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Best Acoustic Electric Guitar Under $500

Written by Jazz Brown

There are SO. MANY. GUITARS. And it is really tough to decide which one is the best. I should know. I’m ready to step up and get a better one, and I am looking at spending less than $500.

What is an Electric-Acoustic guitar?

Basically, these guitars can be played acoustically, but also have some sort of pickup which can allow these guitars to be amplified and played over speakers. Acoustics also tend to have a gentle, more mellow sound and are used in a lot of classical and Jazz instrumentations.

Here, I review the guitars first. If you need to know more about what to look for in an Acoustic-Electric guitar, then scroll on down to my acoustic-electric buying guide below!

I hope my research helps you.

Epiphone AJ-500RE

Best Acoustic Electric Guitar Under $500

It’s a tough call, but I really like this Epi. It has a really, really, full tone, thanks to its over-sized Rosewood body. It really fills the room, and everyone who picks it up, strums it and says “wow”. I had tears in my eyes the first time I played her at my local Epiphone Dealer

Unfortunately, she breaks the $500 barrier just slightly… but that’s what credit cards are for, right? Besides, she is worth the investment.

(For my second-favorite pick, go down to the Seagull S6)

Fender Acoustic Electric Guitar
Is Fender a good guitar brand?

One of the biggest arguments brewing on the internet is what brand is better? Fender or Gibson? These two behemoths have been around forever and have both built up an incredible following.

Basically Fender offers a lot of guitars in an “affordable” price range by using woods such as spruce and cedar. Gibson makes a pricier guitar that uses deep, mahagonay woods and has a deeper tone.

I’ll be honest, I typically don’t like most of the budget Fenders that I play — which is most likely due to my favoring a more mellow sound. However, if you get one of their big bodied babies… now you’re talking.

For our #1 Fender Pick
… is the Fender CD 290SCE

Best Acoustic Electric Guitar Under $500

This girl weighs in just shy of the $500 mark and promises to make your dreams come true with her solid spruce top sound. Granted you are only getting a laminate back, but the big body on this fender helps to compensate for it.

The Fishman active pickup system with a pre-amp onboard gives you the control you need to make adjustments as you perform. I got to play this one at my local guitar shop and loved not only the sound, but also how easy the fingerboard was to handle.

Ibanez Acoustic Electric Guitar

Ibanez has had a storied — and controversial history since 1908 when it was first started as a bookstore’s way to sell guitars.

Since the 1970’s they have excelled at creating some incredible designs. Typically they are seen as a great guitar for the money when compared to many of the other brands.

Our #1 Ibanez Pick
The Exotic Wood EW20QMEBBD

Best Acoustic Electric Guitar Under $500

The Exotic Wood EW20QMEBBD matches Ibanez’s artistic history with rich sound. Most people will compaare this one with the deep, mellow sound of the Epiphone and it is a treasured masterpiece owned by many advanced musicians.

The clean lines of this lady help underscore her remarkable beauty.

It, too, comes with an active pickup and a preamp. I like my pre-amps further back on the body for ease of adjustment, but I know a lot of musicians who prefer it up higher.

I just hate her trashy model name…

Takamine Acoustic Electric – A Top Choice For Under $500
I owned a Takamine. Once. Before it got stolen.

Best Acoustic Electric Guitar Under $500

Then I found it in a pawn shop. Called a police officer, who filled out a report and told me to call a detective, who never called me back.

I miss her.

Enough reminiscing. Takamine really does a swell job of producing great-sounding guitars for very little dough. And you will be thrilled with this beauty.

With its Mahagony back and sides and the solid spruce top, I would pick her out before I’d go with the Fender (and I really feel like you can tell in the tone, too). The Downside is that some of the bass tones get lost in the smaller body size.

She also has an under-saddle piezoelectric pickup along with a preamp and a three band equalizer.

Oh, and the built-in tuner is quite swell. In fact, I think I’m sold. Again.

Seagull S6 – The most Awarded Guitar

Best Acoustic Electric Guitar Under $500

Could be considered the best pick…. If it weren’t for the Epiphone up there.
This guitar has won numerous awards and is one of the most sought-after guitars by players in the sub-$500 price bracket.

Even we gives it 12, 5-star reviews, making it one of the most-loved guitars in its price range.

Most artists are loving its mellow sound. In fact, its sound is probably the biggest selling point, seeing as it is one of the only guitars in this price range to be made of Cherry. Solid Cherry is a great wood for creating a dark-tinged mellow sound.

If all of this isn’t wonderful enough, she amplifies sound with a Godin QI Saddle Transducer. Godin is one of the highest-quality brand names in guitar electronics — can’t go wrong, there.

She also has a built-in tuner.

It’s all so wonderfully amazing, if I wasn’t more of a mellow sound junky, I’d go for the Seagull instead of the Epiphone.

Acoustic Electric Guitar Buying Guide
Looking to Buy an Acoustic – Electric Guitar?
Here’s what you need to know.

Laminate Top or Solid Top?

When you strum your guitar, it vibrates the body of the guitar which then ablifies the noise and reverberates it out into the air.

Solid Wood – The best scenario is where a solid piece of wood is used for both the front and back of the guitar. This gives the guitar the best resonance possible. Even better, the wood “learns” the vibrations, and over the years will even improve its sound.

Typically either spruce or cedar is used, with spruce creating a “brighter” sound and cedar giving a more mellow sound.

Laminate – Typically lower-end guitars use several pieces of cheaper wood that are glued or laminated together and then covered with a thin, solid piece of wood. These guitars do not transmit the noise nearly as well as a solid wood guitar will.

On the upside, their ability to stay in tune is not nearly as effected by weather and temperature changes

Choose Your Pickups:

On an electric guitar it is going to have “pickups” or electronics that convert the acoustic sound into electronic signal. Here are the popular ones to choose from.

Magnetic – This one is not as common a pickup for acoustic-electrics (but I did own one that had this). Basically, this is the pickup that is used on full electric guitars and gives the most control over the tone.

Active – An active pickup requires a small energy source such as is provided by a small battery to activate a small pre-amp. It also typically has a few controls available for adjusting the tone right on the body of the guitar.

Piezo Saddle Transducer – This is the pickup usually used by other string instruments like violins. It has the advantage of not picking up other magnetic interference, but is often considered to create a less detailed sound. However, a lot of guitars will use both a piezo and an active or magnetic pickup combined. These will also use a preamp but will not likely have controls in the preamp.

Nylon or Steel Strings?

Nylon – Creates a more mellow sound and is often associated with classical music and some Jazz.

Steel – Is favored by most other musicians.

Acoustic Electric Guitar Packages
Typically, you are better off buying the guitar and its case separately as it allows you to spend more on the guitar. However, some people will like getting a packaged deal. Here are some guitar packages for you to go over that all include an Acoustic-Electric instrument.

Sometimes you can get a packaged deal that also includes the amp.