17 Best Acoustic Guitars 2023
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The acoustic guitar will forever be timeless and hold relevance in music. In fact, any guitarist can find benefits to having an acoustic guitar in their collection.
These guitars are not only great for songwriting but can provide a much-needed change of pace. Plus, you can play them just about anywhere without any additional accessories needed.
No matter your playing style or needs, the following acoustic guitars are some of the best currently offered.
Yamaha AC1R Concert Cutaway – Best Overall
Are you looking for the best value that money can buy when it comes to an acoustic guitar? You might want to consider looking at the Yamaha AC1R Concert Cutaway (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon, Guitar Center).
This acoustic guitar is the perfect blend of everything an acoustic guitar play could need while still being affordable. It features a Solid Sitka Spruce top with the back and sides made of either Rosewood or Mahogany (your choice).
The AC1R Concert Cutaway’s neck is made of 3-pieces of Mahogany and is crafted with a C-shape contour. This should not only feel comfortable to play, but easy to navigate, as well.
Rosewood is used for the fretboard, offering 20 frets that are easily accessible thanks to its cutaway body design. Traditional dot inlays are provided so you can easily recognize your positioning on the neck.
The AC1R Concert Cutaway features a 15.75” fretboard radius and a scale length of 25.5”. If you’re used to playing a standard electric guitar, this should feel relatively similar.
This guitar also comes stocked with an undersaddle pickup along with an SRT preamp system. You’ll have onboard tools such as volume control, EQ, and a built-in tuner for your convenience.
Yamaha has also used Rosewood for the bridge along with a Urea saddle. At the headstock, you’ll find a Urea nut and die-cast chrome tuners providing smooth tuning stability.
Overall, the AC1R Concert Cutaway is an affordable guitar that oozes vintage aesthetics. Yet, it’s given all of the modern appointments that today’s players could ever need.
While a higher-quality guitar can be found, this is an acoustic that is appropriate for just about everybody. Plus, you have the option of build components, along with different color options such as:
- Vintage natural
- Tobacco brown sunburst
Takamine “The 60th” 60th Anniversary LTD – Best Premium
Are you a guitarist that has quite a sizable amount of cash to spend on your next acoustic guitar? The Takamine “The 60th” 60th Anniversary LTD is one of the most luxurious (and expensive) acoustic guitars you can buy.
Make no mistake about it, there are not many people who can afford to buy a guitar like this. After all, it does cost about the equivalent of some used cars.
However, the 60th Anniversary LTD is a pinnacle of Takamine’s premium build quality. You simply won’t be able to find another acoustic guitar that is this luxurious in every detail.
For starters, the 60th Anniversary LTD features a body crafted completely of Solid Hawaiian Koa. This lends itself to having an elegant natural look with a sound that can’t be beaten.
Takamine has given this guitar an X-bracing architecture inside of its build for superior resonance. Unlike other guitars with this bracing, the 60th Anniversary LTD uses a combination of Ebony and Spruce for the bracing.
Mahogany is used for the neck, which is home to an Ebony fretboard that offers 20 fully playable frets. This guitar actually uses real diamonds as its fretboard inlays, which is part of the reason for its expensive cost.
You’ll be able to plug in and play electrically thanks to its pickup and preamp system. Onboard controls for EQ, volume and a tuner are provided, along with a battery compartment that’s easy to access.
This guitar is truly one of the most decadent guitars that have hit the market in some time. And, because there are only 60 of these models actually in existence, they are sure to be a hot item.
If you want a guitar handcrafted by master builders and encrusted with diamonds, this is it.
Epiphone DR-100 – Best Budget
If you’re on a seriously tight budget, you shouldn’t have to settle for a guitar of questionable quality. The Epiphone DR-100 (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) is one of the best budget models on the market.
For years, guitarists have opted to purchase the DR-100 as their main acoustic. It’s certainly perfect for learning, songwriting, and just having around the house whenever inspiration arises.
This dreadnought guitar features a Mahogany body with a Spruce top and comes in a number of color options, including:
- Vintage sunburst
Mahogany is also used for the neck, which features the Gibson-designed SlimTaper contour. This neck contour essentially tapers off along the neck so that each position is easier and more comfortable to play.
A Rosewood fretboard is featured here, offering 20 frets marked by Pearloid dot inlays. Considering the overall price of this guitar, it’s nice to see Rosewood being used here.
Epiphone has also used Rosewood for the bridge, to which a plastic saddle is attached. The headstock of the DR-100 features a plastic nut and die-cast tuners.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a pickup installed on the DR-100, but at this price, that’s not much of an issue. You could easily install an external pickup if you should decide you want to play the DR-100 on stage.
Aesthetically, the DR-100 is probably one of the most recognizable budget acoustic guitars on the market. Its decorative rosette and its “E” Epiphone logo on the pickguard are instantly identifiable throughout the last few decades.
Sure, this might be the least expensive guitar on this list, but don’t let that fool you. The DR-100 could easily become the guitar you keep around for life as your old, reliable beater.
Martin D-28 – Best Dreadnought
Are you in the market for a dreadnought acoustic guitar? Why not opt for one of the most iconic dreadnought guitars ever produced?
The Martin D-28 (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) remains to be one of the best dreadnoughts ever made. This modern rendition only builds upon the guitar’s legacy while providing everything this historic guitar is known for.
East Indian Rosewood is used for the D-28’s body, with a Sitka Spruce top providing that famous dreadnought sound. The top itself has been treated with an aging toner to look and sound like a vintage acoustic.
For the neck, Martin uses whatever they might have available at the time of the guitar’s build. While this might be worrisome, you can be confident that Martin will use nothing but the best quality woods.
This neck is given a low oval contour that has been modified with a slight taper. You’ll be amazed at how luxurious this guitar is to play in any neck position.
Ebony is used for the fretboard, which is adorned with Mother-of-Pearl dot inlays along its 20 frets. A 16” fretboard radius allows you to set the playing action just about as low as you could want.
For hardware, the D-28 sports a bone nut, a bone saddle, an ebony bridge, and nickel open-gear tuners. A hardshell case does come included with the guitar, which is always a bonus (especially at this price).
Perhaps the only thing somebody could raise a fuss about is the guitar’s lack of pickup electronics. This guitar opts to maintain the D-28’s historic legacy, which traditionally didn’t have a pickup included.
However, when playing in front of a microphone, the D-28’s exotic tones will definitely shine through.
Godin MultiAc Grand Concert SA – Best Unique Acoustic
Let’s face it, many acoustic guitars share similarities in designs, no matter the model or manufacturer. Are you a guitarist that has become tired or bored of the same traditional guitar designs?
The Godin MultiAC Grand Concert SA (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) is your ticket to inspiration. This is probably one of the coolest nylon-stringed classical guitars available, and it doesn’t look like anything traditional.
With its chambered Mahogany body, the MultiAC Grand Concert SA probably resembles more of a hollowbody electric guitar. Its Solid Cedar top provides a rich and resonant tone that is sure to sink its teeth into your ears.
Unlike most acoustic guitars, this model features a bolt-on Mahogany neck. This ultimately reduces any sort of neck joint, meaning you wont have to navigate around a hump.
Godin has used Richlite for the fretboard, which hosts 19 very accessible frets. Like most classical guitars, this fretboard does not have inlays, but markers are provided on the side of the neck.
All of the hardware on the MultiAC Grand Concert SA is top-notch, including:
- Richlite bridge
- GraphTech nut
- GraphTech saddle
- 16:1 ratio tuners
While the guitar’s shape is truly unique, it's the electronics that make this different from any other acoustic. An LR Baggs pickup is installed here, with a handy EQ found on the guitar’s shoulder (disguised as ornamentation).
Where the guitar gets interesting is in the fact that it has a 13-pin MIDI output. That means you can essentially use this guitar as a synthesizer controller, expanding its possible tones significantly.
Overall, the MultiAC Grand Concert SA is by far a guitar that’s in a class of its own. While it might have classical roots, it’s certainly a guitar built for modern musicians.
A gig bag does come included.
Taylor 352ce – Best 12-String
There’s nothing quite like the large sound of a 12-string acoustic ringing out like a chorus of guitars. The Taylor 352ce (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) is absolutely one of the best money can buy.
This model comes from Taylor’s V-Class lineup, which features bracing specifically designed for superior resonance. Its Sapele body and Sitka Spruce top certainly provide the best one of the best combinations for tonal possibilities.
Taylor has used Tropical Mahogany for the neck and West African Ebony for the fretboard. There are 18 frets here, which are easily accessible due to the guitar’s cutaway and minimal neck joint.
The 352ce has a scale length of 24.8” and a fretboard radius of 15”. This should be suitable for just about any hand size without being much of a burden.
Taylor has provided their famed ES-2 pickup and preamp system in the 352ce’s build. This will provide a wide 12-string electric sound, with volume and tone adjustments discreetly hidden on the guitar’s shoulder.
For hardware, the 352ce features:
- Closed-gear tuners
- West African Ebony bridge
- Micarta saddle
- Black Tusq nut
Make no mistake about it, the 352ce is definitely a beautiful guitar to hear in person. However, Taylor has gone the extra mile to ensure that this guitar is as aesthetically pleasing as the guitar’s sound.
The 352ce features a simplistic pickguard that accentuates its 3-ring decorate soundhole rosette. Black binding provides the perfect middle point between the contrasting colors of the guitar’s top and sides.
And while the body itself is pleasing to look at, the fretboard ties the overall look together. Italian Acrylic Gemstone fretboard inlays are featured here, adding that final touch.
Taylor has even provided a hardshell case with the guitar.
Cordoba GK Pro Negra – Best Classical
If you’re a professional classical guitarist, you probably want nothing but the best for your next guitar. The Cordoba GK Pro Negra (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) is a guitar that will last a lifetime.
Some professional classical players would probably laugh and consider this guitar to be affordable. And, if that’s true, then the GK Pro Negra is certainly one of the best values you can possibly find.
This guitar features an all-solid wood construction, with an Indian Rosewood body and a Solid European Spruce top. Cordoba has used fan bracing architecture to maintain tradition and provide that rich nylon-string sound you know and love.
The guitar’s Mahogany neck and Ebony fretboard only increase its playability, offering 19 frets and a scale length of 25.6”. An important note is that this guitar does have a cutaway, making the higher frets more than easy to reach.
Cordoba truly built this with performers in mind, which is evident with the guitar’s inclusion of a pickup system. A Fishman Prefix ProBlend is featured here, offering unparalleled adjustable parameters such as:
- 3-Band EQ
- Phase selector
- Blend control between pickup and internal microphone
Elsewhere on the guitar can be found hardware such as:
- Bone nut
- Bone saddle
- Gold tuners
- Indian Rosewood bridge
Cordoba has ensured that this guitar is extremely pleasing to look at with Indian Rosewood binding and a decorative rosette. The extreme contrast of the top and sides are balanced quite well here.
Cordoba has included a humidified HumiCase Protege hardshell case with the purchase of the GK Pro Negra.
If classical guitars were like a box of chocolates, this offering from Cordoba would be the top-tier stuff. This is perfect for the serious professional that needs something reliable for their repertoire.
Takamine GN93CE NEX – Best For Stage Performances
Sometimes, the working professional doesn’t have the luxury to be able to spend an exorbitant amount on a guitar. Fortunately, this doesn’t necessarily mean that a high-quality acoustic guitar can’t be had at a reasonable price.
In these instances, the Takamine GN93CE NEX (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) makes for a worthy contender. While this guitar is affordable, it doesn't come up short on playability, sound, or aesthetics.
The GN93CE NEX features a Black Walnut body, a Solid Spruce top, and quarter-sawn X-bracing architecture. This produces a tone that remains very balanced with a subtle hint of smoky depth.
You’ll find that this Mahogany neck and Laurel fretboard are very comfortable and easy to play. Plus, thanks to the guitar’s cutaway design, all of the 20 frets are ready to be played without restriction.
Takamine has provided quality in the small details with this guitar, which is evident in the hardware. Gold die-cast tuners and a synthetic bone nut adorn the headstock, providing excellent tuning stability.
A compensated split-saddle is featured with its Laurel bridge, which is a definite bonus. This allows for the guitar to have accurate intonation across each string.
Takamine’s legendary TK-40D pickup and preamp system is also featured here. This technology debuted years ago and is still considered one of the best sounding preamps in the industry.
The preamp itself features things such as:
- Built-in tuner
- 3-band EQ
- Gain control
- Notch filter
- EQ bypass
- Mid contour
- Battery life indicator
If that wasn’t enough, Takamine has certainly delivered on the aesthetic front. A quilted Maple section that runs through the entire center of the guitar.
With this offering, Takamine has proved that you don’t need to sacrifice much in the name of saving money.
Ibanez AE295L – Best For Left-Handed Guitarists
If you’re a lefty, you probably feel a bit marginalized by the guitar industry when it comes to what’s available. Of course, you’ve probably gotten a bit used to this, as the world seems tailor-made for right-handers.
The Ibanez AE295L (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) is a great option for an affordable left-handed acoustic. You won’t have to shell out 4-figures to be able to acquire a worthwhile left-handed model.
The guitar itself has a dark, natural finish that showcases the Okoume body and Solid Okoume top. Ibanez has used X-M bracing architecture here, ultimately providing an enhanced tonal mid-range with a crisp balance.
You’ll find that Ibanez has given special treatment to the guitar’s Nyatoh neck and Katalox fretboard. A thinner C-shape contour is featured here, with rolled fretboard edges to provide an extreme amount of comfort.
And, because the guitar has a cutaway body design, all of the 20 frets are easily accessible here. Ibanez has included a highly decorative wooden vine inlay on the fretboard, with dots placed in creative locations.
While the guitar is extremely affordable, Ibanez didn’t cut corners on the hardware, which features:
- Bone nut
- Bone saddle
- Scalloped Katalox bridge
- Chrome die-cast tuners
Just the aforementioned features alone would make this guitar worthy of further investigation. However, Ibanez’s inclusion of an AP11 pickup and preamp help to make this guitar a fabulous deal.
This preamp system is very simplistic when compared to other models, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Only 2 knobs are provided, with one corresponding to volume and the other to EQ.
For this price, the AE295L is truly an unbeatable model for southpaw guitarists. Rolled fingerboard edges, a pickup, and 20 accessible frets make this a serious contender for the stage performer.
Yamaha APXT2 – Best For Beginners
Sometimes, the best guitar for a beginner is something that is nimble, inspiring, and doesn’t compromise on capabilities. The Yamaha APXT2 (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) is all of that and more, while remaining incredibly affordable.
This guitar is effectively a 3/4-size guitar, making it perfectly suitable for both children and adults. If you’re an adult, this will feel akin to a travel guitar, but without the usual poor travel guitar quality.
The guitar’s cutaway-style body is crafted from a select Yamaha hardwood, with a Spruce top. Its thin-line body construction makes this incredibly comfortable for players of any physical stature.
Like the body, the APXT2’s neck is crafted from a select Yamaha hardwood, featuring a traditional C-shape contour. Its 15.75”-radius Rosewood fretboard features 21 frets, despite the guitar having a shortened scale length of 22.81”.
Helping to keep costs down, the APXT2 has fairly decent-grade budget hardware, such as:
- Plastic nut
- Plastic saddle
- Rosewood bridge
- Covered tuners
Where things get interesting is in Yamaha’s inclusion of a pickup and System 68 preamp system. This packs in features such as a built-in tuner, as well as controls for volume and tone.
You can get the APXT2 in the colors of natural or black. For a little extra money, you can opt to have a quilted body for a bit of extravagant aesthetics.
Overall, the APXT2 is undeniably one of the best value buys available on the market. It might be a bit small, but that only makes this guitar seem that much more fun to play.
There aren’t many guitars that are this inexpensive with this much to offer. Yamaha even includes a gig bag with the APXT2, which is almost unheard of at this price.
Ibanez PN1 Mahogany – Best Parlor Acoustic
Parlor guitars were more widespread in the early 1900s than what they are today. However, they’re still a great option for somebody wanting a smaller-bodied acoustic to have around the house.
One of the best parlor guitars is the Ibanez PN1 Mahogany (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon). Try one out and you’ll be pleasantly surprised with how great this guitar plays and sounds.
The guitar itself features a body made completely of Mahogany, though an option for a Spruce top is available. Despite being smaller in size, the PN1 Mahogany plays just about as loud as a dreadnought, with tones to match.
The guitar’s Nyatoh neck has a very comfortable and familiar C-shape contour, perfect for any player. Its Nandu fretboard offers 18 frets, which are outlined by traditional white dot inlays.
The PN1 Mahogany has a fretboard radius of 9.8”, with a scale length of 24.41”. This should feel pretty comparable to any full-size guitar, minus the typical excessive body dimensions.
Ibanez helps to keep costs down with its hardware, which are more than feasible for the purpose of this guitar. This includes items such as:
- Plastic nut
- Plastic saddle
- Nyatoh bridge
- Open-gear tuners
While the guitar is incredibly affordable, the PN1 Mahogany manages to be quite easy on the eyes. A decorative rosette and a herringbone biding help to accentuate this guitar’s narrow dimensions.
Overall, this is definitely a guitar that holds quite a bit of promise for anyone who decides to play it. It’s one of those guitars that, once you try it, you know it possesses some intangible voodoo magic.
For this price, the PN1 Mahogany is a no-brainer for anyone learning the instrument. It’s a great option for any songwriter needing to take advantage of those brief flashes of inspiration.
Cordoba Mini II – Best For Young Kids
When a child wishes to play the guitar, it’s best to get them a decently playable guitar to start with. The Cordoba Mini II (see price on Sweetwater, Guitar Center) is a superb option that remains very affordable.
This guitar is fairly small compared to your standard garden variety acoustic guitar. All of its dimensions have been pared down to roughly the size of a travel guitar.
Because the Mini II is a nylon-stringed instrument, it is effectively a classical guitar. However, this is perfect for young children as they won’t have to press down on the strings as hard.
The Mini II features a body made completely of Mahogany, with a Mahogany neck and a Composite fretboard. It has a shortened scale length of 22.875”, which significantly reduces the spaces between each fret.
While the guitar does not have a cutaway design, it still offers easy access to 14 of its 19 frets. Standard white dot inlays are provided on this fretboard so the player can quickly identify their positioning.
For hardware, the Mini II has features such as:
- NuBone nut
- NuBone saddle
- Composite bridge
- Satin Nickel tuners
The Mini II offers a simple elegance, showcasing darker Mahogany tones, augmented by a black binding and a decorative rosette. Due to the guitar’s size, there isn’t much room for Cordoba to really add any additional aesthetic features.
Overall, the Mini II is not only a prime choice for any young child. Those who suffer from arthritis can find this to be much easier and more comfortable to play.
If you aren’t a child or do not suffer from arthritis, the Mini II can make a great travel companion. It’s inexpensive enough not to have to worry about banging the guitar around during travel.
Yamaha CGS103A – Best For Small Hands
Are you an astute guitar player with small hands looking for a budget beginner guitar for your collection? The Yamaha CGS103A (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) was built with someone like you in mind.
This offering from Yamaha is a nylon-stringed classical guitar with a Nato body and a Spruce top. While this model is a 3/4-size guitar, Yamaha does offer a 1/2-size version for slightly less money.
As such, because of its smaller size, the guitar’s Nato neck is a bit smaller in length overall. The guitar’s scale length measures 23”, which is smaller than normal without becoming a travel guitar.
Despite its shortened scale length, the CGS103A has a Rosewood fretboard that offers 18 frets. In this way, Yamaha manages to provide full-scale playability at a fraction of the size.
Yamaha manages to help keep costs down with the CGS103A’s hardware, which includes:
- Rosewood bridge
- Plastic nut
- Plastic compensated saddle
- Pearl-button tuners
Aesthetically, this Yamaha guitar looks as if it was built during the golden age of classical guitar craftsmanship. It has a vintage-tinged natural finish that gives the guitar a look of timeless musical wisdom.
The guitar is primed for any beginner to learn how to play the instrument and gain their own wisdom. While it might be very affordable, Yamaha’s craftsmanship does not falter in any manner with this guitar’s build.
Legions of guitarists have found themselves surprised at what this guitar has to offer for its price. Be sure to try one out for yourself to truly get a grasp of how this guitar sounds and plays.
Taylor GS Mini-E Mahogany
There are many guitarists in the musical community who desire to have a Taylor acoustic but can’t afford one. The Taylor GS Mini-E Mahogany (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) is the answer to those prayers.
This guitar provides quite a bit of value for a reasonably affordable price. Plus, you’ll get that cherished Taylor brand name on the headstock, which is vitally important to some people.
Layered Sapele is used to craft the GS Mini-E Mahogany’s body, with a Tropical Mahogany providing resonance. The guitar itself is slightly smaller in all of its dimensions when compared to a full-size guitar.
This size difference is especially evident in relation to the guitar’s scale length, which measures 23.5”. Despite that, the Sapele neck and Ebony fretboard offer full-scale playability, with 20 frets to be found.
While it’s more affordable than its Taylor contemporaries, the GS Mini-E Mahogany has great hardware. This includes:
- Ebony bridge
- NuBone nut
- Micarta saddle
- Chrome button tuners
Some people would be satisfied if that was all that this guitar had to offer. However, the guitar goes above and beyond, offering an ES-B pickup and preamp system.
This preamp offers far more tools than what you’ll find on the simplistic preamps of the more expensive models. With this guitar, you’ll have preamp features such as:
- Built-in tuner
- 3-Band EQ
All of the preamp controls are adjustable with faders and are clearly marked for their intended purpose. On the expensive models, it’s confusing what each control is for as there are just some knobs without any labeling.
Overall, this is definitely the route you should take if you’re a stage performer wanting an affordable Taylor. A protective soft-shell case comes included with the purchase of the guitar.
Ibanez Artwood AC340CE
Not wanting to spend more than $500 on an acoustic guitar that has everything you could need? The Ibanez Artwood AC340CE (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) is worth checking out.
This cutaway-designed grand concert acoustic features an Okoume body with a Solid Okoume top. It features an open pore finish that allows the wood to breathe and age properly while showcasing its natural colors.
This is a fairly standard guitar in terms of its measurements, which include:
- 15.75” fretboard radius
- 25” scale length
The AC340CE’s Nyatoh neck has a standard C-shape contour, providing comfort along its Ovangkol fretboard. All of the guitar’s 20 frets are very easy to play, with dot inlays provided for quick position identification.
Ibanez has provided some fantastic options for hardware that is unusual to find at this price point. On the AC340CE, you’ll find items such as:
- Bone nut
- Compensated bone saddle
- Thermo-aged Ovangkol bridge
- Chrome die-cast tuners
While the hardware is nothing to sneeze at, the AC340CE packs in more value with its Fishman Sonicore pickup. The onboard AEQ-SP2 preamp offers features such as:
- Built-in tuner
- 2-band EQ
- Volume control
Aesthetically, the AC340CE has darker tones that are perfectly accentuated by a cream binding, a 2-ring rosette, and tortoiseshell pickguard.
This is a guitar that will only look and sound better as it ages. For the price, this is hard to beat for any aspiring stage performer looking for a reliable guitar.
Epiphone Dove Studio
Are you looking to get your hands on one of the most iconic dreadnought guitars in history? The Epiphone Dove Studio (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) has timeless looks and tones on tap.
This acoustic guitar is essentially an affordable reproduction offering modeled after the famed 1960s Gibson model. Despite its affordability, all of the signature characteristics of the original can be found here.
In its construction, the Dove Studio has a laminated Maple body with a Solid Spruce top. Hard Maple is used to craft the neck, with an Indian Laurel fretboard offering 20 frets.
The neck itself has a D-shape contour with the Gibson-designed SlimTaper dimensions. As such, the Epiphone manages to blend both comfort and performance in one package.
For hardware, the Dove Studio has items such as:
- NuBone nut
- NuBone saddle
- Indian Laurel bridge
- Kidney-style tuners
Epiphone has included a Fishman Sonitone pickup with the Dove Studio for plugged-in electric performances. Preamp adjustments for volume and EQ can be found discreetly hidden within the guitar’s soundhole.
The most appealing feature of this guitar is its aesthetics, boasting an iconic dove pickguard and decorative bridge. 5-ply binding and trapezoidal Pearloid fretboard inlays help to tie in the guitar’s decorative features.
Elevating the guitar’s looks even further are its choices for color options, which include:
- Violin burst
- Transparent ebony
Try this out and you could end up going home with a piece of history, without the associated price tag.
While Ibanez is usually known for their electric guitars, its acoustic offerings tend to outshine its competitors. This is especially evident in the affordable guitars, which have features not usually found in their respective price ranges.
The Ibanez AW54CE (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) is a prime example of Ibanez’s craftsmanship. This guitar has an Okoume body with a Solid Okoume top, designed to age perfectly with an open pore finish.
Its Nyatoh neck has a C-shape contour, providing comfort all along the Ovangkol fretboard. Due to the cutaway design of the guitar’s body, all of the AW54CE’s 20 frets are easily playable.
Perhaps the only area where Ibanez might have cut some corners is in the guitar’s hardware. However, these items should be more than suitable for performance, and help to keep costs down:
- Plastic nut
- Plastic saddle
- Ovangkol bridge
- Chrome die-cast tuners
Ibanez has made sure to pack in the value, adding a T-bar undersaddle pickup with an AEQ-TP2 preamp. You’ll have convenient access to onboard preamp features such as:
- Built-in tuner
- 2-band EQ
- Volume control
Interestingly enough, this guitar also offers a standard 1/4” output as well as an XLR output. Plugging into a mixer will be a breeze when playing on the stage.
Overall, this is a fantastic affordable option for just about any guitarist. It’s affordable enough for beginners but has the necessities that an aspiring professional needs for performance.
Plus, like the other models in the Ibanez Artwood lineup, the AW54CE will only get better with age. It’s almost as if you’ll see an increase in your investment just in aesthetics and tone alone.
What To Look For When Buying An Acoustic Guitar
Buying a guitar, especially an acoustic guitar, can often be a process rife with anxiousness and doubt. You want to get a guitar as soon as possible, but you want to ensure you made the right choice.
This is generally something that all guitarists experience, especially those who suffer from G.A.S. However, informing yourself of the process and what to look for can be used as a deterrent against this feeling.
In a way, this allows you to approach the process of buying an acoustic guitar like a scientist performing research. Rest assured, you’ll be conducting your own experiments and measuring data against other tests for a scientific comparison and conclusion.
Scientific allegories aside, keep in mind that this process can be as fun as you allow it to be. Consider using the following information to guide you along through the process and you’ll find the right guitar for you.
Once you learn the basics, you can continue to use this information as a guideline for any future purchases. All of the following information is customizable to any specific situation you are buying an acoustic guitar for.
What price would be a comfortable expenditure without jeopardizing your personal finances?
It might seem counterintuitive to start your purchasing journey by defining your budget. However, this small decision essentially affects the entire course of research that follows.
Having a defined budget that is extremely comfortable helps to alleviate any doubts about whether you should make the purchase. This allows you to buy a guitar with confidence, knowing you’re making an informed decision without hurting the bottom line.
All too often, guitarists will constantly consider and re-consider their budget and its potential consequences. Too far one way, and you might have a lackluster guitar, while the other way prevents bills from getting paid.
Every guitarist wants to find the best guitar possible for the price they’re willing to pay. When you define your budget, it helps to narrow the number of available guitars to a workable number to research.
Keep in mind that there are always guitars that perform beyond their expectations for their price range. In fact, if you primarily play electric guitar, a cheaper acoustic might be all you ever need.
For the most part, acoustic guitars are divided into price ranges, which reflect the quality of the build and components. These are as follows:
- Beginner ($250 and below)
- Beginner-intermediate ($500 and below)
- Intermediate ($350 to $700)
- Advanced ($500 to $1500)
- Professional ($2000+)
It makes the most sense for professionals to have better gear because they are using the guitar to make money. They also have a proven history with the instrument, whereas a beginner might not have a proven dedication.
If you have some patience and discernment, don’t be afraid to buy used. You’ll often find a higher-quality guitar in your price range that would otherwise be unaffordable.
Body Size & Dimensions
The second thing you’ll want to consider when purchasing an acoustic guitar is the type of acoustic you want. Although traditional in nature, acoustic guitars come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes.
Some models are quite large in relation to the size of the body, generally producing a large sound. Smaller bodies can often produce warmer tones while still maintaining ample sound projection.
Perhaps the most popular acoustic guitar type is the dreadnought. These guitars are fairly large, with wider shoulders and a large, rounded waist.
Concert acoustic guitars are a fair amount smaller than dreadnoughts, with a narrow width in the middle. Parlor guitars are even smaller, often having a slim, elongated body design.
You’ll want to keep in mind how comfortably the guitar accommodates your body in any playing position. Some larger guitars can be a bit awkward in relation to the arm length of whoever is playing the instrument.
Nylon-string classical guitars are also an option.
Should you find that a regular guitar is too much, consider seeking out a guitar of fractional size. These offer the same benefits and playability, coming in at sizes of:
Fractional sizing will come in handy for the young child who expresses interest in learning the guitar. All of the dimensions of fractional sizes will generally be properly suited for those of smaller stature.
Along with the actual type and size of the acoustic guitar, there is one more thing to consider. You need to decide whether a cutaway body design is important to you.
This type of design essentially allows comfortable access to the higher frets of the guitar. Players who indulge in solos or play the length of the neck will find this feature to be a necessity.
Build Components & Tone
Something else to consider when buying an acoustic guitar is what components are used in the instrument’s build. More often than not, the quality of components tends to be partially reflected in the instrument’s price.
Unfortunately, that often means that you don’t have a lot of options when you’re buying on a budget. Still, with some patience and savvy sleuth work, you’ll be able to find guitars of excellent construction at any price.
With some exceptions, acoustic guitar bodies are generally made completely of wood. However, you’ll often find that laminates are used in budget guitars, with solid wood construction at higher prices.
Many intermediate-budget guitars will usually have a combination of laminate and solid wood. The sides and back are usually laminate, with a solid top providing the most resonance for the guitar.
That’s certainly not to say that laminate bodies are inferior to solid wood. An opinion like that would need to be formed by yourself after trying each type in person.
Similarly, the actual wood used can vary quite a bit between models. These different wood types can play into the overall sound of the guitar as well as the way it looks.
Something like Mahogany or Rosewood is thought to provide warmer tones. Spruce and Sapele are usually considered to be fairly bright and sweet sounding.
Again, it’s especially crucial to try out an acoustic guitar before purchasing. The natural tone of the guitar can only really be deciphered by hearing it with your own ears.
Demo videos and things of that nature aren’t always the best representation.
Part of this is due to the audio compression usually inherent in video hosting websites. The other part is that you need to hear how the guitar interacts with your unique and individual playing.
Craftsmanship & Playability
After you’ve come up with a decent list of possible guitars, it’s time to try them out in person. This step is not only crucial in determining the guitar’s tone but its overall value as well.
When you try out a guitar, give some special attention to the neck of the guitar. This part of the instrument is what your hands have the most contact with during play.
Every guitar’s neck has a different feel, with manufacturers providing their own unique neck contours. More often than not, acoustic guitar necks are designed for comfort, though some are tapered for intensive performance.
There is no right or wrong when it comes to the actual contour of the neck. You’ll need to decide for yourself which contour feels the best in your hand.
For the most part, guitar neck contours come in the general shapes of:
Along with the feel of the contour, take some time to inspect the craftsmanship of the neck itself. Some questions you might ask yourself include:
- Do the fret ends need any work and have sharp edges?
- Are the edges of the fretboard rolled?
- What kind of lacquer is used on the neck and is it applied cleanly to the surface without runoff?
- Are there any cracks?
Once you’ve taken the time to visually inspect the guitar, give some attention to its playability. Acoustic guitars (especially the budget models) are often notorious for having bad playing action.
Take some time to address whether a setup will alleviate any issues. Oftentimes, you can ask the shop you purchase from to set the guitar up before you take it home.
The general tendency is to rush and gloss over things when in a guitar shop. Resist this and investigate as much as needed.
Something that you’ll want to keep in mind is what you hope to get out of the guitar. Not everyone’s goals are the same, and similarly, not all guitar purchases have the same objective.
Before purchasing a guitar, you should have a decent idea of your own goals as a guitarist. The perfect guitar should be able to get you closer to your goals, within reason, of course.
For instance, a young child beginner might benefit from a smaller, fractional size body. However, this kind of guitar might only be relevant in their lives for a short number of years.
Eventually, the child will grow, and a guitar of standard size might be more practical. This doesn’t make the smaller size obsolete, rather, it serves its purpose as a transitionary instrument.
The same goes for somebody who might have professional aims but isn’t at that level. A mid-range acoustic should provide all of the necessities to get that person to stage performance levels of play.
Along with that, take some consideration into how long you would like to keep the guitar. Is this something that you’d ideally like to be playing for the rest of your life?
In that case, you will still want to look for the best quality and value for your proposed budget. Any guitar should last a lifetime if proper maintenance and storage are taken into consideration.
Depending on your skill level and ambitions, it’s quite likely that you’ll be graduating to higher levels of guitar craftsmanship. Again, much of this is dependent on your own situation.
It’s not uncommon for somebody to play a budget acoustic guitar for several decades. More often than not, these can provide all of the essentials along with decent playability.
Every guitarist has a vision for the kind of guitarist they would like to eventually become. The guitar you decide to purchase should be everything that allows you to be that kind of guitarist.
While this is perhaps more true with electric guitars, some discernment is also required with acoustics. For instance, if you’re a fingerstyle player, your guitar needs to comfortably accommodate decent string spacing and dynamic response.
Acoustic guitars are fairly consistent across the board with the features that are provided. However, many acoustics do not have any additional features, which isn’t a bad thing if that’s what you’re after.
But, if you need an acoustic guitar for playing live gigs, some additional features are almost a necessity. The biggest one in that regard would have to be an acoustic pickup system.
More often than not, acoustic guitars with pickups will usually have the pickup below the guitar’s saddle. Some also offer an internal microphone, often allowing a custom blend with the undersaddle pickup.
Along with this, it can be extremely convenient to have a built-in preamp system. This will allow you to adjust your EQ and volume levels and frequently include a guitar tuner.
Being able to adjust your guitar levels on the fly is one of the most understated needs. If you’re playing and running sound for your gigs, this type of feature is absolutely essential.
Something else to look out for is whether or not the guitar comes with an included case or gig bag. This inclusion is quickly becoming a thing of the past, but it’s nice to have as it saves some money.
Additionally, be mindful of the guitar’s aesthetics and whether the guitar has the look you desire your guitar to have.
Best Brands For Acoustic Guitars
Today’s guitarists are absolutely spoiled with choices for acoustic guitars, each with its own selling point. If you’re not sure where to begin, consider checking out the most established names in the industry.
You don’t necessarily have to purchase a guitar made by a well-known brand. However, checking their catalog can give you an idea of what kinds of guitars are available on the market.
Though it isn’t always the case, established brands typically ensure a level of guaranteed quality. This type of reputation doesn’t come easily, especially as guitarists can be quite picky when it comes to their instruments.
The following brands have a stellar reputation for building acoustic guitars. In many cases, they have set the standards to which a quality guitar should be built.
Martin is one of the oldest and most respected American guitar manufacturers in the industry. Since the 1830s, Martin has been producing truly iconic guitars that remain highly revered by today’s guitarists.
For many, having Martin on the headstock of a guitar ensures it is built with excellent attention given to detail. The tones of these guitars are a major reason why they are still highly sought after today.
Taylor is an American company that officially got its start in the mid-1970s. Since the beginning, Taylor’s guitars have been in the hands of the greats, both on stage and in the studio.
Many people consider Taylor guitars to be the pinnacle of acoustic guitar craftsmanship. The company continues to innovate its designs, providing something for nearly every price range.
Yamaha is a Japanese manufacturer and is the equivalent of a colossal giant within the music industry. This company has a long history, initially producing organs at the turn of the 20th century.
Today, Yamaha is known for providing an extreme amount of value in each of its instruments. Guitarists will especially be surprised at how well Yamaha’s guitars feel, sound, and play at their given price points.
Ibanez is a Japanese company that officially got its start in the late 1950s. In the early 1900s, the company was actually an importer of guitars before transitioning to manufacturing.
The company is known best for its groundbreaking design concepts, willingness to take risks, and for cutting-edge craftsmanship. Ibanez’s electric and acoustic guitars are some of the best guitars money can buy.
Takamine has been one of the leading Japanese acoustic guitar producers since its beginnings in the late-1950s. Today’s guitarists have Takamine to thank for the acoustic-electric guitar, which has become a staple necessity for live performances.
Some of the biggest names in the music industry play Takamine guitars. It seems as if nearly every guitar they produce (in all price ranges) plays exceptionally well.
Cordoba is one of the foremost manufacturers of Spanish classical guitars, officially established in 1997. The company specializes in nylon-stringed instruments, upholding tradition in their build practices.
This company caters to players of all ages and stature. Cordoba is one of the few offering a vast range of fractional-size guitars, perfect for any young player.
Top Acoustic Guitars, Final Thoughts
The next time you feel like getting back to the basics, consider trying out an acoustic guitar. These will often help you to think about playing with a much different approach than with an electric guitar.
Acoustic guitars typically find a close place to the heart of their player, usually being played for a lifetime. Open yourself up to this possibility and you might find your life is changed and enriched for years to come.
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