There's nothing that can quite replicate the feel or sound of playing a nylon-string acoustic guitar.
Even if you're well versed in steel-string acoustics, or can rewire a Stratocaster with your eyes closed, the classical guitar can still be a thing of mystery.
There are innumerable classical manufacturers and while some of them (eg, Yamaha) will be familiar to most of us, there are plenty of brands that won't be.
Here we've selected of some of the best nylon-string guitar models we've come across.
Whether you want a classical-style electro or something more steel-string-like and tailored for the stage, these are the guitars we recommend.
1. Yamaha NTX700C
A nylon-string guitar for steel-string players
Launch price: $865 / £581 / €685 | Type: Contemporary Style electro | Top: Solid cedar | Back & sides: Laminated nato | Neck: Nickel-plated classical tuners | Scale: 25.6" | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 22 | Tuners: Nickel-plated classical tuners | Left-handed: No | Finish: Gloss body, satin neck
Yamaha's NX range was launched back in 2009 in two flavours. The NCX has the wider classical-style neck, flat fingerboard and 12 frets to the body, while the NTX has a narrower neck, a radius'd 'board and 14 frets to the body. This C version adds a cedar top. The contemporary construction is crisp and faultless, while the dot position markers and a slimmer neck will help those crossing over from a traditional acoustic. From its balanced acoustic sound - quite subdued in terms of volume - to its amplified tone, Yamaha really has got this right. 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
2. Taylor Academy 12e-N
A Taylor-made nylon
Launch price: £779 / €749 | Type: Grand Concert electro | Top: Lutz Spruce | Back & sides: Layered Sapele | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 25-1/2" | Fingerboard: West African Ebony | Frets: 17 | Tuners: Classical Nickel | Left-handed: No | Finish: Varnish
Taylor Academy’s proposition is proper guitars for - in Taylor terms - not a lot of money: making the “acoustic guitar accessible to more players”. The firm's smallest full-scale shape, the Grand Concert, is the perfect size for a ‘classical’ nylon-string. The 12e-N falls, slightly, into the ‘crossover’ style, not least with its ES-N under-saddle and small-footprint basic preamp, lightly cambered fingerboard, relatively narrow neck and adjustable truss rod. The 12e-N’s voice is classical with an open midrange; hit hard it has an almost flamenco-like character yet played in a more relaxed Latin-style its voicing allows clear representation of the often complex jazzier chords of that genre. There are very few negatives. It impresses in terms of neck shape, size, playability and comes with a crisp, defined voicing.
Read the full review: Taylor Academy 12e-N
3. Manuel Rodriguez Model FF
A finely-crafted professional flamenco guitar
Launch price: $ 1,049 / £1,349 | Type: Flamenco | Top: German spruce | Back & sides: Cypress | Neck: Honduras cedar | Scale: 25.9" | Fingerboard: Ebony | Frets: 19 | Tuners: Gold-plated | Left-handed: No | Finish: Gloss
There’s no questioning the validity of this guitar: it is handcrafted, piece-by-piece, at the Manuel Rodriguez workshops in Esquivias, Toledo. To play, the guitar feels taut, like a loaded spring. The sound it produces is sharp and crisp with a fruitiness and liveliness to it, which is amplified the higher up the guitar you play. It has the perfect percussive playground. It takes a lot of control to wield the power this flamenco model has, but with the cypress back and sides giving the guitar that harder edge, the thin spruce top making it incredibly responsive and the guitar being extremely light, you just feel like a professional playing it.
Read the full review: Manuel Rodriguez Model FF
4. Camps M-5-S
A finely seasoned flamenco acoustic
Launch price: $576 / £525 | Type: Flamenco | Top: Solid spruce | Back & sides: Sandalwood | Neck: Cedar | Scale: 25.9" | Fingerboard: Ebony | Frets: 19 | Tuners: Gold-plated | Left-handed: No | Finish: High gloss
All of Camps models are constructed entirely in its workshops in Girona, Spain but distributed around the globe, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting hold of one of these. This flamenco-focussed nylon-string guitar combines a spruce top and sandalwood back and sides. The addition of an adjustable steel truss rod in the cedar neck adds strength and overall it has great playability with plenty of versatility in tone with a particularly punchy treble. It's not the fastest fingerboard and the guitar is best suited to a more seasoned player, but the warm tone is a winner.
Read the full review: Camps M-5-S
5. Takamine P3FCN
Nylon-string electro-acoustic that proves a solid live performer
Launch price: $1599 / £1009 | Type: FXC cutaway electro nylon-string | Top: Solid cedar | Back & sides: Solid sapele | Neck: African mahogany | Scale: 25.6" | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 20 | Tuners: Gold-plated classical style | Left-handed: No | Finish: Natural satin
Takamine has been producing quality guitars since 1962. The Japanese company is perhaps most noted for its stage-friendly electro acoustics. This nylon-strung model is a 14-fret-to-the-body guitar, so from a distance, only the classical-style slot head and white barrel tuners give the nylon game away. A thinner neck and pinless bridge nod to playability, while the preamp, placed just forward of the upper-bout shoulder, is cleanly laid-out and easy to use mid-song. The neck might feel cramped to nylonistas out there, but this is an observation, not a criticism, of a well-priced and good-sounding nylon-string electro.
Read the full review: Takamine P3FCN
6. Admira F4
Strong contender for your first flamenco guitar
Launch price: £569 | Type: Flamenco | Top: Solid spruce | Back & sides: Flamed Maple | Neck: Mahogany with Rosewood reinforcement | Scale: 25.6" | Fingerboard: Ebony | Frets: 19 | Tuners: Lyre Design Gold | Left-handed: No | Finish: Gloss
This Admira F4 has a stunning design. There is a bright red coloured maple wood nestled between dark maple binding, which is perhaps a little reference to the traditional red of the traje de flamenca (the outfit worn by the flamenco dancer). Harmonics are loud and crisp and there’s plenty of room for volume in the upper register, thanks to the traditional, glue-less Spanish heel at the neck joint. Well geared to the established guitarist crossing over into the world of flamenco.
Read the full review: Admira F4
7. Alhambra 2F
One of the best flamenco guitars for beginners
Launch price: $599 / £325 | Type: Flamenco | Top: Solid cedar | Back & sides: Sycamore | Neck: Mahogany | Fingerboard: Indian rosewood | Frets: 19 | Tuners: Standard | Left-handed: No | Finish: Open Pore
This entry-level flamenco guitar is a well-crafted model with good balance when used in the traditional seated flamenco posture. While most flamenco guitars have spruce tops, this model has a solid red cedar top (of the Canadian variety), making it a more interesting specimen. It has a springy tone with plenty of attack aided by a very thin top making it highly responsive. This Alhambra 2F is an extremely light model. The back and sides, made from sycamore, have an extremely even grain with an open pore satin finish so it doesn’t have the glossiest of finishes, but at £325, for a guitar constructed in Spain using older seasoned grain, you won’t find much to rival it at this price.
Read the full review: Alhambra 2F
8. Godin Multiac Encore Nylon
A semi-hollow nylon-string stage machine
Launch price: $1,075 / £849 | Type: Single-cutaway, semi-hollow nylon electro | Top: Solid cedar | Back & sides: Hollow silver leaf maple | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 22 | Tuners: 16:1 | Left-handed: No | Finish: Natural
If you're not going to perform, then you don't need to own this guitar. In fact, even if your gigs are limited to small venues you could survive with one of the seemingly thousands of standard nylon electros out there. Where the Encore comes into its own is at those difficult shows, especially with a full band, when issues such as loud monitors or little or no soundcheck time can make a full acoustic a difficult proposition. But this hybrid steel-meets-nylon design is not only highly practical, it's also classy looking and has an appealing feel - plus some excellent and highly adaptable, realistic sounds.
Read the full review: Godin Multiac Encore Nylon
9. Yamaha SLG200N
The best nylon-string guitar for practice
Launch price: $1,070 / £515 / €655 | Type: Centre core 'silent' guitar | Top: Mahogany centre core | Back & sides: Rosewood/maple laminate frame | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 25.6" | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 19 | Tuners: RM1188NB-7B | Left-handed: No | Finish: Gloss
Thanks to a solid body - and no acoustic chamber - they are entirely feedback resistant: one reason why more than one big-name guitarist has used one for an amplified acoustic interlude in a loud rock band setting. A major feature of the Silent Guitar design is its highly modernist appearance: aside from the neck and centre section, a laminated guitar-shaped frame is all you get for the 'body'. However, use your ears to judge and Yamaha's Studio Response Technology (SRT) - a digital system that emulates the sound of a real guitar, studio-recorded with a high-class microphone - makes it sounds so good you're inspired to play. So, should every practising, performing, songwriting guitarist have one? As surprising as it may seem, the simple answer is, yes.
Read the full review: Yamaha SLG200N
10. Cordoba Iberia GK Studio
A cracking crossover for a reasonable price
Launch price: $679 / £518 | Type: Cutaway electro | Top: Solid European spruce | Back & sides: Laminated cypress | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 25.6" | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 19 | Tuners: Cordoba Tuning Machines | Left-handed: No | Finish: High Gloss PU
So many lower-end nylon-strings seem overbuilt and unresponsive acoustically - not the GK Studio. The Studio is a delight, from its feather-light weight to its quite un-classical neck that, despite its width, actually makes thumb- around positions relatively easy, certainly in lower positions. The Studio is designed for a more 'flamenco'-type sound and it might surprise some players just how much bite it can have, especially played with some gusto with fingernails rather than your fingerpads.
Read the full review: Cordoba Iberia GK Studio