Best Acoustic Electric Guitars Under $1000, $500 & $300
I love acoustic electric guitars. Short of playing metal, there’s not much they can’t do. And, when it comes to acoustic electric guitars, you might not always have to pay as much as you think, if you know what matters and what to look for.
12 Best Acoustic Electric Guitars for the Money
Join me as I take you through a roundup of my top picks and explain why it would be a shame not to own one yourself, whether it’s for home use or stage use.
Table of Contents
- 12 Best Acoustic Electric Guitars for the Money
- First Thing to Look for in an Acoustic Electric Guitar
- What to Expect from Pricing
- How Much Do Electronics Mater?
The classic dreadnought design of the Yamaha FGX800C will allow for a comfortable play style. However, it’s the top cutaway that makes this instrument so fun to play. The cutaway allows better access to the final frets.
Although there is a cutaway, there’s not a lot of resonance lost inside the body, mostly because of the large dreadnought classic body shape. Solid Sitka spruce and Nato are used for the top, back, and sides. The fretboard and bridge are both rosewood and there are no alternatives to this.
In terms of note sustain, the FGX800C does a very good job when played plugged or unplugged. This is a loud guitar, make no mistake about that. On top of that, the die-cast tuners also improve the playability as they ensure the tuning is on point for more than one or two sessions.
The guitar is equipped with a standard piezo pickup that has a 3-band EQ. You can also make slight tone adjustments for the midrange as well as tune your guitar using the built-in chromatic tuner. All in all, you would be hard-pressed to find a more versatile acoustic electric guitar than the Yamaha FGX800C, at least not in its price range.
It’s worth mentioning that the FGX800C also comes in a concert model. However, due to the slimmer design and presence of a top cutaway, it lacks a bit of resonance and volume.
The Ovation CE44P-SM is not just an eye-catching instrument but also features a unique tone and playability. It features a mid-depth Lyrachord cutaway body. And, unlike the majority of electric acoustic guitars, it features a multi-soundhole design.
As a result of this, the CE44P-SM offers a tone that has superior high frequency definition as well as a balanced bass response. The sound is richer than you might expect, if you’re judging by design alone. The note clarity is off the charts too.
The body top has a few material options like Spalted Maple, Figured Koa, and others. The back is Lyrachord and the neck material is Nato. The rosewood fretboard has 24 frets, although just on the high E string. The rest of the strings only have 20 frets.
In terms of electronics, get ready for more unique pieces. Ovation uses its own OP-4BT preamp and the Ovation SLimline Pickup. Both can hold their own against anything else on the market in terms of quality but have an advantage in this guitar build of course.
This won’t be the cheapest acoustic electric guitar you’ll come across. But one can’t deny its endless potential, be it in a campfire jam or when playing live and plugged to a massive audience. Due to the high level of tonal clarity, the CE44P-SM should also perform well as a recording instrument.
3. Martin LX1E
The Martin LX1E is one of the most recognizable and most used acoustic electric guitars on the market. Although it has a standard design and is devoid of any fancy inlays, graphics, or anything else along those lines, the LX1E may arguably have the best price to performance ratio.
Martin used Sitka spruce and mahogany to guarantee the durability of the body as well as the good amount of volume coming out of the guitar when unplugged. The Fishman Sonitone electronics have also been fitted in the LX1E due to their consistent reliability through the years.
The LX1E already sounds clear enough. With the Fishman Sonitone gear, the guitar can be fine-tuned even more. This will also make it a good choice if you’re looking for a recording guitar for your clean or acoustic parts.
It’s also worth pointing out that the guitar weighs well under 10lbs and is a bit scaled down from the more traditional dreadnought style. All in all, the LX1E is much more kid and student-friendly than other electro acoustics.
If you’ve never played on an original Epiphone Hummingbird before, know that you’ve been missing out. But, you might be able to make up for lost time with the Epiphone Hummingbird PRO.
Loaded with high-tech features, the Hummingbird PRO has been designed to emulate the vintage tone and give it extra oomph. And that's primarily what makes it one of the best acoustic electric guitars under $500.
The guitar has a unique body shape, similar to a dreadnought but not quite. It’s slightly larger at the top and bottom sections and it doesn’t feature a cutaway. It may take some getting used to for soloing on the lower frets, but the extra volume might just be ideal in some situations.
Solid spruce as well as mahogany are used for the body. The rosewood fretboard is smooth and features 21 frets. This provides enough creative freedom. The large pearled inlays make this guitar also accessible to beginners.
There are some unique electric components to the Hummingbird PRO, such as the Shadow preamp and the Shadow Nano Flex pickup system. They make a great combination for both live playing and recording sessions.
The overall tone of the guitar is bright. But it doesn’t have an unwanted ring associated with it and it is quite clear in acoustic or electric mode.
The Ephiphone EJ-200SCE is a great option if you’re looking for a solid top, loud, very durable, and cool-looking guitar. The maple body and the spruce top create a very rugged resonator box, one that also provides a lot of output and note clarity too. The preamp EQ on the EJ200SCE can be adjusted for superb projection and very good bass definition too.
If you want some color variety, the EJ-200SCE can meet most requirements. You can get it in a natural finish, black finish, or vintage sunburst. The latter being the best fit if you’re going for the classic country look.
The 25.5” scale length means that this guitar is best-suited for guitarists with experience, or at least those with big hands. That said, the feel of the fretboard makes it easy to play fast on the EJ-200SCE. The extra string separation and fret size should only help keep you consistently accurate.
I think that the cutaway design is not the best. But I can’t argue that it makes playing the 21st frets on the high E and B strings a lot easier. Before moving on, it’s also important to understand that this guitar weighs 12lbs. It’s not the lightest electro acoustic on the market.
Who doesn’t like to play on a good Ibanez guitar? While most people get caught up in the battle of the electric guitars, few realize that Ibanez is a brand name that's also slapped onto many of the best acoustic models.
The Ibanez PF15ECE is a perfect example of this. The tone of this guitar is mellow and warm. It has a great deal of sustain and good bass definition, making it one of the best acoustic electric guitars under $300.
The electronics include the AEQ-2T preamp and the under-saddle Ibanez pickup. This combo does a good job of retaining the guitar’s unique tone once plugged into an external amp. The PF15ECE has also been fitted with an onboard tuner. Not all electro acoustics have this feature.
If you’re interested in a more economical solution then the PF15ECE might be a good fit. It has a rich tone, a good build, and it is quite possibly among the cheapest acoustic electric guitars that won’t disappoint.
The clarity associated with Fender guitars is not something up for debate. As such, the Fender CD-60SCE is one of my most favorite picks among acoustic electric guitars. It has a dreadnought body but also a larger cutaway than most guitars in this category.
This should give you a lot more freedom and easy access to the upper frets. The CD-60SCE can be a great lead guitar for this reason alone. But, it also has other cool features. For example, the mahogany used for the back and sides gives the body a very nice resonance and volume.
Another great thing about the guitar is that it’s equipped with a Fishman pickup/preamp combo. There’s a good reason why many manufacturers use these electronics – they simply do a great job of capturing the tonal clarity of any acoustic electric guitar.
The CD-60SCE also comes as a bundle. This means that you also get a strap, a gig bag, picks, an instructional DVD, an extra string set, a polishing cloth, as well as a clip-on tuner. That’s all you need to get started right away.
This guitar has a bright but also vintage tone. If you’ve played a Fender before, it will feel very familiar. For the money, the CD-60SCE offers a lot of value, not just in the form of accessories but also playing style, comfort, and sound. It’s certainly something I can recommend for beginners and professional guitarists alike.
8. Seagull S6
The Seagull S6 may not be the most popular acoustic electric guitar, but then again, so many brands and their guitar models go fly under the radar. This particular model features a classic dreadnought body with no cutaway.
The body is made of solid cedar wood and wild cherry for the back and sides. This gives the body a unique feel and build. It also makes for a very interesting resonator box that produces impressive sustain and the right amount of brightness.
Out of the box, the guitar needs a professional setup. The string action that it comes with might be considered too high for most guitarists. But at least the tune-up shouldn’t be too difficult due to the quality hardware.
In terms of electronics, Seagull went all-out. The S6 guitar boasts a custom M-450T pickup and a 4-band EQ which leaves room for bass, presence, mid, and treble adjustments. This means that the Seagull S6 is one of the most customizable and versatile acoustic electric guitars you can get your hands on now.
Don’t worry about the build quality either. The craftsmanship is highly reflected in the price tag, which for some people could be a bit high.
The Gretsch G5024E is a personal favorite. It has a dreadnought body with a sunburst finish that gives it a vintage look and feel. The tone is quite unique, although this is to be expected of Gretsch guitars and their unique identity.
In terms of materials, there’s nothing too surprising. The G5024E has a spruce top, mahogany back and sides, and a rosewood fretboard and bridge. The soundhole has a unique design too. It resembles a guitar pick or a triangle with rounded corners. This is one of the things that give the guitar its unique warm tone with great note definition.
The electronics are a Sonicore under-saddle pickup and a Fishman Isys+ preamp. Although you can’t do too much to adjust the tone without an external amp, the Gretsch G5024E is about as close as you can get to the vintage tone of the early 50s Rancher guitars.
It may be hard to find a more suitable guitar for folk and country music, especially if you want to shop on a low to medium budget. However, you may want to also consider the fact that the G5024E doesn’t have a cutaway. This might make it less ideal if you plan on using it in a lead role.
The Fender 400CE is an acoustic electric guitar fully geared and ready to handle anything you can throw at it. The cutaway is small but still allows easy access to the higher frets. The body gives plenty of volume and looks amazing too thanks to the figured maple top.
The electronics are pretty much what you would expect on any acoustic electric Fender. The 400CE is equipped with Fishman electronics. However, it doesn’t feature low-end Fishman gear. It has the Fishman Isys III pickup system and preamp.
A built-in tuner as well as volume and tone controls are also available. Although you can play around with the tone, the end result will likely always be something bright. It’s just a matter of making some adjustments to get the most clarity out of any setup.
The 20-fret rosewood fretboard is smooth and somewhat slim. I like this feature as it makes it easier to hold the guitar and play chord progressions.
There are many things to appreciate about the Jameson Thinline acoustic electric guitar. One of my favorite is the availability of left-handed and right-handed models. There’s also a lot of color variation which some other people may find equally appealing, especially since the high-gloss finish can make it look very bold.
The thinline body is more comfortable to play on for pros and beginners. Granted, this does mean that the guitar has less volume when used unplugged. But truth be told, when has a full-sized acoustic guitar ever not been loud enough for small venues or open spaces?
Another cool thing about this Jameson is that it actually comes as a complete bundle. Along with the guitar, you also get picks and a good gig bag. You might use the gig bag more often than you think. Since this is a thinline body guitar, it’s also lighter than most electro acoustics and can be a reliable travel guitar.
To the untrained eye, the high-gloss finish of the Kona K2 may be the first thing worth mentioning. However, in my opinion it’s the 4-ply binding of the guitar’s body that deserves praise right off the bat.
The gold die-cast tuners are also worth mentioning. They don’t just look cool but also do a good job of maintaining the guitar’s tuning for long playing sessions.
The scale length is long at 25.75”. This isn’t a bad thing as it creates some additional fret space. And, the cutaway design will allow easy access for playing the 20th frets.
Although marketed as a low-profile dreadnought guitar, its frame is not too small but more accessible to kids and guitarists with smaller hands.
The piezo pickup system should do a good job of both capturing the tone and also adjusting it to improve the clarity. The EQ-505 3-band active system has a very low power draw for what it does.
First Thing to Look for in an Acoustic Electric Guitar
Although the electronics can make a big difference, your guitar will ultimately be limited by the tonal clarity it offers when unplugged.
One of the most important things to consider is how well the resonator box performs and how it balances projection and clarity. As well as how much note sustain you can squeeze out of it.
What to Expect from Pricing
As you can see, even in the case of acoustic electric guitars, you can find some very affordable instruments. But, the less you pay, the more student-oriented the guitar will be.
Although some affordable guitars can be loud and feel great when playing on them, you shouldn’t expect the highest tonal clarity or a very good balance across all registers.
How Much Do Electronics Mater?
A good preamp and pickup are very important. The more high-end the electronics, the better the capture and the louder you’ll be able to play without sacrificing clarity.
Fishman may be the most recognizable name in this niche. However, many guitar manufacturers will offer their own custom preamp and pickups.
If a guitar has decent electronics and the tone sounds the best to you, switching models just to get a brand-name preamp or pickup may not always be in your best benefit.
If you’re interested in saving some money too, you can’t get overly caught up in the bells and whistles. Sure, most manufacturers sell acoustic electric guitars without even a gig bag. After all, they’re likely to be pricey to begin with because of the delicate craftsmanship and electronic components.
Therefore, you might not want to pay extra just for some replacement strings, picks, or pickguards. But, you might want to pay the extra buck for chrome or gold die cast tuners. Or for an onboard tuner. Or a solid top guitar.
It’s important to manage priorities before setting on a path to acoustic electric playing.
Be as Loud as You Want to Be
Don’t be afraid to experiment and play your music in more than a familiar setting or environment. By now, you should be armed with the knowledge to make a highly informed pick. This article has both cheap and high-end acoustic electric guitars in it, so anyone can find a good instrument within their budget.