Best 12 String Guitars of 2020 – Ultimate Review

If you’re here, you are most likely a big fan of The Beatles, Pink Floyd, or Led Zeppelin.

These are only a handful of the most popular players who opted for 12-string guitars.

If you’re ready to up your game and dive into the fantastic, complex, and absolutely gorgeous world of the best 12-string guitars, head for the next sections with full confidence!

Comparison Chart of the Best 12-String Guitars

PRODUCTDETAILS
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Epiphone DR-212

  • Best 12 string guitar overall
  • Slim taper neck for enhanced playability
  • 25.5 scale with a mahogany body and a spruce top
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Guild F-1512E

  • Jumbo size, but comfortable
  • Includes Fishman Sonitone pickup system
  • Includes Fishman Sonitone pickup system
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Yamaha FG820

  • Built-in diecast tuners and adjustable truss rod
  • Best for the Money Best Yamaha 12 String Guitar
  • High-quality built with a spruce top, mahogany back and sides
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Danelectro 12SDC

  • Best Electric 12 String Guitar
  • Masonite and pine body with a bolt-on maple neck
  • 2 lipstick single-coil pickups, controls for tone and volume
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Takamine EF381SC

  • Best 12 String Acoustic Guitar
  • Comes with a hard case for portability and protection
  • Solid cedar top with maple back and sides and mahogany neck
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Takamine GJ72CE-12NAT

  • Best 12 String Acoustic Guitar Under $1000
  • Exquisite classic design with high-quality sounds
  • Jumbo size guitar with maple back and sides, neck and solid spruce top
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D'Angelico Premier Fulton Left-Handed Grand 12-String Acoustic-Electric Guitar

  • Vintage tortoise pickguard
  • Best Left Handed 12 String Acoustic Guitar
  • Solid Sitka spruce top, laminated rosewood back and sides and mahogany neck
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Taylor 100 Series 2017 150e

  • Best Taylor 12 String Guitar
  • Highly playable, ideal for professional recording
  • Enhanced enjoyment due to Taylor’s famous neck profile
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Martin D12X1AE

  • Best Martin 12 String Guitar
  • Rock-solid built ideal for frequent gigging and live performances
  • Solid sitka spruce top, rosewood HPL (laminated) sides and back
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What is a 12-String Guitar?

A 12-string guitar is different from a regular six-string guitar because each of the strings comes coupled with another one. They are great for performing complex, intricate songs due to this feature. For example, when you touch B and E, you strum the same type of strings, so two notes are pressured into one note. 

Most professional studios or players prefer a 12-string guitar because it offers you a large universe of complex performances, they have a high sound quality, and they are more of a high-end instrument. This is, of course, not to deter beginners – all it takes is some good old ambition to master one of these!

What is the Purpose of a 12-String Guitar?

Twelve-string guitars are chosen by players all around the world for many reasons. Here are the top uses of this type of guitar:

Better Sound

Most guitarists realized that 12-string guitars do sound better! This is the main reason to try one, although you might have to jump in and see for yourself. A 12-string guitar just simply sounds cooler – for instance, most pop players know that 12-string guitars perform better. They bring a little extra, which makes a song memorable and hooks all the listeners. 

Two Six-String Guitars in One

When you use a six-string guitar, you mostly listen to a minimum of one and a maximum of six sounds at the same time. However, with a 12-string guitar, you can hear as many as ten sounds at once since four out of six are octaves, and the other two sound quite alike (they are tuned in unison). 

Epiphone DR-212

Chorus Effect

Another great use of a 12-string guitar is to achieve a chorus effect. Since two pairs out of six strings are tuned in unison, this will achieve a chorus effect – similar to listening to two people singing in unison. However, there are two sounds, or two voices, which blend together when you hear them. 

Characteristics of Our Favorite 12-String Guitar

We have carefully picked each of our favorite 12-string guitars to share with you. Here’s why we love them so much:

Quality

Firstly, our models are all picked with quality in mind. A guitar is not an accessory but rather a long-term investment that needs to be durable, sturdy, and offer you a high-quality performance. Since we are aware of differences in playing styles, music genres, and the needs of musicians, we ensured there is a high-quality guitar for everyone!

Value for Money

Value for the money is especially important when you are on a tight budget, but also when you want a high-end instrument. In both cases, the price range needs to match the guitar’s quality, sounds, and performance perfectly. We like to think of your every cent as our own, so we made sure our models are worth your time and finances!

Playability

Lastly, the playability and comfort of our models are also top concerns. Having a comfortable guitar is crucial to avoid wrist pain and, what is more, an uncomfortable guitar will make your practice less and make the whole experience inconvenient. 

Quick Take: 
Top 3 Picks

Here are the best 12-string guitars:

  1. Epiphone DR-212
  2. Guild F-1512E
  3. Yamaha FG820

Review of the Best 12-String Guitars

Now that you know what to keep an eye out for, let’s take a look through some of the best models available on the market.

Best Overall:
Epiphone DR-212

Epiphone DR-212 Acoustic 12 String Guitar, Natural

PROS

  • Smooth, satin feel
  • Great for beginners
  • Built-in diecast tuners
  • Stable, sturdy, and well-built
  • Good action straight out of the box
  • Mahogany body, spruce top, and rosewood fretboard

CONS

  • The neck feels a bit heavy
  • Professional set up needed for best results
  • Stock strings should be replaced for sparkly sounds

What Recent Buyers Report

This guitar has a matte feel to it, with a light satin finish. Unlike other budget instruments, it is made of real wood, not laminated, which is an exceptional feature. You also don’t get the slippery, sweaty experience that most instruments get after some play time. The overall build quality is excellent. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

The Epiphone DR-212 is an affordable, full-sized guitar with a mahogany body and exquisite satin finish. It is a solid instrument, with a stable and high-quality construction. It feels very sturdy but has a smooth satin finish. Overall, this guitar has exceptional tones and long-lasting qualities. 

Who Will Use This Most

Our top recommended 12-string guitar is ideal for any guitar player but is especially created for anyone who is transitioning towards 12-string instruments. They are more challenging to play, but this guitar makes it all easier due to the slim, comfortable neck, which improves access to frets. 

Bottom Line

Overall, the Epiphone DR-212 has big sounds, with each chord beautifully soaring when paired with its octave. For the price range of the Epiphone, it reaches exceptionally high and it has exceptional tonality. It is a must-try for any guitar player – you will be amazed!

Runner-up:
Guild F-1512E

Guild F-1512 12-String Acoustic Guitar in Natural

PROS

  • Vintage neck shape
  • Rich and full sounds
  • Solid wood construction 
  • Guild’s tortoise pickguard 
  • Jumbo-size acoustic-electric guitar

CONS

  • Poor quality control
  • Electronics might diminish the bass
  • Low-end mid ranges when amped for some people’s taste

What Recent Buyers Report

This jumbo 12-string guitar plays like butter! The well-thought-out features provide this instrument with a high-end feel to it, such as the NuBone saddle and nut, tortoise pickguard, and the iconic headstock emblem. This F-1512E is a true beauty, with intricate tones. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

The Guild F-1512E is a top-notch, 12-string guitar for acoustic-electric players. It has all the features to validate its quality: all solid wood build for improved tones, the unmistakable design of Guild with vintage details, and the ultimate transfer of sounds from the strings to the soundboard through the NuBone. 

Who Will Use This Most

This guitar is for the discriminating player. If you are aiming for greatness and desire to have a huge impact on your audience, then this is the instrument for you. You will not only have an instrument bearing one of the biggest names in the industry, but you get the greatest components to come with it. 

Bottom Line

All in all, this jumbo 12-string guitar is not for the average player. It is destined to be a great instrument handled by a great guitarist. This guitar is highly versatile, offers rich and full sound due to the all-wood body, and can be ideal for punching through a mix, strong rhythm work, and much more!

Best for the Money and Best Yamaha 12-String Guitar:
Yamaha FG820

Yamaha FG820 12-String Solid Top Acoustic Guitar

PROS

  • Comfortable to play
  • High-quality tonewood
  • Solid top dreadnought style
  • Strong and loud low to mids
  • Diecast tuners and adjustable truss rod
  • High-quality sounds with strong low and mid ranges

CONS

  • Stock strings should be replaced soon
  • Nato neck is not the best-sounding tonewood

What Recent Buyers Report

This model sounds great, has a good range of tones, and it is highly playable. The mid-range is clear, loud, and strong, while the bass is just perfect. It brings out a truly warm sound, with great volume, which makes it an ideal instrument. However, the stock strings get dull very quickly and should be replaced. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

This Yamaha FG820 is a solid top dreadnought style, which is versatile and comfortable. The great tonewood used in this guitar masterfully combines mahogany sides and back, with a solid spruce top and Nato neck. The high-quality wood enhances the volume and is very durable. 

Who Will Use This Most

This model boasts all the features needed to impress beginners and more experienced players alike. It comes with warm sounds, high volumes, and enhanced playability. All you need to do is replace the stock strings for shinier sounds and you'll have a great companion for practicing and gigs. 

Bottom Line

Overall, this Yamaha is the perfect balance of quality and affordability. Building the instrument with the highest value for money is not an easy task in such a competitive market, but Yamaha managed to do it all and much more – they seem to know exactly what musicians need!

Best Electric 12-String Guitar:
Danelectro 12SDC

Danelectro 12SDC 12-String Electric Guitar Black

PROS

  • Smooth action
  • Great vintage design, lightweight
  • Beautiful tones and quality hardware
  • Vintage ’59 double-cutaway body for greater comfort
  • Extended controls, including volume, tone, 3-way switch between pickups

CONS

  • Need to adjust the truss rod for first use
  • Tuning not so great when using a guitar capo
  • Electronics could be of better quality

What Recent Buyers Report

If you are looking for a great 12-string electric guitar to fill up the stage, with extra richness and body, this vintage Danelectro is what you need to revive the sounds of the 1960s. The hollow body makes it very resonant, and you can create layers and layers of rich and memorable sounds. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

This guitar is a high-quality, yet affordable, electric guitar. The unique combination of laminated pine covered with Masonite and bolt-on maple neck work towards created a vintage, unforgettable jangle. It has a great, smooth feel, and the low action is made to stay tuned for a long time. 

Who Will Use This Most

If you are an electric guitarist, you have to check this one out as soon as possible! Danelectro is well known for its ability to replicate vintage classics at an affordable price, keeping all the vintage qualities. It has some 1960s bright sounds that fit perfectly the wide tonal range. 

Bottom Line

Overall, this guitar is a keeper if you prefer electric guitars. You will get a great measure of mids and bass, enhanced tone controls, and can tweak it to your preference, rolling some tops off or adding a lot of presence. This guitar might not be for the faint of heart, but for a strong, daring, adventurous player, this is the one!

Best 12-String Acoustic Guitar:
Takamine EF381SC

Takamine EF381SC 12-String Dreadnought Acoustic-Electric Guitar with Hard Case

PROS

  • Cutaway with a smooth, black finish
  • Solid spruce top with maple back and sides
  • Traditional design with high-quality construction
  • Great attention to detail, comes with a hard case
  • Plays mellow or power chords with excellent quality
  • Standard dreadnought style for a comfortable experience

CONS

  • High price range
  • Not suitable for beginners

What Recent Buyers Report

This Takamine is built like a rock. It is one of the best acoustic guitars on the market, and it is rightly so. It is incredibly stable, has a wide tonal range, and feels composed, without struggling with the plethora of overtones of many other 12-string guitars. The sonic abilities are purely impressive!

Why it Stands Out to Us

The Takamine EF381SC features all the qualities you’d expect in a high-end, professional instrument. It has a robust build, with exceptional, refined tuning abilities. The great performance of this guitar is what truly makes it stand out from other budget or beginner guitars!

Who Will Use This Most

With such exceptional qualities, this is doubtlessly the perfect instrument for well-seasoned acoustic players. It is an acoustic-electric guitar, thus it comes with embedded electronics for greater versatility. The preamp is high-quality and just about perfect to offer more vibrant sounds. 

Bottom Line

Overall, the Takamine EF381SC may not be your cheapest or most affordable regular guitar, but it is definitely our best pick for acoustic guitar players. Takamine made all the right choices with this great guitar, from the design to the quality of hardware and matching electronics. 

Best 12-String Acoustic Guitar Under $1000:
Takamine GJ72CE-12NAT

Takamine GJ72CE-12NAT Jumbo Cutaway 12-String Acoustic-Electric Guitar

PROS

  • Natural, glossy finish 
  • Lush and robust sounds
  • All qualities great for live performances
  • Slim maple neck, maple back and sides
  • Works wonderfully with live performances
  • Premium electronics with 3-band EQ, fine tuners, and others

CONS

  • Advertised mahogany neck is actually maple
  • Low action (if you have a heavy hand, you might enjoy a higher action)
  • Maple sides and back gives strong treble, which some players might not like

What Recent Buyers Report

This classy-looking acoustic-electric guitar is an affordable, yet high-performing instrument. It has comprehensive features, ranging from the high-quality, all-maple components to upgraded, modern electronics. This guitar is highly versatile and a must-try for enthusiasts!

Why it Stands Out to Us

For a more affordable, great acoustic guitar, we wholeheartedly recommend the Takamine GJ72CE-12NAT. It comes with high-quality sounds, a solid maple construction, and a jumbo size with a nice cutaway for enhanced comfort. It is a modern, yet classy look for pleasant aesthetics! 

Who Will Use This Most

The intricate details and composition of this great, 12-string acoustic-electric guitar might not be recommended for starters. It has a complicated, broad electronics system with numerous features, including built-in tuner, EQ switch, and others, which would totally delight experienced players. 

Bottom Line

All in all, the Takamine GJ72CE-12NAT was built with one purpose in mind: to awe your audience. It comes with a rich design, a wide range of electronic features, and highly versatile sounds. It is definitely a bold proposition to experienced players who appreciate the sound quality. 

PROS

  • Dazzling looks
  • Dual-action truss rod
  • Affordable price range
  • Great value for money
  • Can be played right out of the box
  • Slim C-shaped neck for greater comfort

CONS

  • It is tricky to tune
  • Tuning is short-lived
  • Electronic setup not very accurate

What Recent Buyers Report

This instrument is highly playable for a 12-string guitar, especially due to the C-shaped slim neck. No matter the size of your hands or the skill level, it is always a pleasure to play it! The acoustic sounds are amazing, while the electronics are decent, although the tuning stability could be improved. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

The D’Angelico Premium Fulton is a high-quality, yet affordable acoustic guitar for left-handed players. It has exceptional craftsmanship, with a refined headstock and a redesigned bracing, it is easy to play and has great action. The ratio between quality, sounds, and the price is astonishing!

Who Will Use This Most

This guitar is ideal for any left-handed guitar players of any skill level. You can play it easily due to the improved shape and comfortable C-neck, without any wrist pain. The quality of the sounds is high enough to make this guitar a must-have in your studio!

Bottom Line

All in all, the D’angelico Premium Fulton is a great 16” wide guitar that comes with exquisite grace, comfort, and playability. The high ends are crystalline but have a robust bass, which contributes to the balance of the tonal range. It is one of the best acoustic guitars for modern players!

Best Taylor 12-String Guitar:
Taylor 100 Series 2017 150e

Taylor 100 Series 2017 150e Dreadnought 12-String Acoustic-Electric Guitar Natural

PROS

  • Warmth of mild sunshine 
  • Increased dynamics and volume
  • Versatile and flexible, ideal for any playing style
  • High midrange tones with a crystalline touch
  • Enhanced enjoyment due to Taylor’s famous neck profile
  • Flawless construction with solid sitka spruce back and sides, ebony fingerboard, and a dreadnought cutaway

CONS

  • Not much low end for a dreadnought
  • Not so suitable for heavy bass enthusiasts

What Recent Buyers Report

Most affordable 12-string guitars have issues with high action and quite poor intonation, but this is definitely not the situation with this great Taylor! You get a spacious, comfortable feel, and the mid and high-range sounds are so articulate, it is perfect for recording!

Why it Stands Out to Us

This is one of Taylor’s best instruments on record. It offers the perfect balance of sounds, is made with great care, and is highly comfortable for all players. Harmonic details are plentiful, with added clarity. The guitar feels full of life, and remains top-notch, even when connected to an amp

Who Will Use This Most

This guitar is ideal for any guitar player. If you enjoy fast-picking, this guitar will come to life with articulate blues leads in an effortless manner. It is a true delight for sound engineers and stage performers, considering its beautiful balance and the emphasis on the mid-range. 

Bottom Line

Overall, Taylor 150e is a great, well-thought-out instrument. It has increased playability, effective electronics, and plenty of harmonic balance. The build is flawless and it has all the qualities needed to make you shine like a star when performing live on the stage. 

Best Martin 12-String Guitar:
Martin D12X1AE

Martin X Series D12X1AE Dreadnought 12-String Acoustic-Electric Guitar Natural

PROS

  • Martin’s famous dreadnought design
  • Strong neck with articulated definition
  • Increased sustain and optimal resonance
  • Sitka spruce top, rosewood HPL sides and back 
  • Crystal-clear definition with abundant overtones
  • Powerful and rich sounds, ideal for professional live performances

CONS

  • High price range
  • HPL wood is inferior to solid wood
  • The left-hand starts to ache if playing standing up

What Recent Buyers Report

This great, high-quality guitar is often discarded due to the HPL wood, which is laminated. However, as Martin stands true to their quality standards, this is not the regular laminated tonewood, but their own custom HPL with great acoustic properties. As expected, Martin did a flawless job with this one!

Why it Stands Out to Us

This Martin D12X1AE might seem fairly ordinary until you have a closer look. The hardware is flawlessly put together, the electronics perfectly complement the acoustic properties of the instrument, and it is a great, top-notch guitar for live performance, withstanding repeated use. 

Who Will Use This Most

This guitar is ideal for professionals who want an affordable 12-string guitar. The build quality is outstanding, while the sound is abundant with overtones, the typical dreadnought sound, and crystal-clear definition. It is ideal for studio recording, live performances, and gigging!

Bottom Line

Overall, the Martin D12X1AE is everything you would expect from Martin and much more. If you are on a tight budget and need a rock-solid, consistent, well-crafted guitar, then this is your last call. Martin ticks all the boxes and much more, but the quality and sound are where they really excel. 

Pros and Cons of 12-String Guitars

Here are the main advantages and disadvantages of 12-string guitars:

Pros

  • Intricate, more interesting sounds and up to ten voices instead of six
  • Achieve a chorus effect
  • Wide range of pitches and octave overtones
  • Can easily replicate other instruments

Cons

  • It is challenging to play a simple, single tone at a time
  • Requires greater effort

On the one hand, 12-string guitars have the advantage of adding some memorable touches to your tunes. Long story short, they sound like two 6-string guitars, all in one. Each string of the 12-string guitar is paired with another one, thus instead of having six voices, it comes with ten, adding more substance to the sound. 

Additionally, the wide range of pitches and octave overtones are another advantage, but this can be a double-edged sword since it will be impossible to make your 12-string guitar sound like six-string one or to play just a tone at a time. 

Lastly, another advantage is that the wider flexibility and versatility of the 12-string guitar allows you to replicate other instruments with ease, but playing one will require more effort than with a six-string guitar. 

How to Tune a 12-String Guitar

Here’s how to tune your 12-string guitar with and without a chromatic tuner. Make sure to remember that the main difference between a six-string guitar and 12-string guitar is that the latter needs to be tuned an octave higher in E, A, D, and G-string pairs. 

Here is a step-by-step guide:

  1. Locate the E, A D, G-string pairs.
  2. The thick string is the low note, the thinner one is the higher octave. 
  3. Take the first string pair – E.
  4. The thinner string needs to be octave higher E. 
  5. The thicker string needs to be regular or low E. 
  6. B and E strings need to be tuned in unison to high B, and high E – so the high-B string pair needs to have both strings tuned the same, high-E string pair should have both strings in unison. 

If you are the lucky owner of a chromatic tuner, here is what you need to do:

  1. Set up your tuner and turn it on.
  2. Clip-on (if you have a clip-on tuner) or plug it in (if you have a tuner pedal
  3. Play a string and check the frequency on the chromatic tuner
  4. Adjust according to the tuner. For instance, if it indicates you are out of tune or flat, adjust the tuning knob until you get it right 

How to String a 12-String Guitar

With double as many strings as a six-string guitar, a 12-string one might seem a bit tricky in the beginning and be quite overwhelming. 

Here is how to avoid breaking the strings or affecting the performance:

  1. Remove the endpins from the guitar’s bridge.
  2. Take the low-treble E-string and look for the string’s ball on the bottom end.
  3. Put the ball inside the first hole on the guitar’s bridge (the one on the left when you look at the guitar when it is upright).
  4. Replace the endpin into the hole (press down the endpin and pull up on the string until the ball reaches the end of the endpin). 
  5. Place the string over the saddle of the guitar.
  6. Find the groove corresponding with low-treble E-string and fit it in there.
  7. Thread the top end of the string through the hole on the first tuning peg (bottom-most one when you look at the guitar upright).
  8. Thread the string until you have a little slack left, wrap the end clockwise around the peg
  9. Pull the end of the string up, so it tightens 
  10. Place the string in the left-most groove of the nut, which is right at the base of the headstock. 
  11. Rotate the beg counter-clockwise while holding the string in place. Keep winding until the string is loosely placed in the saddle and nut on its own.
  12. Repeat the steps for remaining strings and tune. 

Conclusion

All in all, 12-string guitars are quite an interesting instrument, once you get used to their quirks. They have lots of sonic advantages, but they might be trickier to play than regular six-string guitars. Don’t be worried, though, they are definitely worth all the fuss!

People Also Ask

Here’s a short FAQ question with more information on 12-string guitars. 

What Strings are on a 12-String Guitar?

This instrument uses 12 strings with six notes: there are two low-E strings, two A strings, two D strings, two G strings, two B strings, and two high-E strings. Each of the six notes is played by two strings that need to be tuned in octaves, a treble string, and a bass string. 

Can You String a 12-String to Six-String?

A 12-string should not be stringed to six. The neck is specially created to handle the tension of 12 strings, not six, and you will remove this, which will most likely bend the neck shape. The depth of the nut slots is also not suitable for a standard six-string set. 

How Much Tension Does a 12-String Guitar Have?

Simply put, if the 12-string guitar were a six-string one, the tension would be almost half. More specifically, four of the paired strings are one octave higher than the others on a 12-string. This means that the odd-numbered strings (first ones in each pair) would be around 129 lbs and almost double when accounting for all the other strings. 

What is the Difference Between Six and 12-String Guitar?

There are many differences, apart from the obvious number of strings. For instance, the tonal variety is more abundant on a 12-string guitar, they are bulkier, even more challenging to play, and almost, if not actually, impossible to play one tune at a time, as on a six-string guitar.