Reviews: The Best Acoustic, Classical And Acoustic Electric Guitars Under 300 Dollars

I remember going to buy my first starter guitar. My friend Fran, who had been playing for several years, took me to the local music store to pick out an instrument. I had no idea what I was looking at other than they were six-string works of art. He might have underestimated my interest in learning how to play, since the guitar he had me buy was less than ideal. The neck was pulling away from the body before too long. It didn’t help that my other buddy tuned it an octave too high. Just remember you aren’t just buying a guitar, you are buying a story.

Here we will give you tools to find the right guitar for you (lessons on how to tune are your responsibility). We’ll compare models and their features, show their ratings, and give you links to detailed reviews. After that we’ll give you a bit more advice to help make a decision that you will be happy with, and not end up with a lemon.

Top 10 Acoustic Guitars Under the $300 Mark

Takamine GD20-NS Review – Warmth Wrapped in Elegance

The Takamine GD20-NS is a strictly acoustic dreadnought guitar. It has a solid cedar top with mahogany back and sides. The satin finish mahogany neck has a rosewood fingerboard. The fretboard has a 12” radius, nut width of 42.8mm, and pearloid dot inlays. The nut and saddle are both made of synthetic materials. Wood appointments include a rosewood rosette, rosewood headstock overlay, and maple heel cap. The pin-less bridge is made of rosewood, and has a split saddle, designed for better intonation. The GD20-NS has a warm mellow sound that is even with all strings having an equal voice in each chord.

2 Ovation Applause AB24 – Innovation within Your Means

Ovation Applause AB24 – Innovation within Your Means

Ovation’s Applause AB24 is an acoustic/electric that puts the innovative company’s design within reach of the budget conscious. A laminate spruce top covers the mid depth bowl shaped back made of the company’s innovative Lyrachord material. The neck is made of nato, and is topped with a rosewood fingerboard. The body sports a cutaway making it easy to access all 20 frets on a 10” radius neck. The bridge is pin-less and made of rosewood. Both the compensated saddle and nut are made from synthetic bone. The AB24 has a clear voice that allows each note to be heard with that distinctive Ovation “zing.”

3 Dean Exotica Quilt Ash Review – A Rock Acoustic

Dean Exotica Quilt Ash Review – A Rock Acoustic

The Exotica Quilted Ash by Dean is an acoustic/electric steel-string guitar. It has laminate quilted ash for the top, back, and sides of the body. The neck is mahogany with a rosewood fingerboard. There are 21 frets with abalone dot inlays. The bridge is rosewood with a compensated saddle. The body has a cutaway to allow access to as much of the fretboard as possible. The rosette is inlaid wood. It is loaded with the Dean DMT 12NR preamp. The controls include a 3-band EQ and presence with a built-in tuner. There are two outputs, which are a balanced XLR and 1/4”. The tone is distinctive with good balance.

4 Ibanez AVN5 Review – Simple Parlor

Ibanez AVN5 Review – Simple Parlor

The AVN5 by Ibanez is a strictly acoustic steel-string parlor sized guitar. It has a solid mahogany top with laminate mahogany back and sides. The body is bound on the top and back with cream binding. The soundhole is bound in the same material. The neck is also mahogany with a rosewood fingerboard. It has a slotted headstock with six chrome open gear tuners with ivory colored buttons. The 43mm nut is bone as is the compensated saddle. There are 18 frets and the neck joins to the body at the 12th fret. The sound is classic parlor bolstered by the warmth of the mahogany body.

5 Ibanez ADG12IINT Review – The Mahogany Machine

Ibanez ADG12IINT Review – The Mahogany Machine

Ibanez’s AEG1211-NT is a steel-string acoustic/electric guitar. Its body is made of all laminate mahogany with a Venetian cutaway. The neck is also mahogany and is topped with a rosewood fingerboard. The neck is C-shaped, with a 400mm (15.7”) radius, and has a unique inlay. The onboard electronics are Ibanez’s AEQ-SP1 and Fishman’s Sonicore pickup. The preamp controls are a 3-band EQ, volume, phase switch, and built-in tuner. The nut 43mm (1.693”) and compensated saddle are both made of plastic. The rosette is made of abalone. The sound is dark with not much depth. The plugged in sound is excellent with plenty of tone sculpting.

6 Alvarez RD26CESB Review – The Not so Entry-Level Beginner

Alvarez RD26CESB Review – The Not so Entry-Level Beginner

The RD26CESB is an entry-level acoustic/electric dreadnought by Alvarez. This steel-string guitar has a single cutaway body of laminate woods. The top is spruce with standard scalloped X bracing. The back and sides are mahogany. The neck is mahogany with a rosewood fingerboard that sports 20 frets. The bridge is also rosewood with Alvarez’s bi-level design. The onboard electronics are B-Band’s SYS250 preamp. It features a 3-band EQ, presence, volume, and a built-in tuner. The PPS synthetic bone nut is 43mm (1-11/16”) wide. The scale length is 648mm (25.5”). The sound is bright and twangy. The dreadnought size gives it plenty of dynamic power.

7 Yamaha APX500III Review – Built for the Stage

Yamaha APX500III Review – Built for the Stage

The Yamaha APX500III is a thinline acoustic-electric with a single cutaway. The very good System 66 preamp with the under the saddle piezo pickup has a 3-band EQ, adjustable midrange frequency control, volume knob, and built-in tuner. The top is spruce, the back and sides are made of nato/okume. The neck is nato with a 22 fret rosewood fingerboard. The rosewood bridge is Yamaha’s oversized design. It has a standard scale length of 25.6”. The acoustic voice of the guitar is quiet with a weak bass presence. The plugged in sound is better, with the electronics you have the ability to shape the voice to your liking.

8 Dean Axcess Performer Review – Get Your Training Wings

Dean Axcess Performer Review – Get Your Training Wings

The Dean Axcess Performer is an acoustic/electric that is reasonably price. The body is slightly small than a dreadnought and sports a smooth cutaway. The top is select spruce with mahogany back and sides. The front and back of the guitar is bordered with black binding. The set neck is mahogany with a rosewood fingerboard. The 21 frets have pearl dot inlays. Dean’s own FTE-3 preamp is onboard with 3-band EQ and volume controls. The claw shaped bridge is made of rosewood. The hardware is chrome which includes six die-cast tuners and two strap buttons. It has a bright sound that is tempered by the mahogany body.

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

Washburn WP11SNS Review – Back to the Early 20th Century

The WP11SNS is a steel-string parlor style guitar. It has a solid cedar top with quarter sawn Sitka spruce X bracing. The back and sides are laminate mahogany. The body is bound on the top and back with cream binding. The 20 fret mahogany neck joins the body at the 12th fret. The fingerboard and bridge are both rosewood. The neck has a truss rod and pearl dot inlays. The 44mm (1.73”) nut and compensated saddle are both made of bone. The slotted headstock features six gold open gear tuners. The scale length is 628mm (24.75”). The small size has a very loud voice with the classic parlor sound.

10 Martin LX1 Little Martin Review – Little Guitar, Big Voice

Martin LX1 Little Martin Review – Little Guitar, Big Voice

The LX-1 by Martin is a modified 0-14 fret body style with steel-strings. It has a solid Sitka spruce top with non-scalloped X-bracing. The back and sides are made of HPL (High Pressure Laminate) with mahogany patterning. The neck is made of laminate rust birch with an FSC certified richlite fingerboard. The bridge is also made of the same material. The nut is white corian and is 42.6mm (1.68”) wide. The saddle is white TUSQ and is compensated. The finish is a Hand rubbed urethane on the neck and body. The scale length is a short 584mm (23”). The tone matches the body size with very good bass response.

Top 5 Classical Guitars For Less Than $300

Yamaha CG122MSH Review – The Good Student (Model)

The Yamaha CG122MSH is a classical guitar made for the new student. It has a solid spruce top with nato sides and back. The thin neck is made from nato as well, which has two side dot inlays at the 5th and 7th frets. The fretboard and bridge are both rosewood. The whole guitar is done with a matte finish, which makes for a very fast neck. Chrome plated tuners adorn the headstock that only boasts the Yamaha tuning fork logo. The body has black and white binding. The sound of the guitar is warm with very good note definition.

2 Ibanez GA35TCE Review – Not Your Daddy’s Classical

Ibanez GA35TCE Review – Not Your Daddy’s Classical

The GA35TCE by Ibanez is a nylon string thinline classical style acoustic/electric guitar with a cutaway. It has a solid spruce top with laminate mahogany back and sides. The fingerboard and bridge are both made of rosewood. The mahogany neck has a truss rod, 21 frets, 46mm (1.8”) nut width, and joins the body at the 14th fret. The preamp is Ibanez’s AEQ210T preamp with a Fishman Sonicore pickup. There is a 2-band EQ, volume, phase switch, and built-in tuner. The nut and compensated saddle are made of Ivorex II. The sound is even with little depth. The dynamics are limited by the thin body and cutaway.

3 Kremona Soloist S58C Review – A Family of Guitars that can Grow with the Player

Kremona Soloist S58C Review – A Family of Guitars that can Grow with the Player

The Kermona S58C is the three-quarter sized version of the full sized S65C classical guitar. It has a solid red cedar top with laminate sapele back and sides. The African mahogany neck has a 19 fret rosewood fingerboard. The neck attaches to the body with a set dovetail joint at the 12th fret. The bridge is rosewood. The mosaic rosette is inlaid wood, and the binding is hand inlaid wood fiber. The open tuning machines are gold plated with pearl buttons. All finished with a thin polyurethane gloss. It has a focused treble sound with a tidy low end that projects well despite the smaller size.

4 Washburn C80S Review – Affordable and Traditional

Washburn C80S Review – Affordable and Traditional

The very traditional Washburn C80S is an entry-level classical guitar. It has a solid cedar top with laminate rosewood sides and back. The neck is mahogany with 19 frets. The fingerboard and bridge are both made of rosewood. The GraphTech Nubone nut is 52mm (2”) wide. The saddle is compensated for better intonation. Gold plated open gear tuners sit atop the headstock. The finish is glossy with black binding on the body and neck. It is has a scale length of 650mm (25.5”). The rosette is inlaid wood. The sound is very traditional with an assertive confident voice that is well balanced.

5 Antonio Hermosa AHT-10CE Review – Modernized Classical

Antonio Hermosa AHT-10CE Review – Modernized Classical

The AHT-10C is a nylon string acoustic electric guitar. The classical body shape has a single cutaway opening the fingerboard up to the 15th fret. The solid cedar top has laminate mahogany back and sides. The neck is mahogany with a rosewood fingerboard. The nut is 50.8mm (2”) wide. The bridge is rosewood. The classical style tuners are gold plated with brown buttons. The onboard electronics are the EQ-7545R preamp with faux wood sticker, which is a no name brand. Its controls include a 4-band EQ and volume. The sound is thin with little depth, which can be tweaked when plugged in to have a bigger sound.

New acoustic guitars at this price point have to make sacrifices. The manufacturers have to decide what is most important to invest in to make these instruments. You as the consumer have to make decisions about what you want, and what you are willing to live without.
Upgrades can be made to the nut and saddle, electronics can be added or upgraded later, new frets can be installed, and tuning machines can be replaced, at a reasonable investment. The top, body, neck, and fingerboard, are things you are stuck with, and should not be second rate. You should never sacrifice playability and tone for looks or the name on the headstock.

Looks Matter, Looks Will Keep You Motivated

I want to take a moment and talk about looks. A pretty guitar is a good thing. There is nothing wrong with spending a little extra to get a guitar that has the right look or that you think is beautiful. A guitar that you find appealing will get played more. An ugly duckling will sit unused in the corner.

I believe you get more bang for your buck from a big name builder. Their innovations and know how migrate down from their more expensive models. They are also trying to instill brand loyalty, and what better way than to make a very good entry level instrument.

Other Important Considerations

I’m going to assume that this is your first guitar or your first acoustic guitar. As a new player there are plenty of things you will need to buy along with your new guitar. At this price point cases or gig bags are generally not included with the guitar. If you plan on taking your guitar out of your house you should either buy a case or gig bag. A hardshell case will protect your guitar from most things that could harm it, but a gig bag is fine to keep the potential blemishes to a minimum.

The things you should also get are a music stand and a tuner. Music stands are very useful even if you don’t read music. It is a good place to keep the other accessories that come along with playing guitar like spare picks, a capo, lesson books, or clip on tuner. Speaking of tuners, have something to tune your guitar with. Please get something to tune your guitar with. Clip on tuners are inexpensive and easy to use. A tuning fork is even less expensive and very effective at keeping you in tune as long as you know how to use it.

Another initial investment might be in having the guitar professionally setup. This can lower the action, clean up the fret work, or replace subpar parts. This can be a small invest that makes your new acoustic play easier and sound better.

Get a strap so you aren’t stuck in a sitting position while you play. A guitar stand is also a good idea, unless you are overly worried about dust or damage. An easily accessible guitar will be played more than one that is kept out of sight in protective custody.

If you bought an electric/acoustic you’ll have to look into amplification at some point. There are plenty of acoustic guitar amps to choose from. Do not buy an electric guitar amp for your electric/acoustic, you will be disappointed since it will not sound as full. If you are in a position where you would plug into a mixing board, then you’ll need to buy a direct input (or DI) box. You’ll also need a cable.

Guitar Accessories Are Inevitable

Buy a pack of strings, you’ll need them eventually. Try a couple different brands to find what you like the best.
If you wanted to spend a little more for your new guitar it opens up more possibilities tonally, aesthetically, and playability. The electronics are better, the wood choices are better, the looks are better with the addition of abalone and mother of pearl.

An extra hundred or two can save you from having to purchase a case, because one will be included with the purchase of the guitar. These guitars are also more road worthy and will last longer. Spending more now can save you in the long run, since you won’t have to buy a new guitar any time soon.

Guitars that cost less will be a world filled with laminate and lesser woods. A nice used acoustic can be found for less, but you never know what will be available day to day. If you are willing to be patient, then the right instrument might come along. This could get you an instrument that will stay with you for many years. You’ll have to do a lot of research to know what to look for.

If you are really not sure that playing guitar is the right thing for you, then a good cheaper acoustic guitar would be the right choice. The first time I bought a guitar I had no idea that decades later I’d be still playing. There is no reason to spend a ton of money on something that might spend more time collecting dust then being played.

No Experience? Use Your Friends! If this is your first guitar purchase take someone with you who knows something about guitars. Take a friend, relative, or your guitar teacher, even if they only know one more chord than you do (if your guitar teacher only knows one more chord than one, get a new teacher). Not that I don’t trust the salesperson at your local store, but they are trying to sell the instruments that hang on their wall. Generally, they are good people and they aren’t going to take advantage of you, because they want you to come back to buy strings, picks, lesson books, and to buy more guitars (can you ever really have only one?). They might not have the instrument that is right for you, but it is their job to make you believe that they do.

You have to enjoy the sound of the instrument. If you don’t know how to play, then having someone who does with you can be very helpful. You will be able to hear how the guitar sounds when it is played well. Plus they might have insight into problems or see the potential of an instrument.

Know what you want out of the instrument. Is this just to get you started or is it something you want to play on stage. This may be asking a lot of you to look that far ahead, but if you can it will help in the long run. Someone with more experience will be able to help guide you to the right instrument.

Dig Deep! Get As Much Information As You Can

Check the reviews online. Skip the perfect scores, go directly to the reviews that are bad. If the complaints focus on slow shipping, then this is a very good sign. If there is a consistent complaint about wonky tuners, bad strings, or poor set-up, these are all fixable problems. This should not scare you away. Inconsistent finishes don’t really scare me as well, such inconsistencies give the guitar character. Now if the problem is the bridge pulling away from the body, then this should be a major red flag.

Guitars in this price range are not worth much in resale or as trade-ins. You are going to get pennies on the dollar for trade in value. Don’t think of this guitar as an investment for your future purchase. Guitars that maintain or increase in value do not generally come from this price point. It also takes many years if not decades for guitars to find increased value in the collectors market.

The $300 Acoustic Guitars Summary:

You may decide that you want to spend more or less money, then I suggest you take a look at some our other articles to help you decide or you can star with the round up article on all of the acoustic guitar reviews. Take the time to subscribe to our newsletter so you can stay up to date with all that’s going on in the world of guitars. Make sure to come back regularly, because we add new reviews all the time, and have interesting commentaries. Until next time, may your D chords sustain and your leads impress.

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