Hello. This is Yoshitaka.
It seems the popularity of the acoustic guitars is increasing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but when purchasing an acoustic guitar, which to choose, a pure acoustic guitar without a pickup or an acoustic-electric guitar with a pickup, is the question. Below, I'm going to write my impressions as an acoustic guitar lover.
1. Development of the pickup
In the old days when I started playing acoustic guitar, the raw sound and the plugged sound were completely different. I even had the impression that the acoustic guitar and the acoustic-electric guitar were different instruments. Therefore, you'd choose an acoustic if you wanted to emphasize the raw sound, and you'd choose an acoustic-electric guitar for the line out sound. It used to be like this.
I think, the appearance of mic blend pickups like the LR Baggs Anthem and Fishman Rare Earth Blend today realizes a lineout sound that is similar to the raw sound.
Now I mainly use the Rare Earth Blend, but I was so impressed when I first installed it and heard the output in stereo.
So, lately I think I'm satisfied with the sound (there are individual differences, but only to some extent) if I buy acoustic guitars I like, and when it's necessary, I get pickups for them. However, in the case of retrofitting, you won't know how it's going to be until you actually install it, and you might be worried that it may make the raw sound worse (if the pickup is magnet type, it might affect the vibration of the guitar top, and if it's an under saddle piezo, it might affect the direct sound transmission between the saddle and the bridge). Therefore, it's probably better for those who want to emphasize the complete raw sound to choose acoustic guitars without pickups and use microphones for live performances.
2. The reasons to choose acoustic-electric guitars
The reason for choosing acoustic-electric guitars like those from Yamaha and Takamine which are designed to be strong against feedback. I think the cutaway is also an advantage mostly for acoustic-electric guitars, as it allows for playing in high positions. If you mainly play the lead guitar, an acoustic-electric guitar may be better. On the other hand, probably the body resonance will decrease, so I think that an acoustic guitar is better suited for playing accompaniment to vocals, strumming and arpeggios. However, personally, I think the cutaway is cool.
3. Development of effectors
In the past, the piezo sound of an acoustic-electric guitar, in a sense, had to be accepted as it was. However, recently, products such as TC ELECTRONIC / BodyRez, which removes the piezo sound and gets the sound of piezo acoustic-electric guitar similar to the raw sound, has been released, and I'm grateful about it. In addition, I have the impression that acoustic guitar amplifiers have been making progress with digital technology, and I feel that the line out sound is close to the acoustic sound.
4. In the end...
In the end, if you focus on the raw sound, an acoustic may be better, and if you focus on the line out sound, an acoustic-electric guitar might be better, but either way the guitar is highly dependent on your preference. You might be choosing it for live performance right now, or going along with it for a lifetime. I feel it's a good era now that the line out sound is closer to the acoustic sound with the latest pickups, effectors, and acoustic guitar amps. Also, I'm grateful that some manufacturers tend to emphasize the feel of raw sound by using minimum weighted pickups even for acoustic-electrics and cutaway guitars.