So you’re looking for the best guitar for under $500? You’ve come to the right place! No matter what type of music you listen to or what your musical influences are, we’ll help you find the best acoustic guitar for you. We're confident this list is full of great value guitars. After all, we played way too many guitars to mention to narrow it down to these 5, not to say that we didn't enjoy ourselves while making this list. We came away from this incredibly impressed at the quality of instrument that can be purchased for less than $500 these days. Here are our favorites:
The Martin LX1E is commonly referred to as a travel guitar with full-size tone. And with good reason. We found it impossible to dispute that.
The guitar has mahogany back and sides, but the solid Sitka spruce top is what really gives this guitar its tone and makes it sound as great as it does. The solid top also receives the same hand rubbed treatment as Martin’s higher end guitars do, making the guitar a beautiful instrument, especially at this price point. Martin’s “Modified” bracing pattern also adds to the tone and durability of the guitar.
Electronically, the Fisherman Isys T electronics gives the player a lot of extra features like a low battery indicator, built-in tuner, in addition to standard controls like volume, phase-reversal switch, and a contour to help with EQ. This all translates into the guitar sounding great unplugged or amped up, and the built-in tuner eliminates your need to buy a tuner or bring another piece of equipment on the road. The Goth nickel tuners also have a reputation for staying in tune and being reliable, and the finish looks nice on them. This model also includes a gig bag, which is convenient for carrying it around, and this guitar becomes a great starter pack featuring all you need to venture into a great acoustic for the beginner.
If anything should hold you back from considering this guitar, it is the size. If you’re looking for a full-sized guitar, look elsewhere. This guitar is 23” as opposed to Martin’s standard 25.4” scale, making it is the smallest Martin available. However, the smaller size makes this full-sounding guitar great for younger players, helps beginners learn chords more easily, and helps advanced players create chords their full-sized fretboards might not allow. It’s also good for travel if you find yourself on the road frequently and value portability.
After all, if it’s good enough for Ed Sheeran and under $500, I’m not sure how much more we can say.
The Epiphone Inspired by 1964 Texan is an inexpensive version of a legendary guitar. Specifically, the reissue is a replica of the guitar that Paul McCartney made famous. Remember that famous guitar with the Detroit Red Wings sticker? The guitar has been such a success, Epiphone has released several versions of the Texan. Acoustically, Texans have always had a unique quality, and this Texan is mostly true to the original. However, the neck is slightly wider than the original, but we consider this an improvement for most players given the string spacing. It makes the guitar easier to finger pick and gives your fingertips a nice flat surface to press the strings.
The ShadowFlex Nano pickups are very nice. The preamp is also discreetly tucked into the sound hole, so the guitar is kept very traditionally attractive. The guitar also features controls for volume, bass, and treble. The controls make drastic changes to the tone if you’re plugged into the amp. We liked it the most in the middle, where the range felt balanced but full.
The appointments on the Texan were spot on. The fretwork was well done, the tuners performed flawlessly, and the x-bracing looked like it would make the guitar durable enough to hold up to years of hard use. The tuning pegs and rosewood reversed belly bridge seemed sturdy and well put together. The guitar comes in “Vintage Cherry” or “Antique Natural”, with both of the finishes being very attractive in our eyes.
The only thing we critiqued with this guitar is that the action is high, so depending on your playing style you may want to lower the string height, but that is just a personal preference. If you decide you like a lower height, your local guitar shop can typically help you sand the saddle down and adjust your truss rod for $40-60.
If you want a full-size great sounding modern dreadnought guitar that has the heritage of a proven legend, look no further!
Of course this list had to include a Yamaha. Yamaha makes several fine guitars under $500, and is definitely a brand you should consider in this price range. The hard part was choosing our favorite at this price point. We landed on the Yamaha LL6M. It was one that everyone agreed on, despite our different playing styles. No matter if you use a pick or plan on becoming a fingerpicking aficionado, this is a great and balanced choice.
The solid Engelmann spruce top sounds great. The wood is treated by Yamaha's A.R.E. process. That means the Yamaha puts the tone woods through a process that treats the wood with specific humidity, temperature, and atmospheric pressure, which the company says gives the wood the smoothness and roundness of an older and more mature guitar. Having played it, we can’t dispute that claim because the guitar really does seem to have fantastic resonance.
Acoustically, the guitar sounds great and has fantastic low end. The mahogany back and sides are a nice combination with the solid spruce top. The neck is made up of five pieces and features both mahogany and rosewood. This is accompanied by a rosewood fretboard and bridge as well.
The playability of the guitar was great right out of the box, and that is something Yamaha has been renowned for in their entry level acoustics.
The onboard electronics are nice. The LL6M features the passive SRT Zero Impact Pickup, which was designed by Yamaha has one passive pickup per string. While the electronics sounded nice and balanced, we actually enjoyed this dreadnought unplugged more than we did amped up. We liked the bass more when we played to a mic instead of going through the passive pickups, but your mileage may vary.
If you want a no-nonsense and straightforward dreadnought that sounds big, balanced, and has nice ergonomics, this is the guitar for you.
The Seagull S6 is the brand’s number one seller, and for great reason. The construction quality of the guitar is amazing for the price.
The Cedar top tempers the brightness of the wild Cherry of the body and the maple neck. The cost of this North American produced gem is kept low because these woods are plentiful in Canada, where they are made. The tuners are industry standard and should last a lifetime. These materials really balance each other out, creating a great tone that is amazing for the price.
The bullet head stock also keeps the strings relatively straight, which the company claims keeps the guitar in tune better. This model doesn’t have any electronics, but Seagull does offer Godin Quantum I electronics as an option if you’re looking for an acoustic/electric. However, this guitar sounds so good, we love the original version. After all, sometimes a fantastic acoustic just makes sense, especially if it’s this build quality.
The Seagull especially shines if you’re a finger style player, as the neck is a little wider than average. If you’re looking for a guitar produced in North America that is simple but features great materials and build quality, you should look at an S6.
The Jasmine S-35 is the entry level guitar from Takamine, and it’s amazing. Never before have guitarists looking to spend less than $100 on an instrument had an option this good. In fact, other than this guitar, we can’t think of an acoustic guitar in that range that we would actually perform with.
The Jasmine S-35 has a spruce top. It’s not solid wood like premium guitars, but it is much better than other laminates. The back and sides are made of agates, which is popular on less expensive guitars for it’s lightweight and durable characteristics. The guitar also has a rosewood fretboard which compliments the tone of the Jasmine well. This guitar also has a full truss rod that allows for full adjustments that many less expensive guitars lack.
The depth on this dreadnought is nothing short of outstanding given the price. There were no buzzes, fret problems, or finishing problems with the S35. The satin finish helps the guitar sound bright and resonate well, as opposed to the sound being dampened by a heavy gloss finish. At this price point, nothing has ever had as good of a tone.
All things considered, you will not find a better guitar than the S-35 for a cheaper price.