When I went to buy my main acoustic guitar I had a short list of what I wanted. The list had no brand names or models that I was interested in. I knew what I was not willing to live without. I took a day and drove to all the music stores in my area. I pulled down guitar after guitar listening to their sound and looking at their features. My list was simple: cutaway, electronics, and a pinless bridge. The guitar also had to have mojo. It had to have a sound and feel that stirred something inside me.
Below we’ll give you a comparison table with different models that will look at their ratings. To find out more about any of those models will be links to extended reviews that will allow you to find out more about each guitar. At the end we have some tips and tricks to help you navigate the whole shopping process to find the right instrument for you.
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The Guitars of this Range
This is a broad range of guitars going from the upper end of the workhorses to the start of the solid wood tone machines. If there are electronics onboard, they are good with plenty of tone sculpting capabilities. The eye candy at this price range is quite amazing, but don’t let a pretty face make you blind to the soulless monstrosity of a toneless guitar.
These are guitars for serious musicians, or at least those that want to look serious. These are guitars that will have the total package. Don’t get too caught up in wanting it all. You still need to focus on what your needs are, then buy the guitar that best matches them. This is a major investment, and should not be taken lightly.
There are still laminates, but they look fantastic and are made from the best tonewoods. These are the crème de la crème of the workhorses. If they sacrifice to have the laminate, then the electronics are better. And do not underestimate their durability.
A hard-shell case is a must, if you are going to invest so much money, then keep it safe. Most of these guitars come with at least a gig bag, but you’ll want to upgrade.
You might want to pick up a travel, beater guitar or at least an acoustic guitar for less than $500. This would be the guitar that you’d take on trips or to the campfire. Leave your expensive baby at home where it is safe, and take your travel/beater guitar to the locations that are not amenable to the health of a guitar.
Make sure you have all that you need to amplify your electric-acoustic. If plugging into a PA you’ll need an instrument cable, DI box, and XLR cable. If you are playing smaller venues either as a solo artist or duo, then have an acoustic amplifier that can play to the room.
Personally I don’t own an acoustic amp, but I’m not trying to gig out as a solo artist (believe me, no one wants to hear me sing). There is plenty of projection from an acoustic instrument to hear yourself while practicing at home. If you plan on having a complex live show with loops, sequencing, and/or using delays as part of the musical passages, then an amp is very important. You need to get used to triggering all this gear so that it becomes second nature, so you won’t be struggling with the technology in front of an audience.
Know What You Want
The guitar that you buy in this price range will be with you for a long time especially if you match your needs. If what you want is a complex tone with a fit and finish that is second to none, then the more you spend the better you will get. This will be a guitar that if given enough room to sing will give a tone that is spectacular.
The price point below is home to the workhorses. Guitars that sacrifice tonal complexity for durability. If you are looking for an instrument to drag along to gigs, then this might be a very good option. You might even get lucky, and find a used guitar that will give you more bang for your buck. Buying used might keep you on your toes, guitars of this caliber or better do not show up very often. Be ready to jump on a good deal if one shows up.
Food for Thought
One thing that concerns me at this level are the guitars that try to sell you on the headstock. There are some very fine manufacturers that phone it in on some models. Don’t ignore the limitations of an instrument because of the name on it. Joe Schmoe at the end of the bar could care less who made the guitar, he just wants to hear “Free Bird” played right now.
If there is another guitarist in your group who already has an acoustic, then try to get an instrument that is voiced differently. If they have a steel string then take a look at nylon string guitars, these two instruments blend well while allowing each instrument to be heard. At least, if their guitar is bright and lively, then find a warm and mellow sounding instrument to offset their sound and widen the tonal character of the band.
Guitars at this value will get you a decent amount if you decide to sell or trade them in. If this is something that is important to you, then keep to the more well-known brand names. Personally, guitars that I have spent this kind of money on are staying with me for life. My kids can decide if they want to sell them after I’m gone.
If you are not ready for this level of commitment, then you might want to check out some of our other comparison articles on less expensive guitars or even the starter acoustic guitars page. Subscribe to our newsletter so you don’t miss anything new or exciting. Check back regularly, these lists are not cast in stone. We might spot your next guitar before you do. Until next time may your suspended chords carry for miles and your leads tell a story.