Playing acoustic guitar is a much more organic, tactile experience than that of its electric cousin. The best acoustic guitars grow with you, maturing as they get older and changing their tone just as your own tastes will change over the years. From gentle fingerstyle to the harshest strumming, there's nothing quite like getting your hands on a truly great acoustic.
You don't have to spend huge to achieve acoustic guitar nirvana either, as there are some fantastic options available at lower prices with brands like Fender, Gretsch, and PRS. If you do want to splash the cash, however, there are some incredibly premium offerings from the big hitters of acoustic guitar like Martin, Taylor, and Gibson. With so many choices it can be difficult to pinpoint what to go for, so we've created this handy guide utilizing the decades of experience amongst our writing team.
If you're new to acoustic guitar or just want to know more before you buy, we'd highly recommend checking out our buying advice section which features loads of in-depth knowledge. If you just want to see the best acoustic guitars you can buy right now, keep on scrolling.
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 of acoustic guitar 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.
Best acoustic guitars: The quick list
Want to get to the good stuff without reading walls of text? Well, here you'll find a roundup of all the best acoustic guitars available today, with links to read more if you like what you see.
Best overall acoustic
If you want an acoustic guitar that can do it all, you need a Gibson J-45. Versatile enough to handle fingerstyle, chords, arpeggios, Blues, Country, you name it, this guitar can do it.
Best electro acoustic
If you're after an acoustic that sounds as good plugged in as it does unplugged, you'll want to take a look at the Yamaha A5R ARE with its brilliant SRT2 preamp.
Best travel acoustic
If you need a smaller size, or an acoustic for younger players then the Taylor GS Mini is a perfect match. It's one of the most popular mini acoustics available today for good reason.
Best beginner acoustic
For beginner acoustic guitarists it doesn't come much better than the Fender CD-60. Blending brilliant build quality with playability, it's a springboard for any acoustic journey.
Best jumbo acoustic
If you're looking for a larger-than-life acoustic guitar, the Epiphone J-200 EC Studio is a powerhouse of tone with eye-catching looks to match its full-bodied sound.
The best acoustic guitars 2023
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Here you'll find full writeups for all of the best acoustic guitars. We test many of the products featured here intensively, as well as utilizing the wide spread of knowledge amongst our editorial teams to select products that will meet your needs.
If you’re after an acoustic guitar that can handle any playstyle and genre of music you throw at it, then you need a Gibson J-45 Standard. It’s Gibson’s classic workhorse guitar, one that has the tonal versatility and build quality to ensure it performs time after time on stage and in the studio.
We found the J-45 to be an absolute tone monster, easily handling blues, fingerstyle, chords, arpeggios, and pretty much anything else we could throw at it. The clarity and note separation is particularly apparent on this guitar, and it’s super dynamic too, responding just as well to gentle fingerstyle as it does hard strumming.
With Grover Rotomatics tuners and an LR Baggs preamp system, you’ve also got some fantastic quality hardware to lean on. The amplified tone represents the unplugged sound really well, sounding fantastic through an acoustic guitar amplifier or a PA system.
Read our full Gibson J-45 Standard review
Best electro acoustic
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
Best travel acoustic
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
Best beginner acoustic
The Fender CD-60 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 spruce top, laminated mahogany back/sides, and a playable Walnut fretboard.
The CD-60's action is great out of the box, too, though not too low to make us wary of alternate tunings. The punchy character of Spruce is certainly here, bringing the brightness usually associated with spruce tops.
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-60 review
Best jumbo acoustic
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
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
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.
Parlour acoustics are all the rage right now and when you look at the PRS SE P20E Tonare Parlor, it’s no surprise really. Packing a whole load of tone into an easily transportable package, it’s an excellent value acoustic for playing at home and songwriting.
There’s a midrange emphasis in its tone, as you’d expect from an acoustic of this size and there’s a decent amount of bass here too, although it won’t compete with larger guitars. The wide fat neck profile is interesting too, filling your palm but still providing buttery smooth playing thanks to the rounded shoulders.
Fishman GT1 electronics highlight the P20Es midrange clout, meaning you can take this guitar from the sofa to the stage if you want to. Separate bass and treble controls ensure you can always dial in a perfect sound too. With an ebony bridge and compensated bone saddle, you’ve got a serious parlour guitar that looks great too.
Read our full PRS SE P20E Tonare review
Fender’s 'is it or isn’t it' Acoustasonic range has been an absolute smash hit. Whether you think it’s a true acoustic guitar or not, there’s no denying the Fender American Acoustasonic Telecaster is a brilliant instrument, and certainly worthy of a place on this list.
It gives you multiple, modeled tonewood combinations so you can play a Spruce top, Rosewood auditorium-sized acoustic, then quickly switch to a Spruce/Mahogany dreadnough with just the press of a button. It works incredibly well and the versatility will be incredibly useful to gigging and studio guitarists.
As you’d expect from an American-made Fender, the build quality is fantastic and we loved the feel of the modern deep ‘C’ profile neck. One negative would have to be that it needs charging, but that said it will deliver 20 hours of playtime on a full charge, which should be plenty for any guitarist.
Read the full Fender American Acoustasonic Telecaster review
With more and more players looking to both save costs and space, we’ve seen a huge resurgence in travel and parlor-sized acoustic over the last few years. The Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy ticks all these boxes, providing a brilliantly playable instrument that costs comparatively little money.
Of course, due to the size, it won’t compete with a boomy dreadnought, but the sound has an endearing character all of its own. It’s bright but never harsh with bags of articulation and a strong attack. It really punches above its weight and price tag when it comes to note clarity, excelling at flatpicking and fingerpicking.
You’d expect at this price point that the hardware might not be the best, but we were surprised at how good the tuners are. They don’t feel cheap and hold their tuning particularly well. We also love the vintage style finish and the small body size which makes it perfect for strumming and songwriting at home.
Read our full Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy review
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 the full Martin DJR-10E Dreadnought Junior review
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
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
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.
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!
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, 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.
How we choose the best acoustic guitars
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.
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