The Best Nylon String Guitar Roundup
Here is our updated list of the best nylon string guitars for 2016, sorted into three price brackets to help you find one that suits your budget and playing style.
Nylon string guitars have gone beyond conventional classical, flamenco, and Latin American music. Their mellow and punchy tone are now heard on virtually all types of music, including jazz, rock, country, avant-garde, experimental, world and even pop music.
As such, manufacturers have been churning nylon string guitars in various shapes and sizes. To alleviate the cumbersome task of finding one that fits your needs, we have combed through what's available to find those that provide the best tone, build quality and value for money, and we grouped them according to their price range. Note that cedar topped guitars are known for warm tones while spruce topped ones sound brighter, so you'll want to consider this when taking your pick. You should also go for traditional flamenco style guitars if you're looking for something percussive and responsive, while a modern nylon string is ideal if you're looking for more sustain and note clarity. Whatever your preference maybe, you'll find a fitting nylon string guitar in this list.
Best Nylon String Guitars Under $500
Yamaha have the impressive ability to build quality guitars at beginner friendly price points, as exemplified in their line of student level classical nylon string guitars. The C-40 is among the most popular from their line up, featuring traditional combination of spruce top, mahogany back, sides and neck, and a rosewood fretboard. What sets it apart from other affordable instruments is its top notch craftsmanship quality, resulting in a true inspiring nylon string guitar for students and experienced players alike.
Just like many guitar players world over, the C40 was my first nylon string guitar when I began formal classical guitar lessons, and it's comfortable playability and articulate sound served me well during actual lessons, practices and even during stage recitals. As proof of its reliability, my Yamaha C40 still plays and sounds great even after years of use. Being my first "real" guitar, it has accumulated some battle scars, but other than that it still is a good instrument that's a joy to play.
Since this guitar follows traditional classical specs with 25.56" scale length and 2.06" nut width, the fretboard can be too flat and wide for some players, still with a bit of patience it will help you develop a stronger and more accurate fretting hand. If you are just starting out or if you are looking for a budget friendly nylon string guitar, get the Yamaha C40. Get the latest Yamaha C40 price & reviews at Amazon.com.
Yamaha also make a 3/4 sized classical guitar which is also reasonably priced - details available here.
Cordoba F7 Flamenco
Cordoba's reputation as a nylon string guitar builder continues to grow, and their presence is felt in the market regardless of the price range. As a result more and more artists are joining their fold including Bon Iver, Ben Wood and The Gipsy Kings just to name a few. They now continue to be a strong contender in the entry level to mid-tier market, many thanks to their impressive yet modestly priced instruments like the F7 Flamenco.
The Cordoba F7 Flamenco provides guitarists with an affordable way to enjoy the snappy and percussive tone of a genuine flamenco guitar, complete with a solid European spruce top and cypress back and sides. To get the percussive buzz that's distinct to flamenco guitars, the F7's action is set lower than that of classical guitars, making this instrument very easy to play especially with its 25.6" scale length and wide 2.04" nut width.
It would have been nicer if the price was a tad bit lower, but being part of Cordoba's Iberia line, the F7 is handcrafted to ensure a level of quality that goes beyond what you're paying for. If you're looking to play traditional flamenco or if you're looking to spice up your tracks with percussive rhythm riffs, then check out the Cordoba F7. Get the latest Cordoba F7 price & reviews at Amazon.com
Breedlove Pursuit Nylon
In a market saturated by clones, Breedlove's unique and eclectic acoustic guitar designs provide a refreshing break. This distinct design approach definitely applies to their mid-tier Pursuit Nylon - a true modern nylon acoustic-electric that easily stands out from the rest. And the difference goes beyond just skin deep, because this particular model strays from traditional specs to make the instrument more at home for steel string players.
Transitioning from a steel string to a nylon string model can be troublesome for some players, mainly because of the wider and flatter fingerboard. The Breedlove Pursuit Nylon is designed to help ease this transition, having a narrower 1.875" nut width, familiar 25.5" scale length and subtly rounder fretboard radius that will feel familiar for steel string players. With its solid cedar top and mahogany back and sides, the Breedlove Pursuit Nylon provides a more modern, clear sounding tone, while it does retain the familiar round and warm tone expected from Spanish style guitars.
Note that when unplugged, this guitar does not have the same punch as traditional classical guitars, but as expected from Breedlove, they packed the Pursuit Nylon with built-in pickups and electronics so you can be loud when you want to. It even comes with a USB port for quick interfacing with your computer! And more importantly, it gives you all of this while maintaining a very reasonable price. If you're looking to make the most out of your $500+ budget and you prefer the playing feel of steel string acoustics then this guitar is for you.
Cordoba again grabs a spot in this list with the C7, a very reasonably priced handmade guitar with top notch craftsmanship, premium wood configuration and tone. Reviews and feedback are unanimous in saying positive things about the guitar, mentioning its great balance of feel, comfort and sound. For its mid-level price, the C7 comes packed with high-end tonewoods.
Headlining the features of this modern nlyon stringed guitar is the solid Canadian cedar top which is supported by Indian rosewood back and sides. They form the guitar's resonant body which features a modern cutaway for easier upper fret access. The tone of the C7 is surprisingly loud for its size, all the while letting you hear the nuances of your playing.
Scale length for this guitar is standard at 25.6" while the nut is a bit narrower at 1.96", which can be a put off for those looking for traditional specs, but good news for those with shorter fingers. If you are looking for a reasonably priced nylon stringed guitar with the backing of a manufacturer that actually specializes in nylon string guitars, then check the C7 out. Visit Cordoba for more information, or get the latest Cordoba C7 price & reviews at Amazon.com
Best Mid Range Nylon String Guitars
Manuel Rodriguez Caballero 11
The Manuel Rodriguez brand is known for their extensive catalog of Spanish style guitars, and of their lineup the Caballero 11 is among the most popular, thanks to the value for money it offers. For its price, this classical guitar features true to form cosmetics that make it look more expensive than its actual price, and more importantly, it sports a solid Canadian cedar top that gives it more sustain and volume, something that's not normally available on guitars in this price range.
While other guitar manufacturers keep the price low by reducing aesthetic components, Manuel Rodriguez did not hold anything back for the Caballero 11. It features elegant body binding and exquisite wood rosette that would usually be compromised if not totally absent on other models of the same price. This combined with the great sounding solid cedar top, and true to form 25.6" scale length and 2" nut width - results in a premium looking, feeling and sounding instrument that's accessible to beginners, intermediate players, and even experienced players that's on a budget.
Like most guitars in the lower price brackets, minor adjustments maybe needed to tweak the playability out of the box. Still this is the best bang per buck Spanish style nylon string guitar in the entry level market that's worthy of picking. Get the latest Manuel Rodriguez Caballero 11 price and customer reviews at Amazon.com.
Godin Multiac Nylon Encore
Godin is one of the few guitar makers that have broken free from conventional guitar designs and more importantly, remained successful while doing it. Their unique design makes every Godin pop out when lined up with other makes, all the while retaining tone that's similar to traditionally built guitars. Of their many acoustic instruments, they are well known for their thin body nylon string guitars, a great example of which is the solid cedar top equipped Multiac Nylon Encore.
Far removed from conventional Spanish style guitars, the Multiac Nylon Encore has a thinner body, so it is unreasonable to expect it to have more volume when played wihtout an amp. But plug it into a PA or amplifier and you'll see why this mid-priced nylon string guitar is sought after, you get clear and balanced tone with virtually no feedback even at higher volumes. This is all thanks to Godin's Blendable Dual Source System which lets you mix the sound of an under-saddle transducer and an acoustic soundboard transducer, both of which are packed inside every Multiac Nylon Encore.
Playing this nylon string guitar is quite similar to that of a steel string acoustic, having a 25.5" scale length, 16" fingerboard radius and 1.875" nut width. Plus the compact proportions of the body makes it lighter and more convenient to carry around. Check this one out if you're looking to for a reliable gigging acoustic-electric nylon string guitar. Get the latest Godin Multiac price and customer reviews at Amazon.com
Top of the Range Nylon String Guitars
Taylor's impeccable quality and aesthetics have quickly propelled their brand into the big league, joining the ranks of more established acoustic guitar builders and gaining the affiliation of many of today's popular artists from various disciplines including pop music's Taylor Swift, Jason Mraz and One Direction, gospel music's Israel Houghton, classic rock's Tommy Iommi and many more. As expected, the brand has expanded into nylon string guitar territory, producing true workhorse instruments with museum level looks, the 814ce-N being among the best in their lineup.
The 814ce-N is based on the popular 814ce steel-string acoustic guitar, and as such it does not necessarily follow traditional classical guitar designs. Rather it has a playing feel and setup that is closer to steel string acoustics, making it an ideal instrument for those who want to add the mellow tone of nylon strings in their arsenal with minimal adjustments to playing technique.
Being part of the company's flagship line, this nylon string guitar comes with premium appointments that include solid sitka spruce top and Indian rosewood back and sides. It also comes packed with cosmetic embellishments that make the guitar easily stand out from among the crowd. Obviously, this is not the instrument for you if you are looking for a traditional Spanish style guitar, but for everything else, this is a worthy investment. Get the latest Taylor 814ce-N price and customer reviews at Amazon.com
Godin Multiac Grand Concert Duet Ambiance
Godin's high-end guitar line helped propel the brand to worldwide popularity, building their reputation around their instruments' impeccable reliability and their innovative use of multiple pickups. Notable players that use Godin's premium instruments include virtuosos like John McLaughlin, Sylvain Luc and Leonard Cohen just to name a few. One of the most popular in their upper tier line up is the Multiac Grand Concert Duet Ambiance, with its multi-pickup system from Fishman.
The Multiac Grand Concert Duet Ambiance nylon-string acoustic-electric guitar is a favorite among gigging and session musicians. Its key feature is its flexible undersaddle transducer with 4 switchable virtual mics, allowing for a more natural sounding tone that can match if not outperform conventional nylon string guitars. The Multiac Grand Concert Duet Ambiance has a cedar top which lends it a darker tone that works great for many working pop, jazz and world music enthusiasts. You can of course make adjustments to the Fishman Aura system to tweak the sound to your preference.
Again, the usual remonstration about Godin is the smaller body, but this seemingly weak body turns into an advantage making it easier to haul for gigs, and more resistant to damage. If you're looking for a reliable workhorse instrument that you can reliably take to the stage night after night, then you should consider this one.
Taylor Jason Mraz Signature Model
Taylor's impeccable quality and aesthetics have quickly propelled their brand into the big league, joining the ranks of more established acoustic guitar builders and gaining the affiliation of many of today's popular artists from various disciplines including pop music's Taylor Swift and One Direction, gospel music's Israel Houghton, classic rock's Tommy Iommi and many more. As expected, the brand has expanded into nylon string guitar territory and with the help of two time Grammy Winner Jason Mraz, have come up with a true workhorse that sports museum level looks.
This guitar is inspired by Jason Mraz's Taylor nylon-string NS72ce, which he has successfully employed on many of his pop style songs. It features western red cedar top and Indian rosewood neck, crafted into a concert shape with an elegant cutaway. The resulting sound is warm and punchy, flexible enough to handle slow ballads and fast rhythmically complex styles as required in many of Jason's songs.
As expected from Taylor, the guitar comes packed with cosmetic appointments that include custom "Be Love" inlay, and a special rosette with intricate zodiac symbols. Obviously, this is not the instrument for you if you are looking for a traditional Spanish style guitar, but for everything else, this is a worthy investment. Get the latest price & reviews at Amazon.com
Kenny Hill Signature
If you want the best nylon string guitar that money can buy, then your best course of action is to get a boutique builder craft you a special instrument. One such lutherie business with a great reputation is Hill Guitars, and the Kenny Hill Signature guitar is their most popular offering. Having been worked on by an experienced luthier, as opposed to coming from a production line, this guitar's workmanship, tonewoods and attention to detail is simply leagues above what mass produced guitars have to offer.
The lucky few that own a Kenny Hill Signature have nothing but great words for the instrument, praising its top notch build, aesthetics and tone. Especially noteworthy is the guitar's "double top" European spruceboard which makes the guitar lighter than usual and yet be more responsive. Trained flamenco and classical guitar players will find this guitar responding to minor adjustments to your playing, and it does so with amazing detail.
As with every premium guitar, the cost of owning and maintaining the Kenny Hill Signature makes it only viable for the elite few. But if you have the dough, or you are planning to save up for a great boutique guitar, then get in touch with Hill Guitars.
Don't forget to share your favorite nylon string guitars at the comment section below.
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