You'd be forgiven for thinking that a "cheap" instrument isn't going to be up to scratch. Unfortunately, the connotations of this word lead many players to think of a guitar with an unplayable action and a tone more akin to a wet cardboard box than a room-filling dreadnought. However, while it's true, there are a lot of sub-par guitars on the market, if you know where to look, you can find a top-tier instrument that won't cost the earth – as this guide to the best cheap acoustic guitars proves.
So before we can come up with a list of affordable guitars, we first must decide what we mean by "cheap". We've chosen to define this category as any guitar that sits between $100 and $450, and of course, it must be highly playable, good-looking, and most importantly, sound fabulous.
With that in mind, we've tracked down the best cheap acoustic guitars from some of the biggest names in musical instruments with options from the likes of Yamaha, Epiphone, Fender, D'Angelico, and many more.
Best cheap acoustic guitars: Guitar World's choice
For sheer affordability, it's hard not to recommend the Yamaha F335. This classy-looking dreadnought has all the hallmarks you'd expect from a Yamaha guitar, with an insanely playable neck, superb build quality, and rich, complex tone, all for a genuinely wallet-friendly price.
For players looking for a guitar at the top end of the cheap acoustic spectrum, the Fender California Newporter Player Acoustic is a guitar you definitely need to try. With its solid spruce top, the Newporter is undoubtedly a cut above other guitars at its price point, and that's without mentioning its charming good looks and killer tone.
Best cheap acoustic guitars: Product guide
Yamaha is no stranger to reasonably priced instruments, with the likes of the FG800 and LL6 ARE featuring heavily in our guide to the best acoustic guitars for beginners. Still, neither of these brilliant guitars can compete with the price of the Yamaha F335. Sitting comfortably below the $200 mark, there's a reason many budding guitarists flock to this beautiful entry-level dreadnought.
Combining a laminate spruce top with a meranti back and sides, this guitar produces a rather traditional tone, and the rosewood fingerboard and bridge just seal the deal for us. We found the F335 to be of very high quality in our tests – not that we'd expect any less from a music instrument giant such as Yamaha.
In our opinion, if you are looking for the finest acoustic guitar you can buy for under $200, the Yamaha F335 is undoubtedly at the top of the list.
The Epiphone DR-100 – now called the Songmaker DR-100 – has long been a staple of guitar stores worldwide for years, offering wannabe guitarists an affordable entry point into the bright world of acoustic guitars. A lot like the Yamaha above, the Epiphone is a large-bodied Dreadnought that, despite its minuscule price tag, delivers a fantastic tone.
Utilizing the tried and true formula of a spruce top and mahogany back and sides, the DR-100 brings you the classic sound of an Epiphone guitar in spades, couple that with nicely finished fret ends and reasonable hardware, and you have a guitar that's perfect for kicking off your musical journey or reigniting the passion for guitar that you once lost.
While it's fair to say that the Epiphone has "better" guitars in its vast catalog – the Epiphone Hummingbird studio springs to mind – it's still mind-boggling to see how much guitar you get for your money with the humble DR-100. This stylish six-string is affordable, playable, and sounds excellent – and is easily one of the best acoustic guitars under $500.
Read our full Epiphone DR-100 review
D'Angelico has been going from strength to strength since they made their triumphant return to the world of guitars, and the Premier Gramercy LS proves the company can do entry-level acoustic as well as anyone else – if not better.
The Gramercy LS employs a satin mahogany body for a timeless aesthetic, which produces a warm and mellow tone. In our view, this is a great guitar for strummers or finger-pickers alike, as it has a tone that feels equally at home with either technique. In addition, the neck has the familiar slim profile we've come to expect from D'Angelico and will most certainly fit the hands of most players.
Now, as we are at the top-end of the "cheap" price bracket, we'll start to see extras included with our new guitar, mostly in the form of onboard electronics. The Gramercy LS comes loaded with a D'Angelico branded preamp and tuner, which transforms this entry-level, beginner-friendly guitar into something that is capable of taking center stage at an open mic night.
It's also worth noting that this beautiful guitar comes in three distinct finish options, natural Mahogany, aged Mahogany, and Satin Vintage Sunburst.
One look at the stylish Newporter, and you know it breaks the rather uptight mold of the traditional acoustic guitar. Gone is the usual color palette of beige and brown in favor of the legendary custom finishes Fender is known for, with the likes of Candy Apple Red, Champagne, Olive Satin, and Ice Blue Satin all making an appearance.
But wait, the radical changes don't stop at a mere paint job. The Newporter also benefits from a super-thin – almost electric in style – neck, which features the iconic Fender 6-in-line headstock to complete the look.
Don't worry, it isn't all style over substance. We found that this solid top Fender acoustic is well made, super reliable, and, better yet, it sounds phenomenal. Throw in a Fishman preamp system, and you have a guitar that is sure to last you a lifetime – all for a price that's as attractive as its gorgeous finish.
Read our full Fender California Newporter Player Acoustic review
For many players, when they think of cheap – but well-made – acoustic guitars, they immediately think of Tanglewood, especially our brothers over the pond, where Tanglewood is officially Britain's best-selling acoustic guitar maker.
In truth, there were several different guitars from Tanglewood that we could've chosen for this list, but the smoky charcoal finish of the Blackbird series drew us in with its understated charm – not to mention its tiny price tag.
We find the super folk body to be extremely comfortable, especially for those who struggle with the cumbersome nature of a dreadnought or jumbo. Also, the smaller size delivers a tighter, more focused tone, ideal for fingerpicking.
Takamine has long been a force to be reckoned with in the acoustic guitar space, with legendary players such as Jon Bon Jovi, Simon Neil, and The Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen, all employing these Japanese guitars to achieve their stellar tones. However, there is one problem: these finely crafted guitars don't come cheap. The high-end price tag of the Pro Series can price them out of reach for many, but don't worry, there is another option – enter the G series.
The G Series brings the look, feel, and quality you know and love from Takamine, but at a fraction of the cost, and is perfect for working musicians and beginners alike. We could've chosen any of the low-cost G Series guitars for this list, but the Takamine GN11M-NS spoke to us the most.
The Takamine GN11M-NS may be carved from Sapele rather than mahogany, but it still shares many of the prized tonewood's favorable characteristics, producing a rich, warm tone that's both complex and balanced – and we think it looks pretty sweet as well.
If you are looking for a reliable – yet affordable – on-stage companion, the Alvarez Regent Series RG260CESB electric-acoustic may just be the ticket. Featuring a grand auditorium body shape, bi-level bridge, and scalloped bracing, this guitar offers a high spec'd instrument at a very accessible price.
Opting for the classic combination of a spruce top and mahogany back and sides, this Alvarez produces a timeless tone. We found the bass frequencies to be warm and tight, with a sparkling top end that could easily convince the most discerning guitarist that they are playing a guitar twice the price.
We feel that the RG260CE is more than just an entry-level student model. Instead, it's a well-made, fantastic-sounding acoustic that punches well above its weight.
Best cheap acoustic guitars: Buying advice
How to choose the best cheap acoustic guitar for you
One of the most important things to consider when shopping for a cheap acoustic is the tone of your new guitar, and with acoustics, this comes from the shape of the body and the materials used.
Let's start with the shape of the guitar. The general rule of thumb is that the bigger the body, the bigger the sound. Jumbos and dreadnoughts will produce a deeper, more bass-heavy tone, while the grand auditorium, folk, or parlor guitars will benefit from a tighter low-end, and more focused mid-range.
The wood used to construct the guitar also plays a massive role in the instrument's overall tone, with different wood types bringing their unique sonic characteristics to the table. Mahogany, for example, is favored for its mellow, smooth tone, while maple produces a brighter, snappier sound. Tried and true combinations such as a spruce top and rosewood back and sides offer a well-balanced tone that the majority of players enjoy. As to which is suitable for you? Our advice is to try a few out and see what speaks to you the most.
What we look for in a cheap acoustic guitar
As we alluded to up top, it's not good enough for a guitar just to be cheap, it must also meet our exceedingly high standards before we feel comfortable recommending it to our readers. So, for us at Guitar World, we are looking for a guitar that is enjoyable to play, looks the part, and, of course, sounds as good as other guitars in a higher price bracket.
We strongly believe that just because you are looking at guitars at the bottom end of the price spectrum, it doesn't mean you should miss out on a quality instrument. The best cheap acoustic guitars feature comfortable necks, well-dressed frets, impeccable finishes, and valuable extras such as an onboard preamp and acoustic pickup.
What brands make the best cheap acoustic guitars?
Luckily, if you are looking for a cheap acoustic guitar, you no longer need to slum it with an off-brand, no-name axe as all the acoustic guitar-heavy hitters offer fantastic guitars at this price point, with Fender, Epiphone, Yamaha, and D'Angelico to name a few.
In our opinion, it's better to stick to branded guitars if you can, as the quality control is far better, with there being little to no issues with elements such as the frets, saddle or electronics. Historic brands such as Fender, Epiphone, and Gretsch have been making guitars for decades, so they know a thing or two about the craft, so for us, we feel more confident parting with our cash when we know there's a little history attached to the guitar we are purchasing.
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