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


Taylor 254ce 12-String Grand Auditorium

Reasons to buy:

  • Solid Spruce Top
  • Layered Rosewood Back and Sides
  • ES2 Electronics
  • Venetian Cutaway
  • Comes with gig bag

Reasons to avoid:

  • If you're looking for the deeper tone out of a Dreadnought

12 String Guitar Picks: 

Different products for different purposes:


Best 12 String Acoustic Guitars under $1000


12-String Acoustic Guitar Reviews [Updated]

1. Taylor 254ce 12-String Grand Auditorium

Taylor 254ce 12-String Grand Auditorium Sitka/Rosewood Natural ES2 w/Gig Bag
5 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.


2. Martin D-X2E 12-String Sitka/Mahogany HPL

Martin D-X2E 12-String Sitka/Mahogany HPL Natural w/Fishman MX & Gig Bag
6 Reviews
Martin D-X2E 12-String Sitka/Mahogany HPL Natural w/Fishman MX & Gig Bag
  • 12-string Acoustic-electric Guitar with Sitka Spruce Top
  • Fishman MX Electronics - Natural
  • Hardwood Neck Fretboard
  • HPL Back Sides

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.  


3. Ibanez AEG1812II AEG 12-String Acoustic-Electric

Ibanez AEG1812II Acoustic Electric 12-String - Black High Gloss
7 Reviews
Ibanez AEG1812II Acoustic Electric 12-String - Black High Gloss
  • 12-string Acoustic-electric Guitar with Spruce Top
  • Fishman Sonicore Pickup - Black High Gloss
  • Purpleheart Fingerboard
  • Sapele Back Sides
  • Mahogany Neck

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.


4. 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
3 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.


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

Sale
Takamine GJ72CE-12NAT Jumbo Cutaway 12-String Acoustic-Electric Guitar
38 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.


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

Yamaha L-Series LL16 12-String Acoustic-Electric Guitar with Gig Bag - Natural
34 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.


7. Blueridge Guitars 12 String Acoustic Guitar 

Sale
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.


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

Fender CD-60SCE Dreadnought 12-String Acoustic-Electric Guitar
7 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.


Conclusion


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 Taylor 254ce 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.  The guitar felt nimble and light compared to the others.   If you are looking for a more traditional guitar without the cutaway, the Guild F-2512 and the Blueridge BR40-12 are nice 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 

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