The Best Acoustic Electric Guitars for the Money

The Best Acoustic Electric Guitars for the Money

Acoustic electric guitars are my favorite instrument — they’re versatile, fun to play, good for any skill level, and more often than not very affordable.

Are you a beginner musician researching your first instrument? A pro looking to add a new guitar to your collection? Somewhere in the middle?

Wherever you fall on the scale, I’ve checked out and reviewed the 5 best acoustic electric guitars for the money for you, ranging from budget-friendly electro-acoustics like the Yamaha FGX820C to top-of-the-line master works such as the Gibson J-200.

If you’re ready to get playing on a great new guitar, then read up, plug in, and rock out with these best acoustic electrics for the money!

Top 5 Best Acoustic Electric Guitars for the Money

#5 Takamine GN30CE-NAT Nex Check On Amazon >>

Specs

  • Top – Solid Spruce
  • Body – Sapele
  • Neck – Mahogany
  • Fretboard – Ovangkol
  • Electronics – TP-4TD preamp + dual Palathetic™ pickups

Pros

  • Slim neck and low action for fast, easy playing
  • Versatile on-board electronic controls for great tonal variance
  • Pin-less bridge for quick and easy string changes

Cons

  • Non-traditional fingerboard wood
  • Thin body shape reduces low end boom

Review

Takamine makes a great line up of guitars for beginner to intermediate players, and the GN30CE ranks at the top of their offerings. It sports a solid spruce top and sapele body that create a fairly complex tone for the price.

The GN30CE has a lovely flowing body shape with a smooth Venetian cutaway, allowing you to hit those higher frets with no trouble. If you’re feeling adventurous, ripping out some high end sweep-picking arpeggios on this acoustic is a relatively easy task due to the thin neck profile that tapers near the soundhole.

I’m a sucker for on-board EQ controls, and the GN30CE acoustic electric guitar allows you to tweak your plugged-up sound in several ways with its TP-4TD preamp featuring a 3-band EQ and a gain control.

Unplugged, the GN30CE has a tone somewhere between bright and warm, and although it lacks a bit in the bass end, harmonics and overtones abound to make up for this deficiency.

I’d recommend this guitar for any serious minded beginner or intermediate to professional player who wants to add a solid new acoustic electric to their arsenal.

#4 Gibson SJ-200 Check On Amazon >>

Specs

  • Top- Solid Sitka Spruce
  • Body- Flame Maple
  • Neck- Two-piece Maple
  • Fretboard- Rosewood
  • Electronics- Fishman Ellipse Aura preamp + LR Baggs™ Anthem mic/pickup combo

Pros

  • Loud, super jumbo style body with a huge acoustic voice
  • Sophisticated pickup system truly reproduces the natural tone when amped up
  • Superior handmade craftsmanship ensures each guitar is of the highest quality

Cons

  • The highest priced instrument on this list, ideally for serious professionals
  • Large body can be hard to hold for smaller players

Review

Gibson’s SJ-200 first debuted in 1937 and has been utilized by many of the most famous musicians of the last century. You can hear the SJ-200 in Led Zeppelin’s “Your Time is Gonna Come”, in Bob Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lay”, and The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun.” It’s been an iconic voice in music for a long time and has only improved with age.

The modern SJ-200 acoustic electric guitar is largely the same as it was in 1937, only now it sports an amazing pickup + microphone combo from LR Baggs. This electronic system picks up every nuance of the SJ-200’s superb tone to transmit the true voice of this guitar through your amp.

It’s a solidly built guitar with a solid Sitka spruce top and flame maple sides, every detail handcrafted by Gibson’s finest luthiers. This electro-acoustic’s voice is as big as its body — truly jumbo. It has a punch and clarity that makes it hard to put down once you’ve started playing, with great articulation in every range.

In addition to all this, the Gibson SJ-200 acoustic electric guitar is an absolutely beautiful instrument, from the custom deco pickguard to the mother of pearl inlays. If you can afford it, this is a guitar that could easily become your family heirloom.

#3 Epiphone EJ-200SCE Check On Amazon >>

Specs

  • Top – Solid Spruce
  • Body – Maple
  • Neck – Hard Maple
  • Fretboard – Pau Ferro
  • Electronics – Shadow® eSonic-II™ preamp + Shadow NanoMag™ fingerboard pickup + Shadow NanoFlex™ under saddle pickup

Pros

  • The affordable alternative to Gibson’s SJ-200
  • Cutaway for easy upper fret access
  • Solid spruce top that sounds better with age

Cons

  • Pickup system can be poorly soldered with loose connections

Review

If you love everything about the Gibson SJ-200 except its price tag, then Epiphone’s EJ-200SCE might just be the guitar for you. Epiphone does a great job of modeling guitars after Gibson’s greatest works, and their EJ-200SCE is the budget-friendly answer to the high-end SJ-200.

Like the SJ-200, the Epiphone replica is made with a solid spruce top and maple back and sides, but substitutes pau ferro for the fingerboard and synthetic pearloid for the inlays. Unlike the SJ-200, Epiphone’s model has a smooth cutaway and a more simple electronic system — no mic, but two Shadow brand pickups, one under-saddle and one in the fingerboard position.

It’s a loud, powerful guitar, but being factory mass-produced lacks a bit of the tonal precision of its Gibson counterpart. Nonetheless, the EJ-200SCE is enough of a workhorse to perform well on stage, and it’s priced low enough that even entry-level players can get a taste of the classic “King of the Flattop Guitars.”

#2 Taylor 114e Grand Auditorium Check On Amazon >>

Specs

  • Top- Solid Sitka Spruce
  • Body- Walnut
  • Neck- Hard Rock Maple
  • Fretboard- Ebony
  • Electronics- Expression System® 2 preamp + pieszo pickup

Pros

  • Warm, rich tone
  • Behind-the-saddle pickup more clearly reproduces guitar’s tone when amplified than under-saddle pickups
  • Ships with a gig bag

Cons

  • Plugged-in tone loses clarity in low and high ends

Review

When you’re looking for a professional grade acoustic electric that won’t cost you a fortune, the Taylor 114e can exceed your expectations without exceeding your budget.

Like every good guitar, it starts with a solid top, this model made of Sitka spruce. Paired with walnut back and sides, the 114e has a bright, focused tone with a mid-range emphasis. An ebony fretboard rounds the tone out, backing down the maple-boosted treble of the highs while filling out the bass in the low-end.

In terms of playability, it’s a great guitar for use in a variety of genres. Its slightly reduced nut width makes the neck just slim enough to enable the fastest riffing while still giving you a good base to grip your chords. The grand auditorium style body sits comfortably in the lap and projects its voice without being unmanageably large for smaller players.

As far as Taylor guitars go, the 114e acoustic electric is more on the affordable end, coming in at less than $1000. This price range might not be ideal for absolute beginners, but if you’ve got a pretty solid idea that you’ll be playing guitar for a long time, the Taylor 114e acoustic electric guitar is an investment you can be proud of. Seeking an even cheaper Taylor? Check out our review of the Taylor Big Baby!

#1 Yamaha FGX820C Check On Amazon >>

Specs

  • Top- Solid Spruce
  • Body- Mahogany
  • Neck- Nato
  • Fretboard- Rosewood
  • Electronics- SYSTEM66 preamp + SRT Piezo Pickup

Pros

  • Affordable-range but stage-ready
  • Curvy cutaway for comfortable high-end riffing
  • Solidly soldered electronics

Cons

  • Not a lot of tonal complexity; a pretty plain-Jane sounding guitar
  • Basic electronics that could benefit from an upgrade.

Review

We’ve reviewed Yamaha’s FG series before, and they’re top-rated instruments by most standards. I’ve been a big fan of Yamaha acoustics since I started playing guitar, and 16 years later still recommend them as some of the best beginner to intermediate guitars you can get your hands on.

The FGX820C acoustic electric gives you all the standard markers of quality you can expect from this series with the added benefit of electronic capabilities. It’s a solid spruce + mahogany cutaway dreadnought that rocks just as well unplugged as it does amplified. Sure, the modest electronics may not replicate the tone as fully as Gibson’s microphone pickup, but I’d happily play a small show with this guitar.

Yamahas are reliable, relatively simple guitars that are built to get the music made, and you can be sure the FGX820C follows through with this premise. While not the best description, I’d say this guitar sounds like what you’d expect an acoustic guitar to sound like. It’s got enough low end to touch your heart and enough bite it in the treble to make your riffs shine bright.

The FGX820C acoustic electric guitar can definitely use a set up after purchase to bring it to its peak performance capabilities, but after a little fine-tuning it will be an instrument you can be proud of.

Acoustic-Electric Buyer’s Guide: Your Questions, Answered

Which Acoustic Electric Guitar is Best?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a thousand times again, the best guitar for you is the one that speaks to your needs and desires as a musician! There’s no such thing as the perfect guitar. For me, the best acoustic electric is affordable, sturdy, has a cutaway, features 3-band EQ plus a tone and volume control, and as the cherry on top has a bone nut and saddle. That’s not to say this is the best acoustic electric for you or for anyone else. Maybe you prefer a standard body without the cutaway. Maybe you don’t play anything that retails under $1000. Maybe you’re a vegan and a bone saddle breaks the deal for you.

The important thing is that you know what you’re looking for in an instrument. Do you want a bright tinny sounding guitar reminiscent of the first blues recordings? Do you want a tone so warm and earthy it’s as if every note has melted together? Do you have any preference at all?

Each guitar on this list is a winner in its own right. I’ve ranked them half arbitrarily, half opinionatedly. If I were to buy any of these electro acoustics, I’d have to choose between the Yamaha FGX820C and the Epiphone EJ-200SCE, more for reasons of cost than anything else. If money weren’t a factor, of course I’d go for the hand-made Gibson, but I understand not everyone can drop a few grand on a guitar.

To summarize, the best acoustic electric guitar is the one that suits your needs while being realistically affordable (and has a solid top!).

What Are Acoustic Electric Guitars Good For?

This is a fun question to answer. Truly, acoustic electrics are an extremely versatile instrument and I personally have used them for a huge variety of things.

Let’s start with their pure acoustic form, unplugged, raw, without an amp, sans electric. You can play an acoustic guitar in virtually any genre. Obviously, there are the stereotypically acoustic genres: country, bluegrass, folk, blues, classical, flamenco, etc. But think a bit deeper and you’ll remember instances of acoustic guitars taking the spotlight in such diverse genres as rock, rockabilly, hip-hop, grunge, jazz, pop, and on and on.

Plugging in is a whole other story. Shortly after I got my hands on an acoustic electric, I was using it to cover Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s extreme Christmas metal, learning my first sweeping arpeggios in time with grindcore bands I was into, and trying my best to get Eddie Van Halen’s tone to pulse through my FirstAct amp, and generally picking, tapping, beating, and fretting the thing any way I could think to do. Once you’re amped up and running through an effects pedal, the possibilities are nearly endless.

Practically speaking, acoustic electric guitars are good for anyone planning to gig bigtime or smalltime, for recording, for practice and learning, and tons more. I’d recommend an electro acoustic over a regular acoustic to most anyone simply because they can do all an acoustic can do plus much much more.

What is the Best Acoustic Electric Guitar for Beginners?

Easier than stating outright what’s the best overall acoustic electric guitar is recommending a couple of the best for beginners. I’ll keep it simple and say that first, you need to buy within your means. If you can’t afford more than a $200 guitar, get a $200 guitar, like any of these great options.

If you’ve got a decent budget to spend on your musical interests, ask yourself if this is a pastime you’ll spend a couple hours a week playing with, or if your goal is to do something more serious with your art.

If you’re just going to learn a few covers and fiddle around at home, there’s absolutely no need to blow half a grand on a new guitar. Stick with something sensible, as there are plenty of acoustic electric guitars under $500, the best we reviewed here, that will make you a happy at-home player.

Considering a good acoustic guitar under $500 price range? Read our recommendations here.

Now, you might expect me to say that if you know in your heart that you’re destined to be the next Hendrix, go ahead and get that Gibson so that you can quickly ascend to all manner of guitarist glory. No! If you’re an absolute beginner, even if music is your primary passion in life, keep your first purchase in the affordable range. I know it might hurt to hear it, but only a few people on the planet will be the next Hendrix, and statistically speaking it’s probably not you.

There’s every chance that you can rise to the level of money-earning musician, but that will take time, patience, and dedication, and most of that will be spent in learning, and learning, and practicing, and learning, and practicing some more. You don’t need a $3000 Martin to learn to fret a G-chord or a $700 Taylor to practice the scales.

Your best bet is to keep your first guitar purchase on the lower end of the price scale. Choose something that sounds good, plays better, and makes you happy to hear. Then, when you’re ready to upgrade, you can do so with the confidence that your first notes on your next best guitar aren’t going to be a mostly-muted open C chord but rather a wonderful riff of your own creation, honed to perfection on what you will lovingly refer to as your first guitar.

Should I Buy a Used Acoustic Electric?

Sure! Of course, you want to check every guitar you consider buying for proper intonation, neck straightness, dents, scratches, and other aspects of structural integrity.

If it passes your initial quality inspection, there’s one important thing to keep in mind when buying a used acoustic electric: you need to plug it in. Why? Overtime, and especially with rough handling, the electronic components (the preamp and connected pickups) can stop functioning due to corrosion or simple disconnection of the wires. Even with normal playing your ground wire can come loose and lead to an entire malfunction of the electronics.

So, plug it in and make sure some decent sounds come through the amp. Test every knob, slider, switch, button, and thingamajig you can find on the guitar. Common problems to look for would be a static crackle when you turn manipulate a control, no change in tone when adjusting EQ settings, and bypass switches that do nothing at all.

If something doesn’t seem to be working right, ask the seller if they know what the problem is. Maybe they do and you can quickly assess whether the cost of repair is worth tacking onto the used guitar’s price. If they don’t, it’s up to you to decide whether to buy an acoustic electric that’s going to need an unknown amount of repairs to be in proper working order.

Depending on where you found it and how much is the initial cost, it may very well be worth it to take it to a shop. If, however, you think the repairs might push the price over the instrument’s true value, you might be better off seeking a different deal or simply buying a new instrument guaranteed to play as it should.

The Final Word

Whatever your budget, you’ve got a lot of great electro acoustics to choose from. Though this list is far from comprehensive, I feel confident that any beginner will love the sound and feel of the Yamaha FGX820C and every pro can appreciate the true craftsmanship and historicity of the Gibson SJ-200. These are truly some of the best acoustic electric guitars for the money, and I’d be glad to own any one of them.

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