Guitar Review: Crafter SA-TVMS Hybrid Guitar

Posted 30 Jul 2008 in Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Reviews

Hybrid guitars seem to be all the rage these days. The benefits are obvious – being able to obtain electric and acoustic guitar sounds at the flick of a switch without changing your guitar. Imagine going from a loud, rocking opening song to a quiet, intimate acoustic ballad without having to change guitars. The reality however, is that these guitars tend to favour one sound over the other, and the final product is really a compromise of sorts between an electric or acoustic sound.

The rage with hybrid guitars probably started with the Taylor T5 (I used to own one!). Touted as a semi-hollowbody electric guitar, it offered a combination of electric and acoustic guitar tones in one package. Taylor was not the first to pioneer this idea. Piezo bridges have been around for years and guitars like the Parker Fly and even Slash’s Les Paul have this option. However, Taylor’s incredibly potent marketing machine has single-handedly driven the hybrid guitar to prominence and since then, many other companies have introduced their own takes on the hybrid. Today we will review the Crafter SA which, at a glance, looks almost like a Taylor T5.

First up, a big ‘Thank you’ to Crafter for the loan of the guitar to test! Now on with the review…


Crafter is a Korean company. Originally founded in 1972 under the name ‘Sungeum’ in a home basement by HyunKwon Park, they manufactured classical guitars. In 1986 they changed name to ‘Crafter’, a more export-friendly name, and currently the brand sells in more than 30 countries worldwide, with the UK being their primary market.

They mainly manufacture acoustic guitars along with a small electric offering. Their acoustic range is extremely diverse in terms of the shapes, woods and finishes that their guitars come in. In terms of market placement, they are a budget to medium-priced brand, but increasingly being recognised for consistently good quality at an affordable price.


Like the Taylor T5, the Crafter SA is a magnificent looking guitar. It has a Tiger Maple arched top and solid wood (type of wood unknown, but I suspect it’s maple) back & sides. The gloss finish is top-notch (I struggled to get a good photo because of the reflections!) and the tiger maple veneer on the body is simply gorgeous. Depending on the angle and lighting conditions, the maple top looks almost like a sea of velvety honey! Yummy! Crafter also designed the headstock to match which is icing on the cake.

The neck is a mahogany dovetail joint affair and the fret board is indian rosewood. The SA also shares the twin soundholes of the T5 but that’s pretty much where the similarities end. The neck binding is neat and tidy and a great inclusion at this price point. The 18:1 ratio chrome tuning machines are simple but functional and I like how they match the lipstick pickup.

For those looking to compare the Crafter SA against the T5 in the area of electronics, let me just say this: you can’t. Under the hood, the two guitars are totally different animals. The T5’s has 2 pickups (one near the bridge and one in the neck, hidden under the fretboard), as well as body sensors. Though Taylor touts the T5 as a hybrid guitar, I’ve found that it is more an electric guitar than an acoustic one.

The Crafter SA, on the other hand, is equipped with a Kent Armstrong lipstick pickup in the neck and an LR Baggs Element piezo sensor under the bridge. You can blend the two sources via a fader on the preamp control panel. The LR Baggs preamp offers good control over volume, bass, mid and treble, as well as a phase switch button to help with eliminating feedback. The controls are well laid-out and clearly labelled for easy use and the battery compartment is easily accessible. In use, I found his to be a top-class unit.


The heft of the guitar may surprise some – it’s not a heavy guitar by any means, but it is heavier than it looks. The slim design makes this guitar very comfortable to play, whether you’re sitting down or standing up. Strapped on, the balance is just right.

Tapping my finger around the guitar top, The Crafter SA does not ring out like you would expect of a semi-hollow. Tonally it was closer to a solid body so acoustic players who like to thump the guitar body for rhythm won’t get any joy here.

Unplugged, the SA was quite a surprise; bright, with very forward mids and sustain was excellent. I couldn’t peek inside the body much, but it feels and sounds like there is a solid block running through the centre of the guitar which gave a very strong and stable feel to the SA.

As mentioned the slim design and electric strings made this a very easy guitar to play anywhere (home practice, gigging, even in bed in front of the TV!). The factory action was set at a comfortable medium. Intonation was good up and down the fret board and I only encountered significant fret buzz when I strummed very hard which can be fixed with a proper setup or light strumming.

Plugged in

I tested the Crafter SA through a Yamaha EMX 620 PA system as well as my Fender Blues Junior amplifier. This was a guitar that I could see being used equally in both situations: going direct via a DI box to front-of-house or plugged into an amp (or perhaps even both via a splitter box). If you often play sets that require you to switch between electric and acoustic sounds, this is probably a close approximation of the environment you’ll play in.

Going direct to PA

Through the PA, the Crafter performs its acoustic duties admirably well. Favouring the LR Baggs piezo pickup will give you a bright, forward and strident strummed tone, with rich mids and loads of definition. The EQ controls are very powerful and will give you a wide range of tones. The bass response is nice and tight, thought it gets boomy if you max out the bass EQ. Strumming hard did not produce any audible distortion which is a good thing for me as I tend to strum with a bit of vigour.

One minor issue I found with the piezo pickup was that the string volume was not uniformly balanced across the strings. With the EQ set flat, the G and D strings were noticeably louder, while the high E string was weaker. This was alleviated by blending in some of the lipstick pickup and adjusted the EQ.

With the lipstick pickup, you get a traditional neck-position single coil sound, a more warm and rounded sound. I found that a 60/40 piezo/lipstick setting produced a very nice acoustic tone, with the lipstick pickup adding some much needed warmth and body to the piezo sound.

Going through the amp

A guitar amp, normally designed to amplify electric guitars, usually projects a restricted range of frequencies, centred mainly around the mid-range. Hence, playing an acoustic guitar through an amp will sound quite different (usually harsher, without the sparkly highs and less bass response) compared to a PA system.

The Crafter seemed to like going through the Blues Jr. as much as the PA. The piezo unit performed just as well through the amp, again displaying the same strident mids and tight bass response while still delivering a convincing acoustic tone. Though the highs can get harsh (100% piezo highs plus Fender highs = icepick in the ear!), some sensible blending and EQ settings will avoid the issue. I am still loving the quality of this LR Baggs preamp!

Played clean, the lipstick combined with the EQ acquitted itself well, rendering some passable jazz tones as well as some clean picked and strummed tones. However, the SA seemed a little reluctant when overdriven, and I had to do a bit of tweaking to get a sound that I liked. The basic takeout is that you’ll get nice warm crunchy tones for rhythm and solos, but not for nu-metal or high-gain rock.


Overall, the decision to buy the Crafter SA will come down to what you expect out of a hybrid guitar. If you play mostly acoustic (or clean-ish) sets with the occasional electric jam, you should be pleased with the voicing and sensitivity that the SA possesses. The LR Baggs preamp is quality through and through, and its versatility will see you through most situations.

I really liked the acoustic side more than the electric side (whereas with the Taylor T5, it was the reverse). However, I concede that taste vary widely when it comes to electric overdriven sounds, and the Crafter SA can pull off some very tasty bluesy sounds if you’re prepared to experiment with your gear settings.

I congratulate Crafter on producing a well-made guitar which looks stunning and performs very well in a wide variety of situations, and all at a very affordable price!

Sound Bytes

Reviews are highly subjective. Player setups, playing environments and player technique all have a significant impact on what tone you will get out of your gear. Even the age of a player could have an impact as your hearing can change over the course of your life. As such, I try to list all aspects of the gear used in this review so you can judge for yourself how my setup might influence the reviewed item and how it might sound with your gear.

Equipment used for this review:

  1. Crafter SA-TVMS, a semi-hollow hybrid guitar, with solid wood construction, equipped with an LR Baggs piezo pickup (bridge) and lipstick pickup (neck). Strung with electric 10’s.
  2. Yamaha EMX 620 PA system, with all EQ set to flat and reverb turned off.
  3. Fender Blues Junior – Tweed Edition, a 15-watt all-tube amp equipped with a 12″ Jensen C12N ceramic speaker. Tube complement includes 2 x 12AX7 Sovteks (preamp) and 2 x EL84 Groove Tubes (power amp). Controls were set as follows: Volume 5, Treble 6, Bass 6, Mid 6, Master 5, Reverb 0, Fat Switch offFender Blues Jr
  4. Signal chain:Guitar -> PA system or Fender Blues Jr
  5. Recording setup: I used a Zoom H2 recorder set around 2 metres (approx 6.5 feet) in front of the amp and around 8 feet in front of the PA speakers. I opted for this method (versus the usual method of a Shure SM57 in front of the speaker) as I felt this conveyed a more realistic and uncoloured sound. The only post processing done was to normalise the .wav file before converting it to .mp3 format on Adobe Audition 3.

Sound files and Notes

Play: crafter-sa-unplugged

For this track, I added a volume boost as the unplugged sound is quite soft, even with the mic set a few inches away. My first impression was “Hey! For a raw unplugged acoustic recording, this is pretty good!” If you listen closely, you’ll hear the sparkle and the forward mids. The bass is nice and tight, but nowhere near as rich as a proper acoustic guitar. This is one of the drawbacks of a hybrid guitar – it covers more sonic ground, but with compromises.

Play: crafter-sa-1

Here, I went straight through my Yamaha EMX 620 PA system sitting about 8 feet away from the speakers. I set all EQ and blend controls to their middle setting (50%). The tone here is a passable acoustic sound, but not really what I would call an inspiring sound. However, as you’ll hear in the subsequent sound bytes, the LR Baggs preamp offers you plenty of scope to shape the sound you want.

Play: craftter-sa-you-are-holy

Wow, this was like night & day. Still going through the PA, I set the Blend for 60% piezo and 40% lipstick pickup (roughly), and I pulled the mids back to 40% and boosted the treble to 60%. I played this fingerstyle. It was like pulling the proverbial blanket off the speakers. Instantly, the sparkle came back, and the mids were present without being offensive. This is an excellent gigging sound that will cut through the mix well. Bass was tight and round but I could possibly have pulled the bass back just a touch.

Play: crafter-sa-cry-in-shame

This is the opening verse of a song by Johnny Diesel and the Injectors called ‘Cry In Shame’. Same settings as before and via PA, but played with a pick. What really impressed me is how the LR Baggs preamp faithfully reproduced every nuance of my playing. My playing dynamics and pick attack came through nicely, but my messy fingering and some fret buzz also showed up, so it’s a double-edged sword!

Play: crafter-sa-layla-60pzo40lip

Again, same settings as before. As far a getting a good acoustic tone, the Crafter SA can certainly hold its own. The notes jump out with a lot of clarity, spank and definition. The electric strings definitely make it easier to play this piece. If you want more body, you could always try upping the string gauge, or maybe even using a pedal like a Tubescreamer.

Play: crafter-sa-you-are-holy-lippzoboth

This one was played through a Fender Blues Jr. 3 iterations of the same piece, the first with 100% lipstick pickup, the second with 100% piezo bridge and the third 50/50 lipstick/piezo. You can hear the mid-range dominance of the lipstick compared to the almost-brittle quality of the piezo, with the 50/50 selection bringing the best elements of the two together. Compared to the PA, the frequency of an amp is narrower and the sound is not as sparkly or full.

Play: crafter-sa-blues-lick-cleanlip

Again, going through the Blues Jr, I selected the lipstick pickup, playing the first lick clean and introducing a bit of drive the second time round. The SA likes to stay clean, and only seemed to break up reluctantly.

Play: crafter-sa-od

Here I stuck only to the lipstick. Overdriven, the SA will give you a warm creamy tone, losing a lot of definition if you pour on too much drive. I tried to overdrive the piezo bridge, but the sound was not flattering to say the least.


  1. Tennyson Williams (10 Oct 2008, 3:03)

    They are really cool and this model is especially nice looking, but in terms of volume control, it really is all in the hands. To a degree you can really create just about any tone or presence with the way you play. This was very informative and I thank you kindly for this.

  2. Eugene (22 Oct 2008, 19:12)

    Nice article. Thanks. 🙂 Eugene

  3. mother of a rocker (12 Nov 2008, 7:23)

    I got my 12 year old a very nice Crafter and he had less than one year of lessons under his belt.It cost me a great deal of money but… it was so worth it. What nice guitars this company has to offer! Definate thumbs up!

  4. muellerguy (21 Jul 2009, 7:38)

    I own this model and found this review fair and accurate. Played a Taylor T5 and preferred the Crafter SA because it’s a fraction of the price and because the electronics, in my opinion are better plus the side location and layout is more user friendly.
    These guitars are good investments and well suited for amateur and professional.

    Thanks for the review.

  5. JazzNooB (07 Nov 2009, 23:37)

    Thanks for the excellent review. Nice to know it’s described in the same breath as the Taylor T5.

    p.s. Thomann says the back and sides are pine.

  6. joeB (08 Dec 2010, 13:43)

    I had a T5 and sold it. This guitar is much better sounding. I dropped in a SM Duncan pickup and the tone is greatly improved. It has a full, fat tone but still warm. The acoustic tone is still very nice. This is an excellent gig guitar and it doesn’t cost very much.

  7. Taylor gitaar | Manaartstudio (15 Sep 2012, 10:19)

    […] Guitar Review: Crafter SA-TVMS Hybrid Guitar – Guitar News Daily […]

  8. Rod V (14 Jan 2013, 3:29)

    I had a Taylor T5 before and sold it because I was looking for something with a more authentic acoustic sound. The Crafter SA series (IMHO) was definitely more authentic.
    On the electric (distortion/dirty) side I found the Crafter to not be as good as the T5 but definitely a sound I could live with for what i wanted a hybrid guitar for.
    Overall I am very pleased and impressed with my Crafter SA-QMMS !
    Especially pleased with the playability , look, and feel; not to mention the L R Baggs element was an added bonus!
    Kudos to Crafter for an affordable quality guitar in the hybrid market,

  9. Yuri (10 Feb 2014, 8:13)

    I just traded a Stratocaster for one of these Crafters and I think it is an awesome guitar. It fills a gap in my studio setup that I never even knew existed. Plays like a dream and sounds alive.

  10. Joe (04 Jan 2015, 9:14)

    I know this is an old review, but it’s a good write up. After picking up a Crafter SA recently I feel that your observations reflect my experience. My needs are more acoustic oriented with a little bit of electric now and then. So this guitar fits that area nice. I had played around with the Taylor T5s, Godin’s and Michael Kelly’s. Of those guitars the Godin’s were the ones I was leaning toward the most, but I couldn’t find one that was just an electric/acoustic hybrid that was close to me. So the Crafter SA showed up. I spent about an hour playing around with it. The neck felt good in my hand, sold on the fret board. It’s a little thicker than my Strat, but not near as thick as my Les Paul. The body feels solid and as mentioned in the write up you can’t do any acoustic thumping. So the percussive playing I do on my Taylor has to stay with the Taylor. Around my area Crafter is not a big now guitar, so this was a diamond in the rough so to speak for me.

  11. Steve Ridley (06 Jun 2015, 15:00)

    I find this review to be honest and true to life.
    As a gigging {inc festivals} singer songwriter.
    I use a Crafter SA Bub as an alternative to my Godin Multiac duel steel & Gibson CJ 165 ECR.
    I have disconnected the pickup and replaced it with a mic! as in my Godin.Now I can thump!!
    All three are strung with Martin 13s (Blue Box),Yes you can bend them once you get used to them.
    Through my 3 Bose L1 mod 2 with 6xB1s all three guitars sound magic

  12. Vasil (27 Mar 2017, 13:31)

    I buy this guitar,but I am very disappointed. This guitar is a sheath.Catastrophe.E and B strings is not hearing on a piezzo.Not sustein,not good electric sound.Vary,vary disappointed.

  13. Scott (18 Sep 2017, 9:47)

    I recently got a Crafter SAT TMBK (the black version of the guitar reviewed here) and absolutely love it! This old review is totally in alignment with my impressions, though I find you can get a very good electric pickup sound going by simply adding a decent overdrive/distortion pedal to your set-up. For example, a vintage 80s Rat works great, as does a vintage 80s (Soviet-made) fuzz or even an Ibanez Tube Screamer. No need for amp simulation or a dedicated electric-guitar amp. It all depends on what kind of sound you are aiming for, but for the occasional “electric” touch thrown into an otherwise acoustic set, this guitar really gets the job done! I love its playability and ringing sustain, and find the tone well balanced across the whole spectrum. I agree that adding in a bit of the lipstick pickup to the acoustic tone warms things up well, adding body. But I use a bit less of the lipstick than the reviewer, and add a bit of extra warmth via the EQ on the guitar as well as on my Fishman Loudbox Mini acoustic amp. After playing only acoustic guitars for years, this hybrid gem is really opening up new (and affordable!) tonal horizons, and it’s also very welcome for songs that were sometimes a bit “tricky” to play on a Martin D-45. The action is fantastic, and quick licks and hammerings are a cinch. The string spacing is great for strumming and still works well for finger-picking. Don’t think I will ever part with my Crafter! 🙂

  14. Luke (02 Feb 2018, 3:57)

    Your review was very well written. I enjoyed reading it. I just bought this guitar for 250 CAD. I belive thats around 160 USD. Its in mint shape. Came with a hardshell case. I was truely blessed. Looks and feels like a Great guitar. Cant wait to pull it in. Thanks for your review!

  15. Henri Mom (09 Feb 2018, 3:54)

    Hello, i don,t know anything after Crafters but i can buy a good one, so to see with a carrying bag, for € 180 !!!!
    Would that be a wise dicission ???
    Please somebody, ???? Let me please know what you would do
    Thanks Musical friends !!!

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