It’s good to spend a bit more on an acoustic-electric guitar. Perhaps, getting one of the best acoustic-electric guitars under $500 is the best choice.
However, even though the budget has been narrowed down, there is still a plethora of guitars on the market to be crazy about.
So, as a professional who has purchased different guitars in my life, I want to share with you 10 acoustic-electric guitars that will surely fit anyone’s budget.
Having a budget of around $500 gives you the freedom to choose from well-made products in the market.
At the end of this roundup article, there’s a simple buying guide just for you.
That section includes the factors you need to consider before buying an acoustic-electric guitar. Without further ado, let’s proceed to the list.
The Best Acoustic-Electric Guitars Under $500 (Reviews)
- Yamaha FSX830C
- Fender CD-60SCE
- Epiphone EJ-200SCE
- Fender Tim Armstrong Hellcat
- Ovation Applause
- Yamaha L-Series LS6
- Breedlove Discovery Concert CE
- Takamine GN20CE NEX
- Martin DX2MAE
- Ibanez AEWC300
This acoustic-electric guitar from Yamaha can be traced back to the amazing FG “folk guitar” introduced in 1966. The Yamaha FSX830C is a manifestation that you don’t need to spend too much on a quality guitar. With this one made of genuine Sitka Spruce top and Rosewood back and sides, you can achieve great tone with rich overtones and better sustain.
The fretboard and the bridge, too, are made of rosewood. This smaller folk body comes with Yamaha’s System-66 electronics, featuring an undersaddle pickup with 3-band EQ, so you are always stage-ready. It also features die-cast tuners, adjustable mid-range frequency control, and single cutaway to access the higher frets with ease.
- Nice feel with fast action neck
- Sounds great whether plugged in or unplugged
- Delivers realistic acoustic tone without the piezo quack
- The action is quite high out of the box and needs quick fixing
- May require professional set up to achieve better results
It’s unbelievable that the cheapest on the list is from Fender. Yes, the Fender CD-60SCE acoustic-electric guitar is the most affordable guitar for your budget under $500. This acoustic-electric guitar is best, since it’s among Fender’s most popular models, plus it’s offered in a bundle.
This is a versatile, high-quality guitar made Spruce top with scalloped X bracing that provides resonance and projection while you play. The Venetian cutaway allows fast play and quick access to the upper frets. It features Fishman Isys III System electronics with active preamp onboard so you’ll great good tone whether plugged on unplugged.
- Super loud sound coming from this beautiful guitar
- Electronics seem to be fine and working well
- The neck and the body are easier to hold and play
- Excessive low action, so fret buzz occurs
- Not as rich and full tone as Fender’s high-end models
The famous Gibson classic J-200 known as the “King of the Flat Tops,” has been modernized in the form of the Epiphone EJ-200SCE acoustic-electric guitar. It features a maple body with a solid Spruce top and graceful cutaway to access the frets easily. You’ll see the 1960s SlimTaper D-shape neck with feel and design like you’re playing a Gibson Les Paul Standard Electric.
To deliver the true acoustic tone of the guitar, it comes with Shadow eSonic-II Stereo Pickup System with an easy-to-use tuner. You’ll also have tone-shaping options — NanoFlex Tone, NanoMag Tone, and Blend Tone. The pickup will sense the string vibrations, as well as the top and body vibrations, hence, you’ll get the true voice of your instrument.
- Loud guitar with great sustain and action
- Sound has deep resonance and projection
- Superb electronics with solid construction
- Some models have quality issues like fret buzzes
- Pickguard isn’t of good quality
- Tuning seems sharp when using the built-in tuner
A concert-style acoustic-electric guitar based on Tim Armstrong’s classical instrument, the Fender Tim Armstrong Hellcat is indeed a must-have guitar. It screams rock, pop, folk, and anything you want to do with it with the help of the onboard Fishman® Isys™ III pickup system. You can find an onboard preamp, tuner, volume, and tone controls to help you achieve pure, rich, and resonant tone.
It’s made of a solid Mahogany top with scalloped X bracing and laminate Mahogany for the back and sides of the guitar. You’ll find a compensated saddle, rosewood bridge, and chrome die-cast tuners. What’s unique about the Hellcat guitar is the Hellcat position inlays and two skull inlays at the 12th fret.
- Sounds nice, warm and clean
- Electronics and the built-in tuner are the absolute best
- Spot on intonation and rang with perfect harmonics
- Some issues with the quality control
- Need proper setup to remove the fret buzzes
All Applause acoustic-electric guitars from Ovation is designed to give maximum performance out of these quality instruments. The new models still made of solid spruce top with scalloped X bracing and laser-cut multi-sound holes. It has the traditional Ovation ornaments, plus the Ovangkol fretboard and Lyrachord mid-depth body with a cutaway for ease of playability.
This particular model of Ovation Applause features a CE304T preamp paired with Ovation Slimline pickup so that users can experience more upgraded electronics. This means you’ll get to capture more clarity, definition and tonal balance of your acoustic-electric. Its new headstock also adds to the sleek design of the instrument.
- Can produce a wide variety of sounds with perfect clarity
- Has straight neck and good action
- Electronics are easy with a wonderful amplified sound
- Not a good guitar for a larger band, perhaps for solo or smaller combo
- Some players don’t like the curved back — difficult to hold
When it comes to acoustic-electric guitars under $500, the best choices are usually coming from Yamaha. That’s why I added the Yamaha L-Series LS6 not only that it’s a Yamaha, but because it has something unique to offer. Firstly, it’s an option for those who don’t want to compromise the sound quality with cutaway models.
This acoustic-electric has a concert body made of hand-selected solid Engelmann spruce top with mahogany back and sides, giving you a warm-sounding guitar. Next, it has a slimmer neck and enhanced fingerboard edge to offer comfort and outstanding playability. Lastly, the passive SRT Zero Impact pickup allows you to reproduce the natural and dynamic sound of the LS6 through an amp or a PA.
- Solid hardware, great pickups with a nice tone
- Flat low action=fast neck; perfect for playing blues, country, folk, etc.
- Guitar is loud (in a good way) with better sustain
- Bridge pins are plastic, you might want to upgrade
Rediscover the fun of your passion for music with Breedlove Discovery Concert CE. It’s an acoustic-electric guitar with a concert body shape, which offers a compact and well-balanced instrument. It’s made of solid Sitka spruce top, Sapele back and sides, Nato neck, and rosewood fingerboard.
This Breedlove guitar comes with Fishman electronics that work wonders when the guitar is plugged on an amp or PA. It’s ideal to have strumming or fingerstyle techniques on this guitar. You’ll get an articulate range of tone with just enough low-end, not too boomy.
- Stays well in tune and sounds good
- Pin-less bridge system is quite great
- Electronics are just a bonus, especially the built-in tuner
- It takes a while to get used to, for some players
- Though it’s playable, the action seems a bit higher out of the box
The pride of Takamine is one of the best acoustic-electric guitars under $500. Takamine GN20CE NEX has solid construction, reliable electronics, and compact big-sounding guitar. It’s made of solid spruce top with mahogany back and sides, known to have rich and resonant tone.
If you want playability, this acoustic-electric guitar has a slim mahogany neck with 12-inch fretboard radius. Onboard is the TP-4TD preamp system with a built-in tuner, three-band EQ and gain controls for versatility of the amplified sounds. Other features include chrome hardware, die-cast tuners, split bridge saddle, and pin-less rosewood bridge.
- Great-sounding guitar every time you play it
- Takamine offers the best electronics for this guitar
- Neck profile feels like heaven, perfect and smooth
- Tuners aren’t working properly, you may upgrade to Grover’s
- The body seems thick for some users
The only Martin on the list, I choose the DX2MAE because this is an all-mahogany high-pressure laminate (HPL) top, back, and sides. What this means is that you’ll get the warmth Mahogany is known for and the superior toughness of HPL guitars. It has richlite bridge and fretboard, which again, is a durable material made of resin-infused paper.
This dreadnought guitar has a slimmer neck shape with a high-performance taper that is easy on the hands. From the material to the neck and fretboard, Martin gives you an extremely playable guitar within your budget. Plus, the Fishman Sonitone electronics for stellar amplification, the DX2MAE is a total package.
- HPL guitars are designed to play and sound great out-of-the-box
- Electronics onboard are consistent, comparable to high-end guitars
- HPL is tough, but it’s brittle
- Some players don’t like the plastic feel of richlite
In 2018, Ibanez has introduced three models in its AEW series and one of them is the Ibanez AEWC300. This guitar has some unique design features from Ibanez, including the next-level contouring for the back and sides, as well as the “Special Cutaway.” The former offers maximum ergonomics, while the latter for immaculate access to the upper frets — for outstanding playability.
It comes with Fishman pickup and Ibanez AEQ-SP2 preamp that offer an excellent reproduction of the natural tonal characteristics of the instrument. Since this guitar is made of solid spruce top and maple back and sides, you’ll also get rich acoustic sound. To enhance the guitar sound, you can take advantage of the bass, treble, volume controls and built-in tuner on the Ibanez AEWC300.
- Impressive playability because of the asymmetrical neck and special cutaway
- Sounds great, perfect for gigs and home use
- Perfect setup out of the box
- Better when plugged that when unplugged
Factors to Consider When Buying an Acoustic-Electric Guitar Under $500
Since you’ve already defined your budget, you’re already a few steps closer to your new acoustic-electric guitar. Again, as mentioned earlier, even though you have set your budget, it’s still not a guarantee that you can easily find the best acoustic-electric guitar under $500. But, with my help, perhaps, you can.
Here’s a quick guideline that I frequently used when I’m on the look for new musical instruments, including guitars, of course:
Different body shapes and styles of the acoustic-electric guitars are not just designed for no reason. Actually, this should be your first consideration since it will affect your comfort and the way you play the guitar. Additionally, some guitars with specific body shapes are designed for a specific purpose.
If you want a versatile guitar, get a dreadnought since it’s very comfortable to play different music styles with this guitar, stated a Dawsons Blog. Perhaps a smaller-size, parlor-size or concert is better for singer-songwriters so the guitar won’t compete with your vocals. Lastly, jumbo guitars are perfect if you want more volume, plus better playability.
A very important feature, which isn’t found on some acoustic-electric guitars. The cutaway will help you access the upper frets more comfortably. Some say that the cutaway affects the sound of the guitar, but since you have electronics onboard, this slight difference may not be noticed.
More than the beautiful grains and natural color of the guitar tonewoods, they also have distinct sound quality. Hence, it’s very important to know the different wood types used and what are their tonal characteristics. As you can read from the article, you can have Spruce, Mahogany, Maple, and Rosewood, as the most common wood types.
Spruce in most guitar tops offers fuller tone, while mahogany, which is mostly for back and sides gives clear punch and excellent mid to high-end response. Maple, which is also used for back and sides allows top wood to shine, while the Rosewood gives overall darkness to the sound. Learn more about tonewoods from The Vault.
Laminate vs Solid Top
For a budget of less than $500, you can find guitars with a solid top, but there are also a few guitars (of much cheaper price) that are made of laminate material. The topwood of the guitar has the most impact on the overall sound of the guitar, claimed Guitar Center. This means it’s important to know the difference between a laminate and solid top.
A solid top is made of solid pieces of wood, which is usually one piece of wood split into two and are matched in the middle. The laminate, on the other hand, is made of inexpensive layers of wood glued and pressed together. This means, in general, solid wood top can provide better sound quality and resonance than laminate.
On top of these, you’ll also learn a lot from this YouTube video. This will give you 10 tips on how to pick the best guitar for you. You’ll learn how to weigh your budget, the size, the brand, and of course, the advantages of buying an acoustic-electric guitar.
- Best Acoustic-Electric Guitars
- Best Acoustic-Electric Guitar under $200
- Best Acoustic-Electric Guitar under $300
- Best Acoustic-Electric Guitar under $1000
If you have a budget of around $500, you should get a stage-ready acoustic-electric guitar. You’ll be able to pull out a pleasant sound quality whether plugged or unplugged. And, out of the 10, I find the two Yamaha guitars to be the best acoustic-electric guitars under $500.
Yet, from the two, my ultimate choice is the Yamaha FSX830C. It’s a classic guitar, which roots can still be traced back to the amazing FG “folk guitar” in 1966. It’s made of solid spruce top with rosewood back and sides. You’ll get rich overtones and better sustain coming out of the FSX830C.
The one differentiating factor of this instrument from the rest is how this small folk body offers great sound with the help of the System-66 electronics onboard. Since it’s made by a reputable company, it feels and plays like heaven, giving you more inspiration to keep learning the guitar. If it’s a Yamaha, it is one of the best — or the absolute best.