Whether you’re a brand new player looking for your first acoustic guitar, or a seasoned professional. Taking some time to learn a little about the most popular acoustic guitar brands and why they are so notable is a very helpful thing to do.
Many of these companies have rich histories, oftentimes playing an important role in the evolution of the acoustic guitar as an instrument.
Gaining some insight into why a particular brand has become noteworthy and is trusted by other musicians can help you make an informed decision when thinking about which company you want to purchase from.
Please join us as we take a look at our selection of the most prominent acoustic guitar brands, covering a little bit of their history, the guitarists who play them, and what people like about them so much.
Starting with one of the most iconic high-end guitar brands around. Taylor is highly selective about the premium tonewoods they use in the construction of their instruments and are highly regarded for their impeccable attention to detail. Their guitars are renowned for sounding great, looking great, and being easy to play.
Not only that, owner Bob Taylor places a high priority on sustainability and responsible manufacturing processes, aiming to leave behind more than the company takes. One example of this is the reforestation efforts in Cameroon and Hawaii and the overarching goal to leave a minimal environmental footprint.
They are very much a ‘premium’ brand and as such carry a premium price tag across their wide range of instruments. But their guitars are used and trusted by some very notable guitarists, including legends such as Jason Mraz and Ben Harper, and Lindsey Buckingham (Fleetwood Mac), along with newer artists such as Taylor Swift.
And very much like a fine wine, Taylor acoustic guitars are renowned for improving as they age. No, we’re not going crazy! thanks to Taylor’s drying process, the premium cuts of wood, and the finishing processes they use, a Taylor guitar’s tone will evolve and get more ‘mojo’ the longer it’s played.
Undoubtedly one of, if not the heaviest hitters in the acoustic guitar space. Martin was originally established in 1833, that’s over 189 years of making excellent guitars! making them the original, and oldest steel-string guitar manufacturer. So as you can probably guess, they’re pretty good at it by now.
Synonymous with acoustic guitar design, the acoustic guitar industry owes much to founder Christian Frederick Martin. Credited with the invention of X-bracing which facilitated the development of the steel-string acoustic guitar, allowing acoustic guitars to produce greater volume than their classical guitar counterparts.
While perhaps best known for the high-end acoustic guitar models, such as the famous D-45 (which can set you back as much as 5 figures). They make an effort to accommodate both the budget and mid-tier areas of guitar production. So despite being very much a premium brand, they also cater to new players with more affordable models.
This is great as you can get an affordable guitar from a brand you know is trustworthy, reliable, and well respected.
Many legendary artists including Johnny Cash, John Denver, John Prine, and the king Elvis Presley proudly played Martin guitar. More recently you’ll see them used by the likes of Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, John Mayer, and Ed Sheeran who, before getting a signature model, used their very modestly priced LX1 Little Martin model.
Rounding out “The Big Three” the great American guitar company – Gibson does primarily put most of its efforts into the electric guitar market nowadays. But back in the day, under the guidance of founder Orville Gibson, they were the progenitors of the archtop guitar, and were direct competitors to Martin, at least until the popularisation of the amplifier pushed them so heavily into the electric guitar space.
Despite this association with the electric guitar, there are plenty of musicians who have played Gibson acoustic guitars. This includes Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and James Taylor, along with legends of the past including John Lennon and Buddy Holly, who was often pictured with his trusty Gibson J-45. Going back even further, the legendary Delta bluesman Robert Johnson played a 1926 Gibson L-1.
With a roster like that, you can be sure that Gibson’s name will remain synonymous with the evolution of the acoustic guitar, despite their looming presence in the electric guitar world.
Gibson acoustics do come with a bit of a price tag, but that’s due to them being adamant that they use only the best woods and build their guitars by world-class luthiers right in their USA workshop.
Forming in 1952 with a workshop located right in the heart of Manhattan, New York. Guild Guitars were, for the longest time, premier manufacturers of archtop jazz guitars and classic electrics that were used by that little-known band The Beatles.
As time went on they introduced a number of acoustic guitars into their range, while still doubling down on the electric market.
As the 70s/80s rolled around, demand for folk and acoustic guitars dwindled (for everyone, not just Guild) which meant those markets started to suffer. So many manufacturers started to make concessions in their production processes in order to lower costs.
However, Guild held fast and maintained their high standard of quality the entire time, now they are greatly respected for how high-quality their guitars were during that period and it’s earned them a sense of endearment from buyers.
If you want a company you can feel good about and can trust has made you a rock-solid instrument, Guild might be the one for you.
They also happened to be the acoustic guitar of choice for the great Stevie Ray Vaughan who played a 12-string Guild JF6512 on MTV Unplugged in 1990.
Back in the 1930s and 40s Epiphone was having a good time creating some awesome, but very clearly Gibson-inspired archtop guitars. So Gibson, seeing them as their primary competitor, purchased the company.
Since then Epiphone has served as a ‘budget’ brand for Gibson, producing more affordable versions of their high-end US-made counterparts. They are the only company legally allowed to produce Gibson guitar designs.
But this in no way makes them an inferior instrument, over time they have garnered a dedicated following who praise their combination of quality and affordability.
When it comes to their acoustic models, they have some quite popular instruments, in particular the Hummingbird PRO series which is a full-sized homage to the classic Gibson Hummingbird.
The Japanese company, Yamaha is not purely a dedicated musical instrument company, in fact, they are a conglomerate that produces many things from sporting goods to motorcycles. But their music division has always stood proudly as a manufacturer of well-made acoustic guitars, electric guitars, drums, and audio equipment.
For many intermediate players, they are the perfect entry point into music as they make quality acoustic instruments to accommodate every price range, style, and musical genre, and really do hit that quality mark considering their affordable prices.
But they don’t just make affordable guitars for beginners. Many notable musicians including the likes of Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins and virtuosos Nick Johnston and Chris Letchford trust Yamaha for all their professional needs and technical wizardry.
Being such a large company, it’s a shame to see they are often overshadowed as guitar manufacturers by the likes of Squire and Epiphone. It’s undeniable that their craftsmanship and manufacturing processes are highly regarded, as evidenced by their premium red-label series of acoustic guitars which compare favorably to almost any other acoustic guitar on the market.
While they may not have the heritage of Martin, Takamine are still considered one of the seasoned veterans in the acoustic guitar space. Originally starting production at the foot of Mount Takamine in 1959, they have been able to not only stand the test of time, but were one of the few companies to break out of the Japanese market and enjoy success in both the US and the UK.
They are primarily known as a pioneering force in the production of acoustic-electric guitars. And have gone to great lengths to push the boundaries of pre-amp and acoustic guitar pickup technology.
They offer a range of guitars from budget to premium instruments. And are made using a combination of modern production methods combined with that traditional Japanese handmade craftsmanship.
Perhaps the world’s largest guitar manufacturer, when we think of Fender, usually we picture iconic guitars such as the Stratocaster or Telecaster. However, Fender’s acoustic guitar range, while different, is not to be underestimated.
As a company with decades of experience under its belt, Fender offers a broad range of acoustic instruments to accommodate almost any style of playing you can imagine, however, it’s fair to say they mostly target intermediate players, predominantly in the sub $1000 market.
Thry are also known as one of the more innovative acoustic guitar manufacturers, often blurring the line between electric and acoustic guitar design, while maintaining a more traditional line of acoustic guitars also.
While it’s perhaps fair to say Fender acoustic guitars don’t take themselves as seriously as their more established range of iconic electric guitars Fender also makes an effort to inject into their acoustic guitar models a little bit of that signature comfort and playability that their electric guitar range is so well known for.
This comes primarily from the neck profile which is sleek and comfortable to play, making them ideal for beginners.
Now it is worth mentioning that some of their lower-end instruments have drawn criticism for their lackluster tone. But I would argue for a sub $300 guitar, designed for learners who haven’t yet developed the ear to even know what they’re listening for, it’s a small price to pay for that increased playability.
As a brand, PRS are synonymous with quality. Their manufacturing and QC processes are among the best around and you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who’s received a dud PRS guitar.
The company was founded in 1985 by Mr. Paul Reed Smith himself. For the first 15 years of production, they stuck exclusively to selling premium instruments. Until the year 2000 when they introduced the SE line of guitars (which stands for student edition).
This line of new and more affordable instruments opened them up to a much larger market, meaning you can get your hands on something like the PRS SE Acoustic line without needing to sell your car.
Their line of acoustics definitely takes a good deal of inspiration from their electric counterparts, from the headstock shape to the famed eagle inlays.
Gretsch Guitars are, of course, most noted for the gorgeous range of archtop guitars sporting those beautiful Bigsby bridges. And are the choice brand for guitarists such as AC/DC’s Malcomb Young, Ched Atkins, and George Harrison.
But they also offer a wonderful range of flat-top acoustic guitars that have this wonderful vintage vibe and aesthetic to them that few manufacturers seem to cater to anymore.
The Gretsch Jim Dandy, an affordable, parlor guitar sporting that unique tapered body with the square ‘paddle style’ headstock, looks like it was taken straight from the 1950s.
Not only that, they are exceptionally well priced too, with their entire range of acoustics not breaking the $1000 mark.
And while many of the cheaper models are manufactured offshorea, they are still subject to Gretch’s tight QA, so you can be sure they adhere to all those modern expectations of how a guitar should feel and play.
Although formed over 57 years ago with some pretty notable artists on their roster, including Joe Bonamassa, Carlos Santana, and Paul McCartney to name a few Alvarez guitars mostly fly under the radar when compared to some of the bigger names in the acoustic guitar industry.
That’s a shame because they are one of those underrated acoustic guitar brands that put a real focus on quality and value, while also producing higher-end models under the Alvarez Yairi name.
Alvarez Yairi (Alvarez’s hand-crafted line of acoustic guitars manufactured in Japan) is named after master luthier Kazuo Yairi, who sadly passed away in 2014.
Using what Alvarez Guitars calls ‘perpetual R&D’, the company makes a conscious effort to consistently improve its designs, manufacturing processes, and QC systems. It’s this philosophy that has enabled their instruments to gain the reputation they have as reliable workhorses with a longevity few other brands could hope to achieve.
So while they are not quite the household name that Martin or Taylor are, they are absolutely worth checking out as their instrument catalog is quite vast! Stocking all the usual suspects in terms of body and wood choices, with a few oddballs thrown in such as the curious 8-string baritone acoustic.
One of the best things about British guitar brand Tanglewood is just the sheer volume of guitars and finishes they have in their catalog. From stunning looking vintage stains and burst finishes to models that sport maple fretboards with modern-looking bookmatched headstocks.
If you are looking for a company that can allow you to stand out from the crowd a little, Tanglewood is definitely worth your time checking out.
From humble origins as a small London-based boutique manufacturer during the late 80s, over the decades they have been able to diversify their offerings greatly, and slowly gain international recognition, in the process becoming Britain’s best-selling acoustic guitar brand.
These days you can find their instruments stocked in over 40 countries and they have a very active and dedicated following.
Canadian company Seagull guitars are a sub-brand of Godin Guitars (along with other well-known acoustic brands including Simon & Patrick, Norman, LaPatrie, and Art & Lutherie) and specialize in acoustics, mandolins, and other stringed instruments.
Owner Robert Godin is well known for putting a large emphasis on sustainability, obtaining all their wood from ethically managed sources. Even their workshops are powered by hydroelectricity!
Not only that, but they also offer a lifetime warranty with all of their instruments, how’s that for service!
In terms of the guitars themselves, they have a wide array of sizes and wood types in their catalog. With the S6 original and Entourage series being particular favorites amongst players.
They are also known for their innovative designs, including their narrow, contoured headstock, which facilitates the tuning pegs lining up directly with the nut slots, in an effort to increase tuning stability.
They also conveniently sell all kinds of parts for their guitars right there on the website, from bridge pins, and new pickguards all the way to replacement pre-amps for electronic systems. This makes home maintenance a breeze! Particularly handy if you are an overseas customer.
Originally, Sigma was a company orientated around entry-level guitars that provided exceptional value for money. They were actually owned by C.F. Martin, essentially putting them in line with what Squire and Epiphone offered, affordable versions of their more established counterparts.
Then in 2007, parent company Martin discontinued the line and the rights to the Sigma name/designs were purchased by AMI Instruments. Who continued on the Sigma line by moving the production to China.
They have a huge catalog of guitars which are predominantly based around the $400-700, mid-tier area. Although some of their special editions will run you a few thousand and are comparable to high-end Martins.
Their instruments are well respected for the value they offer and consistent quality, making them a great choice for any kind of player from beginner to professional.
The designs for Faith guitars come from the acclaimed English luthier Patrick Eggle, whose guitars have been used by the likes of Tony Iommi and Brian May.
The guitars designed by Patrick would go on to win various awards for ‘Best Acoustic Guitar’ each and every year from 2012 to 2016. In particular, the Venus Blood Moon model was much beloved by players.
Nowadays they have firmly cemented themselves as a solid brand with fantastic quality control that, while not exactly considered budget instruments, are very reasonably priced for their quality.
Acoustic guitar manufacturer Furch came into being due to guitar maker Frantisek Furch’s own frustration with the, at the time, lack of really good high-quality instruments in Czechoslovakia.
So he tried his own hand at it, and after gaining good feedback from fellow musicians he began to receive commission requests from friends and peers. Thus Furch guitars were formed.
Furch instruments definitely sit on the upper-mid to higher tier of instruments, with their cheaper line of guitars still costing almost $1000.
But this price is very much warranted as all of their guitars are made with the mentality of being top of the line. They also offer a diverse range of materials and finishes so no matter what your preference, you can be sure Furch has a well-made instrument just for you.
ESP is a company that’s commonly associated with producing modern electric guitars.
But their acoustic line is also quite considerable, to say the least. Offering a range of body shapes and finishes with all the amenities a modern player might need.
They have very much put a focus on keeping these instruments modern, without worrying about appealing to classic acoustic sensibilities in both looks and features. This manifests in things such as the use of a GraphTech nut, and Fishman electronics pickup systems.
The headstock shape and neck profile are also much more akin to that of a modern electric guitar.
So if don’t care about tradition and just need a current-day workhorse, ESP might be the right choice for you!
Much like Yamaha, Tokai started out as a harmonica and piano manufacturer. But like many other companies around this time, to capitalize on the popularity of the guitar, they shifted focus and started producing both classical and electric guitars in the mid to late 60s.
With all the attention to detail and rigorous QA you’d expect from a Japanese guitar company, Tokai has remained somewhat of a hidden gem in the acoustic guitar space, with those who own them being all too happy to sing their praise.
The company produced guitars under the Sigma name for C.F. Martin from 1972, before going on to produce their own Martin replica guitars under the brand name “cat’s eyes”. This is perhaps what Tokai has become best known for outside of Japan, producing replicas of iconic brands such as Gibson, Martin, and Fender and narrowly avoiding lawsuits in the process.
They have never quite become the household name that Martin or Takamine have. But their instruments are nevertheless considered world-class, although understandably lacking in originality.
Designed in the USA and produced in China, Blueridge is owned by SAGA Musical Instruments, a large wholesale musical instrument manufacturer, which has a whopping 17 different brands under its name.
Blueridge guitars have been in production since the 70s and offer a diverse range of instruments ranging in price from entry-level guitars to professional quality instruments.
Being manufactured in China, this may conjure images of mass-produced, cheap, and poor-quality instruments. But on the contrary, Blueridge has been praised by numerous publications including Guitarist Magazine, Acoustic Guitar magazine and Total Guitar for its quality and great value for money and are a respected name in the acoustic guitar community.
They tend to gear their lineup a little more towards re-creations of older guitar designs, really honing in on that classic bluegrass and folk-style pre-war era.
Which has, in turn, attracted some notable players to the brand including Brandi Hart and Jimmy Capps.
Founded by Charles Kaman who was actually a helicopter designer and founder of Kaman Aircraft. In addition to his aeronautical endeavors, he was also a passionate guitarist and was able to put his knowledge of design and manufacturing into practice when Kaman Aircraft went into financial difficulty.
Shifting gears over to the acoustic guitar manufacturing space, they found a great deal of success after his team was able to develop a brand new kind of acoustic guitar that had a new, unique body shape, and would be manufactured from aerospace composites, namely fiberglass.
This philosophy of innovation has stuck with Ovation guitars, which now have a very unique catalog of instruments that are used by notable players such as Al Di Meola and Steve Lukather.
Ovation deserves much praise for its efforts and innovations in the acoustic guitar space.
Rounding out our list of iconic acoustic guitar brands is the great Australian acoustic guitar manufacturer, Maton. Played by the likes of none other than the great Tommy Emmanuel, Neil Finn, and Keith Urban, guitarists who play Maton read like a who’s who of the Australian music scene.
Founded in 1946 by Bill and Reg May. Maton is Australia’s oldest and most successful guitar company, still family-owned to this day.
The company is also well known for its groundbreaking acoustic guitar pick-ups.
Popular models include the Maton S60 and Tommy Emannuel’s own signature Maton EBG808TE.
Of course, there are plenty more fantastic companies out there that we aren’t able to cover in this article. So here are a few honorable mentions worthy of your consideration.
- Santa Cruz
- Eastman Guitars
- K. Yairi
- Cole Clark
- Simon & Patrick
- Art & Lutherie
With guitars being so commonly manufactured overseas and being subject to such rigorous QA processes, it’s actually quite difficult to find a genuinely ‘bad’ guitar nowadays.
This means people’s buying decisions can oftentimes come down to things such as aesthetics, and the history of the brand that produced it.
We hope this brief overview of some of the most notable acoustic guitar manufacturers has left you a little more informed and knowledgeable about both what’s on the market, and some of the brand’s histories.