Best acoustic guitars 2023: top acoustics for all players and budgets

Two Taylor acoustic guitars on a wooden floor with a white wall
(Image credit: Future)

Unlike pretty much any other instrument you’ll play, the best acoustic guitars offer one of the most tactile and tangible experiences for a musician. Acoustic guitars are living, breathing things. They resonate with you, adapting to your input from the gentlest fingerpicking to the harshest strumming. They even grow old with you, maturing the longer you play them, changing in tone just as you’ll change as the years go by.

An amazing acoustic doesn’t have to cost the earth either. Of course, there are some premium-level options available here, but if you’re looking for a bargain you can still find yourself a top-quality instrument. Thanks to streamlined manufacturing processes many big names like Fender and Epiphone offer acoustic instruments that can compete with the bigger brands in terms of sound quality and playability.

Of course, if you want to splash the cash, rest assured you’ll find some high-end acoustics from the giants of acoustic guitar like Taylor, Martin, and Gibson. There are a lot of great options out there at the moment, so we’ve listed these guitars in price order, to make it easier to find your perfect match. If you’re buying for the first time, check out our buying advice at the bottom of the article, otherwise, keep scrolling to see the best acoustic guitars available today.

Best acoustic guitars: our top picks

If you’re looking for the best acoustic guitar overall, we don’t think you can get much better than the Taylor Builder’s Edition V-Class K14ce. Perfectly marrying vintage vibe with modern playability it offers fantastic upper fret access, comfortable body contours, and most importantly, a phenomenal unplugged tone.

Not so flush? Don’t worry we’ve got a couple of great budget options for you. For the complete beginner, we love the Fender CD-60S All-Mahogany (opens in new tab). It’s low cost but doesn’t feel cheap, playing and sounding fantastic. If you want something a little different, then definitely check out the Epiphone EJ-200 SCE (opens in new tab) - it looks incredible and is fantastic value for money.

For the middle of the range, the Yamaha A5R ARE (opens in new tab) delivers an incredible unplugged experience. With a hand-rolled fretboard it feels incredibly comfortable no matter what your picking style, and just to top it off, it’s also got a powerful SRT2 preamp for when you do want to plug it in. A great guitar for the regularly gigging player. 

Best acoustic guitars: Product guide

One of the best acoustic guitars under $200 right now

Specifications

Type: Dreadnought
Top: Solid Mahogany
Back & sides: Laminated Mahogany
Neck: Mahogany
Scale: 25.3"
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Frets: 20
Tuners: Chrome Die-Cast
Left-handed: Yes
Finish: Gloss

Reasons to buy

+
Superb value for money
+
Nice low action out the box
+
Excellent tonal balance

Reasons to avoid

-
Glossy finish may put some players off

The Fender CD-60S All-Mahogany is a good reminder of just how much guitar you can get for your money at the more affordable end of the market. We've come far since the days of high-action, poor tuning stability, and shoddy construction that used to mark out lower-priced models. Instead, we're offered a solid-wood mahogany top, laminated mahogany back/sides, and an inviting rolled fretboard edge. 

The CD-60S' action is great out of the box, too, though not too low to make us wary of alternate tunings. The mid-character of mahogany is certainly here, bringing some meat to a brightness usually associated with spruce tops, a reminder there are no hard and fast rules with tonewoods.

The result is something that’s genuinely inspiring to play and chimes in chord work, and one of the best acoustic guitars for newcomers or those looking for a second acoustic. After all, why should new players settle for just okay when they need to be comfortable and inspired? And there’s no reason why this dreadnought wouldn’t be a good addition for anyone else, too. 

Read our full Fender CD-60S All-Mahogany review

One of the best acoustics available today for less than $1000

Specifications

Type: Parlour
Top: Solid Spruce
Back & sides: Laminated Wild Cherry
Neck: Silver Leaf Maple
Scale: 24.84"
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Frets: 20
Tuners: Open-gear 18:1 antique brass
Left-handed: No
Finish: Semi-Gloss Patina

Reasons to buy

+
Great for players with small hands
+
Clarity of tone with a subtle warmth
+
Excellent projection for a parlour guitar

Reasons to avoid

-
If you have massive hands your thumbs might get in the way

Made by Art & Lutherie, a sub-brand of Godin Guitars, this parlor model cuts straight to the chase – it’s clean, it’s earthy, it’s got attack and its design takes you back in time to the rural deep south where all you might have needed were the clothes on your back and this instrument for company.

Thanks to its tiny dimensions it's easy to take on the road with you, and great for players with smaller hands too. Players with larger dimensions may find their hands a little cramped on the fretboard, particularly with the thumb, but this can be remedied with a slight adjustment to your playing style.

Playing this Roadhouse is an absolute joy. The middle and upper ranges of the guitar are very strong. When we try some alternative tuning, dropping the bottom E to a D opens up the bass no end. Blues and country come to the fore. There’s clarity too, combined with understated subtle warmth. A pocket-sized bag of country rock ‘n’ roll – compact and ready to go at a moment’s notice. 

Read our full Art & Lutherie Roadhouse review

This fabulously affordable dreadnought will have you jamming all day long

Specifications

Type: Dreadnought
Top: Solid spruce
Back & sides: Laminated Mahogany
Neck: Mahogany
Scale: 24.75”
Fingerboard: Pau Ferro
Frets: 20
Tuners: Chrome Die-Cast
Left-handed: No
Finish: Matte

Reasons to buy

+
Solid spruce top
+
Lovely feel, versatile sounds
+
Sensibly priced

Reasons to avoid

-
No electronics

There's no denying that Bob Marley wrote some of the greatest songs of all time, and through the '70s, his songwriting companion was his beloved Guild Madeira. Today Guild has brought the guitar back - sort of - in the form of the Guild A-20 Marley. 

While this stunning dreadnought isn't an exact replica of this famous "stay at home" acoustic, it perfectly captures the original's vibe, tone, and feel while offering a few modern appointments. 

Featuring a gorgeous solid spruce top and laminated mahogany back and sides, this guitar delivers the warmth and punch we demand from a large-bodied acoustic. The modern C-shaped neck - with a 25 ½" scale length - feels familiar, like an old friend, and is insanely comfortable to play.

Pair that with the tasteful Marley branded script inlay, and you have a stellar acoustic that sounds, looks, and feels way more expensive than it really is. 

Read our full Guild A-20 Marley review

4. Epiphone EJ-200SCE

The best acoustic guitar on a budget for plugged-in performance

Specifications

Type: Jumbo
Top: Solid spruce
Back & sides: Select maple
Neck: Hard maple
Scale: 25-1/2"
Fingerboard: Pau ferro
Frets: 20
Tuners: Grover Rotomatic 18:1
Left-handed: Yes
Finish: Black, Natural, Vintage Sunburst, Vintage Natural

Reasons to buy

+
Solid top 
+
Big jumbo tones
+
Classic J-200 styling

Reasons to avoid

-
The large size isn't for everyone 

The Epiphone J200 EC Studio pays homage to its Gibson counterpart, with stunning vintage correct stylings. The mustache bridge, decorative tortoiseshell-style pickguard, and pearloid crown inlays add a level of class to this instrument and we must say, it sounds as good as it looks, as well. 

We found the sound to be balanced rather than boomy, giving strummed chords the fullness that made the J-200's reputation. Expect articulate highs and a warm foundation in the bottom end. The slim 60s 'D' profile neck suits a wide variety of playing styles, but there's a definite lean toward rhythm guitar work here.

If you want to hear what this guitar can really do, then plug it into an acoustic guitar amp. The onboard Fishman Sonicore pickup delivers a sound fitting of one of the best cheap acoustic guitars. Throw in a solid top as well and this is, without a doubt, one of the best electro-acoustics around today.

Read the full Epiphone J-200 SCE review

The best acoustic guitar for travelling

Specifications

Type: Mini Grand Symphony
Top: Sitka Spruce
Back & sides: Laminated sapele
Neck: Sapele
Scale: 23.5"
Fingerboard: West African Ebony
Frets: 20
Tuners: Die-Cast Chrome
Left-handed: Yes
Finish: Varnish

Reasons to buy

+
Amazing playability
+
Incredible build quality 
+
Full sounding despite the size

Reasons to avoid

-
Cedar-topped and nylon-stringed versions would be nice

The Mexican-made Mini is equally functional as both a travel-sized acoustic and "modern-day parlour guitar". Despite its small footprint, the GS Mini is no toy instrument: there's a solid Sitka spruce top, a faultless build quality and the setup is immaculate.

The slight, soft 'V' profile of the neck combined with narrow nut width makes this acoustic feel much more like an electric guitar, in spite of the standard 56mm string spacing. It gives the GS Mini a really comfortable playing feel, particularly when you're strumming chords, though fingerstyle players might prefer a little more room.

Rather like a good parlour-size guitar, the GS Mini outputs a sound that belies its compactness. We'd lay a considerable sum to suggest it'd be a fine recording guitar, that tight low end giving space to a bass guitar (or bassier six-string) while the mids aren't overly honky, as some parlours can be, and the silky, sparkly highs are pure Taylor fidelity. Far from a gimmick, this is a guitar with its own vibe and voice – and both are very appealing.

Read our full Taylor GS Mini review

When it comes to the best acoustic guitars, we love this dreadnought

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Punchy mid-range tones
+
Classic Martin sound
+
Smaller body is comfy

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks depth of a full-sized dread

Unlike Martin's own X Series, or indeed, the minimalist cool of Taylor's Big Baby, the Dreadnought 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. 

Harmonically speaking, it might not have the huge depth or width 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. 

The slightly looser string tension can take a little getting used to for players used to a full-size dreadnought, but we adjusted to it quickly. 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.

Read our full Martin Dreadnought Junior review

A full-fat Bozeman-made Gibson for less than a grand? Yes please.

Specifications

Type: Parlor/L-00 Acoustic
Top: Sitka spruce
Back & sides: Walnut
Neck: Utile
Scale: 24.75"
Fingerboard: Ebony
Frets: 20
Tuners: Grover Mini-Rotomatic
Left-handed: Yes
Finish: Natural gloss

Reasons to buy

+
USA made for under $1k is great
+
Materials are still high quality
+
Extra soundhole brings great playing experience 

Reasons to avoid

-
Purists might not like the extra soundhole

Gibson's Generation collection of acoustic guitars sees a rare move from the guitar giants - releasing a US-made acoustic for under a grand. The Generation G-00 is the smallest model from the new line of spruce-topped acoustics, fitting firmly into the 'Parlour' body category, and there are some thoroughly interesting features that make this guitar stand out among the rest.

The Generation G-00 - much like the entire Generation collection - has two soundholes. The main one is where you'd expect it to be, slap bang in the middle of the solid Sitka spruce top, with the second one in the side of the guitar, aiming directly towards your face. Referred to as the Player Port, it's designed to give you, the player, more tonal feedback. It's no gimmick - and on loud stages or even just when you want to hear more of yourself, it works well.

The back and sides of this guitar are made from Walnut, which in our experience, provides warmth and depth but with a nice punchy brightness. Especially with the smaller body size, this tonal richness is important - and the G-00 provides plenty. Combined with an LR Baggs pickup, the Generation Collection G-00 is a real competitor in the race for the best acoustic guitar under $/£1,000.

Read the full Gibson Generation Collection review

8. Taylor 214ce Plus

Another ultra-playable acoustic guitar from Taylor

Specifications

Type: Grand Auditorium
Top: Solid sitka spruce
Back & sides: Laminated rosewood
Neck: Mahogany
Scale: 25.5”
Fingerboard: Ebony
Frets: 20
Tuners: Taylor nickel
Left-handed: Yes
Finish: Natural

Reasons to buy

+
Venetian cutaway aids playability
+
Clean, clear and precise tone 
+
ES-2 pickup system sounds fantastic 

Reasons to avoid

-
Solid back & sides expected for over $/£1,000  

Taylor can always be relied on to create clean and fresh-looking - and sounding - acoustic guitars. This 214ce Plus is no exception to that rule.

For us, the 214ce Plus is a highly comfortable, super playable grand auditorium acoustic guitar. Taylor is a manufacturer that constantly works to improve the ergonomics and feel of their instruments, and this is obvious - thanks to the slim profile of the mahogany neck and tasteful venetian cutaway. 

Like many other acoustic guitars in this price bracket, a solid sitka spruce top makes an appearance, adding bags of power and brightness to the tone of this guitar. The back and sides are of laminated rosewood construction, and although a slightly curious option for a guitar north of a grand, the tonal influence is a positive one - more brightness, more clarity, and less woolly sounding low-end.

The acoustic guitar that sounds utterly great plugged-in

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Unplugged experience is wonderful
+
SRT2 preamp is a dream
+
Hand-rolled fretboard is super comfortable

Reasons to avoid

-
We’d like a non-cutaway option too

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 A5R’s resonance and bright balance are 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. This is an update that marks the A Series out as an essential consideration for players who rely on a consistent and controllable stage sound.

Read our full Yamaha A5R ARE review

A mid-priced, praise-worthy dreadnought

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Sounds superb
+
Flawless build
+
We like the minimal look

Reasons to avoid

-
Looks could be too plain for some

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 - frankly, we love 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 top: it's unreservedly recommended for anyone searching for the best acoustic guitars in the world.

Read our full Martin D-15M Burst review

The iconic Gibson songbird, loved by folk, rock and country players

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Structurally fantastic
+
Practically sonically faultless
+
LR Baggs electronics capture unplugged tone impeccably

Reasons to avoid

-
The colour might not be to everyone’s taste

From top to bottom, this Hummingbird creates a buzz. Whatever your preference in size, color, 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 a sound worthy of one of the best high end acoustic guitars around.

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 our full Gibson Montana Hummingbird review

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

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Vintage-meets-modern vibe
+
Body contours offer enhanced comfort
+
Great upper fret access

Reasons to avoid

-
Looks may be too gaudy for some

The Builder’s Edition V-Class K14ce is a bold statement of intent by Taylor, combining 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 – 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 our full Taylor Builder’s Edition V-Class K14CE review

Best acoustic guitars: buying advice

Best acoustic guitars: Three guitars together in a dark room

(Image credit: Future)

As we stated at the start of this guide, it is pretty difficult to buy a bad guitar in this day and age. So if the build quality of guitars is higher than it's ever been, what should be your primary concerns when buying a new instrument?

A brief history of the acoustic guitar

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The acoustic guitar has gone through many iterations and revisions to get to where it is today. The origins of the acoustic guitar are often argued, but it most likely was influenced and inspired by the gittern - which originated in Western Europe during the 13th century. The vihuela - which came to be in 15th century Spain, and was more ‘traditionally’ guitar-shaped - took two routes, the most important to us being the vihuela de Penola. This was played with a plectrum or by hand.

Around the late 1700s and early 1800s, six-stringed versions of the vihuela became popular. In approximately 1850, a luthier named Antonio Torres Jurado made improvements to the tone and strength of these instruments - increasing the body size, altering the proportions, and using a ‘fan’ bracing pattern. Torres’ design has remained fairly unchanged, and most credit the form and structure of the modern acoustic guitar to him.

Which acoustic guitar body size is best for me?

Acoustic guitars come in many different shapes and sizes, the most popular being Dreadnought, Grand Auditorium, and Parlor, among others. Each of these styles brings its own characteristics to the table, so consider them carefully when choosing the best acoustic guitar for you.

Generally speaking, the bigger the guitar, the bigger the sound. The smaller the guitar, the tighter, and more focused the sound. Perhaps that's obvious, but you'll want to consider the effect on tone too.

Dreadnought and Jumbo guitars generally deliver a deeper sound and increased bottom end due to their cavernous body sizes. These are a favorite of legendary solo singer-songwriters such as Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, and Sheryl Crow, as the increased volume and tone can make up for the lack of full-band accompaniment. This massive sound can get lost in a band situation though, as the extra bass and low mid frequencies interfere with a bass guitar or kick drum. 

If you’re looking to perform with a band, a smaller-bodied guitar - like a Grand Auditorium, ‘000’ or Parlor may be more suitable. Acoustic guitars of these sizes will cut through a mix better as they generally produce more high-mid and treble frequencies - or at least fewer low frequencies - to ensure you're heard over the rest of the band. With players such as John Mayer, Eric Clapton, and Myles Kennedy opting for a smaller-bodied acoustic guitar, it's worth checking them out. 

Bear in mind that the size not only affects the tone but also how comfortable the guitar is to play. So if you feel better playing a smaller guitar, then go for it. You have to be comfortable with your instrument.

What is the best wood for an acoustic guitar?

Well, that’s a good question. There is technically no ‘best’ wood to make an acoustic guitar out of, as the tones we like are entirely subjective. That being said, there are definitely certain woods that resonate more than others, and certain combinations that work well together - and those tend to be the favorites when it comes to building an acoustic guitar.

The classic combination of a spruce top and mahogany back and sides is a definite favorite among luthiers. The way that spruce and mahogany interact with each other creates a really well-rounded tone, with the spruce generating plenty of punchy brightness that makes your tone pop and cut through the mix. Mahogany adds a tasteful dash of low-end resonance to this brightness, and that’s where the balance comes into play. You’ll notice that most acoustic guitar tops are made from pale woods, such as spruce - but not always. 

During the Great Depression of the late ‘20s and ‘30s, Martin decided that in order to stay afloat they needed to make guitars that were cheaper, both to produce and to buy. In order to do this, they introduced the ‘15’ series, which features tops, backs, and sides all made of solid mahogany. This move not only helped to save Martin as a company but also created a guitar that had a killer tone. As you can expect, it doesn’t create the super bright punchiness that spruce does, but instead a really cool, woody mid-range tone that has become really popular in more recent years.

Teenage girl smiling while she plays acoustic guitar on an orange couch

(Image credit: Getty/Richard Bailey)

Does the hardware make a difference?

Does hardware make a difference on acoustic?

Acoustic guitars don’t have a lot of hardware, but the effect it can have on the tone of your guitar is surprising. If you think about it, an acoustic guitar creates its tone through vibrating - so a great bridge or set of tuners will allow your guitar to freely vibrate or resonate.

Take a bridge, for example. The bridge is the only point of contact between your strings and the top of your guitar, so guitar manufacturers will make sure that it doesn’t inhibit your guitar’s natural resonance any more than it needs to. The material that your bridge is made from will also affect the tone of your guitar, with mahogany or rosewood bridges sounding a little warmer. That being said, this is definitely one for the nerds out there - with the difference being pretty minimal.

Like most guitar-related items, the quality of hardware on your guitar will improve as you creep up the price brackets. Whether it’s the quality of the materials, the stability of the tuners, or just a more solid construction, if you spend more on your instrument, you’ll probably get more out of it.

Do I need an acoustic guitar pickup?

Once you have chosen the right body size and woods for you, you'll need to think about pickups. 

An acoustic guitar pickup can work in a few different ways, with the most popular pickups being under-saddle piezo pickups. As you’ve probably worked out, the pickup collects the string vibrations through the saddle, and then sends that tone to the output jack. Unfortunately, a cheap one can sound quite brittle and spiky, as the pickup is detecting vibrations where the string tension is at its tightest.

Another pickup type is the magnetic soundhole pickup. They work exactly the same as an electric guitar pickup, in the way that they create a magnetic field that captures the vibrations of the strings, and then passes those through to the output jack and into your amp. They’re pretty easy to install - most just clip on either side of your soundhole - and they’re available in single-coil and humbucker configurations. Some are active, too - meaning the output is higher and your tone will pop even more.

You can also use a soundboard transducer pickup if that’s more your thing. If you use percussive techniques in your playing, then these pickups can be a great choice - as they can be fixed anywhere on or inside the body of your acoustic guitar, picking up more vibrations than other types of pickups. They often need a bit more EQ tweaking on your amp or PA speakers to get them to sound perfect, but it’s worth the effort if your playing style requires one.

You may not know if you'll ever want to plug into an acoustic guitar amp or even PA speakers, and, of course, you could always have a pickup installed at a later date. Still, we recommend opting for a steel string with an onboard pickup/preamp if it's within budget. As they say, it's better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it! 

Woman sat on a couch, fretting the third fret of her Fender acoustic guitar

(Image credit: Future)

How much should I spend on an acoustic guitar? 

How much should I spend on an acoustic guitar?

We’ve got good news when it comes to how much you need to spend. If you want to, you can spend tens of thousands on one of the best acoustic guitars - but that is in no way necessary. Between the guitar players on the MusicRadar team, we’ve bought, sold, and played thousands of acoustic guitars, so here’s what we’d expect to spend on some great beginner, intermediate, and pro acoustic guitars: 

As a beginner, you’ll get everything you need for under $/£500. You’ll need something comfortable, nice to look at, and easy to play. You’ll get all of these qualities from manufacturers like Fender, Epiphone, and Washburn, among many others. These manufacturers are our favorites for the best cheap acoustic guitars, as they’re well-respected brands that won’t put their names on sub-par instruments. 

For intermediate players, you’ll be best off spending a bit more and getting something special. You’ll be able to find guitars of all shapes, sizes, build qualities, and brands - the world starts to become your oyster. For $/£1,500, you’ll even start creeping up into the world of higher-end Far-Eastern and lower-end USA-made guitars, from the likes of Martin, Gibson, Taylor, Yamaha, and Guild. The quality of the build, materials, and tone will be noticeably better than that of a cheaper, sub-£/$500 acoustic guitar - so if you can afford it, then we’d recommend going for an intermediate spec acoustic.

Once you enter the realms of ‘professional’ acoustic guitars, you can really spend as much as you want. You can spend some serious money on the best high-end acoustic guitars, with Martin’s £7,000 ‘Authentic’ range and Taylor’s indulgent Builder’s Edition acoustics being prime examples. These guitars feature endangered woods, incredible build quality, and gargantuan tones, among other things. For over $/£1,500 though, a pro will get everything they need to play, sound, and look great. Expect to see those aforementioned manufacturers’ names pop up a lot in this price bracket, along with companies like Larivee, Furch, Eastman, and many more. 

Should I buy an acoustic guitar online?

Concerned about buying an acoustic guitar online without trying it first? You needn’t worry. Online music instrument retailers like Sweetwater (opens in new tab), Thomann (opens in new tab), Guitar Center (opens in new tab) and Musician’s Friend (opens in new tab) offer hassle-free returns as standard, so you can purchase a guitar, play it in the comfort and privacy of your home and, if it’s not right, send it back with ease. Check the specific returns policy for your chosen retailer before you purchase, but most offer between 30-45 days to return an item, as long as it’s in original condition.

How we test an acoustic guitar

Acoustic guitars are some of the most subjective instruments out there. Every player has their own set of preferences - but there are a few key criteria every acoustic guitar should meet before we recommend it to our readers.

The first thing we look at is the overall build quality of the instrument. Does it feel strong, solid and like it can withstand hard playing? We need to make sure any acoustic guitar we recommend is sturdy and reliable, and won't let you down. How well does it all fit together? How good is the hardware? Is the level of finish up to scratch? These are all questions we seek the answers to during testing.

We then check the setup, and the level of finish of the guitar. We look at the action (the vertical distance between the strings and the fingerboard), and also the fretwork - to make sure there are no dead spots or sharp fret ends.

This leads on to a playability test. We check how comfortable the neck and body are, how the neck profile feels in our hand and how the fingerboard radius feels when playing. We'll also play sat down and stood up to see if there's any neck dive.

We've also got to test the sound of the guitar. For this, we play a variety of different styles including country style chicken-pickin', strumming with a plectrum and everything in between. We play throughout the whole dynamic range of the guitar, and listen to the tone and projection to make sure it's all as we'd expect.

Read more about how we test music making gear and services at MusicRadar.

Chris Bird

Chris has been the Editor of Total Guitar magazine since 2020. Prior to that, he was at the helm of Total Guitar's world-class tab and tuition section for 12 years. He's a former guitar teacher with 35 years playing experience and he holds a degree in Philosophy & Popular Music. Chris has interviewed Brian May three times, Jimmy Page once, and Mark Knopfler zero times – something he desperately hopes to rectify as soon as possible.

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