With thousands of different models to choose from, buying an acoustic guitar can be difficult. That is why I decided to write this guide to break down the best acoustic guitars. This guide explains what you get at each price point and suggests a few good models from each to start researching in your quest for the right acoustic.
Table of Contents:
- $300 and under (Beginner)
- $300-$750 (Quality Beginner)
- $750-$1500 (Intermediate)
- $1500+ (Solid wood!)
- $3000+ (The best sound!)
$300 and Under - Beginner Acoustic Guitars
The $300 and below price point for acoustic guitars is what most beginners start out with. I would venture even further and say it’s likely that most choose something between $100 and $200 mark. For those looking to go super cheap, there are decent acoustic guitars under $100, like this model, but I do not recommend them. While they have great reviews, they are hard to play, require a set up, they don’t stay in tune and they never seem to last very long. If it were me, I would just splurge on something in the $500 price range as my first guitar. Now, that being said a good friend of mine has a $200 Alvarez acoustic that sounds great and is in tune every time I pick it up. So great guitars do exist at this price point.
So what do you get at this price point?
The acoustic guitars offered at this price point will not be solid wood. They will be made of laminate wood. While cheaper, laminate wood does not resonate like a solid wood guitar will. These cheaper acoustic guitars are great for learning, but most players upgrade to something nicer once they realize that they like playing the guitar and will stick with it.
Here are a few models to check out if you are shopping for a cheap acoustic guitar:
The Jasmine S-35 is one of the most highly rated beginner acoustics. For under $100 you get a spruce top, laminate agathis back and sides, and a smooth satin finish. Purchasers seem to be very happy with this guitar, saying that it is easy to play and has a great sound for a beginner guitar. One common theme I kept seeing when researching this guitar, is that reviews say to replace some of the cheap parts with better options. Parts like the nut, saddle, bridge pins, and strings can be replaced for around $50 total, and will drastically increase the sound and playability of the guitar.
For about $40 more dollars, you get a slightly better guitar. The Fender FA-100 is a full size dreadnought, and features a laminate spruce top. It does have a rosewood bridge with a synthetic bone saddle. This could save you you the hassle of buying the Jasmine S-35 and having to replace parts. A common theme in the reviews found for this guitar are that it needs a set-up. This will be the case for just about every cheap guitar you look at. Just take it in to a local shop and have them perform a set up and get the action a bit lower so that it is easier to play, and you will be good to go.
Another top rated cheap acoustic guitar is the Epiphone DR100. It has a spruce top and a mahogany body. The fingerboard is rosewood. It is a dreadnought body, so it will have the big sound that is common with large body guitars. The owners of this guitar are raving that it is the best bang for your buck cheap acoustic guitar. It has a nice gloss finish, which gives it a very high quality look. The sunburst color is my personal preference for this classic acoustic.
We’ve written a detailed buyers guide reviewing the best beginner acoustic guitars. Give it a read to see our top 10 picks in this category.
$300 - $750 (Quality Beginner Acoustic Guitars)
The next price point is between $300 and $500. These are what I refer to as quality beginner guitars. Obviously, they are the next step up from the previous category. What is the main difference? Besides the price, you will get a guitar with a solid wood top. This is a big step up in the tone category. At this price point you start to get guitars that are more of a joy to play. You hear sounds coming out of the guitar while playing, and you question yourself. Is that really me making that great sound?
Now, while the top is going to be solid wood that doesn’t mean it is the same quality of wood that goes into a more expensive Martin or Taylor. High quality tone woods cost more money, so the highest quality are often used in the high end guitars. With that being said, you still get a solid wood top that will sound much better than a laminate top.
Here are some acoustics with solid wood tops and laminate back and sides:
Taylor GS Mini Mahogany
The Taylor GS Mini Mahogany is a great option for those looking for a guitar in the ~$500 price range. It's a little bit smaller than a standard sized guitar. It's sort of a parlor guitar. Despite it's smaller size, it has the sound of a full size guitar. It has a solid wood tropical mahogany top. Taylor describes their tropical mahogany as being a hard wood, with a more punchy tone that is fitting to blues and roots music. Over time, as the guitar is played more, it will develop a richer, warmer tone. The reviews for this guitar are very positive. Many people are saying they prefer playing this guitar over much more expensive models. They cite the playability and it's smaller size being factors in their rating of the guitar. Check out my complete review of the Taylor GS Mini line
Epiphone EJ 200
The Epiphone EJ 200 is unique looking guitar with it's cutaway, floral pickguard design, and ornate bridge. It features a sitka spruce top and laminate maple back and sides. Many of the positive reviews claim that this guitar comes with a great set up right out of the box. Many shoppers are hesitant to buy a guitar online without playing it first, so this comes as a relief knowing it will be ready to play the day you get it. The body is a jumbo size, which may be a turn off for smaller players. However, the jumbo body give it a stand out tone with great projection and a big low end response. The look of this guitar isn't for everyone, but if you are ok with this country western shape then by all means go for it!
The Seagull S6 is a great choice at this price point. It features a cedar top with wild cherry back and sides. The fingerboard is rosewood, and it has some other nice features like a tusq nut and saddle. Seagull claims this guitar has won numerous industry awards, though I could not find any info on them. I could find hundreds of rave reviews over the sound and quality of this guitar. Seagull does a great job of giving the player a lot of value for their money. The S6 is their bread and butter, and you really can't go wrong with this guitar. As with buying any guitar, know the tonal qualities of the wood that makes up the guitar. The solid cedar top on the S6 will give you a sweeter and softer tone than a more dense wood like spruce or even mahogany.
This price point also has slightly upgraded components such as bridge, nut, tuners, and fingerboard. See this list of the best acoustic guitars under $500 for more examples of available models in this category.
$750 - $1500 (Intermediate Acoustic Guitars)
It’s at this point in the guitar buying journey that things start to get tough. Once you start getting towards $1500 range, you start to see guitars that are constructed of solid wood. Maybe you are a beginner still but are ready to splurge on something quality. But now that the guitars are made of solid wood, you start to hear the different sounds that the body shape and bracing variations can produce. There is also the classic dilemma of, “Why spend $1000 for a guitar with laminate back and sides when I can spend $1500 for a solid wood Martin?”. It’s a slippery slope that we have all slid down.
Usually you have to spend $1500 to get a new solid wood guitar. You can find a used one for less than that on sites like Reverb.com, but most people dropping that amount of cash on a guitar want to play it first.
Popular models in this category:
- Martin D-16GT
- Taylor 310 - Probably the best solid wood guitar for the money.
- Seagull Artist Studio
Solid top with laminate back and sides:
- Martin DRS1
- Taylor 214ce DLX
- Seagull Performer
See our complete buyers guide for acoustic guitars under $1500 for a complete breakdown of the best models in this category.
$1500 - $2500 and Beyond (Advanced)
Ah, here we are. This is where things really start to sound good. In the price range of $1500 and beyond we are seeing solid wood guitars from the top brands. The question then becomes, how much do you want to spend? Between $1500 and $2500 is where the quality shifts from decent guitar to amazing guitar. At $2500 we start seeing classics like the Martin D28, 000-18, D18. We also see Taylor’s high end models from the 400 series. Lots of great Gibsons, Takamines, and Guilds as well.
See our complete buyers guide for acoustic guitars under $2000 for a complete breakdown of the best models in this category.
Beyond $2500 you get to the top models from most guitar makers.
The Taylor 714ce and 814ce. The Martin HD28-V and 000-28. The Gibson J-45. The list goes on and on, but what you are essentially getting is the best that these guitar manufacturers have to offer. Can you spend more? Sure. But then you are getting into the world of boutique guitars and fancy inlays and whatnot. See our full buyers guide for the best high end acoustic guitars here. We reviewed a lot of the popular models in this category.
Your best bet is to venture out to your local guitar shop and play some of these top models side by side to their cheapest solid wood options and see if you can really tell the difference. If money is no factor, buy the high end model. You won’t be sorry. However, in my experience, you get a pretty damn good guitar at $1500 that you will likely be happy with for many years. Plus, if you buy that high end model, what will you have to look forward to?