Updated on March 22, 2021 by Lyric Fergusson
Acoustic-electric guitars are a great investment for musicians of any skill level. Both beginners and experts who plan to perform live or record their music benefit from the features.
Acoustic-electric guitars come equipped with a pickup and preamp for producing amplified sound and recording directly, reducing the need for microphones. Most professionals opt for an acoustic-electric to optimize the quality of sound.
Not sure how to choose one that fits your budget? Here are the 7 best acoustic-electric guitars under $500.
Best Acoustic-Electric Guitars Under $500
(Best for beginners)
If you’re just getting started, this bundle comes with all the beginner essentials. It includes a gig bag, cleaning cloth, extra set of strings, strap, and high-quality Fender picks.
The guitar has a built-in tuner, but the clip-on tuner that’s included will come in handy as a backup should the battery fail.
Reviews consistently praise the out-of-box quality of the Yamaha APX600, as it doesn’t usually require very much setup for full, resonating sound.
Keep in mind: The gig back it comes with is perfect for keeping your guitar dust-free at home and light transport, but if you plan to travel frequently, you’ll want to invest in a case with more protection.
Good for: Beginners and giving as a gift set.
Standard quality features include a Fishman Sonicore pickup and a phase switch for knocking out feedback during live performances. Die-cast chrome Grover tuners are another high-quality perk.
Work the entire rosewood fretboard with an expertly designed cutaway.
Keep in mind: The soft wood is part of why this guitar sounds incredible, but be careful handling it to avoid scratches.
Good for: Maximizing quality and value at a very budget-friendly price.
(Most highly rated)
The attractive, mahogany body has an ideal shape for comfortable play and produces warm tones comparable to much pricier instruments. The forgiving rosewood fretboard is complimented by precision-tuned action, making it easier to play and produce incredible harmonics.
Keep in mind: While you can certainly expect this guitar to sound great as-is, upgrading to premium strings like Elixir is the best way to get the sound that earns the GD11MCE-NS its rave reviews.
Good for: Both beginners and experts, those looking for a longer term investment, and trusted brand reputation.
Why it’s great: You are most likely familiar with Fender products, and for good reasons. They’re famous for an array of instruments and amplifiers, having built a cult following of loyal music lovers.
Fishman electronics offer excellent live and recorded sound quality, but the thoughtful craftsmanship of the CD-60SCE sounds amazing unplugged, too.
This bundle is an incredible value. It includes a hard-shell case for optimal protection during travel, as well as an extra set of Fender brand strings, clip-on tuner, picks, and a cable for plugging in.
Left-handed musicians will be glad to know that there’s an option just for you.
Keep in mind: People love this guitar, but agree that it benefits from a bit more setup. If you don’t know how to do it yourself, it doesn’t cost much to have it done by a professional.
Good for: Both right and left-handed players, as there are options for each. Keeping the total cost under $500 with included accessories, like a hardshell case.
(Best updated classic)
The 800 boasts some updates that only improve upon the existing quality: Yamaha engineers have meticulously analyzed the acoustics with modern technology and developed a new kind of scalloped bracing system that brings out more of the natural sound.
They’ve also adjusted the build to make it more durable, so it’s a guitar you can be sure will last.
Keep in mind: The Yamaha FGX800C is relatively lightweight. Some musicians might see it as a perk, but it’s a factor to consider if you prefer a heavier instrument.
Good for: Beginners, quality on a budget, younger or smaller players who can benefit from the lighter weight.
(Best nylon string)
The design is a nod to traditional Spanish classical guitars, updated with a gentle cutaway and slightly thinner neck for easier play.
But it’s not just the appearance that will turn heads. The Cordoba C4-CE is praised for an excellent range and quality of sound for such an accessible price.
This versatile guitar handles strumming and picking with hardly any fret buzz, a typical complaint for many classical models with nylon strings.
Keep in mind: There aren’t built-in mounts for a strap, so look for a strap that will work without them.
Good for: Classical and cultural musicians or those who simply prefer the sound and feel of nylon strings.
(Best Slim Body)
Why it’s great: This guitar features a lyrachord body, meaning it’s much slimmer than standard acoustic guitars and has a rounded back that some feel is more comfortable. It’s a matter of preference that people of every size and shape might like, but anyone with a smaller build will surely appreciate the minimal weight and bulk.
The neck and fretboard are slimmer and slightly tapered, making it easier to play and really ideal for smaller hands. If you enjoy the feel of an electric guitar, this is a great choice because of the similarity in this area.
A solid Sitka Spruce top ensures clarity and resonance, in addition to making it more durable.
Keep in mind: If you’re used to the feel and shape of standard acoustic guitars, the rounded back and slimmer neck might take some getting used to. But many musicians feel these are immense benefits.
Good for: Electric guitar players, anyone looking for a more lightweight, slim, and easy-to-play shape.
FAQs about acoustic-electric guitars
1. How does price impact the quality of an acoustic-electric guitar?
While all of these guitars have excellent reviews and offer great quality, it’s also true that spending a little more often gets you higher quality components.
For example, the quality of the wood and whether or not the top is solid help determine the richness of sound, durability, and volume resonance.
The electronics are also something to consider. Guitars at the higher side of the under $500 price range usually come standard with better pickups and preamps, and more precise onboard tuners.
It’s also likely that the more you’re willing or able to spend, the more dedication to factory setup and detail can be expected. This helps reduce the amount of setup you’ll have to do or pay for before the guitar performs at its full potential.
2. How do I care for an acoustic-electric guitar?
First and foremost, always have the guitar set up properly once it’s out of the box. It doesn’t cost much but ensures all components are in order for the best possible sound. Periodically have it maintained as well, as you may need the action adjusted, tuners tightened, and other areas checked.
It’s best to protect any guitar from dust, but especially those that have inputs and electrical components. Protect your instrument from moisture and humidity, as it will warp the wood and potentially damage the electronics.
If your guitar does get dusty, polish the surface with a cleaning cloth and spray designed just for that purpose. You can find these items almost anywhere instruments are sold.
Be sure to swap out the strings as they stretch and wear out; the frequency depends entirely on how much you play.
If you plan to travel with your guitar, you’ll want to invest in a really good case to protect your instrument.
3. Do I need a special amplifier for an acoustic-electric guitar?
Plugging your acoustic-electric guitar into an electric guitar amp won’t cause any damage, but it’s not ideal.
Amps intended for electric guitars are built to work with a solid body and magnetic pickups (not a feature of their acoustic-electric cousin), as well as produce distortion.
What’s lacking are the components that boost volume and highlight both low and high frequencies in a way electric guitar amplifiers just can’t.
Since you probably want to get the best possible sound out of your instrument (particularly when it’s amplified), your best bet is to get an amplifier specifically designed for acoustic-electric guitars. Clarity is key, and that’s what you’ll get.
4. Do I need special cables for plugging in an acoustic-electric guitar?
While your amp really should be designed specifically for an acoustic-electric guitar, the good news is that you can use any cable intended for electric instruments.
What makes acoustic-electric guitars similar to electric guitars in this regard is the pickup. The cable works with that component to produce amplified sound. They are different types of pickups of course, but they both produce the same kind of signal.
While you can find a few cables marketed for acoustic-electric guitars, there doesn’t seem to be any specific information about how or why they are better.
With any cable purchase, however, you should invest in quality and durability. Less expensive cables tend to use cheaper materials that distort the sound of your guitar, which is exactly what you don’t want with acoustic tones.
5. How can I trust that buying an acoustic-electric guitar online is a good idea?
You can be confident that buying an acoustic-electric guitar on Amazon is one of the best ways to make your purchase.
Between their stock and the sellers that partner with them, you have access to the best prices and extensive reviews from customers with personal experience.
Amazon replaces items that arrive damaged or defective, as long as you contact customer service as soon as possible (read their policies to see how much time you have).
Unpack your guitar right away and inspect it carefully. Better yet, have it looked at by a professional who can let you know if something isn’t right.
If your guitar is shipped directly from a vendor, the item page will contain information about their policies and guarantees. You’ll likely work with both Amazon and the vendor to arrange a solution.
You don’t need to spend thousands to find a quality acoustic-electric guitar with great sound for your performance and recording needs. In fact, many happy reviewers have said that the guitars on this list sound similar if not better than instruments with a higher price tag.
As long as you know which factors are important (and what doesn’t matter as much), you’re sure to find the perfect guitar. If you’re on the fence, refer back to this list for notes on your favorite options any time.
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