The acoustic guitar market is awash with impressive instruments, which is great on one hand but tough if you’ve been trying to find the best acoustic guitars for under $500; it can feel overwhelming to choose when faced with so many.
Quality on these types of cheap acoustic guitars has steadily improved, and now you can 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.
With that in mind, we’ve narrowed it down to nine of the best acoustic guitars for under $500 that you can buy today. Each of these acoustic guitars brings a lot to the table, giving you plenty to enhance your acoustic playing with. Don’t forget to team your new acoustic with the best acoustic guitar strings or a cool new guitar strap, as well as stocking up on the best guitar cables for your acoustic electric six-string strummer.
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What is the best acoustic guitar under $500?
It may have been around for a couple of years now, but the Art & Lutherie Roadhouse parlour is still one of the best acoustic guitars under $500. Whether you’re a fingerstyle acoustic guitarist seeking clear string-to-string balance and defined articulation, or you prefer a looser strummed approach, the Roadhouse offers playability coupled with a cool, vintage bluesy vibe.
Fancy something different? Epiphone’s EJ-200SCE jumbo acoustic guitar is all about its on board electronics. Featuring two pickups, this big Epiphone can output a stereo signal and there’s an on board tuner too. It’s the best plugged in performance we’ve seen in an electro acoustic guitar under $500, providing startlingly good value for what it offers.
Best acoustic guitars under $500: buying advice
If build quality is a given these days, what should you be focusing on when choosing from among the best acoustic guitars under $500? Well, first of all, let’s talk wood. Though plywood (generally regarded as very poor for guitar tone) used to be found across the budget guitar market, solid wood acoustic guitars are now far more common than they were.
The Epiphone EJ-200SCE, for example, is a mix of spruce and maple, with a pau ferro fretboard. When it comes to Fender acoustic guitars for less, the CD-60S comes in an ‘all mahogany’ spec at a super-low price.
In recent years, an alternative has entered the picture: laminate wood. In this situation, several thin slices of wood are glued together into a solid piece. The benefits? Excellent reliable strength, and it’s cheaper than more luxury tonewoods with similar properties.
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Tone-hounds may turn up their noses, but Martin’s LX1E features mahogany high-pressure laminate back and sides, plus a birch laminate neck. Expect a crisp, fairly neutral sound with fair amounts of definition and clarity.
You’ll also need to think about plugging in. If you’re a beginner or you just don’t know whether you’ll be gigging your acoustic guitar, we’d recommend opting for an acoustic with a pickup/preamp such as Fishman’s Sonitone system. Several models in our best acoustic guitars under $500 guide feature on-board systems – the Epiphone is the finest.
But take care, as many budget acoustic guitars come without pickups. The Art & Lutherie’s pickup is optional so you’ll need to check you have the right model when you buy.
The best acoustic guitars under $500 to buy now
1. Art & Lutherie Guitars Roadhouse
One of the best acoustic guitars under $500 of the last two years still reigns supreme
Price: $449/£369 | Type: Parlour | Top: Select Pressure Tested Solid Spruce | Back and sides: Wild Cherry | Neck: Silver Leaf Maple | Fretboard: Rosewood | Scale length: 631 mm | Frets: 19 | Tuners: Open-gear 18:1 antique brass | Electronics: Optional Fishman Sonitone | Left-handed: No
Due to the popularity of the original electro acoustic version of this acoustic guitar, Art & Lutherie developed this model, void of the Fishman Sonitone electronics and destined to be sold at the lowest possible price. Our pals on MusicRadar called it one of the best budget acoustic guitars when it came out.
And it still is! The characterful blues and country box designed for the nomadic musician offers sweet definition with understated warmth, as well as great playing dynamics. Dig in a bit harder to go from folky sweetness to harsher blues and country tones.
Build quality is superb and the neck feels steady and sturdy enough to support the angst of even the most vigorous players. Two years on and Art & Lutherie’s Roadhouse is still the best acoustic guitar under $500.
2. Epiphone EJ-200SCE
Modern electronics and a classic design in one of the best acoustic electric guitars
Price: $499/£399 | Type: Jumbo | Back and sides: Select maple | Neck: Hard maple | Fretboard: Pau ferro | Scale length: 25.5” | Frets: 20 | Tuners: Grover Rotomatic 18:1 | Electronics: Shadow eSonic-II HD Stereo Pickup System | Left-handed: Yes
All of the traditional calling cards of the classic Gibson J-200’s heritage are present and correct in Epiphone’s latest model. There’s the moustache bridge, decorative tortoiseshell style pickguard, pearloid crown inlays, and the deep but balanced bottom end that you usually only get from a jumbo.
But it’s the electronics that have elevated this beauty into our best acoustic guitars under $500 guide. The Shadow eSonic-2 preamp uses two pickups: a traditional undersaddle ‘NanoFlex’ piezo and a fingerboard positioned NanoMag allowing you to dial in warmth or attack – whatever’s your pleasure.
Add in separate eq controls, blend function and an onboard tuner and Epiphone’s E200-SCE punches way above its tonal weight when plugged in. One of the very best electros you can buy under $500.
3. Martin LX1E Little Martin
A stellar little travel acoustic guitar for plugged-in jams
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
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-favoured 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 any open-mic set.
4. Taylor GS Mini
A truly impressive build considering its in the best acoustic guitars under $500 category
Price: $499/£499 | Type: Mini Grand Symphony | Top: Sitka Spruce | 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
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 – we’d wager it’s also 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.
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5. Washburn Woodline 10 Series WLO12SE
A cracking sub-$500 acoustic guitar that’s based on Martin’s classic OM shape
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
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 – it’ll reward fingerstyle acoustic guitarists in particular.
The Fishman Presys II preamp offers an honest 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.
6. Yamaha Storia II
The contemporary-styled Storia is a great acoustic guitar under $400
Price: $399/£354 | Type: Concert size | Top: Solid mahogany | Back and sides: Mahogany laminate | Neck: Walnut | Fretboard: Walnut | Scale length: 25” | Frets: 20 | Tuners: Open-gear champagne gold | Electronics: Passive piezo | Left-handed: No
New for 2019, Yamaha’s Storia series is a must-try for any guitarist seeking an affordable acoustic that performs well above its small asking price. With its natural mahogany finish, the Yamaha Storia II has broad appeal but do check out the stylish I and III models too.
The bevelled body edges, low action, unfussy semi-gloss finish and dimensions closer to a 000 than a dreadnought combine to make this guitar feel welcoming and familiar. It plays great, and there’s a high-end sparkle and resonance that you rarely find at this price.
The electronics are basic – just a piezo pickup with no tone controls – but they’ll more than suffice until you’ve saved up for a pedal preamp.
7. Fender CD-60S All-Mahogany
The best acoustic guitar under $500 specifically for beginners
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
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.
8. Ibanez AVD11
A slice of old-school cool for meagre money
Price: $749/£449 | Type: Dreadnought | Top: Thermo Aged Solid Caucasian Spruce | Back and sides: Okourne | Neck: Nyatoh | Fretboard: Ovangkol | Scale length: 25.62 | Frets: 20 | Tuners: Antique chrome | Electronics: None | Left-handed: No
In a bid to recreate the vintage mojo and tonal projection of older wood that has dried out and fully hardened, Ibanez went to town in artificially maturing the Thermo Aged dreadnought. The warm, honeyed wood appears well-worn as do the scratchplate, machineheads, dot inlays and so on.
Flawless build quality makes this a real player’s guitar, whether fingerpicking, flatpicking or strumming. Rounded highs and sweet midrange characterise the AVD11’s tone, but with less bass than we’d expect from a dreadnought.
It’ll doubtless sit nicely in a band mix, but if you regularly play unaccompanied you might miss that bottom end – this is a little bass-light for a dreadnought. Ultimately it depends on your style. Regardless, it’s one of the best budget acoustic guitars with stylish appeal.
9. Yamaha CSF1M
A stunning travel acoustic guitar for less
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
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, thist is a great sub-$500 acoustic for any campfire strumalong.