The 10 best high-end acoustic guitars: the best guitars for experts and pro players

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For professional live and studio players, here are the very best of the high-end, the guitars that are reserved for those who have north of $/£1,000 burning a hole in their pockets.

All of the guitars in this gallery have gained a minimum of a 4.5 star rating in our stringent reviews process. That means we feel these models' build quality, sound, playability and value for money are not in question at their relative price points.

Here, you're looking at the best of the best in terms of build quality and tonewoods, while the trend for pre-aged wood via torrefaction processes is making it possible to buy new acoustics that already sound like well-worn vintage classics.

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1. Taylor Builder’s Edition V-Class K14CE

A top-class electro-acoustic with game-changing construction

Launch price: $4,999 / £5,795 / €5,499 | Type: Grand Auditorium | Top: Torrefied Sitka spruce | Back & sides: Koa | Neck: Tropical mahogany | Scale: 25-1/2" | Fingerboard: West African Ebony | Frets: 20 | Tuners: Gotoh | Left-handed: No | Finish: Silent Satin

Paired down vintage-meets-modern vibe
Enhanced comfort
High position access
Intonation
Genre-hopping voice that has to be heard to be believed
Well, it ain’t cheap... but we’d snatch it up in a heartbeat

The Builder’s Edition V-Class K14ce - one of four new 2018 V-Class launches that also include a K24ce, 914ce and PS14c - is quite a statement of intent. It combines the new V bracing with a notably different, more comfortable, Grand Auditorium style. Of course, its build-quality is nothing short of exceptional as we’d expect, and not least at this price. We’re also reminded of the K14ce’s high-end lineage, however, by the paua ‘spring vine’ inlay that lies down the majority of the black/dark brown ebony ’board, while a lighter koa purfling stripe sits just inside the ebony edge-binding and continues around the headstock, which is again ebony-faced with a relatively demure paua inlay. The aged-gold Gotoh tuners perfectly fit the slightly worn-in vibe - hugely understated class, just like the green abalone dots in the ebony bridge-pins. While there’s plenty for those who love details to admire, the modern Taylor guitar is hugely sorted in terms of playing feel. V-Class, Builder’s Edition? Get used to those terms. Taylor has upped the ante. Considerably.

Read the full review: Taylor Builder’s Edition V-Class K14CE

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2. Martin D-28 Reimagined for 2017

This all-rounder reboot makes this the best dreadnought acoustic you can buy

Launch price: $3,399 / £2,399 / €2,666 | Type: Dreadnought | Top: Sitka Spruce | Back & sides: East Indian Rosewood | Neck: Select Hardwood | Scale: 25.4'' | Fingerboard: Ebony | Frets: 20 | Tuners: Nickel Open Gear | Left-handed: Yes | Finish: Gloss

Clarity and balance
This is still a benchmark dreadnought, now enhanced in look and feel
The price for this standard model will be an obstacle for many looking to step up
Forward-shifted bracing may not add enough for bottom-end for boom fans

Many consider the D-28 to be ultimate expression of the dreadnought form. ‘Reimagining’ such a guitar could be a poisoned chalice. Fortunately, you can still feel the gravity of that 184 years of history in its high-end guitars. The latest D-28 features forward-shifted bracing, a wider nut and vintage-style aesthetic changes, but it’s the new neck design that really makes this the most comfortable and accessible dreadnought playing experience we can remember for some time. The sound is balanced and maintains the very definition of an ‘all-rounder’. Notes ring out with sustain - that clear piano-like definition we love from Nazareth’s craftsmen. Harmonics come easy and, with strumming, the high mids and treble have choral qualities that don’t overshadow the lower mids. Despite the tweaks, our test model still largely feels like the acoustic equivalent of Leo Fender’s Stratocaster design. Just as that outline is most synonymous with ‘electric guitar’, so to the D-28 continues to embody the dreadnought in look and sound.

Read the full review: Martin D-28 Reimagined for 2017

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3. Gibson Montana Hummingbird

The iconic Gibson song ‘bird, beloved by folk, rock and country

Launch price: $3,849 / £2,099 | Type: Square Shoulder | Top: Sitka spruce | Back & sides: Mahogany | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 24.75" | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 20 | Tuners: Grover™ Rotomatics | Left-handed: Limited run | Finish: Nitrocellulose

Flawless build
Incredible sonics and projection
As close to perfect an acoustic as you're like to find
The colour might not be to everyone’s taste, but it grows on you

From top to bottom, this Hummingbird creates a buzz. Whatever your preference in size, colour, tone and playing style, it’s difficult to avoid picking this Cherry Sunburst up. It’s such a simple guitar to play that it’s rare to ever feel like you’re incapable of striking the right chord - especially on a neck that’s just 12” in radius. While the traditionally ornate decoration and blushing finish have been lovingly retained, this modern Montana incarnation offers a discrete LR Baggs Element VTC system for plug-in power. It is unlike many we have seen and produces one of the best sounds we’ve heard from an electric acoustic. Throw in the pleasure of playing such a superb guitar and it’s tough to say anything bad about the Gibson Montana Hummingbird Cherry Sunburst.  

Read the full review: Gibson Montana Hummingbird

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4. Yamaha A5R ARE

The electro-acoustic that sounds great plugged-in

Launch price: $1,399 / £1,279 | Type: Dreadnought Cutaway | Top: Solid Sitka Spruce with A.R.E. treatment | Back & sides: Solid Rosewood | Neck: African Mahogany | Scale: 25.6" | Fingerboard: Ebony, rolled edges | Frets: 20 | Tuners: Gotoh chrome open gear | Left-handed: No | Finish: Gloss

Effortless playability
Impressive tone
Unplugged experience is wonderfully reflected plugged in
We’d like to see a non-cutaway option

There is traditionally a gap between how we enjoy the sound of our guitars and the way they’re represented plugged in. Enter Yamaha, a leader in stage-ready acoustic technology for decades - and in the A5R ARE, it may have just offered us a very desirable solution. The A5R''s rounded fretboard edges offer an enjoyable playing experience that mimics the feeling of guitars that have been played in to a degree and it has an ethereal quality in the high ranges, even though some treble resonance is traded with the lower action. The A5’s resonance and bright balance is a fine showcase for the clever SRT2 preamp - we actually couldn’t dial in a ‘bad’ sound on it because the treble and bass controls mirror the natural subtlety of the pickup/mic dynamic design. An electro experience that captures the sound of an unplugged acoustic? The SRT2 is one of the closest to get there yet. An update that marks the A Series out as an essential consideration for players who rely on a consistent and controllable stage sound.

Read the full review: Yamaha A5R ARE

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5. Guild Traditional D-55

Highly desirable, slim-necked dreadnought

Launch price: $3,819 / £2,470 / €3,119 | Type: Dreadnought | Top: 'AAA' Solid Sitka spruce | Back & sides: Solid Indian rosewood | Neck: Three-piece mahogany/ walnut/mahogany | Scale: 25.625" | Fingerboard: Ebony | Frets: 20 | Tuners: Gotoh SE700 Open Gear | Left-handed: Yes | Finish: Gloss Nitrocellulose

Superb strumming and flat-picking tones
Excellent build
Comfortable for smaller hands
The neck won't be for everyone

The D-55 is Guild's dreadnought, very similar in shape to the all-conquering 14-fret Martin on which it's based. However, if your used to a handful in the neck, the D-55 dreadnought makes for quite the contrast: a gloss neck, and slimmer nut accentuating the neck's overall thinness; more a D than a C profile, to invite comfortable first-position chords, aided by an impressively low action. That Adirondack bracing is doing its job, too, because string separation, definition and dynamic range are all notable and it feels loud, alive and resonant when playing soft or hard. If this guitar is anything to go by, the latest Traditional models are absolutely up there with the other big American names, offering superb quality craftsmanship and world-class tone. The D-55 is a potentially serious workhorse that has every likelihood of outlasting and outperforming any one of us as long as we can keep on picking - a sumptuous strummer.

Read the full review: Guild Traditional D-55

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6. Martin D-15M Burst

A mid-priced, praise-worthy dreadnought

Launch price: $1,749 / £1,239 / €1,550 | Type: Dreadnought | Top: Solid mahogany | Back & sides: Mahogany | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 25.4" | Fingerboard: Pau Ferro | Frets: 20 | Tuners: Nickel Open Gear | Left-handed: Yes | Finish: Satin nitrocellulose

Sounds superb
Flawless build
Reasonably priced
We like the minimal looks
Nothing

This D-15M dreadnought features a solid 'genuine' (South American) mahogany top over A-Frame X bracing; the same material is used for the back, sides and neck. The neck profile is a 'modified low oval', and it's hard to imagine anyone having a problem with it. Bone nut and saddle: check. Vintage-style, open-gear tuners check. Super-thin matt nitrocellulose finish all over: check. Tonally, there is a rich and projecting core sound that's complemented by the unmistakable, Martin D-resonance. It's vibrant and ebullient, yet not brash; warm and full without being thick or indistinct. It puts every single cent of its build budget into making the best sounding and playing instrument, with very little concession to cosmetics, electronics or anything else. Solid woods, improved neck joint, bone nut and saddle, no frills whatsoever, save for the 'burst – it's unreservedly recommended.

Read the full review: Martin D-15M Burst

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7. Collings CJ35

A luxurious, flawless modern-vintage guitar for those looking to invest

Launch price: $4860 / £4615 | Type: Jumbo | Top: Solid Sitka spruce | Back & sides: Solid mahogany | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 24.875" | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 20 | Tuners: Open back Waverly tuners | Left-handed: Yes | Finish: Gloss nitrocellulose

Top-notch build
Almost unrivalled tones (for a new guitar)
Beautiful looks
That eye-watering price

There's no doubt about it, the CJ35 is utterly breathtaking. Every angle, every edge chamfer and detail is executed with the kind of meticulous precision rarely seen in guitar- making at any level. The specs might look simple on paper, but the tiny details delight, for example the perfect walnut strip down the centre of the mahogany back, the unfussy yet charming body binding and rosette and the cut-through bone saddle that extends into the shoulders of the unfussy rosewood bridge. It weighs next to nothing, and you can feel the thing vibrating the second you take it from the case. The quality of build, not to mention the precision and depth of the CJ35's tone are second to none. A scarily good, once-in-a-lifetime guitar for a very lucky few.

Read the full review: Collings CJ35

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8. Taylor 612ce 12-fret

Making maple acoustics a must-have

Launch price: $3,349 / £3,847 / €3,698 | Type: Grand Concert | Top: Sitka Spruce | Back & sides: Maple | Neck: Hard Rock Maple | Scale: 24-7/8" | Fingerboard: Ebony | Frets: 18 | Tuners: Taylor Slot Head | Electronics: N/A | Left-handed: Yes | Finish: Gloss

Beautiful slotted headstock
Incredible sounds
Larger players may struggle with the smaller scale length

The 600 series pairs maple back and sides with a spruce top that has gone through Taylor’s torrefaction process, which accelerates the wood’s aging process through heat. We couldn’t find a single fault with this guitar’s build quality and the 612ce is an unbelievably comfortable guitar to play. The tone is still that of a maple guitar, but a more refined one than we’re used to. Likewise with the torrefied spruce: it’s immediately familiar, but with enough difference to cause a cocked ear. Strumming out chords and standard singer-songwriter fare was pleasing, and it put in a good shift with some country-style flat-picking, but it is fingerstyle playing that this guitar lives and breathes. By any token these models from the 600 series are stunning guitars. They have a laudable ecological footprint, they look superb and they have rich, unexpected tonal qualities. 

Read the full review: Taylor 612ce 12-fret

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9. Ibanez AE500-NT

A well-made practical electro for band players

Launch price: $1,799 / £1,099 | Type: AE | Top: Solid Sitka spruce | Back & sides: Solid Indian Rosewood | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 25.6" | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 20 | Tuners: Gotoh SG301 tuners | Electronics: Ibanez Custom Electronics | Left-handed: No | Finish: Gloss

Great neck
A dream to play
Excellent value for money
Some players might prefer the volume control on the guitar

Opening the case, the AE doesn't disappoint. There are the classic lines of the AE body, with just the right amount of bling, you instantly feel that you are looking at a quality instrument. As you'd expect from Ibanez, the neck, quite frankly is a dream. Featuring its advanced comfort profile to be found on all the AE range, it is slim and relatively shallow and combined with the silky satin finish makes it a joy to play. Tonally, the combination of Sitka spruce and the bracing result in a guitar that is seriously bright while still being well balanced and that definitely projects. It also sustains forever and, while uncomplicated, will sit exceptionally well in a band situation. At this price, the AE500 is a serious contender and gives the Martins and Gibsons in this price range a run for their money.

Read the full review: Ibanez AE500-NT

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10. Gibson Montana SJ 200 Standard

One of the all-time best acoustic guitars

Launch price: $6,792 / £3,999 | Type: Jumbo | Top: Sitka Spruce | Back & sides: Maple | Neck: Maple | Scale: 25 1/2" | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 20 | Tuners: Grover Gold | Electronics: LR Baggs Anthem | Left-handed: No | Finish: Nitrocellulose Lacquer

Beautiful
Iconic
Great, balanced tone
The price!

Want to get a good impression of how the SJ 200 sounds? Well Dylan can show you how it strums, Emmylou how it picks, or listen to Pete Townshend thrashing nine bells out of his one on Pinball Wizard. You might also want to take in George Harrison’s Here Comes the Sun or anything by the Everly Brothers. As you'd expect, given the "reassuringly expensive" (i.e. enormous) price tag, the build quality throughout is faultless, superb. The first thing you notice when you sit down to play it is just how sweetly the neck sits in your hand and how easy it is to play. It’s a big lump of money, but when you buy the SJ 200 we guess you’re not just buying the guitar, you’re buying a piece of history.

Read the full review: Gibson Montana SJ 200 Standard

For more buying choices, try these...

The 10 best acoustic guitars under $/£500

The 10 best acoustic guitars under $/£1,000

The 14 best acoustic guitars

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