Over the years, some of the greatest albums such as A Hard Day’s Night, Ocean and Space Oddity have been produced on 12 string guitars.
The distinctive shine of the 12 string guitar has inspired musicians worldwide and this musical instrument still remains a very important part of modern music.
Today, 12 string guitars are quite hot in the market and are quite popular for their attractive designs, top-notch build quality and robust, rich tones.
There are so many choices of 12 string guitars available, that you may be quite confused about what to buy. So, here is our review that will give you a complete lowdown on the top 12 string guitars on the market and will help you buy your dream guitar!
And if you are still on the fence about getting a 12-string, you can check out our 12-string VS 6-string guitar comparison to help you decide!
Quick Answer: Best 12 String Guitars in 2020
- Best 12 String Acoustic Guitar: Yamaha FG820
- Best 12 String Electric Guitar: Dean Boca 12-String
- Best Acoustic Electric 12 String Guitar: Fender CD-60SCE
- Best 12 String Acoustic Guitar Under $200: Oscar Schmidt OD312CE
- Best 12 String Acoustic Guitar Under $500: Epiphone DR-212
- Best Value 12 String Acoustic Guitar: Ibanez Performance Series
12 String Guitar Reviews – Our Top 6
1. Best 12 String Acoustic Guitar: Yamaha FG820
- Solid Sitka Spruce Top
- Mahogany Back & Sides
- Rosewood Fingerboard
With several years of experience in guitars, Yamaha’s FG series offers excellent build, musical tone and playability. The Yamaha FG820 is a very well-made and beautifully constructed guitar with a solid top made of spruce and back and sides made of mahogany, which produces a beautiful tone that is rounded, warm, smooth and mellow.
The fingerboard is made of rosewood and the matching binding makes it very easy for you to play the guitar. This is an acoustic-only model and it does not have a cutaway; however, it will provide excellent performance in the right environment. The scalloped bracing design of the 12-string guitar ensures that the sound that you get is robust and well balanced. The Yamaha FG820 has a natural sound that is loud and punchy; however, it produces mid-range frequencies too.
This is a beautiful looking guitar and the spruce top adds a touch of style to the classy instrument. The guitar is easy to fingerpick and the notes can be isolated very easily, which makes the Yamaha FG820 a great 12-string acoustic guitar for beginners. And, the best part is that the price of the guitar is very affordable, which makes it an excellent value buy.
- Affordable and great value
- Solid and well-made guitar
- Well-balanced, smooth sound
- Easy to play
- Does not come with a case
- Does not have a cutaway
2. Best 12 String Electric Guitar: Dean Boca 12-String
- Mahogany Top
- Bolt-On Neck
- Rosewood Fingerboard
If you love the jangle sound of classic rock, then you’re sure to love the style and fantastic sound of the Dean Boca 12-string electric guitar. The guitar features a semi-hollowbody and it has arched, as well as dual humbuckers that give the instrument a rounded, warm sound and excellent substance.
The guitar has a bridge that can be adjusted with a stop-bar tailpiece, Grover tuners and a Jatoba fretboard that make the Dean Boca electric guitar great fun to play.
Weighing around 8 lbs, the body of the guitar is made of mahogany, the back is of solid wood and it has a rosewood fretboard. This great electric guitar is available in a classic black finish. When compared to other expensive 12-string guitars, the Dean Boca has a great tone and sound for the price.
- Attractive, sleek looks
- Great sound
- Quite affordable
- 3-way pickup selector
- Chrome hardware
- The guitar needs to be tuned continuously
- For the full effect, you need an amp
3. Best Acoustic Electric 12 String Guitar: Fender CD-60SCE
- Dreadnought cutaway body style
- Fishman low-profile pickup/preamp
- Solid spruce top with scalloped "X"-bracing
The Fender CD-60SCE is an excellent acoustic electric guitar if you are a beginner and you can use it until you reach the intermediate level. Not only is the guitar high in quality, but it is also extremely user friendly and versatile, thanks to its cutaway design and dreadnought with a mahogany lamination all around.
The lamination is not very high in quality; however, this is offset by the well-made build of the guitar and the scalloped X bracing.
The Fender CD-60SCE features a stylish rosewood saddle and fretboard. It includes the Fishman Isys III, which includes an excellent active preamp, 3-band EQ and tuner, all of which together deliver a good tone.
The instrument is equipped with die-cast tuning machines which allow you to use the instrument comfortably. This 12-string acoustic electric guitar delivers the warmth, projection and tone needed by any beginner.
- Venetian cutaway body of the guitar allows easy access to the fret.
- Neck with the rolled fingerboard edges makes the guitar very easy to play.
- Left-handed models available.
- In-built tuner
- Spruce top is solid with scalloped X bracing.
- Low quality lamination
- Quite heavy
- Glued-in peg straps
4. Best 12 String Acoustic Guitar Under $200: Oscar Schmidt OD312CE
- select spruce top
- mahogany body
- full scale fretboard
The Oscar Schmidt OD312CE is a great beginner’s guitar. This dreadnought-style guitar has a cutaway that allows you to access the fretboard completely. The guitar has a high-quality build with a spruce top and the sides and back are made of mahogany, while the fingerboard and bridge are made of rosewood.
The guitar has a truss rod that is adjustable and has chrome die-cast tuners. The electrics of the Oscar Schmidt OD312CE features an active EQ, a preamp and an in-built tuner.
Although in terms of the price the Oscar Schmidt 12-string is quite cheap, it is in no way low in quality. In fact, the instrument is very well made, has a beautiful design, produces a warm sound and is extremely comfortable to play. Overall, the Oscar Schmidt OD312CE is a great, high-quality guitar for the price.
- Produces a well-balanced sound
- Well-made instrument
- Durable and long-lasting
- Basic electrics
- On the heavier side
5. Best 12 String Acoustic Guitar Under $500: Epiphone DR-212
The Epiphone DR-212 is a traditional 12-string dreadnought guitar with a spruce top and a mahogany body. The spruce brings out the crisp sound, while the mahogany body produces a warm and deep tone. The guitar also has a mahogany neck that brings out the lower frequencies and adds resonance to the middle frequencies.
The guitar has a 1.75-inch nut width that is very easy to play and is an excellent guitar for beginners. The dreadnought of the guitar produces warm and resonant tones and the soundboard bracing of the instrument makes up for the sound accuracy.
Overall, the Epiphone DR-212 is an excellent instrument that has all the qualities you require in a 12-string guitar; a strong and sturdy build, easy and comfortable playability and impressive sound, all at a very affordable price.
- Produces good sound
- Well-built guitar
- Very affordable price
- Requires frequent tuning
- No electrics
6. Best Value 12 String Acoustic Guitar: Ibanez Performance Series
- 12-string model
- Dreadnought body
- Spruce top
If you are looking for a great value 12-string acoustic guitar, then the Ibanez Performance Series 12-String Dreadnought Guitar is a great choice. The guitar offers top quality, excellent sound and great features – all at a very affordable price. The high-quality 12-string acoustic guitar is backed by the renowned Ibanez name.
The full-size Ibanez 12-String has mahogany sides and back. The neck of the guitar is made of mahogany too and the top is made of spruce. The guitar has a natural finish and it has die-cast tuners, multi rosette and top binding.
All-in-all, the top-notch quality, excellent features and finish of the Ibanez 12-String Dreadnought Guitar and its inexpensive price, makes the guitar a “best value” buy.
- Offers incredible value for the price
- Produces good sound without any buzz
- Loud, clear tones enhance playability
- Dreadnought body
- Requires quite frequent tuning
- The case must be purchased separately
12-String or 6-String Guitar?
If you have decided to learn to play the guitar, then deciding on the type of guitar to buy is the most important decision to make. There are so many different kinds of guitars to choose from that you may be left wondering as to what kind of guitar you should purchase. However, the most important factor to consider is the number of strings your guitar should have.
While it is the 6-string guitar that you see most people playing, you may have seen 12-string guitars in the music store and may have wondered if this may be a better option for you. Well, there are many factors to consider before deciding if a 6-string or a 12-string guitar is the best suited for you.
Ease of Learning a 12 String Guitar
Obviously, since the 6-string guitar has only 6 strings, it is much easier to learn when compared to its 12-string counterpart. This also allows you to build your dexterity and finger strength more easily. So, if you are a beginner, are starting out and have never played the guitar before, then a basic 6-string guitar might be the best choice for you.
By nature, 12-string guitars are more difficult to learn, which may not make them an ideal choice, especially for beginners. Also, they are best when you are just strumming the chords or you make use of a pick to pluck single notes. If you are playing moderate or complex melodies by fingerpicking, then the 12-strings can make the song much more difficult to play than if you were simply using 6-strings.
The tuning of a 6-string guitar is much easier than a 12-string one. There are only 6 tuners and each string of the 6-string guitar has its unique, distinctive sound. Also, playing tricks such as pull-offs, string bends and hammer-ons on a 6-string guitar is much easier since these are single-string techniques.
On the other hand, tuning of a 12-string guitar is not very difficult, it is only more time consuming. In most of the cases, the extra strings are just tuned to the same notes, but at different octaves. Nevertheless, by tuning the strings creatively, the strings can get their own voice that creates an illusion that two guitars are playing at a time and the result can be truly amazing.
If you’re on a tight budget, then it’s sure to be good news that a 6-string guitar is much cheaper when compared to a 12-string instrument. While a top-end 6-string guitar can be quite expensive, you are sure to find a basic model with a decent set of features for around $150 or even less.
While 12-string guitars produce the most beautiful sound, they are quite expensive too. It is extremely difficult to come by 12-string guitars that cost less than $200. And, it is not always recommended that you purchase a cheap model because inexpensive guitars may not last you very long. A basic 12-string guitar will cost you $200 to $300 more than a 6-string guitar.
It is very easy to understand why people love the 12-string guitar when you play it. These guitars produce a very rich and full sound with excellent diversity of tonal nuances. A 6-string guitar means half the strings, which means half the sound.
And, it is quite possible that after you listen to a 12-string guitar, you may find the sound of a 6-string instrument to be comparatively hollower and less interesting. This is particularly true if you try to play a song that has been written, as well as recorded on a 12-string guitar on a 6-string one.
Although most rock songs are performed on 6-string guitars, there are the classics like Stairway to Heaven, Ocean and Maggie May, that were played and recorded on 12-string instruments.
Most rock and pop songs are usually written, performed and recorded on a 6-string guitar and if you want to play the songs like they are played professionally, then you will want a 6-string guitar that can replicate the sound accurately. And, you may find that to play popular songs, a 12-string guitar may be a complete waste of both time and money as all those strings can become unnecessary and distracting.
However, if your objective is to stand out in a crowd, then you may not really be able to do it with a 6-string guitar and you may need a 12-string guitar for that.
Deciding on a Good 12-String Guitar
So, the final choice between the two instruments boils down to a few factors. Firstly, it is a matter of your personal choice of how you want your guitar to sound and what you would like to play. You need to decide whether you prefer the simple tone of a 6-string guitar or do you want a full, well-rounded and rich sound that a 12-string guitar can offer.
Another important factor that will influence your decision is your budget. If you are on a tight budget, then an inexpensive 6-string guitar is more reliable than a 12-string, which is very good only if you spend a substantial amount of money on it. And finally, you need to consider how much you really know about the guitar. If you have played for several years or if you are a beginner. All these factors will play a huge role in deciding the type of guitar you will choose.
And, if you do decide that you want to buy a 12 string guitar after considering all the factors and are confused about which brand or model to buy, then our reviews of the best 12-string guitars in 2020 along with their pros and cons should help you in making your decision as to which is the best one for you!
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Simon is a music lover, musical instrument player and passionate audio afficionado. When he is not playing the guitar or listening to music he is either eating tacos or snoring too loudly.