10 Under-$300 Acoustic-Electrics

The old saying, “you get what you pay for,” has particular significance in the acoustic guitar market, where fine tonewoods and expert craftsmanship are fundamental requirements for great sound. If you can afford to spend $1,500 or more (often much more) on a really good guitar, you might as well skip over these pages and just go do it. But if you need to keep the cost of a new ax as low as possible, you’re not exactly out of options. Far from it, in fact, as today’s market is exploding with very affordable guitars—most made in the People’s Republic of China—that play well, sound good, and look pretty sharp too. And let’s face it, if you’re considering an acoustic-electric guitar equipped with an under-saddle pickup to plug into an acoustic amp or P.A. for coffeehouse gigs, you probably don’t need to spend the huge bucks anyway. That’s because most acoustic-electrics, regardless of cost, use piezo pickup technology—a type of pressure-sensitive transducer that almost always imparts c

So how little can you get away with in the acoustic-electric world and still take home something that plays and sounds good? To find out, we set our sights on acoustic-electrics with street prices of less than $300—definitely the bottom end for something you might want to use for gigs or recording, but a popular price category for players who are stepping up from the beginner packages purchased on sale at Costco or Wal-Mart. We selected ten guitars that met the criteria and subjected them to a thorough evaluation of their build quality, setup, playability, and tones. For the amplified part of our tests, we used a Genz-Benz Shenandoah Acoustic Pro, a Schertler Little David, and a Fender Acoustasonic Junior.

Alvarez RD8C

Applause AE 128

Ashland SF 70CE3TS

Dean Performer E Mini-Jumbo Cutaway

Fender Sonoran SCE

Greg Bennett OM 5 CE

Ibanez AEL10E

Jasmine ES33C

Silvertone SD 50CE

Washburn EA16