The Best Acoustic Electric Guitars - Under $300 & $500

The Highest Rated Acoustic-Electric Guitars

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Thanks to piezo pickup and compact preamp technology, amplifying acoustic guitars is now as easy as plugging into a PA or amp. This frees you up from limiting and complex mic placements, and reduces the needed gear to perform amplified.

And because of their practicality, acoustic-electric guitars are now a staple in the market, even outnumbering regular acoustic guitars in some stores. Here we feature what the market considers as the best of these pickup equipped acoustics, updated for 2020, in two price ranges where quality and value intersects: from $200 to $300, and from $300 to $500.

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:

The Best Acoustic Electric Guitars Under $300

Yamaha APXT2EW

86
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$230
Yamaha APXT2EW 6 String Acoustic-Electric Guitar

The Yamaha APXT2EW is a 3/4 scale version of their popular APX500 acoustic-electric guitar. And for the price, this model features exotic tonewoods that include mango veneer over meranti wood for the top, and meranti for the back and sides.

Being a 3/4 size guitar makes this ideal for younger players, or for experienced ones who want a portable acoustic with built-in electronics for use on stage. Speaking of electronics, this guitar comes with an ART-based preamp and System 68 contact pickup. It also features a built-in tuner within the preamp controls.

Specifications:

  • Body Shape: 3/4 Dreadnought Cutaway
  • Top: Meranti with Mango Veneer
  • Body: Meranti
  • Finish: Gloss
  • Bridge: Rosewood
  • Neck: Nato
  • Neck Profile: Not Specified
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Radius: Not Specified
  • Number of Frets: 21
  • Scale Length: 22.81"
  • Nut Width:1.692"
  • Electronics: System 68TR contact pickup, volume, tone EQ, tuner

Pros

Most of the thumbs up are from younger players and the parents who are satisfied with its overall value. Easy playability is its main strength, but it's also praised for its good amplified sound. Coming from Yamaha, build quality also passes with flying colors for many owners.

Cons

At 3/4 size, acoustic sound is expected to be a bit limited, especially in the bottom end, but this is a physical limitation given its smaller body.

Overall

If you're looking for a comfortable and compact couch guitar that is equally at home on stage, then check out the Yamaha APXT2EW.

Epiphone AJ-100CE

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 175+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$249
Epiphone AJ-100CE

At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated Acoustic-Electric Guitar between $200 and $300 along with the Ibanez AEG12II.

Epiphone acoustic guitars are hard to miss because they are available almost everywhere. And for good reason, they offer quality and nice features at very affordable price points.

This rings true with the AJ-100CE, which for the price gives you an advanced jumbo body which is slightly bigger than conventional dreadnought, resulting in more acoustic low-end and volume. Note that this guitar comes with a passive pickup from Fishman and it does not have a preamp built-in. This means that you'll need a separate preamp when plugging into a mixing console, but not when using an acoustic amp.

Specifications:

  • Body Shape: Advanced Jumbo
  • Top: Laminated Spruce
  • Body: Laminated Mahogany
  • Finish: Gloss- Natural
  • Bridge: Rosewood
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Neck Profile: Slim Taper
  • Fingerboard: Not Specified (Likely Rosewood)
  • Fingerboard Radius: Not Specified
  • Number of Frets: 21
  • Scale Length: 25.5”
  • Nut Width: 1 11/16" (43 mm)
  • Electronics: NanoFlex Pickup

Pros

There are plenty of praises for the Epiphone AJ-100CE's fuller sounding acoustic tone, which surprises many given its price range. Value for money also gets a lot of thumbs up, along with playability - even experienced players appreciate its string action and neck setup.

Cons

The price to pay for having a fuller sounding acoustic tone is having a bigger body, which can be a downer especially for younger players. Also the need for a separate preamp complicates stage use a bit, and requires a bit more spending in the long run unless you already have an acoustic guitar amp.

Overall

If you're looking for an affordable yet full sounding acoustic guitar, that can be used on stage, then this is for you.

Washburn Festival EA12

86
GEARANK

86 out of 100. Incorporating 20+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$249
Washburn Festival EA12-B 6 String Acoustic-Electric Guitar

The Washburn Festival EA12 has a "mini jumbo" body, and while the two words used to describe it seem contradictory - they do make sense because it does follow the round body shape of jumbo acoustics, but in a more compact profile. With this configuration, you get some of the benefits of a jumbo acoustic, while alleviating some of the discomfort associated with their bulky size.

Basswood is the core tonewood used for the body and top, while the neck is crafted from mahogany. And as expected from Washburn, they did not hold back with aesthetics and features, giving this guitar a rosewood bridge and fingerboard, abalone rosette, white binding and chrome die-cast Grover style tuning machines. Finally, it comes with built-in preamp and pickup system along with a nifty tuner.

Specifications:

  • Body Shape: Mini Jumbo
  • Top: Basswood
  • Body: Basswood
  • Finish: Buffed Gloss
  • Bridge: Rosewood
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Neck Profile: Not Specified
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Radius: Not Specified
  • Number of Frets: 21
  • Scale Length: 25.6875"
  • Nut Width: 1.69"
  • Electronics: WT-92 Preamp and Pickup with Tuner

Pros

More and more users are filling up reviews with positive comments regarding this guitar's comfortable compact profile, and good acoustic tone. Playability also comes up often, with some even comparing it to more expensive models. The Festival EA12's plugged in sound is also well received, described as clear and clean sounding.

Cons

There are a few who are not too fond of the shape, some complain that the guitar is too small for a jumbo, while others complain that it's too bulky for a mini.

Overall

This compact jumbo shape acoustic-electric guitar gives you the best of both worlds, so to speak, and most of the reviews are in agreement.

Ibanez AEG12II

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 90+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$300
Ibanez AEG12II

At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated Acoustic-Electric Guitar between $200 and $300 along with the Epiphone AJ-100CE.

The AEG12II-NT combines a thin body profile with Ibanez' brand of playability, resulting in a comfortable and easy to play acoustic-electric guitar.

It features an all-mahogany body with a narrower depth that makes it easier to carry around and to play with. The downside being is lack of low end and projection - which can also be a good thing if you prefer acoustic tones with more midrange. Giving this guitar its amplified voice is a Fishman Sonicore pickup, which is paired to an AEQ-SP1 Preamp that also comes with a tuner. And since Ibanez is not one to skimp on aesthetic features, you get a really good looking instrument with distinct fretboard inlays, bindings and more.

Specifications:

  • Body Shape:
  • Top: Mahogany
  • Body: Mahogany
  • Finish:
  • Bridge: Rosewood
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Neck Profile: Not Specified
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Radius: 400 mm
  • Number of Frets: 21
  • Scale Length: 24.96"
  • Nut Width: 1.69"
  • Electronics:Fishman Sonicore Pickup, Ibanez AEQ-SP1 Preamp w/Onboard Tuner

Pros

Nice and great are just two of the many positive adjectives that people use to describe the Ibanez AEG12II-NT. And most of these satisfied users are pleased with its playability, describing it as a truly inspiring and fun instrument. Its visual appeal and sound quality are also commended often, some even coming from experienced players who compare it to more expensive acoustic-electric guitars.

Cons

Not many complaints about performance, but there are a few reports of minor blemishes. Those who are used to big body acoustic guitars also note that the guitar's thinner body profile may need some minor positioning adjustments.

Overall

The Ibanez AEG12II-NT is ideal for those who are looking for a compact workhorse acoustic-electric guitar.

The Best Acoustic Electric Guitars Under $500

Ovation Applause Elite AE44II

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 90+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$320
Ovation Applause Elite AE44II

One look at its distinct bowl-back body, and you already know that the Ovation Applause Elite AE44II is not your average wooden guitar. This distinct back is crafted from Lyrachord, the same material which is said to be used in helicopter blades. This results in a lightweight instrument that's not as fragile as wood. Still it does come with a solid spruce top and other wooden components, so it doesn't sound or look too out of the ordinary.

Finally, the guitar comes equipped with an undersaddle piezo and preamp system, which features a 3-band EQ and built-in tuner.

Specifications:

  • Body Shape: Bowl-Back Mid-Depth Cutaway
  • Top: Solid Spruce
  • Body: Ovation Lyrachord
  • Finish: Black / Ruby Red / Natural / Vintage Varnish
  • Bridge: Ovangkol
  • Neck: Nato / Mahogany
  • Neck Profile: Not Specified
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Radius: 10"
  • Number of Frets: 17 (Up to 22 High E-String)
  • Scale Length: 25.25"
  • Nut Width: 1 11/16"
  • Electronics: Ovation CE304T Undersaddle Piezo Pickup and Preamp

Pros

Reviewers have mostly good things to say about the Ovation Applause Elite AE44II. Most of which are happy with its overall value and playability. It also helps that the guitar is pleasant to look at. Even Premiere Guitar's Shawn Hammond is impressed with its "super-solid build and setup", concluding that this guitar is a fantastic deal.

Cons

There are a few users who comment on minor aesthetic issues, but they still like the instrument overall. There are some who report that bass response is a bit lacking, but this is to be expected given its bowl-back mid-depth profile. Speaking of bowl-back, there are a few who feel that it may take some time to get used to its distinct body shape.

Overall

If you're looking for an affordable acoustic-electric guitar with good functionality and increased reliability, then this is for you.

Epiphone Dove Pro

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 600+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$369
Epiphone Dove Pro Acoustic-Electric Guitar

The Epiphone Dove Pro is a reproduction of the classic Gibson Dove guitar. While it is unfair to expect it to have the same high-end specs and tone, it does impress enough guitarists to warrant a spot in this list.

At its core is a combination of solid spruce and maple, which gives it a subtly brighter tone when compared to conventional spruce and mahogany body acoustics. To retain as much of the guitar's acoustic body as possible, Epiphone equipped the Dove Pro with discrete Fishman electronics, with controls that are mounted on the underside of the sound hole.

Specifications:

  • Body Shape: Dreadnought
  • Top: Solid Spruce
  • Body: Select Maple back & sides
  • Finish: Gloss - Violin Burst
  • Bridge: Rosewood
  • Neck: Hard Maple
  • Neck Profile: SlimTaper "D" profile
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Radius: 12"
  • Number of Frets: 20
  • Scale Length: 25.5"
  • Nut Width: 1.68"
  • Electronics: Fishman Sonicore pickup and Fishman Sonitone sound-hole preamp

Pros

The Epiphone Dove Pro continues to work its old school magic into the hearts of guitarists, new and experienced alike. Its classic styling seems to be a major part of its appeal, as most reviewers attest to. Value for money comes in as close second, with many satisfied that they are getting a great looking solid guitar at a very justifiable price point. It is used in many different musical styles, including country, folk and even rock.

Cons

While there are many who appreciate its discrete electronics, there are a few who feel that it is too limited for stage use. As expected of guitars in this price range, there are some who made minor setup adjustments to better enjoy the instrument.

Overall

With its classic styling and long standing legacy, the Epiphone Dove Pro is a good affordable acoustic-electric to add to anyone's guitar collection, be it a beginner or a pro.

Gretsch G5024E Rancher

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 50+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$370
Gretsch G5024E Rancher Acoustic-Electric Guitar

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Acoustic-Electric Guitar between $300 and $500.

The Gretsch G5024E easily stands out from other acoustic electrics with its triangular soundhole and stylish pickguard. It carries over Gretsch' brand of eccentric design for acoustic players to enjoy at a very affordable price point.

And it's not just about looking different because it does follow conventional acoustic guitar builds with its solid spruce top, scalloped X-bracing and laminated mahogany back and sides. For plugging in, it comes with the Fishman Sonicore under-saddle pickup and Isys+ preamp system, which comes standard with many acoustic-electric guitars on the market.

Specifications:

  • Body Shape: Dreadnought
  • Top: Solid Spruce
  • Body: Rosewood
  • Finish: Gloss Sunburst / Gloss Natural
  • Bridge: Mahogany
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Neck Profile: Not Specified
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Radius: Not Specified
  • Number of Frets: 21
  • Scale Length: 25"
  • Nut Width: 1.6875"
  • Electronics: Fishman Sonicore Pickup and Isys + Preamp System

Pros

With its playful old school appeal, many consider the Gretsch G5024E as a fun instrument to practice and perform with. Build quality and aesthetics are often cited in reviews, with many reports of the guitar eliciting positive response from friends and audiences. There are also reports from users who are very happy with both its amplified and acoustic sound.

Cons

There are no standout complaints, but I can understand how some will skip on this guitar simply because it doesn't look like traditional acoustics.

Overall

If you want an eccentric workhorse guitar to match your style, then the Gretch G5024E may be a good match for you.

Washburn Woodline O12SE

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 20+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$459
Washburn WLO12SE

With its all mahogany body and orchestra body shape, the Washburn Woodline WLO12SE has a warm tonality that many are looking for. It features a solid mahogany top with scalloped x-braces that allow the top to vibrate more freely, adding to the overall resonance and clarity of the sound.

It houses a Fishman Isys+ electronic preamp and pickup system with built-in tuner, a popular combination used by many guitar manufacturers, including those that cost more. It also features NuBone nut and saddle, something that's usually only seen on more expensive acoustics. Finally, the OS12SE is meant to be pleasing to the eyes, with its rosewood and maple binding, and distinct looking rosette.

Specifications:

  • Body Shape: Orchestra
  • Top: Solid Mahogany
  • Body: Mahogany
  • Finish: Gliss
  • Bridge: Ovangkol
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Neck Profile: Not Specified
  • Fingerboard: Ovangkol
  • Fingerboard Radius: Not Specified
  • Number of Frets: 20
  • Scale Length: 25.5"
  • Nut Width: 1.6875"
  • Electronics: Fishman Isys 301T preamp with tuner

Pros

It's hard to deny that the Washburn Woodline O12SE is a looker, and it probably helps a lot with its high ratings. Users describe it as having a mellow warm tone that's great for more nuanced playing styles like fingerpicking. Action and playability also get a lot of thumbs up, with many describing it as very easy to play. Finally, many users are pleased with its clean build, down to the small details.

Cons

While many appreciate its warm tone, it probably will not do it for those who prefer the brightness and punch of spruce topped guitars.

Overall

The Washburn Woodline OS12SE is a great buy for those looking into an affordable yet serious mahogany topped workhorse acoustic-electric guitar.

Things to Consider When Buying an Acoustic Electric Guitar

In this section, we clarity 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 and at the same it should fit 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 system's 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 (the John Lennon signature guitar is the only exception to this trend that springs to mind).

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..

Tonewoods

There’s a lot of debate surrounding tonewoods, so we’re just going to list the basic qualities of those you’re most likely to encounter.

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.

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.

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.

Cedar

Cedar is also used as a top wood, though it’s most commonly found on classical guitars. Cedar is great for mellow fingerpicking and strumming, though it’s not the best choice for more lively genres (blues and bluegrass).

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. Note that in this price range, most of the guitar's available are laminated, but there are some hidden gems, including a few in this guide that come with solid tops.

Best Acoustic Electric Guitar Selection Methodology

This guide was first published on August 30, 2017, written by Mason Hoberg and the latest major update was published on written by Alexander Briones with contributions from Mason.

We took another detailed look at all acoustic-electric guitars priced between $200 and $500 available from major American online retailers, and for this 2020 update, we shortlisted 45 of them for closer analysis. This resulted in collating and analyzing more than 8200 reviews and ratings, including the most recent ones up to late April of 2020. All this information was processed via the Gearank Algorithm to produce a Gearank rating out of 100 for each guitar. Finally we selected the highest rated guitars in each of the two price brackets, sub $300 and sub $500. For more information about our methods see How Gearank Works.

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.

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