We have quite the surprising lineup of acoustic electric guitars under $500.
It required a very close eye to detail since each and every guitar was well apt to be pitted against each other.
We’re excited to reveal the Top 9, but don’t be a hater if you don’t agree. We’ve got a full explanation of why they’re ranked and placed where they are.
There are some great sounding and excellent quality acoustic electric guitars on the market.
Let’s get this started!
The Top Acoustic-Electric Guitars Less Than $500 In 2021
Our lineup might not reflect the same rankings from other guitar gurus, but we’ve got good reason to back up our actions.
We took quality, value, and popularity into consideration, and we were stringent and impartial when it came to splitting hairs over very slim and tight margins.
The best acoustic electric guitar under $500 is the Seagull S6 Original QI. Made in America with a solid cedar top, laminate back and sides and 3 layered wild cherry wood, this guitar produces a unique signature indicative of the Seagull S6.
However if the Seagull is not for you we also showcase eight other excellent options in this price range of under 500 dollars.
While they may be premium instruments for the content beginner, we’re also concerned about how an intermediate player would benefit from putting down this amount of cash.
Keeping all this in mind, we were brutal in our rankings. Here’s the results!
Top 9 Best Acoustic Electric Guitars for Under $500
1. Seagull S6 Original QI – Best Under $400!
- Made in North America
- Select Pressure Tested Top
- Double Action Truss Rod
This guitar is one of the cheaper acoustic-electric guitar options in this lineup, but it’s in no way a cheap acoustic electric guitar. It’s still out of the price range for a beginner player, but its quality is something that will make any skilled player a proud owner.
The Seagull S6 Original QI is a North American-made instrument with a solid cedar top. While the back and sides might be made of laminate, it’s still 3-layered wild cherry wood that produces a unique signature indicative of the Seagull S6.
It gets our number 1 spot for a few reasons. There’s no legitimate complaint about the solid Seagull at time of writing. It’s made in North America, and its unique features such as the 3-layer laminate and the reverse headstock make it worthy of a high quality guitar. Seagull has done well with matching good value and performance here. We acknowledge the good quality.
2. Fender CD-140SCE
- Single-cutaway dreadnought body style
- Fishman Presys electronics
- Solid mahogany top with scalloped "X"-bracing
The ratings are high and the complaints are low – two vital factors we look for in a good acoustic electric guitar that takes the second rank. Even better, the Fender CD-140SCE acoustic electric guitar comes with an accessories bundle included in the purchase. Has it got value? It seems so, but what about the quality of the guitar?
With a solid spruce top and laminate back and sides, you’re getting what you should expect for the price. However, with that said, it’s one of only a rare few that offers a solid top in this price range of under $500 from the brand when comparing it to the laminate bodies of the Fender T-Bucket 300CE and the CD-60CE guitars.
When it comes to sound, it will be more than adequate and good enough to sate the expectations of all buyers. However, the guitar as a whole is more inline with an acoustic electric guitar a beginner guitarist would be looking for. A beginner acoustic electric guitar on the premium end is a deal worth taking advantage of!
3. Martin LX1E
- PROFESSIONAL SOUND: Martin’s Little Martin LX1E acoustic-electric guitar has a Sitka spruce top and high-pressure laminate (HPL) construction. It is Martin’s smallest guitar and while small in...
- SUPERIOR APPEARANCE: The Little Martin LX1R acoustic-electric guitars are made with a Sitka spruce top and mahogany high-pressure laminate (HPL) back and sides with a warm satin finish. These guitars...
- PREMIUM HANDMADE GUITARS: Handmade from the highest-quality wood, Little Martin guitars are built to stand up to late-night jams, long studio sessions, and plenty of strumming or picking. These...
We know what you’re thinking? A Martin guitar in this price range of under 500 dollars? The catch is it’s not a full size instrument, it’s more of a travel/parlor size acoustic electric guitar. How can that be useful? If you plan on hauling your guitar across state, this is the one you want to pack, not your $2000 Martin!
Sure, you’d be compromising on sound, especially on a travel size acoustic electric guitar, but with the Fishman Isys T electronics, you won’t have to worry about not being heard. Besides, it’s still a Martin!
But, why didn’t a Martin land in first in the rankings? The honest answer: it’s not a full-size guitar, it doesn’t have a “real” wood fretboard, and it’s pretty pricey considering. But, it does land in third because buyers are extremely impressed with the mini Martin. It also has a left-hand model available, it’s extremely durable and portable, and it’s a perfect alternative as a practice guitar to avoid wear-and-tear on your more valuable instruments.
4. Fender Tim Armstrong Hellcat – Under $400
- Solid Mahogany Top, Laminated Mahogany Back and Sides
- Scalloped X Bracing
- Fishman Isys III System
This is on the cheaper end of the lineup, but with an all-mahogany build, you know the sound impact is going to be dynamic! As a tribute guitar to a famed musician, you might appreciate the custom work put into this beauty. Does Tim Armstrong or Rancid ring any bells?
With a satin-finished neck, feel free to shred as much as you think you can. Although it’s not a Black finished guitar, iconic of Tim Armstrong’s trademark, the Natural and Ruby Red finishes does the guitar justice with its vintage appeal.
But, the guitar does nail it with the custom inlays. It’s by the far the most popular aspect of the instrument. With little to risk when it comes to price, and everything to gain when it comes to quality, the Hellcat could be yours for under 500 dollars.
5. Epiphone DOVE PRO
- Solid spruce top and maple back and sides.
- The Dove Pro also has the dovetail neck joint and slimtaper "D" profile.
- With Rosewood fingerboard and pearloid parallelogram inlays
Who has a couple thousand to drop on a guitar? Certainly not the majority of guitar players. In fact, it’s why Epiphone came out with the Pro Hummingbird and Dove guitars. It rivals the Gibson Hummingbird, but it tacks on a ton value for the best price in this budget range.
It’s a well-made acoustic electric guitar with an excellent reputation that exudes vintage appeal. Everything about it from its dreadnought shape, SlimTaper D profile neck, pearloid parallelogram inlays, and extremely detailed pick guard falls right into line with its custom theme.
With Shadow’s influence in the preamp and pickup systems, you know sound is never going to be an issue. Besides, if this Epiphone is going to be a look-alike, it should resemble in sound to the Gibson guitar too, right? Legendary musicians strummed the Gibson, are you good enough to play its affordable counterpart?
6. Epiphone EJ-200SCE
- Historic Jumbo-200 style design
- Solid Spruce Top
- Shadow eSonic-II Stereo Pickup System
If you can’t afford the revered “King of the Flat Tops” Gibson J 200 guitar, then settle for its more affordable twin, the Epiphone EJ-200SCE. Like its famous originator, it’s a jumbo acoustic-electric guitar with booming sounds and lots of impact – definitely not for the timid.
However, the price is timid compared to the potential the EJ 200 offers. In fact, you can likely find it online at well under $400, otherwise, the predictable price is around $400.
The excellent combination of the eSonic preamp with both Shadow’s NanoFlex and NanoMag pickups makes for live and distinct characteristics that no other guitar can duplicate. The EJ200 projects full sound packed with good value!
7. Takamine GD30CE-NAT
- Solid spruce top and mahogany back and sides that produce a rich, resonant sound
- Slim mahogany neck and 12"-radius rosewood fingerboard provide great feel and playability
- Takamine TP-4TD preamp system gives you a built-in tuner with three-band EQ and gain controls for excellent amplified performance and versatility
From the brand name alone, it’s not hard to see why this Takamine made the grade. But, how did it rank so low in this lineup? Considering all the factors that came into play to piece together this lineup, it landed in at number 7, only because its popularity isn’t where we’d like to see it – yet.
However, this affordable Takamine guitar is finally in your budget range. Yes, you read that right – a Takamine in your budget range of under $500. There are a few compromises in quality that allows a variety of players to finally own a Tak, but it had to happen, and that too played a part in the ranking system.
But, with a solid spruce top, the Takamine TP-4TD preamp system, and the soft Venetian-style cutaway makes for an awesome playing experience. If you know anything about Takamine electronics, you know you won’t ever expect problems. It’s a Tak, an affordable Tak at that!
8. Fender CD-60SCE Acoustic-Electric Guitar
Fender is one of the world’s leading guitar manufacturers, making it a high-profile contender against other brands. The Fender CD-60SCE challenges the competition with a strong combination of outstanding playability and solid electronics.
✔️ What we like: Solid spruce top & easy to play
❌ What we don’t like: The strings do not match the quality of the guitar
- Built-in tuner
- Easy upper-fret access
- Solid spruce top
- Crisp sound & high volume
Let’s start with arguably the most important part, the sound. The CD-60SCE sports a solid spruce top which is a tonewood characteristic of providing a clear and bright tone. The dense mahogany used for the side and back will be sure to amplify your bass and treble. It also features a scalloped x-bracing which, along with the other design choices, will give you a rich, bright sound with fantastic projection. This design also speaks to impressive durability.
Why exactly do people of all skill levels find this guitar so easy to play? Fender has made this is a major focal point of the design by utilizing a Venetian cutaway body, as well as flaunting some rolled fingerboard edges for extra comfort. This makes the ease-of-play such a stand-out among those who have tried the Fender CD-60SCE.
This guitar is a beautiful instrument to play acoustically but what about through an amplifier? The CD-60SCE is equipped with a Fishman Classic pickup/preamp system. This amplifies the acoustics with a rich, resonant tone and many have been pleasantly surprised with how loud it can get. The guitar also has a nifty built-in tuner.
This deal also includes a bundle with extra accessories such as a gig bag and extra stings. Also, on the topic of strings; the CD-60SCE may not come with strings that are quite on the same level as the guitar, but most players change strings to their preference anyway, meaning that it is far from being a major downfall of the instrument.
All in all, the Fender CD-60SCE is a fantastic guitar for both beginners and intermediates. It also provides great value for money with the bundle available.
9. Cordoba C5-CE Iberia Series
This Cordoba C5-CE is unique in its classical style and is a great entry-level guitar. It’s no secret that this is a beautiful guitar but what may be a surprise is that still manages to deliver on sound.
✔️ What we like: Beautiful finish & aesthetic classical style
❌ What we don’t like: Cedar top is soft and easy to dent
- Solid Canadian cedar top
- Classical build
- Traditional all-wood rosette
- Rosewood bridge and fingerboard
- Excellent craftsmanship
The Cordoba C5-CE is built with a mahogany back and sides and is topped with solid Canadian cedar. This combination ensures great sound quality and mellow warm tones. The only downfall of the cedar is that it is a very soft wood which means that it will easily dent and may not be as durable as other competitors. However, another positive is that the binding is made with revered Indian rosewood.
The guitar also parades a hand-inlaid wood rosette which gives it a traditional aesthetic. While the aesthetic is not everything, this is still the kind of craftsmanship that stands out and makes people notice the effort and skill required to make a guitar of this caliber.
Strings can make a big difference in how an instrument sounds and the C5-CE is equipped with nothing but the best. This Cordoba comes strung with Savarez Cristal Corum strings in High Tension, 500CJ, which gives the instrument a wonderfully bright and clear sound.
A good acoustic sound is all great but it falls short unless the electronics can support it when it is amplified. The C5-CE is kitted out with a Fishman Presys II preamp and while it may not be exceeding expectations with sound quality, it is still up to scratch for a guitar in this price range.
So, what about the playability? Well, that can be tricky with this classical style guitar since classical styles are traditionally wider in the neck. The C5-CE has a thinner neck than a standard classical guitar, but it is still characteristically thick which means that people with smaller hands may struggle with this one. Despite this, the Cordoba C5-CE is still a great entry-level option.
What to Expect in this $500 Price Range
Expect a little more in quality and reputation when you spend in and around 500 bucks for a guitar. In this price range, you’ll see more and more brand names, solid wood tops, and better electronics. What you shouldn’t see is quality control issues when it comes to dropping more than a few hundred bucks. So, here’s the do’s and don’ts of what to look and what to avoid.
- Tone woods: Solid tops are expected in this higher end of the budget. Laminate back and sides are the norm.
- Quality: There should be no complaints about quality in this price range. However, there might always be some evidence of a quality control complaint, but if it’s not the trend, you’re good to go.
- Sound: Being more aware of how a guitar in this price range will sound is key to getting the best buy. Ensure you are alert to its tonal abilities and/or the lack of.
- Electronics: You should notice a difference in quality in the preamps and pickups in this price range versus cheaper guitars. Better sound systems typically comes from better brands.
- Accessories: Additional accessories and equipment are going to be scarce in this price range. However, if you’re getting a package for a steal, take it and improvise.
- Brand: More well-known and respected brands are going to start their entry-level guitars in this price range. Ensure warranties are in order to protect your investment.
- Value: Ensure the features, such as electronics, choice of tone woods, finishes, and size all match the price the guitar. Without acceptable features, the guitar will lack value – even if it’s a $500 brand-name guitar.
The High-End of Entry-Level Acoustic-Electric Guitars!
How do you define entry-level? Well, it really depends on brand and quality. In this under $500 price range, you’ll get a taste of a quality guitar that might just be the foot in the door to a world-class brand. To these brands, that’s what entry-level is.
However, here, it’s just an underestimated term to define beautiful simplicity with enormous potential. The kind of potential that can help you grow into a legendary musician!
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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.