With the quality of instruments now, the sub-$500/£500 are better than ever. Whether you’re after a really good starter guitar to see you through the first few years of learning, a trusty workhorse for writing and performing with, or perhaps a reliable backup to your prized possession, our expert guide to the best acoustic guitars under $500/£500 is sure to point you in the right direction.
Our product list is stacked with guitars from some of the industry’s biggest brands, catering for anyone from beginners to professionals. Whether you’re buying your first ever acoustic guitar, or in the market for a killer backup or sofa guitar, there’s something here for you. We’ve included dreadnought, concert and parlour acoustic guitars in this guide - and even a classical nylon-string Fender too - if that’s your thing.
We know that buying a new guitar, while thoroughly exciting, can be a bit of a nerve-wracking task. It’s important for you to know exactly what you’re looking for, and when you consider variables like body size, construction, materials, neck shape and electronics, it can sometimes leave you with more questions than answers. We’ve provided a varied list full of all body shapes, sizes and styles - some with cutaways, and some without. Take a look, and see what grabs your attention.
The guitars featured here just show that you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a good, reliable instrument. Our pick of the best acoustic guitars under £/$500 produce a great sound, are reliable, will stay in tune properly and will allow you as a player to do what you need to do, whether that’s writing, performing, recording or learning.
Best acoustic guitars under $500/£500: Our top picks
We’ve awarded the Martin LX1 as our best acoustic guitar under $500/£500 top pick right now. With its solid spruce top, it’s detailed, crisp and bright. The smaller size and great neck profile make it super easy to play, and it can actually throw out a good amount of volume. Plus, if it was good enough for Ed Sheeran all those years…
The Guild M240E is also worth checking out. The 24.7” scale feels familiar for those used to a full scale length but lends the guitar a really nice slinky feel. It sounds great, plus it’s equipped with a fantastic pickup.
For those who are working on an even tighter budget, the Yamaha FG800M is our go-to. Yamaha acoustic guitars are fundamentally safe options, but for anyone who’s just starting out or anyone who wants a solid, great sounding acoustic guitar, there are few options at this price point that do the job as well as the FG800M. We’d add the Alvarez AD30 to this list too. Both dreadnoughts punch above their price tags.
Best acoustic guitars under $500/£500: Product guide
The Little Martin is one of the most successful guitars from Martin’s affordable X-series range. Played and enjoyed by the likes of Ed Sheeran, the LX1 is more than capable of keeping up with guitars significantly bigger than itself - and that’s down to the construction.
The LX1 is made from a combination of sitka spruce, FSC certified Richlite and High-Pressure Laminate. Although the latter two materials are man-made, the tone is surprisingly rich and classy - and the solid spruce top delivers all the crisp, punchy brightness that you’d expect from a Martin guitar.
The LX1 is purely acoustic, with no pickup or other electronics fitted. The electrified LX1E version is available for a touch over $500/£500 - and if you ever need a pickup, we’d recommend buying that version. If the non-electronic LX1 is enough for you, then you’ll have some change from £500 for some other accessories.
Read the full Martin LX1E Little Martin review
Guild is one of the unsung heroes of the acoustic guitar world. Guild’s guitars are consistently spectacular at all price points, and the M-240E Troubadour is no exception to that rule.
With a small concert-sized body, spruce top and mahogany back and sides, the M-240E Troubadour is a great example of how simplicity can sometimes bring about wonderful results. A balanced tone is what you get from this guitar - and while there’s not loads of low-end due to the body size, it’s still enough to keep even the most particular people happy.
It’s not all-solid, which is a shame - but then, for under $500/£500, not much is. We fell in love with how easy this guitar is to play, and how convenient and comfortable the small body makes it. If you want something beginner friendly that will see you through a good few years of playing, then this could be it.
Read the full Guild M-240E Troubadour review
Yamaha is a music industry juggernaut. Their brand name is all over some of the industry’s best acoustic guitars, electric guitars, brass, woodwind and drum sets - so you won’t be too surprised to hear that the FG800 - one of our favourite cheap acoustic guitars - is featured in this list.
The FG800’s price tag suggests beginner levels of quality, but the construction and sound you get are more similar to guitars worth two or three times as much. Equipped with a solid spruce top and nato/okoume back and sides, this Yamaha acoustic guitar is an impressively resonant and punchy sounding acoustic guitar, with a balanced tone to see you through most - if not all - of your musical escapades.
Dreadnought guitars are some of the biggest acoustic guitars you can buy, and while they sound massive as a result, the body size can pose a challenge for some smaller players. This is definitely something to consider when buying one of the best acoustic guitars under $500/£500 - especially if it’s a first guitar for a child.
Read the full Yamaha FG800M review
PRS’s acoustic SE range has been developing at a rate of knots, and one of its most recent additions - the SE P20E - offers any player the chance to own a high-quality instrument for a fraction of what it should cost.
The P20E’s voice is much larger and louder than anyone would expect. A combination of a mahogany top, back and sides and PRS’ “X”/Classical hybrid bracing allows this guitar to fully resonate and ring out to its fullest potential. The all-mahogany setup provides a truly enjoyable organic warmth that’s pretty addictive, and with the parlour body size making the P20E a comfortable, easy-to-play instrument which is perfect for the sofa, you won’t want to ever put it down.
If you want one of the best acoustic guitars under $500/£500, then the P20E should be way up your shortlist. A great acoustic guitar for anyone who wants something smaller and more compact, expect to have your mind blown.
Read our full PRS SE P20E Tonare review
Taylor guitars are some of the most well known acoustics on the market today. At all price points they make premium acoustic guitars, and although most offerings from the Taylor catalogue are four-digits, they’ve got their fingers firmly in the budget-friendly pie too.
The Big Baby Taylor lies in between the three-quarter and full-size guitar, coming in at a cool 15/16ths size. This small shrinkage of the body makes the dreadnought body style much more manageable for smaller players who may otherwise find the body shape too bulky. The scale length is still a full 25.5” to help players get a feel for proper string tension, and this also potentially enables an easier adjustment to a full-size acoustic guitar in the future.
A solid sitka spruce top is where the majority of the Big Baby’s tone comes from, with lots of punchiness, brightness and tonal presence being tempered by the walnut plywood back and sides. Overall, the tone from this guitar is thoroughly impressive. We’d have liked to have seen a fully-solid wood Big Baby, but for the money, we can’t complain.
Read the full Taylor Big Baby review
This is a really well priced dreadnought acoustic guitar boasting a solid A Sitka solid spruce top, laminate African mahogany back and sides, a real bone nut and decent, sturdy tuners. It’s lovely and bright sounding, with a nice, powerful attack. It’s dynamic and responsive whether you’re playing with a plectrum or fingers and it has the classic dreadnought bottom end beef along with the higher end sparkle.
The unique bridge design actually helps increase response and sustain, contributing to the guitar’s overall sound, however the only downside is that it might not be too comfortable for players who like to rest their palm on the upper side of the bridge. We really liked the tuners on this model too, especially considering the price - they hold the guitar’s tuning well and don’t feel at all flimsy. It’s got a nice slim neck profile that most players will love, especially beginners. All in all, great value for money, so one to consider when looking at the best acoustic guitars under $500/£500.
The Epiphone J-45 Studio is a fantastic option for those who want the iconic look of the Gibson equivalent for much much less. The sound, while not quite the same as the full-fat Gibson version, is versatile, and pretty impressive - so if you’re looking for that slope-shoulder vibe on a budget, then this guitar is worth your attention.
A solid spruce top delivers loads of punch and note definition which is brilliantly offset by the mahogany back and sides. This balance of brightness and warmth is what makes the J-45 such a firm favourite among acoustic guitarists - and we found that the J-45 Studio covered an impressive range of frequencies, as well as a great reaction to dynamic playing.
Granted, it doesn’t sound quite as sophisticated as the all-solid Epiphone models, but that’s to be expected as they all cost at least twice as much as the J-45 Studio. If you’re working on a tighter budget than the aforementioned $500/£500, then this guitar needs to be in your shortlist.
Like all the other guitars in this guide, Fender's CC-60S is one of the best beginner-friendly acoustic guitars on the market today. If you want a safe, ultra-playable and great sounding acoustic guitar to get you off the ground, then the CC-60S needs to be on your shortlist.
A solid top is one of the factors which sets this guitar apart from other acoustics under $230/£200. At this price point, solid tops are an unlikely feature, but the combination of solid spruce and mahogany puts this Fender option on a par with acoustic guitars of a much higher price-point. The concert body shape ensures you get loads of comfort and a balanced tone from this guitar, while the slim neck delivers an almost electric guitar-feeling playability.
This slim neck won't be for everyone - especially if you're into your more traditional acoustic guitars - but if you're an electric player looking for a great acoustic, or someone who's just starting out, we found this neck to play like an absolute dream.
We'd be doing you a disservice if we didn't include a nylon-stringed classical guitar in this guide - and this, the Fender CN-140SCE, is a killer choice for players looking for a budget-friendly electro-acoustic option.
A solid cedar top and laminated ovangkol back and sides provide the player with a tonally satisfying response. With cedar delivering a little more warmth and delicacy to the tone, and the ovangkol warming up the mid-range while keeping some precise note definition, this guitar is an exceptionally versatile option for those on a budget.
This guitar features Fender's 'SCE' suffix, which stands for solid (top), cutaway and electric - meaning it has an onboard pickup for when you need to plug in - whether it's a direct recording, jam session or a proper gig. While the electronics onboard aren't the most high-end, they still deliver a fairly tasteful and accurate representation of your tone - and with a hard case included as standard, you'll be finding an excuse to take this to any gig, jam or practice session you can think of.
Best acoustic guitars under $500/£500: Buying advice
How to choose the best acoustic guitar under $500/£500
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Even amongst our list of the best acoustic guitars under $500/£500, there are a number of options, all boasting slightly different shapes, sizes and features. Here, we’ve compiled some buying advice so that you get the most for your money. There are all sorts of factors that can alter how the guitar sounds and feels, so we’ll go through some of the main ones.
What body shape is best for me?
The body shape not only affects how the instrument is voiced, it also has a huge impact on how comfortable it is for you to play. Players with a gentler, more delicate touch, or soft fingerpickers might prefer a smaller bodied guitar, as the top requires less energy to move. Conversely, heavy strummers, flat pickers and those who are generally more heavy handed might find that they get more dynamics from a larger guitar.
Parlour guitars are small, with a narrow waist. These usually have plenty of top end and mid range punch. They’ve got a unique sound and can be really practical for smaller or younger players who might struggle to get their arms around a bigger guitar properly.
Dreadnoughts are probably the most recognisable body shape for an acoustic guitar. You’ll hear lots of bass and plenty of detailed treble frequencies, with a slight scoop in the mids. These aren’t small guitars, so be wary of that when picking something for comfort. You can get plenty of volume from a dreadnought though. You can also get jumbo guitars which are even bigger and suit heavy strummers nicely.
Concert and grand auditorium guitars sort of sit in the middle. They tend to be well balanced tonally, and are comfortable for the majority of players. You’ll normally get a fair bit of top end, though compared to a dreadnought, it probably won’t be quite as present in the lows.
Solid wood vs laminate wood
With acoustic guitars, solid wood is generally favoured for the body’s construction. It can resonate more freely and produces a richer, more complex tone with more overtones. As you might expect, a guitar made from all solid wood makes the guitar more expensive and is rare to see under our $500/£500 price point. What you will find though are a number of options featuring a solid top, and laminate or layered back and sides. This still gives the guitar a richer sound, when compared to a guitar made from all laminated wood.
As well as whether the wood is solid or not, the actual type of wood itself has an impact on the tone you’ll get. A spruce top is the most common - this yields a very balanced tone, though usually has quite a strong top end. Mahogany tends to be slightly warmer, and ‘woodier’ sounding, with more of a mid bump. You might see a cedar top as well; these are usually nice and mellow but with a strong attack and great clarity. You’ll then get various different woods for the back and sides which pair with the top to help shape the guitar’s fundamental tone.
Steel string vs nylon string
Steel string acoustic guitars are generally the most popular option when it comes to acoustic guitars. If you’re playing an acoustic guitar to emulate, imitate or recreate your favourite bands, artists or songs, then you’ll need a steel string acoustic guitar 99% of the time.
A steel string acoustic guitar offers more volume, tonal projection and versatility than a nylon string guitar for multiple different reasons - the most notable being that the tension of a steel string is higher, and therefore it resonates more easily. More string resonance equates to more body resonance, which is where the volume and tonal projection will come from.
Nylon strings are made from a softer material, and as a result, the strings are at a lower tension. This means that they might feel a little easier to play, but the tone you get will be different - and not quite as sweet. Nylon string classical guitars are ideal for first time players - especially young children - as the strings are less likely to cause any discomfort that may put off a new player.
Should I spend more than $500/£500?
Guitars have come a long way in recent years. You can get something fairly good for around $/£150-200. The best acoustic guitars under $500/$500 represent an upgrade from this though and offer great value for money. You can get something reliable to gig regularly with for under the 500 mark, or a really good quality starter guitar.
Of course, you can spend more - you can go up to four, or even five figures, and you’ll notice improvements. However, the $500/£500 price point does represent a bit of a sweet spot, where you can get something good without having to drop huge sums of money.
How we choose the best acoustic guitars under $500/£500 for this guide
Here at MusicRadar, we are experts in our field, with many years of playing, creating and product testing between us. We live and breathe everything music gear related, and we draw on this knowledge and experience of using products in live, recording and rehearsal scenarios when selecting the products for our guides.
When choosing what we believe to be the best acoustic guitars under $500/£500 available right now, we combine our hands-on experience, user reviews and testimonies and engage in lengthy discussions with our editorial colleagues to reach a consensus about the top products in any given category.
First and foremost, we are musicians, and we want other players to find the right product for them. So we take into careful consideration everything from budget to feature set, ease of use and durability to come up with a list of what we can safely say are the best acoustic guitars under $500/£500 on the market right now.
Find out more about how we test music gear and services at MusicRadar.