How to buy an acoustic guitar -comparing guitars based on price range

How to buy an acoustic guitar:

Buying an acoustic guitar, whether it is your first purchase, your 5th purchase, or a gift for someone else, can be quite a confusing process because of the incredible variety of brands, models, and tone woods used in making them, believe me, I've been there.  After a disappointment with my first beginner acoustic guitar, I studied guitar companies, construction, tone woods, machinery, craftsmanship, finishes, and on-board electronics, for over 3 years before buying the guitar that I still own to this day.  Through all of the “soul” searching, I can now confidently study a guitar and it's makeup, and be able to tell whether it is a good value for the retail price within a few minutes.  In this report, I will break down what I learned through that process, and what kind of guitar that would suit you based on several factors, including:
  • budget
  • your playing experience
  • sound profile (personality)
  • size of the guitar
  • size of the player
  • brand
  • tone woods used
  • tuning machines
  • style of the player
  • on board equipment
  • and more
The Budget Driven Guitar Player: Excellent Acoustic Guitars based on your budget 
Which one fits your wallet?
Following are 5 basic price ranges, and in each price category we will recommend a few guitars that we believe are the highest quality in several areas.  Believe it or not, we have actually found guitars costing over $1000 that should have been tagged less than $200 because the craftsmanship and quality were simply not worth the investment. Additionally, we have found guitars for under $1000 that could easily compete with guitars that cost $2000 - $3000.
The Budget Beginner $175-$400 :  In this range, there is certainly a lot of variance between models and companies.  You can expect to find some very poorly constructed guitars in this range, as well as some surprisingly well-built models that would be suitable for intermediate and some professional players for many songs and playing styles.  Many guitars in this range do not consistently use tone woods that are considered “standard”, wile others may even resort to laminates or cheap tone-wood alternates.  The purpose of this review is to steer you away from disappointing pitfalls of buying a guitar strictly on the price.  Therefore, we have tested and compiled a list of guitars that suit the budget player while still being of high enough quality to support the player as he or she grows into a more advanced player.  You don't have to take our word for it, so each guitar below will be linked to another site where you can read more reviews.



The Budget Intermediate Guitar Player $400-$750:  In this range there is as much variance as in any other lower-budget to moderately priced range guitars.  There are acutally some guitars on the market in this price range that do not hold up to some of the standards we mentioned in the $175 - $400 range, and we will steer you away from those disappointing models, yet one would expect to find most guitars in this Budget Intermediate Guitar Range to be better in quality and playability than those in less expensive price brackets.  Some of the differences that distinguish guitars in this range from guitars in the "under $400" range include different features like:
  • cutaway options
  • rosewood sides and back
  • more ornate inlays (decoration)
  • more options with the lacquer finish
  • potentially higher quality tuners and keys
  • other tone wood options

Though there are plenty of quality guitars in the lower budget range, the guitars in the $400 - $750 range should be considered for the player who is a little more picky on the tone quality, the long-term playability, a few more tone wood options, acoustic electric options (with some), more sophistocated designs and ornaments and other subtleties.

In this beginner- intermediate range, we will divide them into two groups for more clarity: Acoustic and Acoustic Electric.   Acoustic electric guitars come equipped with some kind of electrontic pick-up (various manufacturers) that allow the acoustic guitar to be played alone or plugged into an amp.  Essentially, almost any acoustic guitar can later be fitted with on-board electronics to plug into an amp.  Choosing the right kind of pick-up system for the truly picky guitar ear is another set of reviews in itself as differnt picku sytstems have different pros and cons.   We will review pickus in a different section as most of these acoustic electric guitars come with a pickup that is fairly decent for a beginner or intermediate player.  The more advanced player perhaps would be more specific when shopping around for different pickup systems as he or she would have a definite sense of the sound profile and versatility he or she would want from the pickup.  For these following reviews, the pickup systems will be recommended as high quality for this price range of guitar.
The Budget Professional Guitar Player $750-$1100:
Above the budget intermediate guitar range are the more bottom line high quality professional grade guitars.  This is the range of guitars where my newbie friend almost blew $1100 dollard on an inferior model because of the great brand name.   Fortunately, I was able to redirect him to a much finer instrument and he is happier today for having asked me before making the investment.
Although there is no clear cut line as to the exact cutoff for grading a guitar based on price in it's ability to support more advance players, these guitars will be similar to some in the previous price range, yet they may have more options, and perhaps different quality of tonewoods, more body styles and more "bells and whistles".  While a player may be equally satisfied with perhaps a Taylor guitar in the previous price range, he or she may find the different sizes, options, electronics and the cutaway to be more suitable to advanced techniques, especially when playing scales further up the neck.    Additionally in this next price ranger are some very high quality Left-Handed guitars for the much neglected southpaw.    Every guitar suggested here will be comparable in quality.  The differences will be based on body styles and more particular slections of the tonewoods used for the back and sides, as well as onboard electronics differences.   You may want to review some of these guitars and compare them side by side to see the subtle differences.
Moving up the professional and studio lines: $1100-$2500
The Martin D28 set the standard for the Dreadnought guitar model- the most popular body style of acoustic guitars today.  We will be adding more guitars to this section as we review more.  View more about the industry standard trend setter, the Martin D28 here:
Moving up the professional pay-scale: above $2500
Gutars for the Smaller player
(brigher sounding mini -more projection of sound)

(warmer, richer sounding mini)

Martin LX1 Little Martin Acoustic Guitar

Some celebrity models to consider:

High End Eric Clapton parlor body size (smaller than dreadnought)
Martin 00028EC 6-string Eric Clapton Acoustic Guitar with Case

Dave Matthews model:
Taylor Guitars DMSM Dave Matthews Signature Model Grand Auditorium Acoustic Electric Guitar

Some other higher end, professional and recording, studio models

Orchestra model
Martin 1-Series OM-1 Orchestra Model Acoustic Guitar Natural

Gibson Songwriter 3349
Gibson Songwriter Deluxe Custom EC Acoustic-Electric Guitar, Antique Natural