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Yamaha FSX720SCA

Acoustic-Electric Guitar

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Best Acoustic-Electric Guitar (under $500)

Yamaha FSX720SCA


The Yamaha FGX720sca is the best acoustic-electric guitar under $500 for most people. The onboard electronics are spectacular and it sounds great unplugged too. Features a single cutaway nato (eastern mahogany) body with a solid Sitka Spruce top, rosewood fingerboard and bridge and chrome die-cast tuners. If you're looking for a great acoustic-electric under $500, the FGX720sca is the one to get.


We say our pick is the best for most people, because there are so many variables. If you have no idea what to get, then our pick will be great. If you have some guitar playing experience, you might now that you like a cutaway, or a jumbo size, or dreadnought. You might prefer ceder to spruce, or vice versa. We’ve got some great choices below. Read through, look at the specs on the manufacturer websites, and then adjust your choices accordingly.

How We Picked

90% of the time (my unscientific guess-timate), most of us want an acoustic-electric because we play gigs, so the electronics is often more important than everything else.

Many years ago I didn’t have much to spend on an acoustic-electric, but needed one to play live with my band. I dropped about $350 on an Ibanez. It had great electronics and really shined plugged in. But the laminate flamed maple top, laminate back and sides? It sounded terrible unplugged. Like, really bad.

It wasn’t much of a problem because I also own a great 1940’s era Gibson acoustic. But if you are looking to kill two birds with one stone – a great sounding gigging guitar and a great sounding unplugged acoustic for home recording or songwriting use – you’ll want to find something that does both equally well.

In the budget acoustic-electric guitar range, there are some great choices. Of course, in this range, our choices have to accept the fact our pick would probably have laminate wood back and sides, and possibly a laminated top, instead of solid wood. There are some great acoustic-electric guitars that sound great unplugged.

Why do people make a big deal out of laminated wood vs. solid wood?

If you’re new to acoustic guitars, it’s entirely possible you might not even notice much of a sound difference between laminate and solid wood when you’re comparing two brand new guitars.

But solid wood ages better than laminate woods over time, which makes the guitar more resonant, the frequency response richer and wider. That is why a lot of people take the solid wood versus laminated wood very seriously.

You’ll generally see two different types of solid wood tops. One is spruce – in fact most of the guitars in this category will be spruce. There are some in cedar as well. Typically, spruce offers a brighter sound, while cedar offers a warmer, deeper sound. Soloists, duos, and trios tend to prefer the cedar, while those in louder groups, like country or rock, will tend to prefer the spruce because the brightness cuts through a noisy mix better.

So with that in mind, here is our guidelines for picking a great acoustic-electric under $500.

Great budget acoustic-electric guitar criteria:

  1. Solid wood top at least. Solid back and sides preferred, but not necessary (in this category anyways).
  2. The guitar should sound great – both unplugged, as well as plugged in.
  3. User reviews and professional reviews should reinforce this.
  4. Hands-on testing as available.

If you look on Amazon or Guitar Center, and use the search tools to narrow down choices (average reviews of four or five stars, price range between $350-$500, solid wood top), you’ll quickly see the choices whittled away to a handful of options.

If you aren’t sure what you want, go with our pick. But read through and check out some of our alternate picks and see if maybe one of those will match your needs better.

Our Pick

best acoustic-electric guitar under 500The Yamaha FGX720sca is the best acoustic-electric for most people. You’ll rarely find a review that is negative – it maintains 4 and five star reviews on all the music instrument retailer sites.

On the technical details side, it has a single cutaway nato (eastern mahogany) body, solid Sitka Spruce top, rosewood fingerboard and bridge and chrome die-cast tuners.

User reviews

One Yamaha FGX720sca user who gigs regularly noted on the Guitar Center website how well it sounds both unplugged and plugged in:

This is much more than a guitar. It has helped shape me as a musician, helped me write tons of songs and has been there all through my darkest days and my happiest moments. Over a hundred songs have been written on this guitar, over a dozen shows have been played on it. I continue to use it at my church and they still compliment me two years later on how good it sounds. The sound tech loves it. And it NEVER (I mean NEVER) sounds bad once it’s plugged in.

Another reviewer on the Guitar Center site loves the sound unplugged:

Every note on this guitar has such a rich and clear sound.

This reviewer really likes how it sounds plugged in:

When I ordered this guitar I was not sure if I would ever take advantage of the amplifier ready electronics on it. I had always played acoustic without an amp. One day, on a whim, I ordered the 15 watt California amp through Amazon.com. Oh my, what fun I am having with it. Using this 720 with an amp gives me a whole other level of sound. If you want to play something dark or bluesy you increase the bass on the amp for a deeper richer sound.

And back to unplugged, this Amazon reviewer loved it:

This guitar is just as good, if not better, than the 100-300 series Taylor guitars at a fraction of the price. Beautiful tone, perfectly placed action allowing for beautiful notes no matter how high on the neck, gorgeous guitar (I got the natural color), Auditorium-like shape allows for great volume while the softer notes are flawless. Great for either finger-picking or strumming.

 

Other picks

Seagull Entourage Rustic CW QIT

We’ve picked some Seagull guitars in some of our other guitar categories as well. The reason why is that every time I try out a new one in a music store I’m amazed at the craftsmanship, as well as just how plain awesome they sound.

In this price range, the Seagull Entourage Rustic CW QIT is a great sounding guitar:
seagull encourage rustic cw gt qi

Seagull Entourage Rustic CW QIT reviews

A Seagull owner reviewed his Entourage on Guitar Center and had this to say:

Great value for an acoustic/electric guitar. I traded in another brand in search of a bigger,bolder sound and I found it. This guitar has great action and a big sound for a very reasonable price. Great electronics!

A user at Ultimate Guitar Review noted:

The Cedar top gives it a very warm, balanced sound. Rich bass, but not boomy like a Martin, and bright treble, but not tinny like a Taylor. This guitar has pronounced harmonics and a long, haunting sustain. It’s great fingerpicked, but also responds surprisingly well to hard strumming (the “overdriven” sound works nicely for rock).

Another great pick

Takamine GN51CE NEX

Solid spruce top and rosewood back and sides, as well as an amazing preamp system make the Takamine GN51CE NEX an above-average acoustic-electric under $500.

under-500-takamine

The onboard Takamine TP-4TD preamp system sounds remarkable, gives you a built-in tuner with three-band EQ and gain controls. I felt our main pick sounded a tad better unplugged, but plugged in, it rivals (and to some) beats the Yamaha.

Conclusion

It’s a great time to be a guitar player. These three solid-topped acoustic-electric guitars sound great unplugged and plugged in. The on-board electronics on each of these are the best in this price range.

The fact that you can get such great affordable guitars nowadays is astounding.

Now you just gotta play that thing!


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Best Acoustic-Electric Guitar (under $500)

Yamaha FSX720SCA

Best Acoustic-Electric Guitar (under $500)

Important Specs

Top Solid Spruce
Back & Sides Mahogany
Tuners Die cast
Electronics System 55T Piezo Pickup
Fretboard Material Rosewood
more specs

Synopsis:

The Yamaha FGX720sca is the best acoustic-electric guitar under $500 for most people. The onboard electronics are spectacular and it sounds great unplugged too. Features a single cutaway nato (eastern mahogany) body with a solid Sitka Spruce top, rosewood fingerboard and bridge and chrome die-cast tuners. If you're looking for a great acoustic-electric under $500, the FGX720sca is the one to get.

Takamine GN51CE NEX

If our main pick is sold out, get this.

Takamine GN51CE NEX

The onboard Takamine TP-4TD preamp system sounds remarkable, gives you a built-in tuner with three-band EQ and gain controls. I felt our main pick sounded a tad better unplugged, but plugged in, it rivals (and to some) beats the Yamaha. The Takamine also has a great track record with users and reviewers.

Seagull Entourage Rustic CW QIT

If you want a cedar top, go with this.

Seagull Entourage Rustic CW QIT

Seagull's acoustic guitar game has been on point for decades now, and this Entourage acoustic-electric is no different. User reviews are overwhelmingly positive. If you go check one out in the store, you won't be disappointed.

- M

Sources

  1. P. Bruley, Amazon Reviews, 20150306
    GD71CE: Awesome 6-String - plays great and sounds fabulous
    “This guitar is very similar to a the Guild GAD D-150CE that I was also considering. Both are made in China and are electric but the electronics on the GD71CE have more features. The D-150CE has solid rosewood back/sides and the GD71CE is probably a laminated rosewood. However I could not justify twice the price for the Guild as the Takamine sounded every bit as nice as the Guild and both played flawlessly.”
  2. Joe Hughes, Amazon Reviews, 20141228
    Yamaha FGX720SCA: You get just what you pay for and a little more
    “At first glance, this guitar is beautiful to look at. The finish on it is great and arrived with no imperfections in transit. A very well constructed guitar and feels very solid and well built. The action is on the lower end, but that's just how I like it personally. It's easy to play. Sound wise, it definitely won't be confused with a Martin or a Taylor, but it has it's own appealing tone to it that will mature and become even better given more time, as all solid top guitars will. I've gotten a few compliments on the tone. I'd say it ranks highly in the tone aspect. The electronics are nothing special, just the standard EQ adjustments (Bass, Mid, Treble, and AMF) and a tuner, but they are solid. The FGX730SC has a little more bells and whistles to play around with than this guitar, but I don't really need anything more than what this guitar has. The tuner is very handy to have.”
  3. Benevolent, Amazon Reviews, 20120210
    Yamaha FGX720SCA: Beautiful
    “This guitar is just as good, if not better, than the 100-300 series Taylor guitars at a fraction of the price. Beautiful tone, perfectly placed action allowing for beautiful notes no matter how high on the neck, gorgeous guitar (I got the natural color), Auditorium-like shape allows for great volume while the softer notes are flawless. Great for either finger-picking or strumming. The electronics, of course, aren't the best, but they are still pretty good.”
  4. Unregistered User, Ultimate Guitar, 20111125
    Yamaha FGX720SCA: Review
    “I play a lot of classic rock/folk, and it sounds great. Just a wonderful, balanced acoustic sound. It's not overly brassy and harsh, nor is it overly boomy and bass-heavy. I've had a few problems with strings buzzing that appear and disappear when I change the strings, but I figure that it's a consequence of the low action. I've had many people comment on the beautiful sound of this guitar, and they're surprised that it didn't come from Gibson or Martin.”
Originally published: January 23rd, 2016

Important Specs

Top Solid Spruce
Back & Sides Mahogany
Tuners Die cast
Electronics System 55T Piezo Pickup
Fretboard Material Rosewood
more specs



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