For under $400, you can get your hands on an acoustic electric that’s more than ready to hit some open mics with.
While you might not consider playing auditoriums with them, these best acoustic electric guitars under $400 pack everything a beginner to intermediate player needs to start finding out what it’s like to gig.
You’ll find throughout my reviews that Oscar Schmidt models tend to rank towards the bottom. They’re good beginner guitars but not much more than that.
The Oscar Schmidt OG10CE is a decent model that will get you jamming cutaway-style, but its sub-par tuning machines and engineered wood fingerboard bring it to the last of my recommendations.
On the flip side, Yamaha routinely ranks in my top spots. Their FGX800C is the best acoustic electric under $400 I’ve found yet. It features a solid spruce top, a smooth cutaway, and great SYSTEM66 electronics that make it an intermediate player’s dream.
The Top Acoustic Electric Guitars Under $400 – Overview
|Oscar Schmidt 6 String OG10CE
|Ovation Applause AV44II-VV
Oscar Schmidt 6 String OG10CE
- Body: Spruce
- Neck: Mahogany
- Spruce + mahogany combo for classic folk sounds
- Concert body shape comfortable for smaller players
- Smooth cutaway for easy access to upper frets
- Low-quality tuners don’t hold pitch
Oscar Schmidt makes a fine line of beginner acoustics, and their OG10CE is one of the best concert body acoustic electrics you can find at this price point.
Its tone gives you the basic traditional acoustic sound you’re familiar with. It’s loud and clear, with a good balance in every range.
Thanks to its spruce top, the lows and mids are full-throated, while the mahogany keeps the highs from being too sharp.
It’s a nice guitar to play, with a smooth engineered wood fretboard that feels really similar to ebony.
It has frets filed to perfection so you don’t snag your fingers running up and down the neck.
A smooth cutaway lets you play the upper frets with no problem, so you can riff away with pleasure.
While its electronics could be a bit better, they still do a good job of projecting the concert body’s voice, allowing full tonal range in many different styles.
Ovation Applause AV44II-VV
- Top: Wood
- Body: Composite
- Back: Composite
- Neck: Nato
- Fretboard: Ovangkol
- Electric-like playability
- Great intonation
- Responsive EQ
- Roundback design can be difficult to get used to
I’ll always have a soft spot for Ovations, so I’m delighted to present the Applause AV44II-VV for you today.
I wanted nothing more than to play electric when I first got into music, but an Ovation was all I had available. I quickly found that thanks to its low action and narrow body, I could easily pull off the arpeggios and other riffs I so badly wanted to learn.
The AV44II-VV has that same lovely low action with perfect intonation and a sweetly smooth fingerboard that’s amazing for fast riffs.
Its spruce top paired with the trademark Lyrachord body provides a tone that is definitely heavy in the highs and mids with a somewhat underwhelming bass response. That’s nothing to cry about though, as the balance suits itself for genres like blues and jazz.
The build quality of this Ovation seems much higher than you could expect for under $400. It’s super solid and well put together, with great hardware and an altogether awesome construction.
When you plug it in, it might be a bit spanky, but you can EQ your sound to whatever specs you like for a tone that’s sure to please.
Its only issue is only a problem if you let it be, and that’s the roundback design. This can be really hard to get used to if all you’ve ever played is a standard dreadnought, but once you learn to hug it tight, it’s a guitar that will bring you a lot of joy.
- Top: Mahogany
- Body: Mahogany
- Back: Mahogany
- Neck: Mahogany
- Fretboard: Mahogany
- Rolled fingerboard edges on Fender’s easy-to-play neck
- Awesome Fishman preamp and pickup for great plugged-in tones
- Ultra-warm and rich all-mahogany sound
- Poorly attached bridge may pull loose from the body
Now we’ve got a guitar with a nice solid top, the Fender CD-60SCE.
This all-mahogany acoustic electric provides you with the dark warmth you’ll love for your fingerpicked folk tunes.
Its dreadnought shape body booms with power and spice in all ranges for a really versatile tone you can use in country, rock, blues, and beyond.
The real selling point of this model, aside from its quality solid top, is the awesome player pack it ships with. You get a hardshell case, a clip-on tuner, picks, a strap, an instrument cable, and more. Really, it includes everything you need to get started.
Whether you’re a beginner just starting to learn or an intermediate player, you’ll appreciate these bonus accessories as much as you will its silky tone.
As a bonus, Fender crafts the CD-60SCE with an easy-to-play neck featuring a fingerboard with rolled edges. This makes everything, from chords to licks, easier and more comfortable to play.
It also features a smooth Venetian cutaway that makes playing high-end riffs an absolute breeze.
When you plug it in, the tone is transmitted through a quality Fishman CD preamp and piezo pickup combo, resulting in a tone that’s about as true as you can get to natural in a piezo setup.
Its one flaw is that Fender does a somewhat shabby job of gluing the bridge, so the high string tension might pull it loose. However, with the savings you’ll get from this deal, a quick trip to the guitar tech to fix this (if it happens) won’t set you back that much.
- Top: Spruce
- Body: Mahogany
- Back: Mahogany
- Neck: Mahogany
- Fretboard: Rosewood
- Excellent Yamaha electronics for great electric tone
- Smooth-playing rosewood fingerboard
- Extra-thin body for totally comfortable playing feel
- Loose wire soldering might need repaired
Yamaha’s APX600 has all the boom of a dreadnought but in a thinline body that lets you pull it in close for a really intimate playing experience.
If traditional western acoustics are just a bit too big for you, the APX600 might be your new best friend. It’s got a powerful voice but a slim body that lets you get up close and personal with your performance, making any playing style much more comfortable.
Though I’m not the biggest fan of nato, it’s paired well with a spruce top in this model to give a classic sounding six-string vibe that works in virtually every acoustic genre.
Its cutaway makes the highest frets fun and easy to play on so you can really enjoy its full tonal range.
The SYSTEM65A electronics replicate the guitar’s acoustic tone almost perfectly, giving you a beautiful sonic experience no matter the setting.
One problem I’ve found with this model is that, due to its mass production, the electronic elements aren’t exactly dependable. There seems to be some loose wiring from time to time which will need attention from a guitar tech. These are costly repairs though, so it’s by no means a deal-breaker.
- Top: Spruce
- Beginner player bundle with extra accessories
- Solid spruce top for pure acoustic joy
- Ready for small shows or amateur recordings straight from the box
- Nato back and sides cut back on tone
It’s my opinion that Yamaha makes the best acoustic electrics at this price point.
Their FGX800C is a great deal that is almost flawless. The only thing I don’t like about this guitar is its nato construction, but it’s just a little different than mahogany when all is taken into consideration.
You get about the same tone as you would with a spruce + mahogany build, with just a bit less harmonic richness and a tad less sustain.
This guitar plays just like any standard dreadnought but with a slightly slimmer neck that makes fast riff work really fun.
It’s got a loud voice that sings well in every register; it’s not too bass heavy, the mids are just right, and the highs are crystal clear.
A step up from Yamaha’s SYSTEM65A system, the FGX800C features the top-notch SYSTEM66 preamp/pickup combo. It’s great for most amateur shows and for producing clean recordings.
There’s hardly anything not to love about this guitar, especially considering its comprehensive players pack that includes things like picks, extra strings, and a gig bag.
What Makes a Great Acoustic Electric Guitar Under $400?
$400 is when you start really looking into guitars that are suitable for small stages.
These are acoustics that will give you a quality tone that you can be proud of in your performances.
When you’re ready to upgrade from your first guitar, an acoustic electric under $400 is a great next step.
These guitars will often feature solid tops. Solid tops give you a much more pure tone than laminate tops, and they sound better as they age, so your guitar will grow as you do. Here’s more on the difference between laminate and solid tops.
Unlike cheaper guitars that have loose and poorly functioning parts, an acoustic electric under $400 generally has quality hardware that works perfectly. They’ve got nice bridges, fine frets, and usually feature tuning machines that will serve you well.
As far as electronics go, these acoustic electrics offer mid-range piezo pickups. They’re not the best in the biz, but they do a reputable job of transmitting your guitar’s natural voice through an amplifier.
You can also usually expect onboard tuners on these axes, so with the push of a button, you can make sure each string is sounding as it should.
Who Should Buy a Guitar in this Price Range?
These guitars are the next step up from entry-level beginner acoustics.
They offer a tone that’s perfectly acceptable for small stages, so if you’ve been wanting to try out your craft at a low key show, a $400 acoustic electric will do the trick.
A guitar in this price range will do you okay in the studio too, though you definitely shouldn’t expect pro-level tones at this price.
Now, if you are a complete beginner, there’s no reason you shouldn’t buy a guitar at this price point. They’re totally playable and will last you years before you’ll need an upgrade. If they’re a bit out of your range, take a look at our recommendations under $200.
Intermediate players will enjoy the boost in playability they get from these acoustic electrics, as well as their strong, full-voiced tones.
Professionals might want to look at a higher price range for most applications, like these for under $500. But, if you’re a pro in need of a cheap travel instrument, these acoustic electrics will satisfy your basic playability and tonal needs.
What Are Acoustic Electric Guitars Under $400 Good For?
Acoustic electric guitars are great travel instruments. They’re not so big an investment that accidental damage will ruin you, and they’re fully functional in every way.
They’re great for your first shows, whether that be just an open mic or a true solo gig you’ve managed to book. As a matter of fact, my first solo show was played on a $350 acoustic, and I had a great experience with it. Want to know what else you can do to make your first open mic a success? Here are 9 excellent tips.
If you’re thinking to record an album, these guitars will pull off the basics of what you need, but you won’t get any Dashboard Confessional tones from them. They sound decent but definitely aren’t the pinnacle of acoustic tone.
They might be more guitar than you need if you’re a beginner, so you can check out our reviews of beginner acoustic electrics and those under $300 if these exceed your budget.
The Final Word
Whether you want an upgrade from your first acoustic or a road-worthy travel companion, the best acoustic electric guitars under $400 can see you through.
They’ve got some room for improvement, but they’ll meet all the minimum requirements of sweet acoustic tone and good playability, while being an instrument you can be proud to own.