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When I started looking for Ovation acoustic electric guitars under $300, I thought I had found a handful of models I could choose from. Unfortunately, it looks like some of them are no longer available (new). Of the several models I did find, they all boiled down to just two – the Applause Balladeer AB24II and the Applause Elite AE44II.
You can get more than one color of each Applause model, which is why it looked like there were more available originally. The Balladeer and the Elite don’t differ all that much from each other, so your options for an Ovation guitar under $300 aren’t all that great.
I’ll take a look at what you will be able to find and show you the differences among them in this review.
If you are in a hurry and just want to check the pricing and availability at Amazon now, you can click the links below.
- Ovation Balladeer AB24II-4 (Natural)
- Ovation Balladeer AB24II-5 (Black)
- Ovation Balladeer AB24II-RR (Ruby Red)
- Ovation Balladeer AB24II-HB (Honey Burst)
- Ovation Elite AE44II-4 (Natural)
- Ovation Elite AE44II-5 (Black)
- Ovation Elite AE44II-RR (Ruby Red)
- Ovation Elite AE44II-VV (Vintage Varnish, not currently on Amazon)
If you want jump to a certain section of the review, you can click a link in the box below. Otherwise, you can keep scrolling and reading as usual.
What’s the Same with the Balladeer and Elite Ovation Guitars?
Let’s first take a look at all the similar features and specifications among all these models. There are many.
In the body area, we have a cutaway shape that is considered a mid-depth. The bracing is quarter sawn in a scalloped “X”. The back is a hard composite that Ovation calls Lyrachord. The binding is made of ivory colored ABS plastic.
Moving up the instrument, we find a neck made of nato mahogany that has a natural satin finish. The inlays are pearloid dots. The nut is made of ABS and measures 1 11/16 inches across.
At the other end, you’ll find an ovangkol (similar to rosewood) bridge, and in between you get D’Addario EXP11 strings.
The fingerboard of the Balladeer is made of ovangkol. I couldn’t find what the fingerboard of the Elite is made of, but it’s probably ovangkol too.
What Are the Main Differences between the Balladeer and the Elite?
The top of each model is made of spruce. The slight, possible difference here is that the Elite is specified as solid spruce.
The Balladeer has 20 frets accessible to all six strings. Due to the unusual neck shape where it meets the body (as you can see in the pictures), the Elite has only 17 frets that are fully accessible and 5 more that you can only use with some of the strings.
The Balladeer has a standard sound hole encircled by a pearloid rosette. On the other hand, the Elite does not have the usual large sound hole but instead has 4 smaller holes of varying sizes on the bass side of the top near the neck. Referring to the pictures will give you a better idea of what this looks like.
The Balladeer may have an OP-4BT pickup / preamp system that has a built-in tuner. (This information comes from a description at Amazon. I couldn’t find such information at Ovation.) However, Ovation does state that the Ruby Red edition has the same CE304T system as the Elite. Since this is rather confusing, you should check with the seller on this point before making your purchase if the pickup / preamp system is important to you.
The Elite has what Ovation considers an upgrade in the CE304T which has a 3-band EQ and a tuner. The pickup is the Ovation slimline under the saddle piezo.
The final differences are in the color as indicated in the list above. You can get the Balladeer in natural, black, ruby red, and honey burst. Your four choices for the Elite are natural, black, ruby red, and vintage varnish (brown).
Be careful when making a purchase because Ovation also makes an AB24AII (aka AB24A) acoustic-only guitar. Be sure that what you are looking at (online) is actually the style that you really want.
What’s the Verdict on Ovation Guitars under $300?
An owner who purchased the ruby red version of the Applause Balladeer reports that the color is actually a deeper burgundy than the brighter red that appears in most online photographs. (The owner was pleased with this difference.)
The general consensus for both the Balladeer and the Elite seems to be that these are wonderful guitars, perhaps the best guitars for the money at this price point.
One final repeat warning: Be sure you’re looking at acoustic-only or acoustic electric, depending on the style you really want.