Table of Contents
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An acoustic guitar is often used while playing with a band or when using your guitar during open mic nights and other public events. There is a wide range of possibilities when it comes to acoustic guitar playing, which makes it one of our favorite musical instruments. Electric acoustic guitars give you the opportunity to enhance your reach if you are playing in front of a large audience.
This type of guitar is equipped with a preamplifier and pickups that allow it to be plugged into a sound system or amplifier without sacrificing the rich acoustics. Your mobility as you play is likewise not compromised. It sounds and plays just like any other acoustic guitar when it is not plugged in. During the past few years, the hybrid type of guitar has steadily gained in popularity among performers, and regardless of your budget, you can find one on the market that is suitable for you.
Whether performing in public or at home, on your own or with a band, a beginner or making an upgrade, there are some factors that you need to take into consideration before buying an acoustic electric guitar. These include your budget and what you specifically require from a guitar.
A lot of musicians benefit from having to plug in their acoustic electric guitar. This is because the guitar is equipped with a pickup system in its body that converts soundboard vibrations into electronic signals. Since the signals can sometimes be weak, a preamp is used to boost the signals. Usually, the preamp is found on the face up side of the guitar as it is being played. It comes with tone and volume controls, and a built-in tuner in some cases.
In this complete guide for the best acoustic guitar, we go ahead and highlight some of the important things to consider before making your purchase. We also include reviews for some of our favorite acoustic guitars currently available.
Abalone – Made from the hard internal lining of the shell of a giant snail, abalone is used as an ornament or decoration on acoustic guitars like headstock inlays and fretboards.
Action – This is the distance between an acoustic guitar’s frets and strings.
Attack – An attack is the initial sound created by a note when struck; it is between silence and the point when a note’s maximum volume is reached.
Binding – Wooden or plastic strips, or other materials that are used to strengthen and improve the aesthetics of the guitar’s neck, body, or headstock.
Bolt-on Neck – Simply a guitar neck attached to the guitar’s body using bolts.
Bookmatching – This is the process of pairing 2 wooden pieces for the guitar’s top or back. Bookmatching may also be done using one piece of wood that is cut butterfly-style, and then matching the 2 pieces at the guitar’s center.
Bout – These are the curved areas found above (upper bout) and below (lower bout) the acoustic guitar’s narrow waist.
Bracing – The wooden support structure found inside that gives the guitar integrity is called bracing. When well-designed it optimizes the top’s ability to vibrate.
Bridge – Typically, this is the wooden piece placed beneath the soundhole. The bridge anchors the strings and facilitates transfer of vibrations into the soundboard.
Bridge Pins – To keep the stings in place, bridge pins are fitted into the holes found on the bridge. These are often made of plastic; sometimes, of ebony.
Capo – The device used to elevate an acoustic guitar’s pitch is called a capo. It is attached at a selected fret on the neck. With a capo, guitarists can play a variety of songs in various keys without having to shift chord structures.
Cutaway – A contoured upper bout style of guitar that makes it possible for guitar players to easily reach upper frets.
Decay – The volume loss level from the maximum volume of a note to silence.
Dovetail – This is a kind of interlocking joint applied in guitar-making, such as when attaching the neck of a guitar to its body.
Dreadnought – Originally designed as a large-bodied acoustic guitar in the early part of the 1900s, the name was taken from the huge dreadnought battleships prevalent during the time.
Figuring – The natural grain pattern of a piece of wood.
Fingerboard or Fretboard – The guitar neck’s playing surface, a fingerboard is usually a thin wooden piece glued on the neck. The frets or the thin metal strips placed at intervals separate the neck at increments of half-steps.
Finish – This is the final coat applied to wooden parts of acoustic guitars.
Flame – Wood has a characteristic trait that seems to make the material move and shimmer as it is struck by light from various angles. This is called flame.
Frets – Frets are thin metals strips on the fretboard intended to divide the same into increments of half-steps.
Fret Markers – These are fretboard inlays that offer a visual reference on the player’s current position.
Gig Bag – A more convenient alternative to a hardshell case, a gig bag is a soft, padded, lightweight case used for transporting an acoustic guitar.
Headstock – A headstock is the uppermost part of the neck; it is where tuning keys are often placed.
Heel – Opposite of the headstock, the heel is the neck’s lowest part. It is also the wider part of the neck that attaches to the guitar’s body.
Inlay – Primarily used only for aesthetics, inlays are designs on the headstock, fretboard or body. Inlays are often carved into the wooden material then filled with abalone, metal, plastic, mother-of-pearl or other materials.
Intonation – This is what the relationship of tones on various parts of the fretboard is called. The note on the 12th fret on each string must match the same string’s 12th fret harmonic note. Otherwise, adjustments must be made on the intonation of the guitar.
Laminated – This refers to the laminated guitar surface made by gluing together a number of thin wooden plies.
Luthier – The term is used to refer to a woodworker specializing in crafting wooden instruments.
Marbling – Marbling describes the color variations and natural patterns of ebony.
Mother-of-Pearl – Used frequently for inlays as well as other ornamental purposes, mother-of-pearl is the inner lining of the shell of a mollusk.
Moustache Bridge – A bridge that is called such because it is similar to a handlebar moustache in shape.
Neck Joint – this is the meeting point of a guitar’s neck and body.
Nut – Found at the top part of a fretboard, the nut is used to provide even string spacing going towards the tuners. It also facilitates vibration transfer to the guitar’s neck.
Pearloid – This is the synthetic version of mother-of-pearl.
Pick or Plectrum – Usually made of a thin plastic piece, the pick is used from strumming an acoustic guitar’s strings.
Pickguard – Found below the soundhole, a pickguard is a thin plate that shields the top side of the guitar from scratches resulting from strumming or picking the strings.
Pickup – This is a type of electronic device that detects vibrations coming from the strings of the guitar, and converts the same into electric signals for amplification.
Piezo Pickup – A crystalline structure that detects compression changes and converts the same into electric signals, it is typically found under the saddle of the guitar. Most commonly used in acoustic electric guitars, its sensors activate once the strings vibrate.
Quilted – This is the term used to describe the folded or wavy appearance in specific tone woods.
Rosette – A rosette is the decorative inlay typically found around the guitar’s soundhole.
Saddle or Bridge Nut – The saddle, just like the nut, is used to space the strings. Together with the bridge, it transfers string vibrations to the top of the guitar.
Scale Length – This refers to the entire length of a string’s vibrating part.
Set Neck – Neck of an acoustic guitar glued to its body.
Soundboard or Top – This wooden piece is primarily responsible for the guitar’s projection and tone.
Soundhole – This is the hole on the top side of the guitar that helps project the sound.
Truss Rod – An internal piece of thin rod that runs the entire length of the neck, the truss rod is used for adjusting the neck’s curve, depending on the string tension currently in use.
Waist – This is the narrowest part in the body of an acoustic guitar.
Build and Construction
When choosing the guitar that is best suited for your particular needs, it would help if you first understand the basics of acoustic guitar design, and how it is built. This way, you will be able to distinguish even the subtle differences between different models.
Neck – The guitar’s neck is attached to the body and ends at the headstock. At the top of the neck is the fretboard. The shape of the neck’s back is intended to accommodate the fretting hand of the player. A set neck, or one that is glued to the guitar’s body, is typically used in acoustic guitars. A bolt-on neck, on the other hand, is more prevalent in electric guitars. Additional support at the back is provided by the heel, specifically at the point where the neck is attached to the body. The neck is equipped with a metal trust rod to keep it from twisting and bowing because of string tension as well as environmental factors. Intonation problems that hound the guitar may be corrected by adjusting the truss rod either inside the guitar body or at the headstock. Found at the neck’s top side, the fretboard (fingerboard) is typically a separate wooden piece glued to the guitar’s neck. It is typically made of ebony or rosewood.
Frets are the thin metal strips embedded along the 12-tone scale at half-step increments. They are used to reference where the various notes are played. In most fretboards, you can find symbols or inlaid dots placed on odd-numbered frets beginning with the 3rd but not including the 11th and 13th. Instead the dot can be found on the octave or on the 12th. The headstock is fitted with tuners (also called tuning keys, machine heads, or tuning pegs) that are used to adjust string tension by changing the specific string’s pitch. The small strip found at the point where the neck meets the headstock is the nut that guides the strings on the fretboard. Plastic nuts are usually used for acoustic guitars, but nuts may also be made of graphite, bone, or other materials. The neck width and thickness varies, depending on the guitar body’s size. While it may not have a bearing on the guitar’s sound, the comfort level that the guitarist experiences while playing the instrument may be affected.
An acoustic guitar neck is typically listed with 12 or 14 frets. The figure indicates the number of frets located above the body, and not necessarily the total number of available frets. Thus, a 12-fret neck will have the 13th fret as well as the 14th fret located on the body, which are more difficult to reach compared to a 14-fret neck. Thus, for a guitarist with small hands, an acoustic guitar neck with a smaller diameter is advisable.
Body – An acoustic guitar’s body is comprised of the 1) top (soundboard) with support coming from the internal bracing, 2) the sides, and 3) the back. The back and the sides form the hollow chamber. The curves in the upper body are called upper bout while the bigger lower body curves are known as the lower bout. The waist is the area in-between the bouts. The body’s shape and size have an effect on the guitar’s playability and sound. The appropriate acoustic guitar for you is one that matches both your musical and physical needs. This will be discussed later in a separate section. Sounds are projected through the soundhole. It is found at the fretboard base, aligned with the waist. It is usually fitted with a plastic protective pickguard. The strings are mounted at the bridge on the guitar’s body, anchored by bridge pins. A saddle provides spacing for the strings. String vibrations are sent by the bridge to the top of the guitar. This constitutes the sound output of the instrument. The process is called projection.
The style of the body of acoustic guitars varies, depending on the manufacturer. Find a style that you find comfortable to play, whether while standing or sitting, and one that produces the sound that you want to create. Generally, a larger soundboard produces a deeper and louder sound. You can find guitar styles that offer a combination of a large soundboard and a narrow waist for more comfort. Exact measurements may differ from one guitar maker to another, but there are common acoustic guitar body shapes available, and these include the following:
Concert Acoustic Guitars – Dating back to 1854, concert acoustic guitars are characterized by a smaller size, with the lower bout measuring around 13 ½” that allows it to create bight sounds with punchy mid-range. The size is comfortable enough, especially for smaller guitarists.
Grand Concert Guitars – Typically larger than concert acoustics with 14 to 14 ¼” lower bout, the grand concert body style boasts of a good mid-range as well, albeit with delivered with stronger sounds.
Auditorium (Orchestra) – A mid-sized standard acoustic guitar, the auditorium style provides a balanced tone, volume, and comfort. The style has been gaining in popularity in the last few decades, thanks in part to Eric Clapton who appeared on MTV Live in 1992 to record his album called Unplugged. He used an auditorium style acoustic guitar for the recording.
Grand Auditorium – With a 16” lower bout and a narrow waist, this style is characterized by a distinct hourglass shape. It offers a greater volume range and a more balanced tone compared to styles with a smaller body.
Dreadnought – This common acoustic guitar body style utilizes an extremely large soundboard. It is distinct because of its square bout, 14-fret neck, and wide waist. It has been popular since it was first developed in 1916, and is still going strong. The style is commonly used by bluegrass guitarists primarily due to its driving, powerful sound.
Jumbo – Considered as the “cowboy” guitar, the jumbo is a boomy, big guitar style. The lower bout measures as much as 17”. Its sound resonates deeply and projects loudly.
Travel and Mini-Acoustic – The style is ideal for frequently-traveling musicians, small guitarists, and children. While the style is specifically intended for traveling convenience and small guitar players, there are higher-end models that do not compromise sound or quality.
Most travel guitars are shaped similar to standard acoustic guitars w/ 18-20 frets and ¾-scale. There are also “backpacker” models that come with a narrow body that are intended to be lightweight, durable, and convenient to pack.
Cutaways – Regardless of body style, there are acoustic guitars that feature an upper bout with a cutaway that allows guitarists to access higher frets on the neck in a more convenient manner. This is ideal for playing leads on an acoustic like Phil Keaggy, or if you often play an electric guitar.
An acoustic guitar top is typically made of solid wood or laminate. Solid tops are often made from two pieces of single-ply wood with matching grains laid down on the guitar top’s middle. Laminate tops are made of multiple wood layers, often a higher-grade wood on top of a few generic-grade pieces underneath that are pressed together. Solid wood tops vibrate better. While laminates do not create the same rich sound or great volume as solid wood tops do, they are good enough for beginners. This will allow them to save some money when buying their first acoustic guitar.
Some people think that it is best for newbie guitarists to start playing using nylon strings simply because nylon is easier to play and it is easier on the fingers as well. However, nylon and steel strings aren’t switchable on a single guitar. Thus, you do not progress from using one type of string to another as you gain experience. Your choice should depend on the type of music you intend to play. Nylon creates softer and mellow tones. Thus, they are typically used in flamenco-style and folk music guitar-playing. They can also be used for some classical music, although classical guitars usually have wider necks and shorter fretboards compared to acoustics with steel strings. Country, pop, and rock musicians commonly use steel strings that proved brighter and louder tones.
When comparing guitars, you will see different types of woods used on various acoustic guitar parts. If you can identify the particular sound you want your guitar to produce, it will be easy for you to pick the right guitar for you. Following are the common types of wood used in guitars, their uses, as well as their known tonal characteristics.
Cedar – A soft wood type, cedar generates bright tones. Its quick response is partial to light playing techniques. While it is commonly used for flamenco and classical guitar tops, it can also be used for backs and sides.
Cocobolo – Commonly used for backs and sides, the tropical, Mexican hardwood is responsive, fast, and generates bright sounds.
Ebony – Ebony is ideally used as material for fretboards with its strong and slick feel.
Granadillo – A denser variety of rosewood, granadillo is a scarce type of wood commonly used to make marimba bars. When used as acoustic guitar back or sides, it creates similar clear, ringing tones.
Koa – A type of Hawaiian wood, koa has a unique golden color and produces a mid-range tone. Because of its scarcity, it is typically found only on higher-end guitar models, although it can be used for various acoustic guitar body parts.
Mahogany – A dense type of wood, mahogany produces slower response rates. When used for the top, it creates strong sounds that feature high-end tones. It is often used for playing blues or country music. The material is ideal for backs and sides, to provide more snap, help boost mid-range tone, and lower the boominess in certain styles. Mahogany can also be used for guitar bridges and necks.
Maple – Often used for guitar backs and sides, maple has a low response rate. Its internal damping does not add color to the top wood’s natural tone. Maple creates dry sounds with emphasis on high-end tones. This makes the material ideal for live settings, especially when playing with a band since it remains audible with less feedback, even in a mix of various instruments.
Ovangkol – Similar to rosewood, this is a sustainable African wood. Typically used for sides and backs, it has a warm tone emphasizing on mid-tones. It likewise generates a sound that is well-rounded. The material offers the sparkling mid-range of koa or mahogany, combined with the warmth of rosewood.
Rosewood – Because of the currently low supply of rosewood from Brazil, the Indian variety has begun to replace it on the market. Although the appearance of the two types of rosewood are different, they produce practically the same tone quality. Rosewood has long been known for its complex and rich overtones that stay distinct even when playing a bass-heavy passage. Its ringing tones and cutting attacks provide plenty of projection as well as a highly articulate sound. The wood is likewise popular for bridges and fingerboards.
Sapele – Sapele is commonly used for backs and sides to provide additional resonance and mid-range. Another sustainable type of African wood, it is similar to mahogany in terms of tone, but it provides a bit more treble boost.
Spruce – The acoustic guitar top standard, spruce is lightweight yet strong. It offers high quality resonance without sacrificing clarity. Various spruce species are used for guitar tops, and these include Engelmann, Sitka, European, and Adirondack – each of which as subtly distinct colors and tonal traits.
Walnut – A good substitute for mahogany in guitar bodies, walnut similarly emphasizes mid-range tones and enhances the top wood’s tone projection. It is also stiff and dense like koa, with the same bright high-end tone. While its low-end tone may start deeper, it fills out after some time.
1. Lag Guitars Tramontane T100D Review
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The name Tramontane is derived from the wind blowing across the southern regions of France. Compared to the Four Seasons that bears a generic style, the Tramontane boasts of a more distinct look, primarily because of the headstock design taken from the same manufacturer’s Imperator model. The center of the peghead is elevated from the guitar’s outer wings.
Models are classified in various lines called 400, 300, 200, 100, and T66 series, and include auditoriums, dreadnoughts, and jumbos. A number of acoustic and electro nylon-string auditoriums are likewise available. The dreadnought model has a similar hardware and aesthetic approach as the T66As, but it is geared more for the higher-end of the market. The mahogany/cedar build features a solid and quite good-looking top.
The smooth body binding is made of mahogany, while the coach-lining and purfling that extend down to the back’s center strip are maple/black-fiber; the same with the soundhole rosette. The cross motif is maple-highlighted. The totality of the instrument looks elegant and classy, with impeccable high-gloss lacquering. The glued neck is mahogany, and the bound fingerboard as well as the stepped peghead overlay are rosewood. Instead of the satin-like low-gloss quality of the other parts of the neck, the headplate is matte. The strap button on the opposite end is fitted to the heel’s face instead of the heel cap. It has the tendency to provide disruptions when you play along the octave. Overall, the neck is comfortable to play. Despite a traditionally deep profile, it has a quick disposition, although it would be better if it had slinkier actions. Although the holes in the bridge are drilled and provide tighter string spacing, it has no adverse effect on the finger-style techniques whatsoever.
Louder than typical dreadnoughts, the Tramontane’s is loud and quick on the attack. It packs a strong wallop that does not muddle the entire experience. When playing hard, the highs may sound a bit crashy. However, this can easily be overlooked, given its other strengths. The complete Tramontane line will take some time to rummage through one by one. However, if the rest are as superb as this model, then it will be fun to trawl through. The Tramontane T100D’s detailing and build quality are just what you would expect for as expensive as it is. It is stylish, and looks expensive while maintaining its status as one of the best sounding acoustic guitars.
2. Fender CD-60CE Review
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The CD-60CE may seem like a bargain, but it does not in any way look or feel cheap. It has a laminated spruce top, while its sides and back are laminated mahogany. The fingerboard is rosewood. The instrument is also fitted with dual-action truss rod and scalloped X-bracing. While most other guitars that fit into this budget are replete with minor defects like wonky bridge pins and stiff tuning machines, nothing of the sort can be found in the CD-60CE.
Available in natural, sunburst, and natural finishes, the guitar is not exactly a head-turner. However, it is elegant in its simplicity. While you may not get the CD-60CE to produce concert-quality sounds, you can expect it to give you one of the best sounds in its budget. With its laminate body shaped similar to a dreadnought, it provides a rich, deep tone, particularly when picked. The guitar action is likewise comfortable unlike what you usually expect to experience with other cheap acoustic guitars. When finger-picked, however, the Fender CD-60CE may disappoint advanced users as it obviously does not have the definition and clarity of the individual notes generated by higher-end guitars. The acoustic electric variant of the CD-60CE may be plugged and tweaked to create more personalized sounds.
The CD-60CE may be too affordable for comfort and may cause apprehensions about its quality, but make no mistake about it, the guitar is durable, and it definitely feels like it. The polyurethane gloss finish is amazingly tough, and can withstand minor scratches and bumps unscathed. The best part is, the manufacturer gives away a free hard-shell case if the unit is bought in North America. This means you get an additional savings compared to if the case is purchased separately.
To sum it all up, the Fender CD-60CE offers great value for your money – whether you are a neophyte still trying to master guitar-playing or a seasoned musician looking for a backup guitar. This is a great acoustic electric guitar. Combined with a high-quality strings and a decent setup job, you can really play good music with the CD-60CE in due time. That’s a guarantee.
3. Washburn WD7S Harvest Series Review
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The US-based Washburn Guitars started making musical instruments back in the 1800s. The company is best known for its pioneering efforts when it launched the Lakeside Jumbo – the first dreadnought guitar ever – in 1912. Through the years, Washburn sustained its status as a leader by producing a string of high-quality guitar lines. These include the Harvest Series that features a selection of acoustic models of superior tone woods and parts.
A continuation and embodiment of the qualities Washburn is known for can be found in the affordable WD7S. The series offers a wide selection for both intermediate and new guitarists on the lookout for high-quality budget instruments. With a dreadnought body style, the WD7S comes in a wide array of tones to choose from. The top is solid sitka/spruce top. According to Washburn Guitars, it enhances the tone with age. The body projects the sounds in an excellent manner. The mahogany sides and back boast of an attractive gloss finish. The neck, also mahogany, measures 25.6”, with at rosewood fingerboard fitted with a bone nut and 20 frets.
As far as technical specs are concerned, the series does not disappoint. Each model in the line provides superior pitch and extremely stable string precision. The tuning machines and the rosewood bridge at opposite sides make all of these possible. The sound quality of the WD7S, the typical dreadnought acoustic that it is, delivers just what is expected in terms of sound quality. To simply say that the guitar produces loud and big sounds is probably the year’s biggest understatement. The sound integrity is kept intact, despite the guitar’s loud nature. The tones are loud but sharp, and your original playing intent will be clearly conveyed. The guitar will unleash another facet of its capabilities once you fingerpick the steel strings. It will surprisingly generate mellow and soft tones.
Simply put, the WD7S Harvest Series from Washburn Guitars is it, if you want a pure acoustic guitar. The quality of its sounds speaks for itself. The neck is designed to provide maximum comfort that is rare in a dreadnought model. While it is ideally for beginners, it will also serve intermediates well. With its amazing affordability, it is hard to argue.
4. Yamaha FG700S Review
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This entry-level dreadnought model from Yamaha is probably the most traditional guitar on the market today – when talking about appearances. It looks nowhere near the BC Rich. Once you start playing it, however, you will realize why it deserves some attention on its own.
Yamaha acoustic guitars have always been known to offer the best tone and playing experience. So, what can you expect to get from the FG700S? For one, the China-made dreadnought comes with a solid nato mahogany spruce top as well as a deep hourglass-shaped body. The neck is likewise nato mahogany. It is attached to the dreadnought’s body through a dovetail joint. The rosewood fingerboard features tiny fret inlays. The inconspicuous rosette decorates the soundhole, with a decent looking pickguard. A 3-a-side headstock fitted with die-cast chrome accessories sits atop the neck.
Tuning the instrument is quick and easy, and it does not need frequent tweaking even with constant strumming sessions or after string bends. Coming from Yamaha, you can expect that it has the same build as others in its line – and it does deliver, even in the smallest of details – considering that this particular model is at the bottom end of the FG spectrum.
With great specs and decent materials, what else can you ask for? Sure, it may take a while before the tone of the guitar starts to bed in, but it definitely will – over time. Just be patient. While the combination of mahogany and spruce is not commonly seen on acoustic guitars, Yamaha pulled it off with the right balance between bite and warmth. The fingerboards are made of rosewood, which is the most common material for the part, so there is nothing to worry about here. If you read the product’s literature, you would have come across the line that says nothing can be more relaxing that to sit around just strumming Wonderwall using your dreadnought.
A lot of models have made playing barre chords a nightmare because of the way their necks are designed. The same definitely cannot be said of the FG700S. It practically negated the difficulty in mustering the right pressure to ring out your riffs that non-electric acoustics pose. Yamaha says that the FG boasts of a slimmer-than-most neck. You will definitely notice the difference once you try some finger-twisting licks reminiscent of Nick Drake. While acoustic playing should be effortless, it rarely happens. It does, however, on this Yamaha model – in spite of its relatively hefty body. Likewise, it does not cause you to sweat when digging out the volume. But, can it do well beyond strumming? It sure does.
Play something else, aside from than the usual open chords using other acoustic models. What you will get are rattling strings and muffled notes. Not so with this Yamaha dreadnought. You will be encouraged to push yourself beyond your known limits. Because it doesn’t have cutaways, you can tell that the top frets have minimal practical use and are probably just for show. However, the fretboard is accommodating enough for moderate bends and fluid slides. Strumming with your fingers will feel just as naturally as you would when using a pick, with both techniques offering the same authority in terms of natural volume.
The instrument tends to be a bit jangly. While fingerpicking can be a delight, much of the tone is contingent on the way you play. If you pluck with your fingernails near the bridge, it will result to some popping and snapping. On the other hand, if you pick out basslines using your thumb over the soundhole, you will get a better-rounded tone that folk and country players love. The FG700S likewise fares well with capo’d voicings.
Last update on 2021-03-06 at 10:45 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API