Look into Yamaha and Seagull. Great guitars in this price range. I'm partial to the Seagull S6 myself.
1994 Seagull SM6
2007 Takamine G5013SVFT

2008 Epiphone Les Paul Standard Plain Top (Cherryburst)
1964 Gibson Melody Maker D (DC)

Traynor YGL-1

MXR Distortion III (C4 Modded)
Seagull S6 all the way. I just got one the other day after trying a few of them out in several stores. It blows away every other guitar in that price range that I tried (which was just about all of them at GC) when it comes to its sound. Also, I've heard nothing but good things about them from other people that own them.
+1 on seagull, however, for variety sake. Check out Breedlove. My C250/CM is amazing. I played every guitar in that price range in guitar center. Narrowed it down to the seagull s6 and my Breedlove C250/CM. They sounded very similar to me. It's a great guitar with a solid Cedar top and I wouldn't trade it for anything.
seagull original s6 (or s6 slim if you want a slender neck) would be my first pick. beautiful tone, one of the best sounding solid tops around, good build quality, good stuff. others i'd consider are these all solid recording kings



and i also like the blueridge br-40 and br-43. solid tops, plenty of bass, great tone.

if you like something a bit brighter, the yamaha fg730s still has warmth good build and a gorgeous finish.
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The Seagull is very nice, but honestly for $500 you can do wayyy better than that if you look used. My brother got a 70s Guild D-25M for only $450, and I got a Martin D-16RGT for $500. Both these guitars are leagues better than the Seagull, etc. Heck, with only about $350-400 you can get a Harmony Sovereign H1260, which is still leagues better than the Seagull. It's all solid-woods, and was very highly regarded back in the 60s. Some notable players included Jimmy Page, Syd Barrett, Bob Dylan, and Pete Townshend just to name a few.

There is also a new Martin model, called the DRS1, that goes for $700 new. I'm sure if you find one used you may be able to get it for $500-550. It is an all solid-wood mahogany dreadnought, but has a stratabond neck.

But other suggestions in the thread were good too. Epiphone Masterbilts are nice, as are the Guild GAD series. A lot of people like Blueridges as well, although they are not personally my cup of tea. YMMV. But for me personally, with $500, I'd be looking at vintage Guilds and Martins.

Good Luck

edit: breedloves in general are great too. I'd rank them higher than Epiphone Masterbilts, Guild GADs, Yamahas, Seagulls, etc. (depending on model, of course).
'50s National Archtop
Squier Classic Vibe '60s Tele
Squier Affinity Strat
Gibson Melody Maker
Vox AC-15
50s Stella Parlor Acoustic

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Last edited by ilikeguitar90 at May 22, 2011,