The 7 Best Acoustic-Electric Guitars Under $500
We bring you our updated roundup of the Best Acoustic Electric guitars under $500, featuring practical workhorse guitars that make every single penny count.
This page is sponsored by Sweetwater so you can click through to get the full specifications, the latest price, and purchase any of the Acoustic Guitars stocked by Sweetwater that we have recommended.
The sub-$500 price range is a market warzone where guitar manufacturers are constantly trying to outdo each other. This is good news for us guitarists because it forces manufacturers to continually improve the quality while retaining competitive pricing, it gives us the chance to own top notch guitars without paying top dollars. With this in mind, here are the best acoustic electric guitar under 500 bucks.
Note that some of the premium brands have great guitars within the $500 price range, and some even come equipped with solid tops.
Gretsch G5022CE Rancher Acoustic-Electric Guitar
The Gretsch G5022CE Rancher is a cool looking and great sounding acoustic electric guitar that sits in the sweet spot where affordability meets quality. As expected from guitars made by Gretsch, it sports a killer look with a distinctive design will surely to turn heads, having been successfully injected with the company's eclectic and elegant design.
With big name artists like Duane Eddy, Brian Setzer and Chet Atkins, Gretsch has made a name for itself as a premiere hollow body guitar builder. Interestingly, they did branch out into acoustic guitar building in the '50s with the original Rancher, sporting a distinct triangular soundhole and stylish pickguard that easily stood out from the crowd. The G5022CE brings back this same stylish design while incorporating modern improvements for today's players to enjoy. And it's not just about style, because this particular model is the biggest and fullest-sounding of the Rancher line, thanks to its jumbo size body and solid spruce top. While I would have preferred it to be less bulkier, the bigger body does produce impressive low end and punch that would otherwise be not possible.
The sound when plugged in is just as impressive as its acoustic tone, with its Fishman Isys preamp system that comes with tone shaping 3-band EQ controls. A chromatic tuner is also included for quick and convenient tuning. If you are looking for a "cool" guitar under 500 bucks, this is the package to beat.Check out the latest price and reviews at Sweetwater.com
Epiphone AJ-220SCE Acoustic-Electric Guitar
Epiphone is a brand that stretches the limits of affordability while maintaining good quality. And as such, they have in their line up the AJ-220SCE, an affordable bestseller acoustic electric guitar that bears specifications close if not on par with more expensive brands. With this guitar, you are getting a reliable and nicely built acoustic-electric with $200 to spare for accessories and other gear.
For its price, you are getting premium features like a solid sitka spruce top, mahogany back and sides and a practical jumbo cutaway shape. The resulting acoustic sound is big and resonant, conveying the nuances of your playing just as well as more expensive acoustics. The bigger body also allows for more low end, which makes this an ideal solo accompaniment instrument that can produce lows, highs and mids in case you're playing without your band. Built-in electronics allow for high and low EQ control, phase reversal, volume and it even comes with a built in chromatic tuner.
While some do complain that the action is slightly higher out-of-the-box, it is a minor issue that can easily be addressed by minor adjustments. If you are looking for a quality budget workhorse acoustic-electric, then check this one out.Check out the latest price and reviews at Sweetwater.com
Washburn WLO12SE Orchestra
Although more popular for their shred friendly electric guitars, I feel that Washburn should get more attention for their stunning yet affordable acoustic-electric guitars. As a testament to this, their current line of acoustics have been drawing the praise of players of all level, thanks to their impressive balance of quality and affordability, resulting in instruments that look more pricey than their actual price.
The WLO12SE Orchestra offers quite the specs for its price tag, featuring a solid mahogany top supported by mahogany back and sides. This unconventional combination is normally only found on upper tier instruments, but thanks to Washburn, you're $500 can get you a distinct looking and guitar - with plenty of spare change. In addition to its all-mahogany body, Washburn squeezed in as much good wood as they can out of your hard earned cash - making generous use of rosewood for the bridge, fingerboard and even the body binding. The end result being an instrument that has a special vintage appeal.
Finally, this guitar comes with Fishman Isys+ electronics, which makes this guitar sound as good as it looks when plugged in on stage. If you're looking for an acoustic-electric guitar that doesn't compromise aesthetics for value, get the WLO12SE.
Takamine GD30-CE Acoustic-Electric Guitar
Takamine is one of the forerunners of acoustic-electric guitar building, and they started the combined use of preamplifier and equalizer, which now has become a standard feature in the market. Big name artists like Glenn Frey, Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi and many more took notice of their stage friendly design. And up to this day, modern pop artists like Bruno Mars keep the Takamine brand popular.
The GD30-CE is the company's shining gem in the sub $500 segment, featuring a solid sitka spruce top with mahogany back and sides, assembled and built to the company's consistently high standards. This guitar uses Takamine's own TP4T preamp which was developed from their pioneering efforts. When plugged in, this guitar sounds alive and can go really loud with virtually no feedback problems, rivaling the preamp systems found on more expensive models. And since it comes with a solid sitka spruce top and a dreadnought body, it's unplugged sound is full and articulate, with the company's characteristic subtle emphasis on the higher frequencies.
In addition to impressive tonewood and sound, the Takamine GD30-CE features modern playability that makes them a good transition instruments for those who mainly play electric guitars. It would have been nice if the guitar looked a bit more original, but still this is an affordable workhorse instrument that regularly gigging guitarists will appreciate.Check out the latest price and reviews at Sweetwater.com
Martin DX1RAE Acoustic-Electric Guitar
Although this is priced slightly over $500, it's such an impressive guitar that we thought we'd squeeze it in here anyway. The Martin DX1RAE bears the same legacy of quality as those found on high end Martin models, albeit with less eye candies. This one sports the dreadnought shape, which means that you get the sound and shape that helped propel C.F. Martin & Co to success, as seen in the hands of iconic guitarists that include Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Kurt Cobain and many more.
The guitar comes with a solid Sitka Spruce top and HPL(High Pressure Laminate) back and sides, and note that Martin's HPL technology is much more resonant and rigid than what other companies offer. I for one own an older model Martin DCX1E that have the same specs, and it hasn't failed me even once for the many years that I've been using it on gigs and practice, well aside from me breaking strings. More importantly, this guitar produces that distinct Martin resonant tone that emphasizes the lower mids - both when plugged or unplugged. The bottomline is, you are literally getting a premium sounding Martin at a more accessible price point.
Some guitars just make you want to keep picking them up and playing them, and this amazingly affordable Martin does just that! Yes, this guitar is a little bit over the budget, but you'll be thanking me later for making you spend a little more on a true American heritage instrument.Check out the latest price and reviews at Sweetwater.com
Yamaha LL6 Acoustic-Electric Guitar
Popularly known for their excellent student guitars, but Yamaha extends their impressive cost and quality balancing skills to all their acoustic-electric guitars, as evidenced by the endorsement of professional guitarists like Joe Bonamassa, Lee Ritenour, Andy McKee and Edwin McCain. The Yamaha LL6 is an excellent example of their expertise, featuring premium tonewoods, top notch build quality, and beginner friendly playability that are not usually expected from guitars in this price range.
The guitar's beautiful top is crafted from hand selected solid Engelmann spruce, something that you'll only see on guitars that are uber expensive. This particular type of spruce has a lighter shade that looks great in natural finish, and looks even better as it ages. Paired with rosewood back and sides, the resulting tone is expressive and articulate, really great for playing lead parts and fingerpicking. To make this guitar easier to play, Yamaha utilized carved the 5-ply mahogany/rosewood neck into a slimmer profile topped by a rosewood fingerboard.
Another notable feature of this guitar is the passive SRT Zero impact pickup, which detects string vibrations separately for impressive plugged in sound. My only complaint is that the pricing could have been a bit lower, but maximizing your budget for the LL6 is a good long term investment.Check out the latest price and reviews at Sweetwater.com
Seagull Guitars Entourage Rustic Mini Jumbo QI
Seagull is a sub-brand of Godin that specializes in building entry level to mid-tier acoustic guitars, and they do so while meeting the same strict quality demands that are used on their more expensive models. The Entourage Rustic Mini Jumbo QI is their top offering in the sub $500 segment, featuring easy playability and exceptional tone without having to go over your budget.
Like Godin's other acoustic guitars, the Rustic has a solid cedar top that underwent a special pressure testing process. This ensures that only reliable and resonant cedar is used for the top, which when paired with the 3-layer wild cherry results produces a warm articulate tone with emphasized midrange. This vintage style voicing complements conventional spruce topped acoustics nicely, great for filling up the mids with melodic lines. The integrated set neck design is also worth mentioning, improving structural stability, tuning/action consistency and the instrument's overall reliability. Finally, the guitar comes with built-in electronics that are tweaked to better capture and reproduce the instrument's unique acoustic voice.
While I'm not a fan of the guitar's seemingly odd shape, the overall vintage appeal and voicing is more than enough to overcome my minor complaint. Note that this guitar is not for you if you're looking for a balanced and traditional acoustic tone. But if you're looking for a distinct sounding guitar, then you're looking at your next axe.Check out the latest price and reviews at Sweetwater.com
Hopefully one of the guitars above is just what you're looking for, but if you're still a little unsure then you might find this article helpful: Expert Advice on Choosing Your First Guitar.
If you're looking for a smaller sized acoustic-electric then check out this roundup on Parlor.Guitars.
Thank you to Sweetwater for their sponsorship and providing the full specifications for the guitars above where possible. You can see more acoustic-electric guitars at www.sweetwater.com/c602--Acoustic_Electric_Guitars
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