Best Acoustic Guitar Under $500 (2017) – Top 5 OptionsGuitarSpotting
5 Best Acoustic Guitars Under $500
Let’s face it: guitars are really cool. They’re fun to look at, to hold, and to play.
But if you’re in the market for a quality acoustic guitar, you need one that sounds great and is well-made. In this article, you’ll learn about 5 top acoustics worthy of being considered the best acoustic guitar under $500 in 2017.
There is no shortage of guitars on the market these days, found in a wide range of shapes and sizes, and made with a variety of features and different types of wood.
So narrowing down your options can be difficult.
The good news is that guitar manufacturers have figured out how to make high-quality guitars at very reasonable prices.
Which means you can definitely get an awesome acoustic guitar for under $500. A guitar you’ll want to hold, look at, and play often. And in my opinion, you really don’t need to spend more than that, unless you’re an advanced guitarist looking for a very specific sound, feature or type of guitar.
In a rush? Check out # 1 on Amazon right now.
Just starting out? Check out my Best Beginner Guitar Guide for detailed info about what to look for, plus some great starter guitar recommendations.
(Disclaimer: every guitar listed here was under $500 when this article was written in 2017, just be aware that prices are always subject to change.)
In this article, I’ll stick mainly to steel-string acoustic dreadnought guitars. Dreadnoughts have been the most popular mainstream guitar shape since the 1950s, and are suitable for pretty much any musical genre or play style. They have stronger bass and more volume than most other guitar shapes. And you’ll want a steel-string guitar, unless you’re planning to play classical or flamenco music exclusively, in which case you should consider a nylon-string guitar instead.
The key feature to look for in a high-quality acoustic guitar is a solid wood top. Many cheap guitars are made using thin sheets of stiff inferior laminate wood, including the top, resulting in less vibration, and leading to lower quality sound. Acoustic guitar sound is created through vibration in the wood, especially the top, and you want a quality top to ensure your guitar sounds great now, and also down the road. Solid wood tops tend to open up and sound even better as they age, meaning the guitar’s sound will continue to improve over time, and also helping your guitar retain its value.
Every guitar I’ve recommended here has a solid wood top.
The wood used for the back and sides of the guitar body is not as important. Sure, it would be nice to have an acoustic guitar made of all solid wood, but these generally cost more than $500 if you want a really good one. And the difference in sound quality is relatively minor, mostly noticeable by those with highly trained ears. A guitar manufactured with a solid wood top and laminate wood back and sides will still give you great sound, when made with good components and strong quality control standards. In fact, a couple of guitars on this list are currently under $300, making them excellent values.
I’ve done a lot of detailed research and listened to many guitars in order to find the best overall values in this price range. These acoustic guitars are all perfectly suitable for beginners and intermediate-level players, and advanced guitarists will almost certainly find quality and value here as well.
In my opinion, the 5 guitars listed below provide the best combination of sound, build quality, and value in this price range. The end result? You get the best bang for your buck.
So what are we waiting for? Let’s go check ’em out!
#1. Seagull S6
As we all know, the most important element of a guitar is how it sounds. And the Seagull s6 Original sounds awesome. It’s got a sweet, warm tone, with excellent projection and impressive volume. It sounds impressive for both fingerpicking and strumming.
Seagull guitars are hand-crafted in Canada using a smart design and strong attention to detail. This type of quality build helps the guitar sound better, and last longer.
The Seagull s6 includes a pressure-tested solid cedar top, with laminate wild cherry wood for the back and sides.
Solid wood tops open up over time, and their sound quality will continue to improve as the guitar ages. And this process tends to happen a little quicker with cedar than other types of wood (like spruce).
There really aren’t many drawbacks to this guitar. Some people find the neck to be a little thick, but it’s something you should get used to fairly quickly, especially if you have reasonably big hands or plan to do a lot of fingerpicking (a slightly larger neck provides a little extra space to move around on the fretboard).
If you definitely prefer a slimmer neck, take a look at the Seagull s6 Original Slim (view on Amazon). Same guitar, just with a thinner neck.
To read my full Seagull S6 Review, click here.
The Seagull s6 is a great guitar, providing excellent value (it sounds better than a lot of guitars double the price), and it’s got everything you need: great sound, high-quality build, and fair price.
This video will give you a quick sample of the Seagull s6’s sound quality:
Note: You can sometimes find a bundle deal that includes the guitar plus a hardshell case and stand for the same price the guitar itself usually goes for.
#2. Big Baby Taylor
Taylor is famous for building high-quality guitars with rich detailed sound. Over the years they’ve introduced several guitar-making innovations which other companies have had to incorporate, and their build quality is second to none.
Taylor only makes premium guitars, and as a result many of their models cost more than $500.
However, the Big Baby Taylor fits neatly into our price range, and it’s a great guitar with a warm, resonant sound. I really love the Taylor tone.
It has a solid Sitka spruce top, with laminate sapele back and sides. Spruce sounds a little brighter than cedar, and may take a little longer to open up than the Seagull s6 (the sound produced by solid wood tops opens up and improves over time).
But the Big Baby Taylor sounds impressive right out of the gate. Sapele is a wood similar to mahogany, providing warmth to contrast the brighter spruce sound and helping to create an overall balanced sound.
It’s lightweight and playable right out of the box, with a thinner neck and body, and low action (the distance between the guitar strings and the fretboard). This makes it easier to hold and play.
Most guitars I’ve recommended here are full-size dreadnoughts, the most popular guitar shape. The Taylor Big Baby does feature a dreadnought shape, but is just slightly smaller than full-size (15/16 the size). Basically the same length, but a thinner body, which may result in a very slight reduction in bass. But the overall sound quality is excellent and the guitar projects quite well.
If you’re interested in the dreadnought shape but prefer a smaller guitar, check out the Baby Taylor instead. Same dreadnought shape, but 3/4 the size of a regular dreadnought, meaning it’s significantly smaller and will give you less volume and bass as a result. But it’s also easier to hold and play for people with small frames.
A nice bonus is that the Taylor Big Baby comes with a gig bag included. Taylor’s guitar bags are quite well made, and you’ll actually want to use it.
Here’s a nice demonstration of how great the Big Baby Taylor sounds:
#3. Yamaha FG830
The Yamaha FG830 is a great value at this price, with excellent sound and build quality.
The FG830 features a solid Sitka spruce top, and laminate rosewood back and sides. The use of rosewood for the back and sides adds a little to the price of an acoustic guitar, but it’s worth it. Rosewood makes this guitar sound great, with lush overtones and a slightly darker, more complex sound with a lot of depth, especially in the lower end. It helps provide more sustain, and makes strumming sound particularly rich.
This guitar is a beauty too, with cream binding up the body, neck and headstock.
Yamaha’s new 800 Series guitar design includes scalloped bracing in the guitar top, a feature usually found on higher-priced guitars. Scalloped bracing is a little lighter with extra vibration, providing added volume and sustain, especially in the low and mid-range.
If you’d like to learn more, check out my Yamaha FG800 Review (with details about the full 800 Series, including the Yamaha FG830).
This video provides a good example of the Yamaha FG830’s quality sound:
That’s our list. Click here to check out the Best Acoustic Guitar Under $1000.
I hope you find the perfect acoustic guitar for you. Happy Guitarspotting!