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Best Acoustic-Electric Guitar Under $300

Updated on May 27, 2015
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Guitar Gopher is a guitarist and bassist with over 30 years of experience as a musician.

The Epiphone Hummingbird PRO: One of the best acoustic-electric guitars under $300.
The Epiphone Hummingbird PRO: One of the best acoustic-electric guitars under $300. | Source

Top Acoustic-Electric Guitars

Acoustic-electric guitars are smart choices for guitarists who want the sound and vibe of an acoustic instrument but still need the ability to be heard by a large group or alongside amplified instruments. You can plug them into an amp built especially for acoustic guitar, or you can run your instrument out to the PA system. You can even plug your guitar straight into a mixing board for recording.

As you can see, acoustic-electric guitars allow a tremendous amount of flexibility compared to basic acoustic instruments. Putting a microphone in front of a standard acoustic guitar is fine for recording, but a major hassle for live situations. Even if it sounds good, you are pinned down to one spot on the stage, and if you move even a few inches you compromise the sound of your guitar.

Acoustic-electric guitars are the answer here, but they also cost a bit more. Remember, you are not only looking for an instrument that has all the best properties of a good acoustic guitar. You also need a quality pickup and preamp setup, and that adds to the price of the instrument. For this reason, finding a great acoustic-electric guitar for under $300 isn’t the easiest thing in the world.

This article can help. I’ve assembled a list of the top-rated instruments that will fit into your budget. These are from some of the top brand names in the guitar world, companies I have come to know and trust in my three decades as a guitarist. These instruments are a great place to start your search, and any one of them would make an outstanding acoustic-electric guitar for a beginner or intermediate player.

On to the guitars!

Epiphone Hummingbird PRO

The Gibson Hummingbird is a legendary acoustic guitar, but of course way out your $300 budget. As you may know, Epiphone is a company owned by Gibson, and authorized to make budget versions of classic Gibson guitars.

In this case they have really done an amazing job with the Hummingbird PRO. This is a beautiful guitar with a Faded Cherry Burst top and a classy Hummingbird graphic on the pickguard. It just reeks of that iconic Gibson acoustic vibe, but what it has going on under the hood is really what matters.

The Hummingbird PRO features a solid spruce top with a select mahogany body and neck and rosewood fingerboard. I really like mahogany in acoustic guitars for its warmth and richness. The pickups and preamp are from Shadow Germany. Shadow is a respected builder of acoustic guitar electronics, and the addition of their ePerformer preamp here makes a great guitar even better.

The Epiphone Hummingbird PRO is an excellent choice for guitarists looking for a warm, deep-sounding dreadnought acoustic.

Epiphone HUMMINGBIRD PRO Solid Top Acoustic/Electric  Guitar
Epiphone HUMMINGBIRD PRO Solid Top Acoustic/Electric Guitar

The Epiphone Hummingbird PRO is a guitar with a legendary design, but it comes in at an affordable price. Grab the Gibson if you can. If not, this is the next best thing.

 

Acoustic Guitar Magazine Looks at the Epiphone Hummingbird

Washburn WD10 SCE

Washburn makes some excellent acoustic guitars, and the WD10 SCE is a nice surprise in this price range. It features a solid Sitka spruce top, mahogany back, sides and neck and rosewood fingerboard. Like the Hummingbird above, this makes the WD10 SCE a deep, rich-sounding dreadnought.

The tonewoods that make up your guitar aren’t put together because they look nice. Well, not only because of that, anyway. The combination of a mahogany back and sides with a spruce top is a classic tonewood profile chosen for the way those two woods work together in your sound.

The mahogany helps to bring out the deep bass in your guitar tones, where the spruce adds some crispness and definition. As we'll see in some of the guitars below, there are other tonewoods that will impact the sound of guitar in slightly different ways.

The Washburn WD10 SCE is a plain but very attractive guitar, with its single-cutaway shape and pretty headstock inlay. But it also features Fishman Isys+ electronics, so all that great tone from your guitar will not be lost through the preamp.

Check Out the Washburn WD10 SCE

Yamaha FGX700SC

Yamaha FG acoustic guitars are among the top instruments for guitarists on a budget. They routinely receive high reviews for their sound and quality, and the FG700S in particular is one of the best acoustic guitars for beginners. So, it was pretty much a no-brainer that the electrified Yamaha FGX700SC would make my list of best acoustic-electric guitars under $300.

The FGX700SC has many of the same properties that makes other guitars in Yamaha’s FG Series such great values. It features a solid Sitka Spruce top and a Nato back, sides and neck.

Nato is a wood often used as a substitute for Mahogany in budget-level guitars. It is important to realize that no guitar in this price range will be made entirely of solid woods. The sides and back are often laminates. For that reason, don’t get too hung up on Nato vs Mahogany. What matters is that their tonal properties are similar.

For electronics Yamaha uses their own System55T with a Piezo 3-band EQ. As with the other guitars in this review, I am impressed with the quality of the electronics compared to what acoustic-electric guitars were like in years gone by.

Yamaha FGX700SC Solid Top Acoustic-Electric Guitar, Natural
Yamaha FGX700SC Solid Top Acoustic-Electric Guitar, Natural

The Yamaha FG Series features some of the top acoustic guitars in the world for beginning and intermediate players. The FGX700SC is an acoustic-electric version of the classic FG700S, with a single-cutaway body design.

Whether you are a newbie, or a veteran looking to expand your collection, the Yamaha FGX700SC has the quality and sound to impress.

 

Fender T-Bucket 300 CE

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past half a decade, you know Fender. This is the guitar company that gave us the Stratocaster, that legendary instrument wielded by icons like Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton. Fender acoustic guitars were always very good, but they have never really achieved the same status as their electric instruments.

The T-Bucket 300 CE is something different though. This is a guitar that truly marches to its own drummer, and if you are looking for something different than the typical dreadnought cutaway design this may be the guitar for you.

The Fender T-Bucket 300 CE features a maple or ash top with laminated mahogany back and sides, and mahogany neck and a rosewood fingerboard. So far this looks like most of the other guitars in this review, but Fender gives you some great choices here as far as finishes and top woods.

Players who use this guitar unplugged may find it sounds little thinner that other guitars in this review, but the Fishman electronics will take care of that once you plug in.

Fender T-Bucket 300CE Cutaway Acoustic-Electric Guitar, Quilted Maple Top, Mahogany Back and Sides, Fishman Preamp - Transparent Blue
Fender T-Bucket 300CE Cutaway Acoustic-Electric Guitar, Quilted Maple Top, Mahogany Back and Sides, Fishman Preamp - Transparent Blue

With a style and vibe all its own, the Fender T-Bucket 300CE stands out among its peers. Choose from several different tops and colors, but expect Fender quality through and through.

If you are the kind of guitar player that prefers to take a few steps off the beaten path the T-Bucket might be just what you are looking for.

 

Hear the Fender T-Bucket 300 CE

Ibanez Performance Series PF28ECE

Here’s another attractive guitar from another well-known guitar company that doesn’t always get recognized for their great acoustic instruments. But that’s not the only thing the Ibanez Performance Series PF28ECE has in common with the Fender T-Bucket above. It too features a maple top with mahogany back, side and neck and a rosewood fingerboard.

Ibanez Performance Series PF28ECE Acoustic-Electric Guitar
Ibanez Performance Series PF28ECE Acoustic-Electric Guitar

The electronics incorporate a Fishman Sonicore Pickup along with Ibanez’s SST Shapeshifter Preamp. It’s a quality setup, but the PF28ECE has one more feature that I really like: In addition to a standard ¼” guitar output jack, it also has a balanced XLR out. Nice!

XLR connections make hooking up with a PA system a bit easier. You can certainly get by just fine with a regular guitar cable, and this isn’t necessarily something that should make or break your decision, but it is a great addition to an already cool guitar.

The Ibanez Performance Series PF28ECE is available with a couple of different finishes: Dark Violin Sunburst and Transparent Red Sunburst.

Ibanez Performance PF28ECE Dreadnought Cutaway Acoustic-Electric Guitar
Ibanez Performance PF28ECE Dreadnought Cutaway Acoustic-Electric Guitar

The Ibanez Performance Series PF28ECE lets you plug in and play via either a standard 1/4" cable or a balanced XLR line out. That's an interesting feature for sure, but you should expect nothing less than Ibanez.

For intermediate guitarists or beginners who know they want to perform this guitar is worth serious consideration. Ibanez may be known for metal, but they also make some excellent acoustic instruments.

 

Which Acoustic-Electric Guitar is Right for You?

After checking out these instruments it may be very clear to you which acoustic-electric guitar is best for you and your style. Or, you may be on the fence and still have some thinking to do. So, which would I choose?

I really like the Epiphone. The Hummingbird PRO maintains that classic Gibson look and feel while coming in at a super affordable price. Like Gibson’s Les Paul, this is guitar with a serious history behind it, and to be able to grab a quality version from Epiphone is a treat for intermediate and advanced guitarists alike.

Or, you can drop several grand on a Gibson Hummingbird. That’s always an option, too!

Fender T-Bucket 300 CE Acoustic-Electric Guitar
Fender T-Bucket 300 CE Acoustic-Electric Guitar

If you like the single-cut body shape, the Washburn or Yamaha are excellent choices. They are still a bit classic, and they feature excellent electronics.

Finally, either the Ibanez or Fender is a great choice for guitarists who want something just a bit different than most acoustic-electric guitars out there.

Writing this article has taken me back about 20 years, to a time when I was trying to hunt down a good budget acoustic-electric guitar. I knew a lot less about guitars back then, and there weren’t as many high-quality budget instruments around as there are today.

I won’t say the brand, but I ended up with a real doorstop with strings, one of my worst purchases ever.

I learned my lesson, and I wanted to make sure I really did my homework when writing this post. Guitars have come a long way in the past couple of decades, and I do feel confident that each of the instruments mentioned here is a smart choice for a beginner or intermediate guitarist looking for the best acoustic-electric guitar under $300.

Good luck!

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© 2015 Guitar Gopher

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