When looking to buy the best acoustic electric guitar under $500, there’s a lot to consider. There’s much to get out of a guitar like this, and plenty of choice even at this price range, so let’s start with what to look out for.
Our Top 5 Acoustic Electric Guitars Under $500
What is an Acoustic Electric Guitar?
There comes a time in every guitarist’s life when we want to turn up the volume and feel like we’re playing for a crowd. An electro-acoustic guitar is the best acoustic guitar – they have all the benefits of a traditional acoustic guitar, plus a pickup built in to plug into an amplifier. Plugging into an amplifier makes the instrument louder without losing the honest, whole sound of an acoustic guitar. It also allows for special effects or changes to the sound, as you would hear with an electric. A good acoustic electric guitar plays as well and sound as good unplugged as it does with an amp.
Why Get an Electro-Acoustic Guitar?
It’s an age-old debate in the guitaring world: which is better, an electric guitar or an acoustic guitar? The brilliant thing about this instrument is that you don’t need to choose. Whether you’re playing on your own at home or at a sold out gig, an electro-acoustic guitar is whatever you need it to be.
What to Look for in an Acoustic Electric Guitar
The versatility of this instrument is its great strength, but it can also make buying one a bit tricky. You’ll need to look for an instrument with high quality acoustics ad well as electronics. If you’re on a tight budget it is important to decide which is more important.
As with any guitar, what you look for in the instrument depends on what you want from it. The most important thing for most players is the sound. With an electro-acoustic you need to consider how it sounds unplugged and plugged into an amp. One thing to look out for is the sound of the acoustics through the amplifier. Some lower quality instruments lose this through the pickup. Some electro-acoustics models have modes and tools built in which is one more thing to consider when buying. The most common, and the most useful, is the built in tuner. This is an electric tuner built in to the instrument, so you can tune your guitar at any time. There have been plenty of times that I’ve been asked for an impromptu performance only to find my strings are in bad need of a tuning. With the built in tuner in my electro-acoustic guitar, I’m ready straight away.
There are trade-offs to consider when finding your new guitar, though. You can have a cutaway, which will let you play the highest frets very easy. Or you can go for a full body, which will give your instrument a full and louder sound. Active pickups will let you play louder through an amp, but will cost more than a passive pickup. A preamp will add to your sound and pick up details in your music better than an electro-acoustic would without one, but it will push up the price as well. With any acoustic or electro-acoustic guitar, the wood it is made from is important. Mahogany is usually thought to be the best, but at this budget look out for cedar and spruce. The better standard of wood, the fuller the sound of the guitar will be.
Acoustic Electric guitars Under $500 -Review
Epiphone Dove Pro
The first guitar we’re looking at comes from Epiphone at the higher end of our budget. The first thing we can’t help but notice is this instruments striking appearance.
The Vintage Burst finish gives it a colorful, older style, and the bird image is eye-catching. The body is made of a spruce and maple, but is laminated . This can take away for the wooden feel of it in your hands, but also means it won’t wear or tear. The guitar itself has a warm sound, plays well, and feels good as you play it.
The electronics are by Fishman, which is generally considered one of the best in the industry. The pickup does the job quite well, though there isn’t much in the way of controls and it doesn’t have a built in tuner. The body of the Epiphone is a good enough size that the acoustics work well and it plays at a nice volume unplugged. As an acoustic guitar, the Epiphone Dove Pro is fantastic.
- Eye-catching and unique appearance
- Warm and enjoyable sound
- Good sized body, giving a loud and resonant sound when unplugged
- Not much customization to the sound through the electronics
- No built in tuner
Seagull S6 Original
The Seagull also comes in right on the budget, but the look and feel of it is of a higher priced guitar. It has a natural and simple appearance with a semi gloss finish. This gives the instrument that desirable wooden look and feel while still protecting it from the wear and tear of use.
The sound of the Seagull is full but mellow, and it resonates loud and clear. The electronics come from Godin, not as big a name as Fisher, but they impress me with this one. Guitars often lose their acoustic sound when played at top volume through an amp, but not this one. The knobs at the top of the Seagull allows the player to change the volume, treble, and bass.
It also has a built in tuner, a feature somewhat uncommon with built in tuners at this price. The tuner is accurate when tested on each string. I was impressed by the Seagull, and while it’s right at the $500 budget, the quality makes it seem like it should be more expensive. In fact, it seems almost a bargain for an electro-acoustic guitar this high quality.
- Fantastic acoustics from the full body
- Impressive electronics that keep the sound clear even at highest volumes
- Funtional and customizable pickup interface
- Accurate built in tuner
- Feels a bargain at this price range
- No drawbacks with this instrument, as long as you are happy it is at the top of the budget
Fender Tim Armstrong Hellcat
A cheaper alternative, this Fender is well inside our budget. It has a more interesting look, with cat and skull inlays. In my experience Fender doesn’t always make the best quality acoustic guitars, but their electronics are on point.
There are controls on the Fender to customize the sound to your liking while you play. There is also a handy built in tuner; though not as accurate as the Seagull, the tuner still does the job well. The sound comes through the amp well when plugged in, even at higher volumes.Once you get used to the controls on the guitar there is a lot you can do with the sound and effects.
As an acoustic, the quality of the sound isn’t what you would want it to be. The body is thin, giving it a quieter and sharper sound when unplugged. As good as the Fender is when it’s plugged in to an amp, it seems designed with only that in mind and doesn’t perform well as an acoustic guitar. This is a must when you look for an electro-acoustic guitar.
- Striking and memorable looks
- Brilliant pickup that works well in any amp
- Very customizable electronics that allow you to invent your sound
- Built in tuner
- Poor acoustics from the small body
- A sharp sound that is more like an electric than an acoustic when unplugged
Martin LX1E Acoustic
This little Martin guitar was made famous by the English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran . Smaller than the average acoustic, this Martin isn’t for everyone. It can feel more cramped and difficult to play. It’s well within the budget and, considering this, the quality of the Martin is very impressive.
The natural and un-laminated feel of the body is lovely to the touch. This coupled with the fact that it doesn’t have a pick guard, though, makes it easier to show use and wear. The sound is sweet and cheerful, swapping the more resonant sound of larger acoustics with a light and fun tone.It doesn’t compare to a full sized acoustic but it still echoes loud when played unplugged.
The brilliant electronics pack a punch and make this guitar shine when it’s plugged in. When you use an amp the sound can make you forget you’re only playing a little travel guitar, and it rings out well.
- Lovely and unique sound
- Convenient and perfect for travel
- Impressive pickup that plays through an amp clearly
- A very small body makes it quieter and more cramped
- No finish or pickguard makes it more prone to wear and tear
This Yamaha is a nice addition to the selection and gives you plenty to consider inside the budget. The instrument comes in a few different looks, including a natural wooden finish or a striking sunburst gloss.
The body is a little smaller than your average acoustic and it also has a cutaway. These features allows for an easier reach to the highest frets on the neck, but they do make the guitar quieter, too. The sound itself is crisp and clear, with a very sweet ring to it, but the Yamaha isn’t easy to hear unless you use it with an amp. With the amp it does keep its acoustic sound, though.
This is one of the most important things in choosing an acoustic electric guitar. Yamaha pickups are some of the best you can get at this price range, and it shows here.
- Choice of appearances
- Crisps and clear sound that works well with an amp
- Electronics made by Yamaha themselves, meaning they were custom built for this instrument
- Great pickup that plays perfect through an amp
- A small body with a cutaway makes it very quiet unplugged
- Some cheaper, plastic parts