Best 12 String Acoustic Guitar

What’s the best 12 string acoustic guitar? Well, first, what is a 12 string acoustic guitar? I’ll tell you what it isn’t: it isn’t just a guitar with a second set of strings!

To understand the difference, you need to understand how guitar strings are counted. You see, with a 12 string guitar, the strings are laid out in sets- called ‘courses‘. Each course is played as if it were a single string.

So, a 12 string guitar still has 6 courses of strings, but each course consists of 2 strings (for a total of 12). This means that it’s played the same way as a 6 string guitar, but each note you play sounds as 2 notes. This creates a natural chorus-type effect and greater resonance as the two strings vibrate together.

Originally thought of as ‘novelty’ guitars, 12 string acoustics are now popular with folk and blues musicians as rhythm guitars. They’re not so popular for lead playing, as you cannot play one note at a time on a 12 string guitar.

Early players include Lead Belly and Blind Willie McTell who used them for acoustic accompaniments to singing, but other famous players include: Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Bob Marley, Jimmy Page and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” was also recorded on a 12 string acoustic, as was Jimi Hendrix’s “Hear my Train a’comin’”.

Tuning a Twelve String Guitar

Usually the three lower-pitched courses are tuned an octave apart, and the higher three are in unison (meaning that both strings tuned to the same note). The G strings can be either in unison, or octave- depending on preference.

Before guitars were made with truss rods (the metal support rods running through the neck), the high tension caused by the 12 strings caused the neck to bend. This is why many earlier 12 string players tuned down as low as A (A D G C F# A- one fourth, or 5 frets below standard tuning) to reduce the tension and postpone warping.

This is also the reason why some of these guitars have different structural supports than conventional guitars.

10 of the Best 12-String Acoustic Guitars

So, in no particular order here are some of our picks of the best 12 string acoustic guitars out there. If you’re thinking of getting a 12 stringed instrument, these should be a good choice to start you off!

Epiphone DR-212

Epiphone DR-212 12 string guitar

The Epiphone DR-212 Acoustic Guitar is a 12 string guitar made by Epiphone. It features a mahogany body, spruce top and rosewood fretboard and bridge.

This guitar has been designed with extra strength to support the 12 strings, and yet offers a balanced, resonant tone.

Sound:3.0 Stars
Construction:4.0 Stars
Playability:3.5 Stars
Value:3.0 Stars

Overall:3.0 Stars (3.0 / 5)

Features:

  • Mahogany Body with Spruce top
  • 25.5″ scale length
  • Rosewood fretboard and neck
  • Natural Finish
  • Dreadnought body shape
  • Epiphone ‘sloped dovewing’ headstock
  • Scalloped bracing

This guitar comes equipped with new strings, and so may sound a bit bright at first (unless that’s what you’re looking for), but it’ll almost never go out of tune!

Overall, if you’re looking for an inexpensive (not ‘cheap’) 12 string guitar, this is a great one to go for.

Takamine G-Series EG523SC-12 Jumbo

The EG523SC from the G-Series by Takamine is a Jumbo 12 string acoustic guitar

The Takamine EG523SC is another 12 stringed acoustic, but this guitar has a ‘jumbo’ body shape- which is generally a bit larger than the dreadnought. This larger body shape gives this guitar a louder, more resonant and bassier tone (although that isn’t to say the sound is all muffled with no highs!).

Sound:3.5 Stars
Construction:4.0 Stars
Playability:3.0 Stars
Value:3.5 Stars

Overall:3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)

This guitar also comes with a TK4N preamp installed, along with their famous palethetic pickup in the bridge. This means you can also plug this guitar into an amp, if you wish, and there is a tone control slider on the side.

This guitar also features a neat little chromatic tuner built in, for when you need to get it perfectly in tune.

Features

  • Flamed Maple Back and Sides
  • Gloss Natural Solid Spruce Top
  • Jumbo 12-String Body Style with cutaway
  • TK40 Pre-Amp
  • Abalone Rosette
  • Block MOP and Abalone inlays
  • Rosewood fretboard and bridge
  • Chrome Tuners
  • Model Number: EG523SC-12

Well, the first thing you’ll notice about this guitar is the quality of craftmanship, and excellent playablility. It’s a bit more expensive than the Epiphone, and it well deserves that higher price category!

The action is fairly low- which makes the guitar nice and easy to get your fingers around, which really lends to this guitar’s amazingly playable feel. In fact, the only thing that may be considered a downside to this guitar is the body shape. If you’re of a smaller build, you may find the Jumbo body a bit too much to handle!

Check this guitar out on Amazon.

Rogue Herringbone 12 String Acoustic

Rogue Guitars (distributed by ‘musicians friend’) tend to be more aimed at the budget range, and the 12 string Herringbone acoustic is no exception. If nothing else agrees with you about this instrument, the price will.

That isn’t to say that the guitar is badly made, it’s just not high end.

the Rogue Herringbone 12 String
Sound:3.5 Stars
Construction:2.0 Stars
Playability:2.5 Stars
Value:4.0 Stars

Overall:3.0 Stars (3.0 / 5)

Features

  • Sitka spruce top
  • Mahogany back and sides
  • Dovetail neck joint
  • Scalloped bracing
  • Rosewood fretboard
  • Die-cast tuning pegs
  • Herringbone binding and rosette

This instrument is probably not the best 12 string acoustic guitar that you can buy, but it’s definitely a good guitar if you’re on a budget and want a 12-string.

Despite the low price, this guitar has a beautiful, resonant tone and great feel. However, that lower price does come with sacrifices. the bridge is not rosewood, but a lower quality wood, and this has been known to lead to breakages (just check out the reviews on Amazon…although this only seems to be a minor problem with some guitars.

Seagull Coastline S12 Cedar

The Coastline s12 Cedar 12 string by Seagull Guitars

The Coastline S12 by Seagull is a more mid-ranged 12 string acoustic. It has a dreadnought body shape and the QI model has built-in Godin QI electronics which enables you to plug this guitar into an amplifier for on stage or recording.

Sound:4.0 Stars
Construction:2.5 Stars
Playability:3.5 Stars
Value:2.0 Stars

Overall:4.0 Stars (4.0 / 5)

The headstock has been designed to taper and reduce the strain on the neck of this guitar- so you wont experience any warping, even when tuned up to standard pitch.

This instrument also has a high quality solid spruce soundboard (or ‘top’) which is curved and- along with the scalloped bracing- give this guitar great tonal projection and stability.

Features

  • Made in North America
  • Select Spruce Pressure Tested Top
  • Double Action Truss Rod
  • Tapered Headstock for precise and stable tuning
  • Tusq nut and compensated saddle for better intonation

This guitar is especially good at open tunings, because of the resonance it creates. The neck can be fairly thick if you have smaller hands, but this also creates plenty of room between the courses (sets of string) if you prefer to fingerpick.

The intonation of this guitar sounds near-perfect, and the action is fairly low (for an acoustic) which means playing this instrument isn’t too taxing.

On the negative side, this 12 string has been reported to have a few construction faults on some models (badly glued joints, or problems with stringbuzz). This isn’t the highest-end instrument out there, but it’s certainly not cheaply made!

Oscar Schmidt OD312CEB

12 string acoustic OD312CEB by Oscar Schmidt

The OD312CEB is an electro-acoustic 12 string guitar from Oscar Schmidt, who have been making various stringed instruments. The guitar comes strung with a set of D’Addario strings, which are made from coated phosphor-bronze.

Sound:3.0 Stars
Construction:4.0 Stars
Playability:2.5 Stars
Value:4.0 Stars

Overall:3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)

It also has an XLR (microphone) output along with a 1/4 inch jack (for guitar amplifiers) that connect to the Active MET-A07 Preamp and digital tuner.

Features

  • Select spruce top and mahogany body
  • full scale fretboard
  • Active MET-A07 Preamp with digital tuner
  • 12-strings
  • Acoustic/electric with Active EQ system
  • Cutaway
  • Rosewood fingerboard
  • Chrome machine heads

For the low price, the construction of this guitar is (almost unexpectedly) very beautifully finished, with no rough edges or messy, glued-joints. Also, it stays in tune really well, with stable intonation- probably helped out by the Nubone nut and compensated saddle (the part in the bridge that the strings go over).

The action is nice and low- with no buzzing- which makes this guitar really nice and easy to play.

If you’re looking for a great 12 string guitar, that isn’t quite ‘dirt cheap’, then this is definitely one to look at! Find it on Amazon, along with more reviews and pricing information.

Ovation Celebrity CC245

The Celebrity CC245 is a 12 string acoustic-electric guitar with a beautiful ‘Honey Burst’ finish from Ovation. It’s another mid-range instrument with a cutaway body shape for better access to the higher notes.

It also has a spruce top and lightweight bracing to enhance resonance and tonal projection and is setup with a low action.

The 3-band equalizer and onboard tuner allows you to get the best tone from the instrument’s op-4bt onboard preamp.

Ovation Celebrity 12 String CC245 Acoustic Guitar
Sound:3.0 Stars
Construction:3.5 Stars
Playability:4.5 Stars
Value:3.0 Stars

Overall:3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)

Features

  • Spruce Top
  • Lightweight bracing
  • Mid-Depth Cutaway
  • Center Soundhole
  • Slim neck
  • 20 hand-finished nickel-silver frets
  • 3-band equalizer and onboard tuner
  • Onboard op-4bt preamp
  • 1/4 inch jack output

It may seem unusual to list ‘center soundhole’ as a feature, but this really is unusual from Ovation guitars. The company usually make guitars with smaller soundholes, nearer the neck. This is because the guitars are designed to be played through an amp, more than totally acoustic.

True to form, this guitar has the profile, and plays like an electric guitar- emphasized by the lower action, and cutaway feature. This guitar isn’t even completely made of wood! There is a wooden soundboard (top), but the back and sides have been replaced with a rounded, plastic back.

Some may say that the unconventional design detracts from the acoustic tone too much, but we prefer to think that it offers more versatility. Find out about other’s opinions and pricing information here.

Yamaha FG720S 12-String

a dreadnought style acoustic guitar with 12 strings

The FG720S is a 12 string acoustic guitar from Yamaha’s FG series. The 720S-12 is the twelve string version of the standard 720-S acoustic.

Sound:2.5 Stars
Construction:3.0 Stars
Playability:3.5 Stars
Value:3.0 Stars

Overall:3.0 Stars (3.0 / 5)

This guitar features a solid Sitka spruce top, rosewood fretboard and Die-cast tuners. It’s also sold with a lifetime warranty if you buy from Amazon. the tortoiseshell-style pickguard is also a nice addition.

Features

  • Solid Sitka spruce top
  • Nato back and sides
  • Rosewood fingerboard and bridge
  • White/black body and neck binding
  • Die-cast tuners
  • Tortoise pickguard
  • Limited lifetime warranty
  • Case sold separately

Well, Yamaha are already very well known for their quality products in many fields, and 12 string acoustics are no exception! The neck is fairly slim for a 12 string, which makes the instrument much easier to play, it’s also well set-up and will stay in tune for a long time, once worn in.

The thinner neck does offer an advantage for people with smaller hands, but then the action (from strings to frets) could be lower. Also, the bridge saddles and nut seem to be made from plastic…

Overall, this guitar is a great guitar for the price. It isn’t the best 12 string acoustic guitar, but it’s a solid buy for the money.

Dean Tradition Solid Top 12 String

Dean Tradition Solid Top 12 String

Dean Guitars may be better known for their more angular, heavy metal guitars such as the Razorback (think Pantera and Dimebag), but they do also make a range of acoustics, as the ‘Tradition’ demonstrates.

Sound:3.0 Stars
Construction:4.0 Stars
Playability:2.5 Stars
Value:4.0 Stars

Overall:3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)

The mahogany back and sides, combined with the spruce top give this guitar a very clear and resonant tone. The dreadnought body is set of perfectly by the Abalone dot inlay and rosette.

This acoustic guitar is a 12 string version of the ‘Tradition Solid Top’ dreadnought guitar.

Features

  • Dreadnought style body
  • Mahogany back and sides with a solid Spruce Top
  • 12 strings
  • Mahogany Neck with Rosewood Fingerboard
  • Abalone Dot inlay and rosette
  • GroverTuners
  • 25 1/2″ scale length

This acoustic, in line with Dean’s other guitars, definitely stands out visually. First, the bridge is a very striking, and distinctive shape, and then there’s the headstock, with a ‘cutaway’ in the middle. It definitely doesn’t look like your average acoustic!

This guitar sounds beautiful, with resonant- yet mellow- bass tones, and crisp, clear highs. However, it can be a bit of a handful to play, as it has a large neck profile, but you may find a way around this by using light to medium light strings or by tuning down a little.

Find more reviews on this guitar, as well as pricing information on Amazon.

Ibanez AEL2012ETKS 12 string Cutaway Acoustic-Electric

The Ibanez AEL2012ETKS 12 string acoustic electric with cutaway
Sound:3.5 Stars
Construction:4.0 Stars
Playability:2.5 Stars
Value:2.5 Stars

Overall:3.0 Stars (3.0 / 5)

The Ibanez AEL2012ETKS features a cutaway that gives you greater access to the higher frets and is an electro-acoustic guitar- meaning it has an onboard 3-band AEQ-SST Shape Shifter Preamp and a Fishman Sonicore pickup- which allows you to plug this baby into an amplifier.

You can also control the amplified tone with the Ibanez ‘tone shaper’. The electronics are quiet as it features a noise cancellation feature to eliminate feedback. It also has an onboard tuner.

Features

  • Abalone rosette
  • chrome die-cast tuners
  • Ivorex nut and saddle
  • Advantage bridgepins
  • AEQ-SST Shape Shifter Preamp
  • Fishman Sonicore pickup
  • Built in EQ and tuner

Despite not specifying the woods used in this guitar (as if they’re ashamed), this guitar produces a very balanced tone across all 12 strings. This is only enhanced by the quality of the internal Fishman electronics.

The neck is very comfortable and easy to play, although the action may feel a bit high for some. The onboard tuner can be a bit inaccurate, and difficult to use- so you may want to use a separate tuner sometimes.

Overall, this guitar is definitely worth the money- and we especially love the black finish without a scratchplate! Find it on Amazon here.

Washburn WD10SCE12 12 String

Washburn WD10 SeriesWD10SCE12 12-String Acoustic Guitar

This guitar is from Washburn’s WD10 ‘Heritage’ Series, and is definitely worthy of being on any ‘best 12 string acoustic guitar’ list!

Washburn have clearly spared no expense here! With the Satin Mahogany neck and bone nut and saddle, you wont find any nasty plastic pieces or dodgy workmanship!

Sound:4.0 Stars
Construction:3.5 Stars
Playability:3.5 Stars
Value:3.0 Stars

Overall:3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)

The cutaway on the dreadnought-style body gives great access to the 20 fret rosewood fretboard and the wooden rosette around the soundhole add just that touch of class to a very beautiful instrument.

Features

  • 12-String Dreadnought Cutaway
  • Exclusive Wood Rosette
  • 1/4″ scalloped sitka spruce bracing
  • Satin Mahogany neck with Double action truss rod
  • Bone Nut and Saddle
  • Solid Sitka Spruce top
  • Mahogany back and sides
  • Rosewood fretboard with 20 Frets
  • 25.5″ Scale length
  • Fishman Isys+ Preamp
  • Chrome Diecast tuning pegs
  • Comes strung with D’addario EXP-16 strings

The die-cast chrome tuning pegs will keep this guitar in tune for a long time, and the double action truss rod will insure near perfect intonation in all conditions.

You wont be dissapointed with this guitar! The vibrations of the strings are heard clear and resonant through the solid sitka soundboard and quartersorn scalloped spruce bracing. Not only that, but when you plug this guitar into an amp, it loses none of it’s charm.

The onboard Fishman electronics ensure that all that lovely tone doesn’t leave you for the sake of more volume!

Click here to find this guitar on Amazon, along with prices and customer reviews.

In Conclusion

Unfortunately, these guitars are a fairly rare breed- especially with the advent of more and more electronic effects to replace the second set of strings!

Hopefully you’ll see that the best 12 string acoustic guitar is really a matter of preference- and there is the choice out there if you look far enough!