best 12 string electric guitar

Best 12 String Electric Guitar Reviews In 2020 | BreatheCarolina

Most guitar lovers have to admit a 12-string electric guitar is one of the greatest musical instruments of all time. This kind of guitar has stirred the music world since the good old days with its shimmering, harmonic effect. Have you ever been bewitched by the mellow sound of the best 12-string electric guitars in Hotel California (The Beatles) or Stairway to Heaven (Led Zeppelin)? And in modern days, people still fall for it.

If you’re a newbie or someone who’s confused by so many options out there, I hope the list of 15 recommended guitars and a buying guide below from BreatheCarolina will be useful. I’ll examine 15 most admired choices to help you figure out the best 12-string electric guitar for you.

Best 12 String Electric Guitar Comparison 2020

** Below, you will find our detailed reviews of the best 12 string electric guitar, but you can also click the links above to see current prices or read customer reviews on Amazon.

Detailed Reviews Of Top best 12 string electric guitar

best 12 string electric guitar

With dual humbucking pickups, this budget-friendly guitar provides a clean, smooth sound and lots of control for guitar players. The build quality is excellent - lightweight, nice finish, perfect balance, nice range of controls. The transparent, glossy cherry red finish goes well with the black hardware and the cream binding. This guitar has a low action, which makes it easier to play barre chords. However, the neck is quite thin and the string spacing is narrow, which might result in you hurting your fingers, so I wouldn’t recommend this one if you have big fingers. The case is sold separately, so you need to purchase a case somewhere else to protect your guitar.

I was surprised to see how fabulous this guitar sounds right out of the box and how easy it is to play on the fretboard. The tone achieved isn’t really deep and is quite trebly, which is perfect for “nostalgia” songs. I find the ability to stay in tune of this Ibanez excellent.

If you’re a beginner looking for a guitar with a reasonable price to get the jangle feeling of The Beatles or The Byrds, this one might be for you. If you’re already a professional, this one can be a budget valuable asset to your collection. It does offer great value for the inexpensive price.

  • Pros

  • Cons

Things we liked
  • Great value with affordable price
  • Beginner-friendly
  • Well made
  • Lightweight
  • Stay in tune well
best 12 string electric guitar

This guitar is a nice combination of mahogany and maple. The bass from the mahogany back and sides strongly resonates with the high and mid tones from the maple top. The neck is also made from maple. The semi-hollow construction helps enhance the harmonic overtones, which results in a warmer, yet articulate sound. Overall, this Dean Boca has a sturdy and stable design. It comes with 3 different colors: Classic Black, Trans Amber and Trans Cherry Burst, so you have several options to consider. It comes with an adjustable bridge system and a tailpiece, allowing you to customize the action and flexibly bend the notes.

The weight balance of this guitar can be a problem, as the weight is concentrated on the head/neck. I resolved this problem by securing the strap at the head to balance the guitar out. This one doesn’t come with a case, either.

The sound is enchanting, but if you want to get the full effect, you have to keep the humbuckers on. If you’re looking for a “jangle”, I suggest using a compressor and equalizer or a pedal to get the vintage sound results that you want. The ability to stay in tune of this 12-string electric guitar is quite inconsistent. The unplugged sound of this guitar is good, this might be a nice option if you prefer to play at night when your family members are asleep or if you live in a place with poor soundproofing.

  • Pros

  • Cons

Things we liked
  • Budget-friendly
  • Sturdy, well-crafted semi-hollow look
  • Warm sound
  • 3 different colors: Classic Black, Trans Amber and Trans Cherry Burst
  • Sound when playing unplugged is good
best 12 string electric guitar

Though it’s a 12-string acoustic-electric guitar, this Ibanez gives the feel of an electric one. The finish has a nice sunburst color that the Ibanez brand calls “dark violin”. This guitar has a sharp, crisp sound from the spruce top and warm, low frequencies from Sapele mahogany back and sides. This great tonewood partnership provides a clean, crystal clear sound. Sound when unplugged is a little thin due to the thin body, but becomes amazing when plugged in.

However, the action is a bit high on the 10th fret, the neck needs some tweaks if you're experienced, the tuners don’t perform very well and it’s quite difficult to stay in tune with this guitar. The body is smaller than a normal-sized guitar and has a narrow neck, so it might be more suitable for people with smaller hands and fingers. This is definitely a low-cost option for those who love small-sized guitar.

  • Pros

  • Cons

Things we liked
  • Low-cost
  • Gives more of an electric feel
  • Nice “dark violin” sunburst finish
  • Sharp, crisp sound mixed well with warm, low frequencies
  • Sounds better when plugged in
best 12 string electric guitar

This Korean-made 12-string electric guitar looks really sharp. It comes with 4 colors: Black, Dark Aqua, Red Metallic, Vintage White, all of which look beautiful. Made from laminated wood, it is lightweight and has a reasonable price. This model features an f hole, making it a hollow body. The weight and the fretboard make it so easy and comfortable to play that I can find myself lost in it the whole day. There’s plenty of trebles, creating a bright sound but still keeping a nice bass and mid character. The cons? There’s a lot of metal on the head, so you might feel a bit neck-heavy. Some components, including the knobs and the tuners, are a bit cheap, but still, this guitar produces decent sound.

  • Pros

  • Cons

Things we liked
  • Nice look
  • Lightweight and comfortable to play
  • Reasonable price
  • Bright sound
  • 4 different colors
best 12 string electric guitar

The build quality is top-notch, from the wood quality to other components, making it a sophisticated piece of instrument to own. The fit and finish are well made, and the hardware quality is solid. There are 2 color options: Black Gloss and Wild Cherry Transparent. The neck size and the balance are the most notable characteristics of this guitar. The neck is wide enough for you to feel comfortable playing chords and rhythm, and the whole guitar is so well-balanced that you can hold it and play it for a long time without feeling tired and overwhelmed.

This guitar is quite versatile and sounds clean for different types of music vibe, ranging from 60s ambient jangle to metal shredding, but I recommend this one for vintage melodies. The price is a bit higher than my previous-mentioned guitars and it’s in the mid-level range, but it’s definitely worth the money. I have no doubt that this is one of the best 12-string electric guitars available on the market.

  • Pros

  • Cons

Things we liked
  • 2 colors: Black Gloss, Wild Cherry Transparent
  • Top-notch, sophisticated build quality
  • Well-made fit and finish
  • Solid hardware quality
  • Well-balanced
  • Comfortable neck size
  • Vintage, clean tones
best 12 string electric guitar

This guitar is the reissued version of the classic 59DC used by Jimmy Page, with an added adjustable bridge. One good feature of this model design is the double cutaway, giving you easier access to upper frets and easier to slide. It does sound like the original Danelectro guitar, and the problems of vintage instruments have been eliminated. The tuners are better and the neck is wider. This Danelectro is inexpensive, lightweight and comes with a great setup.

It sounds better plugged in, producing jangly, chimy, twangy sounds. When using a capo or playing on upper frets, the sound might be a bit wonky. The headstock is now straight, which sometimes causes the strings to slip out of the slit in the nut, but this is easy to fix. There’s no case included.

  • Pros

  • Cons

Things we liked
  • Inexpensive
  • Lightweight
  • Reissued version of the Danelectro used by Jimmy
  • Page
  • Improved adjustable bridge
  • Double cutaway, easier to slide and play on upper frets
  • Better tuners
  • Wider neck
  • Jangly, chimy sound
best 12 string electric guitar

This mid-level 12-string electric guitar comes in 2 colors: Walnut Stain and Black. I personally like the Black one because the gold components shine so well on the black glossy finish, which gives this guitar a mysterious, high end look. It uses a die-cast tuner, making it a bit heavy, especially on the neck. The hollow construction gives a chimy, jangly but still a full, warm sound. I’m impressed by the controls on this Gretsch because it gives a wide range of tones. It stays in tune well, which would be a relief for you if you hate tuning. If you’re looking for a fit-all-styles guitar, this one might be a good choice to start.

  • Pros

  • Cons

Things we liked
  • 2 colors: Walnut Stain and Black
  • Chimy, jangly, full sound
  • Wide range of tones
  • Stays in tune well
  • Fits all styles
best 12 string electric guitar

This low-cost guitar has a beautiful, classy dreadnought design with a cutaway, making it easier to play on upper frets. It comes with 3 different colors: Black, Natural and Tobacco Sunburst. You can also choose between an Engineered Wood Fretboard or a Rosewood Fretboard. The fingerboard is a little wide, so starters with small hands might need to consider before getting this guitar. There’s only one strap button, which can be an inconvenience. And there’s no gig bag included.

If you’re a beginner and looking for a budget acoustic-electric guitar, you can try this one. It does have a clear, crisp, well-rounded tone. If you’re a pro, you need some adjustments such as tweaking the neck or the saddle to get the right tone that you want.

One thing to notice: there’s no pickguard on this guitar. Some people can live without it, some don’t. I think it depends on your preference.

  • Pros

  • Cons

Things we liked
  • Low price
  • 3 different colors and 2 kinds of fretboard
  • Nice dreadnought design with a cutaway
  • Easy to play
  • Clear, crisp, well-rounded sound
best 12 string electric guitar

When it comes to Fender, the build quality and the materials hardly ever make us disappointed, even on this budget-friendly guitar. The body is solid and will last long. This guitar comes with a pickup, a tuner and a preamp, The cutaway increases the playability. Crisp, clear, chimy, loud sound, especially when unplugged. The only downside that I notice is the quality of the pickguard - it’s made from easily-scratched plastic.

  • Pros

  • Cons

Things we liked
  • Solid build quality and materials
  • Comes with a pickup, tuner, preamp
  • Easy to play
  • Crisp, loud sound
  • Affordable
best 12 string electric guitar

The workmanship on this 12-string electric guitar is excellent - solid neck, nice frets, low action. It’s a bit heavy, but the balance is good and there’s no neck dive. I find this one quite comfortable to play. Tuning is easy and the ability to stay in tune holds well. One special feature of this guitar is the piezo under the bridge, which creates a jingle and warm tone. The maple body, together with the piezo, helps fatten the sound, making the tone produced by this Colt Flame phenomenal. There’s no case or gig bag included.

  • Pros

  • Cons

Things we liked
  • Solid neck, nice frets, low action
  • Well-balanced
  • Stays in tune well
  • Jingle, warm tone
best 12 string electric guitar

When I picked up this Fender, I was surprised by how light it is. There won’t be any neck dive, and whoever prefers playing guitar standing might love this one. The sunburst finish paired with creamy color is stunning. With a compressor, you can achieve the vintage jangle of The Byrds or Petty. I wish it came with a hard case, but there’s only a gig bag included. There’s a policy allowing you to return in 45 days, which is a safe option if you’re a newbie. I personally feel that the pickups, fittings and control knobs don’t have that high quality compared to other Fender products, but they are fine with the mid-level price range.

  • Pros

  • Cons

Things we liked
  • Very lightweight, no neck dive
  • Stunning finish
  • Jangly sound
  • 45-day return and 60-day price protection policy
  • Gig bag included
best 12 string electric guitar

This is a Takamine guitar with excellent glossy finish, coming in 2 colors: Black and Natural. This one is easy to play as it has dreadnought design combined with a cutaway. The neck is slim and friendly to people with small hands. The action, rosewood headstock and bridge are impressive. The solid spruce top and the mahogany back and sides make a mixture of rich, deep, resonant sound. The built-in tuners are decent and automatically turn off to save battery, but sometimes they turn off too soon before I finish tuning the guitar. However, The saddle and the nut are made from synthetic bone. I personally prefer them to be made from real bone.

  • Pros

  • Cons

Things we liked
  • 2 colors: Black/Natural
  • Excellent finish
  • Full, resonant, deep tone
  • Sounds great when plugged in and unplugged
  • Good, auto-on/off tuners
best 12 string electric guitar

The build quality of this mid-level Takamine is top-notch, which really illustrates the name and quality of the Pro series. The Pro series aim at gigging musicians, so it’s not a surprise that this P3DC is so solid and sturdy. If you’re looking for a durable 12-string electric guitar to perform on stage, I do recommend this one. It has a natural finish, not a glossy finish, which might suit you if you’re looking for a natural, wooden-feel guitar.

The sound is beautiful - crisp, full, well-balanced and the level of sustain is exceptional. The case included has a compartment in which you can store your spare strings, capo or batteries. The only minor downside that I see is that this doesn’t come with a pickguard.

  • Pros

  • Cons

Things we liked
  • Top-notch build quality
  • Natural finish
  • Crisp, full, well-balanced sound
  • Gigging-friendly
  • Case included
best 12 string electric guitar

Takamine guitars have always been John Jorgenson’s favorite, and Takamine has designed a guitar in collaboration with this guitarist extraordinaire. The build quality is flawless and top-shelf. Its sound chimes with every note, which is a remarkable delight to listen to. The built-in preamp and pickups provide a natural, warm tone, just like listening to a harpsichord. The tuning is easy and the guitar holds tune for a long time. However, the battery doesn’t last so long, only about 6-7 hours, so if you have a gig, bring some spare batteries. But the build quality and the sound quality prove that this is one of the best 12-string acoustic-electric guitars out there. This Takamine does come with a case.

  • Pros

  • Cons

Things we liked
  • Flawless, top-notch build quality
  • Remarkable natural, warm tone
  • Holds tune well
  • Case included
best 12 string electric guitar

The guitar comes with an excellent fit and finish. I love the color, the aesthetic design and how well-made it is. Having a solid body, it creates a unique, rich and balanced sound. It sounds great both when unplugged and plugged in, so you can practice it when everyone else is asleep. This Godin stays in tune well and is easy to play. It might be a bit heavy on the head/neck. There’s a gig bag included, and I personally prefer a case at this price.

  • Pros

  • Cons

Things we liked
  • Excellent fit and finish, well-made and amazing design
  • Unique, powerful and balanced sound
  • Easy to play
  • Sounds great when plugged in and unplugged
  • Stay in tune well
  • Gig bag included

Buying Guide for Best 12 String Electric Guitar

Here are some criteria you should consider before buying your 12 string electric guitar:

Body Shape

best 12 string electric guitar

The body shape affects the tone, volume and the playability of the guitar. Some common body shapes are: Solid body, semi hollow and hollow body. Additionally, some other common terms for the guitar body are: dreadnought and cutaway.

Solid body guitars don’t have a normal sound box and they need to be plugged into an amplifier or loudspeaker to be heard. Semi hollow guitars have a sound box and pickups. They are often admired by their clean and warm tones. They can be played at higher gain and volume and are more durable compared to fully hollow guitars. Hollow body guitars provide cleaner and warmer tones, resulting in rich fullness of sound.

Dreadnought design is popular among acoustic-electric guitars because they provide even tone and bigger volume. Cutaway design helps guitarists reach the upper frets more easily.

Tone Woods

best 12 string electric guitar

Each kind of tone wood gives the guitar a distinct sound and even if 2 guitars use the same kind of tone wood, they may still differ in tone. Some popular tone woods are: mahogany, maple, ash, poplar, basswood, etc

Neck Shape And Materials

Knowing different types of neck shapes can help you purchase a guitar that you feel most comfortable holding on your hands.

Many guitarists believe that set neck (neck glued into place) has greater sustain than bolt-on (neck bolted on the body).

best 12 string electric guitar

There are 3 kinds of neck profiles: C-shape, V-shape and U-shape. C-shaped necks suit most playing styles, while people hanging their thumb over the edge of the fretboard might prefer a V-shaped neck. U-shaped necks are suitable for people with big hands and hang their thumb on the back of the neck.

The materials of the neck also affects the sound of the guitar. Some common materials are: maple, mahogany and rosewood. Maple necks have rich, bright sounding and nice sustain, and are lightweight. Mahogany necks give warmer sounds and are lighter than maple. Rosewood has become rare and expensive. Its smooth surface makes great fretboards.

Hardware And Electronics

best 12 string electric guitar

Tuning best 12 string electric guitar can be a pain if you don’t have the right tuner. That’s why many people look for high-quality, premium tuners when they choose a guitar.

The bridge saddle and nut are often made from plastic, synthetic bone or real bone. Real bone mellows the melody out more, and also costs more. However, the tonal differences between plastic, synthetic and real bone are tiny. If you’re a beginner, this won’t be a big problem.

Many guitars have 2 pickups, one to create thick bass sound and another to create treble sound. A 3-position or 5-position switch or another pickup can help create more sound blending effects.

Scale Length And Frets

best 12 string electric guitar

Scale length is the distance between the bridge and the nut. Scale length affects the tension of the strings. Shorter scale length makes it easier to perform bends and vibrato and less tight when strumming chords.

Frets do affect the playability and the tone of the guitar. When choosing an electric guitar, you should also consider the quality of the frets.

Budget And Purpose

The best guitar doesn’t have to be the most expensive and equipped with state-of-the-art electronics. It should be the one that stays within your budget, has enough features that you need and has suitable dimensions.

best 12 string electric guitar

If you’re a beginner, you might not be able to notice the slightest difference in notes and tones, and you may only need a guitar with a decent sound and high playability. If you’re a professional and performer, you may need to invest in a well-built, premium guitar which can stand the rigors of the stage.

So you should ask yourself: Do you want something professional? Or just something for your new hobby? What price range suits you? How much can you pay?

And I recommend you prepare a list of songs that you can use your new 12-string electric guitar for. Look up different songs and be inspired by other artists. Here’s a good place to start: 

Final Thoughts of Best 12 String Electric Guitar

Choosing the best 12 string electric guitar for yourself might be a bit daunting if you’re a beginner or if you’re bombarded with so many choices. There are many aspects to consider when buying a guitar. I hope I’ve provided enough information to help you make the right decision.

Here’s a list of my top 5 choices:

Have you found the best 12-string electric guitar for yourself after this post? Or maybe I didn’t mention one of your favorites? Either way, let me know by leaving a comment or question in the section below.

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