I’ve listed some of my favorite acoustic guitars below. These are guitars I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend.
Steel String Guitars
$100 – $250
Tanglewood TW Series
I’ve owned a Tanglewood steel-string acoustic for 10+ years. The guitar I own is a TW28 but the entire TW series represents good value for money.
While not amongst the upper echelon of acoustic guitar brands I’ve always felt Tanglewood guitars punch well above their weight. When I first purchased my TW28, I was planning on buying something more expensive but the Tanglewood easily outperformed several higher-priced options. I’m far from alone in my thinking on this and have heard similar stories.
The TW28 features a solid cedar soundboard, mahogany back and sides, rosewood fingerboard, bridge, and tusq nut and bridge saddle. The understated satin finish looks great and is a hallmark of Tanglewood guitars.
It’s a very responsive guitar, bright sounding with a wide dynamic range, a genuine ‘all rounder’. I’d highly recommend any of the TW series to beginners or those looking for a quality instrument without breaking the budget.
$250 – $1000
I’m a big fan of Guild acoustic guitars. The M120E is a beautiful guitar along with the entire Guild Westerly series, including the Guild M240E Troubadour and M240E.
Featuring an African Mahogany top, sides, and back. The distinctive grain pattern, tortoiseshell pickguard, and rosewood neck give this guitar real visual appeal. It happens to sound great too, with a warm balanced tone and focused response that suits playing with the fingers.
The M120E has a Fishman Sonitone pickup, which although an under-saddle piezo pickup, accurately replicates the sound of the guitar when played acoustically. Highly recommended.
Taylor 224ce-K Koa
The first thing you will notice about the 224CE aside from the shadow-burst figured Koa top is the sheer volume this guitar produces acoustically. It surprised me the first time I heard it.
A beautiful guitar in its own right, Taylor makes some of the finest acoustic guitars available and this is no exception.
The thing about a lot of the bigger-bodied acoustics is while they produce an impressive amount of volume when played aggressively, they aren’t as responsive as some of the smaller-bodied guitars when played with the fingers. The Taylor however is an exception in this regard and feels lively while remaining very versatile.
The build quality of these is second to none and while it is a relatively expensive guitar (depending on what you are comparing to) if you are looking for a versatile, reliable top-shelf acoustic guitar with great response and a loud, boomy but distinct sound you really can’t go wrong with the Taylor 224CE.
Nylon String Guitars
$100 – $250
My (and I suspect many others) very first nylon string guitar was a Yamaha C40, which I still have to this day.
Although I don’t play it regularly anymore, I often pick it up if walking by and am always impressed by how well it plays, especially considering you can still pick them up for around $140.00
Yamaha has been making affordable student instruments since the 1940s. The C40 is a solid, reliable guitar and in my opinion, is a step up from the majority of guitars you will find in this price range.
If wanting to get started on guitar, or you want a decent instrument for your kids to start learning on, this is definitely where you should start. Every home should have one.
$250 – $750
Probably the guitar I play the most on a day-to-day basis. It just feels like a guitar you want in your hands.
The C5CE is a very playable guitar with a thinner than average neck and cutaway. It has a lively response, and just the right amount of growl when played with a little more intent.
The Cordoba C5CE features a solid cedar top, mahogany back and sides, dual-action truss rod, and Fishman Isys+ pickup system, along with an onboard tuner.
I thought when I first bought the guitar that it could easily have been priced much higher but coming in at under $500, the C5CE is great value.
You won’t get away with as much on this guitar, as you might on the Yamaha. Regardless, this is the guitar I’d be most happy to recommend to someone wanting to add a new nylon string to their guitar arsenal. A reliable, great-sounding classical guitar that will suit beginners to intermediates alike.
What to look for when buying a new guitar
Consider the music you want to play
If you are new to the guitar, it’s worth considering the type of music you intend to play. Guitars come in all shapes and sizes, not to mention different materials, and these all play a role in how the guitar sounds and the types of music it’s going to be best suited to.
For example, If you prefer blues, or country, you are going to want a steel-string guitar. If you prefer classical or flamenco music a nylon string guitar is essential. Are you interested in finger-style guitar? a smaller bodied instrument will have better response and note separation, if you are more of a singer-songwriter some shape and tonewood combinations are going to suit vocals better as they will be less dominant in frequencies the human voice operates in.
There’s less to consider with electric guitars as electronics play more of a dominant role. When it comes to acoustic guitars, the characteristics of the different timbers and the way the instrument is built define the instrument. It’s up to the individual as to how far you want to take things. If you aren’t sure about what options are available and how these affect the suitability of some instruments to the music being played, check out my guide on acoustic guitar body styles and sizes.
Buy a guitar not a brand
Another problem some people face when purchasing a new guitar is looking past the brand name. While the chances of ending up with something great go up substantially if choosing a guitar from a respected manufacturer I’ve played inexpensive acoustic guitars that sound and play great along with some higher-priced models that I’ve found disappointing.
Most of the time the more expensive guitar will be the better guitar but it’s not always the case so it pays to keep an open mind as now and then you will find a gem amongst these lower-priced offerings.