Guitar World Staff Picks: Paul Riario’s Top 5 Acoustic Guitars of 2012

Two thousand twelve seemed to be the year of the acoustic.

With hits like “I Will Wait” from Mumford & Sons or “Home” by Phillip Phillips, a host of this year’s most popular songs featured an acoustic guitar as the prominent instrument fueling the tune. Even mega-stars like Katy Perry took notice and stripped away the electronic beats of her hit song “The One That Got Away” to deliver a sensitive acoustic performance of it.

So, sticking with this trend, I’d say it’s a good time to consider going unplugged and writing that next hit we’ll all be singing along to next year. Find the acoustic room, check out my top five picks and find the one that won’t go away.

05. Fender USA Select Kingman “C”

Fender is primarily known for its electric guitars, like the legendary Stratocaster and Telecaster as well as many other iconic models, but not so much for their acoustic instruments. Well, I can tell you the Fender USA Select Kingman “C” ($2,660) will make you change your mind about that.

The Kingman “C” rules with a commanding acoustic voice and playfully marries all the things guitarists love about the Stratocaster into it: vintage C-shaped maple neck with rolled edges, dual-action truss rod and Stratocaster headstock — just like its electric counterpart.

It comes in a head-turning Fiesta Red gloss finish on its Engelmann spruce top with mahogany back and sides and sounds every bit as good when plugged into the built-in Fishman Matrix Infinity electronics.

It's a fun guitar that sounds amazing unplugged.

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04. Taylor 316ce

Taylor is widely known as the performer's choice for an electric-acoustic. Everyone from Taylor Swift to Jason Mraz employs a Taylor as their acoustic for the stage. However, for those of us who can’t swing some of the pricier Taylors those artists use, the 300 Series is a great mid-point for an excellent Taylor acoustic.

The 316ce ($2,238) features a grand symphony body that translates to a wider waist and hefty lower bout to deliver its brawny voice. The 316ce features sapele back and sides, which is very similar to mahogany in tone, but the gloss-finish sitka spruce top evens out its stout midrange to respond with volume and brightness.

Taylor’s integrated Expression system electronics is renowned for its pure sound and simple ergonomic controls, and plugging into a PA or an acoustic amp you really get to hear the wood of this robust acoustic.

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03. Cordoba Fusion12 Maple

Cordoba is a brand known for making exquisite classical guitars, but with the Fusion 12 Maple ($960), you have a nylon-stringed guitar that has the feel of a steel string acoustic but combines old-world construction (like its traditional Spanish heel) and modern appointments like a thinner neck profile, narrower 1.89-inch nut-width (compared to classical 2.04-inch nut width), radiused fingerboard and C-shaped neck.

The Fusion 12 Maple sounds bright and lively, thanks to its flamed maple back and sides and solid European spruce top. It’s a great acoustic if you want to crossover to a lightweight nylon-stringed guitar and still have the same ease of playability of your favorite steel string.

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02. Yamaha AC1R

The AC1R ($1,050) is part of Yamaha’s award-winning A Series of acoustic-electric guitars. This particular series was designed as a workhorse acoustic for live performances and I can tell you, it delivers.

The concert-sized AC1R features a slim profile on its mahogany neck, which is great for moving across the fretboard with ease. It also features a solid sitka spruce top, ebony bridge, and rosewood back and sides. The A series come in many different models — for example, mahogany back and sides — but as a personal preference, I love the sound of rosewood for back and sides on an acoustic.

To my ears, it’s richer and warmer, especially if you do a great deal of strumming. The SRT (Studio Response Technology) piezo/pickup electronics are excellent and gig-worthy even if they seem more bulky than other onboard electronic systems.

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01. Martin OM-28E Retro

Martin Guitars is considered a classic brand, and earlier this year Martin introduced its vintage-inspired Retro Series with four of its most noteworthy and iconic acoustic models (D-18E, D-45E, HD-28E and OM28E) and equipped them with Fishman’s superb F1 Aura Plus electronics that have been infused with “modeled” tones from original “museum-quality” examples of the guitars mentioned.

I could pick just about any one of the Retro Series as a true winner, but I think the OM-28E ($4,499) is by far the most comfortable and beautifully voiced acoustic of the bunch.

What’s more is the plugged-in sound of the OM-28E is just plain captivating and warm, especially if you plan on using this acoustic for live performances.

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I try very hard to remain under the radar despite being on camera as gear editor, but in this age of social media it was only a matter of time before it had to come to this. So with that, I will make my blog painless and a quick and easy read so you can get on to more important things like practicing guitar and sweep picking, or if you’re like me, obsessing how to race the Tour De France and trying to be Kristen Stewart’s next mistake. I will use this blog to inform you of things I find cool; like new gear I’m playing through and what I’m watching, reading or listening to at any given moment. So feel free to ask me anything that’s gear related — or if you have a problem with your girlfriend, you know, life lesson stuff, I’m pretty good at that too — and I’ll do my best to answer or address it here.