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Last Updated on April 9, 2021.
There are many reasons why one would consider buying an acoustic-electric guitar over a strictly acoustic/electric one, including plugged and unplugged playability, robust sound projection, wide-ranging sound customization, and more amplified sound overtones, to name a few. It’s also worth mentioning that acoustic-electric guitars aren’t more costly than their strictly acoustic counterparts, so they present an awesome bundle of value.
Landing an outstanding acoustic-electric guitar at $500 isn’t far-fetched at all. Actually, with that budget, you’ll have a host of splendid options to pick from, including guitars from Ibanez, Fender, Seagull, Yamaha, Ovation, and more. To help ease your selection of the best acoustic-electric guitar under $500, we’re going to highlight some of the most prominent products on the market today, so stick around.
At a Glance:
- Epiphone Hummingbird Pro – Best Overall
- Jameson Guitars Thinline – Best Value
- Yamaha FSX830C – Premium Option
- Fender CD-60SCE – Most Comfortable
- Martin LX1e – Most Compact
- Fender CD-140SCE – Most Versatile
- Epiphone PR-5E – Best for Small Hands
7 Best Acoustic-Electric Guitars Under $500 in 2021
With too many options to pick from, settling on an acoustic-electric guitar can be quite a challenge. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of the best acoustic-electric guitars under $500 so that you don’t waste your time scanning through countless models.
1. Epiphone Hummingbird Pro – Best Overall
Epiphone is one of those manufacturers known to release iconic guitars at very cost-effective prices, and the Hummingbird Pro is a prime example of the brand’s great craftsmanship and mindfulness of the cost-conscious guitarist. In case you don’t know, Epiphone is a subsidiary of Gibson, so you know the guitar is crafted to a high standard. It’s actually an upgraded, electric-acoustic version of the Gibson Hummingbird.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, we’d like to point out that the Gibson Hummingbird is a guitar made famous by prominent music icons such as Keith Richards, Sheryl Crow, and Lenny Kravitz, among others. And since the Hummingbird Pro is modeled after it, you’re guaranteed superb quality, not to mention the classic 1960s aesthetics highlighted by the square-shouldered, dreadnought body and tortoiseshell pickguard.
This electric-acoustic guitar has a solid spruce top with appealing mahogany back and sides. I’m in love with the faded cherry burst finish that this guitar flaunts. I also feel the need to point out that this guitar is available in an all-black finish on some marketplaces, too. In addition to the mahogany back and sides, the guitar is equipped with a mahogany neck that features Epiphone’s SlimTaper D-shaped profile.
The rosewood fretboard on this electric-acoustic guitar is marked with Pearloid inlays in the shape of a parallelogram, which is one of the attributes that set Hummingbird guitars apart in terms of aesthetics. The guitar feels well-built, and the splendid craftsmanship of Epiphone is very apparent. It’s just as pleasant to look at this guitar as it is to play it. I would’ve loved to see an in-built tuner, but the electronics are impressive, nevertheless.
Speaking of electronics, the Epiphone Hummingbird Pro is equipped with the NanoFlex under-saddle pickup and Shadow ePerformer preamp. This incredible battery-powered combination grants you quite a few controls, from bass and treble controls to the master volume control. The guitar also features a dynamics control slider and a mute button for your convenience. I also love the addition of the popular D’Addario light strings.
- Built with excellent quality
- Equipped with high end hardware
- Sound quality is deep and warm
- Offers lots of convenient controls
- Features a super playable neck
- Doesn’t feature an onboard tuner
- The low-end is lacking a little bit
If you can’t afford the Gibson Hummingbird, then Epiphone’s Hummingbird Pro is the way to go. It features the same classic aesthetics of the Gibson, in addition to a slim, playable neck and a rich, warm tone, making it a true performer at just under $500.
2. Jameson Guitars Thinline – Best Value
The James Guitars Full-Size Thinline is the champion of affordability. This exceptional guitar is possibly the best wallet-friendly electric-acoustic guitar on the market. If you’re a beginner guitarist, we’d highly recommend opting for this guitar as it packs the features and sound quality that a beginner needs, not to mention that it’s insanely affordable for the value it provides.
The sides and back of the Thinline are made out of nato wood, whereas the neck is made of maple. The guitar features a solid spruce top and a classic rosewood fingerboard with white dot inlays and 20 frets. Granted, these are pretty low-quality design elements, but they work just fine. This specific combination of components ensures a solid sound with a distinct bright timbre that’s rounded up with a considerable chunk of thumping bass.
Note that the neck is right in the middle when it comes to thickness, meaning it’s neither chunky nor shred-friendly, which, again, makes this a superb guitar for beginners. I’m very fond of the classic headstock that the Thinline flaunts, granting it a great deal of aesthetic appeal. The guitar is available in both right-handed and left-handed variations. To add, it’s featured in few alluring colors, including blue, black, red, green, and more.
The James Guitars Thinline is equipped with an onboard EQ and stock pickup, ensuring ample sonic variety. To add, there are half-a-dozen die-cast tuners distributed around the headstock in two groups of three, so you don’t have to re-tune your guitar on a regular basis. Just make sure you don’t strum on it too hard. The package includes a free gig bag for convenient portability, and a set of guitar picks for you to use and lose.
For such an affordable guitar, the Jameson Guitars Full-Size Thinline sounds very good. It’s not affected by some of the most common sound issues that cheap guitars tend to suffer from like poor intonation. The treble frequencies on this guitar are fun to listen to, and it does pack a serious punch when it comes to mid-range notes. This is an ideal guitar for beginners and possibly intermediate players as well.
- Excellent value for the money
- Compact slimline construction
- Comes with a lot of accessories
- Packs a good mid-range punch
- Available in many color variants
- Design components are low-quality
- Not suitable for adept guitarists
The Jameson Guitars Full-Size Thinline might be the cheapest guitar on this list. Still, I wholeheartedly believe that out of all acoustic-electric guitars available today, this guitar offers the most value for the money among all guitars under $500. It’s highly recommended for beginners and children.
3. Yamaha FSX830C – Premium Option
The Yamaha FSX830 is a premium guitar that’s just shy of the $500 price point. It has a solid spruce top, pretty attractive cream edge-binding, and multi-strip purfling on the top. The thinness of this guitar’s glossy finish enables you to see the ripples of the grain very clearly, adding a great deal of aesthetic appeal, in our opinion. The sides and back are made out of rosewood, which adds a neat visual layer of deep chocolate brown.
Various other elements contribute to this guitar’s aesthetic appeal, like the round-nosed heel, plastic heel cap, abalone-centered soundhole, and headstock logo. It’s not just the exterior of the guitar that’s highly appealing, as the interior is pretty neat as well. The fingerboard is made out of rosewood and adopts sort of a flat-backed oval shape. I would’ve loved the fret top to have a better polish, though, as it’s a little scratchy.
In terms of electronics, this high-quality electric-acoustic guitar flaunts the under-saddle from the popular Studio Response Technology (SRT) system. The preamp offers you an exquisite selection of controls for bass, mid, treble, and volume. Further, there’s a slider you can use to operate the AMF control with ease. The main problem we have with the electronics is that the onboard tuner doesn’t really mute the guitar’s output when on.
This is one of those electric-acoustic guitars best-suited for guitarists with small hands, as it has a shorter scale length of 25 inches. Compared to Yamaha’s FG guitars, the FSX830C flaunts reduced body depth, improving playability quite notably and making this guitar another excellent option for beginners. This guitar shares the same clarity and modernism of the FG series, but with better across all frequencies.
As far as the sound quality, the Yamaha system on this guitar produces a very pleasing mid-range. The upper-mid notes’ peaks have a bit of a nasal quality to them, but that’s not really a big deal as it can be attenuated. Similarly, the lows are a little bit muddy, but again, they can be cleaned up if you know how to handle your controls. When it comes to the bass and treble controls, you simply use them for general EQ purposes.
- Perfect product for smaller hands
- Very aesthetically appealing build
- Balances across all frequencies
- Top-notch mid-range frequencies
- Available in many high end finishes
- Bridge spacing is a little cramped
- Not ideal for those with big hands
If you’re a beginner or intermediate guitarist with small hands, you’re going to love using Yamaha’s FSX830C. Yes, it’s at the very top of the near $500 price range, but it’s well worth it considering its solid construction, eye-catching aesthetics, and great sound quality.
4. Fender CD-60SCE – Most Comfortable
The Fender CD-60SCE is an electric-acoustic iteration of the Classic Design Series equipped with an array of features that you’d be hard-pressed to find in another guitar in its class. In addition, it ensures a very appealing acoustic-electric guitar tone and is perfect for folk music.
Additionally, the guitar flaunts a big dreadnought body for ideal projection and comfortable playing, featuring a solid spruce top that simply looks fantastic. Not to mention, it provides you with excellent playability, which is why it’s optimal for both beginner and intermediate guitarists.
The body cutaway build of the CD-60SCE allows you to access the upper register easily and gracefully. What’s more, the guitar comes with a cool preamp, tuner, and Fishman pickup, so this is an electric-acoustic guitar that’s well-equipped for live performances, be it friendly jamming sessions or actual onstage performances.
What I love the most about this electric-acoustic guitar from Fender is its neck design. It’s designed in such a way that it makes the guitar notably easy to play, minimizing the number of mistakes that you’ll typically make as a beginner or even intermediate player. The guitar is equipped with light strings that you’ll enjoy their feel, especially if you’re a light strummer. The entire construction of the CD-60SCE is lightweight and comfortable.
Another thing I really like about this guitar is how smooth the rosewood fingerboard is and how seamless the rolled edges are. This combination ensures very effortless sound production and helps minimize buzzing. The guitar comes with a convenient strap, and since it’s fairly lightweight compared to other guitars on this list, you’ll be able to play it for hours on end without feeling fatigued, whether you’re playing it standing or sitting.
Not only is this electric-acoustic guitar extremely comfortable, but it also offers excellent sound quality for an entry-level instrument. The reason why it’s able to provide such an awesome full-bodied sound with a ton of projection is its use of classic tonewoods and its optimal size. This might not be the best acoustic-electric guitar made by Fender, but we can’t really complain considering its price range and remarkable functionality.
- Compact and lightweight design
- Great tone and a lot of projection
- Easy to tune and it stays in tune
- Solid mahogany construction
- Comes with a sturdy hard case
- Subpar glued-in strap pegs of low quality
- Nut and saddle can come loose
The Fender CD-60SCE is equipped with an array of features that help set it apart from most entry-level guitars within its price range. It’s a guitar built to last with comfort in mind, thanks to its solid mahogany construction. No matter your skill level, this guitar can make your playing sound really great.
5. Martin LX1E – Most Compact
Ever since the creation of the first scaled-down guitar, initially designed with children in mind, scaled-down guitars have evolved and became very popular among musicians looking to keep or travel with an ultra-compact guitar. The Martin LX1E is one of the best scaled-down guitars today, with its small Sitka spruce/mahogany design that produces a lot of sound despite it being smaller than a standard guitar.
The projection of this guitar may not be as powerful as that of a full-size guitar. Still, when you consider the toned down bass response from the spruce/mahogany body, you get a better understanding of how such a small instrument can give a notably robust sound. Another thing that this guitar pulls off very nicely is better-expressed mid and high frequencies, which is definitely one of the guitar’s strongest selling points.
The body is made of high-quality, solid mahogany and Sitka spruce, known for its ample density and durability. They’re not the best in terms of bass response, but they’re satisfactory. The materials used to construct this guitar are of a lighter tone. Coincidentally, the palette of tones produced by this high-quality guitar can be described as light and mellow. It’s truly a fun little guitar, both inside and out.
The neck of this guitar is laminated with 35 strips of wood glued together. I’m not very fond of human-made materials, but Martin did an excellent job of resembling dense ebony with this guitar, making it look and feel classy. The LX1E might be intended for people with a smaller stature, but those with significant stature shouldn’t sweat it, as it’s not that hard to adjust to this guitar. It’s an excellent one for both beginners and professionals.
The quality of the sound produced by this guitar is quite odd, to say the least, and not in a bad way. It’s just hard to grasp that such a small guitar can produce excellent low and mid-tones with such proficiency. Not to mention, the tone is pretty bright and dynamic, thanks to the use of the solid Sitka spruce top. There’s not much that we can complain about regarding this guitar, except that some people might find it too small.
- Great low and mid-range tones
- Extremely comfortable to play
- Perfect for adults and kids alike
- Lightweight and travel-friendly
- Scaled-down yet durable build
- Some might find it a bit too tiny
- Bass response isn’t prominent
If you’re looking for an electric-acoustic guitar that offers the best of both worlds in terms of great sound and compact size, then look no further, as the Martin LX1E is surely your best bet. It’s compact, lightweight, and very comfortable to play for both adults and kids.
6. Fender CD-140SCE – Most Versatile
This second entry from the legendary Fender is one of the sturdiest and most versatile guitars on the market. The CD-140SCE is built predominantly out of mahogany, be it the sides, back, or neck, whereas the neck is made of spruce. It has a standard rosewood fingerboard with white dot inlays and 20 frets. The bracing system is of the scalloped X type. The neck is notably slim, which makes the CD-140SCE a highly playable instrument.
I absolutely love how this acoustic-electric guitar feels, as it features a smooth satin finish that your hands will surely appreciate. Okay, so what does a mahogany-dominant instrument have to offer in terms of sound? Fullness and warmth! But unlike most guitars that have a mahogany-dominant construction, the fullness of the CD-140SCe is accentuated with a pinch of softness, especially in the lower end of its frequency range.
Moreover, the bass is quite notable in the mix, which ensures a well-rounded punch and an overall balanced sound. In terms of the electronics, this versatile fender flaunts the Fishman Presys pickup system, which consists of a preamp and an onboard tuner, with the former featuring various tone controls that you’ll find useful when plugged into a PA system. The CD-140SCe also has a set of die-cast tuners and a Graphtech NuBone saddle.
The CD-140SCE is also equipped with a host of white bridge pins accentuated with black dots. There’s also the classic Fender headstock, a tortoiseshell pick-guard, and a head-turning mother of pearl rosette. Such a luxurious construction for an electro-acoustic guitar that’s under $500! Whether you’re into heavy chord strumming or superfast leads, the CD-140SCE’s well-balanced and gritty sound will suit your fancy.
- Slim design for optimal playability
- Sturdy mahogany-dominant build
- Has an excellent mid-range punch
- Powerful with a mellow undertone
- Superb electronics for the price
- Strap button is on the smaller side
The Fender CD-140SCE is a truly well-constructed instrument that’s built to last. It plays and sounds like a guitar that’s way beyond the $500 price point, and it’s so versatile that beginners, intermediates, and professionals will find it very pleasing.
7. Epiphone PR-5E – Best for Small Hands
The Epiphone PR-5E is arguably the best slim acoustic-electric guitar you can buy off the market. It brilliantly caters to the needs of guitarists with small hands, beginners, and professionals alike. Despite its slim design, the Epiphone PR-5E is sturdy, flaunting a Florentine mahogany neck, mahogany back and sides, a spruce top, and a rosewood fingerboard. You don’t have to worry about it giving up on you after a few years of use!
The guitar also features some decorative components that add to its aesthetic value, like snowflake fret inlays, a circular rosette, and a classy host of golden Grover pegs distributed in groups of three across the headstock. Epiphone made sure that every part is as slender as can be to ensure great playability without compromising durability, which is why it’s perfect for smaller hands, especially women and children.
Thanks to the use of premium tuning pegs, the strings stay in tune for long periods of time. And speaking of the strings, the PR-5E uses D’Addario strings of various gauges that you can choose from. As far as the electronics, this one uses an eSonic preamp and a NanoFlex pickup. This combination offers you tremendous sonic control when plugged to an amp while maintaining sound quality, even at higher sound levels.
- Slim design for optimal playability
- Sturdy mahogany-dominant build
- Has an excellent mid-range punch
- Powerful with a mellow undertone
- Superb electronics for the price
- Strap button is on the smaller side
If it wasn’t for the Jameson Thinline, we would’ve unhesitantly crowned the Epiphone PR-5E as the best guitar in terms of value. If you’re not fond of scaled-down guitars and you’re looking for a slim instrument that’s ideal for smaller hands, this guitar is for you.
Acoustic-Electric Guitar Under $500 Buying Guide & FAQs
Choosing an acoustic-electric guitar under $500 isn’t a simple task considering the variety of guitars available today. To ensure the most value for your money, consider the following factors, and make sure to read the answers to the frequently asked questions.
If you’re a beginner guitarist, don’t just go for the most expensive guitar you can afford, no matter your budget. Begin with an affordable guitar to hone your skills and see whether or not guitar playing is for you; you can then upgrade to a better one.
Guitars make use of a broad range of tonewoods, including mahogany, spruce, sapele, rosewood, and more. It’s important to know the different sonic qualities that each type of tonewood has to offer so that you can make your choice accordingly. Some tonewoods offer brighter tones with less bass, whereas others offer darker tones with extra bass. In addition, some materials are more durable than others, so choose wisely.
When it comes to acoustic-electric guitars, the electronics make all the difference in the world. Look for guitars that feature high-quality pickup systems and preamplifiers. Keep in mind that some models have their preamps mounted inside the soundhole, whereas others have their preamps mounted in a hole that’s cut on the side. It’s also worth noting that some guitars have systems that combine preamps, piezo pickups, EQ, and tuners.
Are Acoustic-Electric Guitars Good for Beginners?
Yes, most acoustic-electric guitars are beginner-friendly. They tend to feature thin necks that ensure great playability for both beginners and professionals.
What Is the Difference Between Acoustic and Acoustic-Electric?
The main difference is that acoustic-electric guitars feature electronics that enable them to be amplified, whereas acoustic ones don’t.
There you have it, the best acoustic-electric guitars under $500. One of the above-listed products will surely meet your needs and budget.
The Epiphone Hummingbird Pro is by far the best acoustic-electric guitar under $500 on this list because come on; it’s modeled after the legendary Gibson Hummingbird. The Yamaha FSX830C is a very close second, and the Jameson Thinline is what we’d recommend if you seek a ton of value at a very cost-effective price tag.