The Lava ME-3 Smart Guitar

Lava music has been pushing for innovation in the guitar landscape since 2013. The initial version of the Lava ME was released in 2017. It was the first of its kind: a one-piece injection-molded model. Its successor, the ME-2, became the best-selling carbon fibre guitar in the world. Building on this success, Lava introduced the ME 3 smart guitar back in 2021. This instrument is not only the first to include a multi-touch display and OS, it is the original six-string to connect to the Internet. I’ve recently received this model and spent some time exploring its design, various features, the effects and Lava’s own social network: Lava+. I’ve also received a couple of optional accessories that make this a unique product worth checking out.

First of all, I filmed a lengthy video showcasing the guitar’s acoustic sound and integrated pickup system and effects. It also features my first impressions on the instrument.

Lava ME 3 has a modern design

The Lava ME 3 is a modern guitar that offers unusual features that will interest newcomers and experienced players alike. The overall design is very slick, reminiscent of Apple’s refined, minimalistic approach. It is available in two sizes—36 inches and 38 inches.

Innovative materials

Lava ME-3 comes with a case

The first thing you’ll notice about the Lava ME 3 is its carbon fibre construction. This material is very interesting for guitar building because it’s very stable and won’t warp with various environmental changes. The dry, heated air in the winter won’t cause havoc and affect your setup. There is no truss rod to adjust here, the manufacturer is confident that the ME-3 will generally retain its initial setup and you’ll have a very playable instrument in your hands.

Sound-wise, you’ll notice that it’s very rich in bass frequencies and that it has an accentuated high-end. The mid frequencies are slightly dimmed, for a sort of pre-equalized modern sound.

The extra bass comes sort of as a surprise, being emitted by a small-bodied guitar. With traditional wooden instruments, these frequencies would’ve been naturally reduced. In this case, the sound is full and big.

The sound hole is located in the top portion of the sound board. It houses a little speaker that emits the integrated effects (more on those later). This is where you’ll also find the power button and volume wheel. Via a 3.5” touch-screen, you’ll have access to many different digital features unique to the Lava ME 3. Alos, the HiLAVA OS powers the ME 3 with powerful features you won’t find anywhere else. This is a true acoustic/digital smart instrument. Even if you’re not plugged in, you’ll benefit from the integrated speaker in the sound hole.

The rest of the design is somewhat traditional. The scale is just under 24”, which is a tad smaller than most acoustics. The body is also smaller, making this a great travel partner. It ships with Elixir Nanoweb .012-.052 strings.

Built-in digital tools and practice modes

The Space Charging Dock doubles as a stand

First of all, you’ll find some of the most common tools that guitarists use; a tuner, a metronome, and a recorder. It’s very convenient to have these at your fingertips. 

Additionally, there are a series of practice tools designed to help you progress as a guitar player. There are five of them. Chord transition gives you various progressions to help you work out your fingerings. Strumming will check your rhythm chops. Scale training gives you a metronome pulse to follow as you try to stay in a single scale. It’s great to learn the fretboard in every key. Ear training will test your interval recognition as you try to play the note you hear in relation to a reference pitch. Lastly, single note will measure your accuracy when playing individual pitches. If you practice a mode for at least two minutes, you’ll get a detailed report on how well you performed and get an idea on which areas you need to focus on.

Lava ME 3 comes with useful accessories

Lava ME-3 optional accessories

Included with the purchase of the Lava ME 3 is a hard shell case that is very stylish. It’s not the most rigid, but it provides a good amount of protection from bumps and is quite light. There’s also a set of 3 different plectrums; the ideal picks. These are rather thick models that I found very comfortable. They also sound great with the ME 3.

I’ve also received two optional accessories. The first being the Ideal Strap 2. This faux leather, two-piece strap is very comfortable and helps keep the slightly slippery guitar on your lap when sitting down. Also, it has an auto-locking design, akin to strap locks. This basically eliminates the risk of you dropping your instrument.

The Space Charging Dock is pretty awesome. This dock doubles as a very stable guitar stand. You can definitely feel the apple influence in the design here. For those that aren’t interested in an additional purchase, there is an included USB cable to charge the guitar battery.

Lava ME 3 play-ability and sound

Out of the box, the Lava ME 3 was very well setup. Every string rang freely while offering an inviting and easy to play action. When you combine this to a carbon fibre construction, it’s very encouraging for future play-ability and the prospect of having this as a travel guitar. The rounded shape of the guitar is a bit awkward though; it tends to slip when seated. The strap is definitely a good investment, as it makes seated practice a lot more stable. Other than that, the instrument is very comfortable and the slightly reduced scale is easy to play.

The amount of bass is quite surprising. It is a bit overpowering for other sounds to my ears, but still it’s a very pleasant sound. Plugged in, the pickup does a really good job of reproducing the acoustic properties of the instrument. You can hear an example of that in the video I recorded.

Integrated effects and loops

The Lava ME 3 is filled with over 50 effects. These include every type you can imagine; reverb, delay, chorus, phasers, distortion, wah etc. By default, they are organized as presets, but you can build a three effect pedal board where you can edit each parameter of the effect you choose. It’s quite deep and powerful.

Lava supplies a large number of loops you can download and record over. These are in a wide variety of styles, so all types of guitarists will be able to get creative and work on their music. I filmed an example of this and it is featured at the end of my video review.

Vibrant community through Lava+

The fun doesn’t stop there. With your Lava ME 3, you can sign up on the Lava+ network to connect with thousands of users all over the world to share your music and recordings. I had a great time browsing the various sound clips available online and even shared my own loop to see how the whole experience is. Everything is simple and streamlined, freeing up brain power to create, rather than search through endless menus. Lava did an excellent job making this app.

Who is the Lava ME 3 for?

The Lava ME-3 with various accessories

The Lava ME 3 is a lot of guitar for the price. For beginners, you’ll get an excellent learning platform, additional practice tools, and a future-proof model that will last you all your playing career. It’s not like the practice tools will replace a real teacher, but they are a great supplement and it’s good to have instant feedback after a session. The loops are also one of my favourite ways to develop time keeping, try different chord progressions, and work on improvisation.

This is a great choice for creative guitarists that want an easy way of coming up with song ideas. The number of included effects is astounding and the editing is deep. You’ll be able to come up with original tones and high quality textures. The Lava+ social network is also a fun, encouraging place to share your music or demos.

Some guitarists are quite traditional and the ME 3 might not be their cup of tea. I encourage these players to pick one up with an open mind and try to see all the creative possibilities. It’s also a great choice for travelling musicians; it’s light and sounds excellent plugged in for performances, recording, and composition.

Make sure to check out the featured-packed Lava ME 3 smart guitar on Best Buy’s website.

Nikolai Olekhnovitch
Nikolai Olekhnovitch is a professional guitarist from Montreal. The experience and musical versatility he acquired during his music studies and involvement with diverse musical acts come in quite handy when reviewing various instruments. When he is not on the road performing, he’s exploring martial arts and seeking out the perfect espresso.


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