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The best Yamaha acoustic guitars 2021: 8 top choices for all levels of player and budget

The best Yamaha acoustic guitars 2021: 8 top choices for all levels of player and budget
(Image credit: Future)

Yamaha has now been at the forefront of acoustic guitar design for over 50 years – and it was their success in the acoustic field that spurred them to go on to develop electric guitars. The company’s spirit of innovation appeals to a wide variety of players. And it makes for an especially strong list of candidates when choosing the best Yamaha acoustic guitars, drawing on an especially impressive range of instruments from steel-string flat top to nylon-strung classical guitars and stage-ready acoustic electric guitars.

From its trailblazing APX range to more recent innovations with the TransAcoustic effects-loaded guitars, A.R.E (Acoustic Resonance Enhancement) treated woods and its CSF travel guitars, Yamaha is showing no sign of resting on its laurels. So that means there’s rich pickings when it comes to recommending our top picks from the Yamaha acoustic range.

Best Yamaha acoustic guitars: Our top picks

Yamaha’s range of acoustics offers something for everyone. But if we’re looking for the guitars with the best all-round strengths, two contemporary models are unbeatable. The Yamaha CSF3M is a travel-sized guitar that doesn’t compromise on playability or quality with solid mahogany back and sides, a rich tonality and impressive plugged-in performance that belies its compact dimensions.

The Yamaha A5R A.R.E combines the company’s reputation for great electro technology for the stage with its SRT2 preamp system with the feel of a played-in, vintage character thanks to the Acoustic Resonance Enhancement treatment on the top. It’s the best of both worlds and a guitar that will go the distance for any acoustic player.

Best Yamaha acoustic guitars: Product guide

Best Yamaha acoustic guitars: Yamaha A5R A.R.E.

(Image credit: Yamaha)

1. Yamaha A5R A.R.E

The best all-round Yamaha acoustic guitar

Price: $1,399/£1,560 | Type: Western body cutaway electro-acoustic | Top: Solid Sitka spruce with A.R.E treatment | Back & sides: Solid rosewood | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 20 | Tuners: Gotoh open gear | Electronics: Yamaha SRT2 | Left-handed: No | Finish: Vintage Natural

Superb unplugged and electric performance
Great build and spec
Aged top gives it a vintage look
No non-cutaway option

This Japan-made model represents Yamaha’s expertise in building pro-level electro-acoustic guitars. The A5R A.R.E balances the SRT2 preamp’s (Studio Response Technology) cutting edge detailed plugged-in experience with the vintage feel and tone offered by the A.R.E torrefication process to the guitar’s solid Sitka spruce top.

Resonant and detailed in the high end with a lower end tonal warmth that’s reflected in the guitar’s golden spruce hues, the hand-rolled fretboard edges complete a smooth playing experience. 

The SRT2 system offers piezo and simulated mic sources that can be mixed and balanced as desired. The result is superb versatility with condenser and ribbon mic options that shine in different applications and sound authentically organic for a guitar that would make a great option for the stage and home as a long-term investment. 

Read our full Yamaha A5R A.R.E review

Best Yamaha acoustic guitars: Yamaha CG-TA TransAcoustic Classical Guitar

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2. Yamaha CG-TA TransAcoustic Classical Guitar

The best Yamaha acoustic for new nylon string classical players

Price: $699/£619/€589 | Type: Nylon-string acoustic with built-in reverb and chorus effects | Top: Solid Engelmann spruce | Back & sides: Ovangkol laminate | Neck: Nato | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 19 | Tuners: Yamaha gold open gear | | Electronics: System70 TransAcoustic and piezo pickup| | Left-handed: No | Finish: Natural

Inspiring onboard effects
A great choice for fingerstyle
Good playability for classical newcomers
Half of the price is for the TransAcoustic technology here

The most recent addition to Yamaha’s TransAcoustic technology might actually be the best platform for it. Creating reverb and chorus effects using the guitar’s body - and without the need for an amp or plugging in - reverb especially really adds a whole new dimension to the nylon-string playing experience. 

The CG-TA is good for players who want a nylon-string as a starter classical instrument or an alternative to their steel-stringed instrument. Playability here is friendly if you’re moving to a flat and wider neck for the first time. 

If you're looking for songwriting inspiration, the sense of atmosphere and drama the reverb effects here (with hall and room options) could prove irresistible. It needs to be heard to be believed. 

Read our full Yamaha CG-TA TransAcoustic review

Best Yamaha acoustic guitars: Yamaha SLG200S Silent Guitar

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3. Yamaha SLG200S Silent Guitar

The best Yamaha acoustic guitar for practice

Price: $699/£599/€649 | Type: Electro-only acoustic with built-in effects and collapsible body | Frame: Rosewood and maple | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 25" | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 22 | Tuners: Chrome die-cast | Electronics : SRT pickup system with effects and tuner | Left-handed: No | Finish: Natural (pictured), Tobacco Brown Sunburst, Translucent Black Steel, Crimson Red Burst

Great plugged-in performance
Effects and tuner onboard
Folds down for portability
If you want to play without a PA, amp or headphones – look elsewhere

It looks… different, and it is different. The latest model in Yamaha’s evolution of the Silent Guitar concept doesn’t just sound incredible through a PA, you can pack it down for travel and plug your headphones in for late night practice. 

The SLG200S has barely any acoustic volume unless you’re plugging in which makes it a great option if you want to enjoy detailed acoustic tones without disturbing anyone. And you’ll get them here – with added reverb, chorus effects, tuner and EQ too. 

If you’ve got an open mind to its very untraditional looks, the SLG200S offers a genuinely innovative proposition for home, away and even the stage. 

Read our full Yamaha SLG200S review

Best Yamaha acoustic guitars: Yamaha Storia II

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4. Yamaha Storia II

The best Yamaha acoustic guitar for beginners

Price: $429/£354 | Type: Concert electro-acoustic | Top: Solid mahogany | Back & sides: Mahogany laminate | Neck: Nato | Scale: 25" | Fingerboard: Walnut | Frets: 20 | Tuners: Open gear Champagne-Gold | Electronics: Yamaha passive undersaddle piezo pickups | Left-handed: No | Finish: Natural with Ultramarine interior

Great design for new players
Contemporary looks
Great playability
No options for left-handed players

The beginner experience with an acoustic guitar is crucial - otherwise there’s a risk you won’t stick at it and you’ll miss out on a lifetime of enjoyment. The Storia series hits a home run for newcomers with great playability but also sound and contemporary looks too. 

The compact concert size and slightly shorter scale combine with a slim neck for an accessible and well-designed starter instrument, but the performance here is something all players will appreciate. Details like colour accents in the soundhole and brass bridge pins also give the Storia II a stylish edge that would look great resting in your lounge.

Further scope is provided by a passive piezo pickup, so there’s no excuses not to take it along to the next open mic night. 

Read the full Yamaha Storia II review

Best Yamaha acoustic guitars: Yamaha CSF3M

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5. Yamaha CSF3M

A fantastic small-bodied acoustic guitar

Price: $589/£499/€599 | Type: Short-scale concert-size electro acoustic | Top: Solid Sitka spruce | Back & sides: Solid mahogany | Neck: Nato | Scale: 23.6" | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 20 | Tuners: Die-cast chrome | Electronics: Yamaha passive SRT piezo | Left-handed: No | Finish: Vintage Natural, Tobacco Sunburst (pictured)

Great projection 
Surprisingly rich sounds for a smaller size
Solid wood top, back and sides
Some players may prefer an active piezo pickup

Saying the CSF3M is a great travel guitar isn’t really doing it justice; it’s a surprisingly versatile electro acoustic all-rounder that sounds greater than it’s small dimensions may suggest. 

It’s also a solid wood build – rare for a travel-size instrument in this price range and making a case for it being Yamaha’s best value acoustic guitar. It even offers a passive piezo if you want to gig with it. 

A slightly wider neck than the competition works in its favour; making it feel less cramped than other guitars around the 23.6” scale, and suitable for fingerstyle players. It also arguably contributes to the impressive projection here.  

Read our full Yamaha CSF3M review

Best Yamaha acoustic guitars: Yamaha FG800M

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6. Yamaha FG800M

The best value entry-level Yamaha acoustic guitar

Price: $325/£219/€225 | Type: Dreadnought-size acoustic | Top: Solid spruce | Back & sides: Nato | Neck: Nato | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 20 | Tuners: Die-cast chrome | Left-handed: No | Finish: Matt Natural

A solid performer for beginners
Good playability
Affordable
No left-handed option

This matt-finished bargain offers Yamaha’s classic ‘Folk Guitar’ shape with quality performance and tidy build quality that strums above its price point. 

The C-shape neck profile should appeal to the majority of players and the FG is actually Yamaha’s take on the evergreen dreadnought style body – so expect a decent low end response to balance its crisp highs. 

The FG800M would make for an ideal first acoustic step for a new player, or a great guitar for the home to branch out from electric guitar with. It’s a superb showcase of Yamaha’s commitment to offering quality across a wide spectrum of price ranges. 

Read our full Yamaha FG800M review

Best Yamaha acoustic guitars: Yamaha FG5 Red Label

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7. Yamaha FG5 Red Label

The best solid wood, non cutaway Yammy acoustic

Price: $1,199/£1,197/€1,366 | Type: Traditional Western acoustic | Top: Solid Sitka spruce A.R.E | Back & sides: Solid mahogany | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 25" | Fingerboard: Ebony | Frets: 20 | Tuners: Gotoh open gear | Left-handed: No | Finish: Semi Gloss Natural

A vintage return with modern updates
A great all-round flat top acoustic
Quality build 
25" is slightly shorter than many dreadnoughts so worth comparing  

A rare example of the company looking back, this ‘Traditional Western’ alternative to the ubiquitous dreadnought takes inspiration from the coveted 1960s-era Nippon Gakki Red Label models. But in true Yamaha style, the FG5 features a number of contemporary touches.

The A.R.E wood torrefication process seeks to enhance the resonance of the solid Sitka spruce top and the semi gloss finish help give it a subtle vintage class. The new scalloped bracing also gives this an enhanced projection. 

With an equilibrium between the treble and bass here, this new take on an old favourite shines for chordwork, but resonant single notes under fingerstyle underline a great all-purpose acoustic option if you’re looking to invest in this solid wood option. 

Read our full Yamaha FG5 Red Label review

Best Yamaha acoustic guitars: Yamaha LS-TA TransAcoustic

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8. Yamaha LS-TA TransAcoustic

The best TransAcoustic steel-string available today

Price: $1,079/£899/€949 | Type: Small body electro acoustic with onboard reverb and chorus effects | Top: Solid Engelmann Spruce with A.R.E treatment | Back & sides: Solid rosewood | Neck: Mahogany and rosewood 5ply | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Ebony | Frets: 20 | Tuners: Gotoh chrome open gear | Electronics: System70 TransAcoustic and piezo pickup| | Left-handed: No | Finish: Brown Sunburst (pictured), Vintage Tint

Decent spec
The TransAcoustic effects needs to be heard to be believed
An impressive guitar even without the effects
Some players may prefer the larger-bodied LL and FG models

Yamaha’s TransAcoustic series is so enjoyable to play, the company now offer models at various price points. But we think this higher end example offers the best all-round experience with solid rosewood back and sides, A.R.E treated top and the LS body shape that should appeal to a wide range of players.

Even without the incredible reverb and chorus sounds this guitar creates while still unplugged, it’s an inspiring performer thanks to high spec and build quality. The additional effects make for a very strong package here, one that could be a source of inspiration that outshines other acoustic guitars. 

Read our full Yamaha LS-TA TransAcoustic review

Best Yamaha acoustic guitars: Buying advice

Best Yamaha acoustic guitars: Buying advice

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Different players have varying needs from a guitar; some of us only want to play at home, while others need an acoustic that will deliver live, or an instrument that they can travel with. It’s important to consider what you need from a potential Yamaha acoustic guitar purchase – but above all else, it needs to play well and sound great. 

Playability and sound are the foremost qualities we have taken into consideration in our recommendations in this guide, but other key factors will also play a part in a buying decision for players and we’ve made sure to cover select models that represent the following features Yamaha offers.

Electronics

Some models come with an onboard acoustic guitar pickup and often a preamp too to enable them to be amplified for live performance. Yamaha models can include either passive or active pickups – the latter will require replaceable batteries and will usually offer added onboard control over EQ and higher output. 

Some preamp systems even include microphone-modelling for you to mix with the piezo sound for a more organic character. 

An additional type of electronics is offers by Yamaha in its TransAcoustic series. Yamaha’s TransAcoustic technology uses the guitar’s own body as the ‘speaker’ for built-in reverb and chorus effects with no amp or pedals required; the circuitry is inside the guitar.  

Yamaha TransAcoustic guitar close-up of the sound hole

(Image credit: Future)

Solid and laminate woods

You should look for a Yamaha acoustic that has a solid wood top as this is the most important part of the guitar when it comes to vibrating the sound. Some guitars also have solid wood backs and sides, and these usually mature and age over time in a way that adds more detail to the guitar's tones.

Some acoustic guitar models offer backs and sides made from layered/laminate woods and these tend to be more affordable than solid wood options. They can also have the advantage of being more resilient to seasonal and home temperature changes to offer great tuning stability and can be more robust to cracks. 

A.R.E (Acoustic Resonance Enhancement)

This is Yamaha’s process that aims to capture the warmer and sweeter tones that can be created by mature tonewoods. The company are keen to point out it’s not an aging process but uses specialised equipment in a process that precisely controls temperature, humidity, and atmospheric pressure to transform the wood used for a guitar’s top.