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So, you’re on the hunt for the perfect acoustic guitar.
As you are surely aware, there are many to choose from at every price point.
Plus, a cheaper guitar isn’t always significantly worse, and an expensive guitar isn’t always measurably better.
It depends on what you’re looking for and how you intend to use it, whether it’s for practice, performance, recording, travel or otherwise.
So, let’s look at the best acoustic guitars under $1000, $500, $300, $2000 and $200.
Best Acoustic Guitars Under $1000
Guitars in this price range can be surprisingly good. But that may not come as much of a surprise.
But as you’re about to find out, there are guitars suited to a variety of tastes and playing styles at this level.
I wouldn’t be embarrassed playing out with one of these guitars as a professional. They sound good and typically come with onboard electronics, so you can plug them in through an amp or PA system.
And, if you have instruments that cost you several thousand dollars sitting at the studio or at home, you might be more precious about those and not want to bring them to every gig.
Having a workhorse in this price range could allow you to leave your most prized acoustic guitars at home while toting around what should be a more than decent guitar for most situations.
And, even if a good mid-level guitar is exactly what you’re after, you should be pleased with the options.
So, let’s look at what’s available.
Editor's Choice: Taylor 114ce 100 Series Acoustic Guitar Grand Auditorium Cutaway
The Taylor 114ce is Taylor’s most popular guitar and it’s a great mid-level axe.
It comes with solid sitka spruce top with a forward shifted X brace pattern giving the guitar added low end, ebony bridge, tusk saddle and nut, layered sapele laminate on the back and sides, ebony fingerboard with dot inlays, rosewood overlay headstock, chrome tuners and a comfortable neck.
It has that signature Taylor sound with plenty of clarity, snappy mids and lows and a good amount of warmth.
It’s a good axe for the price, so the Taylor should be considered for your next intermediate guitar.
Yamaha 6 String Series A3M Cutaway Acoustic-Electric Guitar Mahogany, Vintage Natural, Dreadnought VN
The Yamaha A3M cutaway acoustic-electric guitar comes with solid Sitka spruce top with scalloped bracing for a louder, richer sound.
It features a dreadnought cutaway body with solid back and sides, satin mahogany neck with slim taper profile and Yamaha’s SRT2 system, which allows you to blend between microphone models and the piezo pickup.
Plus, a soft case is included.
I find this guitar to have robust midrange frequencies without sacrificing too much of the high end. It has a nice, balanced tone to my ears.
The Yamaha is a great guitar for the money. You may also want to check out the A3R, which is a similarly priced model made with rosewood.
Fender Newporter Classic – California Series Acoustic Guitar
The Fender Newporter Classic comes with a painted Sitka spruce top, natural solid mahogany back and sides, a Fender- and Fishman-designed pickup/preamp system and a deluxe gig bag.
And, it truly is a formidable acoustic guitar. Ideal for fingerstyle, this guitar produces a punchy tone, if a bit on the thin side. The pickup offers a nice, natural sound.
The pickup system comes with volume and tone control and a built-in tuner. The pickup was also designed with the guitar’s unique body shape in mind.
Probably not for everyone, but an interesting guitar nonetheless, the Fender is a worthy contender on this list.
Washburn HG120SWEK-D 6 String Acoustic-Electric Guitar, Natural Gloss
The Heritage 100 Series acoustic-electric Washburn features an all-solid Grand Auditorium body with solid Torrified mahogany soundboard.
Torrification, by the way, is a process that speeds up the aging process of the woods by 20 to 30 years, giving this instrument a vintage feel.
It comes with solid mahogany back and sides, ebony fingerboard and bridge, bone nut and saddle, two-ring Abalone/Maple rosette, Heritage Faux-Tortoise pickguard and Ivoroid body binding.
It comes pre-installed with a Fishman Presys Blend system (volume, notch, depth, presence, onboard tuner) and a hardshell case.
The guitar also features Graph Tech ratio tuners. The gear ratios on each of the tuners are different, and a half turn on any of the strings results in a half tone of pitch, and a full turn results in a full tone of pitch.
That makes tuning a breeze.
The guitar has both warmth and fullness to it. The upper register is also on the warmer side, but I happen to like that.
In this price range, you can’t ignore the Washburn. It’s a great guitar.
Best Acoustic Guitars Under $500
Even in this price range, you can get a great mid-level guitar.
There are a variety of offerings from different brands, and they aren’t all created equal.
In this price range, you can obtain one of the most affordable Martin acoustics, more affordable versions of expensive guitars, guitars with unique body shapes and more.
You can even get a guitar that would be well-suited to a variety of stage and studio situations. As I mentioned at the beginning, however, it still depends on what your expectations are.
If you’re buying based on budget, I think you can still walk away with a guitar you’ll be happy with.
So, here are the best acoustic guitars under $500.
Alvarez AD60SHB Artist Series Guitar
The Alvarez AD60SHB comes with a solid A+ grade sitka top and shadowburst gloss, mahogany back and sides with a semi-gloss, as well as FST2M Forward Shifted and scalloped bracing.
It also features a mahogany neck with semi-gloss with 12th fret inlay, rosewood fingerboard and premium die-cast tuners, bi-level rosewood bridge and real bone nut and saddle.
The guitar has a pleasant, chimey quality to it. Although it doesn’t have the richness of a more expensive guitar, I think it sounds great.
And, it’s hard to ignore the price point. So, check out the Alvarez for yourself.
Martin LX1E Acoustic Guitar
The Martin LX1E comes with Fishman Sonitone electronics, solid sitka spruce top and mahogany high-pressure laminate back and sides.
Beginners will be glad to know that makes this a durable guitar. Not that you’d want to go out of your way to damage it, but it should survive a few bumps and knocks.
But I would certainly classify it as more of a beginner guitar than an intermediate instrument.
For a small body it tends to produce a decent sound, but I wouldn’t say it’s anything to write home about.
For the price, this is a good guitar. It’s a direct competitor to the Baby Taylor (we’ll look at that a little later), and I’m not sure it measures up, but it’s nice to know you can get a Martin in this price range.
Takamine GD20CE-NS Dreadnought Cutaway Acoustic-Electric Guitar
The GD20CE-NS comes with a solid cedar top, mahogany back and sides, Quartersawn “X” bracing, pin less rosewood fingerboard and bridge and Takamine TP-4TD preamp system with three-band EQ and gain controls.
It also features a mahogany neck with a slim profile, and it comes with a satin finish, making it quite comfortable.
The strings go through the back of the bridge, which makes it easier for you to switch out strings as needed.
The bridge’s split saddle design offers better compensation for each string
If you’re going to be playing for long hours, the slim neck profile can be a benefit. You should be able to practice or perform for hours without major fatigue.
This guitar has that characteristic cedar tone, which tends to be darker and mellower than a spruce top guitar but is awesome in its own way.
The Takamine is a solid choice.
Seagull S6 Original Acoustic Guitar
Coming from the Godin family of guitars, the Canadian-made Seagull S6 comes with a deep dark custom stain on wild cherry back and sides as well as neck and headstock, custom pickguard and solid cedar pressure tested top.
The Seagull has a nice, balanced tone to my ears with plenty of high-end cut, which has something to do with the maple neck and cherry back and sides.
But thanks to the cedar, it has a decent amount of warmth, too.
The narrow neck and straight string pull allow the guitar to stay in better tune. So, you can play it for a long time without it falling out of tune on you.
The S6 is Seagull’s flagship guitar and packs plenty of punch for the money. So, I’d recommend checking out the Seagull.
Ovation CE-48PR Celerity Collection 6 String Acoustic-Electric Guitar
The Ovation CE-48PR comes with a solid spruce top, rosewood fingerboard, lyrachord super shallow cutaway, elite multi-port sound hole design, OP-4BT preamp system and diecast tuning machines.
The neck features a smooth, satin style finish with a medium C shape profile.
You can probably tell by looking at it that this is a unique acoustic-electric guitar, and this is what Ovation is known for. People generally love it or hate it.
The quality and color of the solid spruce top is awesome – maybe even better than you would think it would be.
The back of the body is round, which is what some guitarists don’t like about Ovations. But others find it quite comfortable.
The OP-4BT preamp system is simple, featuring controls for gain, bass, mid, treble and an onboard tuner.
So, how does it sound?
To me, it has a nice, top heavy tone that makes it great for cutting through mixes and lead work. In that sense, Ovation tends to make great stage guitars.
If rich, dark and warm is what you’re looking for, this may not be the right guitar for you.
Again, while it may not be for everyone, Ovation makes high quality guitars that might be suited to your tastes.
Epiphone EJ-200SCE Solid Top Cutaway Acoustic/Electric Guitar
The Epiphone EJ-200SCE acoustic-electric guitar is Epiphone’s version of the beloved Gibson classic, which is used by a legion of artists.
This guitar features a super jumbo maple body, select spruce top, gold hardware and royal crown inlays across a rosewood figerboard and a rosewood bridge.
It comes with the versatile Shadow Nanoflex E-Sonic2 pickup for tweaking frequencies, gain, phase, Nanomag and Nanoflex pickup blend, and even comes with a tuner.
The EJ-200 has input jacks for both the Nanomag and Nanoflex pickups, allowing for individual outputs.
The guitar has a lot of warmth, but the higher notes still ring out nicely. I think it sounds great.
So, here’s an Epiphone worth checking out.
Taylor BT2e Baby Taylor Acoustic-Electric Guitar
The Taylor BT2e comes with a mahogany top, layered sapele back and sides, tropical American mahogany neck, ebony fingerboard with dot position inlays and unique ES-B electronics with tone and volume control and built-in tuner.
It sports a natural finish and is a three-quarter size dreadnought guitar for those who need something a little smaller for their hand or body size, or to take on the road.
Although it certainly sounds like a smaller guitar, for its body size, it has a surprising amount of depth and volume.
The electronics is where this guitar shines. It gives you plenty of control and it sounds great recorded or on stage.
If you play it at an open mic or gig, you’ll probably fool a few ears, with some thinking it must be a full-sized guitar.
You can squeeze a good bit of versatility out of the guitar by mixing its natural and electronic sounds.
I would prefer the Baby Taylor over the Martin LX1E myself, but that’s going to be subject to taste.
Epiphone HUMMINGBIRD PRO Solid Top Acoustic/Electric Guitar
Whether it’s acoustics or electrics, Epiphone is up to something good with budget guitars.
The Hummingbird Pro is no exception. It comes with a Shadow performer preamp and Shadow Nano Flex pickup system, solid spruce top with mahogany back and sides, rosewood fingerboard with Pearled Parallelogram inlays and Grove tuners.
As you can tell from its appearance, it doesn’t have a cutaway, so that’s something to be mindful of if you’re planning to play much past the 15th fret.
Generally, people who like to play lead guitar like having access to higher frets. But you can still play past the 12th fret on this guitar, which is nice.
I love the sound of this acoustic, but I’m kind of a fan of Epiphone and Gibson acoustics to begin with.
This guitar can give you access to a variety of tones – round, dark and warm and even cutting.
At this price point, it’s hard to go wrong with the Epiphone.
Best Acoustic Guitars Under $300
With the beginner market being as big as it is, guitar manufacturers must fight for shelf space.
That’s good news as a consumer, because that means you can get a lot of guitar for the money, even in this price range.
Ibanez, Washburn, Yamaha and others all have worthy offerings for beginner to intermediate acoustic guitars. Some companies don’t even compete in this space.
You’ll find guitars well-suited to electric guitarists transitioning over to acoustic. You can find dreadnought, folk and thin-body guitars. It’s nice to have so many options.
So, here are the best acoustic guitars under $300.
Alvarez Artist Series AF30 Folk Guitar
The Alvarez Artist Series AF30 folk guitar comes with a solid sitka spruce top, hand sanded and scalloped bracing, laminate mahogany back and sides, mahogany neck and dovetail neck joint.
Since this is a folk or orchestra size guitar, it has a slightly smaller body and shorter scale length. If you find dreadnoughts a little too big for you, this axe should serve you better.
The slim neck profile and low action make the guitar easy to play even for beginners.
The guitar has a simple, traditional look to it. It sounds balanced, neither bright nor overly warm. Just a solid all-around guitar.
Overall, the Alvarez is worth its asking price.
Bristol BD-16 Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar
The Bristol BD-16 comes with laminate spruce top and scalloped braces, mahogany back and sides, slim mahogany neck, rosewood fingerboard, and chrome-plated 14:1 diecast machine heads.
This is a good beginner guitar or workhorse for those who don’t want to cart around more expensive instruments.
The woods are durable and are built to last – a good quality to look for in a starter axe.
The guitar sounds quite bright to me. Nothing wrong with that, but it certainly doesn’t sound like a guitar with more expensive tonewoods.
Thanks to the dreadnought body style, the guitar gives plenty of volume, which is another nice feature.
Check out the Bristol if you’re looking for a guitar to take with you everywhere you go.
Yamaha APX600 Thin Body Acoustic-Electric Guitar
Available in Black, Natural, Vintage White, Old Violin Sunburst and Oriental Blue Burst, the APX600 comes with a thin-line cutaway body design for playability.
An upgraded version of the APX500, this could be a great guitar for electric players who are looking for an easy-to-play acoustic. Even if you have smaller hands, this axe is quite playable.
The bracing offers enhanced bass response and comes with a spruce top and nato back and sides for a natural acoustic tone.
It also has an abalone inlay around the soundhole and diecast chrome machine heads for tuning stability.
The preamp comes with an onboard tuner and three-band EQ for shaping the sound. The electronics are powered by AA batteries, which means you don’t need to stock up on 6V batteries.
The guitar has plenty of high-end cut, making it great for leads and cutting through mixes live or in the studio.
Plugged in, it has a balanced tone and sounds a little thinner than its natural sound. The Yamaha is great.
Ibanez AW54CEOPN Artwood Dreadnought Acoustic/Electric Guitar
The awesome-looking Ibanez AW54CEOPN is a dreadnought style acoustic-electric with a cutaway.
It comes with a solid mahogany top, mahogany back and sides, mahogany neck, rosewood bridge and fretboard and Ibanez AEQ210TF active preamp with onboard tuner.
I happen to like Ibanez for entry-level guitars, as you often get more than you pay for.
The guitar has a balanced tone, and is a little on the warmer side, which is nice. You can get a lot more high-end cut using the pickup.
The Ibanez is an excellent mid-level guitar.
Washburn Harvest Series WG7SCE Acoustic-Electric Guitar
The Washburn WG7SCE is a cutaway grand auditorium acoustic with solid sitka spruce top, satin mahogany neck and mahogany sides and back with a natural gloss finish.
It also comes with rosewood fingerboard and bridge.
This guitar sounds great all around and features a pleasant, round tone with a good amount of warmth. Honestly, it shouldn’t sound this good at this price point.
There’s nothing fancy about the guitar and it’s simple all around. But that’s perhaps how Washburn was able to get it sounding as good as it does.
The onboard preamp features a tuner and controls for bass, mids, treble, presence, volume and notch.
The Washburn is available in Rosewood and Ovakol and is worth a look.
Best Acoustic Guitars Under $2000
In this price range, you’re generally looking at guitars that are suited to intermediate to advanced players.
The products look good, feel good and sound good too. But you would probably expect that at this price point, wouldn’t you?
With some guitar brands, you won’t even find high-performing acoustic guitars until you reach this level.
At the under $2,000 range, you’ll find guitars with better electronics (if it’s an electric-acoustic) and tonewoods. The design profiles are generally more comfortable too.
Either way, if you’re prepared to spend this amount of money, you probably have a discerning eye.
So, let’s look at the options.
Taylor 314ce – Sapele Back And Side With V-Class Bracing
Taylor guitars are popular choices in this price range.
The genuine American-made 314ce is a quality electric-acoustic (it comes with Expression System 2 Electronics with Taylor’s patented behind-the-saddle pickup). The controls are simple.
It features Taylor’s Grand Auditorium body and a Venetian cutaway.
The top has been crafted from solid Sitka spruce, and the side and back are made of solid sapele. It also comes with a satin-finished tropical mahogany neck and genuine African ebony fretboard.
To me, it has that signature warm, round tone Taylors are known for. But there’s plenty of clarity in the upper register too.
Some people love Taylors. Others aren’t crazy about them. Either way, this Taylor is worth your consideration.
Takamine EF360S TT Thermal Top Acoustic-Electric Guitar With Hard Case
The solid-wood EF306 TT comes equipped with solid spruce baked at a high heat to produce a more vintage sound.
It also comes with solid rosewood sides, mahogany neck, ebony fingerboard, gloss natural finish, TLD-2 Line Driver Preamp and hard case.
Takamine isn’t kidding around – this guitar plays, looks and sounds more like a vintage instrument out of the box than a new one.
The guitar is both warm and clear, which is not an easy balance to achieve. But as with most Takamines, that characteristic high-end cut is present.
It’s perfect for band gigs but you might want to adjust the treble for solo gigs or more subdued performances.
There are no cumbersome electronics on this guitar. It’s all been built into the end pin jack.
In the end, it just depends on whether you like the sound. The Takamine is a cool guitar and one to put on your radar.
Breedlove ORCN01CESSMY Oregon Series Concert CE Sitka-Myrtlewood Acoustic-Electric Guitar With Deluxe Hardshell Case
American handcrafted Breedlove Oregon Concert CE comes with a Sitka spruce top, Myrtlewood back and sides, Eastern hard rock maple neck, African ebony fretboard, African ebony delta bridge, offset inlays, Herringbone rosette, LR Bags VTC electronics, nickel Breedlove tuners and a hard-shell case.
To me, it has that characteristic round tone that seems to be common with spruce-top guitars.
The sound through electronics is clear and round. There’s plenty of high-end cut.
Some reviewers say you would be hard-pressed to find a better guitar for the price. I will let you be the judge.
Check out the Breedlove for a beautifully handcrafted acoustic.
Best Acoustic Guitars Under $200
$200 or less isn’t a lot to put into an acoustic guitar but you can still find some worthwhile products.
There are good guitars in every price range, so even if you don’t have a huge budget to spend, you’ll be glad to know that you can still find an axe that will serve you well.
In this price range, you can find some solid top guitars, but many are made with a mixture of laminate too. That’s better for beginners, mind you.
Tonewood does make a difference, so you may not find the best sounding guitar in the world, but that doesn’t always mean you need to make a huge compromise either.
Here are some great beginner level guitars to consider.
Yamaha FG800 Solid Top Acoustic Guitar
Modeled after the Yamaha FG700S, the FG800 comes with a solid sitka spruce top, nato back and sides, rosewood fingerboard, rosewood bridge and diecast tuners.
The FG800 has a ringing, clangy tone that should cut in any mix. I wouldn’t say that it’s warm or rich, but that can still come with age.
There’s not a whole lot more to say about the Yamaha. It’s great value for the money.
Jasmine S34C NEX Acoustic Guitar
The incredibly affordable Jasmine S34C NEX acoustic guitar comes with a natural gloss, dreadnought body, laminate spruce top, sapele back and sides, rosewood fingerboard, synthetic bone nut and saddle and chrome tuners.
The guitar itself looks like a good quality acoustic guitar and even features a cutaway. It’s built nicely too.
The Jasmine has a surprisingly balanced and full sound where every frequency comes across with clarity. I must say I’m pleasantly surprised, especially coming from a laminate spruce top guitar.
Some reviewers even cite the Jasmine as the best budget acoustic guitar.
I can’t confirm or deny that, but if you’d be hard pressed to find a guitar like this in this price range, and if you don’t have much to spend, I wholeheartedly recommend a look.
Epiphone DR-100 Acoustic Guitar
The Epiphone DR-100 is an excellent beginner guitar with a dreadnought body shape, select spruce top, mahogany body, mahogany neck with slim tapered profile and a rosewood fingerboard.
The dreadnought offers plenty of volume and it’s easy to play.
The axe has good midrange projection. The high end isn’t cutting, and the low end isn’t boomy. It’s got a nice middle of the road kind of sound.
It’s available in Ebony, Natural and Vintage Sunburst finishes.
This Epiphone is another winner and it’s affordable to boot.
Yamaha APXT2 ¾-Size Acoustic-Electric Guitar With Gig Bag
This is a smaller version of the Yamaha APX500. This guitar comes with a spruce top, mahogany neck, rosewood fingerboard and bridge, slim body design with a cutaway, classic Yamaha oval soundhole, System 68 pickup and gig bag.
The headstock features six vintage style tuners.
The full-laminate construction makes this guitar tough as well as comfortable and will stand up to some abuse.
Despite being smaller, this guitar still plays like a full-size guitar.
The onboard electronics are simple and features a volume and tone control as well as a tuner.
It certainly doesn’t sound like a big body guitar, so you can expect a bit of a thinner, natural sound. The pickup offers a little more warmth, though.
The Yamaha is fantastic value for the money.
Fender FA-100 Beginner Acoustic Guitar With Gig Bag
The Fender FA-100 comes with a dreadnought body, natural glossy Basswood top and time tested quarter sawn X bracing.
The FA-100 features a classic acoustic guitar style with smooth design and attention to detail.
Thanks to the laminate construction, this is a sturdy guitar, perfect for novice players.
If offers a full, loud, round sound and sounds not half bad for a more affordable guitar.
The Fender is another worthy contender in this price category.
What Should I Look For In An Acoustic Guitar?
I have always bought acoustic guitars based on sound, playability and budget and consider those the most important factors.
For some, size and appearance would also be considerations.
Smaller guitars are easier to travel with, and if you don’t have big hands or if larger guitars are a little overwhelming, it’s nice to have the option.
Appearance is usually less crucial but depending on the image you’re portraying as an artist you may find it worthy of your consideration.
So, let’s explore every factor we can.
A Sound You Like
I could have said “an acoustic guitar with a great sound” too, but tone truly is a matter of preference, experience as well as trial and error.
What you like today, you may not like tomorrow. Or, if you have quite a bit of experience already, you may have a one-track mind in terms of what you’re after.
As you may have noticed already, it’s difficult to describe the tone of guitars outside of words like cutting, crisp, round, deep, rich, full, dark, warm, punchy or otherwise.
To further complicate matters, people oftentimes have their own vocabulary to describe tone, and even different connotations for what each word means to them.
So, the words I’ve used here may not exactly match with your own ideas of what they mean.
Fortunately, we all have access to YouTube videos, and there are usually multiple demos and reviews for any given guitar.
By doing your own research, you can come up with your own conclusions around how a guitar sounds to you and whether you like it.
Generally, you will pay more for a better sounding guitar. But I’ve played some expensive guitars that didn’t sound that great to me.
That could simply be a matter of preference, or maybe there were some manufacturing defects with the guitar.
And, I’ve played some cheaper guitars that sound amazing, mostly in the midrange category.
Anyway, I’d encourage you to do some digging in this regard.
An Instrument That’s Easy To Play
It bugs me when an acoustic guitar doesn’t play the way I want it to – I don’t want to wrestle with it. So, I always weigh my options.
If I like the guitar in every other regard, and it sounds good to me, I might bring it to a tech to see what they can do. In most cases, they can improve on the instrument’s action.
But if I’m faced with a comparable option that plays better, I might be inclined to go with that guitar instead.
At the beginner level, you’ll want a guitar that plays nice. It’s important at every level, but an experienced guitarist can work around bad action. Beginners will find it far more challenging.
Action does make a difference, and students are generally able to pick up the instrument more rapidly if their guitar features good action across the entire length of the fretboard.
I’m not saying you won’t still have to bring it in to a tech for a tune up. You have nothing to lose but a bit of money and it’s generally worth it.
I’ve talked to some who say playing the instrument should be a struggle, because you can build up more strength in your fingers and hands.
As a general statement, I disagree. The learning process should be fun. It shouldn’t be any harder than it already is.
Even intermediate and advanced players will likely appreciate a guitar that plays better.
So, playability is important, but don’t forget you can always get some assistance if you need it.
A Price Range Matched To Your Budget
This is one of the key considerations in this guide, since we’re exploring guitars at a variety of price points.
If you can’t afford the guitar you want, you only have one choice – save up!
I wouldn’t recommend going into debt to buy a guitar. You may as well get something that fits your budget now.
Playing music can help you make money (recording, gigging, busking, etc.), which you can eventually use to upgrade your gear.
In an ideal world, it would always work that way, though I admit sometimes it doesn’t. Making money as a musician is tough these days.
Anyway, guitars are typically of a different build quality at different price points, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a lot of guitar for a little.
So, consider your budget and find a guitar that’s within your spending limit.
Build Quality & Materials
I don’t think most guitar manufacturers leave anything to chance these days.
By the same token, beginner guitars tend to be more durable because they are built with laminate woods. They tend to survive many bumps and knocks and don’t crack easily.
When you have an acoustic guitar made with solid wood, generally you need to be more careful with it (e.g. keep it in its case with a humidifier or keep it in a humidified room).
Where you live is a factor too, as weather conditions and humidity affects wood.
In a temperate environment, there aren’t many changes. But in climates where seasonal changes are noticeable and weather is constantly changing, it’s a different ballgame altogether.
In Calgary, where I live, people say, “if you don't like the weather, wait 10 minutes.” It's a bit of an exaggeration, but that is how often it changes around here.
Taking your guitar from a cold setting (outside) into a warmer setting (inside) and not giving it time to settle (i.e. leaving it in your case for a few minutes) can result in unwanted cracks.
Sometimes, the cracks are easily reparable with humidification and maybe a little glue. Sometimes they require more work. But if you can avoid getting cracks, that is always best.
Wood naturally shrinks and expands. It’s the nature of the beast.
In any case, it’s worth looking for a guitar that has solid build quality.
I would suggest checking the reviews on a guitar you’re thinking about purchasing so you are aware of any issues that could come up.
A Size That’s Right For You
Acoustic guitar bodies take many forms. And, it’s possible to find smaller guitars, like the Baby Taylor.
Certainly, someone who’s used to playing full-size acoustics can still play three-quarter size guitars and vice versa. There are no rules against it.
It’s more a matter of what feels comfortable to you as well as what you’re using the guitar for (gigging, recording, travel, etc.).
If you find bigger guitars cumbersome, then it’s worth considering a smaller guitar.
Likewise, if your hands are small, it’s worth looking at smaller guitars, which you should find easier to play.
Again, it’s nice to know there are plenty of options.
An Attractive Instrument
As I mentioned before, how a guitar looks may not be a major deciding factor.
But guitars do come in a variety of colors and finishes. If they have a natural finish, then the wood used is going to be the major determining factor of its overall appearance.
Image-conscious artists might want to use guitars that match the brand they’re creating (i.e. a black guitar for those who play darker music).
Does it matter that much? Honestly, it depends on who you ask.
I don’t see anything wrong with choosing a guitar that you like versus a guitar that has a specific look.
But then again, I’m not hugely image-conscious beyond the clothes I wear on stage.
As well, if you’re going to be putting good money into a nice acoustic guitar, you probably want it to look good. So, that might be something to think about.
We’ve laid out plenty of options in this guide, and I would still recommend buying based on sound, playability and budget, but it’s nice to know you aren’t limited to one style, shape or color.
Should I Get An Electric-Acoustic Or Traditional Acoustic Guitar?
Many acoustic guitars today come with onboard electronics. By no means does this mean you must use them through amps or PA systems. They still work fine as acoustic instruments.
Many electric-acoustic guitars have a nice, natural sound to them too. It’s not all about the pickups. If that wasn’t the case, how could they command such a high price tag?
And, I can’t imagine the tone difference being that significant, even if most acoustic-electrics technically have holes in them to hold the electronics (meaning there’s a little less wood in the construction).
In the studio, it’s also nice to have more options. It’s not uncommon to record an acoustic-electric guitar direct (i.e. with a cable) and with a microphone simultaneously. That gives you more tonal options.
Mixing the two sounds together can give your guitar’s sound on recordings more depth. I like doing this myself.
So, in a roundabout way, I’m saying I don’t think it makes a whole lot of difference. Perhaps purists would disagree. All things being equal, I like buying acoustic-electrics over acoustic, just for the option.
If you feel an acoustic guitar with no electronics would serve you better, who am I to argue? I’m sure you have your reasons. You may have specific needs.
I like having the flexibility, and I think most players would appreciate that too.
Should I Get A Guitar With Or Without A Cutaway?
The price difference between a guitar with a cutaway shouldn’t be drastically different from a guitar without.
The main consideration here is whether you need access to higher frets.
Acoustic guitar players generally don’t play a lot of leads, and even if they do, 12 to 15 frets of space can be more than enough.
But if you want to play your acoustic like an electric, as I do sometimes, being able to reach higher frets can be a significant advantage.
So, to answer this question, you need to be thinking about how you’re going to be using the guitar.
Will you be using it for fingerpicking, strumming, rhythm, leads, slide or even all the above?
For fingerpicking, strumming and rhythm guitar, you don’t generally need access to higher frets, though some rhythm guitarists do like to take advantage.
For lead and slide, more access is generally better.
But if I like a specific guitar, that still comes first for me. I generally don’t live in a one guitar world, and I don’t think most guitarists do.
If I like the guitar, I will consider the merits of the instrument apart from whether it has a cutaway.
You may have heard before that the perfect number of guitars to own is x + 1 where x is the number of guitars you own. You’re always looking for something new!
So, unless you can’t foresee yourself getting more guitars in the future, the cutaway, non-cutaway dilemma is all but moot.
You can have one of both or even two of both!
But the budget-conscious consumer, however, should choose in advance. You should buy a guitar that meets all your needs for the foreseeable future.
What Tonewood Should I Pick?
So, you’ve seen me reference “characteristic tone” like I know what I’m talking about. But maybe you’re a little unsure yourself. No problem.
Or, maybe you know a little bit about tonewood but you can’t make up your mind.
Now, again, we can only talk about tone in generalities here, which is a bit of a handicap.
You can certainly go and watch a few reviews and demos yourself, which I recommend, but I’ll offer a general guide here.
Here is a basic description of the most common woods and their characteristics:
- Spruce. I always like to describe spruce guitars as giving you a “round” tone, although that isn’t always the case. Spruce is a common choice for guitars and that’s due in part to its strength and light weight. Some would describe its tone as being “crisp” but it mellows out with age.
- Cedar. Some people describe cedar as being bright. I honestly think it’s warmer and darker than spruce, and not just in its appearance.
- Mahogany. Mahogany is a dense and strong wood and it offers a bright sound. Used in combination with other woods like spruce or cedar, it can offer a nice, balanced sound. It is used on many guitars because it’s available in abundance, especially compared to rosewood.
- Rosewood. A dense wood that packs a punch. It is a popular wood among guitarists, but unfortunately Brazilian rosewood is rare compared to the others, and Indian rosewood has become the go-to. It gives your guitar warmth and richness as well as nice mids.
- Maple. There are plenty of electric guitars that come with a maple neck. It’s a strong, dense and heavy wood that gives your midrange serious cut. It sounds crisp.
- Ebony. A dark, heavy and dense wood offering a crisp sound for guitars.
Generally, I still buy guitars based on their overall sound and playability, but it’s still nice to know a little bit about a guitar’s construction.
I don't think tonewood is anything to obsess over. The finished product is what matters most.
Is It Worth Putting More Money Into Higher Quality Or Rare Tonewoods?
Undoubtedly, one of the biggest factors affecting the price of a guitar is its construction – namely, the tonewoods used on the guitar.
At the beginner level, you will often find guitars that are made with laminate woods. This generally makes them more durable, but you do sacrifice tone.
Sometimes, beginner acoustics will still have solid tops, which can certainly be a plus in the tone department. But you should expect laminate on the back and sides, at the very least.
Midrange guitars are usually made of more plentiful, decent quality solid woods – spruce, cedar, rosewood, mahogany, maple, ebony and so forth.
A guitar made entirely of solid woods can truly sound great. And, for many people, it’s more than enough.
Then we get into higher end guitars, which are often made with carefully selected, sometimes rare, high quality woods – sapele, tropical mahogany, Myrtlewood, African ebony and the like.
This isn’t to say rare woods are always better. But the price-conscious consumer should be mindful of the difference.
And, if you’re going to be spending $2,000 on a guitar, you would expect it to be made of better-quality materials, wouldn’t you?
But the question remains: Is it worth putting more money into a guitar with better tonewoods?
If you are still relatively inexperienced, then the answer will likely be “no”.
See, you may not even be able to tell the difference between a guitar with more accessible tonewood versus rarer tonewood.
A more experienced player, however, can often tell the difference. And, they may be looking for a guitar that has a richer tone.
What’s reassuring, though, is that there are great guitars at every price point.
As I mentioned before, to be competitive in today’s acoustic guitar market, you can’t be lackadaisical in your approach. If a guitar brand wants to occupy shelf space with their guitars, they can’t leave it to chance.
So, for some, spending more for tonewoods is the right move. But you can still play a great show or record a great take in the studio without a guitar with lavish tonewoods.
What Are The Best Acoustic Guitar Brands?
There is no easy answer here.
Now, off the top of my head, Martin, Taylor, Gibson, Yamaha and Takamine certainly fall under this category.
Martin, Taylor and Gibson generally make guitars that start in the midrange, whereas Yamaha and Takamine have guitars for every type of buyer. But there’s no doubt they all have higher end models too.
Still, we can’t forget that there are also boutique manufacturers and even individual luthiers who create amazing guitars. They may not be as well-known, but that doesn’t mean they don’t make killer axes.
There’s Bourgeois, Breedlove, Brock, Collings, McPherson and Santa Cruz, just to name a few, and those are still some of the more well-known ones.
So, “best” is subjective. Everyone has their favorite brands. Plus, some manufacturers don’t offer cheaper models, so it depends on what price range you’re shopping at too.
But in a general sense, the brands just mentioned are all great. It just depends on what you’re looking for.
Should I Buy A Guitar Based On Experience Level?
So, you’ve seen me go on about beginner, intermediate, advanced, etc. And maybe you started to wonder if you should buy a guitar matched to your experience level.
The truth is that some people have a bigger budget to spend on a guitar, even if they are still beginners.
Here’s the thing – there are no rules stating that you must start on a cheaper guitar just because you’re a beginner.
The reason beginner guitars are more affordable is because beginners are sometimes unsure about whether they’re going to be playing guitar over the long haul.
So, they put money into a cheaper instrument and if they don’t like it, small loss.
Wisdom? Maybe. But maybe buying a higher priced guitar would give you more motivation to play. Maybe it would be more playable, and it would sound better, giving you inspiration to continue.
I’m certainly not saying it’s one way or another. I’ve taught hundreds of students, and those who excelled were almost always those who were motivated. They loved music.
And, a higher priced guitar would have more reseller value than a cheaper guitar, which may not even sell for anything.
A beginner can start on a higher priced guitar. It’s okay. But if you don’t have much of a budget, there’s no shame in getting an under $200 or under $300 guitar.
What about intermediate players?
I think someone who’s played for a while is generally after a better playing, better sounding guitar.
You can still purchase a beginner guitar as an intermediate player, and likewise, you can go more expensive too.
If I was an intermediate player, I would be looking at a guitar in the under $500 to under $1,000 range myself, because I know there are some great products.
If you have more of a budget, and you’re playing a lot, then you may even begin looking at the under $2,000 range.
It may not be long before you reach the advanced level.
I couldn’t tell you one way or another without watching you play and checking your schedule, but if you’re playing lots, it may not be long before you reach new horizons.
Finally, the advanced player.
As an advanced player, it’s only natural that you want a great guitar worthy of the stage and the studio.
But if budget is a major factor, you don’t need to feel like you must spring for a guitar that costs $2,000.
It’s okay to start at the $500 to $1,000 range. Specifically, you can find guitars that will last you a lifetime in the $1,000 range.
If you can’t afford that much, then have a look at $500 guitars. There’s so much to choose from – you’re bound to find something that meets your needs, at the very least, for the time being.
So, the key point here is that experience level does matter, but when it comes to buying a guitar, you don’t need to feel shoehorned into a category.
You can pick a guitar you like. After all, you’re more likely to spend more time playing guitar if it’s on an instrument that feels good to you.
And, if you spend more time playing, you will naturally get better.
What Should I Expect From A Guitar In A Given Price Range?
I’ve already gone over some of the differences between guitars in the various price points covered here.
Tonewoods, construction, electronics are all factors affecting price.
But I thought I might go into a little more detail in case you’re having trouble differentiating the various options.
Here’s an overview of what you can expect from guitars in specific price ranges.
In the under $200 range, we have beginner guitars.
Beginner guitars are generally built to last and don’t necessarily require a lot of humidification or care and maintenance.
Usually made with a combination of solid and laminate woods, or just laminate woods, these guitars aren’t necessarily built with tone in mind.
That doesn’t mean they don’t sound good. Quite to the contrary, many of these guitars are good for what they are.
They may not carry the depth and richness of more expensive guitars, but they still sound like acoustic guitars to be sure.
To me, playability is the most important factor for a beginner. That means the action should be low.
Some guitars are great straight from the factory while others are not. If the guitar is hard to play, you’ll need to take it to a tech, and have it looked at.
Another option is to buy lower gauge strings. Acoustic guitars usually come equipped with 12s, but you can get 11s and 10s for acoustic guitar too.
This is what I did with my Ibanez acoustic back in the day because I’m more of an electric player. I also found that the action would sometimes correct itself, leading to higher action than wanted.
As well, onboard electronics generally are not included on guitars in this price range. That may not be a big deal – especially if the guitar is primarily being used for lessons and practice.
And, while there are no rules against recording a guitar in this price range, if you’re playing a guitar that’s under $200, you’re probably not recording.
So, for under $200 you can expect a decent sounding guitar that’s good for practice.
It might seem like $100 wouldn’t make much of a difference but you can get more guitar for an extra 100 bucks.
These are still beginner guitars, to be sure, but they’ll probably play and sound a little better.
At this level, your guitar may come with onboard electronics, it may not. More likely not, but you can find guitars with.
And, if you do get a guitar with electronics, it could become your workhorse of sorts. If you’re ready to play out at open mics, you’ll like having that feature.
If you want to practice with a band, and someone in the band has a PA, you’ll be able to plug in.
Some companies have gone the extra mile with guitars in this range. Even if the construction isn’t fancy, the sound can be awesome.
As a beginner, if you have a little more to spend, you might want to go with an under $300 guitar as opposed to an under $200 guitar. You’re not required to, of course, but some extra features might make it worthwhile.
Now we’re starting to enter the midrange/intermediate level guitars. These can still be great for beginners but may not be quite as durable due to the woods.
But in this price range, you can find solid guitars for just about any level of player because of how affordable and well-made they are.
And, there is so much to choose from, whether it’s body size and shape, design, electronics or otherwise. Some feature better detailing too.
Guitars in this range may still have laminate back and sides, but almost always have a solid top, giving you more of a tonal palette to choose from, too.
That means these guitars sound better than more affordable ones.
Again, you can get guitars with or without electronics, but many come equipped with a pickup.
You can also upgrade under $500 guitars if you so choose. This doesn’t mean you can’t do the same with cheaper guitars, but there wouldn’t be as much of a point.
That might mean replacing the nut or saddle or perhaps other hardware, like the tuners, if you think it would be worthwhile.
Of course, you can put more expensive electronics in your guitar too. But you might want to find a pickup system that’s the same size as the one it comes with.
So, overall, with so many advancements for this level of guitar, it’s worth keeping an eye on developments. There are some truly great products out there.
Although they are fantastic instruments, guitars in the under $1,000 range should not be considered top of the rung.
Still, many guitarists will never need an instrument of a higher quality. After all, premium guitars can cost 10s of thousands of dollars.
And, because of the quality of the instrument, a guitar in this price range can be great for performance, recording and other uses.
Even guitars in this range will sometimes feature laminated back and sides, a solid top is a given. That makes it travel worthy while still being of a good quality.
Some guitars under $1,000 are all solid too.
This means the guitar should sound richer and fuller compared to more affordable guitars. Plus, solid woods tend to sound better with age.
Next, the craftsmanship at this price point is generally of a higher quality. You probably won’t find handcrafted guitars but it’s likely they are built and inspected by experienced luthiers.
What that means for you is a better body and neck.
Of course, the quality of hardware used is also a notch above.
You’ll find most guitars come with onboard electronics, but of course if you need to find one without, you still can. These electronics are also a notch above more affordably priced models.
Another benefit of a guitar in this price range is that many will come with a hard-shell case or gig bag. So, you likely won’t need to buy one separately.
A guitar in this price could last you a lifetime.
As I mentioned earlier, guitars in this price range are generally intermediate to advanced.
For $2,000 or a little less, you should end up with a quality guitar, and Martin, Taylor and Takamine are all brands worth considering. Of course, the Breedlove mentioned in this list is also formidable.
Now, every guitar is different, and it’s going to depend a lot on the manufacturer as well as the model.
But you can typically expect the woods to be of high quality and sometimes exotic. This, of course, affects the tone of the guitar, which is often superb.
You should end up with a guitar that has rich and full tones, with added articulation and resonance. Of course, the sound will still vary based on the tonewoods and construction.
As you might expect, the detailing and craftsmanship is a step above. Quality control is of critical importance to manufacturers, who typically inspect every guitar before it’s shipped.
As far as electronics go, you will see many guitars with features you just can’t find elsewhere. They should allow you to sculpt and mold your tone as you see fit.
Of course, we can’t ignore the hardware. And, you’ll find the hardware to be of high quality too.
Finally, guitars in this price range should come with a hard-shell case, which is good to know. You’re going to need a place to store your prized possession.
Should I Spend More Than $2,000 On An Acoustic Guitar?
The simple answer is that only you know the answer.
Now for the more complex answer:
$2,000 is basically on the higher end of an affordable guitar. And, you will get a great guitar for the price. You might even hold onto it for the rest of your life.
But we know that premium level guitars can cost quite a bit more – even 10s of thousands of dollars.
I’m guessing that a budget-conscious consumer isn’t planning to spend that much on a guitar.
But you might be wondering what more you could get for an extra $200 to $1,000, for example.
The best way to know whether you want to spend more is to do a bit of comparison shopping.
For instance, if you’re thinking about buying a Taylor, you might compare its specs against another similarly priced Taylor.
If the extras are worth it to you, whatever they may be, then you should give it some thought.
Even better, if you can compare the guitars side by side at a guitar store (or by renting the guitars), you will likely come to your own conclusions as to whether you should spend the extra money.
Guitars are highly individual, which is why I see a variety of guitars being used out there.
Certainly, there are some popular choices, whether it’s a Martin or a Taylor. But when I go to an open mic, for instance, it’s usually all over the map.
People use what they can afford to use or use what they like to use.
My most expensive acoustic guitar is the Gibson CSM-CE Grand Concert.
I think it was probably retailed around $1,200 brand new, but these days it’s a little harder to put a price tag on it.
Not only is it a Canadian-made Gibson (rare), Gibson doesn’t make these anymore.
I love this guitar for live performance and recording. It’s got a great Fishman pickup in it too.
I admit that I sometimes “wrestle” with the guitar. If the neck was custom made for me, it would feel a lot better. But besides that, I don’t have too many complaints.
And, if I wanted a custom-made guitar, I would likely be paying premium price for it.
The point is that I’m happy with what I’ve got, and don’t have any intention to upgrade at this time.
So, you’ll need to weigh your options. Is a guitar priced $200 to $1,000 above $2,000 worth it?
Do your homework and see what you can come up with.
Top Acoustic Guitars Under $1000, $500, $300, $2000 & $200, Final Thoughts
Shopping for an acoustic guitar can be a lot of fun, so enjoy the process.
Even if you can’t find what you’re looking for right away, you’ll learn a lot by testing out guitars and doing your research.
If, for instance, you’ve decided that Takamine is the way to go for you, but you can’t seem to find a Takamine that suits you perfectly, try another brand. You might be surprised.
There are great guitars at every price point, so don’t sweat it. Have a look at reviews and demos and see what strikes your fancy.