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Review: Peavey DW-3 Acoustic-Electric Guitar

These videos are bonus content related to the January 2014 issue of Guitar World. For the full range of interviews, features, tabs and more, pick up the new issue on newsstands now, or in our online store.

In the not-too-distant past, if you walked into a music store and announced that you wanted to buy an acoustic for less than $500, you might as well have been wearing a T-shirt with I’m a sucker—steal my money printed on it.

Fortunately, today that money will get you a whole lot more guitar than the monstrosities of the past, with their laminated mystery plywood materials and thick polyester finishes, which made them better for use as cricket bats than musical instruments.

Perhaps the finest example of how far things have progressed is the Peavey DW-3, which may provide an entirely new definition of value. Featuring built-in electronics with both a piezo pickup and internal microphone, the DW-3 offers pro features and performance for an entry-level price.

Like most acoustic guitars these days, the DW-3 is built with the standard acoustic tonewood configuration: solid Sitka spruce top, rosewood back and sides, and mahogany neck with rosewood fingerboard. The guitar has a traditional dreadnought body shape and a 25 1/2–inch scale neck with 20 frets. Instead of an inlaid rosette, Peavey has kept production costs low but preserved traditional aesthetics by laser etching a rosette pattern around the soundhole. Maple binding surrounds the top, back, fingerboard and headstock, giving the guitar upscale appearance that maintains the look of natural wood materials.

The electronic system is impressively comprehensive, especially for a guitar in the DW-3’s price range. It offers bass, middle, treble and notch knobs, and the knobs pop up for easy adjustment and recess into the control panel when you want them out of the way. The control panel also features a blend control for the internal microphone, a volume control, phase switch and a chromatic tuner with a large display.

The DW-3’s unplugged acoustic tone is everything a guitarist could want from a dreadnought. The bass is tight but full, the midrange is sweet, and the treble sparkles. It projects assertively when chords are strummed hard, and single-note picked lines or fingerpicked melodies also come through loud and clear. The built-in electronics are impressive, providing warm, natural tone, particularly when the internal mic is blended in more toward the max setting. The neck’s slim C-shaped profile, medium frets and 1.69-inch (43mm) nut width provide a very comfortable and fast playing action that makes it easy for guitarists to play chords or pick single notes cleanly.

Street Price $399.99

Manufacturer Peavey Electronics,

Cheat Sheet
The solid Sitka spruce top, rosewood back and sides, mahogany neck, rosewood fingerboard and dreadnought body shape provide traditional acoustic tone.

The full-featured onboard electronics system offers a piezo pickup, internal microphone and versatile array of controls, including a chromatic tuner.

The Bottom Line
Players seeking a low-cost acoustic-electric guitar will be amazed at the value the Peavey DW-3 offers, which is comparable with many guitars costing more than $1,000.

Chris Gill, Video by Paul Riario

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.