Concerned about buying an acoustic guitar online without trying it first? You needn’t worry. Online music instrument retailers like Sweetwater, Thomann, Guitar Center and Musician’s Friend 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.
Are you looking for the best acoustic guitar to suit your playing style and budget? Well, you have come to the right place. We’ve searched high and low to find the best guitars out there at every price point. From wallet-friendly options to high-end master builds, we have you covered.
Over the past decade or so, we've witnessed a massive leap in the quality of acoustic guitars at lower price points. Frankly, it's pretty difficult to buy a lousy guitar these days - especially if you stick to the big brands. Suppose you're new to the wide world of acoustic guitars. In that case, you'll find more helpful information in our guide to the best acoustic guitars for beginners.
This guide explores flawless high-end investment pieces, modern classics, and affordable guitars that offer incredible value for money. No matter which guitar you choose, it's sure to be your musical companion for years to come, so making the right decision is important. So read on to see our top picks, and let us guide you through the process.
We’ve featured these guitars in price order to make it easier to find the right one for your budget.
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Best acoustic guitars: our top picks
It may be an obvious choice, but the Martin D28 is our top pick for the best acoustic guitar, overall. Very little has changed since this deep-bodied dreadnought was introduced in 1931. C.F. Martin set a new benchmark when they invented the dreadnought shape all those years ago. It's easy to take this revolutionary guitar for granted now, but it really was a game-changer back in the day. Obviously, quality like this doesn't come cheap, but if you're looking for a timeless, rich-sounding guitar, look no further than the Martin D28.
For a more budget-friendly alternative, we'd highly recommend Epiphone J-200 EC Studio. This stunning guitar really does sound as good as it looks and offers the best amplified sound for its price point. If you're after the vintage Gibson look without breaking the bank, then it's worth checking this one out.
Best acoustic guitars: product guide
The entry model of the Classic Design Series 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' intonation 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 (remember what we said about 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
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Made by Art & Lutherie, a sub-brand of Godin Guitars (known mostly for its electric guitars) this parlour 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.
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 an 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
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The Epiphone J200 EC Studio pays homage to its Gibson counterpart, with stunning vintage correct stylings. The moustache 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. The sound is 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.
If you want to hear what this guitar can really do, then plug it into an acoustic amp. The onboard Fishman Sonicore pickup delivers a sound among the best you'll find below $/£500. Throw in a solid top as well and this is, without doubt, one of the best electro-acoustics around today.
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.
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
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.
Read our full Martin Dreadnought Junior review
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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 our full Yamaha SLG200S Silent Guitar review
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 our full Yamaha A5R ARE review
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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 top: it's unreservedly recommended for anyone searching for the best acoustic guitars in the world.
Read our full Martin D-15M Burst review
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 186 years of history in its high-end guitars, which is why this beauty has graced our best acoustic guitars round-up.
The current D-28, reimagined in 2017, features forward-shifted bracing, a wider nut and vintage-style aesthetic changes, but it’s the neck design that really makes this a comfortable and accessible dreadnought playing experience. 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 too the D-28 continues to embody the dreadnought in look and sound.
Read our full Martin D-28 Reimagined review
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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 acoustic 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 real sumptuous strummer.
Read our full Guild Traditional D-55 review
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 our full Gibson Montana Hummingbird review
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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
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?
Best acoustic guitars: a brief history
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 1700’s and early 1800’s, 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, more focused the sound. Perhaps that's obvious, but you'll want to consider the effect on tone too.
Dreadnought and Jumbo and guitars generally deliver a deeper sound and increased bottom end due to their cavernous body sizes. These are a favourite 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.
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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 favourites when it comes to building an acoustic guitar.
The classic combination of a spruce top and mahogany back and sides is a definite favourite 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.
Acoustic guitar hardware
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.
Pickups and electronics
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 which captures the vibrations of the strings, and then pass 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 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!
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:
Beginners: under $/£500
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, and you’ll get all of these qualities from manufacturers like Fender, Epiphone, Washburn, among many others. These manufacturers are our favourites for acoustic guitars for beginners, as they’re well-respected brands that won’t put their names on sub-par instruments.
Intermediate: between $/£500 and $/£1,500
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, 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, 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.
Professional: over $/£1,500
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 Gibson, Larivee, Furch, Eastman and many more.
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