So, you’ve decided you want a new acoustic guitar, but with so much out there on the market, even knowing where to begin can feel like a daunting task. Well, that’s where we come in.
We got together with our in-house experts over at MusicRadar (opens in new tab) to assemble a list of the 10 best acoustic guitars you can get your hands on at the moment without breaking the bank. There are old classics, high-scoring newbies and even a certain flame-haired pop star’s signature model, and each of them come in with a price tag of £500/$650 or less.
Go on, treat yourself.
Fender CD-60S All-Mahogany
Fender's entry model for their Classic Design Series shows just how much guitar you can get for your money. Instead of the high-action, poor tuning and shoddy construction of the lower-priced models of old: here we have 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.
Conclusion: A great guitar for new players and a great additional dreadnought for anyone else in the market, too.
Art & Lutherie Roadhouse Tennessee Red
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.
Conclusion: It’s got attack, projection, volume, character and style. And it’s only a parlour.
Gretsch G9511 Style 1 Single-0 Parlour
The snappily titled G9511 Style 1 Single-0 Parlour comes from the Asian-built Roots series, guitars described as being ‘inspired by tradition’. In other words, they look old-timey. When strumming with fingers the tone remains bright and light, but with surprising projection. Pick up a plectrum and you might expect some harshness or overdirect tone, but there’s not one bit of it. The louder we get, the brighter it gets, with the tone remaining like being brushed with a fairy’s wing rather than being jabbed with an ice pick. Couple that with the extraordinary playability and you have a very serious contender here.
Conclusion: An absolute winner at this price.
The FG830 is a classy proposition with its thinly gloss-finished body, deep chocolate coloration of the rosewood laminate back and sides, and satin neck, all topped off with old- looking, cream-coloured edge binding.
There’s a little abalone bling in the soundhole décor and headstock motifs, too. It’s near-perfect in execution - inside and out.
Conclusion: Dangerously close to being a real game-changer.
Washburn Woodline 10 Series WLO12SE
Our WLO12SE model’s spec kicks off with a solid mahogany top and laminate mahogany back and sides, protected by a flawless gloss finish and pimped with black binding and light pin-striping. The slim C profile neck is mahogany, too – this time with a sleek satin feel – and its rosewood ‘board is home to 20 thin frets. A set of die-cast machine heads and a well-cut top nut do their bit to keep the WLO12SE tuning in check.
Conclusion: The WLO12SE is a beautifully realised reminder that you should take the time to narrow your search and find a playing experience and tone that suits your needs perfectly.
Martin LX1E Little Martin
It’s no surprise that this plucky little Martin is so high in the list - after all, you might as well rename this guitar the Ed Sheeran.
The ginger fury (as literally nobody calls him) has made the LX1 his own, playing the travel-sized acoustic throughout his rise to fame, so it surprised no one when Martin awarded Ed his own signature model (check out our review below).
And really, it’s a lot of guitar in a tiny package. Spruce topped, with Martin HPL (that’s high pressure laminate, abbreviation fans) back and sides, it projects beautifully and has a wonderfully playable neck.
If you don’t mind people asking why you’re playing a child’s guitar, the LX1 is well worth checking out.
Conclusion: The Martin LX1E feels a bit utilitarian but packs a very endearing and classic steel-string punch, both acoustically and amplified.
The diminutive, but nonetheless fully formed 14-fret OMR-21 exudes class and heritage. It has a solid Sitka spruce top, a satin neck, back and headstock crafted from laminated Indian rosewood and the mahogany neck appears of a high visual grade.As a starter guitar for the serious student there’s little to bemoan here and we suspect the OMR-21 will impress even the more experienced players.
Conclusion: The perfect steel-string? Damn close. Affordable and classic-looking with a sound that punches above its price.
Taylor Big Baby Taylor-e
Taylor is famous for its supremely playable acoustic necks and this model is no exception; in fact, due to its innovative and virtually heel-less design, there’s better access to the upper frets with any regular full-body acoustic.
In short, however, this Baby plays like a dream, and when you feel this at home with a guitar you can play anything in any style. Obviously this guitar is not going to sound like a standard Taylor dreadnought; and in fact it’s quite surprising to hear how unlike a dreadnought the Big Baby tone is.
This updated take for 2015 features Taylor’s new ES-B pickup for piezo tones that don’t really sound like a piezo.
Conclusion: 15 years on, and now with the ES2-like ES-B pickup, the 2015 Big Baby is better than ever. An excellent introduction to Taylor, and an ideal second, starter or traveller guitar, too.
The proliferation in mahogany-topped acoustics is a development that we wholeheartedly approve of. There’s something delightfully earthy in their look, and in our experience, this translates to their tone, too. It’s the same with all-mahogany Korean-built acoustic from Sigma.
Should you be looking for a bluesy belter or general all-round acoustic, then the SDM-15 is the no-brainer of all no-brainers. It’s got the power to do the business acoustically, and if you require more volume, simply plug into the PA or a small acoustic amp and the onboard Fishman system will provide ballsy backup.
Conclusion: This guitar has it all: classic looks, quality build, excellent playability, evocative sounds acoustically and plugged in, and an ultra-keen price. What’s not to like?
Yamaha LJ6 ARE
Yamaha’s LJ series is home to one of its most played and respected acoustics, the LJ6 ARE.
It’s a tasty little number, what with the Engelmann spruce top, gold hardware and general air of class, with a jumbo body and SRT Zero Impact pickup for big, resonant tones, both plugged and unplugged.
It’s hovering at the top end of our budget price point - closer to £500 than £150 - but even costing that much, the LL6 is a snip.
Conclusion: Almost unbelievable value for money for such a capable, quality electro-acoustic, especially in Sunburst!
Taylor GS Mini
The impressive depth and projection belies the guitar’s compact body, which features a solid Sitka top and laminate sapele back and sides.
A tight low-end and musical voice make the GS Mini perfect for recording using its built-in ES-Go pickup, while the sparkly highs give you a taste of the classic Taylor sound for minimal outlay.
Conclusion: More than just a travel guitar, the GS Mini has its own acoustic voice that can easily be amplified with the good-sounding ES-Go pickup. Impossible not to like.