Review: Michael Kelly Guitars Hybrid 55

(Image credit: Michael Kelly Guitars)

Acoustic-electric guitars, which are essentially amplified acoustic instruments, are commonplace these days, but the electric-acoustic (or hybrid) guitar, which is an electric model with a special bridge or pickups that also produce amplified acoustic guitar tones and textures, is a much rarer beast.

While a hybrid guitar is ideal for a primarily electric player who also needs immediate access to acoustic tones while performing onstage, these instruments long enjoyed only modest growth in popularity mainly because hybrid guitars are usually more expensive than their standard electric equivalents.

The Michael Kelly Guitar Company broke the price barrier 10 years ago with the introduction of their Hybrid Special chambered body model, and now their Hybrid line has expanded to offer the Hybrid 55 solidbody, which offers boutique-quality features, design and construction.

The Hybrid 55 has the same T-style single cutaway/bolt-on neck design of Michael Kelly’s 1950s Series guitars as well as the Rockfield Mini humbucker (neck) and full-size Rockfield SWC humbucker bridge pickup configuration of that series’ 1955 models. The body is a gorgeous slab of lightweight korina topped with a layer of flame maple with a glowing, deep amber-hued Tiger’s Eye Burst finish.

The neck is maple with a rosewood fretboard featuring a compound 10 1/2- to 16-inch compound radius, 22 medium jumbo frets, dot inlays, modern C profile and 25 1/2-inch scale. In addition to the Rockfield humbuckers, standard electric electronics consist of master volume and master tone controls that also activate push-pull coil tap functions for their respective pickups, a three-way blade pickup selector switch mounted on a chrome T-style control plate.

A Fishman Powerbridge is the source of the Hybrid 55’s acoustic tones, and its controls include a master volume located below the bridge along with a three-position toggle switch for selecting electric, blend or acoustic settings located on the upper bass bout.

Even without the hybrid features, the Hybrid 55 is a damn fine guitar, particularly for its insanely affordable price point. It’s a great guitar for any style of music, as the full humbucker provides plenty of rowdy rockin’ roar, the coil-tapped settings deliver classic sting and twang and the Fishman Powerbridge produces authentic acoustic textures that sound great on their own and provide impressive added depth and dimension when blended.

The Hybrid 55 not only looks like it should cost two to three times as much—it also plays and sounds that way.

LIST PRICE: $1,100
MANUFACTURER: Michael Kelly Guitar Co.,

• The Fishman Powerbridge features built-in saddle pickups that produce authentic amplified acoustic tones that can be played on their own or blended with the magnetic pickups.

• Rockfield Mini (neck) and Rockfield SWC (bridge) humbuckers along with a coil tapping circuit provide a wide variety of tones for any style of music.

For the price of an entry level guitar, the Michael Kelly Hybrid 55 delivers all the electric and acoustic tones most players need for an entire night’s gig as well as luxury features and pro-quality playability uncommon at even twice the price.

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Chris Gill

Chris is the co-author of Eruption - Conversations with Eddie Van Halen. He is a 40-year music industry veteran who started at Boardwalk Entertainment (Joan Jett, Night Ranger) and Roland US before becoming a guitar journalist in 1991. He has interviewed more than 600 artists, written more than 1,400 product reviews and contributed to Jeff Beck’s Beck 01: Hot Rods and Rock & Roll and Eric Clapton’s Six String Stories.