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7 Best Acoustic Guitars (From $200 to $500)

by | Guitars | 0 comments

Buying a mid-priced acoustic guitar (between $200 to $500) is the next step up from a low-priced guitar designed primarily for beginners.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced musician, in this price range you can find really nice sounding guitars that are fine quality instruments.

Ultimate Acoustic Guitar Buyers Guide

Before we get to the reviews, it’s important to understand the different styles and types of acoustic guitars, the types of woods used, and more.  With this information, you can make a more informed buying decision.

For a complete overview of acoustic guitars, from construction, body styles, woods, playability, plus tips on choosing the right acoustic guitar, please see my Ultimate Acoustic Guitar Buyers Guide article.

Reviews of the 7 Best Acoustic Guitars from $200 to $500

All seven acoustic guitars I’ve reviewed are beautiful, high-quality guitars with excellent tone, solid construction, and designed for comfortable playability.

Many of the guitars are electric-acoustics, meaning they come with a built-in pickup for recording or connecting to amps or PA systems.  That’s an added bonus for those of you who perform live or want to record.

The guitars I’ve chosen are:

Let’s check them out!

Review Criteria

All acoustic guitars included in my reviews were selected based on their widespread use and reputation in the professional music community and from personal use and knowledge.

I’ve also added my insights gained from my 25+ years of experience running a very successful music production company, plus working with dozens of composers and thousands of tracks for my Audio Addiction Music Library, a production music library with global distribution.

Best Acoustic Guitars (From $200 to $500) Reviews

F. Martin & Co. is one of the industry’s most revered acoustic guitar manufacturers. Based in Nazareth, PA, Martin Guitars started out as a cabinet maker in the 18th century and has been creating premium quality acoustic guitars and strings since 1833.

Martin guitars are handmade by skilled craftspeople that still use designs and processes conceived and implemented by founder Christian Frederick Martin. Each guitar takes more than 300 steps to complete, from shaping the raw wood through creating a finished product.

Overview

The Martin LX1E is a small size 6-string electric flat-top acoustic guitar, and it’s one of the most popular electric-acoustic guitars on the market today.

Much of its popularity is due to Ed Sheeran and other well-known performers who perform and record with an LX1E.

The guitar is known as the Little Martin because it’s Martin’s smallest acoustic guitar, but in Martin’s words it’s, “very big on tone, quality, and versatility.”

Size-wise it is like a very large ukulele, but despite its size it has that big warm tone you expect from a Martin guitar!

Construction

The LX1E has a solid wood spruce top and high-pressure mahogany laminate-constructed sides and back. This combination of woods delivers a warm tone that is pure Martin!

Plus, the very dense pressure laminate mahogany helps the guitar maintain its tuning despite changes in temperature and humidity you may encounter while traveling.

The neck is made of a birch laminate.   It is shaped into a modified low oval taper, making it very comfortable to play.

Sustainable Wood Certified Fretboard

Many guitar fretboards are made of rosewood, a wood that’s increasingly becoming scarce and criticized for being harvested in a non-ecological and non-sustainable manner.  The LX1E’s fingerboard is made of FSC® Certified Richlite, a product that’s actually made of resin-infused paper!

While this seems an odd choice for constructing a guitar, Richlite is a very versatile product that’s used in many different high-end items, including guitar fingerboards.  You can learn more at Richlite.com.

What’s more, the FSC® certification “ensures that products come from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social and economic benefits.  FSC® Certified means that all of the wood components of a guitar meet the stringent requirements of responsible forest management set forth by the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC).”

Built-In Pickup and Preamp

The guitar comes with a Fishman Isys pickup and preamp with a built-in tuner.  There are knobs for volume as well as phase, which is helpful for fixing phase issues when plugging into a PA. There is also a Tone Contour button that provides some EQ tone shaping.  The unit is powered by one 9V battery that lasts about 100 hours.

How Does It Sound?

The LX1E has the warm, detailed sound that you would expect from a Martin.  But because it’s a smaller guitar, it doesn’t have that complex tone that comes with a full-size guitar.

Martin LX1E Electric-Acoustic Guitar

Overall

The LX1E is a great small sized guitar that really sounds good.  While the overall tone and sound is Martin, it doesn’t quite have the depth that full size (and much more expensive) Martins have.  But for a small size guitar priced well under $500, it’s hard to beat!

Martin M550 Phosphor Bronze or SP Acoustic 92/8 Phosphor Bronze Medium strings are recommended.

PROS

  • Excellent travel size guitar
  • High-quality pickup system
  • Lightweight yet durable construction
  • Well-padded gig bag included
  • One-year manufacturer’s warranty
S

CONS

  • None

Martin LX1E Little Martin Electric-Acoustic Guitar

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AmazonGuitar Center | Zzounds

A slightly cheaper alternative to the Martin LX1E is the Taylor Baby Taylor.  It’s also a travel-size guitar with great tone and playability for a small size guitar.

You can check out a comparison between the LX1E and the Baby Taylor below:

Martin LX1E and Taylor Baby Taylor Comparison

Taylor Baby Taylor Acoustic Guitar

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AmazonGuitar Center | Zzounds

Breedlove Guitars  have been making guitars since 1992. Their mission is to craft and provide ”the best sounding, best playing, and most enjoyable acoustic guitars” on the market.  And given their large base of satisfied guitar users, Breedlove is well on their way to achieving their goal.

All of their guitars incorporate Breedlove’s Tonewood Certification Project and innovative sound profiling technology. These initiatives combine science and design to achieve warm, balanced tones from crafted tonewoods using environmentally-friendly sustainable sourcing methods.

Their proprietary Tonewood Certification Project and hand voicing are used to pair and shape tonewoods to perfection. The result is excellent sounding hand-crafted guitars that are a joy to play.

Overview

The Breedlove Pursuit Series of electric-acoustic guitars are a collection of steel string, nylon string, and 12-string instruments.

The Concert CE is a concert-style electric-acoustic guitar with a cutaway.  It’s a favored choice for guitarists both starting out and those with more experience.

The Concert style is Breedlove’s original body shape. It’s designed to be well-balanced, comfortable, and provide a full tonal range.

Construction

The Concert CE guitars are designed and engineered in Breedlove’s Bend, Oregon facilities, and undergo a 25- to 30-point quality check.

The Concert CE has a solid red cedar wood top and zirocote sides and back.  Zirocote is an exotic wood with a unique spiderweb grain.

The neck is okoume and has a dovetail neck joint. The 20-fret fretboard is East Indian rosewood with a 25-1/2-inch scale length and a 1-11/16″ nut width.  The bridge is also made of East Indian rosewood.

The slim-profile neck and semi-gloss finish help make the neck feel smooth and have ideal playability.

The Breedlove Bridge Truss (BBT) reduces tension on the soundboard, giving it structural stability as well as optimal sound.

The innovative Breedlove Pinless Bridge reduces saddle strain and eliminates lost, worn, or broken bridge pins.  This innovative bridge allows the guitar to have a thinner top that creates better tone and sustain.

Built-In Pickup and Preamp

All Pursuit electric-acoustic guitars are equipped with Fishman Isys+ pickup system.  This system is used on many high-quality guitars.

The Concert CE also features a USB port for connection to recording software/ hardware, computers, or other devices.

How Does It Sound?

The Concert CE has a beautiful warm tone that would compliment just about any musical style.

Breedlove Pursuit Concert CE Electric-Acoustic Guitar

Soundcloud player

Overall

Musicians worldwide are partial to Breedlove Pursuit models for their superior sound and playability at affordable prices. While the Concert CE guitar is priced at the very top of the range, it’s premium woods, warm tone, and easy playability makes it a top pick.

PROS

  • Beautiful sounding guitar
  • Also available in left-handed versions
  • Breedlove Bridge Truss(BBT)
  • Sound Optimization™ Process results in warm, rich sound
  • Soft gig bag included
S

CONS

  • None

Breedlove Pursuit Concert CE Electric-Acoustic Guitar

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Amazon | zZounds | Guitar Center

Fender Musical Instruments,  based in Scottsdale, AZ, USA, is one of the best-known guitar manufacturers in the world today. This iconic brand is synonymous with rock ‘n’ roll, R&B, jazz, and country music dating back to 1946.

Fender Tim Armstrong Hellcat Electric-Acoustic Guitar

Never heard of Tim Armstrong?  Tim is the Grammy Award-winning founder of punk band Rancid.

The Fender Tim Armstrong Hellcat is a concert electric-acoustic guitar that’s based on his well-worn 1960’s Fender instrument buts adds modern touches like high-quality onboard electronics.

It’s an ideal guitar for all styles of music with a sweet tone and smooth playability.

Construction

If you like retro, the Hellcat is for you!

It has a natural-finish solid mahogany top and laminate mahogany sides and back.  It uses scalloped X bracing which allows the top to freely resonate, providing better tone, more nuance, and greater projection.

The maple “C” shape neck has a 20-fret rosewood fingerboard and vintage-style open gear tuners and dual-action truss rod. The nut and bridge are made of Graph Tech® NuBone™ a premium material.

The Hellcat features a 1970s inspired F-style rosette and pearl acrylic inlay with the Hellcat logo on the 3rd, 5th, and 7th frets.  It also includes a pair of pearl acrylic inlay skulls on the 12th fret that are Tim Armstrong’s signature decorations.

Built-In Pickup and Preamp

The Hellcat is equipped with a Fishman® Isys III system with active onboard pre-amp.  The Isys III includes a built-in tuner plus volume and tone controls.

How Does It Sound?

The Hellcat delivers an amazing vintage tone that matches the cool retro vibe of the guitar.

Fender Tim Armstrong Hellcat Electric-Acoustic Guitar

Overall

The Hellcat has won many fans for its vintage looks, well-balanced tone, and smooth playability.  As a smaller concert guitar, it’s a great pick for those will small hands but want a big sound.

The pickup and electronics are high-quality, and the included tuner is a nice bonus.  It’s an incredible value at its price that’s well under $500!

Fender® Dura-Tone® 880L (.012-.052 Gauge) strings are recommended.

PROS

  • Excellent sounding guitar that’s a pleasure to play
  • Includes an Isys III pickup system with built-in tuner
  • Available in 6- or 12-string versions
  • Includes Tim Armstrong custom “LET’S GO” guitar strap
  • Fender 2-Year Limited Warranty
S

CONS

  • A few complaints about an imperfect finish
  • Guitar’s color is lighter than the pictures show

Fender Tim Armstrong Hellcat Electric-Acoustic Guitar

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Amazon | zZounds | Guitar Center

Since their introduction in the 1960s, Ovation guitars have been in high demand and include noted players such as Josh White and Glen Campbell.

Ovation Guitars has always marched to its own drum, so to speak.   Soon after setting up shop in 1964, founder Charles Kaman assembled a group of aerospace engineers to revolutionize the acoustic guitar.

In 1966 Kaman’s group created an innovative parabolic round-back acoustic guitar design that had unprecedented projection and sustain.

The bowl-shaped guitar body was constructed of Lyrachord, a material made of glass and resin that was originally produced for helicopter parts!  The parabolic design created a very nice tone with greater volume than conventional dreadnought guitar designs.

Ovation was also the first manufacturer to introduce pickups and pre-amplifiers in an acoustic guitar.

Overview

The Ovation Celebrity Standard CS24 is a classic thin neck single cutaway electric-acoustic guitar.

Construction

The CS24 has a natural gloss, solid spruce flat top that comes in four striking colors that make quite a visual statement:

  • Natural
  • Black
  • Ruby Red
  • 2-Color Sunburst

It also has the innovative mid-depth Lyrachord resin bowl body that brings increased projection and tonal richness.

The CS24 features a modified quartersawn scalloped X bracing design that combines past and modern-day technology to create warm tone, optimal response, and maximum power.

The satin-finished nato mahogany neck has a smooth 20-fret rosewood fingerboard. The guitar also includes chrome die-cast sealed tuners.

Built-In Pickup and Preamp

The CS24 features an Ovation Slimline pickup and OP-4BT pre-amp electronics system for live sound or recording uses. It includes a 3-band EQ to adjust bass, mid-range, and treble frequencies, plus a 12+db volume/gain control

It also includes an onboard tuner and low-battery indicator light.

How Does It Sound?

The CS24 has the classic Ovation sound – warm, punchy and well-balanced.

Ovation Celebrity Standard CS24

Overall

The CS24 brings the classic Ovation sound and quality to guitarists looking for a very affordable option.  The CS24 doesn’t disappoint with great looks, sweet tone, and clean playability.D’Addario EXP16 (.012-.053) Phosphor Bronze strings are recommended.

PROS

  • Great tone and playability
  • Nice volume and projection
  • Lightweight
S

CONS

  • Case sold separately

Ovation Celebrity Standard CS24 Electric-Acoustic Guitar

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Amazon | zZounds | Guitar Center

 

Washburn Guitars has been a leading maker of guitars, mandolins, banjos, and ukuleles going back to 1880s Chicago.

Today they continue their 135-year tradition of making quality electric-acoustic guitars for both beginners and professionals alike.  Washburn guitars have been the guitars of choice for some of the biggest names in folk, blues, and rock such as Bob Dylan, Greg Allman, Nancy Wilson, Robbie Robertson, Don McLean, Joe Perry, John Hiatt, Hank Williams Jr, and more.

Overview

Introduced in 2016, the Washburn Heritage Series HG12S is a grand auditorium, six-string acoustic guitar. It’s a beautiful sounding guitar in gorgeous dark wood mahogany.  It’s an ideal guitar for both strumming and fingerpicking in any style.

Construction

The HG12S has a solid mahogany top, back, and sides, plus a satin finish mahogany neck. The all mahogany construction gives this guitar a rich, deep tone that sounds like a much more expensive guitar!

Adding to the sweet tone is Washburn’s cathedral peaked advanced scalloped-X bracing design that provides extended tonal balance and optimal response.

A 20-fret rosewood neck and rosewood bridge, custom designed rosette, and chrome diecast tuners round out this high-quality guitar.

How Does It Sound?

The Grand Auditorium style has a larger bout (rear) than a concert guitar.  Because of its bigger body, the guitar has a beautiful rich tone.

Mahogany guitars impart a warmer tone than cedar or spruce.  And a solid top will allow the guitar’s tone improve with age.

The following demo shows off this guitar’s beautiful tone.

Washburn Heritage Series HG12S

Overall

The HG12S Grand Auditorium usually sells for around $300.  It’s a great-sounding guitar for the price, and it will only improve with age.

This guitar is a winner and highly recommended if you want a beautiful sounding acoustic guitar but not an electric-acoustic model.  You can always add a pickup later.

PROS

  • Beautiful well-balanced tone
  • Comfortable
  • Lifetime warranty
S

CONS

  • No built-in pickup or electronics
  • Case sold separately

Washburn Heritage Series HG12S Grand Auditorium Acoustic Guitar

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Amazon | Guitar Center

The Yamaha Corporation, based in Hamamatsu, Japan, started by producing pianos and reed organs back in the late 1800s.  Today, Yamaha is the world’s largest manufacturer of musical instruments and is a leading maker of both acoustic and electric guitars.

The Yamaha LL6M ARE and LS6M ARE guitars are part of Yamaha’s high-end L Series of acoustic guitars.  All L-Series acoustic guitars use the latest technology combined with traditional hand-craftsmanship to produce guitars that meet the demands of today’s guitarists.

The L-Series underwent a premium upgrade in 2014 to include some higher-end features not usually found on guitars in this price range.

Of note is that both guitars incorporate Yamaha’s Acoustic Resonance Enhancement (A.R.E.) technology.  A.R.E. is a proprietary wood enhancing technology Yamaha developed and uses on their high-end guitars.

In Yamaha’s words,

“Through precise control of temperature, humidity, and atmospheric pressure, the molecular properties of the wood can be manipulated into a more acoustically ideal condition, similar to the molecular characteristics of woods in instruments that have been played for years.”

The following short video shows the difference in sound quality:

Secret of Yamaha Acoustic Sound Projection

The result is a guitar that has a rich vintage tone that sounds like a much older guitar.

Overview

The LL6M is a dreadnought size electric acoustic guitar, while the LS6M is a smaller concert sized guitar.  Both guitars have a beautiful tone and are a joy to play.

Both models are available in 4 colors: natural, brown sunburst, black, or dark-tinted.

Construction

The LL6M and LS6M are both made with a hand-selected, solid wood Engelmann spruce top that’s treated with Yamaha’s A.R.E. wood reforming technology for enhanced tone and projection.  Englemann spruce is quite expensive and is typically found on much higher-priced guitars, so this is an excellent bonus!

Both models have mahogany sides and back for a rich tone.

The neck is Yamaha’s newly developed 5-ply mahogany and rosewood combo that provides smooth playability. It contains a double action adjustable rod that creates strength and stability.  Yamaha also redesigned the neck’s components (string spacing and height, neck taper, and fingerboard binding) to better serve today’s playing techniques.

The LL6M and LS6M have rosewood fingerboards with 20 frets, and large rosewood bridges that allow greater string vibration transfer, clear mid-range, and balanced tone.

They also come with gold-plated hardware, die-cast tuners, and a tortoise pickguard.

Built-In Pickup and Preamp

Both models come with a newly-developed SRT Zero Impact piezoelectric pickup system.  It’s a passive type pickup (no electronics) designed to minimize the pickup’s impact on the guitar’s tone and appearance.  Each string has its own individual piezo pickup elements to provide better tone and dynamics.

How Does It Sound?

As you can hear, these are great sounding guitars…

Yamaha LL6M Review

Yamaha LS6M Review

Overall

The LL6M and LS6M are premium-quality guitars that incredibly cost less than $500.

Both models come very well setup from the factor will a nice low action, making them very playable.  They make excellent guitars for beginners as well as intermediate and advanced players.

For some, these will be the only guitars they’ll ever want!

PROS

  • Well-balanced tone and response
  • Excellent craftsmanship
  • A.R.E. (Acoustic Resonance Enhancement) technology
  • SRT Zero Impact pickup
  • Deluxe hard-shell case included
S

CONS

  • None

Yamaha LL6M Acoustic Guitar

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Amazon

Yamaha LS6M Acoustic Guitar

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Amazon

Takamine (est. 1965) began as a family-run guitar business in Sakashita, Japan. Starting with its first acoustic-electric model introduced in 1979, Takamine has been producing premium quality guitars used by studio players, touring musicians, and top artists such as Bruno Mars, Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith, Glenn Frey, and John Bon Jovi.

Takamine prides themselves on the quality of craftsmanship and the sound of their guitars.  For example, while many large manufacturers use machinery to speed up production, Takamine still finetunes the bracing and voicing of each guitar by hand.

Different Models

There are a number of models available of the GD30 acoustic guitar.

The GD30 is a non-cutaway acoustic model and is available in natural wood (GD30-NAT) or black (GD30-BLK).  It’s available well under $500.

The GD30E is the cutaway electric-acoustic model and is available in natural wood (GD30E-NAT) or black (GD30E-BLK).  While more expensive, the GD30E still sells for under $500.

The GD30E is also available in a left-handed model.

Overview

The Takamine GD30CE is a dreadnought cutaway electric-acoustic guitar that’s been a favorite with guitarists for many years.  Its mellow vintage tone is perfect for singer-songwriters or softer more intimate type playing.

Construction

The GD30CE features a solid natural gloss-finished spruce top and natural gloss-finished mahogany sides and back.   It uses quartersawn X-bracing to enhance the guitar’s beautiful tone.

The 20-fret slim neck is a satin-finished mahogany and has an ovangkol wood fingerboard with great feel and playability.

Takamine guitar necks have an ergonomic “C” shape that slightly thinner on the bass side of the neck so that it fits the natural curve of your hand. They are designed to be very comfortable to play for all playing styles.

Takamine uses a laser-guided fret finishing system that achieves accuracy to within 0.0001” of perfect alignment.  The result is increased clarity of pitch with both fretted notes and chords.

One unusual feature is that Takamine uses a pinless bridge system that allows you to change strings much easier and faster than with regular bridges.

The GD30CE comes with chrome hardware and die-cast tuning machines.

Built-In Pickup and Preamp

The guitar comes with the Takamine TP-4TD preamp system which includes a built-in tuner with three-band EQ and gain controls.  Overall, you get excellent amplified performance and versatility that sounds like a much more expensive guitar.

 How Does It Sound?

I would describe the tone of this guitar as natural and slightly vintage.  It produces slightly muted highs and lows with a pronounced midrange.  The result is a warm tone that is intimate in nature.

Takamine GD30CE Electric-Acoustic Guitar

Overall

The Takamine GD30CE offers a mellow warm vintage tone that is hard to find in a guitar in this price range.  Plus, it’s an exceptionally easy guitar to play with its honed C shaped neck.

D’Addario EXP 38 Coated Phosphor Bronze 12-String, (.010-.047 Gauges) are recommended.

PROS

  • Warm vintage tone
  • Takamine quality workmanship
  • Limited lifetime warranty
S

CONS

  • Case sold separately

Takamine GD30CE Electric-Acoustic Guitar

Check Price:
Amazon | Guitar Center | zZounds

Final Thoughts

The seven acoustic and electric acoustic guitars I’ve reviewed are all top picks in the $200- $500 range.

All these guitars have very nice tone, are solidly constructed, and are very easy to play, so your choice will come down to personal preferences and playing style.

My advice is to go with the best tone and workmanship, even if you have to push your budget a little.  A year or two from now, you won’t even remember spending a little more to get the best guitar you could afford.

Good luck with your guitar search!

Have you decided on your first guitar? Let me know in the comments below which one you chose, or if you’re a seasoned player, what was your first guitar?

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