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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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:
“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:
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.
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.
For more information: http://alvarezguitars.com/
For more information: http://breedlovemusic.com/
For more information: https://www.cordobaguitars.com/
For more information: http://www..fender.com/
For more information: http://guildguitars.com/
For more information: http://www.lunaguitars.com/
For more information: https://www.martinguitar.com/
For more information: http://www.ovationguitars.com/
- Recording King
For more information: http://www.recordingking.com/
For more information: http://www.seagullguitars.com/
For more information: http://www.takamine.com/
For more information: https://www.taylorguitars.com/
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/
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.
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.
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.