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Updated November 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
Bottom line
Pros
Cons
Best of the Best
LAVA ME 3 Carbon Fiber Acoustic Smart Guitar
LAVA ME 3
Carbon Fiber Acoustic Smart Guitar
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Best Looking
Bottom Line

It looks like a futuristic acoustic guitar and has the technology to back that up.

Pros

This smart guitar features HILAVA OS, a built-in app for creating music and syncing with your other devices. The onboard effects app is highly customizable. LAVA built it for more bass and sustainment. Long battery life

Cons

No cutout for the low notes.

Best Bang for the Buck
GTRS S801 Intelligent Guitar
GTRS
S801 Intelligent Guitar
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Classic Look
Bottom Line

A standard-looking electric guitar with a basswood body and maple neck and fingerboard.

Pros

The 801 has a built-in processor for electric guitar effects. It's preloaded with 126 effects, 40 drum grooves, and 9 classic guitar simulations. Available in 5 colors. A great option for people who seek the classic look.

Cons

Some people took issue with the included app's performance.

Enya NEXG Acoustic-Electric Guitar Carbon Fiber Smart Guitar
Enya
NEXG Acoustic-Electric Guitar Carbon Fiber Smart Guitar
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Great for Practice
Bottom Line

A unique smart guitar with a 50W wireless speaker and silent practice mode.

Pros

The guitar includes a case, a microphone, and detachable frame. Enya DSP chip features custom tones and up to 5 custom effects. The preamp and audio interface make it a portable, convenient guitar for the road.

Cons

Great for practice, but not for professional setting.

Jamstik Studio MIDI Guitar
Jamstik
Studio MIDI Guitar
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Most Features
Bottom Line

One of the most versatile instruments on the market, this MIDI guitar is the 6-string of the future.

Pros

A high-quality electric guitar fashioned from mahogany. Wears 2 humbucking pickups and a rosewood fretboard. Able to function as a conventional guitar and class-compliant MIDI controller with dedicated outputs. Includes Jamstik Creator Plugin software with 100 custom instrument presets.

Cons

Large and expensive compared to other smart guitars.

PEFEEL Smart Midi Guitar
PEFEEL
Smart Midi Guitar
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Good for Training
Bottom Line

At just 20" long, this MIDI guitar weighs 1.6 pounds and is good for digital music.

Pros

Features a 3.5mm stereo headphone jack and a high-fidelity speaker. No tone-tuning needed. Great for silent practice and spur-of-the-moment performances. Features an onboard digital capo. The onboard metronome is handy during practice.

Cons

Good for practice and some performances, but not a replacement for a guitar.

HOW WE TESTED

We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

33
Models
Considered
120
Consumers
Consulted
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Hours
Researched
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Buying guide for Best smart guitars

The world of guitars is a beautiful yet complicated place. Electric guitars need lots of equipment to create their full sound, and they require months of practice to master. For beginners, this process can be extremely daunting, but it’s less so with a smart guitar. Smart guitars are perhaps the most notable advancement in the guitar industry in decades because they add professional lessons, online tutorials, and instructional books to the instrument itself. By connecting to companion apps, smart guitars offer interactive education that is both effective and fun.

While the primary goal of a smart guitar is to teach the instrument, that’s not all these clever tools can do. The best of them act as MIDI controllers, allowing you to plug into your computer, load your favorite recording software, and mimic other instruments simply by playing notes. Some can even be played through an amp like a conventional six-string, making them attractive choices for beginners, veterans, touring musicians, and even recording artists.

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There’s nothing wrong with the “old” way of learning guitar, but smart guitars streamline the whole process and inject some much-needed fun. The handy tutorials, games, and recording tools might just convince a reluctant player to learn their first instrument.

Key considerations

Guitar style

The core element of a smart guitar is the toolset it uses to consolidate the learning, creating, and recording experience. Before we get into that, though, let’s delve into the different sizes and shapes smart guitars can take. Weight and playability are key factors here, but we’d be lying if we said the look of a guitar doesn’t matter. It absolutely does.

Stratocaster style: The Fender Stratocaster is perhaps the most iconic guitar of all time. It oozes style and features a deep double cutaway, easily granting access to higher notes. Strat-style guitars are extremely versatile, but they are rooted in rock and blues.

Telecaster style: Another Fender classic, the Telecaster is known for its classy shape and smooth, warm tone. Telecasters look great in any genre of music, but they’re commonly used in blues, country, and indie music.

Les Paul style: The legendary Gibson Les Paul is a favorite among heavy rock and punk players. Sturdy and heavy, the Les Paul has a powerful tone to go along with its looks.

SG style: The Gibson SG has always had an edge to it, from its aggressive design to biting sound. SGs are significantly lighter than Les Pauls and feature horn-like cutaways on their bodies.

Acoustic style: Smart guitars are often acoustic in design, creating sound naturally but still fitted with clever learning technology. With these models, you can strum “unplugged” or use the companion app to play along with backing tracks, songs, or practice exercises.

Custom style: We’ve covered the go-to guitar shapes for the majority of manufacturers, but the fact remains that smart guitar makers often choose distinct designs that look like nothing else on the market. Some examples resemble isolated fretboards with no real body, and others wear a minimalist skeleton frame for maximum portability. Others look exactly like conventional guitars, with the only “smart” clue being extra connectivity ports.

Size

Guitars come in all shapes and sizes, and this certainly applies to smart guitar as well. While generally smaller than conventional equivalents, a smart guitar’s size and scale length should still be considered, particularly if it will be played by a young beginner or transported often. Keep in mind that full electric models have considerably thinner bodies and smaller profiles. From smallest to largest, here are the main size categories for guitars:

Ukulele: This four-stringed acoustic Hawaiian instrument has a delicate, trebly sound.

Guitarlele: This is a six-stringed version of a ukulele with a wider tonal range.

Half-size guitar: As the name implies, half-size guitars are 50% smaller than standard. These have a more guitar-like tone than ukuleles or guitarleles and are great for small children.

Three-quarter guitar: This is an instrument for larger children and smaller adults.

Parlour guitar: This is a full-size acoustic guitar that’s less bulky than your standard Dreadnought-style acoustic.

Full-size: This is the standard-size guitar for adults. Full-size models are louder, have deeper bass, and project better than smaller versions.

Scale length

Now that we’ve covered body size, let’s touch on scale length. Scale length measures the distance between the bridge (where the strings are saddled) and the nut (where the neck and headstock meet). Common guitar scale lengths fall between 24 and 30 inches.

Longer: The longer the scale length, the higher the string tension, which improves string response and clarity when low tunings are used. It also increases the distance between frets, making it ideal for players with large hands. Higher string tension does increase the effort needed to press down on the strings, however, and the longer neck lowers the guitar’s portability factor.

Shorter: For new players, a smaller guitar with a shorter scale length may be the best option. For those who enjoy heavy downtuned music, however, a larger, longer guitar could improve the experience.

Instrument tone

If you opt for a smart guitar that acts solely as a MIDI controller or learning tool, it’s tone may not be a huge concern. If you choose one that can be plugged into an amplifier and played as normal, the way it sounds becomes paramount. There are two main factors that determine a guitar’s tone: the wood it’s made of and the pickups it uses.

Wood: Different tonewoods produce different results, with materials like rosewood and mahogany eliciting warm tones, while walnut and maple are bright. Woods like alder and basswood are very well balanced for different musical styles.

Pickups: The pickups are responsible for capturing the vibration of your guitar strings and turning that noise into an electronic signal. Pickup design is extremely significant when it comes to shaping tone, with single-coil pickups creating bright, gritty sounds and humbuckers creating deeper, smoother, darker tones.

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Did You Know?
Some smart guitars don’t have strings. Instead, these models have pressure-sensitive pads that connect to apps or recording software. Stringless models don’t produce any sound naturally, but they’re extremely low maintenance and great for learning.
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Features

Apps and learning aids

A feature that’s unique to smart guitars is the suite of learning tools. These tools are meant to educate new players about chord shapes, scales, and basic theory using a companion app to do so. Simply connect the guitar to the app (either wirelessly or with the included cable), and access a variety of interactive lessons, exercises, and games reminiscent of Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Depending on the smart guitar, it may have LED lights on the fretboard that synchronize with the app, aiding players in finding the correct finger position.

Every manufacturer’s app is slightly different, but select offerings include backing tracks that you can jam along with and learn from. These generally pack several different amp simulations and tone controls to shape your sound.

MIDI tools

Another benefit of smart guitars is their use of MIDI technology. With this function, artists can plug a smart guitar into their computer and compose, record, and even transcribe music just like they would do with a MIDI keyboard. This simplifies the recording process greatly because you can simply load up your favorite guitar model or amplifier preset without fiddling with tone knobs. In addition, you can alter pitch and even emulate other instruments such as violin, bass, or percussion. Applicable models have dedicated MIDI outputs in the form of USB Type-C or 3.5-millimeter TRS-MIDI.

Wireless connectivity

Wireless connectivity lets you say goodbye to cables forever. Smart guitars commonly use Bluetooth to interface with companion apps and guitar training tools. This lets you rock out with freedom as you follow along with whatever lesson, game, or backing track you have playing. Older smart guitars used to work over WiFi, but Bluetooth models are preferred for their stability.

Cleaning a smart guitar is very similar to cleaning a standard guitar. Just be careful of the extra connectivity ports!

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Smart guitar prices

Inexpensive: Small, basic smart guitars can be acquired for $150 to $200. For that money, expect ukulele-size instruments or models without standard guitar bodies. These still have a healthy bounty of learning tools, though, including MIDI tools and interactive teaching apps.

Mid-range: Between $400 and $500, you can find larger smart guitars approaching full-size. The suite of educational tools grows to include LED fretboard lights and apps that are more fleshed out.

Expensive: Spend $600 to $800 and above to enjoy full-size guitars that look indistinguishable from high-end conventional models. The smart features haven’t taken a back seat, though, because these instruments can still act as wireless MIDI controllers with curated learning tools. They may also include add-ons like a gig bag and case at this price point.

Dyk2
Did You Know?
Smart guitars are available in different colors and finishes, but choices are generally less plentiful than they are with conventional axes. You might only have one or two color choices with a smart guitar.
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Tips

  • Confirm app compatibility. If you aim to use your smart guitar with a companion app, confirm the app is compatible with your mobile devices before buying. While the majority of smart guitar apps are designed to work with iOS and Android, not all are.
  • Buy spare batteries. Because of their unique electronics, many smart guitars have built-in rechargeable batteries. Some use replaceable AA batteries, though. Either way, be sure to keep charged spares on hand to avoid abruptly cutting your jam session short.
  • Protect your guitar. Smart guitars can get expensive, so take steps to safeguard your investment. Consider a padded, locking case if you plan to travel with your guitar. It may also be worth looking into instrument insurance, which can soften the blow if your guitar is damaged or stolen.
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You won’t find smart guitars from high-profile manufacturers like Gibson, Fender, Ibanez, and Paul Reed Smith. Instead, smart guitars usually come from smaller, technology-focused manufacturers like PopuMusic, Zivix, Jammy, and Poputar.

FAQ

Q. What is MIDI and how does it work?

A. The term MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is used often in music, but what does it mean exactly? In short, MIDI is a standardized technical language that connects instruments, computers, and other audio devices together. MIDI inputs contain no actual sound, only data, essentially allowing you to use MIDI “notes” as placeholders for other sounds.

For instance, when you connect a MIDI keyboard to your computer and load recording software, the notes you play are essentially blank canvases. You add context to those notes by loading a piano simulation, saxophone simulation, drum simulation, or anything else you want on top of it. This gives one person with a MIDI controller the power to create fleshed-out tracks and even symphonies with one simple tool. MIDI even has non-musical uses for stage lighting and any other time-oriented media. The possibilities are endless.

Q. Is a smart guitar a smart investment?

A. Smart guitars can greatly accelerate the learning process, so depending on how you value your time, they’re fantastic investments. One might assume, however, that once you understand the basics, a smart guitar’s utility has run out. We disagree. Smart guitars allow you to seamlessly play along with your favorite songs, imitate other instruments, and better your chops with fun exercises. This will only improve your abilities over time, and the smart guitar convenience factor is still a huge selling point.

What’s more, high-end smart guitars can function as normal electric guitars, so after you’ve gotten comfortable playing, you can plug in and rock out as you would on a conventional one. These versions will continue to show their worth for years.

Q. What’s the difference between a smart guitar and a modeling guitar?

A. While often confused, modeling guitars are quite different from smart guitars. Modeling guitars have complex integrated electronics that shape the instrument’s natural tone before it leaves the guitar’s body. These axes generally emulate guitars such as Gibson Les Pauls, Fender Stratocasters, 12-string acoustics, and even banjos.

To be clear, modeling technology is different from MIDI, which uses placeholder “notes” that are digitally converted into new ones. MIDI controllers need to be connected to a guitar processor, synth, or computer to work, while a modeling guitar can be played through an amp without other equipment. All the player has to do is turn a dial on the guitar and play as normal.

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