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Best acoustic guitars 2021: 12 top options for guitarists of all ages and abilities

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Best acoustic guitars 2021: 12 top options for guitarists of all ages and abilities
(Image credit: Future)

There's never been a better time to buy an acoustic guitar. We know it sounds bold, but the sheer volume of guitars on the market at the moment makes finding the best acoustic an exhilarating prospect. 

With instruments from an incredibly diverse group of manufacturers to choose from, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with too many choices. We call it 'analysis paralysis'. 

Whatever your budget - and whatever style you play - we guarantee one of these top acoustic guitars will be perfect for you, and this guide is here to help you pick your favorite. With entry-level acoustics from the likes of Epiphone, Yamaha, Martin and Taylor, through to high-end heavyweights from Gibson and Fender, we’ve got you covered. 

Are you looking for a great deal on the best acoustic guitars this Cyber Monday? Check out our Cyber Monday guitar deals page for the latest news, and the best offers around.

Our choices are presented in price order so you can easily find the right one for your budget. We’ve also scoured the web to find the best prices, saving you any legwork in that department, too.

Best acoustic guitars: Our top picks

Putting together 'best of' lists is always a blast because every guitar we present is, in its own way, truly brilliant. But if we had to choose one acoustic guitar to last us the rest of our lives, at a push we'd probably opt for the Martin D-28.

When you think of some of the biggest acts in music history – The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley – it's hard not to associate them with this beautiful acoustic guitar. The modern-day iteration improves on earlier models with better bracing and a tapered neck, yet these changes only serve to enhance what is music's ultimate acoustic workhorse.

Our budget-friendly choice would be the Yamaha FG800. Yamaha's reputation is one founded on quality and value for money, and the FG800 epitomises that. It's not the cheapest option on our list, but we'd say it's worth spending a bit more to get to that next level of quality. 

Best acoustic guitars: Product guide

Best acoustic guitars: Epiphone DR-100 with spruce top, mahogany back and sides

(Image credit: Epiphone)

1. Epiphone DR-100

Just starting out? This is the best acoustic guitar for you

Launch price: $149/£129
Body: Spruce Top, Mahogany Back & Sides
Neck: Mahogany neck
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Electronics: None
Reasons to buy
+Great sound+Quality belies the price+Neck is a joy to play
Reasons to avoid
-Not much for the price

Entry-level guitars have no right sounding this good! When you're looking for a beginner option, you're looking for something that will encourage you to keep picking it up. At this stage of your playing career, you don't need to spend lots of money.

You do, however, need to keep in mind that if the guitar you're learning on sounds terrible, or is hard to play, then you'll likely give up. The market is awash with sub-$100 own-brand acoustics, however proceed with one of these at your peril. 

Instead, consider a reliable acoustic like the Epiphone DR-100. Built by one of the guitar world's biggest brands, the DR-100 is an entry-level acoustic with the feel of something far more prestigious. Here you can expect solid tones, reliability and a guitar that will inspire you to keep playing it. Forget the low price. This is a well-made guitar that will set you up nicely for the musical journey ahead.

Best acoustic guitars: Yamaha FG800 with walnut fingerboard

(Image credit: Yamaha)

2. Yamaha FG800

Could this be your ideal ‘second guitar’?

Launch price: $199/£259
Bobdy: Solid Spruce Top, Nato/Mahogany Back & Sides
Neck: Mahogany
Fingerboard: Walnut fingerboard
Electronics : None
Reasons to buy
+A best-seller, for good reason+Superb construction and build quality+Sounds incredible
Reasons to avoid
-No electronics

This guitar can be found in most places for less than $200. This price bracket is awash with acoustic guitars from all kinds of brands, but when we think about the best in this region, we're drawn to the Yamaha FG800. Put simply, the sound this guitar produces makes it worth the money alone.

This is largely down to features like scalloped bracing, which boosts the low end sound, and the solid spruce top, which is normally found on higher end instruments. All of which adds up to make the FG800 a highly credible guitar. You'll struggle to find a (relatively) inexpensive acoustic which matches up.

Best acoustic guitars: Martin LX1E Little Martin with sitka spruce top with High Pressure Laminate back and sides

(Image credit: Martin)

3. Martin LX1E Little Martin

Hey, if it’s good enough for Ed Sheeran…

Launch price: $499/£499
Body: Sitka Spruce Top, High Pressure Laminate Back & Sides
Neck: Rust Birch Laminate
Fingerboard: Richlite
Electronics: Fishman Sonitone electronics
Reasons to buy
+Martin quality at an affordable price+Superb for younger players+Don't underestimate its tonal potential
Reasons to avoid
-Not for those with larger hands

The Martin LX1E is a small-sized dreadnought with bags of appeal. It's marketed as a travel acoustic guitar, which can be thrown in the (included) gig bag to accompany you anywhere. Spend a bit of time with one, however, and you'll see it has more to offer than as a mere travel companion.

Despite the price and compact size, being a Martin it still has enough quality to deliver exceptional tone. The onboard Fishman Sonitone electronics make it ideal for hooking up to an amp, while the choice of rigid High Pressure Laminate mahogany means it can withstand years of use.

Best acoustic guitars: Taylor GS Mini with solid sitka spruce with sapele back and sides

(Image credit: Taylor)

4. Taylor GS Mini

Smaller body, big sound. This is the best acoustic guitar for home use

Launch price: $499/£529
Body: Solid Sitka Spruce, Sapele Back & Sides
Neck: Sapele
Fingerboard: Ebony
Electronics: ES2 electronics
Reasons to buy
+Build quality is superb+Plays perfectly+Has its own unique voice
Reasons to avoid
-Hard to find any

Next up is something approaching bona fide classic status in the acoustic guitar world. The Taylor GS Mini was launched in 2011 and bridged the gap between travel guitars and fully-fledged workhorse acoustics wonderfully.

The GS Mini is essentially a scaled down version of the popular Taylor Grand Symphony-shaped acoustic. Its smaller size makes it ideal for leaving around the house, ready to pick up and play while you're waiting for the microwave to ping. 

But, with the included ES2 pickup, it can also make the leap to performance, making it ideal no matter what situation you find yourself in.

Best acoustic guitars: Epiphone Inspired By Gibson J-45

(Image credit: Epiphone )

5. Epiphone Inspired By Gibson J-45

The workhorse just got more affordable

Launch price: $699/£611
Body: Solid Sitka Spruce Top, Solid Mahogany Back & Sides
Neck: Mahogany
Fingerboard: Indian laurel with Mother of Pearl dot inlays
Electronics : Fishman Sonicore
Reasons to buy
+All solid-wood construction+Aged finishes give them a worn-in feel+Fantastic value 
Reasons to avoid
-We would prefer a rosewood fingerboard 

The J-45 has been spotted slung around the shoulders of many notable players new and old through the years, from Bob Dylan to Billie Joe Armstrong, Woody Guthrie and Myles Kennedy. Favoured for its understated looks and folksy charm, the guitar would go on to get the nickname “The Workhorse”, as it was seen as the working man’s flattop. The loud, attention-grabbing tone contrasts its subtle beauty, with a rich low-end and singing mid-range means it’s always heard, no matter the situation. 

If you’ve been following the prices of the Gibson J-45 over the last few years, then you’ll have noticed a rather sizable increase - you won’t get much change back from $/£2500 right now - and it’s looking like the prices won’t be coming down anytime soon. 

Luckily Epiphone has been busy meticulously recreating the iconic sloped shoulder dreadnought - and at a far more affordable price! Featuring an all solid-wood construction, quarter-sawn spruce bracing and tapered dovetail neck joint, Epiphone really has gone out its way to nail every detail and pay tribute to the famous acoustic. Every element has been carefully considered, even down to the finish. Gone is the thick plastic-feeling lacquer, in favour of a soft and supple aged finish that is a delight to play. 

So if you are looking for those classic acoustic sounds of yesteryear, but don’t want to fork out a small fortune, it’s definitely worth considering this fantastic guitar. 

Read our full Epiphone Inspired By Gibson J-45 review 

Best acoustic guitars: Taylor 110e

(Image credit: Taylor)

6. Taylor 110e

The best acoustic guitar for intermediate players

Launch price: $799/£711
Body: Sitka Top, Walnut Back & Sides
Neck: Sapele
Fingerboard : Ebony
Electronics: Taylor Expression System 2
Reasons to buy
+Ideal for strummers and finger-pickers alike+Noticeable jump in quality from entry-level+Electronics retain warmth and clarity
Reasons to avoid
-Only one finish

So you've been playing a while and you're ready to spread your wings. Your playing proficiency has developed and you've nailed those techniques that caused you so much anguish at the start. Where to now? We'd say you deserve a new acoustic guitar that reflects your hard-earned progress.

The Taylor 110e might just be that guitar. Sitting in the bracket in between first guitars and professional heavyweights, the 110e is a fine example of everything just done better. 

The sitka wood produces a gloriously welcoming sound, and the onboard Taylor Expression System 2 electronics make it ideal for live performance. And, being a Taylor, you can expect a certain degree of quality all round.

Best acoustic guitars: Takamine P3NY

(Image credit: Takamine)

7. Takamine P3NY

This parlor guitar is perfect for pickers

Launch price: $1,449/£1,294
Body: Cedar Top, Sapele Back & Sides
Neck: Mahogany
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Electronics: Palathetic Pickup, CT4B II Preamp
Reasons to buy
+Small body, big sound+In-built tuner is a joy to use+3 band EQ is great for sculpting your sound
Reasons to avoid
-Lacks the booming sound of a bigger guitar

We're big fans of a good parlor guitar here at Guitar World. With a slightly smaller body than a regular dreadnought size, they are perfect for folk who like... folk. And other genres, too. But where they excel is in the hands of someone who knows how to use their hands. Make sense?

The Takamine P3NY is a great example, and gets our nod as the best acoustic guitar for fingerpickers. Combining cedar and sapele tone woods with some pretty advanced electronics, you get a guitar that is comfortable in the hands of any players. 

What’s more, employing something called a 'palathetic pickup' – which articulates each string individually – it copes superbly with live performance at any volume.

Best acoustic guitars: Martin SC-13E

(Image credit: Martin)

A bold, thoroughly modern and brilliant crossover design

Launch price: $1,499/£1,539
Body: Sitka Spruce Top, Mahogany and Koa Veneer Back & Sides
Neck: Select Hardwood
Fingerboard: Ebony
Electronics: Fishman MX-T w/Sonicore Pre-Amp
Reasons to buy
+Slinky performance+Well-balanced acoustic tones+Electronics are very impressive+Ergonomics are well thought-out
Reasons to avoid
-Maybe too radical for some

It pays not to stand on ceremony when you are designing a guitar. Let fresh thinking follow its own logic. That’s how we end up with guitars such as Martin’s SC-13E – an electro-acoustic the likes of which we have never seen before.

Look at the body shape for a start, that squashed offset cutaway tears up the rulebook. That’s just for starters; flip it over and you’ll see the Sure Align neck system, with that deep carve allowing for full access to the top of the neck. The system allows for on-the-fly neck pitch and intonation tweaks.

The top is Sitka spruce, the back and sides mahogany with a thin koa veneer for some visual pizazz. Martin saves the last of the fireworks for the playability, with an action so low that might catch those used to wrestling chords out of their acoustic unawares. This is a daring guitar, playable with a stunning voice that sits so well in a mix.

Read the full Martin SC-13E review

Best acoustic guitars: Gibson G-45 Standard

(Image credit: Gibson)

9. Gibson G-45 Standard

The best acoustic guitar for life on the road

Launch price: $1,299/£899
Body: Sitka Spruce Top, Walnut Back & Sides
Neck: Utile
Fingerboard: Richlite
Electronics: Fishman Sonitone
Reasons to buy
+A lot of guitar for the money+Comfortable to play+Tone is faultless
Reasons to avoid
-An EQ on the pickup would have been nice

When you think about a touring guitar, you think of something that sounds great, but is also built to withstand the rigors of life on the road. It's a fine balance, and one that requires a guitar which can live up to the demands. 

The Gibson G-45 is certainly one such animal. It displays superbly robust construction, which gives you the confidence you need to transport it from venue to venue, night after night. The included hardshell case is a welcome addition, too. 

But, being a Gibson acoustic, it also delivers a top quality sound with superb resonance. The Fishman Sonitone electronics also ensure you'll sound great no matter the size of the venue. 

Best acoustic guitars: Fender Acoustasonic Telecaster

(Image credit: Fender)

10. Fender Acoustasonic Telecaster

Juxtaposed Fender delivers superb variety of sounds

Launch price: $1,999/£1,709
Body: Lutz Spruce Top, Mahogany Body
Neck: Mahogany
Fingerboard: Ebony
Electronics: Fishman Enhancer
Reasons to buy
+Quality mash-up of acoustic and electric+Genuinely innovative guitar+Tonally useful in the studio or on-stage
Reasons to avoid
-Divisive aesthetic

Something of a curate's egg here. When you're looking for versatility in an acoustic, that usually means little more than it is at home being picked or strummed. With the Fender Acoustasonic, you get much more than that. 

Marrying up the projection and woody sounds of an acoustic, with the unique form and function of a Telecaster, this guitar is sure to turn heads. But, hidden behind the unique visual stylings is a guitar which gives you plenty of room to experiment. 

Some pretty advanced electronic trickery allows you to choose between a plethora of acoustic or Tele tones, or even blend them up to create something completely new. It's crazy but we like it.

Best acoustic guitars: Martin D-28

(Image credit: Martin)

11. Martin D-28

The best acoustic guitar for accomplished players

Launch price: $2,899/£2,650
Body: Solid Sitka Spruce Top, Solid East Indian Rosewood Back & Sides
Neck: Select Hardwood
Fingerboard: Ebony
Electronics: Optional
Reasons to buy
+A musical icon+Excels in any application+An investment that will last a lifetime
Reasons to avoid

The Martin D-28 is to acoustic guitars what the Porsche 911 is to cars. When you first start learning, it's the guitar you dream of owning. As you get better, you begin to appreciate what makes it so special. And, if you ever get to try one, you'll understand what all the fuss is about.

Famed for its favor among some of music's best-known names, the D-28 has cemented its place in music history over eight decades. Its rich, warm tones can be employed across any number of musical genres, while the build quality is about as good as it gets. Players of any standard, and of any style, should try one at least once in their lives. When you know, you know.

Best acoustic guitars: Gibson SJ-200 Deluxe

(Image credit: Gibson)

12. Gibson SJ-200 Deluxe

The best acoustic guitar for when money is no object

Launch price: $5,999/£4,690
Body: Solid Sitka Spruce Top, Rosewood Back & Sides
Neck: Mahogany
Fingerboard: Richlite
Electronics: LR Baggs VTC Electronics
Reasons to buy
+Glorious, full-blooded sound+Visually stunning+A treat to play
Reasons to avoid
-The price, but it is a luxury instrument

Rounding off the list we have something a bit special. Something from the extremes of acoustic guitar excellence. The Gibson SJ-200 Deluxe. Look at the ornamentation! Marvel at its pronounced curves! Recoil at that gargantuan price tag!

In reality, what we have here is a guitar to savour. Everything from the tonewoods employed to extract tones that'll make your knees wobble, through to the advanced LR Baggs electronics. The SJ-200 a fine example of what can happen when Gibson really puts its mind to it.

Best acoustic guitars: Buying advice

A Martin D28 acoustic guitar with solid East Indian rosewood body with solid sitka spruce top, resting on a distressed wooden panel

(Image credit: Martin)

A brief history of acoustic guitars 

Acoustic guitars have been around much longer than their electric counterparts, with very early incarnations dating back centuries. The steel-string acoustic guitar as we know it today can be traced back to the mid-1800s, and credit is largely given to CF Martin (of Martin Guitars). 

Martin created the first dreadnought guitar, which is still one of the most popular body shapes today. Things have come on a lot since then in terms of shapes, woods, features etc, so when looking for the best acoustic guitar, it’s important to consider a few key points before committing. 

Think about the sound you want, and what sort of music you’re playing - are you a singer songwriter looking to back up your vocals; are you playing mostly instrumental music, or playing in a full band? If you’re looking to play live, then a pickup will be useful. Budget plays a part when seeking the best acoustic guitar too - do you want something to learn on, or are you looking to upgrade to something that will last for years to come, with a good resale value? Gibson and Martin make some incredibly desirable acoustics, but the likes of Epiphone and Yamaha can still give you a great sound on a tighter budget.

Which acoustic guitar body shape should I go for?

The shape of an acoustic guitar’s body affects the sound, and how comfortable it is for you to play. If you’re of smaller stature, then you might find something with a smaller body easier to play, though of course, there are no set rules for this - it’s all subjective.

The body shape also affects tone and volume. If you think of the top of an acoustic guitar working a little like a speaker cone, then a bigger top can move more, thus making it louder when played hard. A guitar with a smaller top has less surface area to move, so it won’t project as much - even if you hit it with the same attack, you’ll reach its maximum headroom quicker. That’s not to say that bigger is always better - if you play with a lighter touch, then you’ll probably find that you get more response out of a smaller bodied acoustic; it will react better to your playing. 

Bigger-bodied guitars like the dreadnought and jumbos usually have a stronger bass response than smaller ones, as well as a tight top end. This leaves room for vocals to sit nicely in a mix. Smaller-bodied guitars like the concert are usually a little brighter and mid-focussed and grand concerts, which are the same shape but a little bigger, can provide a really nice balance. 

Which wood is best for my acoustic guitar? 

The woods used give an acoustic guitar a lot of its character. Solid wood is usually more preferable, as it moves more than laminated wood, giving you a richer sound. All solid wood (solid top, back and sides) comes at a premium price, and a solid top with laminate back and sides is a nice halfway point. 

Spruce is a popular wood for the top as it provides a sweet, balanced tone - it’s warm, with a nice top end too. Other widely used top woods include mahogany, cedar and maple.

The wood used for the back and sides tends to differ more. Mahogany is used a lot, and has a nice mid-rangey sound that people sometimes describe as ‘woody’ or ‘earthy’. Rosewood is usually complex sounding, with strong highs and lows, as well as fairly pronounced mids - basically, it’s really present, but is often expensive, and walnut usually sits between the two. There are however lots of different wood combinations out there, all of which yield different tones.

Gibson SJ200 sound hole with LR Baggs pickup

(Image credit: Future)

Do you need an acoustic guitar pickup? 

Want to amplify your acoustic guitar? You’ll either need to stick a mic in front of it, or get one with a built-in pickup (an electro-acoustic). If you’re playing gigs or open-mic nights then getting one of the best acoustic guitars with a pickup will be very useful. Alternatively, you can buy yourself one of the best acoustic guitar pickups if you've already got a killer acoustic guitar. The quality of sound you get from the pickups tends to go up alongside cost.  

What should you pay for an acoustic guitar? 

When buying an acoustic guitar, you get what you pay for. On more premium guitars, you’ll get better quality woods which yield a better sound. You’ll also get better hardware - this consists of things like the tuners and the bridge, which can affect tuning stability and how well the guitar resonates. You also pay more for better build construction which can help your guitar last longer and play better.

That said, there are good budget acoustic guitars that balance all the above with cost. If you’re just starting out, you can pick up a good beginner-friendly acoustic for around $150-200. If you’re upgrading, then you’ll likely see some improvements in tone and playability around the $700-1,000 mark, and if you’re seeking a pro instrument, depending on what you want, you’ll likely be looking at around $1,500+.  

How to look after your acoustic guitar 

All guitars benefit from a regular restring with a set of the best acoustic guitar strings. Whilst you’re doing that, you can also clean the body and fingerboard to keep it looking and playing well. Acoustic guitars do absorb moisture and dry out too, which can affect the action. Keeping the guitar in a case can help with this, plus you can also buy guitar humidifiers that keep them from drying out. 

Chris Corfield

Chris Corfield is a journalist with over 12 years of experience writing for some of the music world's biggest brands including Orange Amplification, MusicRadar, Guitar World Total Guitar and Dawsons Music. Chris loves getting nerdy about everything from guitar gear and synths, to microphones and music production hardware.