The guitar is second only to the piano as the most popular instrument in the world. Across the developed world, it seems like almost every household has at least one acoustic guitar sitting about somewhere. It could just be collecting dust in a closet, or it could be a proud showpiece. Or perhaps it is part of a player’s collection, or the humble first instrument of an aspiring guitarist. Acoustic guitars are highly affordable, easy to learn how to play, and provide a direct connection to the performance and creative side of music for millions of people across the globe.
Unlike some instruments which are strictly within the domain of a practicing musician, the acoustic guitar is something seemingly everyone can pickup and enjoy with a bit of light strumming.
Whether you are looking for your first acoustic guitar to break into music, or you just want something to break out at the occasional party, or you’re an intermediate or advanced player looking for an upgrade, we have some helpful advice for choosing the best acoustic guitar.
Table of Contents:
- I. What You Need To Know Before Purchasing An Acoustic Guitar
- II. To Amplify or Not To Amplify?
- III. Best Acoustic Guitars – Our Hot Picks
- a. Fender CD-60S Dreadnought Steel String Acoustic Guitar
- b. Luna Gypsy Muse Steel String Parlor Acoustic Guitar
- c. Cordoba C5 Iberia Series Nylon String Classical Guitar
- d. Yamaha FG830 Acoustic Steel String Folk Guitar
- e. Taylor BT2 Baby Taylor Steel String Acoustic Guitar
- f. Epiphone AJ-220S Solid Top Steel String Acoustic Guitar
- g. Epiphone Hummingbird Pro Acoustic-Electric Guitar
- h. Martin Road Series DRS2 Steel String Dreadnought Acoustic-Electric Guitar
- IV. Define Your Style
What You Need To Know Before Purchasing An Acoustic Guitar
Not all acoustic guitars are created equally. There are quite a few features which distinguish them from one another. One of the most important things to look for is the type of string. Acoustic guitars strings tend to be made from either steel or nylon. These are very different from each other. They sound and feel very different
Here’s a quick run-down of the differences:
- Steel String Acoustic Guitars: This is the most popular type of acoustic guitar. It’s the kind you’re likely to hear in pop, country, rock ‘n roll, blues, and folk music. Steel strings have a very bright sound and can produce a lot of volume.
- Nylon String Acoustic Guitars: Less common than steel strings, nylon string guitars are the instrument of choice for classical guitarists. They are also popular among jazz musicians. Nylon strings tend to have much less volume than steel strings, but produce a tone with more body and warmth.
Another important factor to look for is the guitar’s body type. This will effect how large the guitar is and what kind of sound you’ll get from it.
There are many different types of acoustic guitar bodies, but here are a few you’re likely to encounter as you look for a guitar:
- Dreadnought: This is the most common shape of acoustic guitar body. This is the “classic” acoustic guitar, big and bulky with a rich sound and a lot of projection.
- Parlor: Parlor guitars are the smallest acoustic guitars. This makes them great for portability, but they sacrifice some volume in exchange for their small size.
- Classical or Orchestra: These guitars tend to be somewhere between Parlor and Dreadnought in body size. They are the preferred instrument of flamenco and classical guitar players. These guitars have have a very rich and powerful sound when played with proper technique. Classical and orchestra body shapes are almost always found on nylon string guitars.
To Amplify or Not To Amplify?
As you look at various options for acoustic guitars, you’ll probably notice a lot of them are equipped with electronics that allow you to run your acoustic guitar through an amplifier.
Strictly speaking, this is unnecessary. After all, you’re looking for an acoustic guitar.
While your main concern should be how that guitar sounds without the aid of any amplification, you might find the versatility that being able to plugin afford quite useful.
The sound of the amplified acoustic guitar is a huge part of modern music.
If you’re a huge fan of acoustic guitar music, it could even be this “plugged in” sound that you are seeking as you try to emulate your favorite artist’s recordings.
Just from a practical standpoint, being able to amplify your guitar lets you be heard in a jam, participate on stage or at an event, and easily record your playing.
If you want to get crazy, it even opens up the world of effects pedals and awesome sounds from things like delay and modulation.
So even if you don’t feel like having a pickup or a preamp in your acoustic guitar will do you any good, don’t discount these acoustic-electrics outright!
Best Acoustic Guitars – Our Hot Picks
Now that you know a bit about what to look for, let’s take a look at a few instruments we’ve selected for their exceptional qualities.
Fender CD-60S Dreadnought Steel String Acoustic Guitar
Countless players have begun their musical journey with a Fender guitar. The CD-60S is an acoustic guitar designed with exactly that in mind.
This extremely affordable package deal includes not only the CD-60S guitar, but also everything you need to get playing. You get some picks, a clip-on electronic tuner, a guitar strap, a polishing cloth, an instructional DVD, and even a hard-shell case!
The guitar itself features a solid spruce top with mahogany sides and back. You can select from a variety of different finishes to find your favorite appearance.
There is also a left-handed model available!
For the money, this guitar is a great value. It stays in tune reliably, has a nice sound, and is a great entry point to playing the guitar. All the extra goodies included with the bundle make this an absolutely tremendous value.
Luna Gypsy Muse Steel String Parlor Acoustic Guitar
If you’re after a lovely little parlor guitar that can impressive with its sound despite its size, the Luna Gypsy Muse might be just the ticket.
Though the small body (and a small pricetag) might be one of its main selling points, you’d be hard pressed to find a guitar that sounds this good for this little money no matter the size.
This model also features a gorgeous mahogany neck and body with an eye-catching natural wood finish.
Although this guitar would sound good for most styles of music, it brings out the nuances of finger picking particularly well.
Cordoba C5 Iberia Series Nylon String Classical Guitar
If classical, jazz, or flamenco styles are more your speed, a nylon string acoustic is the way to go.
This Cordoba is a beautiful guitar designed for the needs of the entry-level classical guitarist.
It’s modeled after Cordoba’s most prestigious (and far more expensive) C9 guitar, a favorite selection among professional classical players.
The C5 has a head-turning solid Canadian cedar top with mahogany back and sides. The fretboard, bridge, and binding are all made from an elegant dark rosewood.
For a player just starting to learn classical or jazz guitar, this is an instrument that can serve them well for years to come. It would make an excellent practice instrument for any guitarist at any level.
Yamaha FG830 Acoustic Steel String Folk Guitar
If you’re on a tight budget but want a decent, reliable instrument that can serve as a workhorse for practice or even make some appearances on the stage, this Yamaha is an excellent option.
Featuring a solid sitka spruce top, rosewood back, sides, and fingerboard, and reliable Yamaha diecast tuning gears, this is an instrument that won’t let you down at a price that doesn’t break the bank.
Yamaha is known for their ability to make quality instruments at an affordable price, which is what they’ve done with the FG830.
Despite being priced like a beginner’s practice guitar, the FG830 offers a rich, stage-ready sound and solid, durable construction.
Taylor BT2 Baby Taylor Steel String Acoustic Guitar
This Baby Taylor was originally designed with kids in mind, but it has become an absolute favorite of touring musicians.
Earning its name thanks to its 3/4” scale, the Baby Taylor is a scaled down Dreadnought-style acoustic guitar.
Taylor, one of the leading names in high-end acoustic guitars, created the instrument with the goal of offering a high quality option for young players and their smaller hands.
Instead of something that appeals strictly to children, Taylor instead made an awesome instrument that seems to inspire anyone who picks it up.
Small, easy to play, immensely portable, and made out of high quality woods with quality Taylor craftsmanship, this is an amazingly fun guitar for players of any level.
It’s no slouch in the looks department, either. With a gorgeous mahogany top, back, and sides, a neck of sapele finished with a fretboard made from genuine African ebony nut wood, this is a truly stunning instrument to behold.
Most importantly, it sounds beautiful. Though it doesn’t quite have the volume of a full-sized acoustic guitar, it has an attractive tone that will keep you coming back for more.
Epiphone AJ-220S Solid Top Steel String Acoustic Guitar
Since an acquisition in 1969, Epiphone has been producing lower-cost versions of Gibson guitar models. Though Gibson and Epiphone were originally rivals, today their catalogs are so similar that one might mistake them as the same company.
However, the rivalry is still alive in some respects. Occasionally these low-cost Epiphone models give the high-dollar guitars that they drew inspiration from a run from their money.
This AJ-22OS is based off the classic Gibson J-45, a guitar introduced in 1942 and nicknamed “The Workhorse.” Notable players include John Lennon, Buddy Holly, Bob Dylan, David Gilmour, and Lightnin’ Hopkins.
Although not a perfect replica, the AJ-22OS does the original justice in looks, sound, and playability.
It has a classic tone that is ideally suited for blues, folk, and rock and roll styles.
Featuring a mahogany neck, back, and sides, finished with a solid sitka spruce top and rosewood bridge and fretboard, despite being an affordable “replica,” this is a beautifully constructed instrument.
For anyone looking for the appeal of a classic Gibson dreadnought at an affordable price, take a close look at the Epiphone AJ-22OS.
Epiphone Hummingbird Pro Acoustic-Electric Guitar
The Gibson Hummingbird Bird was one of the most recognizable acoustic guitars in rock ‘n roll history.
This Epiphone offers players a chance to not only own a gorgeous guitar, but their own little piece of this epic legacy.
Made famous by players like Keith Richards and Sheryl Crow, the Hummingbird has a distinctive look which is reinforced by a sound which effortlessly navigates the spectrum from delicate to powerful.
Featuring a rosewood fingerboard adorned with the Hummingbird’s unique parrallelogram inlays, a solid spruce top, and mahogany sides and back, Epiphone’s Hummingbird is just as gorgeous as the original. And of course, it features the famous decorative pickguard, too!
Martin Road Series DRS2 Steel String Dreadnought Acoustic-Electric Guitar
If you want a genuine Martin guitar without taking out a small loan, the Road Series is where you need to look.
Martin is one of the most renown names in acoustic guitars. In business since 1833, few guitar makers have had nearly the influence of Martin.
In fact, they invented the Dreadnought style of this very guitar.
Crafting beautiful instruments with unforgettable sounds has been Martin’s modus operandi for nearly two hundred years, and the DRS2 is no different.
Designed to give working musicians access to that incredible Martin tone, the DRS2 is an electric-acoustic guitar ready for the stage or studio.
It’s made with a solid sitka spruce top with solid sapele back and sides. The neck is made from Martin’s select hardwoods and the fretboard is composed of a futuristic resin-infused paper material known as black richlite.
For electronics, the DRS2 is equipped with Fishman Sonitrone electronics, giving you the ability to plug into amplification and equalize your signal directly from the guitar.
Define Your Style
The guitar you play will influence the direction of your music.
Take some time to choose wisely. Find what appeals to you and offers the look, sound, and feel that most inspires you to play.
There is no shortage of options for acoustic guitar players at any level. Such a popular instrument is awash in different brands, models, and options.
No matter how eclectic your style or seemingly unique your demands for an instrument are, there is surely something to suit you.
The sky truly is the limit!
Good luck and never be afraid to experiment off the beaten path.