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14 best acoustic guitars 2020: top acoustic guitars for beginners and pros

Best acoustic guitars: top acoustic guitars for beginners and pros
(Image credit: Future)

If you're shopping around for the best acoustic guitar for your playing style and budget, you're in luck, as we have scoured the globe – and put in a ton of reviewing hours – to bring you this expert guide to the top acoustic guitars in the world right now. 

You'll be pleased to hear that you won't have to remortgage your house to afford one, either. How come? Because our round-up of the best acoustic guitars starts from under $200 (thanks, Fender), meaning there's something for small budgets and for beginners upwards. 

Buying an acoustic guitar online

(Image credit: Future)

Concerned about buying an acoustic guitar online without playing it first? You needn’t be. 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 for you, 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.

Over the past decade alone we have also seen a quantum leap in the quality of acoustic guitars being produced at lower price points, which is brilliant for those of us who just can't stop adding to our guitar collection. 

Our selection represents a broad cross-section of the industry, offering a collection of acoustic guitars that range from flawlessly executed high-end investment pieces to modern classics and affordable off-the-shelf mass-production models that punch way above their weight. 

All of these models have been tested extensively by our expert reviews team, and this round-up collects together our highest-scoring acoustic guitars. There's sure to be something to suit you.

What are the best acoustic guitars right now?

Every model in our acoustic guitars guide is a great performer, but allow us to draw your attention to a couple of instruments in particular... That starts with the Martin D-28. This acoustic is often considered to be the benchmark of dreadnought design. 

Understandably it comes with a premium price, but if you're looking for an all-rounder with balanced highs, deep lows and possibly the most comfortable playing experience around, this is one of the best acoustic guitars you can buy.

If you're on a tighter budget, we'd highly recommend Epiphone's EJ-200SCE. Featuring Shadow's stereo pickup system, it offers the best plugged-in sounds you can buy for the price; and it's a sweetie when played acoustically too. A brilliant addition to our best acoustic guitars round-up. 

Choosing the best acoustic guitar for you

Like we say, build quality is the best it's ever been. Buy from one of the reputable brands here and you can be sure you'll receive one of the best acoustic guitars around. So if build is a given, what are your primary concerns when buying a new instrument? Well, here are some general considerations.

First of all, there's the size/volume equation. No, it's not maths homework – just remember that big-bodied guitars tend to be louder than the smaller kind. Perhaps that's obvious, but you'll want to consider the effect on tone too.

Big jumbos and dreadnoughts generally deliver more bottom end. Great for unaccompanied gigs where you need a room-filling sound, but a smaller parlour style guitar might cut through a mix better, or even offer more mid and treble detail for flat-picked or fingerstyle passages. It's general advice, admittedly – and every guitar is different – but keep it in mind when you buy.

You'll also need to think about pickups when choosing the best acoustic guitar for you. You may not know if you'll ever want to plug in, and, of course, you could always have a pickup installed at a later date, but we recommend opting for a steel string with an onboard pickup/preamp if it's within budget.

Finally, let's talk wood. Sitka spruce is commonly used in acoustic guitars and offers a balanced tone with clarity and dynamic range. Mahogany is a hardwood with more direct sound and greater definition across the frequency range. Cedar, by contrast, is softer sounding than spruce with more dynamic range and less natural compression. 

Maple delivers a strong midrange and punchy bottom end that's ideal for strumming in a band mix. Remember though, whichever acoustic guitar you choose, the way the instrument is built affects its tonal characteristics just as much as its materials do, so don't let wood choice be a deal breaker.

The best acoustic guitars you can buy now

Best acoustic guitars: Martin D-28 Reimagined

(Image credit: Martin)

1. Martin D-28 Reimagined

Martin's 2017 'reimagining' of one of the best acoustic guitars

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
Enhanced look and feel
The price

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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2. 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

Vintage-meets-modern vibe
Enhanced comfort
High position access
Well, it ain’t cheap

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: Epiphone EJ-200SCE

(Image credit: Epiphone)

3. Epiphone EJ-200SCE Electro-Acoustic Guitar

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

Launch price: $499/£399/€395 | 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

Impressive stereo pickup system
Big jumbo tones
Classic J-200 styling
Nothing at the price

If you hold the opinion that Epiphones are for players priced out of Gibson ownership, you may wish to rethink your stance with the EJ-200SCE. 

Distinctive calling cards of J-200 heritage are present here: the moustache bridge, decorative tortoiseshell-style pickguard and pearloid crown inlays. 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. 

However, it's the Shadow eSonic-2 preamp that pushes this guitar into greatness. Featuring two blendable mono pickups (a traditional undersaddle piezo and another pickup located at the end of the fingerboard), the plugged-in sound is among the best you'll find below £500. And, with an onboard tuner to keep you sounding sweet, this is without doubt one of the best electro-acoustics around today.

Read our full Epiphone EJ-200SCE review

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4. Yamaha A5R ARE Acoustic Guitar

The acoustic guitar that sounds utterly great plugged-in

Launch price: $1,399 /£1,279/€1,389 | 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

Unplugged experience is wonderful
SRT2 preamp is a dream
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 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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5. Guild Traditional D-55 Acoustic Guitar

A 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

Ace strumming and flat picking tones
Excellent build
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 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

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6. Fender CD-60S All-Mahogany

One of the best acoustic guitars you can buy under $200

Launch price: $199/£160/€218 | 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

Superb value for money
Great intonation
Looks may put some off

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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7. Gibson Montana Hummingbird

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

Launch price: $3,849/£2,099/€2,998 | 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

Structurally fantastic
Practically sonically faultless
The colour might not be to everyone’s taste

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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8. Martin D-15M Burst Acoustic Guitar

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
We like the minimal look
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 top: it's unreservedly recommended for anyone searching for the best acoustic guitars in the world.

Read our full Martin D-15M Burst review

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9. Taylor GS Mini Acoustic Guitar

The best acoustic guitar for travelling

Launch price: $678/£499/€499 | 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

A great concept
Build quality and design 
Sound and playability
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. 

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

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10. Martin Dreadnought Junior

When it comes to the best acoustic guitars, we love this 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 mid-range tones
Classic Martin sound
Smaller body is comfy
Lacks depth of a full-sized dread

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

Best acoustic guitars: Washburn Woodline 10 Series WLO12SE

(Image credit: Washburn)

11. Washburn Woodline 10 Series WLO12SE

One of the best OM-style guitars for fingerstylists on a budget

Launch price: $369/£329/€390 | Type: Orchestra | Top: Solid mahogany | Back & sides: Mahogany | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 25-1/2" | Fingerboard: Ovangkol | Frets: 20 | Tuners: Chrome die-cast | Left-handed: No | Finish: Natural

Great for fingerstyle
Sparkling highs and tight, defined lows
Slim neck and low action
Three-piece neck isn’t the most attractive

Based on the vintage Martin OM body shape, the orchestra style WLO12SE features sub-dreadnought dimensions with sparkling highs, a tight bottom end and a decent spec. 

A walnut bound mahogany body paired with Washburn's Scalloped-X bracing makes this an elegant guitar with a clarity that makes it great for the detail of fingerstyle playing. 

A Fishman Presys II preamp gives an honest portrayal of the guitar’s acoustic qualities and includes bass and treble controls for tonal tweaking. Coupled with a slim C profile neck, low action and a Graph Tech NuBone nut, this is a quality instrument that punches well above its weight. 

Best acoustic guitars: Yamaha NTX700C

(Image credit: Yamaha)

12. Yamaha NTX700C Acoustic Guitar

Easy playability makes this one of the best nylon-string electro-acoustics

Launch price: $865/£581/€685 | Type: | 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
Tuner doesn't mute output

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 our full Yamaha NTX700C review

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13. Art & Lutherie Roadhouse

One of the best acoustic guitars under $500

Launch price: $449/£369/€773 | 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

A sweet blues and country box designed for the nomadic musician
Earthy looks and sound
If you have massive hands your thumbs might get in the way

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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14. Yamaha SLG200S Silent Acoustic Guitar

The ultimate practice acoustic guitar

Launch price: $1,070/£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

Plays beautifully
Sounds superb through a PA
Packs down
Very little beyond the divisive looks

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

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