The Best Acoustic Guitars In 2016, Top Brands, Reviews And Beyond!

new best acoustic guitars
I bet you didn’t know that there were so many different guitars out there (we currently have a monstrous list of 100+ guitar reviews). They each are unique, and bring something to the table, whether it is an inexpensive price point, aesthetic detail, or an innovation on an old design. You can’t play all of them, but we can help you narrow down your choices. It doesn’t matter if you are new to the world of guitars or have been around long enough to remember seeing Hendrix live, we have a guitar review for you. Before we move on, let me just point out that this article is focused on acoustic guitars, if you are looking for the top rated electric guitars, this page will not be of much use to you.

What’s Best?

First off, best is a relative term. The ratings on each guitar is based upon its relation to guitars in the same price point. That is why a $150 guitar might be “better” than a $1000 one. You can break down the lists to find an instrument that more suits your needs, but on the grand scale we’re thrown them all together.

Also, “best” is a matter of what you are looking for and what meets your needs. A classically trained player has no interest in a steel-string thin body acoustic/electric. To him it is a waste of wood, but I on the other hand might be looking for that very instrument.

Categories

If you are looking for something to match a particular budget or skill level, we’ve got you covered. We have the guitars broken down into categories based on their price. A new player won’t have to slog through an extreme number of Taylors and Martins to find the instrument that makes sense for them. Conversely, an experienced player won’t have to go through all the entry level instrument to find what they are looking.

When you reach your desired category you’ll find even more helpful information. Each guitar has a link to an in-depth review. Take your time and check out each review to find which guitar (or guitars) match your needs. The current categories are: Beginners, Under $200, Under $300, Under $500, Under $1000, Parlor, Travel, but we never stop expanding!

The Criteria

Each guitar is reviewed based on four criteria- Design, Features, Performance, and Value. They are compared to other guitars at the same price point to make the comparison fair. I base my ratings upon my own experience and my own bias.

Just so you know, here are what these criteria mean to me as I look at each guitar.

  • Design

This the overall build, look, and innovations. I try to look at the intent of the instrument, and if it makes sense. Does it all work to make a cohesive and interesting instrument? Do the elements of the instrument make sense together? How pretty is it? Where are they pushing the design to make a better guitar? How well is it built?

  • Features

This is a very concrete category just looking at the key elements of the guitar. It can get subjective when you look at guitars at the same price point where one has many features and the other has none. I ask myself what sets each guitar apart from the others? What is the manufacturer proudest of? You can tell this by what they want you to focus on in their own descriptions of the guitar. Innovations also appear here for me, and if they worked. The aesthetics play a part here, an expensive guitar had better have some abalone, mother of pearl, or exotic woods to catch the eye. An inexpensive guitar will compromise in the looks department, which I do not count against them.

  • Performance

This is the most subjective of all the criteria. There are certain things I don’t like on a guitar, and other things I think are great. No matter what I say about performance you should definitely pick up and play the instrument before you buy or be prepared to send it back if you bought online. The more expensive the guitar the more I become critical of how the guitar plays.

  • Value

When I look at the whole package, is it worth the price? Would I be happy if this were the instrument I bought? I try to leave personal feelings out of it, unless the price doesn’t match the other three criteria. Nothing annoys me more than an overpriced guitar. At the same time, an inexpensive guitar with lots of features or is very nice to play I find impressive.

The Breakdown

The categories are based on price point. You can get an idea what your money will buy. Whether you decide to save more to buy a more expensive instrument or pay less to get a diamond in the rough. Click on the title of each group of guitars and you will be taken directly to the corresponding article with more guitar reviews, more details and more information.

The Best Acoustic Beginner Guitars – The Expectations

When it comes to beginner guitars it is a matter of risk and reward. The more you spend the nicer instrument you can get, but you risk losing your investment if playing guitar is not your thing (or for whoever you are buying the guitar for). A nice well-made and setup guitar is easier to play, but I don’t believe that those who have a true passion for playing quit because of a cheap guitar. There would be a lot fewer guitarists in the world if that were true. I also believe that you get what you pay for.

A cheap instrument is going to give you very little in return, whether it’s from playing or trying to sell it on the secondary market. That is one thing to think about, there is a very strong secondary market for musical instruments. You won’t get back all you paid, but you can mitigate the damage by selling that now unused guitar at your local store or on ebay. If you have realistic expectations of your first guitar, then you’ll be much happier in the long run. Check out the reviews of the top 3 by TheGuitarFiles:

Fender T-Bucket 400CE Review – Affordable Guitar with High-End Looks

If you find yourself burning for a new acoustic/electric guitar, then the flame maple Fender T-Bucket 400CE is the guitar for you. It is beautiful with a full even voice that sparkles in the mix of a band performance.

2 Seagull S6 Original Review – A Beautiful Bright Spot

Seagull S6 Original Review – A Beautiful Bright Spot

Finger style players will love the S6 as many of its features play right into their approach. Not to say that you can’t take a pick strum out a song, the S6 is obliging to this as well. The tone of the S6 is bright and rich adding to any unplugged jam session.

3 Yamaha FG730S Review – Quality on a Budget

Yamaha FG730S Review – Quality on a Budget

The Yamaha FG730S is proof that you don’t need a huge budget to get a good sounding and playable guitar. This is an instrument that won’t fight the player, but gives them a nice platform to learn and perform.

The Best Acoustic Guitars Under $200 – The Budget Bracket

These guitars make sense for the new player. You invest a little to make sure this is the right thing for you. In the comparison article we’ll dig a little deeper and talk about what you should look at and do when shopping for your first guitar. For instance, there are more expenses beyond the guitar itself, and we discuss that so you know what else to buy with your guitar.

There are also those looking for a beater guitar. Something they can take with them anywhere they want to go and not worry about ruining one of their prized instruments. Many of these guitars will be usable in this way.

An “Under $200” guitar is going to have issues. The compromises a builder has to make to produce an instrument so cheaply is extreme. These guitars will need a setup more likely than not, it is just a way for the company to save money. There will be lemons whether it is a bad build that gets through the quality control process or just an instrument so cheaply designed and built that it can’t help but be a disappointment. Every guitarist has one of these instruments in their closet. It usually is an interesting story attached to it. Check out the reviews of the top 3 by TheGuitarFiles:

Yamaha FG700S Review – Beginner with Style

The Yamaha FG700S is a great guitar for the money. Its looks are better than its price range, and it sounds good, too. It will feel at home in the hands of a beginner, and for songs around the campfire.

2 Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy Flat Top Review – Prewar Styling and Sound

Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy Flat Top Review – Prewar Styling and Sound

If you want a guitar that sounds and feels like a prewar guitar, then the Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy Flat Top is the right guitar for you. Especially if fingerpicking is your style.

3 Oscar Schmidt OG2SM Review – Fresh Take on a Standard

Oscar Schmidt OG2SM Review – Fresh Take on a Standard

The OG2SM by Oscar Schmidt will give you a beginner guitar that will stand out from the crowd. It will inspire you to play not just because of its good looks, but because of its sound.

The Best Acoustic Guitars Under $300 – Spicy It Up

There are still compromises being made at this level, but there is also some significant improvements from the entry-level guitar. There are solid tops, nicer wood selections, better hardware, and some nice aesthetic details. Some manufacturers have their innovations migrate down to this level of guitar. That is why it is important to know about the builders and what they are known for. It is also good to know about what’s available so you know who’s giving the best value for the buck.

At “Under $300” you are talking about the best of the student or entry-level instruments. If you are more serious about playing this is not a bad prince range to be in. Many second guitars fall in this category.

These guitars start to get into the modifiable territory, too. If the bones of the instrument are good, then parts can be replaced with better materials or better quality to make a better guitar. Make sure the neck and body are the best they can be before you start adding too many modifications. Also remember these modifications will not add to the value of the instrument. Just like cars, the buyer wants a stock base to work from. The value of modifications are only in the playability of the instrument to you, not to the next person who owns it. Check out the reviews of the top 3 by TheGuitarFiles:

Takamine GD20-NS Review – Warmth Wrapped in Elegance

The GD20-NS is unique sounding guitar that turns heads with its simple and elegant appearance. Takamine takes its innovative features from its higher end guitars and puts them on an affordable model.

2 Ovation Applause AB24 – Innovation within Your Means

Ovation Applause AB24 – Innovation within Your Means

Ovation’s Applause AB24 is a distinctive sounding acoustic/electric with a cutaway body. The bowl shaped back is comfortable and projects the sound very well. The electronics are a bonus and not a necessity to cover up a fair sounding instrument.

3 Dean Exotica Quilt Ash Review – A Rock Acoustic

Dean Exotica Quilt Ash Review – A Rock Acoustic

If you are looking to stand out from the rest, then the Dean Exotica Quilted Ash is an excellent choice. It is both beautiful looking with a distinctive voice that should draw both the eye and the ear.

The Best Acoustic Guitars Under $500 – You Get What You Pay For

The “Under $500” category is where guitars start to get good. You will find gig worthy instruments that are going to sound good and be hearty enough to withstand the rigors of the road. Even if you are just playing around town your equipment will take a beating. I consider these prime instruments for most live players, because you usually get good bang for your buck.

These are also the best guitars for musicians that play guitar as a second instrument. This will be a guitar that won’t put up a fight to play a gig. The electronics will be solid enough to get a sound that will be good when mixed in with the rest of the band. Check out the reviews of the top 3 by TheGuitarFiles:

Seagull Excursion Grand SG Review – Affordable Done Right

The Grand SG is quite possibly one of the best inexpensive guitars I’ve ever had the opportunity to play. It is perfect either as a first guitar or a traveling companion for an experienced player.

2 Seagull Entourage Rustic Review – Another Fine Seagull

Seagull Entourage Rustic Review – Another Fine Seagull

Seagull continues to make great guitars and the Entourage Rustic is no exception. It has a simple beauty that is bolstered by a great tone that is sure to please.

3 Taylor GS Mini Mahogany Review – The Best Little Buddy

Taylor GS Mini Mahogany Review – The Best Little Buddy

The GS Mini Mahogany is a musician’s travel companion. It packs a big voice in a small size. It also doesn’t take much modification to make it a stage performer beyond the intimate settings.

The Best Acoustic Guitars Under $1000 – Hitting The Premium Tier

“Under $1000” oddly enough can be hit or miss. Sometimes your dollars are going to pay for a name on a headstock rather than for the materials that make up the instrument. Don’t get me wrong if you lay down a $1000 for a guitar it will be playable, but sometimes you can get more guitar for less money. I have heard the argument about resale value, but that’s meaningless to me. I don’t pull the trigger very often, and when I do I don’t care about how much I’ll get when I go to resell it.

If you are willing to buy a guitar that is this expensive, then I’m betting you know what you like. You might not know all that is available so make sure to take the time to read through our reviews to get up to speed.

As an experienced guitarist this is one of the most fun categories. These are guitars that will be a lot of fun to play and will look fantastic. Check out the reviews of the top 3 by TheGuitarFiles:

Seagull Maritime SWS Rosewood SG – Setting Sail for Tonal Bliss

With the Maritime SWS Rosewood SG, Seagull has made a very good guitar that matches its price point with the right features and sound. It will turn-off purists, but they are the ones that will be missing out.

2 Yamaha LL16RDHC Review – A Feast for the Eyes and Ears

Yamaha LL16RDHC Review – A Feast for the Eyes and Ears

Yamaha’s LL16RDHC is a well built and beautiful instrument that sounds great. The electronics are streamlined and unobtrusive that translate the sound excellently. It has a sweet voice that will keep you playing for hours.

3 Fender Paramount PM-2 Deluxe Review – 60s Style Parlor

Fender Paramount PM-2 Deluxe Review – 60s Style Parlor

If you are looking for a parlor guitar, then the PM-2 Deluxe is a great guitar. The electronics are very good so it is ready to play out. The vibe is throwback 60s and it does it very well.

The Throwback Parlor Guitar

Parlor guitars were a design of guitars that were popular in the late nineteenth century to about the mid-twentieth century. The idea was for an instrument that would be great for playing in small intimate settings, such as the parlor of your house. They are compact small instruments that have quite a good dynamic range. To modern players used to dreadnoughts, grand concerts, and jumbos, a parlor guitar sounds dated and kind of small. There is some validity to that perception, but it is a shame to ignore these little powerhouse guitars. They are making a comeback as guitarists are looking for a different sound. They are also very competitively priced, you get a lot more guitar for the money. Also, if you get a guitar with onboard electronics you can sculpt the tone to create an even more unique sound. There are more and more builders getting onto the parlor guitar train so there is a very good selection of instruments out there to choose from. They also make very good first guitars for younger players due to their shorter scale and relatively lower price than other guitar designs.

Seagull Excursion Grand SG Review – Affordable Done Right

The Grand SG is quite possibly one of the best inexpensive guitars I’ve ever had the opportunity to play. It is perfect either as a first guitar or a traveling companion for an experienced player.

2 Alvarez AP70E Review – Focused Parlor

Alvarez AP70E Review – Focused Parlor

Focused is the best word to describe the AP70E by Alvarez. The sound is focused and the design comes from a focused vision. It will give the player looking for a parlor a lot to smile about.

3 Fender Paramount PM-2 Deluxe Review – 60s Style Parlor

Fender Paramount PM-2 Deluxe Review – 60s Style Parlor

If you are looking for a parlor guitar, then the PM-2 Deluxe is a great guitar. The electronics are very good so it is ready to play out. The vibe is throwback 60s and it does it very well.

4 Breedlove Pursuit Parlor MH Review – An Electric Parlor

Breedlove Pursuit Parlor MH Review – An Electric Parlor

The electronics take the Breedlove Passport Parlor MH out of the parlor, and out onto the stage. It has the tone to be a hit with any music loving crowd.

5 Ibanez AVN5 Review – Simple Parlor

Ibanez AVN5 Review – Simple Parlor

The AVN5 by Ibanez keeps it simple with its looks, but not with its sound. It plays and sounds more expensive than it is, which is very nice whether you are a first time player or adding to your collection.

6 Fender CP-100 Review – Parlor on the Entry Level

Fender CP-100 Review – Parlor on the Entry Level

The CP-100 is a very nice sounding parlor that could use a nicer finish on the body. The mahogany gives it a warm and fuller sounding tone than most parlor sized guitars offer.

7 Washburn WP11SNS Review – Back to the Early 20th Century

Washburn WP11SNS Review – Back to the Early 20th Century

The fingerstyle player will rejoice at the playability and tone of the WP11SNS. It is a classic parlor style guitar in every fiber of its being. If that appeals to you, then you might have just found your next guitar.

8 Blueridge BR-341 Review – Prewar Style Parlor

Blueridge BR-341 Review – Prewar Style Parlor

The BR-341 may not be as pretty as some of its cohorts, but it can sing just as pretty as any of them. This is a guitar that will be at home with the fingerstyle player.

9 Luna Trinity Review – A Knotty Parlor

Luna Trinity Review – A Knotty Parlor

The Luna Trinity will draw more attention for its unique soundholes and rosette than it will for its sound. It is a guitar that pays the price for its looks with a lack of great tone.

The Top Acoustic Guitar Brands

Here are just some of the top brands that build acoustics. They each share a love for the instrument. No matter how they started out here’s just a brief look at each to give you an idea of the kind of guitars that they build.

  • Alvarez

Alvarez was established in St. Louis in 1965 as part of the St. Louis Music company as a classical guitar line. In the late 60s they started collaborating with Kazuo Yairi, a Master Luthier in Japan. They began building steel string guitars and selling them under the Alvarez line. Their early progressive bracing patterns, bi-level bridges, and extended neck block construction are some of their innovations. They have arch tops, baritone, bass, classical, dreadnought, folk, grand auditorium, jumbo, and parlor body styles, all pay homage to classic styles. They build guitars in all the price categories.
For more information: http://alvarezguitars.com/

  • Breedlove

The relative newcomer Breedlove has been producing guitars since 1992. They are based in Bend, Oregon, where all their guitars are designed. Their body shapes are contemporary that are usually matched with some kind of exotic wood. The bridge truss system is an innovation that relieves the stress on the bridge and guitar top. They don’t have any entry-level or guitars in the Under $200 category.
For more information: http://breedlovemusic.com/

  • Cordoba

Cordoba was founded in 1997. They have a passion for classical guitars, and it shows. They blend the traditional craftsmanship with new innovations. They have figured out a way to add a truss rod to classical guitars without any of the usual issues with neck dive. Steel string guitars and ukuleles are also produced by them. They make instruments that fall into all of our categories.
For more information: https://www.cordobaguitars.com/

  • Fender

More known for their contributions to the electric guitar world with the Telecaster and Stratocaster, they also make fine acoustic instruments. They have a large selection of styles and body shape to make the rock to country to jazz to classical players smile. There are plenty of designs to choose from in all the different pricing categories.
For more information: http://www..fender.com/

  • Guild

Guild first started building guitars in 1953 in New York City. Their early years they focused on jazz inspired instruments due to their founders love of the genre. They have expanded their palette, but they maintain the tradition of their original instruments. Their guitars only show up in the under $1000 unless you can snag a used one.
For more information: http://guildguitars.com/

  • Luna

It is easy to spot a Luna anywhere with their unique design elements. They are guitars that are meant to engage the mind and spirit. They look like pieces of art as much as they are guitars for playing. They show up in all the categories from Under $200 to Under $1000. This means anyone can join the tribe of Luna players
For more information: http://www.lunaguitars.com/

  • Martin

This venerable company introduced such innovations as X-bracing and 14 fret guitars. They also created the dreadnought size guitar named after the powerful battleships of the era. They have made some of the most sought after guitars of all time. Martins do not start filtering into our categories until the Under $500 category.
For more information: https://www.martinguitar.com/

  • Ovation

Ovation combines traditional and modern materials to create their distinctive guitars. Since 1966 they have been combining Lyrachord and wood to make guitars that look and sound different than the competition. They start showing up in our categories at the Under $300 range.
For more information: http://www.ovationguitars.com/

  • Recording King

They started out as a house brand for Montgomery Ward in the 1930s. The new incarnation of the company looks to capture the look, feel, and craftsmanship of those instruments. These are guitars with a vintage vibe. Their guitars show up in all the categories that we cover.
For more information: http://www.recordingking.com/

  • Seagull

The Canadian made Seagulls are part of Godin. Built in the small town of LaPatrie, which has a population of about 475. They look to balance tradition with new design concepts. You will find woods from North America making up their instrument in the interest of keeping costs down and using forest friendly materials. They start showing up in the categories in the Under $300 range.
For more information: http://www.seagullguitars.com/

  • Takamine

Modestly started in the shadow of Mt. Takamine in 1959 was this family owned and operated luthier that would later adopt the name of the mountain. Luthier Mass Hirade joined the company in the late 60s would later become president and lead them to go worldwide. With their Jasmine line of guitars you can find a Takamine at all the price points from beginner and up.
For more information: http://www.takamine.com/

  • Taylor

Established in 1974 Taylor has become one the top builders of acoustics. Based in El Cajon, California, were they build hundreds of guitars a day both there and in Tecate, Mexico. The company pioneered the use of computers, lasers, and other advanced technology to build their acoustics. Their instruments begin showing up in our categories in the Under $300 level.
For more information: https://www.taylorguitars.com/

  • Yamaha

The largest producer of acoustic guitars in the world. They make all sorts of styles and designs at a broad range of price points. If you are looking for an acoustic guitar then Yamaha probably has an instrument for you at your desired price point.
There are even more builders out there, and too many to go over in detail. Just a quick read through of the above listing will let you know that there is plenty of selection out there. Whether your tastes are traditional or modern if there is nothing else there is plenty of choices to be had.
For more information: http://usa.yamaha.com/products/musical-instruments/

The Marketplace

There are many of places to buy online, but nothing is better than your local mom and pop music store. They lack the selection of the bigger sellers, but they make up for it with service. Having access to a technician to keep your guitar in the best condition is a very valuable asset. The online sellers are more convenient, but your local shop is more valuable with all the additional services they offer.

Amazon, Sweetwater, and Musician’s Friend, are all online with every brand available. If one doesn’t have what you are looking for then another one will. Check their return policies before you purchase to make sure that if you get something that isn’t quite right that you can return it. Guitar Center has many outlets that will give you an opportunity to try out many different instruments.


Be warned that guitars are made from natural materials, and each instrument made by a manufacturer can vary from each other. This variation can be large if the builder has poor quality control policies. Normally, a good builder will put out a consistent product, but natural differences will happed even if it is just the look of the wood grain.

Make a List

Before you go running out to buy a new guitar, because you just go paid and it’s burning a hole in your pocket, figure out what you need. If you have the room, money, and an understanding significant other, then by all means buy all the guitars you want. But for the rest of us who have bills to pay take the time to think about what you need. When I bought my last acoustic I had a specific need, my band was starting to play acoustic gigs. I knew what I needed and what I wanted in the features of my new acoustic before I went store hopping. Do the same, and you’ll be much happier for it.

Try Everything

You will never know what works for you until you try it. Pull down guitars with weird shapes, unknown brands, too expensive, too cheap, or the just plain ugly. You will find what you don’t like and what you love. I’ve found guitars by very good builders that I found to sound less than stellar, and other guitars made by builders that aren’t known for making the best instruments that have a great mojo. You’ll never know until you try.

Brand Loyalty

I get it, you know what you like. You know what will impress the other guitarists. Don’t let it blind you to the other good guitars that are out there. To be honest, most people that come to hear you play won’t know the difference between Martin and Taylor or any other brand for that matter. Like I said before, try everything. If nothing else you will get a good laugh when you play a bad guitar. You steel string players will feel lost on the oversized fingerboard of a classical guitar, but then again it might feel just right.

Fill a Need

If you want to guarantee that your new guitar will get played make sure it fills a need. Whether that need is that you need your first guitar or your need matches a need for playing out live. If you are in a band make sure that the instrument will blend with the other instruments. If you work with another guitarist make sure your instruments don’t sound too similar. Whether you avoid the same brand or buy a nylon string because the other person has a steel string, keep that in mind. Don’t make blending with other members of the band your key focus. Bands don’t last, but you’ll still have that guitar.

To Sum It All Up

If you want a guitar then there is one in our list waiting for you to buy it. If not, then you need to check back regularly as we are always adding reviews. Subscribe to our newsletter so you don’t miss anything new or exciting. We are always on the look-out for new guitars to check out. Until next time may your chord changes sound effortless and you melodies be sing-able.

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