The 12-string guitar has contributed to some of the most iconic songs in history and as such, will always have a significant following. However, because of the increased versatility of the 6-string, finding good options to suit all budgets isn’t always easy.
So whether you’re looking for something stage-ready or just a new guitar to experiment with at home, this KillerGuitarRigs Review has you covered. We’ve reviewed the 7 best 12-string guitars for under $1,000, focusing on price, build quality, playability, and tone.
If you’ve been curious about 12-strings or you’re looking to upgrade one you already own, you won’t want to miss this.
Features: Solid Sitka spruce top, Fishman MX electronics, X Bracing
Benefits: Excellent responsiveness, Bright and punchy tones, Solid tuning stability
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Features: Rosewood fretboard, Spruce/mahogany construction, Scalloped bracing
Benefits: Excellent projection, Crisp top end, Excellent first 12 string
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- Our Top 3
- Individual Reviews
- How to Choose The Right Guitar For You
- Final Thoughts
Our Top 3
For a blend of price and performance, it’s really hard to beat our Top Pick, the Martin D-X2E. It’s from Martin’s ever-popular X series and delivers familiar Martin tones and quality, while still being priced attainably for the average player.
If you’re looking to spend as little as possible and still get a great guitar, our Best Value choice, the Epiphone Songmaker DR-212, is the one for you. It’s well-made, sounds good, and was the most affordable option in the roundup by quite some margin.
If you simply want the best 12-string guitar under $1,000 and you’re not averse to spending most of the budget, the Taylor 150E is our Editor’s Choice. It was comfortable, looked amazing, played like a dream, and had tones that would keep any working musician happy.
A stunning 12 string from the most iconic name in the business.
This 12 string dreadnought serves up enormous amounts of character, along with room filling tone, and some of the finest craftsmanship you’re likely to encounter anywhere on a sub $1000 guitar.
The Martin D-X2E 12 string had a classic Martin dreadnought body shape. Since Martin are the original inventors of the style, there are few, if any, who do it better. It had a solid Sitka spruce top and Martin’s proprietary high-pressure laminate back and sides, which looked simply fantastic.
It had a hardwood neck finished with a “Low Profile” neck, which is one of Martin’s slimmest shapes. We found it to be exceptionally comfortable and extremely forgiving. Those new to 12-strings will definitely enjoy this neck. The finish on the back of the neck was satin, which kept it fast-playing even with sweaty hands.
The fretboard was listed as select hardwood, but we’re fairly confident that our test guitar had a walnut board. We’re big fans of both the look and feel of walnut, so this was a welcome upgrade over the Richlite featured on many low-midrange Martins.
The fretwork was spot on – the edges were exceptionally well finished, with smooth bevels, and the crowns were properly polished and perfectly leveled. Both factors really assisted in the excellent playability of the D-X2E.
We really loved the way this guitar sounded. It had the iconic Martin punch and responsiveness, with exceptional warmth and balance. Being a 12-string, we of course, got some fantastic folksy jangle and great brightness, but at no point did it ever sound thin.
It came loaded with Fishman MX electronics, which were simple but highly effective. They retained the original acoustic character of the guitar when amplified and retained clarity even at higher volumes without feedback.
The overall build quality and choice of materials and components was excellent. It had a compensated Tusq saddle, which performed well and provided excellent intonation. All 12 tuners held firm and turned easily, resulting in rock-solid tuning stability.
Verdict: The Martin D-X2E is a fantastic all-around choice if you’re looking for a reliable, great-sounding 12-string. It offers classic Martin performance, including excellent playability and a wonderfully balanced tone, particularly around the midrange. It’s incredibly reliable and perfect for gigging, recording, or even just playing at home.
- Handsome styling
- Great electronics
- Tusq saddle and nut
- HPL Back and sides
- Unnamed hardwood for the neck
Excellent tones, great feel, and handsome looks all for a bargain price.
With this 12 string acoustic, you’re getting a fantastic dreadnought style guitar with tons of punch. It’s well made, and considering the exceptionally low price, it sounded great. It’s made with surprisingly premium materials, and makes the perfect into to 12 string guitars.
The Epiphone Songmaker DR-212 is a simple, but well-made dreadnought 12-string. Its low price makes it an ideal proposition for anyone looking to experiment with a 12-string or who perhaps needs one as a backup guitar.
Its body construction made use of classic material combinations. It had a select spruce top paired with mahogany back and sides, delivering a familiar yet pleasing sound with plenty of shimmer at the top and good presence in the midrange.
The neck was made from Mahogany and had a D profile, which we found to be comfortable and easy to play. The neck was topped with a lovely rosewood fingerboard, something rarely found on guitars at this price point. This was great to see and it looked as good as it felt.
We found that the fretwork was well finished. There were no sharps, buzz, or fret sprouts, the edges were very well finished, and the crowns were very nicely leveled.
Being a dreadnought-style guitar, it had a big, booming voice and a very rich tone. It had volume in spades, but it never felt overpowering. For a budget guitar aimed at beginners, it performed incredibly well, even compared to much more expensive models.
It was a nicely appointed guitar with decent-quality hardware used throughout. The tuners were basic, but delivered strong stability, and even though the nut was plastic, we didn’t find it affected tone or intonation at all.
Verdict: All things considered, we found the Epiphone Songmaker DR–212 to be a great player. Not only was it incredibly handsome, it also sounded great, with tons of Punch and a lovely bright voice. It would make a great choice for those looking for a 12-string for a project, a first guitar, or even for some home recording.
- Bargain price
- Rosewood fretboard
- Good tuning stability
- Laminated top
- Bulky body
Legendary Taylor tones and build quality coming in at well under $1000.
If you’re looking for a bright dreadnought style acoustic 12 string with a high-quality solid top, and quality electronics, this could very well be the one for you. This is one of the best looking guitars in the category and even comes with a high-quality gig bag.
The Taylor 150E 12-String simply stands out from across the room. Its dark appointments contrasted with the beautiful light top to create a unique look that the entire KGR Team absolutely loved.
It was made with a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top paired with layered walnut back and sides. Of course, the Sitka spruce provided a bright, shimmering top end and the walnut delivered strong presence in the midrange.
The fretwork was also exceptional on this model. The edges were perfectly finished and the Crowns were not only level, but nicely polished, leading to a very smooth playing experience.
We really enjoyed the maple neck. Like most Taylors, it was thin, comfortable, and fast. It had a lovely satin finish that we found offered incredible playability. One of the real highlights of this guitar, of course, was the ebony fretboard. It was as dark and lustrous as ebony should be, while feeling absolutely amazing under the fingers.
We were impressed with the overall tonal profile of this guitar, which was everything we’ve come to expect from this brand. It had incredible articulation and brightness, while still retaining tons of deep, bottom-end response.
Another strong point was the Expression System 2 electronics setup. Instead of a traditional under-saddle piezo transducer, the Expression System 2 had a Taylor-exclusive pickup placed right behind the saddle. This special pickup makes use of three piezoelectric sensors that provide a much more natural-sounding response, giving it a true organic acoustic tone when amplified.
As for hardware, it was equipped with Taylor’s sealed-gear tuners, which we’ve always been big fans of. They turn easily with just the right amount of resistance, ensuring easy fine-tuning and impeccable stability. It came with elixir strings right from the factory and the out-of-the-box setup was easily the best of any guitar in the roundup, with a perfect low-medium action.
Verdict: The Taylor 150E 12-String is an absolute gem of a guitar. It’s light weight and comfortable to hold and play, especially for those used to electric guitars. It offered exceptional reliability, great tone, and is perfect for anyone from beginners with a higher budget right through to working musicians.
- Solid Sitka spruce top
- Great action
- Ebony fretboard
Laminated back and sides
Electronics controls not labeled
A contemporary take on a classic folk instrument.
This is a great option for electric guitar players who are looking to transition to a 12 string. It offers electric guitar dynamics and play ability with a strong acoustic voice, bold looks, and high-end electronics.
The ESP LTD TL-12 was by far the most unique-looking Guitar in the lineup, with a slimline Les Paul-style body and an Offset tooth-like sound hole.
The body was made with all mahogany, giving it a warm, rich tone whether we played plugged-in or acoustic. As briefly mentioned, the dimensions were far more like a standard electric guitar than any acoustic we’ve played.
Like any good electric guitar, it had a lightning-fast neck. The neck itself had a thin U profile and a supremely smooth satin finish. The fretboard was made from Jatoba and while it felt quite nice, we would have liked to see Rosewood at this price point.
We found that the fretwork was as good as anything we’ve seen on an ESP LTD model. It had 22 jumbo frets, giving a much wider range of accessible notes than anything else in this roundup.
Acoustically played, the TL–12 was sweet-sounding, but did lack volume. Despite the lack of volume, it still had presence and it certainly had the octave shimmer we were looking for. Of course, this guitar was really designed to be played plugged in.
ESP did a great job selecting the electronics, with a Fishman Sonicore under-saddle pickup delivering exceptional tone at any volume. It had an onboard Fishman TL3 preamp, which gave us control over some basic EQ functions, and it even had an onboard tuner.
It was loaded with high-end hardware, including a graph tech NuBone XB nut and saddle, and it even featured Grover tuners.
Verdict: If you’re averse to a traditional acoustic body style, but you still want the acoustic 12-string sound, the ESP LTD TL-12 is one of the best out there. It’s fantastically playable and looks brilliant. It offers some of the best amplified performance of any 12-string guitar under $1,000, making it well worth consideration if that’s high on your list of must-haves.
- Awesome design
- Fantastic playing dynamics
- Superb pickups
- Acoustic performance suffers due to thin body
- Soundhole design not to everyone’s taste
Fantastic folk and rock tones at a wallet friendly price.
With this Yamaha 12 string you’re getting a wonderful acoustic guitar built to a high standard, at a price so low you might not believe it. It’s bright, jangly, it looks great, and because it’s a Yamaha, you know it’ll take a beating like no other.
The Yamaha FG820 is effectively the 12-string version of the Yamaha FG800, which has been a perennial favorite of ours at KGR. It has Yamaha’s folk guitar body, which is their interpretation of the classic dreadnought shape, and it impressed us in almost every facet.
The top was made from solid spruce and the back and sides from layered mahogany. This resulted in a well-balanced tone, with plenty of shimmer thanks to both the presence of the octave strings and the spruce top. But the top end was kept in check with some nice midrange presence from the mahogany.
We liked the nato neck a lot. It performed very similarly to mahogany and we found the neutral shape will suit a lot of players. It had a gorgeous rosewood fretboard with nicely rolled edges, which looked great and felt even better! As is usually the case with Yamaha guitars, the fret finishing was excellent, the edges were smooth, and the crowns were well-leveled. Although perhaps a little rough in this case, which led to a somewhat gritty feeling.
Tonally, the FG820 had a big voice, but we never found it to be overpowering. It was responsive and the octave jangle added just the right amount of sparkle.
Considering the low price, it was very well set up with a comfortable action and good string spacing. We found with the stock strings, tuning stability took a little time to settle as the strings stretched in. This is relatively common on cheaper 12-string guitars, primarily due to the additional tension of the added strings. Aside from that, the hardware was all good quality.
Verdict: The Yamaha FG820 really is an excellent 12-string acoustic that Provides an affordable option for beginners and working musicians alike. It offers fantastic tones and has a huge voice and presence, plus it makes use of some premium tone woods rarely found on guitars at this price point, making it an excellent value proposition.
- Excellent value
- Solid spruce top
- Rosewood fretboard
- Strings took time to settle
- Fret crowns were gritty
Retro looks and hot pickups deliver some wild 12 string tones.
Most people associate 12 string tones with acoustic guitars, but if you’re looking for something different, this Dan electro semi hollow body 12 string could be the perfect guitar for you. It has a P90 and a Lipstick humbucker for some crazy tonal variety, and the throwback styling really makes it stand out from anything else on the market.
This brand often likes to do things differently and the Danelectro 59X12 was no exception. It had a semi-hollow body structure. The back and sides were made with spruce and interestingly, the top was made with hardboard. While we don’t think a hard board had any negative effect on the tone, it might not be the most durable material, especially if you’re particularly tough on your guitars.
It had a bolt-on maple neck with a nice medium C-profile neck. We found it to be comfortable, although we would have preferred it to have had a satin or semi-gloss finish rather than the glossy finish it came with. Because of the gloss, we found we were getting slowed down due to a sticky feeling after playing for some time.
The fretboard was made with Pau Ferro and the frets were properly finished, with no sharps or any uncomfortable edges (typically a dealbreaker for us).
Tones were the most interesting part of this guitar. The best way to describe it would be like having a permanent chorus pedal running (in the best possible way). It had that awesome out-of-phase sound and some incredible octave chime. The P90 in the bridge was the highlight for us. The snarling response of the pickup juxtaposed perfectly with the jangle of the octave strings and gave us a truly unique tone. The lipstick humbucker was great with the tone cranked up, but when rolled back, we did lose some articulation, especially with the coil split active.
The hardware was all of great quality on this guitar. The trapezoid design bridge looked fantastic, as did the chrome tone and volume knobs. Another interesting thing about the 59X12 was the use of an aluminum nut. It certainly didn’t hurt tuning stability or intonation, but we don’t know how much it helped. What it did do, however, was further add to the crazy jangle we got from this unique model.
Verdict: The Danelectro 59X12 was tons of fun to play. Between the coil-splitting lipstick humbucker and the P90, we had pretty much every tone imaginable, and all were complemented by the unique sounds of the additional strings. The styling might not be for everyone and the gloss neck finish didn’t help playability, but if you aren’t looking to play lightning-fast and you want something truly different, it’s still a great choice.
- Cool retro styling
- Incredible tonal variety
- Great quality hardware
- Hardboard top
- Bolt on neck
An ecologically friendly approach to the 12 string acoustic.
If you’re looking for a 12 string that stands out in more ways than one, this could be a great choice for you. First and foremost, it’s made using some of the most environmentally friendly materials and construction techniques in the industry. In addition, and unusually for a 12 string, it has a comfortable concert style body.
Breedlove has been continuing to impress with their environmentally-conscious approach to lutherie. The Breedlove Eco Pursuit Exotic S Concert is a shining example of what they’ve been able to accomplish while using sustainable practices.
We really did love the solid myrtlewood top – it had a stunning figured finish and looked far more expensive than the price tag would suggest. The back and sides were also myrtlewood, but were made with Breedlove’s EcoTonewood, which uses a hardwood core with a laminate covering.
It had a mahogany neck with a slick C Slim profile. It felt more like the neck of an electric guitar than a traditional acoustic. This made it feel extremely forgiving, especially for players who might be new to 12-string guitars. The fretboard was made with ovangkol, which we suspect was a sustainability choice. Still, it felt nice under the fingers. The fretwork was good. We found no sharps on the edges and the crowns had a decent polish.
Something that we didn’t like was the brown color used for the fret markers. It made them quite hard to see, even in normal lighting conditions.
The tone from this Breedlove 12-string was true to the model name, which is quite exotic. The myrtlewood had a very similar sound profile to rosewood, balancing brightness and rich warmth very nicely. it had a strong midrange presence, but projection did suffer somewhat due to the concert-style body, especially in direct comparison to dreadnought-style models.
When played through an amp, the Fishman Presys I electronics served up some incredibly accurate tones. Feedback was well-tamed at high volumes and the natural acoustic character shone. Intonation and tuning stability were both as they should be and were no doubt aided by the Tusq nut and the copper closed-gear tuning machines.
Verdict: We had a great time testing out the Breedlove Eco Pursuit Exotic S. It was definitely one of the prettiest in the roundup and being from a lesser known brand, it definitely stands out a bit. It has great electronics and thanks to the concert body style, it’s incredibly comfortable to play.
- Gorgeous figured top
- Accurate electronics
- Forgiving neck profile
- Weaker projection
- Ovangkol fretboard
How to Choose The Right Guitar For You
Shopping for a 12-string guitar is a similar process to any other guitar. If the fundamentals like build quality, tone, setup, and playability are done right, the rest will fall into place quite nicely. Check out the below points of consideration if you’re still not quite sure what you need to be looking for.
Acoustic, Electric, or Acoustic-Electric
Depending on how you plan to use your 12-string, both in terms of performance and music genre, you’ll need to choose what type of guitar to go for. Your options are acoustic, electric, or acoustic-electric. Below, we discuss the merits of each style.
The most common 12-string guitars are acoustics. Surprisingly, they offer similar dimensions to a standard acoustic, including nut width, which makes the transition quite straightforward. Acoustic 12-string guitars are best suited to those who just want to play at home or who prefer to perform or record with a close mic.
Electric 12-strings were made popular by the likes of Led Zeppelin and featured on iconic tracks like Kashmir and Carouselambra. They sometimes even feature on double-neck guitars, but are also available as standard single necks. They have an almost psychedelic tone and do well with ’60s and ’70s rock.
Acoustic-electric 12-string guitars blend the best of both worlds. Not only do you get the folksy jangle of an acoustic at your disposal, you can very easily plug into a standard guitar amp to record or take your music to a wider audience.
Intonation and Tuning Stability
Having an additional 6 strings on the neck creates significantly more tension than you’d find on a standard guitar. With this tension comes the added risk of intonation and tuning stability issues. Make sure that any 12-string you buy offers rock-solid tuning stability, as constantly adjusting all 12 strings will become tiresome very quickly.
Also, making sure you choose a guitar with accurate intonation is also very important. Adjusting the intonation on a 12-string is an extremely difficult task, so getting this right the first time is key.
Finding a model with a quality Tusq or genuine bone nut will assist with both tuning stability and intonation.
Bearing in mind that a good setup for a 12-string guitar from a qualified guitar tech or luthier could potentially cost between 20% to 30% of your entire $1,000 budget, it’s a good idea to look for a model that comes with a great setup from the factory to suit your style of play. Whether that’s a low, mid, or high action is up to you, but one that’s best made before purchasing in order to maximize your investment.
We don’t often get the opportunity to compare 12-string guitars against each other, so this roundup turned out to be one of the more interesting reviews we’ve taken on recently. Having spent quite some time with all 7 of these fantastic guitars, we can highly recommend adding one to your collection, even if it’s just to play at home.
So to recap…
Our recommendation for those looking for a guitar that sits somewhere in the middle ground of price and performance is our Top Pick, the Martin D-X2E. If your primary concern is keeping to the bottom end of the budget, the Epiphone Songmaker DR-212 is our Best Value option, offering a lot of guitar for the money. Or if you’re happy to go all in on the best 12-string guitar under $1,000, the Taylor 150E is our Editor’s Choice, getting our recommendation for its beautiful tones, excellent build quality, and handsome looks.