When you say the words ‘acoustic guitar’ you may mean two things. You might be referring to a guitar with metal strings – as opposed to a classical guitar that uses nylon strings. Or you may mean a ‘manual guitar’ that isn’t electric. These guitars are often used to strum and sing along.
Classical guitars have three nylon strings and three ‘metal round-wound strings’ with a nylon core. Classical guitars are generally used to play ‘orchestral pieces’ so there’s more single-note plucking and you’ll use sheet music instead of chord charts. So what’s the best acoustic guitar?
Quick Glance: The Best Acoustic Guitar Brands
The best acoustic guitar on the Market 2021
1. Epiphone DR-100 Acoustic Guitar (Best for the Money)
Acoustic guitars are generally made of wood. And the type of wood does influence the sound f your guitar. Epiphone is Gibson’s budget range so when you buy this acoustic guitar, you’re getting the power of a name-brand at a price that’s better suited for small pockets. The DR-100 has a beautiful retro feel thanks to its sunburst coloring. It’s on the lighter side at roughly 6lbs.
But in terms of scale, it’s a 25.5-inch model. The top is ‘select spruce’ so it’s not a solid top. The back and sides are mahogany and the fretboard is rosewood. This guitar has the common dreadnought shape and if the vintage look doesn’t do it for you, you can order the guitar in wine-red, ebony, or natural. It has a slim neck so your wrists won’t tire as quickly on this big guitar.
The guitar is naturally loud and offers superior resonance. That’s a useful feature because this is a fully ‘analog’ guitar. Meaning it doesn’t have any electronic sections that you can hook up to amplifiers or PA systems – it relies on its own ‘organic’ sound. It’s an easy guitar to play though. But the frets are a tad unforgiving, which can be off-putting for a first-time guitar enthusiast.
Yes, fingering often results in blisters and hardened nubs. So that’s something to warn new students about. But the frets on the DR-100 could do with some softening. It wins on projection though, and the glossy finish is pretty. Peep through the soundhole to see the Epiphone certificate. It verifies your guitar as a Gibson original and comes with a lifetime guarantee.
This acoustic guitar in spruce and mahogany has a vintage look and a soulful sound. The tapered neck offers comfort during prolonged jam sessions and the tunings pegs are premium.
- The premium machined tunes hold their tone longer.
- It has a rosewood fretboard and bridge.
- The guitar has a scale length of 25.5 inches.
- While it’s a good quality guitar, it’s not a solid top. The ‘select spruce’ implies otherwise. Also, the frets are a tad harsh for beginners’ fingers.
2. Martin D-28 Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar
A lot of us are looking in the past for inspiration. Especially in the showbiz space with song sampling, revamped series, and movie remakes. This guitar follows that trend. It’s a reimagined version of the guitar played by Bob Dylan, Hank Williams, The Beatles, Elvis, and many more musical greats. So if you buy one, you’re strumming along with 184 years of heritage and history.
This is a good-looking guitar that wears its age well. The white binding and toner give your guitar an authentic retro design. The fretboard is rosewood with mother-of-pearl inlays and the dovetailed neck is sturdy enough to support the guitar’s large dreadnought body. The guitar ends with a distinct square tip and the tortoise pick-guard nicely contrasts the ‘natural’ guitar color.
The strings on this guitar are phosphor bronze. These strings are ideal for casual, laid-back, folksy playing with a lot of finger-work. They give off a sound that’s warm and mellow, so they work well with smooth, understated genres. Phosphor bronze strings are often fitted on smaller guitars, but they work well here. And the guitar top braced forward for enhanced vibration.
Usually, dreadnought guitars are preferred for strum-alongs because of their massive projection and ‘organic amplification’. But the D-28 is a more ‘lyrical’ guitar. Combining phosphor bronze strings with a rosewood back and sides lead to clear, crisp notes when you’re playing melodies and plucking harmonies. That makes it a great guitar for solo pieces and stage performance.
The tuners are geared machine heads so they hold tune for longer and make it easy to set your scales. The neck of this guitar is solid mahogany while the bridge and fretboard are ebony. It’s a good guitar for beginners because it’s easy to play, effortless to tune, and has lots of stories around it thanks to all those guitar greats. It comes with a hard case and a lifetime warranty.
The D-28 is a famous guitar with a solid spruce top and a good reputation. The sides and back are rosewood and the front is braced to better transmit your musical vibrations.
- Its dovetail neck is extra strong.
- The guitar has medium phosphor bronze strings.
- It has a natural finish with rosewood construction.
- It’s a pretty guitar – the manufacturers put a lot of effort into its looks. But its sound is average and it pretty much rides on its brand name.
3. Fender Mahogany CD 60S Acoustic Guitar
Fender guitars are among the most expensive ones on the market. But the company does produce some fair-priced models, and this acoustic guitar is quite pocket-friendly. It’s a dreadnought guitar but it has a bit more of a ‘waist’ to it. And unlike most guitars, this one has a mahogany front, back, and sides. If you buy it in black or natural, you get a spruce front.
But in all colors, the edges of the fingerboard are rolled. This makes them gentler on your fingers so it’s easier to play, especially for beginners who worry about grazing their fingers on the frets. This guitar comes as a complete kit. You get a polishing cloth to maintain the shine on your guitar and keep your strings dust-free. You also get a fabric gig bag, a tuner, and a set of picks.
A DVD is included with guitar lessons for beginners. And of course, you get a strap as well. The fretboard is made of rosewood and the guitar gives off a loud, resonant sound with crisp notes and soulful chords. The guitar has a hard-tail bridge and you get an extra set of strings though you might want to buy your own high-quality ones – the strings it ships with are low-end ones.
If you’re looking for an acoustic guitar that’s pretty and easy to play, the Fender CD 60S is the best acoustic guitar. The rolled fingerboard doesn’t stress your fingers much and there’s a DVD!
- The solid top has X bracing for added sturdiness.
- The front, back, and sides of the guitar are all mahogany.
- Its fingerboard has rolled edges for easier playing.
- You may need to re-string it, the ones it ships with aren’t ideal. Also, the mahogany absorbs some of the higher frequencies, which be good or bad depending on your ear.
4. Yamaha FG800 Semi-Acoustic Guitar (Our Top Pick)
If you’ve been in the music space for a while, you know Yamaha makes solid new-gen instruments, and the FG800 is no exception. It’s sometimes sold as FS800, depending on where you buy it. And it’s a curvy concert-size guitar. The base shape is a dreadnought, but the ‘waist’ dips a little extra so some people describe the shape more as ‘folk style’ than dreadnought.
The ‘effeminate’ shape might be why it’s a favorite with female players. It’s more comfortable for their slighter frames to hold, and it feels like a ‘softer’ guitar. With its color selection of natural or ruby red, the guitar feels premium and elegant despite its low price. And you can get the acoustic-electric version so don’t let its small size fool you. It already has good amplification.
But if you’re playing a larger venue and you got the semi-acoustic, you can hook that baby up to the amps or PA system. The guitar has a solid spruce Sitka top, a nato wood body (eastern mahogany), and mahogany back and sides. The fingerboard and bridge are rosewood and the solid top is reinforced with scalloped bracing. Your guitar’s tuners are stable, die-cast hardware.
This scalloped bracing is an upgraded feature from the FG700S, said to be the best-selling acoustic guitar of all time. Bracing doesn’t just prevent warping and body damage, it also allows the sound to bleed through better and enhances your string vibrations for a richer sound overall.
This lightweight 6lb guitar measures 41.6 inches by 19.1 by 6 inches. Its scalloped solid front makes your guitar loud and clear even if you don’t shell out extra for the semi-electric version.
- Its shape and size are popular with female players.
- The truss rod is adjustable for enhanced setting up.
- The guitar comes in two colors – natural or ruby red.
- The strings need stretching when you first unbox the guitar. Otherwise, you get an annoying buzz that will have you questioning your guitar skills.
5. Little Martin LX1E Travel Semi-Acoustic Guitar
With a name like Little Martin, you know this guitar will be small. But it’s built a big name for itself thanks to one of its most popular players, Ed Sheeran. Of course, if you buy his version, you’ll get a far higher price tag. So maybe opt for a more standard model that retails within your budget but offers all the features Ed (and his fans) love. Plus it’s small enough for kids to play.
The advantage of these little guitars is they don’t intimidate beginners. You’re also more likely to carry it around. Meaning you’ll get more practice and see improvement quicker, which will motivate you to keep at it and get even better. In that sense, the Little Martin LX1E is the best acoustic guitar for budding musicians. Especially if you want busk to fame like Ed did.
The front of this guitar is solid Sitka spruce but the back and sides are patterned mahogany. Meaning it looks like mahogany, but it’s laminated composite under high pressure to get a glossy result. The warm satin finish adds to your guitar’s looks and helps amplify your playing as well. The guitar has black machined tuners and a slender low-profile neck for stress-free strumming.
You can’t tell at first glance, but this is a semi-acoustic guitar with Fishman sonitone electronics. So you can hook it up to an amp, a PA system, or Ed’s signature pedalboard. It’s a travel guitar so it comes with a fabric gig bag padded for extra cushioning and a side pouch for your guitar gear. The fretboard is made of Morado wood and the guitar is equally good for finger-work.
If you’re into casual, folksy play, you’ll love this guitar. It’s loud enough to play at campfires and picnics, but electric enough for professional gigs and loud venues. And it’s great for travel too!
- The front is solid spruce but the back and sides are laminate.
- It’s a lightweight guitar and is extremely portable.
- This is the guitar Ed Sheeran uses …
- The electronics buzz a little when you play lower notes so you may need minor adjustments.
6. Art & Lutherie Roadhouse Semi-Acoustic Guitar
This guitar is pretty and semi-electric. But to maintain its entry-level pricing, some of the construction materials are on the lower end. The guitar is a mix of three kinds of wood – spruce top, wild cherry back, maple neck, and rosewood fingerboard. But the body uses triple-laminate versions of these woods rather than solid planks. And the front is select pressure-treated spruce.
It’s a petite instrument – parlor sized with folksy dreadnought curves. Its color is described as faded black though you can also order it in red or brown. The gleaming white tortoise pick-guard is striking in both color options. The finish is a matte bourbon semi-patina and tuners are 18:1 bronze with antique styling. The guitar has a double-action truss rod and Fishman electrics.
This Art & Lutherie piece has open-gear tuners and a scale of 24.84 inches. Its nut is 1.75 inches wide and its fingerboard radius is 16 inches. But the hardware isn’t very … hardy, pun intended. This isn’t a guitar that can stand rough handling or heavy rotation. Despite its name, this Roadhouse won’t last very long on a gig circuit. But it’s fine for transitioning to electric guitars.
The nut and bridge of the guitar are made of tusk, and if you opt to use it in electric mode, the control knobs sit inside the soundhole. The parlor design of this guitar means the neck meets the body on the 12th fret (other guitars have it on the 14th fret), so the guitar looks longer and more streamlined. The positioning affects the guitar’s sound as well since the bridge is further.
You might worry about the ‘plywood body’ because even triple laminate is still laminate. But the front of the guitar is the most important section, and it’s been pressure-tested to ensure it can handle weather changes (and the weight of the bridge). Still, rugged looks aside, this is not a sturdy guitar. It’s as soft and polite as the Canadians that built it, so handle it with care, aye?
The curves on this small Roadhouse guitar are fun to hold and sweet to play. But longevity isn’t this guitar’s strongpoint. We recommend using it as a back-up guitar rather than a ‘daily driver’.
- It’s a semi-acoustic guitar with Fishman Sonitone insides.
- The tortoise pick-guard beautifully contrasts the dark body.
- The folksy curves make your guitar easier to hold and play.
- The guitar has a laminate body so yes, the sound is slightly compromised.
7. Taylor GS Mini Semi-Acoustic Guitar
What makes a dreadnought? Is it the big jumbo body or the absence of a c-curve cutaway? Well, for guitars that have a dreadnought top but hourglass sides, the term ‘folk shape’ is sometimes applied. The Taylor GS Mini falls in that category. It has a bright brown ‘natural’ body and a red tortoise pick-guard. The guitar sometimes sounds ‘classical’ because of its low-action play.
But it can still strum the blues with persuasive power and soulful sound levels. It gets quite loud for a guitar this small, and with optional electronics, it can boom even further. The Taylor Mini GS has a back and sides made of solid mahogany. The neck is Ebony and the guitar is fitted with Matte 2.0 electronics in case you want to amp up your strumming. The fingerboard has 20 frets.
While anyone can play any guitar – given a bit of practice – this one is made with left-handed players in mind. The neck is … tailored … pun intended. And that makes it a cool gift for your jamming leftie pals. The front of the guitar is braced in a layered Sapele pattern for enhanced … acoustics … pun still intended. This bracing pattern helps with clarity and amplification as well.
This guitar has a full-bodied voice and amazing tone. The electronics are the clip-on style with the knobs inside the soundhole, so you can play this guitar in acoustic or electric mode. Its light body is comfortable to play so it’s both a hitch-hiker’s companion and a couch guitar. This leftie semi-acoustic guitar has a mahogany body and an ebony fretboard. It comes with a gig bag.
The Taylor GS Mini is a suitable guitar for traveling. But it’s also casual, comfy (and small) enough for first-time guitar students. And it has optional electronics if you want to do gigs.
- It’s customized for left-handed players.
- The guitar is small with a scale of 23.5 inches.
- Its electronics are by Matte 2.0 and it has 20 frets.
- It’s a small guitar so dodge it if you have large hands or prefer solid heft when you strum.
Now that we’ve looked at some top acoustic guitar models, let’s explore some shopping tips to help you make a final decision. Here are some factors to help you spot the best acoustic guitar.
Dreadnought or Concert
We mentioned earlier that classical guitars are mainly used with sheet music. So if you’re going to train classically, do formal exams, or work with scores, opt for a classical guitar. But if you’re more interested in gigs, karaoke, or jam sessions, pick metal strings. Dreadnought guitars are bigger and louder. They have better … acoustics … pun intended. So they’re better for bands.
Their sound carries further so they’re ideal for playing as part of a group. But if you’ll mostly play solo gigs in cozier venues (or if you’ll practice alone in a shared living space rather than jamming in the garage), get a smaller concert-style acoustic. Concert guitars are best for finger-picking while dreadnoughts work best for strumming and chords. You can use a pick with both.
This point is similar – dreadnought guitars are larger, heavier, and have a ‘deeper sound’. Concert guitars are smaller and have that C-shape at the next for easier finger-picking. So if you mostly play on your feet, you may want something lighter with a well-padded guitar strap. Young players may also prefer the C-shaped neck because it’s less strenuous for shorter arms.
This may seem silly, but how you hold your guitar matters as well. You could hold your guitar in the casual position (right leg) with the guitar parallel to your body. This works for strumming. Or you could opt for a more classical position (left leg) with a footstool. This makes it easier to pick individual notes. Before buying, try the guitar in both positions to see what works best.
When you’re shopping for electric guitars, you’ll weigh Maplewood against rosewood for your fretboard. And if you plan to play large venues, then the best acoustic guitar is a semi-acoustic (or semi-electric). Meaning you can plug an amp into your guitar and ‘turn it electric’. But whether you’re buying a full acoustic or semi-acoustic guitar, the body can be solid or semi-hollow.
Check the grain on your guitar. If it goes through to the other side, your guitar has a solid body. If the grain stops just before the soundhole then your guitar probably has a semi-hollow, plywood, or laminate front. This may cut costs but it will also change the sound of your guitar. The back and sides don’t have to be solid since they don’t influence your guitar’s sound as much.
We’ve talked about concert-style guitars and jumbo dreadnought guitars. But you can also get a ¾ sized 36-inch guitar if you want something smaller. Guitar strings influence sizing as well. Metal-stringed guitars have thinner necks and a reinforcement rod or truss rod. The nylon strings on Classical and Spanish guitars have wider necks to facilitate easier finger-plucking.
While you’re thinking about strings, consider the action. That’s the distance between the strings and the fretboard. Higher action means larger distances, so you have to press the strings harder when you play. You’ll use more energy that way and tire out quicker, especially if the frets are harsh. Other than that, if you can, test the guitar in person to see if the curves are comfy to play.
Hum and Strum
Given all these factors, we believe the best acoustic guitar is the Yamaha FG800. Here’s why:
- You can order it in natural or ruby red, acoustic or semi-electric.
- It has a spruce front and a nato (eastern mahogany) back.
- The fretboard and bridge are rosewood for crisper tones.
- It has a dreadnought shape with some curve to it, sometimes described as ‘folk style’.
- The die-cast tuners and adjustable truss odd provide versatility in play.
- This is the concert-size version so it works for smaller players.
What acoustic guitar are you playing right now? Show us a photo in the comments!