The Best Acoustic Guitar Brands
Combining our decades of experience here at GuitarSite.com, and the feedback that we gathered here and from retailers, we have come up with an updated list of the best acoustic guitar brands.
This page is sponsored by Sweetwater so you can click through to get the full specifications, the latest price, and purchase any of the Acoustic Guitars stocked by Sweetwater that we have recommended.
We have found that the market is continually dominated by big name brands like Martin, Gibson and Yamaha, while other brands like Taylor and Takamine also get a big chunk of the pie. There were many more brands and specific models which we would have included below, specifically the boutique brands, but in the interests of keeping this list to a reasonable length and focusing on readily available models, we had to make the cut.
We first published this article 1½ years before Sweetwater sponsored it, this update makes the list more relevant to today's players. Sweetwater provides further information on the guitars (and some great prices) where possible.
If you're going to be doing some recording with an acoustic, you should check out this gear guide: The Best Microphones for Recording Acoustic Guitar
|Firstly we'll look at a few of the best entry level guitars for beginners. These are affordable instruments that offer great value for your money in terms of specs, reliability and sound - thanks to stiff market competition. You will find that there are many nice acoustics in this segment, some even sporting solid tops and built-in electronics.|
|This is Epiphone's best selling acoustic and many a young musician has had this as their first ever guitar. Price: $109.||Detailed review below|
|The Yamaha APX500III is a thin body acoustic guitar that's been enjoying great reviews and word of mouth recommendations. Price: $299.99||Detailed review below|
|The Washburn WD7S comes with solid spruce top and traditional looks that seem far more expensive than its actual price!. Price: $199.||Detailed review below|
|This Fender branded solid mahogany top acoustic offers premium looks and build, along with easy playability at a very affordable price point. Price: $349.99.||Detailed review below|
|A small travel size solid top acoustic guitar from big name acoustic guitar manufacturer Martin Guitars, put to big stage use by singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran. Price: $409.||Detailed review below|
|This is where you will find the best bang per buck acoustic guitars listed, workhorse instruments that are highly rated and proven road-worthy by many guitar players. Whether you are an experienced weekend open-mic warrior or you are just starting get your music out there, this section is for you.|
|A true standout and instantly recognizable acoustic guitar with impressive cosmetic appointments, satisfactory specs and built-in electronics. Price: $299.||Detailed review below|
|The 110ce is a true full-sized Taylor guitar that you can get at a more accessible price point, while having the same open and versatile tone. Price: $799.||Detailed review below|
|Ovation's lyrachord body technology makes for a truly reliable workhorse instrument, and it doesn't hurt that it looks cool too. Price: $449.||Detailed review below|
|In a list of full of steel-string guitars, the nylon-string Flamenco-style acoustic-electric Cordoba GK Studio provides a refreshing alternative. Price: $679.99.||Detailed review below|
|The all-solid wood Yamaha A3M guitar gives you high-end features at a more accessible price point. Price: $799.99.||Detailed review below|
Premium Acoustic Guitars
|While you certainly can make do with more affordable alternatives, there really is no replacing the pride and joy that you can get from experiencing and owning premium acoustic guitars. This section features the best acoustic guitars in the high-end market, drool worthy instruments that can be yours with (a whole lot of) hard work.|
|The all solid wood Takamine P3NY "New Yorker" parlor style guitar shows big name brands how premium guitars can be built without jacking up the price. Price: $1,179.99||Detailed review below|
|The Martin OM-28 is the definitive orchestra shape acoustic guitar, featuring true to form all-solid wood specs and aesthetics. Price: $3,549.||Detailed review below|
|Don't let its museum-ready looks fool you, the Taylor 712ce is a true workhorse that sounds and plays as good as it looks. Price: $2,999.||Detailed review below|
|Own a piece of history with this modern reproduction of the '30s era parlor guitar, the Gibson L-00 Standard Price: $2,349.||Detailed review below|
|A true American dreadnought that descended from vintage D-28 guitars, which are considered by many to be among Martin's best production line instruments. . Price: $4,699.||Detailed review below|
Because of stiff competition in today's low-end market, guitar companies are constantly trying to outclass each other by improving the quality and value for money of their instruments. One brand that consistently tops in terms of sales and feedback is Epiphone, a sub-brand of Gibson that specializes in quality mass produced guitars. The DR-100 is a great example of their impressive ability to balance quality and affordability, garnering nearly perfect positive feedback for its build quality and sound.
This cheap acoustic guitar is highly recommended for beginners on a budget. It continues to stand among the best selling acoustics, and many a young musician has had this as their first ever guitar. It features a familiar combination of spruce top, mahogany body and neck, and rosewood fretboard. The guitar's classic configuration and traditional dreadnought shape works well with almost any type of music, from folk to rock and everything else in between.
Unfortunately this guitar does not come with a solid top, but for its price you really can't expect much. Still, it is much better than what guitarists of old had to start out with! If you are looking for a beginner's guitar to test the water or if budget is limited, then you should check out the Epiphone DR-100. It currently comes in 3 colors - Ebony, Natural, and Vintage Sunburst (my personal favorite among the three). The MSRP is 182.00 but most online guitar shops sell it for $109.
Yamaha is well known for their excellent quality student level instruments, I for one studied classical guitar lessons with a Yamaha classical that still plays and sound great up to this day. In the entry level acoustic market, the APX500III is their popular frontline instrument, it showcases how far the company can stretch quality without compromising quality, resulting in an affordable acoustic that do not look, feel and sound cheap.
For a modest amount of money, this acoustic provides mid-level specs and top notch build quality, featuring a modern thinline body with spruce top and nato back and sides. The thin body of the guitar makes it easy to handle and carry around, ideal for young players and students of the instrument. As expected from Yamaha, the neck profile is specially beginner friendly, great for first timers who are looking to learn the instrument. The downside to having this thin body design is the lack of low-end, but it does make up with articulation and comfort.
This guitar continues to enjoy great reviews, thanks to word of mouth recommendations from those that played the instrument. This says much about its quality, tone and production consistency. If you are just starting out and you are not sure what to get, the APX500III is a safe pick that you won't regret.
Washburn is known for producing great value guitars, and they take their reputation seriously. While other guitar builders tend to compromise cosmetics, this company does not hold back on visual details even in the entry-level market. The WD7S shows the company's design philosophy in action, featuring elegant body binding and custom wood inlaid rosette that makes the guitar look far more expensive than its actual price.
And its not just about the looks, because this affordable guitar comes with a solid spruce top with mahogany back and sides. This means that you are getting a mid-tier instrument for the price of an entry level guitar, a beginner guitar that will grow with you as your ears become sharper and you learn to play better. Because of its conventional build, this acoustic has a warm and balanced tone that can sound bland to some, but it should make for a great starting point for those who are still discovering their own musical voice.
The playability and feel of this acoustic does not stray from classic dreadnoughts, having a scale length of 25.5" and nut width of 1.69". The WD7S is great bang per buck guitar, and it is my personal favorite in this price point. They really do mean it when they say that "Budget doesn't have to mean boring".
Fender Tim Armstrong Hellcat Acoustic
Unlike their electric guitar line which have a specific sub-brand Squier for affordable models, Fender's acoustic guitars fall under the same label regardless of the price. This single brand approach is probably implemented to use the brand name as leverage to help their reputation in the acoustic guitar market. The company currently has a number of acoustic guitar products bearing the Fender label, and the Tim Armstrong Hellcat is one of their more popular models at the entry level tier.
Instead of merely being student friendly, the Tim Armstrong Hellcat is a reliable workhorse instrument that can work both for practice and live performance. The comfortable concert shape, low action and slightly shorter 25.3" scale length make it ideal for beginners. While the solid mahogany top, elegant old school appeal and built-in electronics make it great for both casual jams and regular stage performances. More importantly, this guitar comes at a very tempting price point that makes deciding to buy it even more easier.
My only complaint for this acoustic is that it doesn't come in conventional spruce top configuration, but there is a 12-string version that looks just as impressive as this 6-string version. The Fender Tim Armstrong Hellcat Acoustic has been getting consistently great reviews, and we join the many guitarists who find this guitar to be highly commendable in this price bracket.
LX1E Little Martin
Small guitars were often looked at as mere travel or couch alternatives, but times have changed and they are making a comeback on big stages. The LX1E Little Martin is at the forefront of this rekindled interest, with artists like Ed Sheeran impressing big crowds with just his humble and small LX1E. Thankfully, its price has remained stable despite the its current worldwide recognition.
Coming from Martin's Travel Series, the LX1E Little Martin has smaller proportions, with a total length of 34", body width of 12", shorter scale length of 23" and 1 11/16" nut width. While it can be a bit too small for some, it is easy to appreciate its impressive workmanship, bearing the same build quality and materials as found on their more expensive models. With the LX1E, you can own an affordable Martin guitar that has been proven to be a true workhorse instrument.
The guitar features hand-rubbed solid Sitka Spruce top supported by Martin's incredibly reliable mahogany HPL (high pressure laminate) back and sides, essentially similar to the configuration found on many of Martin's mid-priced acoustics. If you're looking for an affordable starting instrument that has big-brand backing, or you are looking to get into the parlor-style guitar trend, check out the LX1E Little Martin.
Martin also make a top-rated parlor acoustic as well, but it's a lot more expensive selling for over $3,000.
Epiphone Hummingbird Pro
The Epiphone brand scores another spot in this list with the Hummingbird Pro, a stylized take on the popular dreadnought shape. This guitar is the affordable version of the original Gibson Hummingbird, as seen in the hands of big name artists like Keith Richards, Noel Gallagher, Sheryl Crow and many more. It is a modern and more cost effective take on the guitar that Keith used on many of The Rolling Stones' popular tracks, including "Play with Fire" and "Satisfaction".
The Hummingbird Pro's unique look breaks the typical monotonous appearance of conventional acoustics, and it does so without straying too far from the familiar. It is easily identifiable by its uniquely shaped ornate pickguard, which matches the guitar's faded cherry sunburst finish. Whether you are on stage or just jamming with friends, you can be sure that this acoustic will stand out.
And its not just all about the looks, because this guitar comes with impressive specs for its price point. It has a solid spruce top, mahogany back & sides, rosewood fretboard and built-in electronics, all of which meet Epiphone's quality standards. It would have been nicer if an all-solid body version was available, but I guess it would be a problem for the premium Gibson version. Playability is also one of this acoustics strong points, following traditional specs that include 25.5" scale length and 1.68" nut width. If you're looking for an affordable workhorse guitar that will give you "satisfaction", then check out the Hummingbird Pro.
Taylor's rise to fame has been relatively quick, thanks to their combination of impressive build quality and tone. Their diverse list of celebrity endorsers also helped, which include artists from different musical styles like Tony Iommi, Jason Mraz and Taylor Swift. Founded in 1974, the company has grown to be a major competitor in the acoustic guitar market, challenging older and well established brands in many price points. The Taylor 110ce is one of their more popular models, a mid-priced acoustic with solid spruce top that makes for a great entry point for intermediate players who want a "branded" workhorse acoustic.
Since this guitar is from Taylor it benefits from the company's quality consistency, which applies to all their instruments regardless of price points. While aesthetics and materials are more affordable, it gets the same level of attention to detail and quality as the more premium models. This gives budget limited players the chance to have a true Taylor acoustic that plays like a "dream", and not a watered down version that plays and feels different.
The 110ce features a dreadnought body with modern cutaway that produces Taylor's signature open midrange and clear treble tone, it works really well with various styles of music. And since it comes with their ES-T under-saddle transducer system, this guitar is ready for the stage or for recording. While it may not be as affordable as we want it to be, the Taylor 110ce more than makes up with its quality and reliability. Mark your entry into the real world with this highly recommended acoustic-electric.
Ovation Celebrity Elite CE44-5
Ovation is one of the few acoustic guitar builders that successfully introduced and implemented innovations to the traditional acoustic guitar design, and as own a well deserved spot in this list. Unlike others that simply follow after the conventional standards, Ovation developed their own composite material and body shape design. Although not as popular now, the company's bowl back body acoustics ruled big stages and studios during their heydays, used by the who's who of guitars at the time including Chet Atkins, John Mclaughlin, Steve Lukather and more.
The Ovation Celebrity CE44-5 stays true to the brand's innovative design with its mid-depth bowl-back body and built-in OP-4BT electronics. Innovative Lyrachord is used for the back, designed to be more durable and reliable than wood while having the same projection properties. Obviously, the resulting tone is subtly different, but it is hardly noticeable in most settings, specially in group or band performances. This makes the CE44-5 an affordable and practical workhorse instrument that you can bring to your gigs without having to worry too much about damage and temperature changes.
Giving this space-age technology guitar a more earthy look is its burled maple top, which along with the ornate rosette and binding gives the guitar an overall elegant appearance. Scale length is slightly shorter at 25.25" while nutwidth follows after traditional specs at 1.6875", like other Ovation guitars, the CE44-5's neck profile is designed to play as easily as an electric, with low action that makes this gig-ready guitar easy to play even for beginners. Get this reliable guitar if you are usually playing in band and group setting.
Cordoba GK Studio
Cordoba is a fast growing guitar builder that specializes in nylon string acoustic instruments, played by artists like the Gypsy Kings and Bon Iver just to name a few. And with their ever increasing reputation, we find it only fitting to give them a spot on this list, specifically for the impressive quality and tone of the GK Studio. This nylong string guitar incidentally provides a refreshing break from the many steel-string acoustics that are featured here.
The GK Studio mixes traditional flamenco construction techniques, a comfortable body shape and modern Fishman electronics, resulting in an easy to play nylon-string guitar that can be plugged in for stage use. My main concern about this guitar is its slightly thinner body depth, neck and nutwidth(1.96"), but these are calculated tweaks that should make this classical guitar play and feel more akin to conventional steel-string acoustics.
Tone wise, flamenco players appreciate the snappy and bright tone that this guitar reproduces, while acoustic guitarists find the playability and feel to be easy to transition to. Whether you want to focus on classical flamenco style, or you are merely looking to the sound of nylon string guitars into your collection, the GK Studio will not disappoint. The combination of its solid European spruce top and Cypress back and sides is a treat to look at and great to listen to. You can visit Cordoba Guitars for the complete specifications. You can also see two more Cordobas in our nylon string guitar roundup.
There was a time when Yamaha were thought of as just a guitar maker for students and beginners - but those days are long gone and Yamaha now produce quality acoustics that compete favorably with the best in this category, and the A3M with it's all-solid wood body and built in pickups with preamp, is becoming a favorite of many. Having premium level specs at mid-tier pricing is like a dream come true, the main reason why we consider the A3M as the best value for money acoustic in this section.
The Yamaha A3M gives you high-end features for a lot less money, starting off with its solid spruce top and solid mahogany back and sides. This all solid body gives the A3M a richer and more open acoustic tone, something that you will have to pay top dollars for from other acoustic brands. My only concern is that it looks a little too regular and bland, but this issue is trivial when considering its affordable price and top-tier specs.
Being a true pro-level instrument, the Yamaha A3M comes with a cutaway body and built-in S.R.T piezo/pickups. Playability remains beginner friendly, with a low action setup that new players will easily master. And since it comes with an all-solid wood body, this guitar will only sound better and better as it ages. If you are looking for a more long term instrument at the sub $1000 level, check out the A3M.
Takamine P3NY "New Yorker"
The Takamine brand helps prevent big brand manufacturers from setting their prices too high - by showing them that great guitars can be produced at reasonable prices. On top of their bang per buck reputation, Takamine is considered as the pioneer of installing built-in pickups into acoustics, something that is now a common configuration offered by majority of guitar builders. The Takamine P3NY showcases how impressive tonewoods and electronics can be implemented without ridiculously jacking up the price.
This acoustic-electric parlor style guitar features a solid cedar top and solid sapele back and sides, premium appointments that other builders will require you to pay top dollars for. And it features old school parlor style body shape, which gives the instrument a vintage appeal, and blues box style tone with emphasis on the middle frequencies. This makes it ideal for blues, folk and old school comping, a good contrast to regular sized acoustics in a mix.
Another strong point of this guitar is its african mahogany neck that has a close to standard scale length of 25.3", making this instrument very easy to transition to when coming from regular sized guitars. Also noteworthy is its innovative split bone saddle, which allows for better intonation. Finally, the CT4B preamp gives you 3-band EQ, a volume control and a nifty built-in tuner Artists that play Takamine guitars include John Scofield, Bruce Springsteen and Bruno Mars! This is a great buy if you are looking for a premium couch & travel friendly acoustic guitar that does not cost an arm and a leg.
Martin OM-28 E Retro
The Orchestra Model (OM) shape, with its sleek look and versatile acoustic voice, is one of C.F. Martin & Co's most popular guitar shapes. A number of iconic guitarists prefer this particular line, including legends like Eric Clapton and his protégé, John Mayer. I for one own an all-solid wood Martin OMCPA4, and it continues to exceed my expectations. While I have no regrets over my guitar, I have to admit that if I had the funds, I would have gone for the definitive Orchestra Model, the OM-28 E Retro.
The OM-28 E Retro is one of the more recent guitars to come from Martin's OM line, and it is the consummate '30s era style acoustic guitar. The company took their time to carefully replicate vintage OM-28 guitars, from the aged solid sitka spruce top and solid East Indian Rosewood back & sides, down to the smallest appointments - resulting in a guitar that not only sounds amazing, but looks museum-level amazing as well.
This guitar follows traditional Martin specs with a 25.4" scale length and a 1.75" nut width, and they also gave the neck and ebony fretboard a worn-in feel that makes the guitar play extremely well right out of the case that it comes with. On top of its true to form vintage sound, playability and looks, the OM-28 E Retro is equipped with the extremely versatile Fishman F1 Aura Plus, which offers three acoustic voicings modeled from actual Martin Museum guitars. If you play various musical styles and you're looking for a be-all and end-all acoustic guitar, you will be blown away by the OM-28 E Retro.
Not content with just being a clone, Taylor was able to build their own distinct identity by slightly modifying the shape and appointments of existing acoustic guitar designs. Their most popular shape is the Grand Auditorium Cutaway, which is a cross between the dreadnought and orchestra model. Interestingly, even the well established Martin brand have somewhat "cloned" Taylor's appointments and pickguard shape with their recent Performing Artist line! Among Taylor's GA models, the 712ce is the most in demand with its elegant appointments and big signature Taylor sound.
The guitar has a solid sitka spruce top paired with solid Indian rosewood back and sides, which the guitar impressive resonance and acoustic projection. The 712ce carries Taylor's signature bright and clear sound, with increased punch and clarity because of the spruce top. The Taylor voice is distinct from the woody and midrangey tone of traditional acoustics, so liking it or not is more of a preference thing. One thing is for sure, it works really well for singer-songwriters, making the brand a mainstay at various events from small open-mic jams to big concerts.
Another strong point for this acoustic is its smooth playability. Even with its 24.875" scale length configuration and 1.75" nut width, the company was able to setup the neck action and string tension to where the instrument is very easy to play. This playability factor almost led me to pick Taylor over my current main guitar, and up to now I'm considering one for my next purchase. Finally, the 714ce comes with Taylor's impressive Expression System 2 (ES 2) electronics which sound fantastic on stage. I've watched Jason Mraz fill a big coliseum with just his Taylor 714ce (solid cedar top variant) plugged into the PA, and it sounds jaw droppingly amazing. If you're looking for a premium accompaniment guitar, you will definitely love the sound of the Taylor 712ce.
Gibson L-00 Standard
What we consider as standard size today were not so standard back in the '30s. Back then the "parlor guitar" or "blues box" was commonly used, with its compact body and mid-emphasized tone. Many artists used this instrument to shape many of the musical styles that we have today. The L-00 Standard from Gibson captures the iconic "blues box" faithfully for today's players, adding in their premium touch and modern tech that results in a true timeless museum quality instrument.
The L-00 carries over the airy nasal tone and midrange emphasis of the original, making it great for tasty slide and classic rock riffs. Your favorite blues licks will also have more oomph when played through this blues box. For something so small, this parlor guitar can compete with standard size acoustics in terms of volume. Its solid sitka spruce top and solid mahogany back and sides work together well to give this seemingly diminutive instrument great clarity and good low end.
Gibson gave this guitar a comfortable V neck profile, which together with shorter 24.75" scale length and 1.725" nut width make this guitar one of the easiest instruments to play in this list. My only complaint with this guitar is its bank breaking price, but this steep price point and exclusivity play an important role in making this iconic instrument more appealing. Start saving now if you want to be one of the privileged few who can play this guitar.
Martin D-28 Marquis
Developed by Martin in 1916, the dreadnought shape changed the landscape of acoustic guitars. Thanks to its punchy sound, loud volume and improved bottom end, dreadnoughts quickly rose to popularity and has since been copied by virtually every acoustic guitar manufacturer. Today, if you're thinking acoustic guitar, the most probable image in your mind would be of a Martin Dreadnought or one of its many clones.
The Martin D-28 Marquis is a modern recreation of the dreadnoughts that came from Martin's "golden era", which falls between 1930 to 1940. Since vintage D-28 specimens that were built in the '30s were being sold for more than 30 grand, the company decided to give today's guitarists a chance to own one at a more reasonable price point. Carrying with it the same premium all-solid build that include a solid Adirondack spruce top, solid east Indian rosewood back and sides, solid mahogany neck and solid ebony fretboard - you can expect this acoustic guitar to sound as Martin-y as possible.
There's also the bonus of having a special aging toner applied to the top to give the D-28 Marquis the appearance, feel and tone that is similar to aged instruments. All of this are provided without the inherent maintenance issues and crazy price tags of actual vintage models. If you're looking for a true traditional acoustic then your best bet is to go for the Martin D-28 Marquis. The MSRP is $5499 but you can get it online for around $4,549.
If Bill Gates offered to buy you the best acoustic guitar for your birthday...
Martin 00-42SC John Mayer
The guitar is hand-made by Martin's top luthiers, using exotic cocobolo wood for the back and sides, mixed with a more conventional solid sitka spruce top. As expected from a high-end instrument, this guitar features impressive visual appointments, most notable of which is its ivoroid binding, beautiful rosette and fretboard inlays. While its price tag and looks may push you to just hide this guitar in the closet, know that this instrument is built to make music in the road or in the studio. Martin employed modern bracing and construction techniques to ensure the guitar stays reliable, beautiful and great sounding for a long time. Those that are lucky enough to own this guitar have themselves a treasure that they can pass down to the next generation of players.
MSRP is $9,999 but the street price is $8,099.
Go to the Martin 00-42SC John Mayer page now.
Thank you to Sweetwater for their sponsorship and providing the full specifications for the guitars above where possible. You can see more acoustic guitars at www.sweetwater.com/shop/guitars/acoustic/
You can tell the world which guitars you feel should be on this list by writing on the comments section below.
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