Best Acoustic Guitar Under $500

Best Acoustic Guitar Under $500

Best Acoustic Guitar Under $500 

1 Yamaha FG800 Review

Yamaha FG800 Review

Yamaha is doing a great job of providing entry level guitars at entry level prices that have grea...

9.2
2 Ibanez AW54CE Review

Ibanez AW54CE Review

It’s a great guitar for the price.  Nice acoustic electric combo.

9.4
3 Fender Sonoran SCE Review

Fender Sonoran SCE Review

Vintage surf rock is alive and well with this guitar, but not just surf rock, a whole Southern...

9.2
4 Gretsch G5022CE Rancher Review

Gretsch G5022CE Rancher Review

A good value honkey tonk 1050’s throwback guitar.

9.1

What features make the best acoustic guitars in the sub-$500 price range? Like the best guitars in general, these relatively affordable guitars should have great sound with a well-balanced tone. They should also offer reasonably durable, high-quality construction with the proper types of wood. Acoustic and acoustic-electric guitars at affordable prices can come in a wide range of common shapes, including the classical guitar, parlor guitar, and full-size dreadnought bodies. 

The most comfortable guitar for a particular player will depend on their size and preferences. With any body style, the best budget acoustic guitars, like the Martin DRS1 we reviewed, offer scalloped bracing and materials like solid spruce, solid mahogany, and Indian rosewood at relatively affordable prices. They make for a great backup instrument, or if you want a reliable, durable, but not too expensive guitar for practice. 

Keep reading to learn how to choose a great acoustic guitar for less than $500. 

Beginner’s Guide to Acoustic Guitars Under $500

What Are Acoustic Guitars Under $500?

A mid-priced acoustic guitar should have a nice tone and great playability. The best budget-friendly guitars for all genres of music should have good sound quality and durable, if not exotic, materials. As with the best acoustic guitars under $300 and the top acoustic guitars under $1000, there are several common acoustic guitar body shapes available from the best acoustic guitar brands

These include full-sized dreadnought guitars and smaller guitars such as concert and parlor guitars. The best affordable guitars offer consistent, warm sound and are easy to hold and tune. 

Acoustic Guitars Under $500 vs Other Types of Guitars

Mid-range and budget-priced acoustic guitars from established guitar manufacturers, like the Yamaha acoustic guitars, the Gretsch acoustic guitars, and stand-out models from Ibanez, Fender, and others, will offer a powerful tone and comfortable playing experience very similar to that of more costly and exclusive models. Unlike the higher-end guitars, however, mid-level editions often use more common wood types, such as solid cedar, wild cherry, and solid spruce. It is, however, possible to find guitars with sides and tops constructed from striped mahogany or eastern mahogany, which is sometimes called nato wood. American mahogany is another choice you may see on medium-price range guitars like the Ibanez AW54CE we reviewed

There are a few examples of the most common acoustic guitar body shapes in the sub $500 range. This includes auditorium guitars, full-size dreadnought bodies, grand orchestra style, and smaller mini acoustic guitars. Because of its robustness, the dreadnought guitar shape is a popular choice for the best acoustic guitar under $200.

Unlike at higher price ranges, however, you may not find much variety in the specialized acoustic guitar shapes. Body shapes such as jumbo acoustic guitars and Flamenco guitars are relatively rare in the budget category. 

Various brands offer acoustic-electric models and acoustics with built-in pickups or piezoelectric elements for an electronically amplified yet authentic acoustic tone. However, most brands reserve their highest-quality hardware for pricier models. Gold-coated die-cast tuners and sustainable wood construction usually distinguish high-end models. When comparing acoustic vs. acoustic-electric guitars, the main difference is the presence, in the latter, of electric pickups. 

Many affordable guitar models use the classic dreadnought shape, in which the neck joins the body at the 14th fret. The dreadnought body is a sturdy design that can create a loud, bold sound that unplugged guitar enthusiasts will appreciate. 

Like more expensive guitars, many sub-$500 models use a cutaway body style. This acoustic guitar body shape helps create dynamic tones and makes a larger body style guitar easier to hold and play. The best beginner guitars often use a cutaway shape with a slim neck. 

Many of the best acoustic guitars under $1500 use a concert body shape guitar or companion guitar design. Depending on the design and quality of wood used, these compact-size guitars can deliver bright, articulate sound and a beautiful tone. A travel-sized guitar is also a common choice for the acoustic guitar player on a budget.

Like other types of guitars, acoustic guitars under $500 employ various materials and finishes for optimal performance and a perfect balance of tones. Common tonewoods include Indian rosewood, solid mahogany, cedar, and spruce. Other popular material choices include mother-of-pearl inlays and stainless steel, aluminum, or brass bridge pins. 

Unlike more expensive models, acoustic-electric guitars at a budget-friendly price point usually have a single piezoelectric pickup and sometimes a bridge pickup. Built-in pickups with EQ functions are relatively rare in this price range, but some mid-range electro-acoustic guitars offer them.

How Acoustic Guitars Under $500 Work

Acoustic guitars are typically chordophone instruments, usually with six strings. The vibration of the strings across a hollow wooden resonator produces their characteristic acoustic tone. Guitar sound quality depends on the body shape, the type of strings, and the materials making up the top, sides, and back of the instrument. The largest bodies, such as grand orchestra style, Dreadnought body, and jumbo acoustic guitars, produce a stronger sound and louder tones. Cutaway body-style guitars produce clean tones, often with greater mid-range and more defined highs. Mini-acoustic guitars have more range with high-pitched tones. 

Along with acoustic guitar shapes, materials make a difference in producing a high-quality tone as well. Most acoustics under $500 use a combination of wood types for optimal performance. Many use solid spruce wood tops or laminated spruce tops, a rosewood bridge, a wild cherry, spruce, or laminated mahogany body, a mahogany neck, and a rosewood fretboard.

Entry-level acoustic and acoustic-electric guitars can use steel or nylon strings, depending on the style of the guitar. Tuning knobs at the top of the guitar neck keep the strings in tension and allow tuning. The bridge is important for acoustic guitar sound quality as well. A solid wood bridge holds the strings to the body and transfers their vibration to the guitar top. How high the action should be for articulate, balanced sound depends on the size and shape of the guitar and the type of strings used. Full-bodied guitars typically use internal bracing to reinforce their shape and to help create a richer tone. Scalloped, solid wood bracing helps maintain durability and sound performance. Some acoustic and amplified-acoustic guitars include additional features like a built-in digital tuner, backup strings, or a capo. 

Along with the different types of wood, the choice of nylon vs. steel guitar strings can also affect acoustic guitar sound quality. 

 

Why Should You Buy a New Acoustic Guitar Under $500?

Advanced players and complete beginners alike may be interested in an affordable yet excellent-quality guitar. The best acoustic guitars under $500 can offer a perfect balance of playability and versatile guitar sound.

Touring musicians might consider a sub $500 acoustic guitar to take on the road. While you may record with a vintage or high-end acoustic in search of the perfect sound, you might not want to subject your prized Gibson or Taylor acoustic guitar to the rigors of touring. 

Traveling guitarists might also want to look for a budget-friendly acoustic-electric model in one of the smaller acoustic guitar shapes. Many of the top budget and mid-range guitar models come with a compact shape or a convenient cutaway body style. Easier to carry and play than the largest bodies, these mini-acoustic guitars produce lighter tones and take less space in the van or luggage than jumbo, full-sized, or grand auditorium guitars.

Intermediate players looking to explore different music genres might consider an upgraded practice guitar for under $500. You may want to try out an acoustic-electric model, a larger dreadnought size, or a grand auditorium guitar for a stronger sound and more bass response for deeper tones. Or you may want to get into an entry-level flamenco or concert body guitar for classical music. 

 

Are Acoustic Guitars Under $500 Worth Buying?

  • Traveling in a Band: Guitar players in bands about to get on the road may want an affordable acoustic-electric model for a tour. Concert guitars or travel-sized guitars can add convenience while producing a brighter sound and clearer tones. A backup dreadnought-size guitar can add peace of mind if you’re playing a solo show.
  • Music Students: A guitar under $500 may be a great choice for beginners and music students. At this price range, complete beginners can find a comfortable guitar that can grow with them. The cutaway body style makes it easier for acoustic guitar players with smaller arms and hands to reach the higher frets. If you find playing certain chord shapes on a full-sized guitar with a wider neck uncomfortable, you may want to try out a concert guitar with a compact shape and a slim neck or a mini mahogany neck.
  • Casual Playing: You don’t have to be an aspiring guitar virtuoso to appreciate an affordable yet beautifully-designed, excellent-quality guitar. Anyone with a passion for music may want to own a comfortable guitar with features like a classic rosewood fretboard, built-in tuners, and a satin finish. More experienced musicians may want to experiment with new body styles, searching for the perfect sound.
  • Songwriters and Producers: Artists, songwriters, and producers might always benefit from an extra acoustic or acoustic-electric guitar around. Whether you need a model with advanced features like built-in EQ, or a particular guitar sound such as the clean tones of spruce mini-acoustic guitars or the louder acoustic tone from a grand auditorium guitar, $500 can often get you a playable example with decent materials. A guitar with a wonderful tone can help inspire songwriting. 

Why Acoustic Guitars Under $300 May Not Be for You:

  • Concerns About Durability: While you may wonder if a mid-range or bargain-priced guitar will have decent materials quality or if you’ll be in the guitar repair shop as often as you’re playing, many guitar manufacturers offer warrantied, high-quality models at a budget-friendly price. 
  • Concerns About Tonal Quality: You may wonder if a mid-priced or budget-minded model can offer good sound quality. However, many sub-$500 acoustics perform quite well, with a great bass response and a nice tone. 

How Long Do Acoustic Guitars Under $500 Last?

Acoustic guitars can last years or decades with the right guitar maintenance. Even an inexpensive model should have a sturdy design and quality construction, like a durable varnish finish. The type of wood used should enable the highest quality, budget-friendly acoustic and concert guitars to accompany you for many years of awesome music.

Discerning advanced players may want to look for models with corrosion-resistant hardware, chrome or gold-plated built-in tuner options, and durable wood choices like solid Sitka spruce or beautiful mahogany wood. The cherry sunburst finish or satin finish found on some mid-level or high-end models tends to hold up pretty well, but any guitar can accumulate scratches and dings over time. 

Experts suggest keeping acoustic guitars in a cool, dry area whenever possible. Excess heat can quickly warp guitar bodies, and even slight heat damage can make it difficult to keep the strings in tune. On models with built-in pre-amp and tuner hardware, it’s important to keep the connectors clean and avoid exposure to moisture or beverage spills.

Guitar strings can last anywhere from a month to a few years, depending on how frequently you play. Nylon strings may need replacement more often than steel strings. 

How to Choose an Acoustic Guitar Under $500

Various factors can help you decide on the best acoustic and amplified acoustic guitars under $300. You’ll want to consider what music genres you play, what acoustic guitar shapes you find comfortable, and whether you need an acoustic-electric model for amplified sound or live recording. You might also consider personal preferences for tonal properties and what sort of guitar sound you vibe with. Do you prefer medium vs. light guitar strings? Do you want a warm tone, a louder tone with a fuller, more bass-heavy sound, or a bright tone with more detailed sound properties?

Aesthetics can play a role in choosing the best quality instrument, too. Some choices, like Fender vs. Yamaha acoustic guitar models, may come down to personal preference.  Acoustic guitars come in a variety of colors and finishes, and some acoustic guitar players prefer a satin body finish, a cherry sunburst finish, or a semi-gloss finish. 

Best Acoustic Guitars Under $500 Key Factors

1. What Acoustic Guitar Shape Feels Most Comfortable?

Guitars come in a wide range of common shapes. Some players prefer a more compact size with a slim neck and cutaway body, like portable mini acoustic guitars. Other players may be more comfortable with the grand auditorium body size or the classic dreadnaught size. Smaller acoustic guitar players and those who frequently play above the 12th fret often appreciate the cutaway design, which makes it easier to reach certain notes. Shorter guitarists may prefer mini-acoustic guitars with shorter scale lengths. Left-handed players may find a left-handed cutaway model the most comfortable guitar.

2. Do You Need an Amplified Sound?

If you may need to plug in, you’ll want an acoustic-electric with a high-quality pickup, such as the Yamaha FG series or Fender CN-140SCE models, which is worth considering. The best amplified acoustics under $500 maintain the rich tone of the natural wood. If you’re going for a strictly unplugged guitar sound, you may prefer the warm tone of a mahogany body guitar in the classic dreadnought shape. 

3. What Music Genre and Playing Styles Most Inspire You?

The type of music you play and your personal preferences for strumming or fingerpicking may also help you decide which guitar works best for you.  Country guitarists, folk musicians, and rhythm guitarists may want the loud tone and excellent projection of something like Gibson’s jumbo series of guitars or a dreadnought acoustic-electric guitar. Or you might want a smaller concert body or flamenco guitar for playing classical music. 

4. What Are Your Aesthetic Preferences?

Even if you’re just looking for an acoustic model for casual playing, you might want to find the most beautiful model that fits your personal preferences for design and aesthetics. Even in the $500 price range, you can find guitars with high-quality materials like Sitka spruce and beautiful mahogany wood. You might also look for a satin finish, mother-of-pearl dots for fingerboard inlay, and a genuine rosewood bridge. 

Best Acoustic Guitars Under $500 FAQ

1. Can budget guitars deliver decent sound quality?

There are decent-quality acoustic guitars with a well-balanced tone and excellent playability. Many guitar brands offer basic models, mini-acoustic guitars, and larger guitars like the classic dreadnought design or grand auditorium body shape for under $500. Reasonably-priced guitars known for their great tonal properties include the Yamaha FG-series guitars, Taylor BT2, LX Little Martin, and Fender CD-60S. 

2. What acoustic guitar shape is the best?

It depends on your personal preferences for sound and comfort, as well as on your style of music and how you like to play. Mini acoustic guitars and concert guitars tend to have a bright tone, and slim necks can make it easier for guitarists with small hands. Larger guitars can produce a louder tone. If you tend to play notes above the 14th fret, you might want a cutaway design. 

3. Do you need a pickup on your acoustic guitar?

It depends on whether you want to be able to play through an amplifier or record your guitar sound. Whether you want the option of using an amp may also depend on where you play and what music genres you play. 

4. Which guitar is the best choice for beginners? 

In general, a concert-bodied or grand auditorium guitar with a cutaway design may be a great choice for beginners. Depending on your size, you may find it easier to play on a wider neck. Younger guitar students may want to use a mini-acoustic guitar or travel guitar. Some advanced features like a digital tuner can also benefit complete beginners.  

5. How long do guitar strings stay in tune?

It depends on the type of strings and how often you play, and how often you change tunings. Keeping steel strings in tune is generally easier than with nylon strings, but frequently changing tunings, such as for classical music or different music genres, can accelerate wear on the strings. Some budget guitars come with extra backup strings or a digital tuner. 

References:

https://www.fender.com/articles/tech-talk/standard-tuning-how-eadgbe-came-to-be

http://www.rickenbacker.com/history_modern.asp

http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/guit/hd_guit.htm

http://opus4.kobv.de/opus4-matheon/frontdoor/index/index/docId/675

https://www.britannica.com/art/guitar


#1 Epiphone Hummingbird Pro

9.4/10 Read review
94 %
Last Amazon price update was: May 26, 2024 4:52 am
× Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon.com (Amazon.in, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, etc) at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.
9.4 Expert Score

Ibanez did a great job with this guitar.  For guitars under $300 this is one of the nicer ones with a solid mahogany body in the top, sides and back.  Paired with the rosewood bridge and fretboard, it’s just a nice guitar.

Sound
9.2
Price
9.9
Look
9.6
PROS
  • Could pass for a stage guitar even at the low price
CONS
  • Not sure there is a Con for this guitar...

#2 Yamaha LS6

9.2/10 Read review
92 %
Last Amazon price update was: May 25, 2024 3:24 pm
× Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon.com (Amazon.in, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, etc) at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.
9.2 Expert Score

Being such a good guitar at a great price make this a great option for beginner and mid level guitarists.

Sound
9
Price
10
Look
9
PROS
  • One of the best introductory level guitars on the market.
CONS
  • Some people prefer the sound of the FS800.

#3 Fender Sonoran SCE

9.2/10 Read review
92 %
Last Amazon price update was: May 12, 2024 1:10 pm
× Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon.com (Amazon.in, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, etc) at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.
9.2 Expert Score

There is definitely a throw back, Southern California, surfer vibe about this guitar and it has a pretty authentic tone for that vibe.  The Rosewood fingerboard feels great to playing the Fishman Isys III pickups go nicely with the onboard preamp and tuner.

Sound
9
Price
9.2
Look
9.5
PROS
  • Easy to get around the neck of the guitar even if you have small hands
CONS
  • Its a niche guitar

#4 Gretsch G5022CE Rancher

9.1/10 Read review
91 %
Last Amazon price update was: May 9, 2024 11:42 pm
× Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon.com (Amazon.in, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, etc) at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.
9.1 Expert Score

The electronics are also solid on this guitar which makes it great for plugging in which some similar priced guitars struggle with.

Sound
8.9
Price
9.2
Look
9.5
PROS
  • The fretboard is a joy to work around and the quality of the build is nice
CONS
  • It does not have a versatile tone. You Gotta want that honkey tonk vibe if you are going to get this guitar

Mimi Chase
[email protected]

Mimi has been working in the Music Industry since 2007. She excels in organization; fulfilling roles as an Artist Manager, Tour Manager & Production, Album Release, Budget Analyst etc. She sees a variety of Gear and Instruments from artists on the road, to venue's backline to hear what sounds the best and whats the most durable. She earned her Business Degree from Roanoke College, and utilizes those skills to promote Artist Growth!

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