How many times have I pulled down a guitar off the wall at a music store? Whether I’m just looking or trying to find the next addition to my collection. It is a moment that is filled with so much potential. There was something about the instrument that caught my eye, will it live up to the potential I saw in it? I won’t know until I start playing the opening riff to “Silent Lucidity” (my go to riff when trying something new).
Before you start pulling down guitars take the time to learn a bit more with us. We will compare different models, show their ratings, plus we have links to extended reviews to dig into each instrument some more. After all that we have some tips and tricks to get the most out of your new guitar purchase.
Top 10 Acoustic Guitars For 500 Dollars:
The Canadian built Seagull Excursion Grand SG is a steel-string acoustic/electric parlor sized guitar. The body is all hardwood laminate made of wild cherry. The onboard electronics are Fishman’s Isys+ with a Sonicore pickup. The integrated set neck joins the body at the 14th fret, which is unusual for a parlor they usually join at the 12th fret.
The Seagull Entourage Rustic is a steel-string dreadnought sized acoustic. It has a solid cedar top with laminate wild cherry back and sides. The neck is silver leaf maple topped with a rosewood fingerboard. There are 21 frets and a double action truss rod. It has 14:1 ratio chrome plated die-cast tuners. The tone has very articulate notes with a warm depth.
The Taylor GS Mini Mahogany is a travel sized steel string acoustic guitar. It has a solid tropical mahogany top with X bracing with a relief rout. The back is arched which allows it to not be braced. The neck is also made of sapele with an ebony fingerboard. The sound is bigger than expected and very warm.
The AP70E by Alvarez is a parlor sized steel-string guitar. The top is solid Sitka spruce backed with a forward shifted scalloped X-bracing. The onboard electronics are LR Baggs StagePro EQ and Element pick up. The tone is very sweet with a focused balanced output with plenty of dynamics.
The Takamine GD30CE-NAT is a dreadnought with a soft Venetian-style cutaway. It has a spruce top and mahogany sides. The neck is slim and made of mahogany. The split-saddle design keeps the intonation spot-on. Takamine’s proprietary electronics are excellent sending the bright snappy sound of the guitar to either amp or sound system.
The Breedlove Passport Parlor MH is an acoustic/electric steel-string guitar. The parlor sized body has a solid mahogany top and laminate mahogany back and sides. The bolt-on neck is mahogany with a rosewood fingerboard. It has Fishman’s Isys+ USB preamp and Sonicore pickup. The tone is warm and is very balanced between the treble and bass.
The AEW40ZW by Ibanez has zebrawood for its top, back, and sides. Rosewood is used for the binding, bridge, and fingerboard. The onboard electronics are Ibanez’s AEQ-SP2 preamp and Fishman’s Sonicore pickup. There are two outputs a balanced XLR and 1/4” jack. The tone is sweet and balanced with plenty of dynamics.
Alvarez’s ABT60 is a baritone acoustic that gives a big sound from an equally big guitar. It has an A+ sitka spruce top with laminated mahogany back and sides. The ABT60 produces a big tone with a deep growl that favors the bass strings. It allows players to get into a baritone guitar without straining their budget.
Martin’s DX1AE is an electric/acoustic guitar that has a spitka spruce top with non-scalloped X-bracing. The back and sides are made with HPL with a mahogany pattern. It is hampered with a very pedestrian Fishman Sonitone preamp and pickup system, the only “blight” spot in an otherwise very good guitar.
Top 5 Classical Guitars For 500 Dollars:
The Alvarez Artist Series AC70 is an entry level nylon string classical guitar. It has an ‘A’ grade sitka spruce top with rosewood back and sides. The bridge is also rosewood and is Alvarez’s unique bi-level design. The tone is very balanced allowing all the strings to be heard. The scalloped X-bracing allows the guitar to project and resonate its fine voice.
The NTX700 by Yamaha is a nylon string acoustic/electric. It has a contemporary body style inspired by the traditional classical shape. The onboard electronics are Yamaha’s System61 with 2way pickup. The controls are a 3-band EQ, individual controls on the treble and bass volume, and a built-in tuner. The sound is warm, but it lacks projection due to the thin body.
The GC5CE by Takamine has a solid spruce top with fan bracing, and the back and sides are laminate rosewood. The classical shaped body has a Venetian cutaway. The onboard electronics are Takamine’s TP-4T preamp with a 3-band EQ and volume controls. The sound is bright and punchy, and it sounds just as good plugged in.
The stark looking Recording King ROS-06 is parlor sized vintage throwback with a standard scale length. It has a sitka spruce top and laminated mahogany back and sides with tortoise binding. The slotted headstock has a rosewood veneer. It is a fine sounding instrument that suffers from poor hardware and inconsistent build quality.
The Motif by La Patrie Guitars breaks many of the rules of classical guitar. It uses wild cherry for the back and sides, the neck has a truss rod, the rosewood fretboard has a slight radius, and the body is parlor sized. The tone favors the higher register, and it has a quieter voice due to the smaller body.
Generally guitars in this range will have solid tops and laminate back and sides. This makes for a more durable instrument sacrificing some tonal character. Necks will be made of good quality tonewoods, and cutaways will make the higher frets more accessible.
These guitars will work well in live situations. They will have a good sound, and you won’t be fighting them to play them. They can take a bit more punishment, and survive the rigors of a live show. Some will have preamps and pickups so that they can be played to venues of all sizes.
The $500 Price Range
At these prices you won’t be risking an expensive instrument at a gig. Playing live puts your prized possessions in places where they can get damaged, broken, or stolen. A guitar at this price point will be very playable, but won’t be a devastating loss if it doesn’t make it home after the show. To be honest, the average attendee to a show won’t know the difference between the sound of an $1800 instrument and one you paid less than $500 for.
If this is your first instrument check the article for buying acoustic guitars under $300 for some of the things you will need to buy. I won’t repeat that information here.
The nice thing at this level gig bags and sometimes hard-shell cases are included in the price of the guitar. You won’t have to worry about finding a case to match the size of your instrument. This can be especially frustrating if the instrument has an odd size.
Potentially you can spend as much for an acoustic amp as you did for your guitar. The right amp can be all you need to gig, which is a very good thing. Some have additional channels to add vocal mic(s) or additional instruments. Most acoustic gigs are intimate settings that don’t require a large PA system, you can get by on just a small investment. If you are in a band that has a mixing board, then make sure to pick up a direct input (or DI) box.
The Acoustic-Electric Route
By going electric you potentially open yourself up to buying guitar pedals. There are plenty of these boxes that will appeal to the acoustic player. There are loopers, delays, reverbs, choruses, and myriad of other sounds you can add to your repertoire. It all depends on how traditional or non-traditional you want to get.
The more you spend at this level the better and more professional instrument you will find. All solid wood instruments become available the more you are willing to spend. These are instruments that will have more complex sounds that will appeal to the ear. The dynamic range of these instruments is better than inexpensive models. This can add to the dramatics of a live show. The electronics will be top quality with plenty of tonal control that will deliver a great amplified sound.
Price Matters, Wood Matter
The more expensive instruments will look fantastic. You start getting more exotic woods, detailed inlays, and bindings that are more decorative. It is all a matter of what you want.
There is some good value in the guitars that are priced lower. You might be surprised at what you find. A guitar could be bought for less, then upgrade certain parts to make it more of what you need. If the bones are good, but it needs new tuners and a preamp it is possible to spend less and get an instrument that is better suited to you.
The tones are not as complex in a guitar with laminate woods, but in the mix of a band’s performance details get lost. Subtleties don’t play out well unless you are a solo artist. If the overall tone is good that is what the audience will hear.
Used Guitars Are Also An Option
If you have the time and patience, you might be able to find a good used instrument. A guitar that is priced above your budget would become available in the secondary market. Go over the instrument well to make sure that there is no damage or problems with it.
If the guitar is not your primary instrument this is a very good price range to be in. Singers will find a very good instrument to add another dimension to their bands live show. Those that want to expand into playing guitar from their main instrument will be very much at home with guitars at this price.
If you buy an electric/acoustic it will also be a very good writing tool. You will be able to get good recordings to get your ideas down or to make demos. You won’t have to buy expensive microphones to get a good quality recording.
Do Your Best To Try The Guitar
The most important thing you can do when picking out an acoustic guitar is to play it. An electric guitar can have its voice changed with the swapping of pickups or the right amp. An acoustic guitar lives and dies by the materials that it is built out of. You cannot hide the tone of the guitar behind an expensive amp or a bunch of pedals.
I cannot stress enough to play as many instruments as possible. Trying a more expensive instrument may inspire you to save a bit more before buying a new guitar. A lesser priced instrument might surprise you with how good it is, which will save you some money. No Youtube video or Amazon review can really replace playing the instrument for yourself. They can help you narrow your choices, but hands on is where it’s at.
The $500 Acoustic Guitars Roundup:
These are guitars that are built to play live on stage. They are workhorses. They may not be what you are looking for, check out some of our other best of articles to find a better match, let say a top rated $1000 acoustic guitar. Subscribe to our newsletter to keep up with AudioRumble, we are interested in guitars as much as you are. Stop by regularly to see what new things have caught our eye. Until next time, may your arpeggios shimmer and your melodies be mesmerizing.