By Matt Gose
There is something especially personal about choosing your first guitar. One pervasive myth, however, is that in order for a guitar to be good, it needs to be expensive. While certainly, the highest quality guitars will run you a pretty penny, price point alone is no definitive marker that a guitar is right for you, especially if you are just starting out.
Here’s a list of options that won’t compromise on sound and playability, to get you started on your musical journey. It offers five incredible acoustic guitar options for under $500.
Taylor GS Mini Mahogany — $499 USD
First on our list is from the formidable Taylor Guitars. This ultra-compact acoustic is a scaled-down replica of a Taylor Grand Symphony body style.
A small body with a mighty voice, the GS Mini Mahogany features a solid, tropical mahogany top with layered Sapele sides and back, producing an amiable, cozy tone with vibrant resonance and delicate note definition.
It also includes an Ebony fingerboard and bridge with a short, 23.5” scale length, reducing string tension and easing playability.
The Taylor GS Mini Mahogany is an excellent little powerhouse, perfect for the beginner or the seasoned troubadour.
One drawback is that the GS Mini Mahogany standard does not include onboard electronics. The Mini-e version does exist, however, for about $150 more, and includes Taylor’s onboard ES-B pickup and preamp, which includes tone controls, a built-in tuner, and a low battery indicator.
Epiphone Hummingbird Pro — $369 USD
Our next entry hails from a long lineage of incredible tone machines. Based on the classic 1960s square-shouldered dreadnought body style, the Epiphone Hummingbird Pro features many eye-catching embellishments, from its timeless finish, to its split inlays, and ornate pickguard.
More than just a pretty piece of wall art, the Hummingbird Pro boasts a robust and responsive solid Spruce top with backs and sides made of solid Mahogany, producing a sterling tone, brimming with a very dulcet midrange.
Perhaps most notable, this guitar includes a set dovetail neck joint for its slim, tapered, D-shaped Mahogany neck, complete with Rosewood fretboard.
Best of all, at the $360 price point, the Hummingbird Pro does come equipped with the Shadow ePerformer preamp, complete with a versatile array of controls to tweak the naturally rich sound.
Finally, the iconic Hummingbird pickguard and quality Grover tuners make this work of art look as good as it sounds.
Martin LXK2 Little Martin — $349 USD
An entry from yet another acoustic guitar-making legend, the Martin LXK2 utilizes innovative design features to produce a captivating, congenial sound perfect for a wide range of playing styles.
The body consists of a Koa-grained HPL, or high-pressure laminate, a durable yet resonant material made from compressed layers of sturdy wood and resin.
HPL guitars are far more resilient to changes in temperature and humidity than other tonewoods, while also remaining significantly more cost-effective.
The LXK2 features a hardwearing Stratabond neck, with a slim, comfortable profile, making fretting and picking a breeze. Its small proportions make it the perfect travel companion while still delivering a satisfying tone.
One drawback, however, is that the LXK2 does not include onboard electronics, so an external mic or pickup would be required for amplification.
Seagull S6 Original — $499 USD
Next on our list, a truly beautiful, classy, and simple instrument, the Seagull S6 Original plays and feels as natural as the wind through treetops.
The body includes a pressure-tested solid Cedar top with Canadian Wild Cherry wood for the back and sides, embellished with a semi-gloss finish that provides a delicate shimmer without distracting from the natural wood texture.
The modified dreadnought style body bellows out a sparkling, brawny voice while corralling the low end.
The neck incorporates Silver Leaf Maple and a Rosewood fingerboard, with a width slightly wider than standard, making it particularly attractive for fingerpicking styles.
This guitar does not come standard with onboard pickups or EQ, but like other options on this list, versions with those components exist for about $150 more.
Ibanez AW54CE — $329.99 USD
Most of the guitars on this list are small-scale body styles. For our final entry, we present the full-sized Ibanez AW54CE.
The solid Okoume dreadnought body delivers a full and balanced tonal range. To balance the wood’s natural warmth, the body also includes an x-brace design internally, pulling the guitar’s voice out of the mud while contributing a clear and distinct resonance.
The neck is solid Nyatoh with an Ovangkol fingerboard, providing solid, maneuverable action.
For added versatility, the AW54CE includes a Fishman under-saddle pickup with the Ibanez AEQ210TF preamp and built-in tuner.
These features allow for natural sound reproduction with bass and treble controls. For outputs, you can use the standard 1/4″ jack or 3-pin microphone output.
Play Without Overpaying
There are many more guitars that could have easily found their way onto this list, but with these popular and reliable options, you now have five fewer excuses not to purchase a new guitar. By playing, hearing, feeling, and testing, you can find the guitar best suited for your sound and style while staying within your budget.