Best acoustic guitar for under $500 might be the Guild DS-240
When it comes to the best you can get for just under $500, Guild is really nailing it right now.
I'm a hard believer that the dreadnought shape is the best there is for an acoustic. And by that I mean one that has full shoulders with no cutaway - and that's where this Guild gets really interesting.
The Guild DS-240 has sloped shoulders, which really lends to its very old-timey look, and does so in all the right ways.
Guild knows how to do an acoustic, so yes, this will sound good and will project properly. But the fact you get something that looks so nice (that vintage sunburst... wow) for a decent price just really works here.
Think of an old vintage Philco radio, and that's the look the Guild DS-240 has. Very woody in appearance, nice script for the logo on the headstock, really simple design and some seriously deep colors to bring out that top. It's a total 1920's look.
Speaking of woods, the DS-240 has a spruce top with mahogany back and sides. The back and sides has some nice mahogany stripe going on there, but the top is what really steals the show.
You would be hard pressed to find something this nice for the same price from anybody else. Good showing from Guild here with the DS-240 model.