There’s nothing like holding an acoustic guitar in your arms and letting out a bunch of open chords — unless you’re talking about a 12-string acoustic guitar. With an extra sextet chiming out at every strum, a twelve-stringer gives you a meatier, fuller sound with loads of harmonic presence. It almost feels as though you’re playing two guitars at once.
- Our Top 12 String Acoustics Recommendations
- Best 12-String For The Money – Takamine G Series GD30CE-12
- Best Small Body 12-String – Seagull S12 Spruce Sunburst
- Best Jumbo 12-String – Takamine GJ72CE-12BSB Jumbo Cutaway
- Best High End 12-String Model – Taylor Builder’s Edition 652ce Grand Concert
- Best 12 String Under 1500 – Ovation ExoticWoods Collection
- Best 12-String Under 1000 – Guild F-1512
- Best 12-String Under 500 – Ibanez PF1512ECE
- Best 12 String Under 300 – Oscar Schmidt by Washburn
- Best Cheap Model 12-String – James Neligan LYN-D12 LYNE Series
- Best 12-String For Beginners – Yamaha FG820-12
- What Are the Benefits of Owning 12-string Acoustic Guitars?
- What Is the Difference Between a 12-string and a 6-string Acoustic Guitar?
- What to Consider When Buying a 12-string Acoustic Guitar?
Well, not really. But 12 strings is the way to go if you’re looking for a way to add dimension to your performance — or are just bored and want to explore new territory. Whatever the case, this guide will help you land the best twelve-stringer for your playing style and budget.
Our Top 12 String Acoustics Recommendations
Best 12-String For The Money – Takamine G Series GD30CE-12
We begin with what is arguably the best 12 string acoustic guitar on the market today: An upscaled rendition of Takamine’s legendary GD30. Like its sibling, the GD30CE-12 is a dreadnought-sized ax, but without the traditional boxy shape. The cutaway has created a rather interesting body that, despite having a smaller volume, yields as much resonance as your typical dreadnought.
It’s worth mentioning that this is one of the key draws of 12-string guitars. With twice as much steel/nylon vibrating, twelve-stringers deliver a lot more energy than their regular counterparts when strummed (more on that later).
The GD30CE-12, thanks to its spruce top and mahogany back & sides, has no problem capturing this resonance and projecting a bold dreadnought voice. A mahogany neck and rosewood fingerboard with dot inlays helps you make the most of this tonal potential. Takamine have also included an onboard pre-amp for easy amplification.
- Single Cutaway Dreadnought body
- 25.3″ Scale
- Rosewood fingerboard with 20 frets
- TP-4TD Preamp with 3-Band EQ & Gain Controls
- Die-cast Chrome Tuning Machines
For anyone who wants to taste the full sound of a twelve-stringer, the Takamine GD30CE-12 offers just the perfect answer.
Best Small Body 12-String – Seagull S12 Spruce Sunburst
Seagull’s long-held reputation of producing wonderful guitars at affordable prices continues with the S12 Spruce Sunburst. The body is a single cutaway, concert-hall bowl featuring a solid, pressure-tested spruce top and wild cherry back/sides.
It has a snug profile that allows for effortless fingerplay during your practice sessions, while yielding the same crisp, dreamy tone that smallbodies are renowned for. The compound-curve top design adds a slight arch above the soundhole to maximize projection, ensuring that the sound doesn’t lose too much on the low end.
To go along with the compact body, the S12 Spruce Sunburst features a silver-leaf maple neck upon which sits a rosewood fretboard. The scale has also been downsized for playability. And like a few of its 12-stringed Seagull siblings, it has a tapered headstock to provide a clean path between the nut and tuning gear.
- Concert/O Cutaway body
- 24.84″ scale
- 21 frets
- 2-band Pre-amp EQ; Godin QIT Pickup (optional)
All of this adds up to create an enchanting acoustic that just itches to be played on forever. And very capable too, thanks to its superb combination of tonewoods. The Seagull S12 Spruce Sunburst is a very good pick
Best Jumbo 12-String – Takamine GJ72CE-12BSB Jumbo Cutaway
Takamine once again proves they can make a great guitar just as they do pickup and pre-amp systems with the GJ72CE-12BSB. At 17″ across its lower bout, and with a depth just slightly under 5 inches, it’s about the perfect size for a Jumbo. But with a C-neck and cutaway putting frets within reach, bulkiness shouldn’t be too much of a problem — even for the more-diminutive shredders.
The body’s comprised of a solid spruce top sitting on a bowl crafted of flamed maple laminate. This combination allows the guitar make the most of its ample volume without pushing up the price too much. Yielding the usual jumbo tone with a hefty low end — but with trebles still warm and clear — the GJ72CE-12BSB has enough projection to assert itself even when unplugged. An onboard preamp offers the option to shape the sound to your liking and project it across larger venues.
- Jumbo Single-Cutaway Body
- 25.4″ Scale
- D’Addario EXP 38 Coated Phosphor Bronze Strings
- Bound Rosewood Fingerboard with 20 frets
- Quartersawn “X” Bracing
- Takamine TK-40D Pre-amp
- Gold Die-Cast Tuners
Takamine’s GJ72CE-12BSB is a solid proposition for guitarists who want a versatile, well-voiced jumbo-sized ax with the full 12-string sound.
Best High End 12-String Model – Taylor Builder’s Edition 652ce Grand Concert
Start with a base crafted of Oregon maple, use the same wood to build your sides, then finish off the body with a torrefied Spruce top. Add a mahogany neck sporting an ebony fingerboard, and a dozen steel strings coated with Elixir phosphor bronze. Equip your guitar with an all-new bracing system developed by one of the industry’s most revered luthiers, plus state-of-the-art electronics. Seldom do acoustic-electric hybrids come any classier than the Taylor Builder’s Edition 652ce.
Now, of course, class is part of what you’d expect at the very least when you’re forking out four grand plus change for an ax. But the 652ce is much more than a work of art. It has this low action that’s incredibly welcoming, with a beveled cutaway that lets you clutch the instrument in the most comfortable position. Meanwhile, a shallow neck profile combines with rolled edges on the fingerboard to provide impeccable handling as you strum along the downsized scale.
- Grand Concert Body
- 24.87″ Scale
- 18 frets with Abalone/Mother-of-Pearl inlays
- V-Class Bracing
- ES-2 Electronics
- Gotoh 510 Tuners
Most people would be content with an gorgeous guitar with great sound and impeccable build quality; even if that means sacrificing playability. But the Taylor 652ce Builder’s Edition still manages to deliver that as well — and without coming across as too edgy. Once again, you’ll be hard-pressed to find such a well-balanced recipe on a collector’s piece.
I also have a great article on high end acoustic guitar 6 string as well.
Best 12 String Under 1500 – Ovation ExoticWoods Collection
You can always bank on Ovation to craft a guitar that is as delightful to look at as it is to play. With its handsome charcoal gray body and deep-brown neck, the ExoticWoods Collection 12-String is bound to have the crowd’s eyes glued to your stage performances.
The body itself is a Lyrachord composite featuring the company’s signature Contour Construct, while the neck is a 5-piece maple and mahogany combo. The result is an extremely-light build that lets you unleash your inner Clapton from just about any playing position — all while maximizing acoustic output. The ExoticWoods 12-String has a very well-rounded and articulate tone. And thanks to Ovations bespoke onboard electronics, the ax will sound just as gorgeous when plugged in.
- Lyrachord Body over layered wooden top
- 25.3″ scale
- Adamas OV1616E Strings
- Pau ferro fretboard; 20 frets
- Ovation Scalloped X Bracing
- Ovation OP Pro Studio Pre-amp; Ovation OCP1K Pickup
- Die-cast Sealed Tuning Machines
The Ovation ExoticWoods Collection 12-String isn’t exactly cheap. But if you’re looking for an exquisite ax with a well-balanced, resonant tone — one that also plays splendidly — you won’t find a better deal at this range. It’s perfectly suited for stage performers, as well as intermediate players aiming to graduate into the territory.
We have an article on intermediate 6 string acoustics too – check it out here.
Best 12-String Under 1000 – Guild F-1512
If you’re looking for a more classic design, the Guild F1512 might just be the answer. It features a solid rosewood bowl topped with solid spruce for the crisp, chimey tone of a 12-string acoustic, and with the pronounced presence of a jumbo-sized ax. And because these two aspects (12 strings & Jumbo) are part of Guild’s specialty niches, you can be sure that you’re getting a masterpiece here.
Indeed, the F1512 is surprisingly approachable for a 12-string Jumbo. While its mahogany neck and rosewood fingerboard are beefier than you’d find on a standard guitar, the instrument is still comfortably-proportioned. The C-neck profile allows for easy handling with room for both finger- and flat-picking, offering great response even for those of us with smaller hands.
- Jumbo Acoustic Guitar
- 25.5″ Scale
- Steel Strings
- Rosewood Fingerboard with 20 frets; Mother-of-Pearl Dot Inlays
- Sitka Spruce Scalloped X-Bracing
- Fishman Pickup/Pre-amp
- Guild Die-Cast Closed-Gear Tuning Machines
Overall, the F1512 embodies Guild’s tradition of great performance backed by outstanding build quality. It brings a stage-ready, full-bodied jumbo tone with enough versatility to fit into any application, all for a relatively affordable price.
Best 12-String Under 500 – Ibanez PF1512ECE
The Ibanez PF1512ECE is here to prove that you needn’t break the bank for a twelve-stringer. It offers a warm, eloquent, balanced tone that’s bound to charm even the most hard-to-please of hearts. It sounds delightful when played acoustically, thanks to the ample projection yielded by the dreadnought-style body.
That’s all down to the tried-and-tested combo of spruce top and Okoume back/sides (Okoume is an African hardwood that has mahogany-like sonic properties but is more sustainable). Although the top is laminate, Ibanez have reinforced it with a soundhole rosette to ensure it stays in one piece; all while channeling string vibrations into the chamber. And thanks to the presence of onboard pickup/preamp system, the PF 1512ECE will comfortably come along to your stage performances and studio sessions.
- Cutaway Dreadnought Body
- 25.5″ Scale
- Ibanez IACS12C Strings
- Laurel Fretboard and Bridge; 20 frets
- Ibanez Undersaddle Pickup; Ibanez AEQ-2T pre-amp with built-in tuner; 1/4 inch output jack
- Chrome Die-Cast Tuners
With its bespoke PF Nyatoh neck, this guitar has a highly-ergonomic action that lets you strike the right notes with ease — even if you’re coming straight from a six-stringer. The Ibanez PF1512ECE should be a great introductory model for those who’re looking to make the step-up.
Best 12 String Under 300 – Oscar Schmidt by Washburn
The Oscar Schmidt by Washburn 12-String proves that good things do indeed come in small doses. Or rather, that a decent dreadnought-sized ax can be had for a very wallet-friendly price. For the body, a laminate spruce top combines with mahogany back and sides to create a decently-resonant bowl. The neck is also a mahogany piece, and the fretboard is crafted of rosewood.
Although the use of laminate spruce for the soundboard has watered down the sonic output somewhat, this guitar still has the voice of a proper dreadnought. It’s loud enough to be heard in a mid-sized venue, and the onboard electronics will simplify amplification if you do decide to use the ax in front of a bigger crowd. In-play handling should be pretty good thanks to the cutaway, and the unit comes configured with low action for an easy setup.
- Dreadnought Body
- 25.5″ Scale
- 20 frets
- Active MET-A07 Pre-amp with Built-in digital tuner
- Chrome Die-Cast Tuning Machines
- Comes with 5-year manufacturer’s warranty
With so much value on offer, the Oscar Schmidt by Washburn 12-String should be worth a closer look at the very least.
Best Cheap Model 12-String – James Neligan LYN-D12 LYNE Series
For those who want an entry-level unit with a little more presence, the answer could be in the form of James Neligan’s LYN-D12 LYNE 12-String guitar. Although it’s more of a mini- than full-sized dreadnought, this guitar will hardly disappoint as far as projection goes. A solid spruce top combined with rosewood back and sides makes for better efficiency in capturing string vibrations. This then translates to impressive tonal response, with a decent dose of bass and crystal-clear highs.
In the handling department, the guitar’s Oval-C neck will more than make up for the lack of a cutaway. The unit accommodates both rhythm and flat-picking with ease. You’ll also be pleased with the ability to navigate tonal boundaries with minmal fuss, thanks to the rosewood fretboard punctuated by white dot inlays.
- Dreadnought-style Body
- Scale: Unspecified
- D’Addario EXP Strings
- Die-Cast Black Tuning Machines
It’s worth highlighting that the LYN-D12 LYNE 12-String comes with the action already set up, plus a case at no additional cost. It should therefore be a great pick for those who’re still learning their way around guitars. Why not go ahead and grab it today
Best 12-String For Beginners – Yamaha FG820-12
Wrapping up our list is a unit from one of the industry’s most respected names. Yamaha’s FG line has been credited with opening up the acoustic experience for millions of players around the world. The FG820 12-String is one of the more-recent additions into the family.
With a standard Nato neck topped by a silky-smooth rosewood fingerboard, the FG820 will accommodate any style of play. A 1.8-inch wide nut provides ample room for the strings, ensuring you’re able to fret chords with maximum precision. Meanwhile, the spruce top works hand-in-hand with the mahogany back/sides to craft a mellow, well-balanced tone. A scalloped bracing helps accentuate low frequencies while maintaining clarity on the top end, resulting in an articulate sound that’s well-suited for vocal accompaniment. This will only get better as the guitar ages, thanks to the use of solid wood for the entire body.
- Dreadnought Body
- 25-inch scale
- Coated 80/20 Light Steel Strings
- 20 frets
- Scalloped X-Bracing
- Die-Cast Tuning Machines
With a very receptive demeanor, the Yamaha FG820 12-String seems like the perfect way to start your musical journey. And given its superb build quality and tonal capabilities, it could very well be your lifelong partner.
What Are the Benefits of Owning 12-string Acoustic Guitars?
Two’s better than one, as the old adage goes. In the same breath, having two sextets of strings on your acoustic guitar can bring a couple of benefits your way:
- Presence: As noted earlier, 12-string guitars vibrate with more energy than their 6-stringed counterparts. With more energy comes a thicker, fuller sound. Twelve-stringers are also able to reach peak with more efficacy. So, in essence, a 12-string acoustic guitar will always outshine a regular model in the same price range.
- Versatility: With its superior sonic performance, a twelve-stringer will comfortably fill in where your regular ax falls short. 12-string guitars have found their way into blues, jazz, country, and many other genres that are beyond the forte of the traditional acoustic. And when you need an extra edge to make your stage performance something worth remembering, a twelve-stringer is your best bet.
- Room for growth: Although it can be tricky to handle at first, a 12-string guitar will help you expand your talents beyond your comfort zone. You’ll begin to explore more tunings beside what you’re accustomed to, and hand strength will improve as a bonus.
What Is the Difference Between a 12-string and a 6-string Acoustic Guitar?
Well, the key difference is the presence of extra strings. On a twelve-stringer, each of the standard 6 strings is paired with another member that’s tuned up an octave (bottom four), or to the same pitch to create unison in (top two). These guitars are equipped with larger headstocks to provide room for the extra tuning heads. It’s also common for manufacturers to shorten the scale in a bid to reduce tension along the neck.
What to Consider When Buying a 12-string Acoustic Guitar?
Buying a 12-string guitar can open up a whole new world of possibilities. Choose the wrong unit, however, and what was a pleasurable pastime will quickly turn into a nightmare. Pay attention to these details when shopping:
- Neck: With an extra sextet adding tension, the neck of a 12-string guitar is subjected to a very high level of stress. Some manufacturers use double truss rods to reinforce the neck, but this can make it very difficult to adjust. Go for a unit with a solid neck, and which will suit your playing style with minimal adjustment.
- Tuning gear: Tuning can be a real nightmare once you double the string count, but a set of decent tuning machines will make all the difference — don’t forget to check headstocks carefully as you shop.
- Body: You should also keep in mind that playing chords will involve a little more stretching than on your regular ax. Go for a body shape that will allow you do so with ease.
- Strings: With two strings to press down each time, playing a twelve-stringer will require a lot more effort. The last thing you want is a bunch of strings that makes the job harder. If you can’t find a guitar with a proper set, at least go for one that will let you upgrade.
They’re practically unknown to the rest of the world, and some within the landscape have termed them a niche instrument. But seasoned shredders know that nothing can match up to the presence of a 12-string acoustic guitar. It’s the equivalent of a grand piano as far as guitars are concerned.
And as we’ve just seen, the market has a twelve stringer for just about every guitarist out there. You’ll only to put in a bit of effort — plus some careful consideration — to find the most suitable model for your budget and playing style. Good luck!