Join us for our traditional look back at the stories and features that hit the spot in 2022
Best of 2022: Acoustic guitars had another great year in 2022 – especially the electro-acoustic variety. We're also seeing models that blur the lines between electric guitar playability and tones with acoustic traditions. Viva the evolution!
1. Taylor 724ce Hawaiian Koa
You went big with your winner; a £3,799 Grand Auditorium out of the reach of most players but a beautiful instrument of of aspiration nonetheless.
An all-koa build from Taylor guarantees stunning figuring across the (sound)board and beyond, with the usual top notch build from Andy Powers' gang.
The koa build with mahogany neck and ebony 'board offers a beautifully balanced character with some natural compression, and the sweet balanced sustain afforded by Taylor's V-Class bracing.
It's a sustainably-sourced koa, as has become a key value for the company. While the koa is grown and managed at a Taylor-owned plantation that's leased to Paniolo in Hawaii, the wood here is harvested from "dead, dying and malformed trees that were stunted from cattle grazing, or were simply in decline, to make guitars,” Taylor founder Bob Taylor explained. “The wood from these trees has become thousands of guitars and thousands of new koa has been planted."
A win-win then from a company making some of the most beautiful guitars on the planet, with a sound that will open up over time, like all great acoustics made from solid wood.
2. Cort Flow-OC
While Taylor are established icons of the acoustic world, Cort is a rising star with the OC Series central to its values of comparatively affordable quality.
Another solid wood build from the company's Chinese facility, the Flow OC is a $1,500 OM-sized cutaway electro-acoustic aiming to deliver a high end experience for players; and delivers it.
A cedar top with mahogany back and sides is a familiar and successful combo in the acoustic world but Cort's Ergo-A neck profile is an innovative surprise; it changes as you go up the neck for an asymmetrical shape that delivers easy playability.
This coupled with premium features like hand-rolled fretboard edges and walnut neck reinforcement impresses at this price-point. The LR Baggs Anthem preamp system further enhancing its quality for the stage.
3. Fender Player Series Acoustasonic Telecaster
Fender's Acoustasonic series has been bold; challenging the idea of what an electro-acoustic guitar can be, or even where the lines between electric and acoustic even exist. And for many of you, this was the best example so far.
This writer actually remembers being especially saddened when boxing the guitar back up to return to Fender after a review; it immediately fits into a guitarist's life as a highly playable instrument to play unplugged around the home, without the usual acoustic neck restrictions. But it's plugged in onstage where it shines brightest.
For the first Mexican Player Acoustasonic model Fender streamlined the US Tele version's switching side for three positions, each with two sounds to blend between. Apart from some of the most 'acoustic' plugged-in sounds we've heard from a guitar, what was startling was it felt like no compromises had been made in the build.
4. Ibanez TOD10N Tim Henson
Who does Tim Henson think he is? Not content with changing the instrumental guitar game with Polyphia he's now collaborating on a nylon-string guitar with electric playability. And recording a song on it before it's even announced as going on sale.
We love the maverick approach – especially when it results in a guitar some of his fanbase can afford and set about pushing boundaries with too.
5. Guild A-20 Marley
This vintage-spec tribute to Bob Marley's favoured home dreadnought; a Madeira A-20. The brand was Guild's '70s budget brand and the late musician wrote a number of hits on his.
Guild studied some original examples and tweaked; adding a 12th fret Marley inlay and while the original A-20s were all-laminate in construction, this has a solid spruce top and a more universally appealing but still chunky C-shaped neck instead of a V. Pau ferro also replaces the rosewood fingerboard.
It's good to see a bone nut and saddle here and a satin finish to enhance sustain and feel, respectively. And the light weight make it a great guitar to pick up around the house, just like Bob's.
7. Faith Blue Moon Venus
Though originally released in 2021, we reviewed the Blue Moon Venus earlier in 2022. A stunning figured finish and all-solid mango build that affirms the British company's reputation for confidently delivering a lot for the money.
The OM/Auditorium cutaway electro model certainly has something of the exotic about it with a solid java mango body build and a fulsome response that great for chord playing, possibly aided by a meaty neck.
The bold look and impressive plugged-in performance from the Fishman INK3 under-saddle pickup and preamp combo are another win for Faith.
7. Cordoba Stage
Tim Henson and Ibanez aren't the only ones reaching out to new players with innovative hybrid thin-bodied nylon-string guitars. Here it's a 1 1/2-inches thick mahogany chambered body with a spruce top and flame maple veneer. You'll also notice there's no traditional soundhole - there's three smaller ones instead in the upper bout of the body.
This guitar is designed primarily for the stage, with a pickup system developed with Fishman that uses two small dot body sensors and an undersaddle transducer. Players can blend the two sources, with powerful onboard EQ making this a versatile option for under $700.
8. Lowden S-23J
Another nylon-string hybrid, but not from a name known for them. This addition to Lowden's Jazz Collection is a serious price at well over $5,000 for a serious guitar from an expert builder.
The LR Baggs Element transducer system compliments the standards here superbly, and an instantly comfortable playability that showcases just how alluring the hybrid concept can be in the right hands.
9. Eastman E20OOSS/v
Eastman's ability to draw on the golden ages of guitar heritage to produce vintage-feeling guitars without the eye-watering price tags continues to impress, and the versatile E20OOSS/v is a standout example.
One of the fruits of Eastman's collaboration with boutique USA builder Dana Bourgeois, this L-00-influenced parlor enjoys the lively dynamics an Adirondack spruce top affords, alongside the vintage minimalist feel of Eastman's Antique Violin finish that allows the wood to be felt and resonate more freely. And you can hear it.
10. Larrivée 000-40 Custom
This UK limited run represents an upgraded 000-40 Custom with koa back and sides and a Moonwood spruce top. A special combination with the 000 shape here with great note articulation for chord playing.