The 10 best acoustic guitars under $/£1,000: the best guitars for beginners and experts

null

So, you want to buy an acoustic guitar? We've plucked the best mid-range guitars we've reviewed over recent years to show you the very best of what's out there below $/£1,000.

There are a variety of body sizes on offer, from parlour to dreadnought, as well as tone woods, including spruce, sapele and mahogany. Each of these has a significant effect an acoustic's tone, so do your research before you take the plunge - the same goes for electro-acoustic preamps.

In this price bracket, the vast majority of guitars feature solid tops, and all-solid builds are increasingly common. You'll find preamp and pickup systems onboard many of these models, too, making for quick and easy live performances and recordings.

So, without further ado, let's help you buy that acoustic guitar…

Image 1 of 2

Image 2 of 2

1. Taylor Academy Series 12e

The best Taylor acoustic guitar under $1,000

Launch price: $649 / £659 / €649 | Type: Grand Concert | Top: Sitka Spruce | Back & sides: Layered Sapele | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 24-7/8" | Fingerboard: West African Ebony | Frets: 20 | Tuners: Standard | Electronics: ES-B | Left-handed: No | Finish: Varnish

Inspiring high mids and trebles
Responsive playing experience
ES-B outclasses a lot of the piezo competition
The lack of bass control on the ES-B could be an issue

Aimed at newer guitarists, the 12e is not lacking Taylor’s spruce top hallmarks - bright and resonant trebles with assured projection. The low action is extremely welcoming across the ebony ’board, too, and will help open boundaries for aspiring players. Combined with the response of this instrument, it creates an immediately enjoyable playing experience. Plugged in, the ES-B represents the qualities of this guitar well and it sounds and feels superior acoustically and plugged in than most models we’ve played in their class, with the exception of Martin. The Academy Series represents a very clear vision, and in many ways, a dream beginner guitar, as well as potential trade-up for some existing players – one that can inspire and go the distance with a guitarist from bedroom to stage. 

Read the full review: Taylor Academy Series 12e

Image 1 of 3

Image 2 of 3

Image 3 of 3

2. Martin Dreadnought Junior

A very grown-up Junior Dread

Launch price: $799 / £599 / €828 | Type: Mini Dreadnought | Top: Sitka Spruce | Back & sides: Sapele | Neck: Select Hardwood | Scale: 24" | Fingerboard: FSC® Certified Richlite | Frets: 20 | Tuners: Chrome Enclosed Gear | Left-handed: Yes | Finish: Hand Rubbed

Punchy midrange tones
Classic Martin sound
Smaller body makes for a more comfortable playing experience
Excellent build quality and materials
Lacks the depth of a full-sized dreadnought

Unlike Martin's own X Series, or indeed, the minimalist cool of Taylor's Big Baby, the Dread Junior might be downsized, but it's very grown-up in build, with all-solid wood construction, proper mortise and tenon neck joint, a bound top edge and simple soundhole rings. It might not have the huge depth or width, harmonically speaking, of the full-size dreadnought, but there's a punchy midrange and a slightly textured edge. It retains a Martin stamp: classic, old-school and a fine picker's choice, too. Put simply, it's a cracking guitar, far from a Guitar Shaped Object. For serious younger players, it's a great entry into Martin's heritage, but the more compact size means that many a more mature player will enjoy it, too – it's certainly one of the best small bodied acoustic guitars.

Read the full review: Martin Dreadnought Junior

Image 1 of 4

Image 2 of 4

Image 3 of 4

Image 4 of 4

3. Fender Paramount PM-1

An all-solid mahogany model going for a song

Launch price: $799 / £509 | Type: Dreadnought | Top: Solid Mahogany | Back & sides: Solid Mahogany | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 25.3" | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 20 | Tuners: Nickel Open-Back | Electronics: Paramount preamps | Left-handed: | Finish: Open Pore

A great example of an affordable solid-wood mahogany dread
Plenty of character
We’d like to see what it can offer with an electro option

The Paramount Standards offered serious spec for the money and here adds all-mahogany construction to the range. While we’re encountering more guitars in this price territory that aim for vintage Americana-style heritage, these models set a new standard for their price range. In many respects, the PM-1 is a textbook example of an all-mahogany dreadnought boasting a lot of the character that attracts players to this wood choice, but it feels notably livelier than some we’ve encountered. That mahogany mid voice is there in abundance with a thumpy and defined low-end, rather than the boom that we’d hope to find from mahogany. Fender’s latest addition proves it’s on the right track with the Paramount series. If you’re looking around the £500 end of the market, this is a must-try. 

Read the full review: Fender Paramount PM-1

Image 1 of 4

Image 2 of 4

Image 3 of 4

Image 4 of 4

4. PRS SE TX20E

The best acoustic guitar for electric players

Launch price: $599 / £549 | Type: Tonare Grand | Top: Solid Sitka Spruce | Back & sides: Mahogany | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 25.3” | Fingerboard: Ebony | Frets: 20 | Tuners: PRS-Designed | Electronics: Fishman GT1 | Left-handed: | Finish: Natural

Superb playability
Great plugged-in tones
Not everyone loves those bird inlays!

What we have here is a sorted mid-priced electro-acoustic with great build quality and a pleasing tone straight off the peg. The important thing to note here is that you could say that about a fair few guitars out there – and all available at a similar price. What we need is the SE TX20E’s unique selling point. The easy answer is that classic PRS ‘Wide Fat’ neck profile. If you’re an SE electric fan then you already know this neck, and the switch from your solidbody to this electro-acoustic should be pretty much seamless. If, on the other hand, you’re new to the brand you might be surprised as to just how approachable that neck shape is. It secures this bird-decorated beauty a lofty perch in the affordable electro-acoustic pecking order.

Read the full review: PRS SE TX20E

Image 1 of 1

5. Yamaha NTX700C

The best nylon-string electro-acoustic

Launch price: $865 / £581 / €685 | Type: Classical | Top: Solid cedar | Back & sides: Laminated nato | Neck: Nato | Scale: 25.6" | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 22 | Tuners: Nickel-plated classical tuners | Left-handed: No | Finish: Amber-toned gloss body, satin neck

Faultless construction
Steel-string playability
Great plugged-in
Not the loudest plugged-in tone

A modern hybrid that has nylon strings, but feels and looks more like a steel-string, the NTX has a narrower neck than a classical, a radius'd 'board and 14 frets to the body. There's no soundhole rosette, just some arty marquetry-style decoration, and that soundhole is oval. Construction is crisp and faultless. The neck is wider than your average steel-string, of course, but it's very easy to get used to, plus, unlike a classical guitar, we get side dot-position markers and two strap buttons. From its balanced acoustic sound - quite subdued in terms of volume - to its amplified tone, Yamaha really has got this right. Plugged-in, there's a natural sound with no piezo quack, which records well into your DAW; it loves modern effects, too, and hey, you wanna play it with a pick like Rodrigo (who uses a custom-made version of this very guitar), be our guest.

Read the full review: Yamaha NTX700C

Image 1 of 3

Image 2 of 3

Image 3 of 3

6. Martin DRS1

A Martin dreadnought without a dread-worthy price

Launch price: $999 / £809 | Type: Dreadnought | Top: Sapele | Back & sides: Sapele | Neck: Stratabond | Scale: 25.4" | Fingerboard: | Frets: | Tuners: | Electronics: Fishman Sonitone | Left-handed: Yes | Finish: Satin natural

Great looks
Distinctive, powerful voice
Excellent build quality
Reasonable price
Fishman preamp sounds a little brittle when pushed

Originally introduced in 2001, Martin's Road Series was part of a serious attempt to make the kudos of owning a Martin more attainable. Costs were lowered due, in part, to production being moved to Martin's Mexican facility. Our review solid wood DRS1 showed absolutely no signs of any lapse in build quality or standard. Every joint is super tight, every line clean and crisp. There's not a trace of excess glue to be found anywhere and the satin finish is smooth and uniformly applied. When played, there's a boisterous, lively tone. With its snappy, tight bass the DRS1 pitches chords with depth and soul while a bright, clear top end adds sweetness to the timbre. The Fishman preamp sounds a little brittle when pushed, but in terms of sheer value for money, not least with that iconic name on the headstock, the DRS1 is going to take some beating.

Read the full review: Martin DRS1

Image 1 of 3

Image 2 of 3

Image 3 of 3

7. Cort AS-OC4

A high-spec, low-cost OM for those not blinded by brand

Launch price: $799 / £549 | Type: OM Cutaway | Top: Mahogany | Back & sides: Mahogany | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 25.3" | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 20 | Tuners: | Electronics: Fishman Sonitone | Left-handed: No | Finish: Open Pore

Incredible spec for the price
Lovely tone
You might miss the convenience of an onboard tuner

Cort's enormous South Korean factory is dedicated mainly to building instruments for other manufacturers, but the firm does have its own range. These, with their lack of brand identity, offer good value for the specs. This OM is an all solid guitar with a piezo pickup and a hard case for a very competitive street price. The intonation is perfect and it was delivered beautifully set up. It’s also remarkably light, which is a good sign for a factory-made model. Sound-wise it will likely surprise those that think they know what to expect from a mahogany guitar – it's significantly louder than many spruce topped OMs we’ve played and the treble is bright and sparkling. Well worth a try, particularly for those prizing spec over brand name.

Read the full review: Cort AS-OC4

Image 1 of 2

Image 2 of 2

8. Sigma GJA-SG200

A big-bodied acoustic that offers a tremendous sense of value

Launch price: $1,130 / £695 | Type: Grand Jumbo | Top: Solid Sitka Spruce | Back & sides: Flamed Maple | Neck: Maple | Scale: 25.4” | Fingerboard: Micarta | Frets: 20 | Tuners: Grover diecast | Electronics: Fishman Sonitone | Left-handed: No | Finish: Ultra-thin UV-finish

Superb build
Great design
Sound that will accommodate any player
No onboard tuner

Simply put, Sigma's guitars will break your heart and not your bank account - music to our ears. With its grand jumbo body, gloss sunburst finish and golden hardware we’re not sure as whether to play it first or take it out to dinner. It sounds like it looks: colourful, bright and bursting with character, the SG200 creates a unique tone that sits perfectly within the body of the guitar and projects with gusto. Strummers will be in their element, while fingerstylists will enjoy the 44.5mm nut width. The Fishman Sonitone does a decent job of projecting the guitar's natural tone and, if you can live without an onboard tuner (and the just-over-the-$1,000 price tag), there's not much going against this model. 

Read the full review: Sigma GJA-SG200

Image 1 of 3

Image 2 of 3

Image 3 of 3

9. Gretsch G5021WPE Rancher Penguin Parlor

One of the best parlour acoustic guitars, which looks and sounds the part

Launch price: £650 / €544 / $599 | Type: Parlour | Top: | Back & sides: | Neck: | Scale: 25" | Fingerboard: | Frets: 20 | Tuners: Closed back | Electronics: | Left-handed: | Finish: White

Extraordinary look
Nice tone
Looks won't be for everyone

Let’s address this up front; this guitar is not taking any prisoners, visually. If it were a pop star, it would be Vegas Elvis. The Penguin Parlour is a small-bodied acoustic with  with the styling of a White Falcon applied, and the same approach has been taken to the Penguin Parlour. The solid spruce top is, like all the wood, hidden under a coat of solid white paint, while Gretsch has smuggled in a Fishman Isys pickup and preamp, giving you a tuner, volume, and three band EQ. A quick strum reveals a tone that’s much more resonant and full than you can normally expect from a small body. It’s a well balanced tone: the top end is bright, with a sparkling spruce tone, light and feathery. The mids are again airy and light, brightish, but more punchy than sparkling, while the bass is firm, with good projection; not big and booming, but not small or boxy at all. It is impressively feedback resistant, even at high volumes. For all its rhinestone cowboy looks, this guitar is no toy, it’s a real musician’s tool. 

Read the full review: Gretsch G5021WPE Rancher Penguin Parlor

Image 1 of 3

Image 2 of 3

Image 3 of 3

10. Yamaha SLG200S Silent Guitar

The best guitar for quiet practice

Launch price: $1070 / £515 / €655 | Type: Mid-sized | Top: Mahogany | Back & sides: Rosewood & Maple | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 25" | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 22 | Tuners: RM1242N-4 | Left-handed: No | Finish: Gloss

Ideal for keeping the volume down when practising
Plays beautifully
Sounds superb through a PA
Clever electronics
Packs down
Beyond the divisive looks, very little

An electro-acoustic guitar that barely has any acoustic volume, but put a set of headphones on and you'll hear your playing with a studio-quality acoustic sound and posh effects. Oh, and you can plug in your mp3 player, too. What's more, plug this so-called Silent Guitar into a PA or acoustic amp and you have a highly realistic electro-acoustic sound without any feedback. The solid mahogany centre-block and maple laminate frame might raise some eyebrows, but the neck is quite normal: a mainstream-feeling handful that typically is beautiful fretting and plays really well - like any other Yamaha acoustic, really. Live, expect to see jaws drop, because your audience won't believe what they're hearing from such an infeasible-looking instrument.

Read the full review: Yamaha SLG200S Silent Guitar

We're the UK's only print publication devoted to acoustic guitar.
Subscribe for star interviews, essential gear reviews and killer tuition!