Ashbury Guitars GR5212
This might be an odd thing to say, but the Ashbury GR5212 is a bronzed demigod amongst other budget acoustics.
Compared to the pasty spruce-topped bloaters we usually take home, this dreadnought's deep tobacco suntan and hourglass figure would give Jennifer Lopez a run for her money.
But it gets better. While getting J-Lo into your front room would require a mountain of diamonds and chloroform, the Ashbury is yours for a mere 99 sheets of the Queen's paper.
But it's not mutton dressed as lamb. In fact, this Ashbury has a saucy spec list to match its irresistible cosmetics.
The first point of interest is that both the neck and body are made of mahogany.
This isn't an unusual wood in guitar circles but it is rare to see such a desirable material in a guitar that costs under £100.
It's laminate, of course, and therefore won't sweeten the guitar's tone over time like solid mahogany.
But don't worry, just remember the fact that you've got no right whatsoever to expect materials this good in a guitar in this price bracket!
You've also got a rosewood fretboard and diecast machineheads combined with an understated herringbone soundhole rosette and dot inlays.
It's refreshing to see an acoustic without the usual lashings of abalone and mother-of-pearl and this all adds up to an enticing and reliable package.
The Ashbury's materials would be wasted if it was held together by owl pellets, but we're pleased to find a high level of construction throughout.
It's always a good sign when you fish an acoustic out of the box to find it still in tune and just a smooth twist of the tuners soon banished any remaining flats and sharps.
We didn't spot any untidiness around the neck or soundhole either and were reasonably impressed by the overall playing experience.
It's not the smoothest guitar we've ever sat down with – especially for barre chords – but between the huge volume and well seated frets, it never feels too much like hard work.
Although slimmer than many dreadnoughts we've encountered, the Ashbury still feels deeper and wider than the Atlantic Ocean.
That mighty volume comes at a price and, if you're small enough to bluff your way into the kids adventure playground at Thorpe Park, we'd advise trying before you buy.
The Ashbury caters for both strummers and pickers, but the real grin factor comes when you dig in with a thin-gauge plectrum and clatter through the chords.
There's a great jangle to the sound, and this is the best way to coax out volume without working up a sweat.
Fingers are welcome at this party too, but you will have to work just that little bit harder to make yourself heard.
Still, as the price implies this guitar should be in the beginners market, perhaps it's best that the Ashbury excels as a chord machine.
By the time you're ready to pick individual notes your flngers should be strong enough to cope with this guitar.
As you might expect, the mahogany used in the Ashbury's construction lends a welcome warmth to the overall tone.
It's jangly without being grating and mellow without becoming soupy.
Some people might call it a generic tone, without the character or quirks of more expensive instruments. But they'd be missing the point.
For anyone who wants an entry-level acoustic dreadnought with rounded performance and good construction, the Ashbury takes some beating.
This guitar supports all of the techniques a developing player will use and does so at a price that can scarcely be believed.
Unbelievable value. Use of mahogany. Quality components. Plays and sounds good.
Some players may find the tone a bit bland. The body is a bit large in places.
An instrument that could well redefine what we expect from guitars at this price. If you're looking for a beginners' acoustic, this has to be top of the list.
Back and Sides Finish
Country of Origin
Guitar Body Material
No of Strings
No. of Frets
Diecast machineheads / nickel silver frets / adjustable trussrod.