An acoustic guitar is a party-pleaser, creative outlet, and brain exercise all in one. Whether you've decided to learn guitar finally or you're a seasoned player, you'll want the right guitar for your needs (and ok, wants). This is our definitive list of the best acoustic guitars, plus answers to your burning guitar questions. Let's take a look.
Top Acoustic Guitars — The Definitive List
You can get a great sounding guitar with a good range to match a variety of budgets. It's time to invest in the right one or upgrade to something from your dreams.
Fender's classic design series features an affordable, playable option with a solid mahogany wood top. It has a good range of tones with proper sustainability and a comfortable rolled fretboard edge.
Fender raised the bar with affordable, entry-level acoustics, ironing out common issues like tuning inconsistencies and impossibly high action associated with cheap guitars. Despite the lower end budget, the sound swings true.
- Solid wood top for tonal clarity
- Rolled fretboard edge is easy for beginners to guitar to use.
- Affordable guitar without sacrificing playability
- Laminate back and sides
- The classic dreadnought body is a little bulky
Parlor bodied guitars have a particular affinity for picking, and the Takamine P3NY is no different. It uses a solid cedar top with Sapele back and sides for a clear and bright tone. Picking is exceptionally clear, string-to-string, while the advanced electronics improve your options.
The small body produces a far larger sound than you'd think. It can handle any volume with a palathetic pickup that picks up individual sounds from strings for less feedback and muddiness during fingerpicking.
- Parlor body and pickups are suitable for fingerpicking
- Large sound for a compact body
- Suitable midrange tones
- Can't compete with Taylor's larger-bodied guitars
- Bigger investment for a small guitar
Taylor's GS Mini is an excellent small-bodied guitar with a full range of sound thanks to the solid Sitka spruce top and grand symphony style body. Although it does use laminate back and sides, the tonality is clear if a little on the bright end.
The highs are as good as any classic Taylor guitar while the low end is decently tight, whether amped or not. It's suitable for small-bodied players who like the symphony features but can't quite get comfortable with a full-sized one.
- Compact symphony body is accessible for smaller body types
- True, clear highs
- Excellent playability
- Laminate back and sides
- No nylon version (a Symphony standard)
Guild manages to balance the full-bodied sound of a dreadnought with a slimmer, more playable neck. Adirondack bracing helps bring out the individual character of each note. The low action may throw off fingerpickers who really want to dig in, but casual strummers will love this.
Aside from that, Guild manages to marry loud and soft capability, giving players a lot of leeway with strumming and picking styles. Sitka spruce and Indian rosewood help sustain and separate notes while the internal electronics do the guitar justice plugged in.
- Simple and easy to play the guitar with smaller hands.
- Solid, high-end wood for perfect clarity
- Easily accessible neck with low action
- Works both loud and soft playing
- Classically trained finger-pickers may find the low action unsettling
- Big investment upfront
The Acoustisonic is a mashup of electric and acoustic guitars, providing players with more versatility, although at the expense of the deep-bodied sound we love with solid wood acoustics. It's not just an acoustic with a preamp. It allows you to blend acoustic with electric tones in one instrument.
Honestly, the Acoustisonic is certainly divisive. However, if you feel obligated to get an acoustic while truly missing your electric, this is an interesting choice. Plus, the Telecaster style body just looks and sounds cool.
- True acoustic-electric hybrid
- Allows a wide range of experimentation in sound
- Easy to set up
- Design and concept are divisive
- Doesn't carry the full low end of true acoustics
Epiphone's version of an acoustic Jumbo gives you the weighty sounds of a classic Gibson body in a mid-tier price range designed for accessibility. It's best suited for rhythm and strumming but does provide clarity of tone for the high end should you find yourself picking.
The internal electronics are surprising considering the price range. Epiphone uses an eSonic-2 preamp with two pickups with mono and stereo output options. Plugged in, the guitar has the sound of much more expensive guitars.
- Internal hardware punches up
- Jumbo bodied acoustic with booming low end
- Well suited for rhythm players
- Loses some clarity on the high end
- The large body is harder for some people to play
Martin reimagined the D-28 a few years ago to provide some higher-end features without sacrificing the minimalist style Martin is famous for. The new D-28 features the same range and sustain with a little extra fleshing out between the high and mid ranges.
It's full of little details such as the inlay headstock logo and simple wood detailing along the neck. It's comfortable, easy to play, and the top uses Martin's M1 system that ages wood without venturing too far into the darker sounding headboards of some of Martin's other lines.
- Aged top that retains a wide range of notes
- Little high end features with Martin's minimalist design
- Quick response
- The newer design loses some of Martin's signature sonic tones
- High-end investment
First of all, the Little Martin is one of the best entry-level Martin guitars around. It features a compact, dreadnought size with durable, high-pressure laminate sides and back. It's suitable for younger players, beginners, and seasoned musicians alike.
The body is comfortable to play and carry, and with the part laminate construction, it's durable as well. While laminate isn't usually a plus, in this case, it does help ensure the guitar can stand up to travel and lower the cost for those eager for the Martin name.
- Easy to travel with
- Entry-level Martin option
- Durable construction
- Doesn't suit larger hands
- May not have the range of tones of higher-end Martins
9. Best Splurge - Gibson SJ-200 Deluxe
Gibson's splurge guitar is a mind-boggling blend of clear highs and booming lows. It uses a Sitka spruce top with rosewood back and sides for notes that resonate and clarity throughout each string.
The guitar is not for beginners — mostly because of the price — but if a Gibson and only a Gibson will do, this blend of advanced electronics and savory resonance is the only choice. Don't pick it up before you're ready to invest, or you may find yourself disappointed in other, more affordable options.
- The best of what Gibson is famous for
- Solid, high-end woods for ultimate resonance and clarity
- Solid electronics
- Very expensive for beginners
- The jumbo body may not suit some players
A backpacker style guitar is a particular kind of choice, but if that's the route you're going, there's only one: a Martin. The backpacker is a slim bodied guitar designed to sling over your shoulder with little effort.
While it won't stand up to traditional, full-bodied guitars, it gets the job done. Simple styling and an accessible fretboard allow you to play, but the body style will take some getting used to for positioning.
- Easy to carry
- Simple, true tones for travel conditions
- An affordable option for a quality travel guitar
- The body style will take some getting used to
- Can't reproduce the full sound of a traditional bodied guitar
The Woodline 10-Series features an OM body shape based on vintage Martin bodies. It uses a walnut bound mahogany to improve sustain and clarity while a preamp with tonal controls gives you the chance to tweak based on your venue.
It offers a slimmer neck and comfortable body good for fingerpicking even with a somewhat dodgy three-piece neck style. Defined lows may not punch hard, but you'll definitely feel them with the right controls.
- Based on vintage Martin body styles (a classic)
- Features excellent clarity
- Walnut bound mahogany improves overall note detail
- A three-piece neck isn't my favorite design choice
- Controls have a learning curve
12. Best Mid-Range Option - Gibson G-45 Studio
Gibson acoustics are well known for their booming lows and true mid-ranges, and this model is no different. It offers a not quite entry-level option into the Gibson name with excellent construction and a full body.
It uses a Sitka spruce top with walnut back and sides for clear tonality and the classic Gibson punch. A walnut fingerboard is easy to play, and internal electronics from Fishman offer good amplification with no buzz.
- A more affordable entry into Gibson
- Fishman internal electronics
- Resonant body with crisp tones
- You'll probably need to replace the strings immediately
- No binding (frets stick out a little)
The Frontier Concerto E's biggest draw is the body style. It offers the full low end of a dreadnought with a more comfortable OM style body and the full sustain and tone of a jumbo. It's this un-categorizable body style that gives it such playability.
Genuine mahogany and ebony give it a warm sound and texture suitable for live performance and recording. Plus, the next style allows you to adjust relatively easily for an acoustic of this class, so you have more control.
- Genuine, high end, solid wood
- Excellent resonance and playability
- Hybrid body style based off the concert
- Significant investment
- Access to interior hardware is challenging.
The Taylor 614ce is a frequent stage guitar for some big-name acts, and there's a reason for that. Taylor specializes in instruments that ring true to tone, allowing musicians to stand out even when playing with other guitars in the mix.
It features an excellent high and mid-range while the bass tones are never overpowering or rattling. It's got Taylor's new V-Cast bracing system to ensure true sustain and protect the body of the guitar.
- Sitka spruce and maple accentuate the high and mid-range
- Well made bracing system with a durable finish
- Cut-out concert body makes picking easier
- Significant investment
- Doesn't blend well as a pure rhythm guitar
The quality of Art and Lutherie is nice, giving this affordable guitar a vintage country feel. It features a parlor style body modeled after the acoustic-electric version but without the internal hardware.
It features a solid spruce top with a maple neck, rosewood fretboard, and wild cherry back and sides. In other words, it's a vintage country and blues design in a throwback styling. Playing it takes you from the sustained folksy tone to the hard-hitting country and blues notes without much effort.
The styling is a whole aesthetic itself, and one that may not suit your taste. However, the versatility of this particular mid-range option is one you should check out.
- Excellent projection for blues and country playing
- Solid wood construction
- Throwback design may appeal to some.
- May have trouble with the bridge on some models.
- The design is a turn off for those who like a traditional acoustic
Yamaha remains a master of affordable, beginner guitars. The FG700S features a solid spruce top with Nato back and sides, giving it less rattle and aging well. A rosewood fretboard and high gloss finish is a classic design while the body brings a range of tones out both high to low.
Yamaha's guitars are affordable options that still use solid wood, rather than cheaper (and brighter) laminate woods, giving the guitar a good resonance as well as sustained notes.
- The solid spruce top is rare for this price range
- Scalloped bracing for durability
- Excellent range of tones
- The action might be a little high
- Doesn't typically come with any accessories
Epiphone remains one of my favorite picks for affordable acoustic guitars with a lot of potential for upgrades. The DR-100 is playable right out of the box, but as you progress, it allows you to set it up to your preferences. Minor professional neck and bridge adjustments or the addition of higher end pins and you've got yourself a guitar that plays well above its pay grade.
- An affordable option for beginners
- Responds well to customization
- Holds tuning exceptionally well for a guitar of its class
- Carries a huge logo across the bridge
- Brighter tone than comparable guitar bodies
Finding The Perfect Guitar For You - A Buyer's Guide
Choosing an acoustic guitar depends on several factors. From the guitar’s construction and the materials to the way it fits in your hand, there’s a lot to know. Let's go through a crash course in what makes some guitars great and some just ok.
As a preface though, please focus on your guitar lessons and learning to play, rather than how good/bad your guitar is (at least at the start of your guitar journey). This is much more important than how nice your guitar is. Once you know how to play, and play well, then focus on upgrading your equipment.
Guitar Construction - The Basics
Choosing a guitar all comes down to the basic construction. Despite looking primarily the same, there are significant differences that can affect sound and playability. Unless money is no object, you'll have to balance features you want with those you can sacrifice for your budget. Here's what to do.
First, examine the guitar you like and as a few questions about its components. Don't just look at the finish.
Neck - Most acoustic guitars use a set (glued) neck rather than a bolt like electrics. A truss rod through the center keeps the neck straight and gives you some leeway to adjust the intonation (trust a professional with this unless you know what you're doing).
Fretboard - The metal frets on the front give you notes. Some are exposed at the ends, and some are rolled or filed to make picking easier.
Headstock - The head of the guitar holds tuning pegs. Make sure they stay in place when you twist them, or you'll forever be tuning your guitar. Higher-end guitars have a nut made of bone or graphite with inlay or burned branding. Lower end guitars use plastic and paint, but this shouldn’t affect the sound.
Body - The top of the guitar carries sound and should be solid wood, not laminate. The body shapes will affect the sound, but it's more important to find one that fits your body type. The bridge holds strings on the other end and transmits string vibrations. Bone is best but plastic works.
The body style will change the resonance and clarity of the sound.
Concert - Generally comfortable for most people, these shine with fingerpicking, producing a bright, punchy sound. Grand concerts enlarge the body slightly for stronger mids and lows.
Orchestra (Auditorium) - Curvier than a concert, these body styles take the bright sounds and deepen them. They can handle more volume and provide deeper resonance. Gibson is famous for this.
Dreadnought - A "guitar" guitar, the dreadnoughts have more squared bodies for a driving sound popular with bluegrass and blues musicians who need some punch.
Jumbo - A true country and western guitar, the extra-large bodies produce a powerful, knee wobbling sound with loud projection. The size of the body can take some getting used to.
Mini/Travel/Compacts - Smaller sizes take inspiration from the above body styles but whittle them down for portability. By using solid woods and high-end electronics, many produce sounds comparable to bigger guitars (but you'll need to play them to find out). Take these with one of the best portable guitar amps and you're set!
Cutaway - All of the above sizes have a cutaway option, where the upper bout is scooped away, giving better access to higher strings. Fingerpickers generally choose a cutaway.
Laminate Versus Solid Wood
Solid wood can be expensive, so to cut costs, budget guitars often use a laminate. Laminate uses several thin layers pressed together, usually a high grade on top with generic layers beneath. Solid woods use two, single-ply woods with the grains matched.
Cheap guitars use laminate throughout, but this can affect your sound. If you're on a budget, choose a guitar with a solid wood soundboard and compromise with laminate sides and back. Laminate doesn't transmit sound nearly as well as solid, but beginners may not notice the difference as long as the soundboard is solid.
The type of wood also affects the sound of the guitar. Beginners may not be able to hear the difference, but seasoned players often have favorite woods based on tonal and resonance preferences.
Cedar - Softwood with quick response and low mud. Common in classical guitars or flamenco
Cocobolo - A Mexican wood often used to brighten sound through the sides and back.
Ebony - The slick feel of Ebony is a common fretboard wood
Granadillo - A type of rosewood and not commonly found but produces a pleasant ringing tone.
Koa - Brings out midranges during strumming and is a scarce wood typically used for sides and back material except in high-end guitars.
Mahogany - Dense wood with a slow response that helps reduce ringing with boomy music styles. As a top wood, it gives a strong sound — think Country and Blues.
Maple - Maple has a low resonance great for standing out in live settings, but it can be a little flat depending on the soundboard wood pairing.
Ovangkol - A lesser know African wood that brings out a range of sounds — think a blend of rosewood and mahogany.
Rosewood - endangered wood, but sought after for rich overtones and note separation. High-end guitars use Indian rosewood or even more rarely, Brazilian.
Sapele - Manufacturers are moving to this sustainable wood to produce something tonally comparable to mahogany with reduced weight.
Spruce - Spruce is an acoustic standard and one of the most common soundboard woods even with laminate guitars. It has excellent resonance and the different types — Sitka, Adirondack, and others —each have their own personality.
Walnut - Another acoustic standard, Walnut requires a bit of playing in before the range of tones come out.
Beginner tip: Find a guitar in your price range with a solid Spruce top and laminate back and sides. You'll be able to learn on a quality instrument without breaking the bank. Then, if you want to upgrade later, you’ll already have a solid understanding of the difference the material type makes.
How to Choose The Best Acoustic Guitar
Choosing your first guitar is a little different from choosing a dream guitar after you've gotten experience playing.
The biggest driver for your guitar choice is the purpose. Are you learning to play and have never picked up a guitar? Are you a mid-tier player about to do your first show? These things matter.
Beginners should choose a guitar that provides bright tones and stays in tune (don't forget a quality tuner). A solid spruce top with laminate back and sides is a good compromise that can save money without causing frustration. When just starting out it's less about the guitar and more about getting down the essential notes & chords as well as learning to read tablature for playing basic songs, not about how nice your guitar is!
Show guitars have better performance with all solid woods. Spruce and Sapele are often good choices, but playing the guitar is best to know which you like.
You can get good sounding guitars for under $500 and even a few under $200. Beware of the ultracheap guitars from big box stores because they often use only cheap laminate woods with plastic tuning pins that never hold a tune.
Instead, balance your budget by choosing a solid wood soundboard with high-pressure laminate back and sides. If you can spring for a little more, affordable solid woods will improve your tone even more.
After you learn to play and you're more confident in your ear, you can explore different combinations of woods to find out the sound you prefer. These will be more expensive, but luckily, there are quite a few budget variations.
Body styles sound different, but it's more important to find a body style you're comfortable playing. Same with neck styles. That gorgeous ebony neck may sound great, but if you can't get your fingers around it, what's the point? If you can't hold the guitar correctly, then what's the point of having a more expensive option?
If you can play a few guitars, that's the best way to choose. If you can't, go with a standard mid-sized dreadnought or concert guitar and an average-sized neck to start with. And be open to taking the guitar to a professional to set up for you because this can take your guitar from ho-hum to something good.
If you've got just the slightest wiggle in your budget, the overall winner is the Epiphone J-200 SCE. It uses a solid spruce top with maple back and sides for excellent sound quality that feels more expensive than it is. Rosewood fretboard brings out the clarity, and the curvy, cutaway gives you access to top notes. It's a well-designed guitar for a variety of ability levels.
Whether you're choosing your dream guitar, buying a guitar gift for a friend, or investing in an instrument to give you the most success learning, the options on our list are well made, sound great, and give you the best of their brands. Take some time to explore, of course, but the best way to learn is just to start.
Last Updated on August 15, 2020 by Liam F. Admin