The Best Acoustic Electric Guitars - Under $300, $500, $750 & $1000

The Highest Rated Acoustic-Electric Guitars

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Having a pickup system built-in is super convenient, it makes acoustic guitars stage-friendly right from the factory, and do so at very little extra cost. This is why acoustic-electric guitars easily outnumber regular acoustic guitars in most online and physical stores.

Here we feature the best of these pickup equipped acoustics, updated in August 2022, divided into four popular price ranges: under $300, under $500, under $750 and under $1000. New in this edition is a section that features my personal pick in this price range.

Acoustic-electric guitars remove the need for complex mic placements, and greatly reduce the gear you need to be heard, be it on stage or in the studio. And since pickup installation is done by manufacturers, there's no need to worry about pickup compatibility and structural modifications on the guitar. All you have to do is plug into a PA system or acoustic amp, and you're all set. While miking acoustic guitars still produces the best sonic results, pickup and preamp technology is catching up and is being used for practicality, even in home recordings.

If you're on a limited budget, then you might like to also look at our guide to Cheap Acoustic Electric Guitars Under $200.

The Best Acoustic-Electric Guitars:

Author & Contributors

Alexander BrionesAlexander Briones

I've written about and researched music gear for many years, while also serving as a music director at my local church, in addition to teaching guitar, bass and mentoring young musicians.

Under $300

Gretsch G9520E Gin Rickey

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 200+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$279
Gretsch G9520E Gin Rickey
At publication time this was the Highest Rated Acoustic-Electric Guitar Under $300.

Cons

  • Lacks definition and clarity
  • Low acoustic projection

Pros

  • Warm blues box acoustic tone
  • Gritty and throaty amplified tone
  • Compact parlor style body
  • Easy to play short scale neck

The Gretsch G9520E is unique in this guide because it has a magnetic soundhole pickup.

Instead of the usual under-saddle piezo system, the G9520E comes with a Gretsch Deltoluxe magnetic soundhole pickup. This gives it a substantially different tone and feel compared to conventional acoustic-electrics. It combines elements of electric guitar tone with acoustic sound, resulting in a gritty and throaty amplified tone. This amplified tone also works great with folk and blues, but can also cross over into rock and related genres.

Note: the Gin Rickey's amplified tone will not appeal to those who want a transparent acoustic sound when amplified.

The body is based on old parlor guitars of the past, compact and easy to play. This smaller body results in warmer tone that emphasizes midrange frequencies. This warmer tone sounds great in folk, blues and similar styles. It also provides a good contrast to the usual punchy sound of dreadnoughts. The downside to its smaller body is that it lacks volume and does not have treble clarity as traditional acoustics.

Given its short scale neck, fret spacing is shorter and string tension is lower. This results in easier playing feel, which is especially important for blues styles that require a lot of bending, slide and vibrato.

For the price, Gretsch is able to mass produce this guitar without compromising build quality. It doesn't look or feel cheap at all. Matching its old school tone is its classic streamlined "blues box" design.

The Gretsch G9520E is a nice stage-ready parlor guitar that will appeal to enthusiasts of blues, folk and rock music.

Specifications

  • Body Shape: Gin Rickey Parlor
  • Top: Basswood
  • Body: Basswood
  • Finish: Black Semi-Gloss
  • Bridge: Walnut
  • Neck: Nato
  • Neck Profile: C Shape
  • Fingerboard: Walnut
  • Fingerboard Radius: 12"
  • Number of Frets: 18
  • Scale Length: 24"
  • Nut Width: 1.6875"
  • Electronics: Gretsch Deltoluxe Acoustic Magnetic Soundhole Pickup (Passive)

Rating Source Highlight

Website Source *Rating Value
AcousticGuitar Nick Millevoi 95/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Under $500

Yamaha FGX800C

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 300+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$350
Yamaha FGX800C - Natural
At publication time this was the Highest Rated Acoustic-Electric Guitar Under $500.

Cons

  • Lacks a bit of low-end
  • Plastic nut and saddle

Pros

  • Budget-friendly solid spruce top
  • Good projection and top-end clarity
  • Good build quality
  • Student-friendly playability

The FGX800C is part of Yamaha's FG Folk Guitar line, and so it doesn't stray too far from traditional acoustic design.

It has a cutaway dreadnought body, a popular configuration among acoustic-electric guitars. This body type is preferred for its good projection and punch, while the cutaway allows for easy upper fret access.

What sets it apart from similar guitars in its price range is its use of solid sitka spruce for the top, it easily makes this a better deal compared to non-solid top dreadnought models. Because solid spruce tops are made from a single piece of wood, it resonates better, resulting in good projection, clarity and sustain. And these three attributes are present in the FGX800C.

As expected, good tonewood specs are complimented by Yamaha's build quality. You can expect this guitar to last a long time, and sound better as it ages - as the solid top gets better acclimated. To my ears, the FGX800C has a bit more top end clarity than other similarly priced acoustics, but it does so at the cost of compromising some of the bottom end. Those who are used to boomy sounding acoustics will notice this subtle difference.

For plugging in, this guitar is equipped with Yamaha's System 66 electronics. It allows for expanded tone shaping via the built-in 3-band EQ and adjustable middle frequency. It's a transparent sounding pickup that is easy to setup and tweak. As a bonus, the preamp comes with a built-in tuner.

True to their student friendly reputation, Yamaha designed the neck to be easy on the hands, giving it a thin neck profile, flat 15.75" radius, and standard 1.675" nutwidth.

Unfortunately, the saddle and nut are still made from plastic, so the first suggested upgrade for this guitar is to swap them out for bone or TUSQ and this will improve sustain.

The Yamaha FGX800C combines modern playability with conventional solid top dreadnought design.

Specifications

  • Body Shape: Dreadnought Cutaway
  • Top: Solid Spruce
  • Body: Nato
  • Finish: Gloss Natural
  • Bridge: Walnut
  • Neck: Nato
  • Neck Profile: Thin
  • Fingerboard: Walnut
  • Fingerboard Radius: 15.75"
  • Number of Frets: 20
  • Scale Length: 25.5"
  • Nut Width: 1.675"
  • Electronics: Yamaha System 66 (Active - requires 2 x AA batteries)

Rating Source Highlight

Website Source *Rating Value
YouTube The Underemployed Guitar Guys 94/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Author's Pick

Takamine GY11ME

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 60+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$450
Takamine GY11ME

Cons

  • Not as full sounding as bigger acoustics
  • Built-in preamp had issues after 3 years
  • No solid wood on the top or body

Pros

  • Student-friendly playability
  • Vintage style square tapered slotted headstock
  • Mid-focused voicing great for blues
  • Reliable tuning and intonation
  • Proven beginner-friendly durability

The Takamine GY11ME had the classic parlor guitar look that I wanted, I was initially drawn to its square tapered slotted headstock, which gives the guitar a premium vintage appeal. And the headstock perfectly matches its "New Yorker" parlor style body.

I hesitated for a bit after knowing that it had a laminate mahogany body, but I ended up loving the warm tone that it provides. The laminate wood also looks quite nice even when closely inspected. Unplugged, it produces a warm midrange focused tone that suits my preferred styles of music, which include blues, gospel, rock and the like.

When plugged in, the TP-4T pickup gives it a fuller sound that's similar to bigger bodied acoustics. This is my general observation with low to mid-tier piezo pickups - they sound the same regardless of the type of acoustic guitar they are used on. The preamp system has essential controls including 3-band EQ and gain, as well as a nifty built-in tuner. Note that after around 3 years of use, the pickup system stopped working all together, so I ended up replacing the built-in preamp and pickup system with a Fishman Sonitone. My luthier explained that the "tuner" button is usually the problem, it can go bad and mute the preamp section; this is more of a general issue rather than one specific to this guitar.

Great looking grab and go guitar - Takamine GY11ME
Here is my GY11ME after the pickups were replaced; as you can see, the luthier who did it for me managed to keep the original look of the preamp section.

Another factor that made me decide to get this parlor guitar is its beginner friendly neck specs - short scale length, flat fretboard radius, and narrow nut width. It's simply relaxing to play, and it doesn't fight your fingers like my other guitars do. I also never had any problem with its tuning and intonation, it remains reliable and solid even after getting dings and scratches from years of regular use.

Many years after I took it home, the GY11ME is still our go-to guitar at home, surviving hours and hours of practice. It is my son's main acoustic, and has become my go-to couch guitar at home. We've also used it a lot of times in church services, school events, gigs, and home recordings.

Note that while this version of the GY11ME is still available, Takamine has a new version with slightly different specs, including having laminate sapele body, and a regular (not-slotted) headstock.

The Takamine GY11ME scratched my parlor guitar itch with its classic appeal, smooth action and bluesy tone, highly recommended if you're into similar musical styles and guitar aesthetics. It can also be a great starter or second guitar for students who are looking for an easy to play and reliable stage-ready instrument.

Specifications

  • Body Shape: New Yorker Parlor
  • Top: Mahogany
  • Back and Sides: Mahogany
  • Finish: Natural Satin
  • Bridge: Laurel
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Neck Profile: Soft-C
  • Fingerboard: Laurel
  • Fingerboard Radius: 12"
  • Number of Frets: 21
  • Frets to Body: 14
  • Scale Length: 24.8”
  • Nut Width: 1.67"

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
Acoustic Review Editor 90/100
Gearank Alexander Briones 95/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Under $750

Takamine GJ72CE

97
GEARANK

97 out of 100. Incorporating 125+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$680
Takamine GJ72CE 6 String Acoustic-Electric Guitar
At publication time this was the Highest Rated Acoustic-Electric Guitar Under $750.

Cons

  • Bulkier than most acoustics
  • The mid scooped tone can be drowned out by other instruments

Pros

  • Mid-scooped acoustic tone sounds good - particularly in solo settings
  • Loud acoustic projection
  • Versatile pickup system
  • Good build quality

The Takamine GJ72CE features a jumbo cutaway body, a shape sought after for its loud projection and full sounding bottom-end.

It has a solid spruce top, but instead of the usual mahogany, Takamine equipped this guitar with flame maple for the back and sides, which enhances the upper frequencies to balance out the extra low end brought about by its jumbo body. Being quite tall, I don't really have any problem with jumbo body acoustics, but smaller and younger players tend to find it too bulky and uncomfortable (I've taught guitar to many young musicians).

To my ears, it has more top-end than most acoustics, which combined with the boomy bass, gives it a scooped mid sound. This will definitely appeal to those who prefer crisp and trebly tone. But it may be too trebly for those who prefer warm tones.

Being the company that pioneered the built-in pickup and preamp configuration, Takamine did not pull any punches with the TK-40D preamp, which comes packed with tone shaping features, including 3-band EQ with mid contour, and it also allows you to bypass the EQ in case you want to utilize a pedal or rackmounted EQ. Other features include a built-in tuner, and notch filter.

The body is joined with a slim mahogany neck with a 12" radius 25.4" scale length rosewood fingerboard. This guitar also features Takamine's distinct split saddle design, which gives it good intonation and overall sound.

Everything about this guitar is built well, from wood quality, to fretwork, and hardware. Takamine is known for not compromising aesthetics, so they put top, back and fingerboard bindings on this guitar.

If you are looking for a very good quality, reasonably priced jumbo acoustic-electric, then this is for you.

Specifications

  • Body Shape: Jumbo Cutaway
  • Top: Solid Spruce
  • Body: Flame Maple
  • Finish: Gloss Natural
  • Bridge: Rosewood
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Neck Profile: Thin
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Radius: 12"
  • Number of Frets:
  • Scale Length: 25.4"
  • Nut Width: 1.6875"
  • Electronics: Takamine TK-40D (Active - requires a 9V battery)

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
Acoustic Guitar Vivien Wu 80/100
YouTube Flowforth Instruments 93/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Under $1000

Taylor 214ce Rosewood Grand Auditorium

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 225+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$1099
Taylor 214ce Rosewood Grand Auditorium

Cons

  • A bit too crispy / trebly
  • Bass is somewhat lacking

Pros

  • Clear and articulate mids and highs
  • Transparent and natural amplified sound
  • Superb build quality
  • Good acoustic projection

Taylor established their reputation for premium quality acoustics and the 214ce Rosewood showcases what the company is all about - high build quality combined with clear and trebly tone.

It features a solid sitka spruce top and layered rosewood for the back and sides, all of which form its Grand Auditorium body profile. This shape is based on the classic dreadnought, but with a narrower waist and a sleek venetian cutaway. This configuration gives it a distinct overall appearance, and produces good acoustic projection with Taylor's trademark "zing" - highly articulate mids and treble frequencies. Personally, I'm not a fan of trebly tone, mostly because it usually impacts bass negatively. But if you are into crisp bright acoustic tones, then this is a perfect fit.

Note: There is a Layered Koa body version of this guitar which I used to recommend in this guide, but Taylor put the price up above this guide's price limit, however you can still see our ratings for it: Taylor 214ce-K 2019 Model.

This model comes equipped with Taylor's Expression System 2 electronics featuring piezo crystals that are positioned along side the saddle instead of pressed under. This makes the resulting tone transparent and natural, and is the reason why Taylor acoustics still sound like themselves when plugged-in. This is one of the strengths of Taylor, electronics are not just an after thought, rather the pickup system is tweaked to perfectly fit their brand of tone.

Everything about the 214ce screams quality, from wood quality, to neck setup, to string action and aesthetic details. And this is the reason why you won't read many complaints about the premium price tags of Taylor guitars.

While not cheap, the 214ce is accessible enough to be an entry way into the world of high-end acoustic guitars.

Specifications

  • Body Shape: Grand Auditorium
  • Top: Solid Sitka Spruce
  • Body: Rosewood
  • Finish: Satin Natural
  • Bridge: Ebony
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Neck Profile: Not Specified
  • Fingerboard: Ebony
  • Fingerboard Radius: 15"
  • Number of Frets: 20
  • Scale Length: 25.5"
  • Nut Width: 1.6875"
  • Electronics: Taylor ES-2 (Active - requires a 9V battery)

Rating Source Highlight

Website Source *Rating Value
YouTube Acoustic Letter 98/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Things to Consider When Buying an Acoustic Electric Guitar

In this section, we clarify essential factors that you should consider when buying acoustic-electric guitars. The main goal is to help you find one that you'll enjoy playing while also fitting your budget and performance requirements.

Types of Acoustic Pickups

The main thing to remember about different types of acoustic guitar pickups is that none of them are inferior to the other, they just have different strengths and weaknesses. They’re all also available in different price tiers and levels of quality, so don’t discount any acoustic guitar pickup out of hand.

There are three main types of acoustic guitar pickup, first of which is the piezo pickup, and this is the most common type in production acoustic-electrics today. The other two main types include magnetic, and transducer. For ease of reading they’re laid out below.

Piezo

The term piezo refers to the use of piezoelectric crystals that convert vibrations into an electric current. Piezo pickups are inexpensive to produce, and as such are the most commonly found pickup in acoustic-electric guitars. Piezo pickups generally have a bright tone and strong mid-range response, thankfully they are bundled with preamps that help make the sound more like an unplugged acoustic guitar. While there's nothing better than a true miked acoustic tone, sound quality of piezo preamp systems have steadily been improving, which is good for both guitar players and manufacturers.

Magnetic

Contrary to popular belief, magnetic pickups are used on both acoustic guitars and electric guitars. These pickups usually sit in the sound hole of a guitar, so they don’t require any drilling or permanent modification. They’re also commonly an aftermarket addition with a few exceptions.

These pickups have a more metallic sound than either a piezo or a transducer pickup, though high-end models generally produce a better approximation of an acoustic tone.

Transducer

Transducer pickups are considered to be the best option available if you’re looking for authentic acoustic tone. They have a very rich and complex tone, and retain the general flavor of your guitar’s voice. The only flaw with this pickup type is that it produces more feedback than either piezo or magnetic pickups.

Active vs. Passive Pickups

Something to keep in mind when looking for pickups is that you’re going to have to choose between an active or passive pickup system. A passive system simply transfers the signal from your strings to whatever you’re using to amplify it, while an active pickup boosts your signal through the use of a battery.

A passive pickup doesn’t produce a very strong signal, which can result in a small amount of volume and an anemic tone. However, the signal can either be boosted at the p.a., your amp, or the most versatile option' via an Acoustic Preamp. Active pickups don’t require any external technology to boost, though they do require a battery, but some people still use acoustic preamps for the tone shaping and DI benefits. Note that most acoustic-electric guitars that are available on the market today come with active preamps.

Tonewoods

There’s a lot of debate surrounding tonewoods, so we’re just going to list the basic qualities of the main ones used by the guitars in this guide.

Basswood

Although technically a hardwood species, it's actually reasonably light and soft. These properties tend to reduce the high-end projection, which is probably why Gretsch have chosen it for some of their parlor guitars to help emphasize their mid-range.

Spruce

Spruce is the most commonly found top wood on a guitar (the side which faces out while you play). It has a bright tone that’s well suited to strumming or fingerpicking, especially when paired with mahogany.

Nato

This is sometimes referred to as "eastern mahogany" due to it having a similar appearance. Tone-wise, guitarists do compare it with mahogany with many saying it's a little brighter. It often gets used by guitar manufacturers due to being somewhat similar to mahogany but cheaper.

Maple

A very hard and dense wood and is most often used on the back and sides but you will occasionally find it used as a top wood. It has great projection but tends to emphasize the mid frequencies too much for many people's taste as a top wood.

Mahogany

Mahogany emphasizes bass and mid-range frequencies, and as a general rule has a fairly dark tone. Koa, another commonly found tonewood, is very similar to mahogany.

Sapele

Sapele is a bit denser than Mahogany and produces a slightly brighter sound. Taylor says it adds "top end shimmer" to the guitars they use it on.

Rosewood

Rosewood is brighter than mahogany though not as bright as spruce. When paired with spruce the resulting tone is very bright and focused, making it well suited to lead and fingerpicking.

Koa

Also known as Hawaiian Koa because it's a native Hawaiian species. It's a dense hardwood which emphasizes the mid to high overtones and as it ages it tends to 'open up' adding warmth to the mid range. It's mainly found on high-end guitars due to its high cost.

Laminated vs. Solid Top

The difference between laminate and solid wood is that laminate is several thin sheets of wood glued together, while solid wood is a solid piece of wood. The glue that binds the pieces of laminate together reduces the amount that your guitar vibrates, which in turn lessens your volume and frequency production (tone). Solid wood resonates more efficiently, so instruments that use it are louder and sound better. On the flipside, laminated woods are more cost effective, reliable and resilient to weather changes.

As a general rule, if the specifications don't say the top wood is solid, then it's laminate.

Best Acoustic Electric Guitar Selection Methodology

The first edition was published in 2017 and the current edition was published on August 24, 2022.

The selection criteria we used for putting guitars on the short-list to be considered for this 2022 edition were:

We then put popular guitars onto our short-list giving us 93 models to analyze in more detail - you can see them in the Music Gear Database.

We collected over 14,500 relevant reviews, ratings and forum discussions and processed them using the Gearank Algorithm to produce the rating scores out of 100 that you see above - that's an increase of 20.8% more rating sources than the previous edition. Finally we selected the highest rated guitars in each of the four price brackets, sub $300, sub $500, sub $750 and sub $1000 to recommend.

For more information about our methods see How Gearank Works.

About the Author and Contributors

Here are the key people and sources involved in this guide's production - click on linked names for information about their music industry backgrounds.

Lead Author & Researcher

Alexander BrionesAlexander Briones

I've written about and researched music gear for many years, while also serving as a music director at my local church, in addition to teaching guitar, bass and mentoring young musicians.

My first ever acoustic-electric guitar was an Ibanez AEL20E, and after experiencing the convenience of built-in pickups, I never went back to regular steel-string acoustics. I've owned more acoustic-electrics through the years, with my current favorites being a Takamine GY11ME and a Martin OMCPA4.

Contributors

Mason Hoberg: Supplemental Writing.
Jason Horton: Supplemental Research, Editing and Illustrating.

Media

Main/Top Image: Original photograph by Justin Higuchi, modified by Gearank.com and available under Creative Commons CC BY 2.0 license.

The individual product images were sourced from websites, promotional materials or supporting documentation provided by their respective manufacturers except for the GY11ME with new Pickups which was photographed by the Author.

The videos above have been embedded in accordance with YouTube's Terms of Service.

Comments

What are the best acoustic

What are the best acoustic-electric guitars for left handed For the price?

Hello Eddie,

Hello Eddie,

As of now, we don't have enough data regarding left-handed acoustic-electric guitars to give you specific recommendations. But generally speaking, you can look into the left-handed guitar options offered by the brands featured in this guide, they should have similar qualities as their right-handed counterpart.

Note that symmetrical non-cutaway body acoustic-electric guitars can be flipped over for use by left-handed players, but modifications on the nut and saddle may be required to accommodate the reverse orientation of the strings.