Best Acoustic Guitar
The acoustic guitar provides the most no-frills experience for guitarists. Forget having to pick up cables, amplifiers, pedals, pre-amps, and other accessories, and devices, an acoustic guitar is your one-stop shop for just picking up an instrument and playing music. These guitars can be used as a writing tool at home, a piece of a composition in the recording studio, or as a means to play music onstage, at the beach, in the park, or on a rooftop. There are a ridiculous amount of acoustic guitars available on the market for guitarists of all sorts of styles and skill levels, and it can get a little overwhelming when trying to find the right one. Fortunately, we’ve compiled some things to keep in mind in our acoustic guitar buyer’s guide below.
Best Acoustic Guitar Overall:
With an ever-growing history and rich market variability, there has never been more options when purchasing a new acoustic guitar. The five instruments featured below are excellent starting considerations for a superb new instrument. These selections were chosen because of their high quality construction by reputable manufacturers both domestic as well as abroad. Each instrument retains a balanced tone throughout its registers and while each instrument's tone is respective to its body size and tonewoods, these acoustic guitars boast impressive sound-production capabilities.
The Seagull S6 Acoustic Guitar offers a classically warm tone through the selection of more unusual tonewoods. It's definitively surpasses guitars of a similar price, as well outclassing far more expensive guitars. Read Full Review
This Blueridge creates an exceptionally consistent sound. Coupled with a low-profile set up allowing for effortless playing and passage work, the package is topped off with visually striking elements. Read Full Review
The CD-60 offering a surprisingly balanced tone given its relatively affordable price bracket. Its most attractive trait is reliability in all domains: sound production, tuning, and duration over time. Read Full Review
The MartinGPCPA4 produces a beautiful tone from a body which has been expertly crafted to assure you durable reliability for years to come. Martin's assertion that this model produces a tonally colorful sound rings true from the moment this guitar is picked up and played. Read Full Review
Best High End Acoustic Guitar:
Finding an instrument with a beautiful tone and fitted to the musician’s preference is a challenge for any artist. It's a particular challenge for guitarists, due in part to extreme market saturation and the wide variety of instruments offered. This list can help make this difficult decision easier, by looking at five of the best acoustic guitars for someone looking to purchase an instrument for the long haul.
Though aesthetic value was considered, each instrument was selected for its long term quality to assure years worth of superb sound, with each guitar manufactured by some of the most reputable luthiers and recommended companies in the world. Though the individual timbre of each instrument will inherently vary from one to the next, every instrument features an even tone and clarity of pitch.
The HD-28 maintains the reputation of superior Martin craftsmanship. A sleek look complements the consistently even and powerful projection produced by this guitar. Read Full Review
Collings has built a reputation around quality, and the OM1 model is no exception. With high-caliber fittings and production, this reliable instrument could easily become a primary favorite. Read Full Review
This instrument is capable of producing a classically western sound hearkening back to performances by artists like Gene Autry and Hank Williams. It's masterfully produced with high quality wood and fittings. Read Full Review
This 712ce Taylor earned its spot on our list based on sheer beauty of voice. It can be custom ordered, and manufactured with high-grade tonewoods contributing to its rich sound. Read Full Review
Best Budget Acoustic Guitar:
With a 4,000 year old history, the guitar has come a long way from the ancestral bowl harp. With an established history and wide variability, today’s saturated instrument market makes it difficult to find an affordable guitar which produces a magnificent tone. These are five fantastic budget acoustic guitars which are perfect for a beginner, continuing intermediate player, or any musician not looking to spend hundreds or thousands on a higher end instrument. All of the acoustic guitars on this list are between $100-500 dollars, with each pick producing high-quality sound and exemplifying solid construction.
The Sunlite is a solidly constructed instrument for a killer price. An upgrade beyond this would likely be quite a leap, as this instrument creates a sound easily surpassing anything in its price range. Read Full Review
The Epiphone DR-100 is the embodiment of a quality built acoustic guitar. With cheaper fittings which are readily replaced if needed, the DR-100 produces a superb sound that easily competes with instruments in much higher price ranges. Read Full Review
A beautiful finish and unique combination of tonewoods set this guitar apart from competitors in a similar price range. It allows for the type of effortless playability not commonly seen in other instruments. Read Full Review
This instrument is remarkably versatile, with gorgeous finish and fittings. This would be ideal for an advancing student wanting to improve their sound quality without spending thousands of dollars on an instrument. Read Full Review
Acoustic Guitar Buyers Guide
Every acoustic guitar has its own personality, so finding the right one can be an arduous task – but there are certain questions you can ask yourself in order to help narrow your search. Are you just starting out, or a seasoned pro? What style of music do you intend to play with it? Is this guitar meant to be played in a pristine and immaculate recording or home environment? Or are you going to be carrying your axe around on your back wherever your path may take you?
But perhaps the most important question to ask yourself when considering whether or not the guitar you’re holding is the one that you want to buy is a very personal inquiry: do I like the way this acoustic guitar feels? It’s a very personal choice that can’t be determined by anyone but the guitarist, so be sure to test your options out for yourself before making a decision. Before you get to that point, here are a few things to know about buying acoustic guitars.
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Acoustic guitars come in many shapes and sizes, and the build of the instrument can greatly affect the sound that it produces. Of course, the strings that are utilized with each body type can also play a significant role in changing the sound that the instrument produces.
All three acoustic guitar body styles can also be built with a cutaway in the shape of the body, allowing guitarists to reach higher frets that extend beyond where the neck of the guitar meets the body.
Classic body style acoustic guitars offer a generally balanced tone and a medium amount of sound projection. This type of guitar is a safe go-to for a variety of styles, and for this reason it is used both by players who favor intricate fingerpicking as well as those who tend to play with broader strumming techniques.
Dreadnought guitars tend to produce a deeper and more bass-heavy tone. They also tend to sound louder than the classic style body acoustic guitar. Because they have a heavy, driving aesthetic, they are popular amongst guitarists who utilize heavy strumming techniques.
Jumbo guitars are something of a hybrid of the previous two styles – wherein the body is similar to that of a classic guitar while the sound hole is more akin to that of a dreadnought acoustic guitar. These guitars are ideal for players who play standing up, as they can sometimes be uncomfortable to sit in one’s lap.
Acoustic Guitar Parts
There are different parts that comprise an acoustic guitar, and each part can be made from a different type of wood. The top, back, neck, and sides are generally regarded as the most important parts of the body; meanwhile, the fretboard, bridge, and binding also play a significant (if not slightly less important) role in shaping the sound and tonality.
The neck is one of the more easily identifiable pieces of the acoustic guitar. This area is where the instrument is held, it houses the frets that enable players to play notes, and it obviously also displays the strings.
Intonation is the system by which an acoustic guitar’s notes play in tune as the player moves up the fretboard of the neck. Without proper intonation, a guitar won’t stay in tune and is useless for both live performance and recording.
An acoustic guitar’s rosette is a stylized inlay located near the soundhole of the instrument. While the rosette has little to no impact of the sound of an acoustic guitar, it does change the visual appearance and character of the instrument.
The bridge is the small wooden piece located directly below the soundhole of an acoustic guitar. This piece anchors the strings and transfers their vibration to the soundboard of the instrument.
An acoustic guitar’s frets are the small metal strips that divide the neck and fretboard into smaller sections. These frets are carefully measured into half-step increments and consequently enable guitarists to play different notes on their instrument.
The fingerboard is also referred to as the fretboard; it is the piece that is glued to the face of the neck and houses the frets that are divided by half-step increments.
The tuning keys are the small knob-like pieces located at the top of the acoustic guitar on the instrument’s headstock. By tightening and loosening the tuning keys, guitarists raise or drop the pitch of the strings, effectively tuning the guitar.
The headstock is located at the top of the guitar. Its primary function is to hold the tuning keys.
A machine head is an alternate term for the tuning key. These are also sometimes referred to as tuning pegs or tuners.
An acoustic guitar’s binding is utilized to compliment the look of the instrument’s body, neck, and/or headstock. Typically comprised of wood or plastic, this component doesn’t do much to affect the sound of the guitar, but gives it stylized character.
As its name implies, the pickguard is designed to help protect the body of the acoustic guitar from any wear-and-tear that would occur from strumming and picking at strings. It is located below the soundhole.
An acoustic guitar’s finish is another name for the final coating that is applied to the surface of the instrument.
Tops are generally made in one of two different types of builds: solid wood or laminate. The former is built from two single-ply pieces of wood that meet down the middle of the guitar top. This configuration is great for vibrating and resonating the sounds that are produced by the guitar.
Laminate tops are made from several layers of wood that are stacked on top of each other. While laminates don’t produce as great of a tone as solid wood tops, they are less expensive and therefore ideal for guitarists who are just starting out and are trying to make their purchase under a limited budget.
Beyond changing the appearance that an acoustic guitar may have, the type of wood that is used to make the instrument can also alter the way that the guitar sounds. When the sound of the guitar vibrates from the strings and reflects off of the wood, the type of wood that is part of this process can have an effect on the end product.
Cedar tends to produce a brighter and more trebly tone. Because of its quick response, many players who favor fingerstyle picking prefer to play cedar tonewood instruments.
Spruce is generally regarded as the standard for acoustic guitar tops. It provides excellent resonance and is responsive to a high velocity of sound.
Mahogany and kao emphasize more of the mid-range/low-end side of the spectrum when it comes to acoustic guitar sounds. Its “punchy” tone has made it an ideal choice for country and blues players.
Maple has a low response rate and internal damping, so it is generally only used for the side and back of acoustic guitars, as opposed to the top. Its dry and high-end favoring tone makes it an excellent axe for musicians playing live with other instruments, as it tends to cut through the mix with greater ease than other types of acoustic guitars.
Rosewood provides strong mid and high tones and is one of the more popular woods used on acoustic guitars. With a strong attack and sharp resonance, it is also used frequently for bridges and fretboards.
String materials can change the tone of the instrument, whether it’s the warm and dark sound of phosphor bronze or the bright jangle of brass strings.
Steel strings are generally used in genres such as rock, country, and folk. Bronze, phosphor bronze, and brass all fall under the broader umbrella of steel strings.
Classical acoustic guitars utilize nylon strings, which are better suited for the classical and flamenco style that these instruments are most commonly used for.
It’s important to not interchangeably swap guitar strings with instruments that they are not designed for. For instance, putting steel strings on a classical guitar that is designed for nylon strings can do serous damage to the body, as the neck of classical guitars are unable to handle the tension brought about by using the steel strings.