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Best Acoustic Guitars 2021: Our Pick Of 15 Beginner, Intermediate And Top-End Acoustics

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Best Acoustic Guitars 2021: Our Pick Of 15 Beginner, Intermediate And Top-End Acoustics
(Image credit: Future)

When it comes to buying one of the best acoustic guitars, it’s crucial to make sure you’re getting exactly what you want. You’ll need to ask yourself all the most important questions, like which tonewoods you want, what body size or type you’re after, what level you're at and, fundamentally, how much you want to spend.

All 15 of the guitars in this round-up are, in our opinion, the best acoustic guitars you can get your hands on right now - so no matter what you walk away with, you’ll have a great guitar which perfectly suits your needs. There are options in this guide for all price points and ability levels, from buying your first acoustic guitar to doing your first stadium tour.

Whatever style you play, and whatever style you have, there’ll be an acoustic guitar in here for you. We’ve got depression-era classics, modern workhorses and true icons from the likes of Martin, Takamine, Gibson and Epiphone - and even an appearance from relative acoustic newbies PRS.

You’ve got a lot of factors to consider and to help you out a bit we’ve included some expert buying advice at the bottom of this guide. If you’d like to read it, click the ‘buying advice’ tab above and you’ll go straight there. If you’d like to get straight to the products, then keep scrolling.

The products in this guide will be listed in ascending price order, just to make things a bit easier. 

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Best acoustic guitars: Guitar Player picks

For beginners, we'd recommend the Fender CC-60SCE. Fender, surprisingly, aren't a huge name in the world of acoustic guitars - but do they make some brilliant instruments or what? The CC-60SCE is a beginner friendly, affordably priced electric-acoustic, that is super easy to play. If you're not willing to spend the earth, then this would be our choice.

For you intermediate guitarists, the Yamaha TransAcoustic CSF-TA is our recommendation. It's a smaller-bodied acoustic, but possesses all of the depth and tonal richness of something bigger - and the onboard TransAcoustic tech makes it the perfect choice for someone who wants something a little different.

For those who want to spend some cash - but not all of it - the Gibson Hummingbird Original is our choice. It's the iconic square-shouldered dreadnought with the tone to match. There's a reason why the Hummer is one of the most popular acoustics of all time.

When it comes to choosing our favorite, it’s a bit like choosing your favorite child. You know they’re all great in their own right - but we’ve all got one we’d rather spend our time with. Guitar Player’s 'money-no-object' choice has to be the Martin D-28 Authentic 1937 VTS, and it’s because when you weigh up every single pro and con, you still come out with an incredible guitar that’ll do just about anything.

In terms of sheer value of parts, the Adirondack spruce/Madagascan rosewood combination is a collectors dream, but the sound it creates is genuinely moving, and nigh-on priceless. Yeah, it’s not an actual 30’s D-28, but it’s darn close.

Best acoustic guitars: Product guide

Best acoustic guitars: Yamaha FG800

(Image credit: Yamaha)

1. Yamaha FG800

Yamaha’s budget acoustic delivers tone beyond its call of duty

Specifications
Launch price: $219/£259
Body type: Dreadnought
Top: Spruce
Back & sides: Nato & Okoume
Neck: Nato
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Scale: 25”
Bracing: Scalloped
Frets: 20
Tuners: Chrome die-cast
Finish: Natural, Brown sunburst, Matt (FG800M)
Reasons to buy
+Solid spruce top a real treat at this price+Blends well with vocals+Deep, rich tone 
Reasons to avoid
-Lacks any added extras 

Yamaha is a company that has made their name as one of the most iconic and versatile manufacturers that the world has seen. They make everything from golf clubs to motorcycles - but it’s their acoustic guitars we’re interested in, specifically the FG800.

The Yamaha FG800 is a pure tone machine. For the impressively low price tag, you get a solid spruce top with nato and okoume back and sides. This combination offers up a seriously gutsy tone, more than capable of keeping up in an acoustic jam session. The warm, rich tone that comes from the dreadnought body size makes the FG800 a singer-songwriter’s best friend, delivering full-sounding accompaniment to vocals of the vast majority of styles.

If you’re in the market for your first ever acoustic guitar, or even just a spare for when you’re on the road, you can’t go too far wrong with the Yamaha FG800. It’s solid, reliable, affordable and sounds like it’s more expensive than it is. What more could you want?

Best acoustic guitars: Fender CC-60SCE

(Image credit: Fender )

2. Fender CC-60SCE

An impressive small bodied acoustic from the big F

Specifications
Launch price: $349/£349
Body type: Concert w/cutaway
Top: Solid spruce
Back & sides: Mahogany
Neck: Mahogany
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Scale: 25.3”
Bracing: Quartersawn scalloped X
Frets: 20
Tuners: Chrome die-cast
Finish: Natural
Reasons to buy
+Spruce and mahogany combination a classic +Fender build quality and reliability +Fishman preamp and pickup are top quality 
Reasons to avoid
-Some claim Fender aren’t an ‘acoustic brand’ 

You may know Fender best for the Stratocaster or Telecaster, but their acoustic guitars are some of the industry’s hidden gems. A beginner-friendly acoustic-electric guitar with a solid spruce top for under $350 is usually unheard of, making this CC-60SCE even more fantastic.

The Fender CC-60SCE is so highly revered due to its emphasis on playing enjoyment - something which we all need when playing the guitar. The CC-60SCE’s concert sized body means that it’s compact, easy to play and easy to handle too. As an acoustic guitar for smaller people or a smaller backup guitar, this CC-60SCE really took us by surprise. 

The tone it produces is surprisingly huge - with bags of punch and resonance coming from the solid spruce and mahogany construction. The body size also contributes to this, with the smaller lower bout helping to avoid the boominess of a dreadnought. The CC-60SCE sounds as good plugged in as it does unplugged - with the low profile Fishman pickup dishing out a super-accurate and tasteful representation of your acoustic tone to your PA.

Best acoustic guitars: Martin 000 Jr-10

(Image credit: Martin)

3. Martin 000 JR-10

Sounds very grown up for a junior

Specifications
Launch price: $499/£499
Body type: ‘000’
Top: Sitka spruce
Back & sides: Sapele
Neck: Solid hardwood
Fingerboard: Richlite
Scale: 24”
Bracing: Scalloped X
Frets: 20
Tuners: Chrome enclosed
Finish: Natural
Reasons to buy
+Smaller body makes for super comfortable playing+MOP rosette a tasteful touch +Specs are those of more expensive Martins 
Reasons to avoid
-Only comes with a soft gig bag 

When people think of Martin guitars, they often think of D-18’s, 28’s and other acoustics that cost the same as a family car. Well - while those are part of Martin’s product ranges, you’ll  be pleased to know that they also cater for us folk who can’t always spend four digits, as much as we’d like to.

The 000 JR-10 comes in at the lower end of Martin’s ‘budget’ range in terms of pricing, but the specs, playability and tone vastly outweigh the price tag. The all-solid JR-10 is a slightly shrunken 000 acoustic, with the smaller body and scale length creating an all round lovely playing experience.

You’d think that an even smaller body would be detrimental to the tone? Well, you’re wrong. While it doesn’t quite have the guts of a D-28, the tone that this Junior produces has some serious punch. A Sitka spruce top takes care of the top end, while the mahogany back and sides join forces to provide warmth, depth of tone and a little bit of extra resonance.

Best acoustic guitars: Fender Paramount PM-3 Triple-0

(Image credit: Fender)

4. Fender Paramount PM-3 Triple-0

A fantastic, versatile guitar for not a lot of money

Specifications
Launch price: $629/£599
Body type: 000
Top: Sitka spruce
Back & sides: Mahogany
Neck: Mahogany
Fingerboard: Ovangkol
Scale: 25.3”
Bracing: Quartersawn scalloped X bracing
Frets: 20
Tuners: Nickel
Finish: Gloss Polyester
Reasons to buy
+Really comfortable to play+Fender build quality is impressive+Love the old-school logo
Reasons to avoid
-Fender not a name in high-end acoustics 

Fender is a name we’re all well aware of when it comes to electric guitar, but do they make a decent acoustic guitar? The answer is yes - and the proof is right here. 

The Paramount PM-3 is an affordable showcase of Fender's acoustic-building prowess, with a spruce top and mahogany back and sides delivering a classic, dependable precision that allows you to cut through any mix in any live situation. The 000 size is a fantastic middle-ground body type for those that want a blend of rich warmth and a prominent upper mid-range, and the cutaway makes playing the PM-3 easier than most. 

Vintage touches, such as the fingerboard inlays, logo and checkerboard purfling really set this PM-3 off, giving it a tremendously cool vibe that will make you never want to put it down. It definitely feels like a Fender guitar - solid, bright, punchy - and we really love that. 

Best acoustic guitars: Yamaha Transacoustic CSF-TA

(Image credit: Yamaha)

5. Yamaha TransAcoustic CSF-TA

A big sound from a small guitar

Specifications
Launch price: $759/£663
Body type: Parlor
Top: Spruce
Back & sides: Mahogany
Neck: Nato
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Scale: 23.6”
Bracing: Scalloped X-bracing
Frets: 20
Tuners: Die-Cast chrome
Finish: Natural
Reasons to buy
+TransAcoustic tech is really cool+Shorter scale makes this a perfect sofa guitar+Looks great
Reasons to avoid
-A bit gimmicky?

Now, Yamaha has been known to push the boundaries when it comes to innovating new ideas for their instruments - and the TransAcoustic series just might be their biggest flex to date. 

TransAcoustic is, in a nutshell, a system that adds effects to your unplugged acoustic guitar. The back panel of the CSF-TA features an actuator that vibrates in response to string vibration, and those vibrations are conveyed through the guitar's body and into the air inside the guitar. It's pretty out there, and it's okay if we lost you there for a minute - but fancy new effects aren't the only thing about the CSF-TA.

Independent of this incredible tech, the CSF-TA's solid spruce top and mahogany back and sides deliver bags of punch, clarity and power - impressive for such a small-bodied guitar. We were shocked to note that this parlor has a rich depth about its tone, something which again we wouldn't expect from a guitar this size. If you're partial to a smaller acoustic, and don't want to shell out the big bucks, the CSF-TA is absolutely worth considering.

Best acoustic guitars: PRS SE A60E

(Image credit: PRS )

6. PRS SE A60E

A glamorous option for those who want to turn heads on a budget

Specifications
Launch price: $1,099/£818
Body size: Angelus
Top: Sitka spruce
Back & sides: Ziricote
Neck: Mahogany
Fingerboard: Ebony
Scale: 25.2”
Bracing: PRS Hybrid X/Classical
Frets: 20
Tuners: PRS Designed
Finish: Gloss natural
Reasons to buy
+Ziricote body gives the finest rosewood a run for its money +Inlays aren’t too garish+PRS SE quality is arguably the best for this budget 
Reasons to avoid
-Pay a bit more and you’ll get a USA made guitar 

From the kings of glitz and glamour, comes something a little less in-your-face. PRS’s SE range has made its name in the world of electric guitars, and now it’s time to see how they fare when it comes to acoustics, with the very pretty A60E.

Like much of this guide (and most other acoustic guitars on the market), a solid sitka spruce top adorns this model. However, things start to get interesting when we delve into the solid ziricote body. Ziricote is an alternative to rosewood and has had some serious comparisons made about its tonal qualities. It’s closer to Brazilian rosewood in terms of density, and is a brilliant way to get close to that tone on a reasonable budget. Of course, it’s not quite the same, but overall the A60E still possesses that little bit of magic. 

The iconic abalone bird inlays and flamed maple accents scream PRS, even from a distance - but when you take into consideration the care and attention paid to this guitar in the manufacturing and finishing process, you start to realize just how perfect these SE’s can sound and play. We currently live in a weird world, where value for money is more important than ever before, and although you could spend a little more on a USA-made Martin or Taylor, is there much point when a PRS SE is calling your name?

Best acoustic guitars: Martin 000-15SM

(Image credit: Martin )

7. Martin 000-15SM

An all-mahogany masterpiece, without the price tag

Specifications
Launch price: $1,599/£1,635
Body type: 000 12-fret
Top: Mahogany
Back & sides: Mahogany
Neck: Mahogany
Fingerboard: Morado
Scale: 25.4”
Bracing: X brace, non scalloped
Frets: 20
Tuners: Golden Age Bright Nickel Side Mount
Finish: Satin
Reasons to buy
+ Classic look is just stunning+ 000 12-fret size is ultra comfortable+ Can handle strummers surprisingly well 
Reasons to avoid
- Only a 15 series, so no frills here 

Rolling on back to the mid-’30s, Martin, like many other companies, was struggling in the midst of a crushing financial crisis. In order to fight their way through the Great Depression, they decided to start making cheaper, all-mahogany acoustic guitars in order to boost sales and help them survive - and we’re glad they did. 

This 000-15SM looks oddly different to a standard ‘000’, but the reasoning is very simple. With its vintage-inspired appointments, the SM is a 12-fret as opposed to a standard 14. This, alongside the slotted headstock, provides a classic vibe that oozes style, and gives this guitar its very own personality. The difference in body shape makes a tonal impact, as well as an aesthetic one, with the slightly deeper shoulders warming up the tone ever so slightly and creating a fantastic harmonic resonance. 

It might not be the most impressive looking guitar on the list. It might not be the most versatile either - but as an affordable USA-made Martin, and as a tip-of-the-hat to days gone by, we don’t think it gets any better than this sub $/£2,000.

Best acoustic guitar: Taylor American Dream AD17e Black Top

(Image credit: Taylor)

8. Taylor American Dream AD17e Black Top

An affordable Taylor that sounds way beyond its price point

Specifications
Launch price: $1,699/£1,629
Body size: Dreadnought (Grand Pacific)
Top: Solid spruce
Back & sides: Solid ovangkol
Neck: Tropical mahogany
Fingerboard: Eucalyptus
Scale: 25.5”
Bracing: V-Class
Frets: 20
Tuners: Taylor Nickel
Finish: 2 mil matte
Reasons to buy
+Wood choices are more sustainable than most +Playability is bang on, as per usual from Taylor+Ovangkol adds a tasteful mid-bump 
Reasons to avoid
-Matte finish is a scratch-magnet 

Taylor’s American Dream series of guitars, although one of their lowest priced offerings, is far from cheap. Crafted from all-solid tonewoods (some more unusual than others however), the AD17e is ready to be played, enjoyed and cherished. 

Another slope-shouldered dreadnought (that Taylor refers to as a ‘Grand Pacific’ body shape), the AD17e consists again of a solid spruce top, but this time with a solid ovangkol body. This pairing of tonewoods, along with the eucalyptus fingerboard, creates a responsive and powerful tone that is equal parts rich and bright. Ovangkol is a relative of rosewood - so expect to hear those warmth, smooth traits in the low end, while the midrange comes across a little more pronounced. 

The matte finished top and satin back and sides allow the AD17e to breathe, creating an intense resonance that feels organic and natural. Unfortunately, it’ll only be a matter of time before that matte top is covered in finger marks, pick scratches and other playing wear, but if you don’t mind that kind of thing, the AD17e could be a great choice.

Best acoustic guitars: Takamine TSP178ACK

(Image credit: Takamine)

9. Takamine TSP178ACK

An innovative acoustic, with unbeatable playability

Specifications
Launch price: $2,399/£1,999
Body type: Thinline cutaway
Top: Solid arched koa
Back & sides: Solid arched koa
Neck: Mahogany
Fingerboard: Ebony
Scale: 24.8”
Bracing: X
Frets: 21
Tuners: Die-cast
Finish: Gloss
Reasons to buy
+Koa construction is a head-turner+Thinline body makes this a perfect ‘plugged-in’ option+Electric playability is a major bonus
Reasons to avoid
-Not one for the purists 

Always pushing the envelope, Takamine has done it yet again. This TSP178ACK isn’t exactly your standard acoustic-electric guitar, but in a world where ‘traditional’ has been done so much already, a little change is welcome.

Crafted in Japan, Takamine’s heavy koa usage on this model sets an interesting and unique precedent as to what this guitar can do. Paired with a mahogany neck and ebony fingerboard, the all-koa body delivers a satisfying warmth, while also allowing for some articulate high-end to creep through. Described as sharing tonal elements with ‘mahogany and maple’, Takamine believes that their koa approach can help players find their unique voice - and to be honest, we’d have to agree. 

Another main event here is the Thinline body which Takamine has employed on this model. Designed to offer greater levels of playability, the thinline body also combats unwanted feedback during live performances and introduces a more ‘electric-like’ feel to playing, something which will appeal to those looking to put on a great performance with a guitar that’s easy to play. 

This will definitely upset some purists, and rightly so - Takamine has taken everything we knew about the acoustic guitar and flipped it on its head - but as a feat of acoustic guitar engineering? Well, it’s a beauty. 

Best acoustic guitars: Epiphone USA Texan

(Image credit: Epiphone)

10. Epiphone USA Texan

A faithful recreation of an Epiphone icon

Specifications
Launch price: $2,699/£2,243
Body type: Dreadnought
Top: Solid spruce
Back & sides: Mahogany
Neck: Mahogany
Fingerboard: Indian Laurel
Scale: 25.5”
Bracing: Traditional hand-scalloped X-bracing
Frets: 20
Tuners: Grover Cream Button
Finish: Nitrocellulose
Reasons to buy
+It’s a remake of a true classic+Slope-shoulder dreads are the best of both worlds+Build quality is excellent 
Reasons to avoid
-You can buy a Gibson for less 

Played by legends such as Paul McCartney and Peter Frampton, it was only a matter of time before Epiphone reissued the Texan to be built at Gibson’s Bozeman plant - and it lives up to expectation.

The Texan gets its charm and charisma from the classic combination of a Sitka spruce top and mahogany back and sides. Thankfully, its slope-shouldered design allows it to sit in the ‘comfortable dreadnought’ region of playability, allowing you to make the most of the smooth low end and punchy balanced mids that make this guitar so ideal for pop, country, rock ‘n’ roll - you name it. 

Built with the utmost care and attention to detail, you’ll be struggling to find anything on this guitar that doesn’t scream quality - and yes, we know it’s an Epiphone. In all honesty, that’s our only gripe, and we know it seems petty. For north of two grand, the world of Gibson starts to open up. If you’re looking for something to play and love and keep forever, then this could be perfect, but if you’re investing your money in a guitar? We’d probably take a Gibson.

Best acoustic guitars: Gibson SJ-200 Studio Walnut

(Image credit: Gibson)

11. Gibson SJ-200 Studio Walnut

A slimmed down jumbo that won’t break the bank

Specifications
Launch price: $3,149/£2,399
Body type: Jumbo
Top: Solid Sitka spruce
Back & sides: Walnut
Neck: Mahogany
Fingerboard: Walnut
Scale: 25.5”
Bracing: Traditional hand-scalloped X-bracing
Frets: 20
Tuners: Grover Rotomatic
Finish: Nitrocellulose
Reasons to buy
+Slimmer than the standard SJ-200 +Walnut body adds something different to the mix+Slightly more affordable than most SJ-200’s 
Reasons to avoid
-Not quite a full-fat 200 

Gibson’s SJ-200 Studio model takes the iconic SJ-200 down a notch, and to be honest that doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. 

This jumbo has an impressively balanced tone for a guitar which is still so massive. The depth of the SJ-200 Studio is actually slimmed down a little bit from the dimensions of a standard SJ-200, and this improves the overall playability quite considerably. As well as upping the comfort stakes a little, this also reduces the potential for live feedback - making the SJ-200 Studio a brilliant choice for live performers.

A solid sitka spruce top and walnut body is not the most traditional of tonewood pairings, but it certainly works a treat in the case of the SJ-200 Studio. The punch and attack of a sitka spruce top works pleasantly with the warmth of the walnut back and sides, creating an ultra resonant, chimey, almost piano-like tone that will be heard no matter what you play.

It’s not a full-fat SJ-200, but what you may lose in tone you definitely make up for in terms of ease-of-use. And come on, it’s hardly a bargain basement option. 

Best acoustic guitars: Gibson Hummingbird Original

(Image credit: Gibson )

12. Gibson Hummingbird Original

An iconic, inspirational square-shoulder dread’

Specifications
Launch price: $3,849/£3,399
Body type: Dreadnought
Top: Sitka spruce
Back & sides: Mahogany
Neck: Mahogany
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Scale: 24.75”
Bracing: Traditional hand-scalloped X bracing
Frets: 20
Tuners: Gotoh keystone
Finish: Nitrocellulose
Reasons to buy
+Sounds absolutely massive+Spruce & mahogany is a dream combination+ Heritage Cherry Sunburst in particular looks dreamy 
Reasons to avoid
-Huge sound comes at the expense of comfort 

The Gibson Hummingbird is one of those guitars that never fails to make us guitarists smile. There’s something about the look, sound and feel of the ‘hummer’ that acts like an auditory comfort blanket. We’ve heard it so many times before on so many huge records that the powerful, direct tone has become almost instantly recognisable - and we love it.

Gibson’s first ever square-shouldered model, the Hummingbird utilizes perhaps the greatest pairing of tonewoods, sitka spruce and mahogany. The interplay between these prized top and body woods will fill any room with jangly vintage charm, all the while dishing out some punchy, rich sounding tones to help your playing transcend. The top is treated, so sounds weathered and played in - allowing you to get the best from your Hummingbird straight out of the gate.

We do like the Hummingbird, a lot - but there’s one thing we aren’t so fond of that we’d like to mention - it’s a pretty massive guitar. We know it’s no bigger than a standard dreadnought, but the square shoulders especially make this guitar feel bulky and sometimes awkward to play. Granted, that shape is what helps to produce the massive sound we love so much - but it’s still a bit too much of a handful sometimes.

Best acoustic guitars: Guild F55E Maple

(Image credit: Guild )

13. Guild F55E Maple

The best jumbo bodied acoustic guitar on the market

Specifications
Launch price: $3,899/£3,399
Body type: Jumbo
Top: Spruce
Back & sides: Arched flamed maple
Neck: Mahogany
Fingerboard: Ebony
Scale: 25.6”
Bracing: Adirondack scalloped X
Frets: 20
Tuners: Gotoh SE700 open-gear
Finish: Gloss Nitrocellulose
Reasons to buy
+Flamed maple looks incredible +Sounds humongous +Maple back and sides creates important clarity 
Reasons to avoid
-It’s in SJ-200 territory 

Guild is definitely the quiet, unassuming one of the bunch. They’ve been tirelessly plugging away in the background creating some of the world’s finest and most recorded acoustic guitars since 1953, so it’s promising to see their name featuring more prominently in the world of guitar again. 

The F55E maple jumbo is Guild’s take on the classic Gibson jumbo of the late ‘40s. A maple back and sides fit the jumbo perfectly - both aesthetically and tonally - and that’s the way it has stayed. Sure, there have been other versions with different body woods, but the incredible flamed maple on this iteration of the F55E delivers clarity and articulation in the form of a delectable mid and treble bump. This counteracts the low-end that comes from the sheer size of the guitar, creating a rich, balanced tone.

The F55E, although firmly within Gibson SJ-200 territory, has a killer vibe of its very own. For some, Guild is one of the go-to names in acoustic guitar - but this guitar has the potential to be a delightful ‘sleeper’, placing more emphasis on your playing than on your fancy jumbo guitar.

Best acoustic guitars: Taylor Builder’s Edition K24ce

(Image credit: Taylor )

The best combination of tonewoods and ergonomics on the market

Specifications
Launch price: $5,499/£5,229
Body type: Grand Auditorium
Top: Hawaiian koa
Back & sides: Hawaiian koa
Neck: Tropical mahogany
Fingerboard: West African ebony
Scale: 25.5”
Bracing: V-Class
Frets: 20
Tuners: Gotoh
Finish: Silent Satin
Reasons to buy
+Koa construction is stunning +Silent Satin actually reduces arm/hand noise +Beveled cutaway increases upper fret access 
Reasons to avoid
-Has the potential to look better than it sounds 

Taylor’s innovation and guitar design is frankly next level, and that’s wholeheartedly proven with the Builder’s Edition K24ce.

Built entirely from solid Hawaiian koa, it’s easy to see why this guitar commands the price that it does. Tonally, it’s somewhere between maple and rosewood, so expect some fantastically crisp clear high-end, as well as a rich low-end boost. 

Taylor guitars are known for their slightly brighter voicings, and the K24ce stays true to that theory - without being overbearing or thin-sounding. The grand auditorium body shape and beveled cutaway deliver ergonomic playability in droves, and combined with the addictive and unique tone this guitar creates, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve found ‘the one’. 

For those of us who aren’t so fussed about exotic woods or fancy inlays, this could run the risk of being a little too garish and over-the-top - but what you’ve got here is really a work of modern art. In our constantly changing world, there will come a time when we need to start thinking and acting more sustainably, and if something this beautiful can come from a sustainable source? Sign us up. 

Read the full Taylor Builder’s Edition K24ce review 

Best acoustic guitars: Martin D-28 Authentic 1937 VTS

(Image credit: Martin)

15. Martin D-28 Authentic 1937 VTS

Grab your very own ‘golden era’ Martin without needing a second mortgage

Specifications
Launch price: $6,899/£6,999
Body type: Dreadnought
Top: Adirondack spruce with VTS
Back & sides: Madagascan rosewood
Neck: Mahogany
Fingerboard: Ebony
Scale: 25.4 ”
Bracing: Forward-shifted X-bracing
Frets: 20
Tuners: Nickel open-gear
Finish: Vintage Gloss
Reasons to buy
+ One of the most iconic acoustics of all time + Adirondack spruce is highly sought after + Still cheaper than a genuine ‘30s D-28 
Reasons to avoid
- Price is still pretty eye-watering 

There are few acoustic guitars as iconic as the Martin D-28 - especially a ‘golden era’ D-28. But if, like most of us, you don’t have that kind of money knocking around, then this might be the next best thing.

Crafted from highly sought-after Adirondack spruce, the top and braces get Martin’s own VTS (Vintage Tone System) thermochemical treatment. This removes moisture from the wood at very high temperatures, allowing the top to resonate as freely as possible, and to sound as sweet as a genuine vintage Martin. If that wasn’t enough harmonious beauty, the Madagascan rosewood back and sides help produce a rich low end and sparkling clarity - with dark resonant undertones. Combined, this leads to a balanced and truly satisfying tone that will make this guitar worth every penny. 

At close to seven grand, it’s a price tag that some will still find pretty prohibitive - and that’s fair enough. This guitar is the culmination of decades of R&D and millions of dollars worth of research, and that comes with a price. But honestly, listen to this guitar and it will all make sense. And then, like us, you’ll want one. Or two. 

Best acoustic guitars: Buying advice

All Mahogany Martin 000-15 on a light brown background

(Image credit: Future)

How much should I spend on an acoustic guitar?

When looking to buy one of the best acoustic guitars - whether you're just starting out or have been playing for your whole life - knowing how much you should spend is the first question that needs answering.

There are a few ways to answer this. Some will say you should spend no more than you need to - after all, there are some great acoustic guitars out there for a couple hundred bucks that sound, play and feel great. 

Speak to someone else, and they'll suggest you spend as much as you possibly can. A super special guitar will be easier to play and sound better, and you'll want to play it more because of that. 

In reality, we think the best answer is somewhere between those two. It's important to get an acoustic that will help you improve, and not hinder your progress. Honestly, we'd flat out ignore anything under $/£100. In our experience, they are cheaply and poorly made, with sub-par parts and hardware. 

For those reasons, we'd suggest beginners spend a minimum of around $/£200 on their first acoustic guitar, and make sure they buy something from a large and reputable brand. That way, they can be sure that their guitar is well made and playable, and that they'll receive adequate customer service if anything goes wrong. 

If you can afford it, go ahead and pay a bit more. You'll get something a bit nicer, made from higher-quality materials - but if you're just starting out, we'd say $/£500 should be your absolute maximum. After this point, improvements made to a guitars tone and build quality will most likely only be obvious to those with a more refined ear.

Best acoustic guitars: Close up of an LR Baggs pickup system in the soundhole of an Eastman acoustic guitar

(Image credit: Future)

Intermediate acoustic guitarists can expect to pay between $/£500 and $/£1,500 for something worth upgrading to. It's likely that this will be your second or third acoustic guitar, or you may have been playing electric for a while and fancy something different. In this price bracket you'll be seeing premium materials used more often, and if you can stretch to around $/£1,600 for the Martin 000-15SM, you'll be in USA-built territory. These kinds of guitars start to knock on the door of 'pro' level, and will set you up very nicely for years of playing.

Professional guitarists should expect to pay anywhere from $/£1,500 upwards for something of sufficient quality. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule - like the PRS SE A60E which comes in at around $/£1,000 - but generally speaking, you'll be wanting something USA-made, that will stand the test of time.

Once you start looking upwards of $/£2,000, you're in the world of 'investment' guitars - and these will likely be lifelong musical companions. It's definitely not necessary to spend this much on an acoustic guitar, but since when did we need an excuse to spend our hard earned cash on a beautiful new acoustic guitar?

Which body type is best for me? 

When it comes to choosing the most appropriate body type, you should think of two things, and two things only: comfort and tone. For most, a smaller bodied guitar will feel more comfortable to hold and to play than a larger bodied one, but not provide the depth of tone desired. On the other hand, you’ll get a huge, rich tone from a Dreadnought or Jumbo, but you’ll probably find it  awkward to play - especially sitting down.  

Folk acoustic guitars 

Most smaller bodied acoustic guitars are described as ‘Folk’, but within this you’ve got some pretty reasonable variation. Martin’s way of categorising these body types, from ‘0’ through to ‘000’, is probably the most popular and most straightforward way to do it.

The ‘000’ is considered to be within the goldilocks zone for most guitarists, as the tone it produces is balanced - with a brilliant suggestion of low-end chucked in to satiate strummers’ needs.

‘0’ bodies are small, punchy and have a pronounced midrange, making them an ideal fit for fingerstyle and blues players. Sometimes also referred to as ‘parlor’ sized, they’re small and comfortable, with slimmer upper and lower bouts. 

‘00’ and ‘000’ bodies, although getting gradually bigger, are still an ideal choice for delicate, controlled fingerpicking - but with a little more low end to round out your tone. As the body gets bigger, the air within the guitar can move around more, resonate more and generally create more volume and power. The ‘000’ is considered to be within the goldilocks zone for most guitarists, as the tone it produces is balanced - with a brilliant suggestion of low-end chucked in to satiate strummers’ needs. If you’re after a little more string tension from your ‘000’, then an ‘OM’ type acoustic could be just the one for you, with a scale length extension of 0.5”.

What about Dreadnoughts? 

A Dreadnought truly is a singer-songwriter’s best friend - and who’s going to argue with the likes of Joni Mitchell and Neil Young? As the size of the upper and lower bouts grow and the waist of the guitar is straightened out, a powerful midrange is ever present. The Dread’ is another one of these guitars that sits brilliantly in that middle ground between small and large bodied acoustics, and although it might be a little bit big for some, it’s popularity is something that can’t be challenged.  

Square shoulders or sloped shoulders?  

Especially within brands like Gibson and Epiphone, you’ll likely be offered one of two Dreadnought shapes - square shoulders or sloped shoulders? In brutal honesty, it doesn’t really make a difference to the sound, but can sometimes have an influence on the playability, depending on the player. 

If you look at a Gibson Hummingbird, you’ll notice that the shoulders (the section of the body in front of the soundhole) are significantly more square than the sloped shoulders on the Epiphone Texan. Tonally, the difference is incredibly marginal, but as there is generally more body mass up around the neck joint on a Hummingbird, it will feel just that little bit bulkier in the hand. 

Soundhole of a vintage Martin D-28 with lacquer checking on a dark blue background

(Image credit: Future)

Jumbos

The jumbo is, as the name suggests, pretty massive - tonally, as well as physically. Gibson, Martin and Guild are just some of the companies whose jumbos have put them on the map, and although pretty huge, unwieldy guitars, they have been used by some of music’s most iconic names - Elvis, Bob Dylan, Orianthi, to name a few. 

Capable of some exceptionally and surprisingly balanced tones, ‘jumbo’ guitars are not all just ‘beefy low end’ as you might expect. A jumbo, when you look at it, is most similar to a ‘000’ or ‘OM’ in shape, but with another roughly 20-30% added on for good measure. This means, while it might need some powerful playing to get the air moving, you’ll be bathing in rich lows, mids and treble, and you’ll never want to put it down.

Which tonewoods should I choose? 

In our current, slightly more climate conscious world, guitar manufacturers are having to find new ways to make their instruments without harming ecosystems or future timber stocks. As a result, we’ve seen Martin adopt their successful HPL (High Pressure Laminate) in some of their X Series guitars, Taylor introducing Urban Ash into some models, and even use of other synthetic materials like Richlite. 

Luckily for us, the classics - spruce and mahogany - are still readily available, and so leads us to the question, which is better? Well, if you’re looking for a definite answer, you might be disappointed.

Spruce tops vs mahogany tops 

If we’re talking tops, then it’s important that you know what kind of sound you like and what you’re going for - as this will influence your entire decision making process. 

Spruce is a go-to top material, used and adored by luthiers and guitarists for well over a hundred years. Not only is this due to the fact that spruce (especially sitka) is one of the most readily available tonewoods around, but it also has an exceptionally balanced and consistent tone. It reacts favorably at almost all volumes, making it a versatile and ideal choice for guitars of all sizes and body types. It naturally projects mid and treble frequencies, creating a punchy, present tone that’ll fit into pretty much all musical scenarios. 

Adirondack spruce (used on the Martin D-28 that features in this guide) is used much less often due to a lack of available stock, but sometimes crops up on high-end guitars. It’s heavier and more rigid than sitka, so it can resonate more freely, creating a generally livelier and louder sound.

On the other hand we’ve got Mahogany. Used initially by Martin during the Great Depression as a way of making cheaper guitars, players soon discovered that it possessed a wholly desirable character of its own. With a sweet bass presence, articulate midrange and a gorgeous ‘woody’ resonance, mahogany-topped guitars became a favorite for blues players, and are still sought after today. Luckily, they tend to be a little cheaper too.  

Acoustic guitar playing

(Image credit: Future)

Do the back & sides make a difference?

Absolutely - although not quite as much as you’d think. Obviously, as the back and sides are attached to the rest of the guitar and resonate with each pluck of a string, they do have a bearing on the overall tone of the instrument. But, when you take into consideration the fact that the main point of string contact and resonance (the bridge) is on the top of the guitar, and that every string vibration passes through that point, you can safely assume that the top makes up a significant proportion of the tone produced. 

Obviously, a guitar with a solid back and sides will resonate more freely and richly than something with a laminate back and sides, but beyond that, the difference is pretty minimal. Mahogany, rosewood, koa - they’ve all got their own characteristics, but buying something specifically for the body wood may become a futile task. Look out for that combination of woods that really catches your eye (or ear). For some, it’s spruce and mahogany; for others, cedar and rosewood. The only way to find out is to play them.