Recap of 12 String Guitars for the Frugal Guitarist

"Double your pleasure with a 12 string guitar!"





By James Wall

There is something magical about 12-string guitars. They have a full sound and tone that just rings. Whether its the wistful opening to  Bon Jovi’s “Dead or alive” or John Denver picking out one of his heartfelt ballads, the result is always amazing.

While I wouldn’t recommend getting a 12-string acoustic guitar as your first guitar, they make a great second guitar when your looking for something to mix things up.

With so many manufacturers making 12-string guitars now, consumers are presented with many options regarding material and size. There is a 12 string out there for everyone.  

It should be noted that while we pick our favorite, and place a number to each guitar,  all guitars listed in this article are worthy instruments and you should look carefully for the one that meets your specific needs.   

Let’s get started with our reviews.


Our Favorite  Affordable 12 string Guitar


Guild Guitars D-120 Acoustic Guitar with Premium Gig Bag

Reasons to buy:

  • Solid Mahogany Top
  • Solid Mahogany Back and Sides
  • Bone Nut and Saddle
  • Lightweight Polyfoam case
  • Vintage Guild shaped neck

Reasons to avoid:

  • If you're looking for the a guitar with electronics

12 String Guitar Picks: 

Different products for different purposes:


Best 12 String Acoustic Guitars under $1000


12-String Acoustic Guitar Reviews [Updated]


1. Guild Guitars D-120 All Solid Woods Dreadnought, Westerly Collection

Guild Guitars D-120 Acoustic Guitar, in Natural, All Solid Woods Dreadnought, Westerly Collection, with Premium Gig Bag
  • The full-bodied and powerful tone of this Guild dreadnought provides guitarists with a classic acoustic sound and balanced voicing
  • Built with solid African mahogany top, back and sides, the D-120 features a bone nut and saddle, and mother-of-pearl rosette
  • This model also has a 1 ¾” nut width on a vintage shaped Guild neck, iconic Chesterfield headstock emblem reminiscent of 1960s Guilds, period-correct tortoiseshell pickguard, and Guild’s new lightweight polyfoam case
  • Available in a Natural gloss finish

Guild12 string guitars are beautifully crafted instruments that have under gone a lot of change that has been well documented.  This model is part of the Westerly Collection that incorporates many of the features that were used when these guitars were built in Westerly, RI.

The neck on this guitar is amazing.  It feels like the old Guild guitars of the past.  In testing I played this one and compared it against vintage 70's D35 model I have.  The neck on this one feels better than the older model its a little less chunky than the neck they built in the 70's.  But for me it was more comfortable.

To me the surprising feature is  the back and sides are solid wood and look amazing.  The nut and Saddle are also bone a feature usually reserved for more expensive guitars.

The volume from the guitar is good but given the smaller dimension of this dreadnought guitar it doesn't match that of some of the larger shaped guitars.  Still,  with the 12 strings the volume seems enough when playing with other instruments and the mahogany gives the warmth to the tone you would expect. 

The last feature I really liked was the playability of this guitar.  The action was a little high on the model I tested but it was fairly easily adjusted.  As stated before the neck has a natural feel to it an most will find it easy to play.

The Guild D120-12 comes with a premium gig bag which fills out the package and adds to an already reasonable deal.  If there is a short coming its the lack of electronics but you can always get a sound hole pickup after market if sound amplification is something you require.


2. Takamine GJ72CE-12NAT Jumbo Cutaway 12-String Acoustic-Electric Guitar

Sale
Takamine GJ72CE-12NAT Jumbo Cutaway 12-String Acoustic-Electric Guitar
51 Reviews
Takamine GJ72CE-12NAT Jumbo Cutaway 12-String Acoustic-Electric Guitar
  • Solid spruce top and flame maple back and sides
  • Produces all the lush, robust sound that players expect from a jumbo 12-string guitar
  • Slim mahogany neck and 12"-radius bound rosewood fingerboard provide great feel and playability
  • Taka mine TK-40D preamp system gives you a built-in tuner, three-band EQ and gain controls, mid contour switch, notch filter and EQ bypass switch for the ultimate in versatility and sound quality
  • Elegant Natural gloss finish

Takamine 12 string guitars are beautifully crafted instruments.

Takamine has a softer feel to it when you hold it and even though it is a jumbo shape its not as bulky as the Guild.  The gloss finish and smooth lines are exceptional and I'll say it again its just a beautiful guitar.

As with most guitars in this range the back and sides are laminate but the stain and flame maple wood are well matched.   The pre-amp is very functional with the tuner, notch control and other settings to shape the sound you are looking for in your guitar.

The tone for this guitar in general can be described as bright.  With the jumbo body style I expected it to be a little deeper in tone.   

The last feature I really liked was the playability of this guitar.   Its action was similar to that of the Ibanez AEG model but the neck of the Takamine guitar was smoother and a little more comfortable. 

As with many of these 'frugal' guitars I really wish this guitar came with a gig bag.


3. Gretsch G5022CWFE-12 Rancher Falcon White 12-String

Gretsch G5022CWFE-12 Rancher Falcon White 12-String Acoustic-Electric Guitar
18 Reviews
Gretsch G5022CWFE-12 Rancher Falcon White 12-String Acoustic-Electric Guitar
  • BodyBody Material: Solid Spruce Top with Laminated Maple Back and SidesBody Shape: Jumbo CutawayBody Back: Arched Laminated MapleBody Sides: Laminated MapleBody Top: Solid SpruceBody Finish: Gloss PolyesterNeckNumber of Frets: 21Fret Size: Vintage-StylePosition Inlays: Neo-Classic "Thumbnail"Fretboard: Rosewood with Gold Sparkle and Binding and B/W/B/W PurflingNeck Material: MahoganyNut Width: 1.875" (47.6 mm)Scale Length: 25" (635 mm)ElectronicsSpecial Electronics: Fishman Sonicore Pickup (Unde

The White Falcon is something of legend and you will see many artists play the electric version from time to time.  Neil Young and the Red Hot Chili Peppers are two that come to mind that I've seen play them on a couple of songs.

The Electric guitar version of the White Falcon is heavily gilded with sparkles, ornate trim and comes with a hefty price tag (>2k).  The Acoustic version, ie the Rancher Falcon allows you to get all of the bling for a much lower price. 

The Rancher Falcon 12 string acoustic guitar is lightweight, comes with Sonicore Pickups and a beautiful High Gloss, white finish and of course all the gold sparkles.   The spruce top and Laminate Maple back and sides give it a brighter tone than a mahogany or rosewood backed guitar.

This guitar was surprisingly easy to play and sounded pretty good.  I really didn't expect much in tone with the thinner body but really enjoyed playing this guitar.   I'm not a a huge fan of the the thumb markers on the neck that Gretch uses, I would have preferred the crown inlays to go with the rest of the bling, but that a personal preference and doesn't impact the sound or the playability.

The Sonicore pickups coupled with an I-sys preamp allows for you to adjust your tone as you would like for performances.   We also noticed that some of the "thinness" of the from the thinner body could be compensated for electronically.   

As expected the prices is super attractive, but you will need to purchase gig bag separately.  As with other thinner guitars, the stand out feature  playability,  it plays similar to an electric guitar.


4. Yamaha L-Series LL16 12-String Acoustic-Electric Guitar

Yamaha L-Series LL16 12-String Acoustic-Electric Guitar with Gig Bag - Natural
50 Reviews
Yamaha L-Series LL16 12-String Acoustic-Electric Guitar with Gig Bag - Natural
  • 12-String version of the Ll16 a.R.E.
  • Solid Engelmann Spruce top treated with a.R.E
  • Original Jumbo Body with solid rosewood back & sides
  • 5-ply neck with high comfort traditional neck profile
  • SRT Zero impact passive pickup

Yamaha's LL16-12 model is the compliment to the LL16 six string.  

The Yamaha 12 string guitar is made of solid mahogany back and sides and the guitar top is treated Engelman spruce.   This is the only guitar in our list that is all wood and no laminate.  The body shape also isn't a traditional Jumbo,  it is a larger guitar but the bout isn't quite as pronounced.

The neck of this guitar has a nice feel and projects nicely.   The mahogany body produces a jangly 12 string tone but with the warmth you would expect from the mahogany.

The SRT Zero pickup is ok, I wasn't overly impressed with it so if you are a performer you may want to upgrade the pickup.

The abalone inlays are a nice touch.   The overall look of the guitar is simple but elegant and you get a gig bag!

We found this guitar to check all the boxes but some how, the Yamaha guitar build quality just felt a little less than the Taylor so we ranked the Taylor higher.  Even so the larger body on this does project a warmer tone than the Taylor and you will want to consider it if you prefer the richer tone of a larger body and all wood back and sides.


5. Fender CD-60SCE Right Handed 12 String Acoustic-Electric Guitar

Fender CD-60SCE Dreadnought 12-String Acoustic-Electric Guitar
9 Reviews
Fender CD-60SCE Dreadnought 12-String Acoustic-Electric Guitar
  • Solid Spruce Top with Laminated Mahogany Back and Sides
  • 25.3" scale mahogany neck w/20 fret walnut fingerboard
  • Fender 'Easy-to-Play' shaped neck with rolled fretboard edges
  • Crème Plastic nut
  • Case Not Included

The Fender 12 string guitar comes with pickups and a cutaway design.

This is another 12 string acoustic on the lower end of the price spectrum.   Fender makes nice instruments and in general it will provide hours of enjoyment while learning or becoming familiar with how to play a 12 string guitar.

While most of the guitars we listed are Auditorium or Jumbo body styles this guitar is a traditional dreadnought with a non-traditional cutaway.   It a perfect guitar for performing or playing around the house.

As with most guitars that come with electronics you can use the amplifier to make up for some of the "tinny" tones that can show up in a less expensive guitar.   The Fishman system performs well on this guitar. The dreadnought shape also gives it a little tonal boost.

The patented fender "rolled" edges of the fretboard make this guitar easy to play and is a perfect choice for younger guitarists or those that aren't sure about playing a string and don't want to go broke finding out its not for them.


6. Takamine G Series GD30CE-12 Dreadnought

Takamine G Series GD30CE-12 Dreadnought 12-String Acoustic-Electric Guitar Black
114 Reviews
Takamine G Series GD30CE-12 Dreadnought 12-String Acoustic-Electric Guitar Black
  • Body Finish: Gloss
  • Body Shape: Dreadnought Cutaway
  • Bracing: Quartersawn "X"
  • Body Back: Mahogany
  • Body Sides: Mahogany

This Model is the Dreadnought flavor of the Takamine 12 string guitar.  We have it below the jumbo cutaway model that Takamine makes but if you like the Takamine brand and Dreadnought shape this may be the better option between the two for you.

Takamine has a smoother feel to it when you hold it and even though it is a jumbo shape its not as bulky as the Guild jumbos.  The gloss finish and smooth lines and black gloss finish are exceptional and I'll say it again its just a beautiful guitar.   If you prefer a more natural look this model also comes in natural finish.  Both the Black and the Natural finish are a solid spruce top with laminate mahogany back and sides.

The Takamine TP-4TD preamp system gives you a built-in tuner and three-band EQ and gain controls and really does a good job for a guitar in this price range.

The dreadnought shape of this guitar projects well and the cutaway gives easy access for when your play songs like "Wanted Dead or Alive".   

I found the neck to be a little less comfortable on this model compared to the jumbo version, but the difference was slight. 

You will want to get a gig bag for this one as well.


7. Ibanez Performance Series PF1512 Dreadnought 12-String Acoustic

Ibanez Performance Series PF1512 Dreadnought 12-String Acoustic Guitar Natural
55 Reviews
Ibanez Performance Series PF1512 Dreadnought 12-String Acoustic Guitar Natural
  • 12-string model
  • Dreadnought body
  • Spruce top
  • Mahogany back and sides
  • Mahogany neck

The Ibanez Performance Series 12 string guitars are and in expensive option for getting your first 12 string guitar.

Nothing stood out as a tremendously awesome feature on this guitar other than the price.  It really is an entry level guitar.  But if you need the sound from a 12 string guitar and don't have a lot of money to spend this is the model for you.

The 2 models tested had rough edges on the frets, but if you on a budget you can easily smooth these down with some emery paper.

Other things to note on this model are the lack of a gig bag or electronics.  


Conclusion


Guild D-120 12 String

Guild D120 12 String

There are lots of choices out there for 12 string guitars and while each has its own set up pro's and con's we found the Guild D120-12 to be our favorite 12 string for $1000 or less.


The fit and finish of this guitar stood out for this guitar when compared with the others on the list.   As well as the all would design.  The guitar felt nimble and light compared to the others.   If you are looking for a more less traditional guitar with a cutaway, the Takamine Models or the Gretch are good options.


For more information on choosing a 12 string guitar continue reading our guide that follows. 


What Should You Look For in a 12 String Guitar?


Shape/Size

Shape and Size are a personal preference but in general if you are a smaller player you should look at Orchestra models or other medium sized guitars.    

For us the Jumbo Guitar body is a natural fit for a 12 string guitar as it matches the bigger sound of doubling up the strings.

Wood Selection

Most of the guitars on this list are layered or laminate back and sides (except or the Yamaha LL16-12.  So when choosing these guitars you can rely on the look and figure of the outer layer and pick what "looks" best instead of worrying which wood it is.  Martins HPL model is a good example of a great sounding guitar that uses alternative materials.

Bracing/Nut/Saddle

As with 6 string guitars the preferred material is bone, tusq, or corian.  These ten to provide the best tone.  It should be noted that while bone is touted as the best, tusq and corian are much more consistent as they don't have the variation in hardness that natural bone does. 


Cost

For this article the 12 string acoustic guitar price limit was $1000.  I think you'll find most of the guitars nicely within this price limit,  even guitars that don't come with a gig bag leave you a little room under the $1000 budget to get one separately and stay on budget.

Extra Features

As previously mentioned, the two extras under consideration are electronics, gig bag and cutaway.

In our experience the most of the 12 string songs that we play don't require the cut away, however if you have a penchant for playing in the upper register you will want to consider getting a cutaway design.

When looking at electronics Taylors own design is really good plus they've engineered it so that the effect on guitar playing is minimal you won't hardly notice that it is there.

As for gig bags or cases for that matter,  if your guitar doesn't come with one,  you should get one.  Why spend all that money without protecting your investment.

That’s it, that’s what we look at when picking out a 12 string guitar.


Summary of affordable 12-string Acoustic Guitars 


Prior Picks Archive of 12 String Guitars

Do to availability issues we've decided to move some of our prior picks to this section.  They are still being made, but are not always available or they go quickly.   Since we still like these guitars we've moved them to our "Prior Picks Archive" to make room for models that are more readily available in the main article.

Taylor 254ce 12-String Grand Auditorium

Taylor 254ce 12-String Grand Auditorium Sitka/Rosewood Natural ES2 w/Gig Bag
10 Reviews
Taylor 254ce 12-String Grand Auditorium Sitka/Rosewood Natural ES2 w/Gig Bag

  • Includes padded Gigbag
  • Expression System 2 Electronics
  • Venetian Cutaway
  • Sitka Spruce Top
  • Layered Rosewood Back and Sides

It should be no surprise that we have Taylor 12 string guitar on the list.

It checks all the boxes.   Taylor 12 strings are consistent in tone, fit/finish, and just about everything you can think of.  

These guitars make for a great guitar for practice, recording, and performing.   This triple option coupled with the build quality, is the primary reason we picked this over the others on the list.  

The electronics are similar on most Taylor guitars.  It comes equipped with Taylors proprietary ES2 system which deploys a patented 3 pickup design.  The sensors are actually placed behind the saddle rather than under the saddle.  This placement captures the movement better as the wood behind the saddle is less restricted than directly under the saddle.

The Grand Auditorium shape is a nice middle of he road size that appeals to everyone.   As goldilocks famous for saying.  Its not to small, not to large,  but this one is JUST RIGHT!

This guitar also comes with a thick padded gig back to protect the guitar.   

We're pretty confident you will like this guitar and find that it is very versatile.    If there is a knock on this guitar its that for close to $1000 you would like to get an all wood guitar instead of the laminate back and sides.   But really, that's just splitting hairs.  Its a great sounding guitar.


Martin D-X2E 12-String Sitka/Mahogany HPL

Martin Guitar X Series D-X2E Acoustic-Electric Guitar with Gig Bag, Sitka Spruce and KOA Pattern High-Pressure Laminate, D-14 Fret, Performing Artist Neck Shape
31 Reviews
Martin Guitar X Series D-X2E Acoustic-Electric Guitar with Gig Bag, Sitka Spruce and KOA Pattern High-Pressure Laminate, D-14 Fret, Performing Artist Neck Shape
  • PROFESSIONAL SOUND & APPEARANCE: Martin's D-X2E acoustic-electric guitars offer a blend of wood and high-pressure laminate (HPL) patterns: Sitka spruce, mahogany, KOA, rosewood, and Macassar. The Sitka spruce and HPL construction delivers a balanced sound and crisp, consistent tones, while the dreadnought body style adds a rich and exceptional-sounding bass. This Martin professional guitar is complete with Fishman MX electronics and Martin’s Authentic Acoustic Lifespan 2.0 strings.
  • SUPERIOR APPEARANCE: Each D-X2E Martin X Series guitar boasts a Sitka spruce and high-pressure laminate construction. Each one has a mortise and tenon neck joint, scalloped x-brace, mother-of-pearl-pattern fingerboard inlay, high-performance tapered neck, hand-rubbed finish, and chrome enclosed gear tuners, making them look as captivating as they sound.
  • PREMIUM HANDMADE GUITARS: Handmade from the highest-quality wood and HPL, Martin’s X Series guitars are built to stand up to late-night jams, long studio sessions, and plenty of strumming or picking. These acoustic-electric guitars deliver unique designs, professional sounds, and enjoyable playing.
  • ENHANCED PLAYABILITY: In addition to Martin’s iconic tone known worldwide, our guitars deliver enhanced playability that makes playing a pleasure, no matter your experience or skill level. Whether you’re playing rock, country, folk, bluegrass, or jazz, these guitars deliver a natural playing experience that you will love.
  • MARTIN ACOUSTIC GUITARS: Martin’s superior guitar and string products remain the choice of musicians around the world for their unrivaled quality, craftsmanship, and tone. Still handmade. Still the standard. Martin guitars are the real deal—not an imitation.

Martin Out did themselves with this guitar.   Because the back and sides aren't wood it helps reduce the amount of natural resources used in making a guitar,  making this our environmental pick on the list.

I went into the test with my typical snobby attitude towards a guitar with man made materials for the back and sides. After all, if its not made out of wood how good could can it really be?

Turns out this Martin 12 string guitar plays really well. Ok, the wood doesn't look that real, but they made an attempt to cover up the fact that its back and sides aren't layered wood or solid wood but rather HPL (high pressured laminate). The materials used in HPL are paper and resin, as Martin molds it they press in a wood pattern based on the desired species.

The laminate is very durable, weather resistant and in general really nice.  The solid spruce top is X-braced like most other Martin's and is a very responsive top.

The electronics on the DX2E are Fishman MX.  We found the electronics to work particularly well on this model.

The X-bracing on the guitar is not scalloped,  we suspect so that the top can withstand the pressure of the 12 strings.  Also this model has a mortise and tenon neck rather than Martin's traditional dovetail neck joint. 

The guitar comes with a premium padded gig back and for the price may be the best value on the list.  


Guild Guitars F-2512E Maple 12-string Acoustic Guitar

Guild Guitars F-2512E Maple 12-string Acoustic Guitar, Blonde Jumbo Archback Solid Top, Westerly Collection
12 Reviews
Guild Guitars F-2512E Maple 12-string Acoustic Guitar, Blonde Jumbo Archback Solid Top, Westerly Collection
  • The F-2512E Maple combines two of Guild’s most iconic specialties: twelve string and jumbo guitars
  • With their large, rounded bodies, jumbo acoustic guitars have been Guild’s forte since 1954; combining this shape with the ever-popular 12-string construction results in a full-toned, impressively voiced acoustic instrument
  • Built with a solid spruce top, maple sides, and arched maple back, the F-2512E Maple has the bright, jangly tone characteristic of Guild’s twelve string guitars
  • Guild’s signature arched back design allows for great volume and projection, long sustain, and a lush, full sound
  • The F-2512E Maple features Guild’s Fishman-designed AP-1 electronics, a pau ferro fingerboard and bridge, bone nut and saddle, pearl rosette, period-correct tortoiseshell pickguard, and a satin polyurethane finish

Ok I confess I have a have a soft spot for Guild guitars.   Even though the company has gone through so many changes (both good and bad) Guild's have a really cool head stock and I'm still saddened that I let go of my JF30 so that I could buy a new Martin D16-RGT back when they first came out (I know Gasp!).  While I'll probably never get that guitar back, at least I have the memories.... I digress.

This Guild (F-2512E) resembles the old JF30 I had except it obviously has 12 strings and electronics.  The the layered maple finish has just enough amber tone in it to give it that warm aged look.   This is an improvement on what I had.

To me a Jumbo Body style and 12 strings are a match made in heaven and the Guild 12 string guitar does not disappoint.   The projection provided by the arched back and the jumbo body are superb.   The bone nut and saddle are a nice touch as well for this guitar.

The electronics on this guitar come with a master volume and tone control for the Guild/Fishman Sonitone GT-1 system.

If you are looking for a classic jumbo body style this is the guitar for you.   Alas, it doesn't come with a gig bag or case.   But I still feel its one of the best values out there.


Ibanez AEG1812II AEG 12-String Acoustic-Electric

Ibanez AEG1812IIBK 12-String Acoustic-Electric Guitar
15 Reviews
Ibanez AEG1812IIBK 12-String Acoustic-Electric Guitar
  • 12-String AEG Cutaway Design w/ Spruce Top & Sapele Back and Sides
  • 25"-Scale Okoume Neck with 14th Fret Neck Joint
  • Purpleheart Fretboard with Dot Inlays, Purpleheart Bridge and Chrome Die-Cast Tuners with Half-Moon Knobs
  • Fishman Sonicore Pickup and Ibanez AEQ-SP2 Preamp with Tuner
  • Case Not Included

Hard to believe this guitar has such a good price tag.

The Ibanez 12 string acoustic guitar is lightweight, comes with Sonicore Pickups and a beautiful High Gloss, black finish.  Ibanez also makes a two tone burst finish called Dark Violin Sunburst.

The AEG line of Ibanez guitars comes with a thinner body and cutaway style.  This makes them a very comfortable guitar to play.  You won't get weighed down by this guitar when on stage.

The Sonicore pickups coupled with an Ibanez preamp allows for you to adjust your tone as you would like for performances.   We also noticed that some of the "thinness" of the from the thinner body could be compensated for electronically.   It should be noted that even though the tone on this guitar isn't as full as a dreadnought or jumbo guitar, the 12-strings fill out the tone enough to make it fun to play.

Granted the prices is super attractive, but we would have like to see this guitar come with a gig bag rather than having to purchase separately.  At his price we don't think there would be to many complaints about this guitar not being a solid wood guitar.

The stand out feature of this guitar is its playability,  it plays very much like an electric guitar or at least resembles it.


Blueridge Guitars 12 String Acoustic Guitar 

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Blueridge Guitars 12 String Acoustic Guitar, Right, Natural (BR-40-12)
4 Reviews
Blueridge Guitars 12 String Acoustic Guitar, Right, Natural (BR-40-12)
  • Solid Sitka spruce top with scalloped braces gives you clean articulation and a crisp tone
  • Mahogany back and sides for a robust sound and resonance
  • Slim mahogany neck offers fast, easy action and inherently long-lasting stability
  • Choice Santos rosewood fingerboard ensures silky smooth playability
  • Every Contemporary Series Jumbo guitar now comes with a sturdy, padded Blueridge Logo ProTour BV-1502 Jumbo Guitar Gig Bag

We haven't wrote much about Blueridge guitars.   They make a quality instrument and the Blueridge 12 string guitar is no exception.

The Jumbo body style projects well and the overall look of the guitar is clean and understated except for the stylish pattern on the headstock. 

The scalloped braces allow the solid spruce top to be more responsive allowing the player go coax out crisp and articulate tones as they pick or strum.

The build on the model we played we solid, and we loved the tone  and it also comes with a Gig bag to protect the guitar while you take it around.

There are no electronics on this model, but you can easily add a sound hole pick up if you need to perform.

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