You’re making a great decision seeking out an aco ustic electric guitar.
For beginners, it’s my top-rated instrument option, and from intermediate to professional players, electro acoustics can be game changers.
In this review of budget friendly acoustic electric guitars, I’ll highlight some of the best models on the market, focusing on their strong points but making sure you’re aware of where they fall short.
From the special 12-string Oscar Schmidt OD312CE to the perk-packed Epiphone PR-4E, I’ll point out the characteristics that make these instruments the best acoustic electric guitars under $300 available today!
The 5 Best Acoustic Electric Guitars Under $300
#5 Oscar Schmidt OD312CE Check On Amazon >>
- Top- Spruce Laminate
- Body- Mahogany
- Neck- Mahogany
- Fingerboard- Rosewood
- Electronics- Barcus Berry EQ4T preamp/pickup
- An affordable 12-string guitar!
- Available in 7 different finishes
- Ships with low action
- Laminate top doesn’t project full acoustic capabilities
- Cheap electronics
Despite the laminate top and low-end electronic system of this model, the OD312CE is actually a pretty nice guitar, and for the price it’s hard to beat.
This Oscar Schmidt acoustic electric is one of the most affordable 12-string guitars I’ve happened across, and it outperforms its price tag in many ways. There’s hardly a more classic combination of tonewoods than spruce and mahogany, starting its tone off from a good foundation. Although I always recommend solid top guitars, the overtones delivered by the OD312CE’s 12 strings do enough to offset the sonic deficiencies of its laminate soundboard.
As a beginner, you might be hesitant to start out with a 12-string guitar. 12 strings mean more wear and tear on your fingertips and a good bit more trouble changing strings, but the choral beauty of this instrument makes up for any extra hassle inherent in this type of instrument. You can learn everything you need to know about setting up and maintaining a 12-string guitar here.
With its budget preamp and pickup I wouldn’t recommend playing the OD312CE in any serious stage performances. Open mics? Sure. Just don’t expect this entry-level acoustic to carry you all the way to stardom. You get what you pay for, and in this case you get an acoustic electric guitar that’s good enough to practice and write on while not necessarily being a model worth bragging about.
#4 Yamaha FGX800C Check On Amazon >>
- Top – Solid Spruce
- Body- Nato/Okume
- Neck- Nato
- Fingerboard- Rosewood
- Electronics- SYSTEM66 + SRT Piezo Pickup
- Solid spruce top in a budget-friendly model
- Rosewood fingerboard for smooth comfortable playing
- Reliable SYSTEM66 electronics
- Nato/Okume build not in line with acoustic tradition
If you look at most of our other reviews, you’ll see that Yamaha is a nearly constant name among the best acoustic guitars. We’ve included FG model reviews in several other spotlight lists, and I couldn’t write about the best electro acoustics under $300 without giving another shoutout to Yamaha.
The first thing we’ll take note of is its solid spruce top, a Grade A feature on an acoustic at this price point. The rest of the body as well as the neck is made of nato and okume. These are both very lightweight woods that are quite resonantly similar to mahogany. So, although the tonewood choice isn’t exactly traditional it still manages to provide the classic acoustic tone in a guitar that’s light enough for kids to play.
Yamaha’s SYSTEM66 preamp isn’t the best on the market, but it’s at least a few notches above the worst. You won’t wow anyone with the sonic superiority of your amped-up sound, but I’d say it’s bold enough to hop on small stages with.
With a rosewood fingerboard and a smooth cutaway adding to the overall playability of this guitar the Yamaha FGX800C is a well-rounded acoustic electric for every beginner to intermediate player.
#3 Fender CD-60SCE Check On Amazon >>
- Top- Solid Spruce
- Body- Mahogany
- Neck- Mahogany
- Fingerboard- Walnut
- Electronics- Fishman Classic Design preamp/pickup
- Fender “Easy-to-Play” neck shape for fast, easy fretting
- Cutaway for smooth shredding of the upper frets
- Solid spruce top with great projection
- Inferior plastic pickguard
- Fret buzz in some instances
Fender is another brand that often earns itself a top-rank in our reviews, such as the non-electric cousin of the CD-60SCE, the Fender CD-60S, featured in our reviews of the best acoustic guitars under $300 and the best blues acoustic guitars. Basically a household name, this is a brand that really needs no introduction.
The CD-60SCE is a sleek electro acoustic dreadnought with a wide cutaway that and smoothly tapered neck that plays as well as you can expect from any Fender. Its classic tonewood combo projects a bright, clean and clear tone that is pretty well replicated with the Fishman pickup. Although not the strongest voice in the guitar world, it speaks louder than its price tag would let on.
Fender’s CD-60SCE ships with the action set low enough to guarantee you won’t have to over-exert your fingers to fret your first chords, but it might need a bit of truss rod adjustment to raise the strings high enough to eliminate some fret buzz.
Affordable range Fenders will always be, in my opinion, beginner guitars, but intermediate players who want to add to their collection will find enough enjoyment in this model to make it more than worth the cost.
#2 Washburn Festival EA15 Check On Amazon >>
- Top- Flame Maple Laminate
- Body- Catalpa
- Neck- Mahogany
- Fingerboard- Engineered Wood
- Electronics- Barcus-Berry EQ4T preamp/pickup
- Smaller-sized body great for smaller-sized players
- Mini jumbo shape is comfortable to hold
- Versatile preamp controls
- Nondescript “engineered wood” fretboard lacks resonant capabilities
- Unremarkable pickup/preamp
We’re back around to another Washburn guitar, this a genuine Washburn model rather than the entry-level Oscar Schmidts. I’d still call this guitar entry-level, but as far as budget acoustic-electrics go, its sound pushes it up toward the top of our rankings.
Truly, I don’t know what Washburn’s secret is with this guitar. The Festival EA15 has a laminate top, an unusual body wood, and a totally disappointing fingerboard material, but still manages to sound beautiful. It may be attributable to the quarter-sawn scalloped spruce bracing, though I can’t say what its trick is with any certainty. Want to learn about how bracing patterns affect the sound of your guitar? Check this out.
What I can say is that this small-bodied electro acoustic has a well-articulated, mid-centric, focused voice that is really a joy to play. I’m not exactly a small guy, but I still dig a smaller sized acoustic; they’re simply fun to use.
If you want to back away from the volume of a standard dreadnought and get a guitar whose voice focuses around you as you play, the Washburn EA15 is a great acoustic electric guitar for the price.
#1 Epiphone PR-4E Check On Amazon >>
- Top- Spruce Laminate
- Body- Mahogany
- Fingerboard- Rosewood
- Electronics- Epiphone undersaddle passive pieszo pickup
- Amazing value players pack featuring an amp, a cable, and more
- Decent tonewood combo
- Made by a highly dependable company
- Mass-produced laminate guitar
Like Fender and Yamaha, Epiphone tends to show up on every other review we do here. We’ve covered their electrics and their hollow bodies, while their acoustics make the list of best guitars nearly every time. As they’re a Gibson subsidiary, it’s easy to tell why.
The Epiphone PR-4E isn’t on this list because it’s a great guitar. There are, in fact, many more that exceed it in most qualities. It is featured here because of the amazing bundle that it is sold with.
I come down pretty hard on laminate top guitars from time to time, judging them as always inferior to solid top instruments. In this case, I’m making an exception because I can’t get over how good this deal is. When you buy the PR-4E, for less than $300 you can get everything you need to experience the amped up capabilities of an electro acoustic.
In this player pack you get the guitar, a 1/4″ instrument cable, a strap, some picks, a tuner, AND AN AMPLIFIER. The cost of an amplifier alone often tops the price of all other guitars on this list, making the PR-4E player pack a true steal.
The guitar itself is a pretty standard acoustic electric, with a tone that’s not necessarily exceptional, but is not bad at all. Had I known about this bargain when I was making my first acoustic purchase, I would have jumped on it right away, and if you’re a beginner looking to get in the game I hope you will do the same.
Acoustic Electric Buyer’s Guide: What You Need to Know
What Are Acoustic Electric Guitars?
Simply put, an acoustic electric is an acoustic guitar with some form of pickup that you can use to project your guitar through an amplifier. Pickups come in several different varieties, from high-end mic/pickup combos featured in Gibson and Martin models to the very common single pieszo pickup found in most low- to mid-price acoustic electrics.
There are steel-string acoustic electrics, nylon-string classical style acoustic electrics, 12-string acoustic electrics, and even acoustic electric basses. You may see these terms reversed, reading electro acoustic, but my preferred and probably the most common name for this acoustic + pickup combo instrument is acoustic-electric.
Why Buy An Electro Acoustic Guitar?
Unlike a standard acoustic guitar, acoustic electrics can be played through and amp and routed through effects pedals. This reduces the need for expensive microphones when playing live and can make recording at home a breeze.
Everyone has their own reasons for the instrument they choose to purchase, and my main selling point with acoustic electrics is the possibility of adding effects while I’m playing. Most of my guitar time is spent alone, making music for the fun of it, and I love having the ability to loop a chord progression to play over, or add long delay for inventing extra complicated riffs, or simply adding some nice reverb to increase the depth of my tone.
The great thing about acoustic electric guitars is that they’re dual-purpose. You can play them loud, effect-heavy, and amped up just as easily as you can take them camping in the middle of nowhere for some fireside jam sessions. Every guitar I’ve owned has been an electro acoustic, and with 16 years of happy playing I don’t see myself changing direction any time soon.
Is It Worth Buying a Guitar In This Price Range?
This is all up to you and your skill level and amount of determination to play guitar.
If you’ve never touched an instrument before in your life, I wouldn’t spend over $300 for a first instrument. Too many people devote several hundreds of dollars to musical equipment that they wind up not touching after a few months time. You want to get your money’s worth, and I’d say it’s fair to equate three months of deciding if you really like to play guitar to a $300 investment.
Once you’ve played for a year and have a solid skill set, you can always sell, save, and upgrade to a higher-end model. Still, I wouldn’t spend $1000 on a guitar at this point (16 years and my most expensive guitar was $500). Save those top-of-the-line models to the true professionals who will see a return on their expense after a couple performances. For the needs of a beginner, $300 will do just fine.
So let’s say you’ve been playing for a few years or more. You know well beyond the basics and maybe you’ve even played live a couple times. This is the point when I would overlook a guitar in this price range and opt for something a grade above. You can read our reviews of the best acoustic electric guitars under $500 here. Each of these instruments will let you hit the stage with confidence and truly enjoy every element of the time you spend practicing.
Professional players probably don’t need me to tell them how much they should spend on a guitar, but just in case you came here to find out what I think, I would only recommend an under $300 guitar if you need an instrument you can be completely careless with. If money’s not a problem, we reviewed the best acoustic electric guitars for the money here [LINK TO BEST ACOUSTIC ELECTRIC GUITARS FOR THE MONEY].
It can be stressful having only high-value items, always worrying about them becoming damaged, lost, stolen, or befallen by some other tragedy. If this is your current situation, the guitars listed here will all make good “beaters.” You don’t have to fret about keeping them in a perfect climate, you can travel with them stress-free, and if your nephew wants to try to jam with you, you’ll have a guitar ready specifically for that purpose.
What Can I Expect From An Acoustic Electric Under $300?
As we’ve seen in this review, acoustic electric guitars under $300 can come with both solid or laminate tops. They can be built with traditional or completely unusual tonewood combinations. They can be 6-, 12-, or even 4-string.
These variables depend a lot on how far below $300 you’re spending, the company that makes the guitar, and the intention behind each guitar model.
On the negative end of the consistent characteristics of guitars in this price range are the low-grade electronics. These too vary in quality depending on purpose and manufacturer, some sounding and performing far worse than others. In general, they’re all going to be pieszo pickups that sit somewhere near underneath the saddle. The preamps won’t be anything amazing, and the tone they transmit through the amp will typically lack in bass power and high-end clarity.
To get a really good pickup/preamp system, you’ll need to spend more. You can either spend a grand or more on something like a Gibson that comes with a true-to-tone microphone + pickup combo, or spend some time and effort shopping around for a new upgraded pickup to install in your old guitar.
Overall, acoustic electric guitars in this price range should perform like a high-end entry-level instrument, being fully functional, fun to play, decent sounding, and passing your basic guitar quality inspection.
The Final Word
If I had to choose one instrument to play for the rest of my life and could never touch any other music maker, I would for sure choose an acoustic electric guitar (while praying that I’m not excluded from amps and effects pedals). They’re super fun, versatile instruments to play, and I’ve enjoyed every second of my time spent with them.
Trying out the electro acoustics in this review, I was really pleased with the simple quality of the 12-string Oscar Schmidt OD312CE and blown away with the value offered in the Epiphone PR-4E player pack, only wishing I’d known about them in my earlier days of learning guitar.
Whichever of these calls out to you, you can’t go wrong in your choice as each model is truly one of the best acoustic electric guitars under $300.