Best Semi-Hollow Body Guitar Under 500 + 5 Reasons You'll Want One
Semi-hollow body electric guitars have been used in Jazz, Blues, Rock, Country and just about every sub-category of each of these genres. Wherever there's a disadvantage in one of its brethren electric guitar styles, the semi-hollow steps in to fix the problem.
Need less feedback or more warmth to your tone? A semi-hollow does that.
By the time you finish reading this, I think you're going to be wanting one in your hands - and that's why I'm going to discuss how to find the best semi-hollow body guitar under $500.
Whether it's your first, third or tenth guitar, it's one you're not going to regret.
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Fast View: Best Semi-Hollow Body Guitars Under 500 - Top 3
Best Semi-Hollow Body Electric Guitar Reviews
This sweet guitar has an arched maple top, neck and body giving it a warm, luxurious sound.
This guitar excels in the bass tones but because of the Piezo pickups, it maintains a bright top range to keep your sound interesting and complex. The solid wood construction is top-notch and always desirable when looking for great sound.
If you're not used to Piezo's, getting the sound just right might take a little getting used to, but they can be very rewarding once you get it.
A rosewood fretboard and quality chrome hardware round out the vintage look of this guitar. It's definitely a looker, down to its silver and white trim detail. The aqua finish is the perfect classic tone and a color you won't regret owning on a guitar.
Experience so far says that it arrives fairly well set.
As with any guitar, there's a possible need for set-up but reports from several sources on this are that minimal adjustments are needed. We would expect this with a higher quality instrument, and Dean is no slouch when it comes to quality.
Pros: The arched maple top is nice in that resonance isn't being ignored just because this is an electric guitar. Definitely contributes to a nice, rich sound.
Cons: The Piezo pick-ups do take a little getting used to and they're not to everyone's taste.
So, this is a great guitar, but we've got to talk a bit about how it looks. The blue burst is gorgeous with the white trim and gold plated hardware adding that special touch that makes it really stand out in a crowd. This is classically great styling that will look great on stage and make your friends jealous. The thing is this is a great quality guitar you can take on stage.
As affordable semi-hollow guitars go, the Oscar Schmidt OE30 Delta King really delivers. It not only looks good, it plays well and sounds great.
The control knobs are smooth, with no gaps or shorts and the dual humbuckers give a sweet combination of classic sound and that semi-hollow versatility.
It might be a little heavier than you expect, but not too heavy. Remember, it is a SEMI-hollow, not a hollow body guitar and it's that solid center block that helps reduce feedback.
You might end up needing a little set-up, or some adjustment to the hardware, but those are minor details at this great price. It doesn't come with any accessories, so expect to provide your own stand and case.
This one is a beauty, inside and out.
Pros: This guitar looks great and, being an Oscar Schmidt, plays great, too. It's an excellent combination in an affordable price range that you've gotta love.
Cons: It's a little heavier than some semi-hollow guitars, but this is a small consideration in the quality of the overall package.
Ibanez makes some seriously good electric guitars with top quality workmanship and delivers them at very reasonable prices, and the Artcore line is no exception.
The AS73 is a studio-worthy semi-hollow that performs like a guitar that's more than twice the price.
With a slick, well-polished frets and smooth fingerboard on a set mahogany neck, your fingers will love playing this guitar. The action is very playable straight out of the box and the tone rivals the high-end, big-name brands.
One of the impressive things about this Ibanez is the incredible range of sound you can achieve.
Whether you're looking for round, warm tones to play smooth jazz, a little twang for your country, or some crunch for your grunge, you can find it in this AS73.
It's an all-around heavyweight guitar that can handle a slew of genres. Pick what you love to play, pick up this guitar, and go. It's ready for you.
Pros: Ibanez really outdid themselves on this one. The versatility is what really blows me away. There's not a genre of music you can't make sound good on this Ibanez Artcore.
Cons: No serious negatives here to report.
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If you're up for a 12-string, this Dean Boca semi hollow guitar delivers big on an affordable budget.
Playability on this Boca is awesome. The fretboard is wide and slick. Even if you've never play a 12-string, you'll find this one easy. And it comes well set up for most people, straight out of the box.
The sound is crisp and precise, not as 'jangly' as a $4000 Rickenbacker. If you're going for that sound, you may want to change the pick-ups and/or strings, but for all other purposes, this Dean semi-hollow guitar has a wonderfully complex sound. All around, this is a semi-hollow delivers much more than its price tag indicates.
The body is lightweight, and while not sounding tinny unplugged, it isn't loud, either. This could be good if you want to practice without disturbing others.
The counterbalance of the light body is that the neck and head are a bit heavier than is ideal. Otherwise, the workmanship is spot on with a nice finish and quality look.
This is definitely one of those great budget finds that you won't regret. If you're even remotely thinking about getting a 12-string guitar, take a long look here.
Pros: This is a great introduction to 12-string, great quality and sound. Well worth it.
Cons: The hefty head/neck weight may be a deal-breaker for some. Also, 12-string guitars aren't for everyone, so make sure it's what you want before committing to this one.
This Luna 501 semi hollow really loves the blues-rock-jazz trio of the spectrum. It's not that it can't handle other genres, but this is where it excels.
The action on this Luna is smooth and easy, letting your fingers fly effortlessly along the strings. It's kind of like riding a motorcycle – you just think about where you want to be and you're there – same with your fingers on this guitar.
We like the humbuckers on this guitar just fine, but some feel they don't have enough on top, leaving the sound a little less bright. It's true, this guitar grinds in the warm lows and it knows what it likes.
The finish here is nice and there's a lot of attention to detial, just like there is on all Luna guitars. The gold hardware against the deep red finish is a nice touch..
This guitar is punching way above its weight class in the sound and playability it delivers. With this beautiful instrument, you're getting truly good value for your money, and a playing experience that won't leave you disappointed.
Pros: The action on this guitar is exquisite and it's a pleasure to play.
Cons: You have to do some extra adjusting to get more shout out of the top end.
First, don't let the listing fool you. When you click through, it says 'solid body' but it's a semi-hollow guitar. Easy enough to tell by looking at it and reading people's descriptions.
You should also know that it's not as big as a Gibson 335 class, it's the smaller PRS semi hollow size. The size might work in your favor if you're of a little smaller build.
IYV guitars are made in Vietnam, which makes them affordable. Of course you're probably asking whether they're any good, or is this one of those really cheap semi-hollow guitars?
The truth is, IYV actually makes some pretty decent instruments. BUT, expect to need some set-up, maybe some fret filing and hardware changes. This guitar is good for its price, but it doesn't go above and beyond its price point. Once you've got it set nicely to your preferences, it's actually a comfortable guitar to play.
For some people, this will be all they need to noodle around, or experiment with the semi-hollow sound, but don't expect this guitar to be your stage buddy or give you that really rich, creative sound that semi-hollows are known for.
I don't usually like to put cheap guitars on our site, but in price vs quality, this one holds up. It's good, considering the cost and it can be upgraded fairly easily.
Pros: It's always nice to have guitars in a smaller size range so it can accommodate more people.
Cons: It is on the cheap side, and while decent, if you can spring for something a little bit better, I would.
The Gretsch Streamliner really demonstrates the versatility of some of the best semi-hollow guitars. It'll take you from smooth jazz, to rock or country, to grunge in the blink of an eye, if you talk to it sweetly. You know what I mean.
This is probably one of the best semi-hollow guitars for rock of any genre.
This guitar has some serious output and is very feedback-resistant, finding a nice base with the Broad'Tron humbucker pickups. Reduced feedback is already one of the advantages of a semi-hollow guitar, but this Gretch excels at it.
Construction is nice and clean with solid tuners and it comes well set-up for most. You've got a 3-position toggle and all master controls at your fingertips to allow you to quickly get to the sound you're looking for.
The Streamliner is lightweight and well-balanced. Not a lot of changing around to be done on this one. It's ready to play.
The Gretsch Streamliner is a guitar you'll never regret owning.
Pros: It's very hard to create feedback on this guitar, which for a semi-hollow is definitely an advantage.
Cons: The V-Stoptail isn't as stylish as some of Gretsch's other options, but those choices put it out of the price range of this collection.
I reviewed this guitar on the Best Electric Guitar for Small Hands page, but I love it so much, I want to share it here, too.
This is a great semi-hollow electric that's specifically designed for people of smaller build and that's not all it does well.
Instead of copying myself, I'm going to give you a link to my original review.
Seriously, check this guitar out. It's a top choice in any field.
Pros: Great to have a semi-hollow option in this size range and I can easily recommend this guitar for anyone who likes to play in multiple music genres.
Cons: Not quite as big of a sound as some semi-hollows, but because of the smaller size, that's to be expected.
This guitar is fully designed by Fender, inspired by the classic 70's semi-hollow Telecaster. Thanks to the wide range pickups, it sounds just like an original Tele. If that's the sound you're looking for, then this is a great way to go.
I have to admit, I like the sound of a Tele better than I like the look, but it's all about the music so I'd be happy to play this Squier version.
All in all, this is a great semi-hollow electric guitar at a very reasonable price, especially with its classic pedigree. Having said that, you should know it rarely arrives ready to play and generally needs significant setup to perfect the intonation - and you may want to consider upgrading the bridge.
However, when you get it dialed in, this Telecaster Thinline is a brilliant guitar to play. The maple neck feels comfortable in your hand without being too heavy and the sustain is sweet. Once it's set, the playability is through the roof.
So you're saving a lot of money off the bat, just expect to put a little more in to get this guitar perfect. It's still worth it.
If you're willing to be a little patient, this can be an awesome guitar.
Pros: It's got the classic Telecaster sound and that's why you get this guitar.
Cons: The fact that it needs so much work right off the bat is frustrating when you've got a new toy and want to play it right away.
The Starcaster is such a niche guitar you may wonder why it's on this list. But it's also a very respectable semi-hollow guitar in the under $500 category so I thought you should take a look.
The offset, asymmetrical body was innovative in the 70's, but is a cool throwback now even for the modern Fender player. As is an advantage of most semi-hollow guitars, the Starcaster's sound is incredibly versatile. It's truly a multi-genre friendly guitar.
The satin-finish on the neck is responsive and provides a smooth, easy surface that lets your fingers fly. The resonance provided by the body shape is rich and multifaceted, giving you the ability to push the sound whichever way you want it to go.
The humbuckers give great sound and the tuners are a solid choice, straight from the factory.
This guitar isn't going to need a lot of setup, or alterations. It's a great guitar from the get-go.
The Starcaster might not have been on your radar, but give it a second look. It might be just the guitar you're looking for.
Pros: Pretty much ready to go as soon as you get it. Well made.
Cons: Not everyone loves the Starcaster so some of the looks you get may be more puzzlement than admiration.
This ESP LTD X-Tone rises out of the group as a bit of a surprise. It's one of those affordable semi-hollow guitars that delivers value and quality well above its price point.
It's also another of the slightly smaller models, not a big 335 replica. The scale length is 24.75" and it's a very comfortable fit for guitarists with a smaller build, shorter fingers and/or small hands. It's has nice balance, too. Oh, yeah, it has 22 jumbo frets on a thin U-shaped neck that make playing even smoother and easier.
This LTD X-Tone creates great tone that is clear, and versatile. Depending on your choice of settings and effects, you can go from smooth, warm jazz tones to grinding metal in a flash. The ESP is a Jack-of-all-genres sort of guitar and it does them all pretty well.
And don't you just love the styling here? I love that it honors the classic semi hollow look, with the traditional f-hole, but that asymmetrical kind of hip movement in the body is a great reinterpretation of the classic shape. As I've mentioned before, I like to see innovation, whether it's in tech, or design.
This little(ish) guitar really is a powerhouse when it comes to sound and you shouldn't hesitate is letting yourself fall in love with it. This semi-hollow electric is easy to play.
Pros: Love the re-interpretation of the classic shape.
Cons: The accommodations for small hands might not be comfortable for players with bigger hands.
Electric Guitars - A VERY Brief History of How Semi-Hollow Body Electric Guitars Came to Be
To truly understand the advantages of a semi-hollow body electric guitar, it is necessary to delve a little into the history of the electric guitar and the reason that it was created in the first place.
The short version:
The classic acoustic guitar has a soft sound that is not exactly suited to standing out in a big band setting, or orchestra, which were both popular in the 1930's. There was a clear need to amplify the sound of the guitar, but how to do this was still a little uncertain. An electric coil was invented to "pick up" the vibration of the string, convert into a signal which can be amplified by speakers. Today these coils are still called pickups.
These pickups were placed on a guitar with f-holes in the body, or soundbox, which actually reduced the sound emitted from the guitar itself. Reducing the sound from the soundbox further became the main focus of creating a truly electric guitar and the progression was therefore made from hollow to semi-hollow and then to solid bodied (invented by the infamous Les Paul).
The first electric guitar model was therefore hollow bodied. The semi-hollow guitar, with a solid block placed in the soundbox, was next in line. The solid-body electric guitar came last.
Of course there are many differences to the sound, tone, types of music as well as the way these different guitars are played. Of the three, the semi-hollow body guitars provide a little of the best of both worlds.
Let's take a look at some of the factors that make this type of guitar so exceptional and advantageous over its electric siblings.
5 Reasons You Should Want a Semi-Hollow Body Electric Guitar
Resonance Qualities of Semi-Hollow Guitars
The body of an acoustic guitar is where the sound resonates or is amplified.
A hollow bodied electric guitar therefore produces a sound that is very similar to an acoustic.
The solid-body electric on the other hand produces none of its own resonance and therefore requires an external speaker to amplify the vibration (sound) of the strings.
A semi-hollow guitar provides its own resonance, at a level that is ideal to be amplified by an external speaker.
Sustain Advantages of a Semi-Hollow Body Guitar
The sustain of a guitar refers to the length of time that a string vibrates and the sound reverberates from the body. A solid-body electric has the longest sustain as it does not rely on the body to resonate the sound.
The hollow-body electric on the other hand, still relies on resonance from the body and therefore has a much shorter sustain making it less ideal to hold those long notes that are representative of the modern electric guitar.
A semi-hollow has great sustain, thus beating out a strict hollow body - although still not quite as much as the solid-body electric guitar.
Tonal Strengths of the Semi-Hollow Electric Guitar
As mentioned above, a hollow-body electric sounds very much like a true acoustic guitar even though the sound is being amplified electronically. This does, however affect, the volume to which the sound can be amplified.
The solid-body electric on the other hand can be amplified to very high volumes to fully sustain a wider range of notes. This is why the sound is so well suited to metal, hard rock, punk, etc.
The semi-hollow produces complex, textured notes with warm tones that are exceptionally rich and harmonious.
This sound quality is what draws many guitarists to the semi-hollow guitar.
The tones of a semi-hollow body are nicely suited to blues riffs, smooth jazz licks, early rock and roll and both modern and vintage country music, as well as some pop music styles. It is also ideal for rhythm guitarists and Big Band music.
A semi-hollow body guitar is very versatile and quite accommodating to many performance situations. Also, it's fully capable of handling effects pedals, whether for reverb, distortion or volume. This versatility is one of its main advantages.
Shape and Construction of a Semi-Hollow Guitar
Where the solid-body electric guitar is suitable to be made in just about any body size or shape as it does not require the body to resonate any sound. Hollow-bodies, on the other hand, require a specific shape in order for the sound to resonate within the sound box.
The semi-hollow body style is sometimes shaped similar to acoustic or semi-acoustic guitar with the addition of an archtop.
The signature f-holes on the face of the semi-hollow body electric are not necessary and if they do appear, are often for aesthetic reasons, rather than to affect the sound quality.
Though there is some debate as to how much f-holes may contribute to feedback (see below).
The major difference is that luthiers build the semi-hollow bodied guitar with a solid block that runs the length of the guitar as well as the depth at the center, forming a solid core and leaving the 'wings' hollow and resonant. This block of wood helps stabilize the structure and reduces the feedback issues and disadvantages that full hollow body guitars experience.
Less Feedback from a Semi-Hollow Guitar
Hollow Body vs Semi-Hollow Body vs Solid Body Electric Guitars
All three types of guitars have some issues with unwanted feedback. With the solid-body electric, this feedback is mainly electrical, or due to the inexperience of the player. Simply stepping back from the amp and speakers can resolve the problem.
With hollow and semi-hollow guitars, the feedback is acoustic and more difficult to resolve. Basically, the feedback is a result of the resonance in the body of the guitar being amplified. A little experience with the instrument can help resolve this issue.
Semi-hollow guitars experience fewer acoustic feedback problems than their hollow counterparts.
However, there are some guitar gurus that believe that feedback can be integrated into the music, much like distortion or overdrive, to add to the overall effect rather than to detract from it. For them, it's not a disadvantage at all.
These experts do seem to be in the minority and it does seem best to try and eliminate as much feedback as possible whether electrical, acoustic or due to lack of experience. On stage, you'll see some performers stuff the f-holes with rags to reduce feedback during live performances. (See the Special Feature below.)
The semi-hollow body electric guitar is a little bit of a Goldilocks guitar – not too much of this, not too much of that – but just right.
You get more warmth and complexity than a solid body, but not as much volume. You get higher volume capabilities than a hollow body, but with a lot less feedback. And the sustain and resonance fall right in the middle as well.
The semi-hollow body guitar does a lot of things well with very few headaches. It's a good choice for players at any stage. There are some really good semi-hollow guitars out there for reasonable prices, from manufacturers like Gretsch, Ibanez, Daisy Rock, Epiphone, Oscar Schmidt and Fender. This is definitely a guitar-type worth considering.For the best value semi-hollow body guitar under $500, taking into consideration price vs quality, I'd be looking hard at Ibanez and Gretsch.
Of course, the top semi-hollow body guitar ever comes from Gibson. Let me fill you in on the legend. The one and only…Lucille.
B.B. King and Lucille
The story about how B.B. King's guitar got her name goes like this – in his own words:
"I used to play a place in Twist, Arkansas ... It used to get quite cold in Twist. And they used to take something that looked like a big garbage pail and set it in the middle of the floor, half-fill it with kerosene. They'd light that fuel and that's what we'd use for heat
... But this particular night, two guys started to fighting and one of them knocked the other one over onto this container. When they did it spilled on the floor. Now, it was already burning so when it spilled it looked like a river of fire. Everybody ran for the front door including yours truly.
But when I got on the outside then I realized that I'd left the guitar inside. I went back for it. The building was a wooden building and it was burning so fast that when I got my guitar it started to collapse around me. I almost lost my life trying to save the guitar. But the next morning we found that these two guys who were fighting, were fighting about a lady. I never did meet the lady, but I learned that her name was Lucille.
So I named my guitar Lucille to remind me not to do a thing like that again."
— Blank on Blank, from an interview with Joe Smith in 1986.
The truth is, the original Lucille was an inexpensive Gibson L-30 archtop. Over the years, as B.B. grew more successful, he obtained a series of upgraded guitars as part of his gear, focusing especially on a vintage Gibson ES-335 in the mid-1960's, and then later, the top of the line Gibson ES-355.
Each one was subsequently named, Lucille.
Legend in the Making
In the early 1980's, King worked with Gibson's custom shop to design a guitar to his specs. As he had been stuffing rags in the f-holes of his ES-355 during performances to prevent feedback, when they made his custom, he had them install some sweet humbuckers and leave the f-holes off entirely.
Over more than 50 years, and more than 50 albums, B.B. King's style became synonymous with the Blues the world over. It's been called an economical style, using few notes and making everyone on of them count toward his vision of a song's musical phrasing. He leaves the chords to everyone else. King pioneered his vivacious string bends and left hand vibrato so successfully that they're now standards in any rock or blues guitarist's repertoire.
While at one time B.B. was known to play a Fender Stratocaster, it's obvious that the sharp, single coil pickup twang and edgy sound were never truly conducive to his style. It's the warm, rolling, resonant tones of the semi-hollow body electric guitar, of Lucille, and the way the notes have space to interact with each other in that economical style, that define the solo sound of the King of the Blues.
FAQ - Best Semi-Hollow Guitars Under $500
Are semi hollow guitars good?
Semi-hollow guitars are a good guitar choice for many reasons. A semi-hollow body guitar can be used effectively across many genres, including rock, jazz, blues, country, grunge and even heavy metal. A semi-hollow guitar has better resonance than a solid-body electric, and better sustain and less feedback than a hollow-body guitar. Semi-hollow guitars solve many of the problems presented by their solid and hollow body cousins.
What is the point of a semi hollow guitar?
Semi-hollow guitars create a more complex, richer sound than solid body electric guitars without the feedback issues that hollow body guitars experience. They're also adept at many genres, from blues to country to grunge. Semi-hollow body guitars add opportunities for tonal variation and creativity to most genres.
Can you play semi hollow guitar without amp?
Semi-hollow guitars are not designed to play without an amp. To get the full sound of the guitar, it must be amplified. However, semi-hollow body guitars are great for quiet practice unplugged. They have enough volume for the player to hear themselves comfortably, but a semi-hollow is not so loud as to disturb other people in your household.
Why do semi hollow guitars feedback?
When you play a semi-hollow guitar, resonance vibrations between the sound box, the strings, the pickups and the amp (if you're too close to it) cause a feedback loop. Think of like too many vibrations bouncing around and off of each other within the space of the guitar, causing a sort of overload that the pickups then send through to the amp. The center block of wood in the body of a semi-hollow guitar is there for the distinct purpose of reducing this feedback.
Is a semi acoustic guitar good for beginners?
There is no reason a beginning guitar player shouldn't get a semi-hollow body guitar. They're excellent for exploring many musical genres. While some semi-hollow models are a little bulkier than most solid body guitars, there are plenty, like the Ibanez AM73B, that are more compact and easier to play. Beginning guitarists should start playing on whatever model of guitar that suits them best.
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