Best Acoustic Electric Guitar Under $500 (Review 2023)

Best-Acoustic-Electric-Guitar-Under-500
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As an avid guitarist, I’m always on the lookout for quality acoustic electric guitars that won’t break the bank. With so many options under $500, it can be tricky to determine which ones offer the best value in terms of sound, playability, and durability.

In this review, I’ll share my top picks for the best acoustic electric guitars under 500 based on extensive research and hands-on testing. I evaluated factors like tonewoods, electronics, craftsmanship, and brand reputation across various body styles.

Whether you’re a beginner seeking a quality starter instrument or a gigging musician in need of an affordable and reliable acoustic electric, this review will help you find the perfect guitar for your budget and playing style.

Our Top 3 Recommendations

Preview
Best Overall
Yamaha FGX800C Solid Top Cutaway Acoustic-Electric Guitar, Dreadnought
Popular Choice
Fender CD-60SCE Solid Top Dreadnought Acoustic-Electric Guitar - All Mahogany Bundle with Hard Case, Instrument Cable,...
Best Portability
Martin LX1E Little Martin Solid Sitka Spruce/Mahogany HPL Acoustic/Electric w/Gig Bag
Title
Yamaha FGX800C
Fender CD-60SCE
Martin LX1E
Top
Solid Spruce
Solid Spruce
Spruce
Body
Nato/Okoume
Mahogany
Mahogany HPL
Neck
Nato
Mahogany
Rust Birch Laminate
Scale Length
25.5"
25.3"
23"
Best Overall
Preview
Yamaha FGX800C Solid Top Cutaway Acoustic-Electric Guitar, Dreadnought
Title
Yamaha FGX800C
Top
Solid Spruce
Body
Nato/Okoume
Neck
Nato
Scale Length
25.5"
Details
Popular Choice
Preview
Fender CD-60SCE Solid Top Dreadnought Acoustic-Electric Guitar - All Mahogany Bundle with Hard Case, Instrument Cable,...
Title
Fender CD-60SCE
Top
Solid Spruce
Body
Mahogany
Neck
Mahogany
Scale Length
25.3"
Details
Best Portability
Preview
Martin LX1E Little Martin Solid Sitka Spruce/Mahogany HPL Acoustic/Electric w/Gig Bag
Title
Martin LX1E
Top
Spruce
Body
Mahogany HPL
Neck
Rust Birch Laminate
Scale Length
23"
Details

Review Of Best Acoustic Electric Guitar Under 500

After hours of strumming, researching, and comparing, I’ve found the cream of the crop in our budget range. Let’s dive into the spotlighted star that truly stands out as the top acoustic electric guitar under 500 dollars.

1. Yamaha FGX800C Dreadnought

Yamaha FGX800C Solid Top Cutaway Acoustic-Electric Guitar, Dreadnought

When I kicked off my search for the best acoustic-electric guitars under $500, Yamaha’s popular FG series guitar Yamaha FGX800C quickly stood out. Having tried and tested many in the electro-acoustic guitar category, this Yamaha model edged ahead, even against strong contenders like the Fender CD-60SCE.

Priced similarly around $350-$400, the FGX800C boasts some impressive features:

  • Solid spruce top
  • Nato/Okoume Back & Sides
  • Nato neck
  • Rosewood fingerboard
  • System 66 preamp and under-saddle piezo pickup

The primary difference between the Yamaha and Fender is in the back and side wood – Yamaha opts for nato, which is tonally close to mahogany. But aesthetics aside, what you’re really going to love is the sound.

Performance-wise, the guitar sounds as gracefully as it looks. As you strum its strings, you’ll be able to enjoy a mix of low and mid-range notes. The blend of quality materials in its build leads to warm tones with well-balanced chords.

The resonance and clarity the FGX800C delivers are truly remarkable for its price range, even suitable for those into fingerstyle guitar playing or folk music.

Pros:

  • Clear and balanced sound
  • Durable and well-constructed
  • Affordable for its quality
  • Comfortable to play, particularly for the experienced

Cons:

  • Nato isn’t as traditional as mahogany
  • Might be a bit large for smaller players

Verdict:

If you’re after top-notch sound, durability and value at the most affordable price, the Yamaha FGX800C is a no-brainer. It’s been my go-to recommendation for friends and now it tops this list. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced guitarist, this Yamaha acoustic electric guitar won’t let you down.


2. Fender CD-60SCE Dreadnought

Fender CD-60SCE Solid Top Dreadnought Acoustic-Electric Guitar - All Mahogany Bundle with Hard Case, Instrument Cable, Tuner, Strap, Strings, Picks, and Austin Bazaar Instructional DVD

The Fender CD-60SCE acoustic-electric guitar is one of Fender’s flagships in the budget category. This guitar reminds me a lot of the earlier CD-60 models but with a nice addition of the onboard Fishman electronics.

This Fender CD-60SCE feature consists of:

  • Dreadnought cutaway body shape
  • Solid Spruce Top
  • Mahogany back and sides
  • Mahogany neck
  • Walnut fingerboard
  • Fishman pickup/preamp system

The solid spruce top combined with mahogany back and sides gives it a rich, warm tone with ample resonance. While this Fender guitar offers clarity and balance, the Yamaha FGX800C may have a slight edge in terms of overall sound quality.

The Fender’s Easy-to-Play neck shape, along with the rolled fingerboard edges, is a blessing. It’s friendly for both beginners trying to form chords and experienced players cruising through scales.

The Fishman pickup is decent, capturing the guitar’s natural tone without too much coloration. However, you might find it a tad underwhelming at higher volumes.

Visually, the CD-60SCE isn’t a stunner but is clean and neat. The dreadnought body style with cutaway design is definitely a plus for those wanting to venture into the higher frets.

Also Read: Fender CD-60CE Review

Pros:

  • Solid spruce top with scalloped “X” bracing offers quality sound projection
  • Comfortable neck design for all levels of players
  • Venetian-Cutaway design for easier high-fret access
  • Left-handed guitars available

Cons:

  • Comparatively Heavy
  • The sound might be a bit thin for some at higher volumes
  • Aesthetic design is simple and may not appeal to everyone

Verdict:

The Fender CD-60SCE is an ideal starting point for beginners and a great pick for seasoned players seeking a dependable choice for smaller venues. If you desire the Fender sound quality without a hefty price tag, this could be your best bet. Though it may not boast the loudest output in the sub-$500 category, its playability and tonal clarity are particularly enticing for newcomers.


3. Martin LX1E Little Martin

Martin LX1E Little Martin Solid Sitka Spruce/Mahogany HPL Acoustic/Electric w/Gig Bag

Diving deep into my guitar collection, the Martin LX1E Little Martin holds a special place. It stands out, even among the best acoustic guitars under 500 dollars. For those who believe in the adage, “You get what you pay for”, this guitar defies that norm.

Although Martin is renowned for some of the more expensive guitars on the market, the LX1E manages to encapsulate the brand’s essence at a more accessible price.

Here’s what it boasts:

  • Solid Sitka spruce top
  • Mahogany HPL back and sides
  • Rust birch laminate neck
  • Richlite fretboard
  • Fishman Sonitone electronics

With a 23″ scale length, this steel-string acoustic guitar may be petite, but its voice is undeniably mighty. Paired with Fishman electronics, you can count on great sound quality, making it a sought-after companion for travel escapades, student practice sessions, or cozy campfire strumming right in your backyard.

While some Martins might break the bank, the LX1E proves quality can come without the hefty price tag.

Pros:

  • Compact and perfect for travel
  • Outstanding sound for its size
  • Martin’s iconic craftsmanship

Cons:

  • Smaller size might not suit everyone
  • Pricier compared to other guitars in its category

Verdict:

The Martin LX1E Little Martin is the epitome of craftsmanship and sound, making it arguably the best small body acoustic guitar under 500, all packed in a travel-friendly size. If you’ve ever craved the richness of a Martin without emptying your wallet, this compact guitar could be your answer.


4. Epiphone Hummingbird Studio

Epiphone Hummingbird Studio Acoustic/Electric Guitar

Shifting gears from the exotic flair of the Martin Guitar, we’re diving into the classic domain with the Epiphone Hummingbird Studio. For those diving into the world of acoustic-electric guitars, especially those on a budget, the Hummingbird is a name that frequently tops lists of affordable acoustic electric guitars under 500.

At first glance, the iconic design resonates with history. But beyond its aesthetic, here’s what makes this piece tick:

Donner Musical Instruments
  • Spruce top giving it that resonant sound
  • Mahogany back and sides to complement that depth
  • SlimTaper “D” profile mahogany neck
  • Rosewood fretboard
  • Fishman Sonicore under-saddle pickup

The built-in adjustable truss rod ensures optimal neck alignment and playability. Its solid build brings out a rich harmonic texture, while the overtone series it produces is both nuanced and captivating, making it a standout in its category.

Pros:

  • Timeless design and aesthetics
  • Big and bold sound
  • Slim playable neck
  • Reliable built-in electronics

Cons:

  • A little on the heavier side
  • Lacks some of the exotic flare of other guitars in its price range

Verdict:

The Epiphone Hummingbird Studio is a time-tested gem among acoustic-electric guitars. For those prioritizing a blend of classic design and rich sound without breaking the bank, this one’s a no-brainer. Whether you’re a newbie or an old-timer, the Hummingbird never disappoints.


5. Ibanez AW54CEOPN Artwood Dreadnought Guitar

Ibanez AW54CEOPN Artwood Dreadnought Acoustic/Electric Guitar - Open Pore Natural

While many often turn to Ibanez for their electric prowess, it shouldn’t be forgotten that they craft some of the best acoustic-electric guitars for those on a budget. The Ibanez AW54CEOPN Artwood Dreadnought is a testament to that.

Its open pore finish illustrates woods’ exotic natural pores that are visually stunning and protect the genuine characteristics of tonewood. 

Its mesmerizing solid top combined with a Mahogany/Okoume body delivers an exceptionally loud and bright tone. The overall sound projection of this instrument can easily compete with guitars in the $600-$700 price range.

Here’s a breakdown of its features:

  • Solid Okoume top
  • Okoume back and sides
  • Nyatoh neck
  • Laurel fretboard and bridge
  • Chrome Die-cast tuners
  • Ibanez AEQ-SP2 preamp with onboard tuner

For those diving into various playing styles across genres, this Ibanez Artwood acoustic electric guitar offers versatility and tonal richness. At around the $350 mark, considering the brand and what it brings to the table, it’s a steal!

Pros:

  • Lightweight and comfortable to hold
  • Versatile guitar for multiple playing styles and genres
  • Reliable Ibanez AEQ-SP2 preamp with an onboard tuner
  • Built in tuner
  • Balanced XLR & 1/4″ outputs

Cons:

  • No gigbag offered with the guitar
  • May need to replace the stock strings
  • Traditionalists might want a more conventional strap placement

Verdict:

For players hunting for a reliable and resonant steel-string acoustic guitar at an affordable price, the AW54CEOPN from the Ibanez Artwood series is a front-runner. It blends the quality everyone expects from top-tier brands with a cost that won’t leave your wallet weeping. A must-consider for both novices and pros.


6. Yamaha APX600 Thin Body

Yamaha APX600 BL Thin Body Acoustic-Electric Guitar, Black

The Yamaha APX600 is the successor to the renowned APX500, which is one of Yamaha’s best-selling electro-acoustic guitars.

The APX600 features a spruce top and locally sourced tonewood for the back and sides, ensuring both durability and resonant sound. Its slim nato neck paired with a rosewood fingerboard provides comfort during extended playing sessions.

Here are some other specs:

  • Thinline cutaway body
  • Rosewood fingerboard and bridge
  • System 65A preamp piezo pickup system
  • 25 inches scale length
  • 22 frets on the fretboard

With the Preamp with Piezo Pickup, players can achieve a clear and amplified tone without losing the instrument’s natural acoustic qualities. The overall tonality is bright and well-balanced, suitable for various genres.

The strings are rather closely placed, to balance out the slim diagram of the guitar which doesn’t really affect or cause any discomfort during strumming. When I first played the APX600, I was pleasantly surprised at how a slim guitar like this one can produce such a full sound.

Pros:

  • Slim body design
  • Solid construction
  • Good sound quality
  • Advanced bracing pattern
  • Simple yet effective and quality hardware

Cons:

  • Might not produce the deep bass tones that a full-sized guitar offers
  • Some may find the body too slender for their preference
  • Frets are on the smaller side

Verdict:

The Yamaha APX600 BL is a good cheap acoustic-electric guitar that offers a blend of comfort, aesthetics, and sound quality that few others in its price range can rival. I recommend this guitar mainly to beginners learning to play both plugged in and acoustically; however, it truly is a great guitar suitable for musicians of any skill level.


7. Epiphone PR-4E Player Pack

Epiphone PR-4E Acoustic/Electric Guitar Player Package

Stepping into the acoustic guitar world, the Epiphone PR-4E, especially with its alluring bundle pack, is a favorite among newcomers, offering everything needed to start jamming right out of the box.

Sporting a design reminiscent of some of the best acoustic guitars you’d find on a tight budget, this one is crafted for those taking their first steps into the world of strumming and plucking.

The Epiphone PR-4E isn’t like classical guitars; it’s an offering in the realm of affordable guitars with features that set it apart.

Its features include:

  • Jumbo body shape
  • Spruce top, Mahogany body and sides
  • Mahogany neck
  • Rosewood fingerboard and bridge
  • Epiphone 3-band EQ

Pros:

  • Quality built-in electronics for that amplified sound
  • Comfortable neck profile, perfect for beginners
  • Bundle pack includes all necessary accessories

Cons:

  • Doesn’t quite match the tonal depth of higher-end models
  • Might need a set-up out of the box for optimal playability

Verdict:

For those seeking the best cheap acoustic-electric guitar as their first instrument, the Epiphone PR-4E is an excellent choice. It’s a quality guitar that offers more than you’d expect at its price point. If you’re diving into the budget acoustic guitars market, this one should be on your radar. Check out the full review here.


Why Should You Buy An Acoustic-Electric Guitar?

An acoustic-electric instrument is ideal if you are going to perform live on the stage or want to record your music.

Traditional acoustic guitars do not have the volume and projection to provide enough coverage in large halls. If you connect your electro-acoustic guitar to an amp or PA system, then you will be able to deliver your music to larger audiences.

Not only that, but you’ll be able to record your compositions by plugging directly into a mixer or audio interface!

The electro-acoustic guitar has a built-in preamp and pickup that captures the sound from the guitar’s top and body. This allows you to plug into an external amplification source and achieve much higher volume levels than a pure acoustic guitar could produce.

Many acoustic-electrics also include equalization controls, allowing you to shape your tone by boosting or cutting certain frequencies. This level of tone control simply isn’t possible with a standard acoustic.

Even if you just want more volume for practicing or jamming with friends, an acoustic-electric can be a good choice. Turning up the preamp and adding a bit of reverb or delay from a small practice amp can liven up your sound.

However, I think that for quiet practice or playing alone at home, an acoustic-electric is likely overkill both in terms of cost and complexity.

Unless you really need amplified volume, effects, EQ shaping, and stage/recording versatility, you aren’t going to benefit much from an acoustic-electric guitar. Consider what and where you want to play before investing extra money into an acoustic-electric model.

What To Look For When Buying An Acoustic Electric Guitar?

Style: Every guitar player has certain things that are unique to his/her style of playing. For instance, some will feel comfortable playing jumbo guitars while others will opt for soft nylon over steel strings. So when you decide you want a new electro-acoustic guitar, first determine your playing style.

Type of Electronics: As would be the case if you were buying an electro-acoustic guitar, you need to make a decision regarding the type of electronics.

  • Active electronics- These guitars have a piezo transducer for the prevention of signal loss. They often come with preamp systems that run on batteries and three bands of equalization.
  • Piezo saddle transducers- These are lightweight pickups used alongside preamp systems. They enable you to connect to an amplifier.
  • Dual-source systems- These guitars will have a piezo transducer as well as a mic integrated into the body. The benefit of these electronics is that they have lots of amplification.

Body: There are two main kinds of acoustic-electric guitars: those with a large body and those with a small body. If you’re looking for one that delivers fuller, louder tones, the big-bodied guitar is your best chance. But if you want one that’s easy to handle and carry around, then a small-body guitar is better.

Are acoustic-electric guitars good for beginners?

Yes, acoustic-electric guitars are a good choice for beginners. However, these guitars may be more expensive than acoustic guitars with comparable sound.

Acoustic-electrics are essentially steel string acoustic guitars that may be hooked to an amp. Other than the electronics, these guitars deliver the same features as regular acoustics, but at a higher price due to the included electronics.

However, given the higher price, I think that an electro-acoustic guitar is the best choice for those who intend to perform on stage. Otherwise, you will be wasting your guitar’s potential.

Aside from that, if you are not intending to connect your guitar to an amp, then there’s again no point in spending money on an electro-acoustic guitar.

But if you do find a good acoustic guitar for a good price, then go for it – you will be able to digitize your performances in the future!

Final Words

Different players will consider different things when purchasing acoustic-electric guitars. However, the most essential features that top everyone’s list are budget, sound performance, and experience.

All the guitars that I’ve reviewed strike a good balance between pricing and playability. They are all sorted as the best acoustic electric guitars under $500 due to affordable pricing and they are fitted with advanced features that you’d expect in higher-priced models.

If you’re not able to decide on which one is the best, consider your style of playing, the set of electronics you deem important, and the guitar’s shape.

About the Author

guitar teacher
Music Teacher

Gustavo is a music teacher and classical guitar player from Brazil, currently residing in Dublin, Ireland. He holds a graduate degree in Classical Guitar Performance from the Federal University of Pelotas. In 2020, Gustavo successfully completed a Master's degree in Sound Engineering from the Academy of Sound in Ireland.

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