In recent years, we have seen some real movers and shakers among the best acoustic guitars, particularly in the mid-range bracket – in fact, that part of the market is filled with absolute jewels that don't bust your wallet, and you'll find them here in our round-up of the best acoustic guitars under $1,000.
Advances in manufacturing and design mean the acoustic guitar market is a fierce one – and the sub-$1000 is its most hotly contested area. That’s great news for those of you looking for a juicy deal on a stunning strummer.
In addition to all-solid construction, onboard electronics and other high-end features, there’s also a fair amount of innovation to be found among the best acoustic guitars under $1,000, from enticing and unusual finishes to the use of more exotic tonewoods and processes like thermo-aging (used to impact the look, tone and durability of a guitar).
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What is the best acoustic under $1000 right now?
When it comes to a winning combination of a price that’s well under our budget, playability, consistently impressive build quality and the flexibility to plug in with a quality preamp, the Taylor Academy Series is hard to beat.
There’s currently three models in its entry level electro range with the Taylor Academy 10E dreadnought we’ve featured as our pick below for its all-rounder charms, the more compact Grand Concert 12E is a great choice for finger pickers with its details mids and highs, while the 12e-N is a great first classical guitar choice.
While the Academy series was designed by Taylor’s Master Guitar Designer Andy Powers to make playing more enjoyable for newcomers, the superlative playability and performance of the Academy 10e is something all guitarists can appreciate.
Choosing the best acoustic guitar under $1,000
Acoustic guitars under $1,000 come in all shapes and sizes, from the classic dreadnought to parlor to travel-sized mini guitars. Some models offer all-solid construction, but there are also great acoustics out there built using laminate backs and sides.
As well as onboard electronics for playing live, there’s also a fair amount of innovation and experimentation to be found in this bracket, from enticing and unusual finishes to the use of more exotic tonewoods and processes like thermo-aging, which impacts the look, tone and durability of the guitar.
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But first it’s important to decide what kind of acoustic you are looking for in terms of size. 0, 00, 000 Martin shapes and parlor-style guitars are smaller bodied and often accentuate mid frequencies that are great for fingerstyle at the expense of the low end, which often needs deeper, larger soundboxes.
A jumbo size is large, deep and great for strumming, while a dreadnought body shape sits between and can be a great all-rounder. Many brands put their own spin on body dimensions for flat top acoustics and there can be many variations and variables on tones outside of these shapes that we’ll talk about as we go through our picks of the best.
In this guide, Guitar World's experts zone in on 10 of the best acoustic guitars under $1,000 – some are well under that too – including top models in a range of styles from Fender, PRS, Martin, Ibanez and Taylor.
The best acoustic guitars under $1,000 right now
The Academy aesthetic is simple. The notably light hue of the solid Sitka spruce here won’t be to some traditionalist tastes, but it gives the guitars a clean, defined look that, as we’ll find out, is reflective of performance. Nevertheless, despite the simple acrylic dot fret markers, it’s not completely utilitarian; the laminated birch and fiber rope braid design rosette is understated but stylish.
This guitar isn’t lacking Taylor’s spruce top hallmarks - bright and resonant trebles with assured projection. The low action is extremely welcoming across the ebony ’board, too, and will help break boundaries for aspiring players. Combined with the response of this instrument, it creates an immediately enjoyable playing experience.
The 10e offers lower mid presence alongside the deeper bass response in comparison to its smaller bodied sibling, the 12e’s, higher range energy. It will come down to personal preference for players between those two models, with shape and tonal balance, but both guitars fare very well as all-rounders at either end of the spectrum for delicate picking, and their projection doesn’t lose its clear definition under heavy strummed playing, either.
Plugged in, the ES-B represents the qualities of this guitar well. Indeed this model it sounds and feels superior acoustically and plugged in than most models we’ve played in its class. The Academy Series represents a very clear vision, and in many ways, a dream beginner guitar, as well as potential trade-up for some existing players – one that can inspire and go the distance with a guitarist’s from bedroom to stage.
Read our full Taylor Academy Series 10E review.
The return of Yamaha’s CSF series marks its most determined move yet into the compact acoustic market. While it doesn’t have the slimmest of necks, compared to some of its rivals in the compact acoustic market, but we think that’s a strength - and the 406mm (16-inch) fretboard radius will be welcome news for anyone alienated by the more cramped playing experience of some so-called travel guitars.
Like many of Yamaha’s current builds, the CSF3M features scalloped bracing with the aim of producing a “louder, richer acoustic sound” but that’s not the only spec feature that could be to its advantage on paper; the 105mm body depth is deeper than most of the compact competition, but strikes a comfortable balance with the neck dimensions in play. And, as we soon discover, that equilibrium is well reflected in the tonal character of the guitar, too.
Its voice is strong with a rich bottom end that’s immediately rewarding for fingerstyle bass notes. The sinewy high end makes for a great definition in choppy folk rhythm work with surprisingly powerful projection on single notes, while the satisfying neck dimensions also help to mask the sense this is a scaled-down instrument in terms of its playability.
The CSF3M walks the line between a standard parlour and a lightweight compact traveller in both specification and feel, and it does so confidently.The performance and build rise above any niche concept and it could be an instrument you keep returning to both at home and away, albeit something you may treasure too much to risk denting at that campfire sing-along.
The Gibson J-200 started life as the Super Jumbo before its current moniker stuck in 1955. It’s traditionally regarded as a strummer’s pal and in theory the larger size rewards players with a deeper bottom end. That’s certainly present and correct here, alongside the distinctive calling cards of J-200 heritage; the moustache bridge, decorative tortoiseshell-style pickguard and pearloid crown inlays. The rosewood ’board and bridge of old are now pau ferro, though.
Newcomers may be surprised by first impressions of this guitar’s sound; it’s balanced rather than boomy, and that’s a very good thing because it gives chord work the fullness that made this model’s reputation. It’s a strummer’s delight with the highs offering articulation and the low-mids and bass creating a warm foundation that sounds full and orchestrated. The slim 1960s D-shape profile feels like a good middle ground for most styles, but we think it’s rhythm work where this guitar’s voice truly shines.
All this is good, but what pushes the J-200 SCE into greatness for the price is the electro side. German company Shadow supplies the eSonic-2 preamp with two pickups here; a traditional undersaddle piezo in the form of the NanoFlex and the NanoMag, located at the end of the fingerboard. There’s a mono output for both these sources or the option of using two outputs to separate them in stereo.
The plugged-in sound really does this guitar justice - its NanoMag has the more bite at extremes but blended it’s a great mix of warmth and attack. It makes the J-200SCE an even more impressive package for the price.
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When Fender launched the Paramount series in 2016, it represented a new commitment to winning over players from a company that’s arguably not traditionally a go-to for acoustics. And this guitar delivers on the quality we’d hope for from the iconic brand.
The mahogany tops have an indented texture to the grain that looks and feels vintage; a thin ‘open-pore’ satin finish leaves their organic looks unhindered. While we’re encountering more guitars in this price territory that aim for vintage Americana-style heritage, these models set a new standard for their price range. And the checkerboard purfling for the top, rosette and back strip takes on influence from further back in time and recalls the old Weissenborn Style 4 rope binding. It really gives these models a premium vintage touch.
In many respects, the PM-1 is a textbook example of an all-mahogany dreadnought boasting a lot of the character that attracts players to this wood choice, but it feels notably livelier than some we’ve encountered. This guitar’s relatively light weight for a solid build seems to aid an airer tonality without losing muscular projection.
That mahogany mid voice is there in abundance with a thumpy and defined low-end, rather than the boom that we’d hope to find from mahogany. Sustaining notes shine in the upper-mids with a pleasing, rounded bluegrass quality playing with a pick. For flatpickers and those pursuing a woodier tonality, rather than steely chime, look no further.
This guitar’s top, back and sides are formed from solid sheets of sapele. This African wood is often used, not least by Taylor, as a more eco-friendly alternative to mahogany. Its light-coloured grain is punctuated with thick darker stripes that contrast beautifully with the ebony-like fingerboard and bridge, plus the ‘Faux Tortoise’ pickguard and a simple white multi-stripe soundhole rosette.
Some users describe the Performing Artist/High Performance Taper setup this guitar has as having an electric-guitar feel. For us, the 44.45mm nut takes us out of that mindset. There’s no question we’re grappling with an acoustic guitar here. It just happens to come fitted with an exceptionally playable neck.
The diminutive 000-10E is at its happiest when you tickle its strings with your fingertips and the 000’s lively midrange and warm treble of the top strings make for an addictive package for roots styles. The response is what we’d expect from a mahogany body acoustic. Projection is terrific. Once again, sapele’s qualification as a noble stand-in is well justified. This will be a great guitar for the recording studio, especially if your talents stretch to folk and Delta-style blues.
Fishman’s new MX-T preamp is a blast. Running in connection with the brand’s Sonicore under-saddle pickup, it features a master volume, master tone, a phase switch (the feedback killer) and an onboard tuner. All are neatly stuffed inside the soundhole.
Solid woods can sometimes make all the difference. Thanks to experience and precedence, we can assume this guitar will grow old gracefully. As it stands, it’s off to a great start.
Fender’s California Series Player acoustics are impressive examples of just how much progress has recently been made in the sub-$500 market. In addition to playing and sounding fantastic, the Players offer built-in pickup and preamp systems and original designs.
The Newporter Player features a medium-size, rounded cutaway body with a solid spruce top and back, sides and neck crafted from mahogany and a walnut fingerboard and bridge. Scalloped x-bracing offers lively, dynamic tone and impressive volume output, and the built-in Fishman Classic Design pickup/preamp system provides bass, treble and volume controls plus a tuner.
A generous cutaway makes it easy to play all the way up the neck, making the Newporter ideal for guitarists who like to play acoustic lead lines. What’s more, it looks extremely cool in all four of its gloss poly finish options – Candy Apple Red, Champagne, Jetty Black and Rustic Copper.
PRS’ affordable SE series instruments perform well beyond the usual standards of other acoustic guitars in their price range, delivering tone that’s comparable to the company's Private Stock acoustics.
The SE Tonare T40E boasts a solid Sitka spruce top, ovangkol back and sides, a mahogany neck, ebony bridge and fretboard with “bird” inlays, plus a bone nut and saddles. Cosmetically, the guitar sports beautiful tiger acrylic purfling and rosette and cream body binding. The built-in Fishman GT1 electronics, meanwhile, are virtually “invisible,” with only a small block for the output jack, and battery compartment access mounted on the lower treble side and rotary volume and tone controls mounted above the low E string inside the soundhole.
Sound-wise, the T40E is an expressive, dynamic instrument with an outstanding bass-to-treble balance that’s powerful, sweet and rich thanks to its ingenious combination of X-bracing and classical fan-style bracing. Furthermore, the cathedral reverb-like resonance is stunning. A great fingerstyle acoustic for any price, in particular the sub-$1,000 bracket.
Read our full PRS SE Tonare T40E review.
Art & Lutherie may not be a brand that is on everyone’s radar, but for familiarity’s sake, the company is a division of the more well-known Godin Guitars. That doesn’t change the fact that, with the Roadhouse, you get what appears to be a boutique instrument at a budget price.
For starters, there’s a solid spruce top and rich, crimson laminated wild cherry back and sides, covered with a pearloid pickguard, off-white binding and a semi-gloss finish that allows a bit of grain to show through – a nice touch. Coupled with the parlor-size body, the Roadhouse exudes a classic old-timey feel right out of the box.
And it plays and sounds great to boot. The middle and upper ranges of the guitar are very strong, with plenty of clarity, definition and warmth. What’s more, the instrument rings out in a way that belies its small size, making it perfect to cut through the mix in an ensemble setup. The fretboard is clean and the strings are nicely spaced, making the Roadhouse a pleasure to pick. A perfect companion to playing some country, blues, or – why not? – some country blues.
While the recommended retail is just a little over our $1000 limit, we’re seeing prices online significantly below it on this superb model. It’s a baritone guitar adds grunt to your acoustic’s bottom-end with its usual BEADF#B tuning –or even lower, thanks to the extended scale length. And whereas this means adding yet another six-string to your collection, Ibanez has made you an offer that’s tough to refuse with its very affordable AE255BT.
Obviously, if you’re going to be tuning down in the direction of a bass guitar, you’re going to need an extended range and the 255BT has exactly that with a tally of 686mm (27 inches) from nut to bridge. Accordingly, the frets are very slightly further apart, but we found that any adjustment in terms of left hand fretting was practically instant, even the weightier strings - 0.016 to 0.070 - didn’t cause us too much of a worry, either.
It’s surprisingly light and quite well balanced in the hand, without the neck heaviness that sometimes accompanies longer range instruments. The 55BT can take on a majestic musical pose with strident basses and sweet-sounding trebles at your disposal. It’s not a loud instrument, but what it has is a good balance across its range with the low- and high-ends never indulging in a battle for supremacy.
It’s a musical challenge to experiment with a different voice to see if you can tease some inspiration from its strings and burrow down into that netherworld that has previously only been available to bassists and keyboard players. We think it’s a winner - and, at this price, practically irresistible!