So, you’re shopping for one of the best acoustic guitars under $/£1,000? Congratulations! You’re in luck, because there is a bewildering array of acoustics in all shapes and sizes for less than a grand that will blow your mind.
And we’ve got the best ones listed here. There are some doozies that we had to take a pass on just because of space. C’mon, Martin’s Dreadnought Junior, a scaled-down exemplar of Martin’s more affordable guitar making, or the Epiphone J-200 SCE, a jumbo beaut in anyone’s language? We love them. But they’re not here (but they do feature in our guides to the best acoustic guitars for beginners and the best acoustic guitars overall).
What we do have is a selection of acoustics in different shapes and sizes. Hopefully, there’s something for everyone in here. You might even have plenty of change to buy an acoustic guitar amp, too.
But first, let’s take a look at what you can expect for your money, and what to look for.
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The best acoustic guitars under $/£1,000 right now?
The Academy Series has been a triumph from Taylor, and the Taylor Academy Series 12E is the pick of the litter. It has a quiet style but pick it up and it screams quality. The grand concert body shape is nice and compact but it has plenty of guts and a super-lively response that should reward fingerpickers and flatpickers alike. And the price is ridiculous.
Another compact acoustic with a heavyweight tone, the smartly appointed Martin Road Series 000-10E is an all solid-wood build, with its sapele construction offering an arguably more interesting response than its mahogany counterparts, with a soupçon more brightness in there. It makes fingerpicking a breeze. The build quality and playability is exceptional.
Best acoustic guitars under $/£1,000: buying advice
First off, it’s interesting to note that the majority of the acoustic guitars in this list do not usurp the budget. That is testament to the job manufacturers are doing right now in keeping the mid-priced instrument category so keenly contested.
But what should you expect for your money? In this price category, we should be looking for more solid-wood builds, that is acoustics that are built from solid wood as opposed to laminated woods. Not that there’s anything wrong with laminated wood, but the true character of the wood comes through when its solid.
Of course, there are some laminated builds here. As with any instrument, there are trade-offs to be made with the spec, and often they are done for good reason. Take the PRS Angelus AE50E. It is an exceptional acoustic electric, and it uses flame maple laminate on the back and sides.
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The AE50E sounds incredible, and looks it too. But there’s no way PRS could use solid flame maple on a guitar at this price. Crucially, the top is solid wood; and here we have all solid wood on the soundboards.
As for tonewood choices, CITES has changed the game for a lot of acoustic guitar builders. Even though its restrictions on woods such as rosewood have been slackened for instrument manufacturing (note: it was the luxury furniture market that caused the problem in the first place), we are seeing new woods being used, more sustainable alternatives to the likes of rosewood and ebony.
There is Richlite, an FSC-approved composite material, substituting for ebony. There is katalox, another ebony substitute, and we are seeing sapele being used as an alternative to mahogany. These choices may be made with a nod to the environment and cost, but an unintended consequence is that there is more variance in guitar building nowadays, with more alternatives to the classic spruce top, mahogany back and sides.
That said, the classics never go out of style. We have some options here that wear the Sitka spruce/mahogany well.
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As for body shapes, we’ve got guitars at all sizes, from Fender’s quite exquisite parlour, the Paramount PM-2, to the Gretsch Rancher Falcon Jumbo. The smaller body sizes are typically brighter, ideal for fingerstyles, while the larger sizes tend to suit strummers that bit better, with their greater volume and bass-heavy tone filling the mix.
In between those sizes we’ve got grand concert and auditorium models, and the classic dreadnought, characterised by its well-balanced frequency response and booming midrange projection.
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What about the pickups?
All of our following picks have pickup and preamp systems. Many will have a tuner, also, secreted somewhere besides the preamp controls in the soundhole or on the guitar’s shoulder.
What to look for in an acoustic guitar pickup is transparency. You don’t want the pickup masking your guitar’s acoustic tone. Of course, having some control over the EQ can be invaluable, allowing you to make adjustments when playing with other instruments or in a crowded venue.
At this price point, the very best pickup systems – the likes of the LR Baggs Anthem and Fishman Matrix Infinity VT – are out of reach, but there are still some very impressive electronics here. Taylor’s ES-B setup is part of the reason why the Academy Series is such a persuasive option for players shopping in this price range.
Oh, and speaking of the Academy Series, that leads us to our first pick, the best acoustic guitar you can buy for under a grand. Spoilers: You’ll get plenty of change, too.
The best acoustic guitars under $/£1,000
The Academy 12E is number one but in truth it could be a toss up between this and its sibling, the round-shouldered 10E dread. They share so much DNA. There has to be a winner though, and here we’re going with the grand concert-sized model, and with no regrets.
Both offer well-balanced tones, with the 10E offering a little extra heft in the low end, the 12E a more exuberant treble. Maybe that is what sold us on the 12E – it’ll really make your fingerstyle pop.
It’ll happily handle most styles, though, and strummers will love the rasping upper-midrange and how it articulates your every grace note between chord changes. The 12E is lively and dynamic, and the onboard ES-B pickup and preamp system does an excellent job in translating this when plugged through your amp.
At this price point, Taylor’s Academy Series is knocking it out the park. Now, one could make the argument that the design could do with a little more hot sauce, but frankly we like the clean lines, the rosette detail is a nice touch. And you may be too distracted by the tone and the feel. The Academy 12E might not shout fun but it is; with the armrest on the lower bout and the slim neck profile making it a joy to play.
Read the full Taylor Academy Series 12E review
Solid sapele makes a solid choice for this little beauty. It’s a sustainable tonewood choice and makes an excellent alternative to mahogany, deep-grained, with a lighter reddish hue, and often presenting with a subtle tiger stripe in the wood’s pattern.
Sound-wise, it has the low-end depth to fill out the compact dimensions of the 000 body shape, but there’s an effervescent treble to this that makes it ideal for fingerpicking. The eco-friendly appointments continue with a corian nut and GraphTech White Tusq compensated saddle, and a bridge and fingerboard fashioned from Richlite, an FSC-certified material that’s manufactured using recycled paper and a very viable alternative to ebony.
As with anything new related to guitar design, it might take some time for players to buy into it, but having played many Martin guitars of the X and Road series, the Richlite holds up. Elsewhere, there’s a “select hardwood” neck, which allows Martin to hedge its bets and use whatever’s available – it’s sure to be comfortable though, carved into the Performing Artist profile with High Performance Taper. The hand-rubbed satin finish feels just lovely. Topping it off you’ve got an excellent Fishman MX-T electronics, featuring an upgraded Sonicore pickup, a tuner, and controls tucked away in the soundhole.
Read the full Martin Road Series 000-10E review
Nobody is going to miss you when you rock up at the open mic with the Rancher Falcon Jumbo. They’ll see you from the back of the room. They’ll hear you in the next room. This is a big ol’ jumbo, retro-styled and with all of Gretsch’s vintage mojo poured into its design.
Look at the gold embossed headstock. It’s a little much don’t you think? No? Exactly, this isn’t for the shrinking violets, and we can think of few jumbos on the market at this price point that perform better for country strumming and rootsy southern rock styles.
The Fishman pickup can be a little on the quacky side but that’s easily tamed via the 3-band EQ on the preamp, and once you find the sweet spot the Falcon will offer you some big, wide and vibrant tones coming out of that unique triangular soundhole. The build and performance will blow you away. Heck, it’s just so cool.
Read the full Gretsch G5022CBFE Rancher Falcon Jumbo review
Sometimes you need a small-bodied guitar. You might be travelling. You might just need something manageable and fun to knock around in the house or the studio. Well, the Fender’s superlative Paramount Series has you covered.
The PM-2 has an all solid build, with solid Sitka spruce on the top, solid mahogany on the back and sides. The short-for-Fender 24.75” scale gives it a very easy feel, so too the neck profile. Quite simply there is nothing to be intimidated by here. For young players with some growing to do, and who are serious about the instrument, this would be an excellent second guitar – a “first proper guitar,” if you like.
The onboard Fishman pickup and preamp has a 3-band EQ and is more than fit for purpose. It was designed for this body shape and does a good job of translating the PM-2’s bright and dynamic acoustic tone for the amplifier. We also love the open-gear tuners and the checkerboard purfling, rosette and binding. There’s a deluxe hardshell case included too. Quality.
Read the full Fender Paramount PM-2 review
The Red Label FSX3 does a very decent impression of the classic Yamaha FG acoustics of the ‘60s, but rather than ape them outright it looks to build on the legacy. The FSX3 gets the fundamentals just right. It has a solid Sitka spruce top and solid mahogany back and sides combo – the classic configuration for steel-string acoustics, with the mahogany rounding out the bottom end and low-mids and the spruce vibrating in all the right ways for your mids and highs to articulate the nuances in your playing.
The FSX3 features Yamaha’s A.R.E. (Acoustic Resonance Enhancement) wood ageing process, again replicating the tone of an acoustic that has done some living. But that said, vintage acoustics tend not to be fitted with tech such as Yamaha’s Atmosfeel pickup and preamp, which offers controls on the guitar’s shoulder for mic/pickup blend, tone, and volume. The scalloped bracing pattern is new, too.
It all adds up to a very impressive instrument and there is something about this unadorned acoustic that is so persuasive. It’s the vintage tone and the feel, the matt finish on the C-profile neck, the quality of the build, and the production line price doesn’t hurt.
A genuine USA Gibson acoustic, straight from the Montana factory, and offering change from a grand? The G-45 Studio is too good to be true.
It has a solid-wood build, with walnut on the back and sides offsetting a lovely solid Sitka spruce soundboard. That walnut is reprised on the fingerboard, and makes an appearance on the headstock too. The fit and finish of this guitar is impeccable.
It has an all-over satin feel and is finished in nitro. Should cork sniffers direct their noses to the neck joint, they’ll surely savour the heady scent of hide glue. Lovely stuff. And Gibson’s entry-level US acoustic delivers a well-balanced dread tone, with a weighty enough boom and a generous helping of harmonics and treble-forward highs.
The Fishman Sonitone system is a ubiquitous choice, and perhaps it would have been nice to have something more upscale here. But that’s churlish to complain. You can always upgrade the electronics, and plugged in or acoustic the G-45 Studio nails the aspirational vibe Gibson is going for.
“I’ve always said from the beginning that an electric guitar is first and foremost an acoustic guitar.” That’s Paul Reed Smith himself talking about the SE range of acoustics, which take their bracing patterns from PRS Private Stock models and bring a lot of that PRS feel to acoustic guitar design.
One quick way of doing that is using the same “Wide Fat” neck profile as the electrics. It’s a clever move, making the Angelus a real treat to play, and an obvious staging post for died-in-the-wool electric players going unplugged.
The traditional PRS flourishes elevate it further. There are the real abalone shell bird inlays, with the decorative shell reprised in the binding and rosette. The back and sides of the guitar comprise figured maple laminate. While we’d be expecting solid woods at this price, the flame maple is quite exquisite, and lends this cutaway electro-acoustic a sparkle and definition.
Taylor’s Academy range is the gift that keeps on giving to guitarists on a budget, and this entry-level nylon-string presents great value, with an impeccably put together instrument that’s very welcoming to those just making the transition from steel to nylon.
The Grand Concert is Taylor’s smallest full-scale body shape, and with the contoured armrest, it won’t be beaten on comfort. With the adjustable truss rod, the gentle radius on the fingerboard, and a fingerboard that’s around an 1/8” narrower than the typical classical, it is a “crossover” nylon.
But it’s bright and lively voice will get you ball-park flamenco tones, and open up all kinds of possibilities for jazz, fusion, and classical styles. It’s crisp, it’s classy, and you might not want to go back to the steel-string any time soon.
Read the full Taylor Academy 12e-N review
And now for something completely different. There are a number of baritone options on the market but, for the money, the AE275BT is tough to beat. It strikes the balance between the longer 27” scale, which makes the baritone a little intimidating at first, and the grand concert cutaway body, which never feels too cumbersome.
The build is exceptional. You’ll immediately note the wooden vine inlay on the ebony-esque katalox fretboard, and it is certainly a feature (maybe it’s a little too ostentatious but that’s a matter of taste), but wrapping your hands around the fretboard and it is in the finish, in the rolled edges and the feel that the quality presents itself.
The “comfort grip” neck is svelte by most standards, measuring 21mm thick at the 1st fret, 22mm at the 7th; just the thing you need when adapting to the more expansive geography of a baritone instrument. Elsewhere, you’ve got a bone nut and compensated bone saddle, Ibanez’s Advantage bridge pins, which have a stopper on the bulb to make them easier to work with, a lightweight scalloped bridge, and Ibanez’s very decent AP11 pickup.
Even with something as seemingly organic, often rooted in tradition, as acoustic-guitar building there is always room for innovation. We often see this under the hood, in Taylor’s V-class bracing, in electronics systems that partner transducers with under-saddle microphones for all natural tones, or in eco-friendly engineered materials such as Richlite. But the innovation of Yamaha’s Silent Guitar is there for all to see.
Those who aren’t turned off by this framed-bodied instrument will find much to be impressed by. Naturally, the Silent Guitar, by virtue of having no back and sides, no soundboard, renders it super-quiet, and with a headphones output and onboard effects to give it a sense of space, it is ideal for late-night indoors practice.
That’s not all, though, the design of the Silent Guitar makes it a no-brainer for feedback-free live performances. The plugged-in performance is impeccable; again, the onboard chorus and reverb comes in handy, especially when DI’d into the desk.
Other selling points include it’s lightweight build and a neck that offers a very comfortable and reassuringly familiar ride. And the frame is detachable, too, so travelling with it is pain-free.