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For the unsuspecting shopper, ways to cheapen production can cause problems, especially if they haven’t been informed of what to watch out for.
You would be surprised at how a few little details can make incredible differences in the sound and playability of an instrument.
If you can’t play the model you are considering in person before buying, please at least read reviews by people who have. This list is here to simplify that process as much as possible.
Around the $300 price range, there are a lot of options that are an excellent buy.
You do want to be aware of the many ways where guitar companies may try to cut corners.
For example, they may use a lesser quality wood or install a pickup that doesn’t sound all that great.
So knowing what wood type and pickup that were used in production are just two things that can give you a really good idea on the guitar’s overall tone and durability, as well as any bugs that the manufacturer may have overlooked.
In this article we look at three models of acoustic electric guitars that seem to be an excellent value for their money — and have many raving fans.
The major production companies change their models frequently. Mostly, I think, just to attract more frequent purchases from their existing customers. Or, there may have been some specification change on one of the components they used – such as a new pickup – that makes the old model obsolete.
Part of the trick of shopping for an affordable guitar is looking at the details and seeing what changes have been made. You may be able to pick one up very inexpensively that is almost identical to a brand-new release.
I’ll be honest, choosing a favorite from this lineup is not easy. They are all excellent and they all sound amazing. Even if you hope to play in front of people, such as in the church or at the coffee shop, these guitars will sound great and are a great entry point without sounding entry-level.
Especially, if you are a new guitarist, you will love how excellently these instruments sound. There’s none of that struggling with your instrument as you typically get with a beginner model.
Most of these guitars include some laminate. I am not opposed to laminate, and I think it sounds great. Unless you spend several thousand dollars, it will be difficult to find a choice that is mostly hardwood (and of sufficient quality to sound better).
So don’t let the laminate wood deter you from getting an excellent deal.
Now, For Our 2017 Review Rundown
1. Top Pick: The Yamaha FGX700SC
This is truly a great quality piece at a great price. It is easily comparable to guitars in a much more expensive category.
Wonderful for beginners as the action is comfortable and easy on the fingers and yet at the same time this instrument is high enough in quality to please even more seasoned players.
This model is great for practice but also works very well for use performing or simply jamming with a small group.
Although more advanced players may opt for swapping out the strings, the factory set that comes installed on the instrument are lightweight and have a good feel to them, providing the purchaser with a great playing experience right out of the box.
Although it would be understandable to expect at least some laminate on an instrument in this price range, you will find none.
This Yamaha is solid wood and the finish, which is buffed to a stunning gloss. It is not only beautiful and flawless but also tough. The tone is fantastic. Stays in tune very well and has very good tuners.
Once the strings are stretched you will find that it holds its tune fantastically. If you happen to have hands on the smaller side, you might find that the neck feels a little thick but beyond that, it has a very good feel to it.
The top is made of solid spruce, a cut that is usually reserved for guitars in a much higher expense category. The use of this particular quality of wood for the soundboard produces a very well balanced sound that is bright and rich.
As with most acoustic guitars, there is no strap button, but this is something that is easily installed if you want it.
The back of the neck has a satin finish to create super smooth sliding for your hand while playing.
Natural rosewood was used on the fretboard and a high gloss finish was also used on the headstock which is nicely accented by pearl Yamaha lettering.
The pickguard, though made from plastic has a surprisingly exotic look to it, wonderfully mimicking authentic brown tortoise shell. The bridge pins, nut, and saddle are also plastic. The tuning pegs that come on this instrument are very good quality, meaning you won’t be fighting with them while they dig into your fingers in an uncomfortable manner.
They are made from diecast chrome metal and are designed with a manually tensioned internal spring to maintain consistent pressure despite wear on the gears over time. The bridge is also constructed of natural rosewood but left natural with no finish.
Like all of the guitars that Yamaha offers, this model features a hand-fitted dovetail neck joint to ensure that vibrations are efficiently transferred from neck to body to create a perfectly balanced and full tone. This joint also ensures physical stability between the body and neck of the instrument.
Other features on this model include a reverse-L neck block, non-scalloped x-bracing, system 55T Piezo and Preamp and a cutaway body design. This is very much an ideal option for a budget friendly price to suit any beginner or intermediate user.
2. Fender T-Bucket 300CE Cutaway
This beautiful single-cutaway dreadnought sports an authentic Vince Ray pinstriping motif and comes in a three color sunburst finish. Its top is flame maple laminate and its back and sides are laminated mahogany.
This piece features machine heads that are die-cast, a compensated saddle on the rosewood bridge, a built-in tuner in the Fishman preamp and scalloped X bracing. It also features white dot position inlays.
The string nut is made of synthetic bone and the bridge pins are black with white dots. It comes ready to play with Fender Dura-Tone Coated 80/20 Bronze factory strings.
This piece comes very well set up right out of the box. Since this guitar is electric acoustic the action is set higher than an all electric model.
The neck is similar to that of an electric in regards to its thickness and is, therefore, a pretty comfortable fit, resulting in minimal hand fatigue while playing.
For any smaller built user, be sure to take into consideration that this piece is a dreadnought size, meaning that the body is a little bigger than a standard guitar.
The size of the body, however, works in favor of the sound and volume, even when the instrument is not plugged in. Despite the laminate make of the body and sides, this guitar produces a very pleasing sound for the price range.
The preamp electronics include controls for bass, mid and treble, a volume control, and the aforementioned tuner.
The tuner is a wonderfully helpful option for retuning between songs during a live performance as it allows you to kill the output by pressing the tuner button and then guides you to the correct tuning with a colored light system on the display ( a sharp or flat note gives a red light which changes to green when the correct pitch is reached).
This preamp system is powered by a 9V battery which actually lasts pretty well. Of course, leaving it turned off when you are not playing can stretch that out forever.
Not only does the built-in tuner provide easy tuning capability but, overall, this guitar holds tune very well. This can, of course, be improved upon with the installment of higher quality strings, but the factory strings do a decent job. The compensated saddle bridge gives very good quality intonation.
When all is said and done, this instrument, despite residing in the mid to low price range, provides the purchaser and player with the performance of a much higher priced instrument.
Furthermore, the sound is not the only impressive aspect of this guitar. It also scores very high in the looks department.
Overall, this is a wonderful piece for anyone in the beginning stages of learning to play, but it is also well suited to those who are more advanced and looking for a good quality instrument that won’t break the bank. No one should every be ashamed to pull this accoustic electric instrument out of a case.
3. A Well-Rounded Choice: Epiphone PR-5E
This beautiful piece features hand-scalloped, proprietary X-bracing pattern on a premium select spruce top, a mahogany back that is slightly arched and mahogany sides that create a tone that is sweet yet well projected even if not plugged in.
It has a 25.5” scale on the neck which is also made of select mahogany. Long playtimes, such as gigs or rehearsals are easily accomplished due to the SlimPater profile found on this PR-5E.
To further enhance the quality and playability of this guitar, a recent update of a new eSonic preamp and NanoFlex pickup system was added. This new to Epiphone system really gives the instrument the ability to shine and come alive when it is plugged into an amp.
The controls include a low battery indicator, a master volume button, EQ Shape, Bass and Treble and a Phase switch designed to minimize and eliminate unnecessary and unwanted feedback.
The system is powered using watch batteries, an option that is not only lighter weight than the more common 9V batteries, but also provides a battery life that is significantly longer and more reliable.
The main feature of this system is an-easy-to-use built-in tuner which allows the player to automatically mute the output with no popping noise when it comes time to tune.
This option comes in handy when you are in the middle of a gig or performance and need to tweak your strings without interfering with the ongoing music.
In addition, when the tuner button is activated it also allows you to unplug without creating that loud and annoying pop.
Yet another improvement is the one of a kind NanoFlex low-impedance pickup by Shadow Germany which is located directly under the compensated saddle.
Due to the integrated active electronics in the flexible sensing material employed by this unique system, it is capable of picking up on string vibrations as well as vibrations from the top and body to create a true acoustic tone without the harshness that tends to result from piezos.
The hardware featured on this piece is top of the line, in accordance with typical Epiphone standards. The legendary and beautiful Grover machine heads lend themselves perfectly to accurate tuning and stability and come in a premium gold finish that is extremely attractive and complimentary to the style and finish of the instrument as a whole.
This guitar also comes with a headstock in Epiphone’s unique Sloped Dovewing style and snowflake fingerboard inlays.
Overall the PR-5E is not only attractive but also very well built and well suited to provide not only the beginner student but also the more advanced and experienced musician with a pleasant and inspired experience.
The built-in tools are handy and easy to use allowing the player a level ease and comfort not always found on instruments in the lower price categories. And, to be honest, the tonal range is truly beautiful considering the slim-line style of the instrument.
This instrument is highly recommendable for anyone looking for a well-made yet affordable solution to their needs.