7 Best 12-String Acoustic Guitars – Expanding Your Standard Scale


Acoustic guitars are no longer that much limited or held back in comparison to solid body guitar.Both can use various effects, preamps and amps.While acoustic electric guitars are fairly new to the market, they are slowly becoming the there are still some problems that require an old school hardware solution. If you want a fuller, richer tone, you might want to check out 12 string acoustic guitars. Today we are going to talk 12 string models and introduce you to both the instrument and the idea behind it. Without further ado, lets get started on this right away.

Top 7 12-String Acoustics Guitars

ImageAcoustic Guitar / RatingSummaryCheck Price
+ - Takamine EF381SC Takamine EF381SC

Total of 4.88/5  

Classic example of Takamine quality that yields incredible sound, playability and performance.

+ - Guild F­1512E Guild F­1512E

Total of 4.83/5  

An awesome jumbo design that packs a great performance for the money.

+ - Martin D12X1AE Martin D12X1AE

Total of 4.70/5  

An interesting Martin model that packs plenty of bang for the buck.

+ - Seagull Coastline S12 QI Seagull Coastline S12 QI

Total of 4.67/5  

A rare handmade model that brings along a number of great surprises.

+ - Alvarez AJ80CE­12 Alvarez AJ80CE­12

Total of 4.65/5  

A highly attractive model that brings consistent, reliable, and rather affordable performance.

+ - Guild F­2512E Guild F­2512E

Total of 4.57/5  

A model that features a traditional aesthetic but fully competitive, modern performance.

+ - IbanezAEL152ETBS IbanezAEL152ETBS

Total of 4.50/5  

An affordable but ultimately very practical acoustic guitar with plenty of potential.

Takamine EF381SC

Takamine EF381SC

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Takamine's reputation is one of the best in the business. This is a brand you can turn to and trust completely. Takamine EF381SC may not be one of their most popular models out there, but it certainly brings that same quality we are used to seeing. Compared to other 12 string guitars, this one is both a very reliable work horse and a true representation of what a high end acoustic guitar should look like. Takamine chose the solid spruce top along with maple back and sides. EF381SC comes complete with CT4B set of electronics, which do an impressive job at capturing its natural sound. In all honesty, if you want a good 12 string, Takamine EF381SC is a no ­brainer.

Guild F­1512E

Guild F­1512E

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Fans of a more classic design who want to get their hands on a great 12 string guitar need to check out Guild F­1512E. Made by one of the most reputable brands in the industry, this guitar offers a combination of great build quality, great materials and impressive performance. You are looking at a jumbo body shape that features a solid sitka spruce top, rosewood back and sides. Needless to say, the volume is absolutely there as is tone definition. Guild F­1512E is great for live performances, both plugged and unplugged ones. Guild has turned to Fishman for on board electronics, which as resulted in their Sonitone being installed on every F­1512E. Overall, this guitar meets and exceeds all expectations.

Martin D12X1AE

Martin D12X1AE

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Martin guitars require no specific introduction. This brand has been at the very top of the market for a long time now. Being an authority most of the industry looks up to has its benefits. Martin's more affordable segment saw a decent boost in both availability and versatility. If you need an example just look at Martin D12X1AE. This is a reasonably affordable 12 string guitar that delivers what is now known as 'Martin tone' in a slightly different shape. It isn't quite traditional, but it makes up for it with great performance and even better hardware solutions. By that we mean a complete Fishman Sonitone package which does a great job at reproducing the natural sound of this guitar.

Seagull Coastline S12 QI

Seagull Coastline S12 QI

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Canadian guitars are still riding the shock wave they have created a decade or so ago. We are talking about handmade guitars crafted in North America by some of the best luthiers in the world. Best of all? They aren't exclusively priced. On the contrary, the prices are very much attainable. Seagull S12 QI is one such guitar. It's a 12 string model with solid tonewood all around, and a great little preamp system. Build quality is superb and punches way above its category. The result is a guitar that sounds and plays impressively well considering the price. If you need a rock solid value for the money choice, Seagull and its sister companies are the obvious way to go.

Alvarez AJ80CE­12

Alvarez AJ80CE­12

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In a market flooded with all kinds of tier 1 guitars, it is hard to see the forest from the trees. However, if you venture out deeper, you will find some amazing guitars. Alvarez AJ80CE­12 definitely fits this description. We're looking at a jumbo body shape that features a solid sitka spruce top paired with maple back and sides. Amplification is ensured by a capable L.R. Baggs set of on board electronics, which perfectly mimics the natural sound of this instrument. On top of all that, this is one very attractive guitar. If you are in a pinch and need to get a decent 12 string on a budget, we can definitely recommend the Alvarez AJ80CE­12 acoustic electric model.

Guild F­2512E

Guild F­2512E

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Guild's ability to merge great performance with affordable price tags is pretty impressive.What is even more impressive is that you can find these models in categories which aren't really standard. Guild F­2512E is a 12 string acoustic electric guitar that features solid sitka spruce top, mahogany back and sides, as well as a pretty solid set of electronics. Speaking of which, the preamp is Guild's own design while the piezo pickup comes from Fishman. Even though other brands choose to use full Fishman or L.R Baggs systems, this particular setup has proven to be more than capable. Overall, Guild F­2512E is a great choice for performing artists who need something reliable and consistent that fits a limited budget.

IbanezAEL152ETBS

IbanezAEL152ETBS

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Ibanez affordable segment holds quite a few surprises. One of them is the Ibanez AEL152ETBS. This is a prime example of what a budget 12 string guitar should look like. It shows the precision work and careful craftsmanship which Ibanez was built in, but it also looks extremely good. Overall, this is an ADL body shape which is fairly similar to standard jumbo. Ibanez has used solid sitka spruce for the top, while the back and sides are all maple. The choice of electronics came down to Ibanez AEQ­2T. It's a lightweight solution that includes just enough controls to be practical both in a studio or one a gig. Ibanez AEL152ETBS is a true work horse for the budget audience.

What Are 12 String Guitars?

As their name states, these are guitar that have 12 strings where standard acoustic guitars have 6. However, that doesn’t mean that you are expanding the existing scale too much, but rather enriching it with additional strings. If you look at a 12 string acoustic guitar, you’ll notice that all of the strings are grouped into pairs. Lower four pairs are most often tuned so that one string in the pair is an octave apart from its twin. The upper two pairs are tuned in unison. The reason why we’ve said that you’re just expanding on your standard scale is because string pairs are generally played together as one string.

This is by far the best way to extract all of the additional performance out of your new 12 stringer. Compared to some elite acoustic guitars, 12 string models don’t necessarily need to be tier 1 quality instruments. It’s much more important that the guitar is put together so that it offers consistency and reliability. Strumming a 12 string acoustic guitar leaves very little room for you to assess and hear every single detail in the music. Therefore, some of the properties that apply to regular mid range acoustic models don’t apply to 12 string guitars, not as strictly.

Whereas standard acoustic offer optimal connection with the instrument by allowing you to experience every single note in all of its glory, a 12 string model will plug you directly into a maze of tones, overtones and just pure bliss.

Benefits Of Owning A 12 String Guitar

There is a saying out there in the community that 12 string guitars are to traditional guitars what a grand piano is to your standard upright model. This very much true. Each of those string pairs creates a sort of chorus effect. When you play a full chord, you truly get to experience just how awesome a 12 string guitar can sound. With that said, 12 stringers generally have a much fuller tone and an abundance of overtones emanating from the sound box. This means that you can achieve much more with less. Learning how to play one of these beasts will allow you to bring your solo performances into a richer environment where you can really express yourself.

Another benefit is the practice you get with these. It is more or less irreplaceable. It is one thing to have to squeeze a single string on the fretboard, but a completely different one when there are two strings you need to press perfectly. Once you master how to do that, chances are that you will be much, much better at a standard acoustic guitar.

Last but not least, it is worth experimenting with if you are just about done with the classic acoustic models. Some guitar players simply don’t feel that challenge anymore, which is what makes them turn to 12 string acoustic guitars. Bottom line is that there are numerous benefits of owning a 12 string guitar. You just have to find what works best for you.

Things To Consider When Looking For 12 String Guitars

Where there are benefits there are usually drawbacks as well. An average 12 string guitar is no different. Before you decide to go all in and get one of these, there are some things you need to consider. A 12 string guitar is fairly different from your classic acoustic in a couple of ways. For starters, the headstock holds 12 tuning machines instead of 6, meaning that changing strings now requires you to do a very tedious process. Speaking of strings, keep in mind that special strings will be necessary for these guitars. They used to be expensive, but these days you can find awesome string sets at a very reasonable price.

Next thing we would like to mention are the necks. Since you have twice the amount of strings on what appears to be a standard scale neck, you are also going to have a much higher level of stress and tension. If you were to use a standard acoustic guitar neck, chances are it wouldn’t last too long. Instead, these guitars often times have double truss rods running through them Because of all this, adjusting the neck or action on one of these can be a real nightmare.

The point of this segment isn’t to scare you away from diving into 12 string models, but rather to introduce you to some differences you are most likely going to face. Are the benefits worth the effort? Absolutely. There is nothing quite like a good 12 string acoustic guitar.

Conclusion

While 12 string guitars are definitely a very niche segment of the market, we’re seeing more and more people flooding there in search of something more. Today we’ve shown you what we think are the best 12 string acoustic guitars your money can buy at the moment. No matter what your budget is, any one of the guitars listed will serve well for a long time. If you’re a musician who is interested in spicing things up, spending some time with the 12 stringer will most likely prove to be a great idea. Especially if you’re open to new things.


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