice for you.
They’re also great if you want to experiment with different effects and add a unique flavor to your classical guitar style.

Can you play classical on electric guitar?

Yes, you can play classical on an electric guitar. It may not be the traditional choice, but it can still produce beautiful classical sounds. However, electric guitar strings are spaced much closer together, so you might have a hard time doing certain classical techniques like tremolos.

What is the difference between an electro-classical guitar and a classical guitar?

The main difference lies in the electronics. An electro classical guitar, also known as an acoustic-electric classical guitar, is equipped with a pickup system that allows it to be amplified. This means you can plug it into an amplifier or PA system for larger performances.
On the other hand, a classical guitar is solely acoustic and doesn’t have any built-in electronics.

Further Reading

Check out the links below for more information on classical guitars with pickups: