Taylor Guitars has a great selection of acoustic guitars priced right at or under $500. This price point with Taylor will get you something that has a solid wood top, layered back and sides, and no electronics. Taylors goal with this price point is to offer something that is affordable, has high playability, and sounds great. Here are my reviews and opinions on all of the models that Taylor sells that are under $500. Some are priced right at $500. All of these picks will make for great beginner guitars.
Taylor GS Mini Mahogany
Taylor has a major success on their hands with the GS Mini line. GS stands for Grand Symphony, which is the shape of the body. It is a 7/8 scale, which means it’s slightly smaller than a full size Grand Symphony. The Grand Symphony body shape is considered a large body guitar, and you can think of the GS Mini as a big body guitar put into a more manageable size.
While it won’t have the same volume as a comparable dreadnought, it makes up for it with a more articulated and sweet sound. The mahogany wood offers a more compressed sound compared the the attack of the spruce top model. This guitar has received rave reviews from owners, saying it sounds better than most other guitars that are slightly more expensive.
The Taylor GS Mini Mahogany is no longer in production, but you can still find them at guitar stores or even buy a used on online from sites like Reverb and GuitarCenter.
Taylor GS Mini (Spruce top)
Just like the mahogany model, the original GS mini is a scaled down grand symphony but with a spruce top. The spruce topped model has all the qualities you would expect from a spruce Taylor. A bright and bell like tone in a smaller package.
Some consider this a travel guitar, meaning that the price is low enough to not worry too much about anything happening to it, and the size is small enough to take with you on trips. The GS mini is considered the modern day parlor guitar, and will do great on any beach or camping trip.
In my opinion, the Taylor GS Mini is the best Taylor guitar for under $500. Maybe you prefer the tone of the similarly priced Big Baby Taylor or Academy Series, but that comes down to personal preference and the style of music you like playing.
Taylor Academy Series 10
Taylor designed the Academy Series guitars as the perfect beginner guitar. Most of the time, the first guitar a new player gets is hard to play. The string height is too high, it won’t stay in tune, and the strings feel stiff. If you are buying a guitar for your child, and you are serious about wanting them to stick with it, do not go buy that $80 piece of junk at the local guitar store.
Instead, consider one of these under $500 Taylor models. The Academy series’ scale length is shorter, which means the strings feel a little slinkier and easier to play. The necks are slimmer, so getting your hand around the neck is easier. The frets are closer together, which makes forming chords easier.
The Academy Series 10 has a solid spruce top with laminated sapele back and sides. Owners describe it has having a punchy midrange and a bright and resonant upper range. It is a great choice for beginners looking for a quality instrument.
Taylor Big Baby Taylor
Similar to the GS Mini, the Big Baby is a scaled down version of a big body guitar. The Big Baby is a dreadnought shape, but is a 15/16 size meaning its a bit smaller. Some consider this a great travel guitar, but it should really be looked at as a quality smaller sized dreadnought. Maybe you have smaller hands or are looking for something for your child. Whatever the reason, this guitar packs a great sound into a small package.
It has a spruce top with layered sapele back and sides, which is what makes up Taylors signature sound of having ringing highs, punchy mid range, and resonant bass.
Taylor Baby Taylor
The Baby Taylor is a 3/4 size dreadnought. This guitar is a great choice for beginners or those looking for something compact to travel with. It has a great sound given the price, and has even been used by artists such as Taylor Swift an Bono. Like many of the Taylors that ring up under $500, the guitar will not have any electronics. Typically, getting the same model but with electronics adds about $150 to the price. The Baby Taylor comes in closer to $300 than $500, and is a great value choice Taylor for beginners.
Taylor Baby Taylor Mahogany
Like the model with spruce wood, the mahogany model has all the great qualities you would expect from even a cheaper Taylor. The mahogany has a more compressed and muted sound, which some describe as being more smooth and mellow. Making the choice between spruce an mahogany comes down to personal preference. I would recommend paying a visit to your local guitar store and comparing the two if you are on the fence in terms of tone wood choice.
Taylor Academy Series 12 Grand Concert
The Grand Concert Academy Series 12 is very similar to the dreadnought series 10 I mentioned above. The main difference is the body shape and tonal qualities that come with it. The grand concert isn’t as loud and bold as a dreadnought, but it tends to have a more balanced and refined sound. It still has adequate bass, but manages a more articulated high end range. Again, body shape and type of wood come down to personal preference and what type of sound you like. If you don’t want to take a chance on sound, you can still go to the local guitar shop and support your local economy!
Taylor guitar makes some great guitars under $500. While they are mainly known for their higher quality instruments like the 814ce, Taylor has done a great job of bringing affordable, highly playable, and great sounding budget guitars to the market. I can’t stress the importance of learning guitar with a quality instrument enough. It is so hard to learn on a super cheap piece of junk. While $500 is a lot of money compared to $80, you get what you pay for. A guitar that is a joy to play will have you or your child picking it up again and again. My advice, go for it!