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Best acoustic guitars under $500 2021: our top picks, including acoustic-electric guitars

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Best acoustic guitars under $500 2021: our top picks, including acoustic-electric guitars
(Image credit: Future)

We are living in the golden age of budget-friendly guitars. Never before has it been this easy to buy a high-quality instrument at an affordable price. With that being said, we know it can get a little overwhelming when trying to find the best acoustic guitars under $500. So that's why we've put together this list to help you through the process. 

It's safe to say that the quality of budget acoustic guitars has never been better. You can now make choices based on body shape, finish, tonal character or the kind of preamp you need - and not just on price. And, most important of all, you can be sure that you'll end up with a great guitar that'll last you far beyond your beginner years.

Whether you are looking for your first acoustic guitar or a new workhorse for playing live, you'll be sure to find a guitar on this list to fall in love with.

Don't forget to team your new acoustic with the best acoustic guitar strings or a cool new guitar strap, and make sure you stock up on the best guitar cables for your acoustic-electric six-string strummer.

Are you looking for a great deal on the best budget acoustic guitars under $500 this Cyber Monday? Check out our Cyber Monday guitar deals page for the latest news, and the best offers around.

Best acoustic guitars under $500: Our top picks

For us, the acoustic guitar that offers the best bang for your buck has to be the Epiphone J200 EC Studio. Not only is this jumbo acoustic stunning to look at, but it sounds just as good. If you are looking for something a little different, then definitely keep this one in mind. 

For a killer beginner acoustic guitar, we have to recommend the Fender CD-60S All-Mahogany. This fantastic sounding guitar really does deliver beyond its price point and is well worth checking out.

Best acoustic guitars under $500: Product guide

Best acoustic guitars under $500: Epiphone J200 EC Studio

(Image credit: Epiphone )

1. Epiphone J-200 EC Studio

Classic Gibson look and sound at a fraction of the price

Specifications
Launch price: $499/£439
Type: Jumbo
Top: Solid spruce
Back & sides: Select maple
Neck: Hard maple
Scale: 25-1/2"
Fingerboard: Pau Ferro
Frets: 20
Tuners: Grover Rotomatic 18:1
Left-handed: Yes
Finish: Black, Natural, Vintage Sunburst, Vintage Natural
Reasons to buy
+Big jumbo tones +Classic J-200 styling +Solid top 
Reasons to avoid
-The large size isn't for everyone 

Featuring all the appointments that make its big brother, the Gibson J-200 legendary, the Epiphone J200 EC Studio is easily one of the best guitars you can buy for less than $500.

Featuring the iconic moustache bridge, decorative tortoiseshell style pickguard and pearloid crown inlays this guitar is a joy to look at. Top that off with superb playability and the deep but balanced bottom end that you only get from a jumbo, and you have the complete package at a bargain price. 

It’s clear to see that the Epiphone’s J200 EC Studio punches way above its tonal weight and it's well worth your time checking this one out.

Best acoustic guitars under $500: Martin LX1E

(Image credit: Martin )

2. Martin LX1E Little Martin

A stellar little travel acoustic guitar for plugged-in jams

Specifications
Launch price: $559/£449
Type: Modified 0-14 Fret
Top: Sitka Spruce
Back and sides: High pressure laminate mahogany
Neck: Stratabond birch laminate
Fretboard: FSC Certified Richlite
Scale length: 23”
Frets: 20
Tuners: Gotoh nickel
Electronics: Fishman Sonitone
Reasons to buy
+Great build quality+Decent plugged in performance +Compact and travel-ready
Reasons to avoid
-Conventional plugged in sound

Okay, we admit it, the $559 RRP is slightly over budget here, but you can regularly find it for $500 or less. Built from mainly manmade materials, the LX1E can feel utilitarian. However, offering up classic Martin tones with a crisp-edged if conventional voice, its bright, contemporary tones will cut through a mix and be heard over bigger guitars. Little by name but not so little by nature - sonically anyway. 

The Ed Sheeran-favored diminutive LX1E is a great travel guitar and features Fishman’s Sonitone preamp too. Though only equipped with a pre-set tone control, the contour function cleans up the mid-range, removing a little boxiness. Perfect for singer-songwriters.

Read our full Martin LX1E Little Martin review

Best acoustic guitars under $500: Yamaha STORIA III

(Image credit: Yamaha )

3. Yamaha STORIA III

Unique looks and traditional sounds

Specifications
Launch price: $429/£299
Type: Concert
Back and sides: Mahogany
Neck: Nato
Fretboard: Walnut
Scale length: 25”
Frets: 20
Tuners: Open Gear Champagne-Gold
Electronics: Yamaha passive undersaddle pickup
Left-handed: No
Reasons to buy
+Looks great +Solid top +Feels more expensive than it is 
Reasons to avoid
-Wine red interior isn’t for everyone 

Yamaha’s goal with the STORIA range was to design a guitar that “transforms the traditional acoustic guitar into a one-of-a-kind statement piece”, and we must say, they have certainly achieved that. 

The wine red interior and champagne-gold appointments add an air of class to this instrument that you don’t see often at this price point and the solid mahogany top delivers a  beautifully warm tone that compliments this stunning look. 

The slightly shorter scale length of 25” and the compact concert body sizes make it incredibly easy to play, even more so if you are a complete beginner.

Best acoustic guitars under $500: Washburn Woodline 10 Series WLO12SE

(Image credit: Washburn)

4. Washburn Woodline 10 Series WLO12SE

A cracking sub-$500 acoustic guitar based on Martin’s classic OM shape

Specifications
Launch price: $369/£329
Type: Orchestra
Top: Solid mahogany
Back and sides: Mahogany
Neck: Mahogany
Fretboard: Ovangkol
Scale length: 25.5”
Frets: 20
Tuners: Chrome die-cast
Electronics: Fishman Presys II 301T preamp w/tuner
Left-handed: No
Reasons to buy
+Great for fingerstyle players+Sparkling highs and tight, defined lows+Slim neck and low action+Great build quality; nicely finished
Reasons to avoid
-Three-piece neck isn’t the most attractive

Based on the vintage Martin OM body shape, the orchestra style WLO12SE features sub-dreadnought dimensions with typically sparkling highs and a tight, controlled bottom end. All-mahogany construction further enhances the Washburn’s bold, forthright tone - perfect for fingerstyle guitarists. 

The Fishman Presys II preamp offers a faithful portrayal of the guitar’s acoustic qualities when plugged in, and the system includes bass and treble controls for tonal tweaking.

Coupled with a fairly low action, the satin finished slim C profile neck is a breeze to play on. Great for electric guitarists seeking a hassle-free acoustic experience. This is a quality instrument that feels great to play. A genuine alternative to many more expensive instruments, and just one of the reasons why it features on this best acoustic guitars under $500 guide. Okay, so it does cost a little more than $500 - coming in at $559 - but we think that for the money, it's absolutely worth your attention. If you can stretch your budget just that little bit further, you won't be disappointed.

Best acoustic guitars under $500: Fender CD-60S All-Mahogany

(Image credit: Fender )

5. Fender CD-60S All-Mahogany

The best acoustic guitar under $500 specifically for beginners

Specifications
Launch price: $199/£160
Type: Dreadnought
Top: Solid mahogany
Back and sides: Laminate mahogany
Neck: Mahogany
Fretboard: Rosewood
Scale length: 25.3”
Frets: 20
Tuners: Chrome
Electronics: None
Left-handed: Spruce-top natural finish only
Reasons to buy
+Value for money+Great intonation+Mid-range brightness
Reasons to avoid
-Plain looks

The term ‘beginner instrument’ doesn’t really fit with today’s standards, as manufacturers derive greater performance from tonewoods at less cost to us. Fender’s CD-60S proves the point, offering a guitar that sounds great and is comfy to play - all delivered at a low, low price.

Sound is where this dreadnought guitar delivers the goods, with a chiming mid-range brightness that’s part and parcel of a mahogany construction. Fender’s big-bodied dreadnought also extends nicely into the bass, should you wish to explore drop tunings. Intonation, tuning and string action is great on the CD-60S too.

Look online for bundle deals with tuners, straps, strings, gigbags etc. There’s an electro-acoustic version complete with a body cutaway available too.

Read our full Fender CD-60S All-Mahogany review 

Best acoustic guitars under $500: Taylor GS Mini Mahogany

(Image credit: Taylor Guitars )

6. Taylor GS Mini Mahogany

Ace build considering its in the best cheap acoustic guitars under $500 group

Specifications
Launch price: $499/£499
Type: Mini Grand Symphony
Top: Mahogany
Back and sides: Laminated sapele
Neck: Sapele
Fretboard: West African Ebony
Scale length: 23.5”
Frets: 20
Tuners: Die-cast chrome
Electronics: None
Left-handed: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Fantastic build quality and design+Sound and playability+Cut-price Taylor ownership
Reasons to avoid
-ES-Go pickup costs extra

Like the Little Martin, Taylor’s GS Mini is a travel size modern day parlour guitar. With faultless build quality and immaculate setup, the GS Mini outputs a big sound that belies its compact form. The GS Mini’s sparkling highs, crystal clear mids and tight low end offer a cut-price slice of Taylor tone - and it serves as a kick-ass recording acoustic guitar too. 

The Taylor loses out to the Martin on electronics, however - there are none as standard here, and Taylor’s optional ES-Go pickup will set you back another $98. Still, if amplified tones are essential, we’d recommend saving your pennies a little longer and going with the incredible quality of the Taylor.

Read our full Taylor GS Mini Mahogany review

Best acoustic guitars under $500: Guild M-240E

(Image credit: Guild)

7. Guild M-240E

An affordable concert-sized option from acoustic royalty

Specifications
Launch price: $449/£399
Type: M - Concert
Top: Solid spruce
Back and sides: Mahogany
Neck: Mahogany
Fretboard: Pau Ferro
Scale length: 24.75”
Frets: 20
Tuners: Guild GBB1 Butterbean Nickel
Electronics: Guild/Fishman Sonitone GT-1
Left-handed: No
Reasons to buy
+Looks fantastic+Super-thin finish makes the neck feel great+Sounds much bigger than it is
Reasons to avoid
-Small body can get a little bit overwhelmed

Guild's M-240E is a slightly more left-field choice when looking at the smaller-bodied acoustic guitars under $500. There's plenty of competition in this product category from names like Martin and Taylor, but if you're after something a little different then the M-240E could be the one for you.

Construction-wise, the classic combination of a solid spruce top and mahogany back & sides provides a snappy, punchy tone with a tasteful low-end presence - meaning that the M-240E is a brilliant choice for both solo artists looking for rich tonal accompaniment, or those in bands that need to cut through the mix just that little bit more. 

The comfortable C-shaped neck and small 'M' concert sized body make this diminutive Guild a fantastic travel or couch guitar - but with a full 24.75" scale length, it's still capable of keeping up with some of the big boys. Plugged in, you'll hear the sound of a much bigger guitar thanks to the Fishman Sonitone pickup - making this a seriously versatile acoustic.

Best acoustic guitars under $500: Yamaha CSF1M

(Image credit: Yamaha )

8. Yamaha CSF1M

A stunning travel acoustic guitar for less

Specifications
Launch price: $499/£505
Type: Compact parlour
Top: Solid sitka spruce
Back and sides: Laminate mahogany
Neck: Nato
Fretboard: Rosewood
Scale length: 23.6”
Frets: 20
Tuners: Die-cast chrome
Electronics: SRT passive piezo
Left-handed: No
Reasons to buy
+Organic sound when amplified+Louder, richer sound than many
Reasons to avoid
-No tone controls for the piezo pickup-Tough competition from Martin and Taylor

The third travel acoustic guitar in our best acoustic guitars under $500 guide and our second instrument from Yamaha, this compact parlour guitar goes head-to-head with offerings from major players Taylor and Martin. 

It competes admirably too, offering big, full and refined sounds in GS Mini territory, if not quite as sublime. There’s versatile appeal here too. The CSF1M includes a passive piezo pickup that offers organic plugged in sounds. The satin neck feels great. 

Fleet fingered players may prefer the slinky low action of the Martin LX1E. Fingerstylists or slide players might be happier with the Yamaha. Either way, this is a great sub-$500 acoustic for any campfire strum-along.

Best acoustic guitars under $500: Takamine GD20CE-NS

(Image credit: Takamine )

9. Takamine GD20CE-NS Dreadnought

A dependable dreadnought at a great price

Specifications
Launch price: $489/£339
Type: Dreadnought
Back and sides: Mahogany
Neck: Mahogany
Fretboard: Rosewood
Scale length: 25.3”
Frets: 20
Tuners: Chrome Die-Cast
Electronics: Takamine TP-4TD Preamp with built-in tuner
Left-handed: No
Reasons to buy
+Solid cedar top+Takamine pickup sounds fantastic   
Reasons to avoid
-Looks a little boring 

Takamine is a pioneer in the guitar industry, and well known for making workhorse guitars that touring musicians can depend on. The GD20CE-NS allows you to get the Takamine build quality at a far more affordable price. 

The solid cedar top gives this very well built guitar a warm, detailed tone that works for almost any genre of music, while the Takamine TP-4TD preamp system provides an excellent amplified sound that competes with guitars double its price. 

If you are looking for a reliable guitar that sounds fantastic plugged in then this might be the one for you.  

Best acoustic guitars under $500: Buying advice

Best acoustic guitars under $500: Martin Simpson playing an acoustic guitar

(Image credit: Future)

What makes a great cheap acoustic guitar?

Let us first preface this by saying that it has been a long time since 'cheap' acoustic guitars were bad acoustic guitars. There are some killer acoustic guitars coming on to the market at crazy low prices, and they're not to be sniffed at. 

The guitars in this guide represent the very best you can buy for roughly $500 or less - but what should you be looking out for when buying one?

What size acoustic guitar should I buy?

This is possibly the most crucial factor to consider when choosing any acoustic guitar. The guitar's size will impact everything from the tone it produces to how comfortable it is to play. The most common sizes available are jumbo, dreadnought, auditorium, classical and parlour.

A jumbo is going to deliver the biggest, fattest tone. Think Elvis, Bob Dylan and EmmyLou Harris - the jumbo is an iconic body size, and produces a tone to match. Unfortunately the humongous body size does mean that you've got to be of a certain build and stature to play one comfortably.

The dreadnought is by far the most popular acoustic guitar body size. It's not too big, not too small, and creates a tone that seems to cover just about every base imaginable. The wider body helps the guitar to produce a broad range of tones and frequencies, making this option a great all-rounder. Again, it's a bit on the big side, but it's possible for those of any size to play a dreadnought comfortably.

Auditorium, classical and parlour are on the 'small' end of the acoustic guitar body size spectrum, and are all perfect for younger players especially. The tones of auditorium and classical guitars are quite balanced, with plenty of low or high end available depending on where and how you play the strings. Parlour guitars lack some of the tonal depth of larger-bodied guitars, but make up for with their punchy, mid-heavy characteristics - making it the guitar size of choice for blues guitarists such as Keb' Mo' and the late Justin Townes Earle.

Generally speaking, the bigger the guitar, the bigger the sound. So bear that in mind when choosing your new guitar. 

Do I want a solid or laminate top?

If you've been looking at various guitars, you've most likely noticed the terms laminate top and solid top. So what's the difference between these types of manufacturing? 

Let's start with the solid top. Basically, this means the top of the guitar (or soundboard) is made from a specially selected single piece of wood. This ensures a rich, full-bodied sound and increased volume. 

The laminate top, on the other hand, is made from multiple pieces of wood glued together to form the top - this results in a sound that isn't as harmonically complex as the solid option. 

Full laminate guitars used to populate the budget guitar market, but today you can find various models that feature a solid top. Both the Epiphone J200 EC Studio and Martin LX1e feature solid spruce tops to complement their high-pressure laminate back and sides. 

Do I need a pickup on my acoustic guitar?

Several models in our best acoustic guitars under $500 guide feature an on-board acoustic guitar pickup system. We realise that not everyone wants to plug their new guitar into an acoustic amplifier or PA system. Still, there are a few good reasons why you should be considering a guitar with a pickup already installed.  

Firstly, you never know when you will need it. Whether you want to get up and play at an open mic night or school talent show, or perhaps you want to record that new song idea you just had - it can be handy to have the option to plug in and play. 

Secondly, most pickup systems have a tuner built directly into the guitar. This means you can tune conveniently on the fly without the need for a clip-on tuner or mobile tuning app. One quick note, do be careful, as many budget acoustic guitars come without pickups, and with some guitars, the pickup is an optional extra, so be sure to double-check before making your purchase. 

So there you have it, that’s our guide to the best acoustic guitars under $500, right now. 

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