The best sound quality of all the top-selling acoustic guitars on our shortlist.
Reports of loose strap button on a few models.
A complete beginner's package at an extremely low price.
No dots on the fretboard. Quality issues with guitar construction and tone.
For the price, an astonishingly good tone.
A "fixer upper" that will probably require extra expenditures to get it set up right.
Mahogany back and neck. Authentic acoustic sound. Three color choices.
Strings have been known to buzz, requiring a manual bridge adjustment.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
As many folk singers, troubadours, and campfire song leaders have discovered, the simplistic beauty of an acoustic guitar just can’t be beat. If you don’t already own an acoustic guitar, there are plenty of compelling reasons to buy one.
Two of the strongest reasons to buy an acoustic guitar are user-friendliness and price. Some musical instruments are prohibitively expensive for beginners, and they’re difficult to learn, too. Not the acoustic guitar. Acoustic guitars are easy to learn, easy to carry, easy on the ears. And you can buy an acoustic guitar for an affordable price. The most difficult challenge in purchasing an acoustic guitar is finding the ideal fit for you. In this shopping guide, we will discuss some important elements to consider when browsing the acoustic guitar market.
At BestReviews, we provide honest reviews on a wide variety of consumer goods and services. If you’re looking to buy a quality acoustic guitar, here’s our guide to finding the best one for you.
When shopping for a new acoustic guitar, it helps to have an idea what types of tonewoods you prefer. If you’re not sure what you prefer, however, that’s okay.
Here’s a look at the different types of tonewoods you may find on a guitar.
Ash is a popular tonewood known for its pleasing resonance.
Basswood is an inexpensive tonewood often found on lower-priced acoustic guitars.
Cedar is a good tonewood for the top of a guitar.
Rosewood is one of the most popular tonewood choices. It is most often seen on the fretboard.
Spruce, like cedar, is a fairly inexpensive tonewood for the top of an acoustic guitar. It typically gets good results.
Mahogany and maple are two of the best tonewoods, especially when paired together.
Other tonewoods and combinations of tonewoods can also sound good. When shopping for a new acoustic guitar, it’s helpful if you can hear a recording of the guitar first – or even test it out yourself.
The Yamaha FG830 uses a well-engineered combination of woods to create a solid body and neck suitable for pro-level performance. You simply cannot go wrong with this guitar; the workmanship of this guitar is a cut above other acoustics in its class. Owners love the gorgeous dreadnought sound, describing it as rich, resonant, and well-rounded. One satisfied customer boasted that in a room full of acoustics, his Yamaha would “float to the top” of the din.
Before you buy an acoustic guitar, check out what other users have to say about its “action.” This refers to the distance between the strings and the fretboard and how this distance affects sound quality.
The attachment between the neck and body of an acoustic guitar is a critical design and construction element. Make sure it’s what you want before you invest in a particular guitar.
Many acoustic guitar manufacturers will pre-string their products before selling them, largely because a newly created instrument needs to be under tension while it’s settling into shape. The original set of strings on an acoustic guitar is often a medium gauge, which can be hard on a beginner’s fingers.
Immediately changing out the strings is always a temptation, but students should seek guidance from an experienced teacher before making such a drastic adjustment. Some playing styles, like rhythmic chord strumming, are actually easier with heavier-gauge strings.
Here are some other things to keep in mind about acoustic guitar strings.
Yes, the strings play an important role in an acoustic guitar’s overall tonality and resonance, but they are not miracle workers.
Excessive buzzing is a symptom of low action, meaning the strings are too closely positioned to the fretboard. The most expensive strings on the market will not fix this problem.
Similarly, if the action is too high, the lightest-gauge strings will not improve the tone.
Some players may decide to switch from nylon strings to heavier steel strings in order to play slides or other blues/rock techniques.
This can be a tragically bad idea, since steel strings place a lot more tension on the guitar’s head and neck than nylon strings.
Many guitars will accommodate softer nylon strings, but classical and flamenco guitars cannot handle the additional stress of metal strings.
The Epiphone DR-100 acoustic guitar definitely falls under the category of “entry-level” or “student” instrument, but sound quality has not been sacrificed for the sake of a lower price point. Many guitar instructors urge their students to invest in this model because of its resonant mahogany components. There can be some buzzing because of its lower action, but beginners will have a better learning experience because of the improved tonality. Epiphone is a strong name in guitars, and considering the low price, the DR-100 is a good buy. We recommend it for the mahogany alone, but the tone quality is also appropriate – and perhaps even better than it should be – for the price.
As a beginner, you may experience less finger pain when using nylon strings. However, you will still definitely form calluses if you play your nylon strings enough. Nylon strings provide a mellower tone for finger-picking styles.
If you want your fingers to feel more comfortable but don’t want to switch to nylon strings, consider changing to a lighter-gauge metal string and lowering the action. Some experts posit that this could be just as beneficial as switching to nylon strings for the sake of comfort.
Guitar string technology is constantly evolving, so it pays to do some research or talk to a professional luthier about all the available options.
Some string sets now use a polymer coating to reduce friction and corrosion. Others wrap silk, nylon, or copper around the lower steel wires to produce a more delicate tone.
Bronze alloys containing phosphor or aluminum also help extend the life of the strings.
Value for Money
As a rule, acoustic guitars with laminated spruce tops do not have the same resonance as those made from unlaminated tonewoods, but the Fender FA-100’s fuller dreadnought design provides a richer tone than some customers may expect. If price is a consideration, the Fender has been described as a “cheaply made guitar with a fantastic sound.” What’s more, When you buy a Fender product, you're investing in quality. The Fender Musical Instruments Corporation has been manufacturing instruments and equipment since the 1940s.
The mnemonic “Every Apple Does Go Bad Eventually” applies to the tuning of each string on an acoustic guitar: E A D G B E.
Whether you’re shopping for an entry-level acoustic guitar or a high-end vintage custom model, there are some questions you should ask before you settle on a purchase. After all, the overall quality of an acoustic guitar can vary widely from piece to piece, not just from model to model or brand to brand.
Tonality is an important consideration for many musical instruments, and that’s especially true when it comes to acoustic guitars. The strings, fretboard, sound holes, and body of a guitar all play a role in how the guitar will sound to an audience. The distance between the strings and the fretboard (called the “action”) can also affect sound quality.
Some manufacturers reinforce this connection mechanically using special metal truss rods or screws. Others rely on industrial adhesives and/or carpentry joints (dovetails) to keep the neck and body together under tension.
The overall fit should be strong with no signs of cracking or warping.
The choice of tonewoods for the various components and the type of finish used can also make a difference in quality.
The Yamaha's top is constructed of Sitka spruce, a “strong yet elastic” wood that helps the player articulate tone and dynamics. The neck is made of Nato wood, and the back and fretboard are both made of rosewood. One of the best things about the Yamaha's neck and body is the way the two are joined together: via a hand-fitted, dovetail neck joint that uses no metal hardware. This neck-to-body cohesion is ideal for tone as well as the overall stability and durability of the physical instrument.
Some sellers offer complete acoustic guitar “starter kits.”
A kit might include an additional set of strings, a tuner, and/or cleaning supplies.
If you don’t want to have to worry about buying these things separately, you may wish to buy a starter kit.
All guitars need a protective case, sleeve, or bag for safe storage.
You might buy a guitar that comes with a case, or you might wish to select your own case separately.
Better acoustic guitars are constructed from solid wood, not pressed wood laminates.
The three most common acoustic guitar body styles are the classical guitar, the dreadnought guitar, and the jumbo guitar.
The Jasmine S35 acoustic guitar has its share of criticisms, most notably its heavier strings and bargain basement appearance, but what keeps it popular with customers is the starter kit. Other entry-level acoustic guitars rarely include the accessories that the Jasmine S35 offers. It is also valued as a good back-up guitar for advanced players who want a dependable spare on hand during performances.
The price of acoustic guitars varies widely, from less than $100 for a basic student model to over $15,000 for a rare vintage collectible.
Sometimes, the difference between a $300 acoustic guitar and a $3,000 acoustic guitar is mostly cosmetic. For example, a high-end acoustic guitar may feature pricier tonewood or a more intricate inlay on the body.
Other times, there is a true difference in overall quality between a $300 acoustic guitar and a $3,000 acoustic guitar. This difference lies in the manufacturer’s craftsmanship and choice of materials.
Beginning students will not necessarily benefit from an $800 brand name acoustic guitar, but advanced musicians may want to scrutinize tone quality, craftsmanship, and material choices before investing in a new acoustic guitar.
Q. My son wants to learn to play guitar, but I don’t know what kind to buy him. Are there smaller guitars made for younger players?
A. Yes, a number of guitar manufacturers produce student-size guitars, and parents can trade up for larger sizes as their child grows and progresses. Some older children may be able to use a traditional acoustic guitar if the body style is a good fit. There are also special rehearsal guitar “sticks” that simulate a fretboard but produce very little sound.
Q. I recently bought my first acoustic guitar, and I’ve been teaching myself how to play it. Why doesn’t my guitar have the same sound as the ones I hear at professional concerts?
A. Many professional musicians invest thousands of dollars in high-end guitars made from expensive and rare tonewoods. A $100 student guitar made from spruce is not going to produce that level of tonality regardless of the player’s skill level. As a beginner, your main focus should be on skills such as chord formation, fretting techniques, and basic scales. Improving tonality and performance are long-term goals.
Q. I recently retired, and now I want to learn how to play the acoustic guitar. Am I starting too late? Don’t I have to develop calluses on my fingertips?
A. It is never too late to learn how to play a musical instrument. An acoustic guitar does present some unique challenges for beginners, including the formation of calluses over time. Some working professional guitarists actually develop deep grooves on their fingertips after years of performing. But this is not a requirement in order to become an accomplished amateur guitarist. Practically every musical instrument places some physical demands on players, but developing skills like muscle memory and improvisation are tangible benefits of that extra effort.
Q. I saw an acoustic guitar at my local pawn shop. Is it a good idea to buy a guitar from this type of store?
A. Musical instruments, especially acoustic and electric guitars, are routinely pawned for short-term loans. Buyers prepared to pay cash can sometimes find high-quality acoustic guitars at pawn shops, but there are no guarantees on condition. Furthermore, the seller may or may not be able to provide any technical information or additional accessories.