There has never been a more accessible time for music than there is today especially for guitarists. If you’re reading this, you’ve likely began your foray into the world of acoustic guitars, or perhaps are searching for the perfect gift for a budding player.
The truth is, finding the best acoustic guitar is not as easy as it used to be, say 15-30 years ago. With so many guitar brands, builds, and price points, players are no longer confined by the tried and true staples.
But even if you’re a more experienced player simply looking to upgrade, with this great choice comes even greater confusions. I don’t know what is about us musicians, but we love throwing ambiguous terms around like “dreadnought guitar,” “headstock,” and “intonation,” and expect the casual shopper to simply nod along. Well, muddle no more! We’ve pulled together a comprehensive guide of the best acoustic guitars for any budget and skill set.
Table of Contents
- The List:
- Best Acoustic Guitars Under $300
- Best Acoustic Guitars Under $500
- Best Acoustic Guitars Under $1000
- Best Acoustic Guitar Under $2000 (aka “The Cream of The Crop)
- What Makes a good acoustic guitar?
- Types of acoustic guitars: Nylon vs Steel acoustic guitars
- What are the best acoustic guitar brands?
- Should you buy an acoustic or electro acoustic guitar?
- Electro-acoustic pickups
- How much should you spend on an acoustic guitar?
We’ve pulled together our expertise to curate a list of 17 acoustic guitars for any budget. Before you pull the trigger on any impulse purchases, it would be wise to take a step back and assess your needs. If you’re a beginner, or just looking to start out, you should probably shy away from the more expensive offerings of Martin and Taylor. On the flip-side, if you’re ready to take your chops to the next level, you should consider saving up for a guitar with higher quality tonewoods, rather than just sticking with an upgrade of the brand you’ve honed your skills on. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s check out some guitars!
Best Acoustic Guitars Under $300
Great for budgets and beginners, the Rogue RA-090 is one of the best acoustic guitars for players just starting out. This dreadnought beauty comes in a variety of colors and with just a little extra setup it can achieve a tone similar to an introductory acoustic guitar model of a more renowned brand. While you can pick up and play right out of the box, I recommend stringing this Rogue guitar with a set of D’Addario EXL110 light gauge strings. This will not only get you the most out of your tone, but will make fretting a much easier endeavour. For those really looking to modify this guitar into a more superior instrument, adjusting the truss rod will add some much needed relief on the neck.
Enter, Fender; a brand everyone knows, and almost everyone loves. Known primarily for their electric guitar masterpieces, Fender would be remiss by not squeezing as much equity from their name into the arena of acoustics. Unfortunately for the Fender FA-100, unless you’re just looking for a notable name, there isn’t really anything too special about this beginner acoustic guitar. The Epiphone DR-100 and even the Rogue RA-090 provide the same amount of features and value at a slightly lower price. Unless you’re looking to go full-in on Fender, you can sleep easy by skipping this model.
Other than being slightly smaller, the FA-115 isn’t physically much different from its FA-100 cousin. While both guitars contain varying laminate materials, the differentiating factor is what’s found on the top. Unlike the 100, 115 is built with a solid spruce top, rather than relying strictly on laminate. The benefit is that real tonewood produces a much deeper sound, resonance, and overall projection making it one of the best Fender acoustic guitars on the market for beginners. Also, if a sunburst finish is your style, the FA-115 is one of the few beginner guitars that proudly serves it up as an option.
Simply put, the Pro-1 is the best Epiphone acoustic guitars you can get for around $200. For the most part, there aren’t a vast amount of differences compared to the DR-100. But the real value of the Pro-1 lies in its mahogany neck that’s designed with Epiphone’s proprietary EZProfile C-shape. The frets are massive, making it easier to hold down notes on the rosewood fretboard. For the absolute beginner, I’d say the Epiphone Pro-1 is a solid choice. Is it the best? Keep reading to find out.
If versatility is your thing, Yamaha’s FG800 may be the model for you. Coming in both dreadnought and concert bodies, as well as acoustic and electro-acoustic options, this scallop-braced and sitka spruce finished guitar can fill a room with its pleasant tones and deep resonance. Having played quite a few of these guitars in my time I can vouch that this is a solid acoustic guitar for beginners and arguably one of the best Yamaha acoustic guitars under 300 dollars.
Epiphone Acoustic Guitar DR-100 Winner: Best Beginner Guitar
The Epiphone DR-100 has long been hailed as Epiphone’s flagship beginners acoustic guitar. For around $100 you won’t find a better tonewood finish, as the mahogany and spruce top rival the masterbuilt guitars found in their Gibson counterparts. While even some of the best guitars for beginners echo some of the same features, the DR-100 really shines when you strum — blasting clear and bright tones, rather than a boxy shallow sound. With some minor adjustments in the string and truss rod departments, as well as taking just a few minutes to sand down this guitar’s sharper-than-usual frets, you can really turn this cheap guitar into something special. I therefore recommend this one as the best acoustic guitar for beginners that you can buy at this price range. If you’re also looking for a black acoustic guitar this is the one!
Best Acoustic Guitars Under $500
The Yamaha FG820 could very well suit a beginner acoustic guitar player, but it’s price and the extra amount of quality built within brings it into the realm of intermediate/experienced players. With the same body options and scalloped-bracing as the Yamaha FG 800, the differentiating factor falls within its rich tones, a feature that comes inherent with its use of mahogany and rosewood materials. It’s bevy of wild color options and elimination of nato wood in favor of mahogany on the back, set it apart from the 800 base model.
Yamaha FG830 Winner: Best Budget Electric Acoustic Guitar
Built solely with quality rosewood in the body, back and neck, this affordable Yamaha acoustic guitar is not only the best budget-friendly Yamaha in the 800 series, but I would dare to say the best budget electro acoustic guitar. System 66 pickups feature an under-saddle piezo pickup with a 3-band EQ, an adjustable mid-range frequency control, and a precision chromatic tuner for optimum sound tailoring. While the 820 comes with an array of colors, the 830 is the first of the series to offer different sunburst options (if that’s something that truly matters to you). If you’re looking for a dreadnought acoustic guitar with a built-in preamp, the tones of this warm, room-filling guitar is worth the slightly higher price than the 820. This is hands down one of the best Yamaha guitars that you can buy for just under $300.
When seasoned guitarists think of the best acoustic guitar brands, two names usually come to mind; one of them is Taylor, the other is Martin. For a little over $300, this “introductory” Baby Taylor mahogany guitar is actually a bargain. It’s small and light mahogany build packs a decent, tonal punch. While it won’t completely engulf a room like some of Taylor’s bigger, more expensive models, the Baby Taylor acoustic guitar can prove to be a smart purchase due in part to it being light enough for both children and smaller adults. For seasoned players who don’t want to lug around their more expensive axes, the Taylor BT-2 would also fit into the best travel acoustic guitar category.
With a contemporary take on the dreadnought style, the GD93 by Takamine guitars, is one of their best models in terms of price and quality. Its slim mahogany neck and rosewood fingerboard give way to smooth playability, while the rosewood bridge and split-saddle back provides ultimate intonation and sweeter-sounding guitar chords. Aesthetically speaking, this Takamine guitar might be one of the most beautifully crafted guitars on this list. It’s rustic look, dark maple headstock binding, and elegant natural finish makes it look just as good as it sounds.
Seagull S6 Winner: Best Mid-tier Acoustic Guitar
Seagull guitars is a brand that has widely gained popularity over the years among beginner guitarists and aficionados alike. This Canadian manufacturer uses only regional hardwoods in the designs of all of their guitars, the result: an incredible sound and an extremely affordable price. Renowned as one of the most popular models in Seagull’s lineup, you won’t be shocked to discover why it’s well received by many guitarists. If you’re looking for your next upgrade, I would say the Seagull S6 is hands down the best acoustic guitar for under 500 dollars.
Best Acoustic Guitars Under $1000
Remember when I mentioned that two name brands come to mind in terms of the absolute pinnacle of quality in acoustic guitars? The second name is Martin guitars. If you’re looking to get your hands on a legendary brand, the DX1AE is as close you can get for under $1,000. While the X series is made in Mexico, not by Martin’s experienced craftsmen in the USA, it’s still built with quality sitka spruce and mahogany for a quality sound, and even features Fishman electronic pickups — a premium name in the world of acoustic pickups. But don’t expect this model to fill a room like top-tier Martin acoustic guitars.
Fender PM1 Winner: Best Acoustic Electric Guitar
If you’re looking for a classical sound, look, and feel combined with a modern Fishman electronics preamp, the Fender PM1 is an excellent choice. The all-solid body is comprised of balanced and resonant mahogany, grade “A” sitka spruce, and gorgeous ebony fingerboards with pearl dot inlays. Normally, I’m not a fan of Fender acoustics, but the PM1 is by far one of the best electro-acoustic guitars you can get on the market. Similar to the Yamaha FG series, it comes in different shapes (parlor, dreadnought, triple 0), but at a slightly higher price due in part to the design materials and craftsmanship. This Fender acoustic electric guitar has an in built tuner, eq, phase and volume controls. This guitar is quite versatile and its vintage look is a bonus!
Taylor’s second entry unto this list is their 214CE, an electro-acoustic guitar that shines in both versatility and quality. Notably light for a solid spruce acoustic electric guitar, this beauty delivers a deep and heavy room-filling sound. This level of quality doesn’t come without shelling out a few extra bucks, as this Taylor acoustic electric guitar just sits under $1000 dollars on amazon. This makes it quite affordable when compared to the higher-end Taylor models. At this price, you will be getting a great sounding acoustic guitar from a brand that only produces superior quality guitars. As an added bonus, Taylor has employed its ES-2 electronic pickup system for optimal tone and frequency when plugged in. So, if you’ve finally decided to make the leap to Taylor, this guitar won’t disappoint.
Best Acoustic Guitar Under $2000 (aka “The Cream of The Crop)
Because of its inherent tonal qualities, we’ve seen a lot of Sitka spruce acoustic guitars mentioned throughout this list. However, none come close to the purity of Sitka found within a Breedlove Oregon acoustic. Like anything handcrafted in the Pacific Northwest, quality remains king. Using only sustainable wood, from select trees that are over 400 years old, Breedlove makes it clear that they are acoustic guitar artisans, not just another company of craftsmen. Breedlove owner Tom Bedell and his team of guitar designers even went as far to create a new, unique body shape—which tapers from an impressive five inches deep at the endpin to just under four inches at the joint of the hard-rock maple neck—that produces a big, beautiful sound that’s hard to find anywhere else.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a single bad review for the Blueridge BR-160A Historic Craftsman Series. Often called “the poor man’s Martin,” Blueridge proves that tonal quality shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg. Don’t let its vintage facade fool you, on the inside it was built the same way many pre-WWII guitars were manufactured, most notably by its use of hand carved, scalloped braces. It’s use of Indian rosewood and, you guessed it, Adirondack spruce create warm and rich sounds that harken back to another era. This is the guitar the Marlboro man would play.
Martin D-15M Winner: Best Acoustic Guitar
While Martin certainly offers bigger, flashier, and more expensive guitars, I firmly believe they lack the playability of the D-15M. Let’s face it, do you want an acoustic guitar that belongs on a wall in your study, or on your lap in a room full of captivated listeners? This Martin acoustic guitar was built to put out that signature Martin tone, with a renowned bass response that spans all frequencies. Built with rich mahogany, it stands out beyond the limited reaches of spruce materials. Simply put: The D-15M is a work of art that’s built to craft your masterpiece. Play it once, and you’ll hear a sound that will forever be sought after.
What Makes a good acoustic guitar?
Like every instrument, it comes down to what it’s comprised of. What’s inside. And unlike their electric counterparts, an acoustic guitar’s quality really only comes down to a few key woods (called tonewoods) used in the neck, body, and frets. When looking at models try to focus on tonewoods aka spruce, mahogany, cedar or rosewood, use of those are usually a good sign.
You’ll likely come across quite a few all-laminated guitars. An all-laminated body guitar means its top, back and sides are formed from layered (laminated) pieces of wood. You won’t get nearly as good of a sound with laminated acoustics, but if you’re a beginner or on a budget, it won’t really matter too much, as your goal should be to find a guitar that simply feels good, not sounds good.
Types of acoustic guitars: Nylon vs Steel acoustic guitars
Nylon strings are primarily used for classical and flamenco guitar style playing, as their material is soft enough to finger pick for longer periods. They’re usually found on guitars with smaller bodies and wider necks to allow for a warmer, mellow-er sound. Many claim that soft feel of nylon strings are great for beginners, but I beg to differ. If you’re going to take guitar playing seriously, it’s best to learn on steel and strengthen your fingertips.
If you’re not planning on playing one of the aforementioned styles, then you should probably stick to steel strings. Steel string guitars make up the majority of acoustic guitars on the market. Their larger bodies and bright crisp sounds have been the go-to choice for acoustic guitarists across multiple genres.
What are the best acoustic guitar brands?
Like any category, this is a contentious topic. Guitarists are usually a loyal bunch; we’ll cling to brands we love and fervously hate its competitors. However, I think it can be agreed upon that if there were a group of “greats” in the world acoustic guitar brands we’d see the likes of Fender, Yamaha, Epiphone, Taylor, and Martin.
Of course, there are fantastic and smaller brands on the market (some of whom are peppered throughout our list). But as of late, many big name brands come with tiny tricks up their sleeves. To keep up with demand, well-known brands have been known to outsource manufacturing to China and Mexico, or cut corners with their blends of tonewoods. Sure, it may say “manufactured in the USA” but sometimes that means only half of the guitar was assembled there. A general rule of thumb is to read up on as many reviews as possible. YouTube is a fantastic source for this, because you can not only find nearly every guitar thoroughly reviewed, but you can hear it played as well.
Should you buy an acoustic or electro acoustic guitar?
I don’t know…sounds like a personal question. Do you want to plug in and play out with your acoustic (without separately mic’ing up your guitar)? Do you like having a tuner built in to your guitar? If yes, then go electro acoustic. However, if your stage is just your bedroom, then you’ll be fine if you stick with a solid, traditional acoustic.
Keep in mind, price is another factor to consider when choosing between the two types of acoustic guitars. Because of its built-in versatility, electro acoustic guitars tend to be priced a tad bit higher. This is because they contain pickups and preamps built in. Pickups come in different varieties. Electromagnetic pickups are mounted across the sound hole of the guitar and create a signal by responding to the strings vibrating within the electromagnetic field produced by the acoustic guitar pickup. Piezos contain a tiny microphone embedded within to listen to what you play. Microphone acoustic guitar pickups work independently, and can be attached to any traditional acoustic guitar. The Seymour Duncan Woody, Fishman Neo Buster, and Dean Markley DM3001 are all great options for standalone microphone pickups.
When choosing between the two types of instruments, consider your own personal use and expectations for your guitar and making your choice will be much easier.
How much should you spend on an acoustic guitar?
Again, this is another question based off personal factors. But I will tell you this, there is no guitar worth playing that’s over $2000. Anything above that, is either an antique that belongs in a glass case as decoration or an overpriced conversation piece. Because of its exuberant price, it will most probably never be played enough to develop that personal “groove” all acoustic guitars and guitarists reach after a certain amount of time together.
At the end of the day, put in as much as you’re willing to put out, but don’t go overboard. Also, be sure to allocate and set aside a few extra bucks for a set of strings that suit your needs. I tend to always change my strings as soon as I purchase a new guitar, you never want to roll with what comes out of the box. Cleaners and decent humidifying options should be considered when buying any acoustic guitar over $1000. You’d hate to only get a few years out of a prized axe because you failed to maintain it.
At the end of the day, finding the best acoustic guitar comes down to two things: Budget and feel. Budget is something we all have a clear picture of, but “feel” is something you can only experience in person. After reading this guide and hopefully walking away with an inkling of what acoustic guitar you fancy, I recommend heading to your guitar shop to try it out firsthand. If it feels good in your arms (and on your wallet) then it’s a surefire choice. Trust me, you’ll know it when you play it!
Lastly, don’t be a fool: aesthetics really do matter! Yeah, I said it. I’ll take a beautiful, mahogany finish on a slightly cheaper guitar over an ugly sunburst or funky headstock from a more notable brand any day. Guitars are meant to express you in more than just tone and materials. If it only sounds good, but doesn’t look the part or match your style, find one that checks both boxes. You won’t regret it.