Ferndale GA3-CE acoustic guitar review

Can this affordable, no-nonsense acoustic go toe to toe with the big guns?

  • £329
Ferndale GA3-CE review
(Image: © Future/Daryl Robertson)

MusicRadar Verdict

You aren't exactly short of options when it comes to beginner-friendly acoustic guitars. Everyone from Yamaha to Fender has a solid-topped six-string in their catalogue and at reasonable prices, too. Now, for us, Ferndale does more than enough to hang with the big guns, offering superb quality and excellent playability. That said, Ferndale's objectively noble mission statement of focusing on a "genuine acoustic guitar" that doesn't rely on novelty to get noticed may be their downfall, as this humble guitar struggles to speak up and get heard in this densely populated space.

Pros

  • +

    Very well built

  • +

    Solid top

  • +

    Superbly comfortable to play

  • +

    Looks excellent

Cons

  • -

    Lacks depth and low-end

  • -

    Similar spec'd guitars from big-name brands are available for a comparable price

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Ferndale GA3-CE review: What is it?

The beginner acoustic guitar market is a dense forest of choices, with so many options that finding the right one can feel like a daunting task. With countless brands, models, and styles available, it's easy to get lost in the tangle of wood, acoustic guitar strings and promises of quality sound. 

Luckily, we've discovered a relatively unknown brand dedicated to being a beacon in the wilderness, prioritising value for money and quality over flash in the pan trends - Ferndale Guitars. 

Based in the UK and owned by music retail giant PMT, Ferndale promises to deliver the exceptional sound quality, craftsmanship and playability you'd expect from higher-end acoustic guitars, but at a much more reasonable price. Now, that's all well and good, but how do they hold up against the big-name brands that dominate this end of the market? Well, today we're going to find out. 

For the purposes of this review, we were sent the Ferndale GA3-CE, a grand auditorium-sized electro-acoustic which features a solid mahogany top and sapele back and sides. As well as a pre-amp and pickup, a built-in chromatic tuner, rich rosewood fingerboard and bridge and a real bone nut complete its impressive spec sheet. 

Ferndale GA3-CE review: Performance & verdict

Ferndale GA3-CE sound hole and strings

(Image credit: Future/Daryl Robertson)

Playability and overall build quality

The first thing that strikes you upon taking the Ferndale GA3-CE out of the box is just how well the guitar is finished. At just a smidge over £300, we'd forgive it for not being perfect, but in actuality, it was flawless. They were no dings or scratches to speak of, no poorly finished areas and the set-up was spot on. 

Our review model features the prevalent grand auditorium-style body shape, which was every bit as comfortable as it looks. The slimmed-down body is easy to get your arm over, making it effortless to sit with for hours on end. At the same time, the upper-bout cutaway provides excellent access to the higher frets - not that many of us need the ability to reach those piercing high notes on an acoustic guitar. 

The neck profile is relatively thin - perfect for newbies and young children - and each and every fret was perfectly seated, with no sharp edges or dead spots. Overall this guitar is comfortable, stylish and incredibly easy to play - so it gets a thumbs up for playability and design from us. 

Sound 

Close up photo of the Ferndale GA3-CE bridge

(Image credit: Future/Daryl Robertson)
Also consider

Yamaha Storia I

(Image credit: Yamaha)

: This is arguably the most popular beginner acoustic guitar ever and rightfully so. This Yamaha is well-built, easy to play and sounds superb - however, it doesn't have an onboard pickup. 

: The brilliantly stylish Yamaha Storia I is an excellent option for those looking for an electro-acoustic. 

: For those seeking the mellow tone of mahogany, the Fender CD-60S is definitely one to consider. The thin neck is a breeze to play and the warm tone is incredibly inviting.  

Okay, so the Ferndale GA3-CE certainly has the feel and build quality nailed, but how does it sound? Well, for the most part, the mahogany Ferndale sounds pretty good, if a little uninspiring. 

For fingerpicking enthusiasts, there is plenty of high-end sparkle - more than we'd expect from a mahogany-topped guitar - but singer-songwriters, who love nothing more than belting out cowboy chords, will find the lack of low-end a little concerning. 

For us, this flat-top lacks the depth of its stablemates, and that's hard to ignore. Now, don't get us wrong, we're not expecting the GA3-CE to produce the room-filling low-end of a Martin dreadnought, but we did expect it to keep pace with the likes of the Yamaha FG range, and while it gives it a good run for its money, it does fall a little short. 

That said, using the onboard Belcat CADIC-1 pickup and pre-amp system yields pretty good results. Plugged into an amplifier or PA speaker, the guitar sounds bright and responsive, delivering a sound that's more than acceptable for an open mic night or any other acoustic performance, for that matter. We also very much appreciated the inclusion of extra tone-shaping and phase controls, which makes it straightforward to dial in the perfect live sound.  

Conclusion 

Ferndale GA3-CE headstock

(Image credit: Future/Daryl Robertson)

Overall we were very impressed with the Ferndale GA3-CE. This humble acoustic guitar more than delivers on playability and the finishing was spot on. However, tonally, we were expecting a little more from this guitar. 

Now, don't get us wrong, it doesn't sound bad - far from it - but we were craving a little more in the way of bass frequencies. Unfortunately, for us, it's a little too bright and lacks the depth of some of its competitor's more well-known guitars. 

Ferndale GA3-CE review: Hands-on demos

PMTVUK

Ferndale GA3-CE review: Specifications

  • Top: Solid Mahogany 
  • Back & Sides: Layered Mahogany
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Radius: 16"
  • Body Style: Grand Auditorium
  • Scale Length: 25.5"
  • Nut Width: 42mm
  • Electronics: Belcat CADIC-1, 3-Band EQ with Tuner
  • Tuners: Die-Cast
  • Contact: Ferndale 
Daryl Robertson

I'm a Senior Deals Writer at MusicRadar, and I'm responsible for writing and maintaining buyer's guides on the site - but that's not all I do. As part of my role, I also scour the internet for the best deals I can find on gear and get hands-on with the products for reviews. I have a massive passion for anything that makes a sound, in particular guitars, pianos and recording equipment. In a previous life, I worked in music retail, giving advice on all aspects of music creation, selling everything from digital pianos to electric guitars, entire PA systems to ukuleles. I'm also a fully qualified sound engineer with experience working in various venues in Scotland.