Best Value Acoustic Guitars in 2020 – Comprehensive Reviews

Best Value Acoustic Guitars in 2020 – Comprehensive Reviews

Acoustic guitar is my favorite instrument; it’s versatile, fun to play, sounds beautiful, and are generally pretty affordable.

We’ve taken a look at some of the best acoustics on the market to bring you this list of the best acoustic guitars for the money. These guitars give you the most bang for your buck, the best chords for your cash, the best rhythm for your riches, the best playing for your paying.

They’re all high quality instruments — sure, not the most expensive or extravagant guitars in existence — but of comparable value, all definitely worth the cost.

From absolute beginners to world touring pros, there’s an acoustic on this list for every level guitarist.

Our Recommendation

With such a great lineup of guitars, it’s hard to choose the best one, but I’m going to have to go with the Martin D-15M. Its handmade high quality craftsmanship delivers a tone that can’t be beat, and it’s the kind of guitar that can truly last a lifetime.

It’s also quite a challenge to pick the least among the best, but considering its shortcomings –namely, the laminate top, wide neck, and low-end balsamo fingerboard and bridge wood– I’m sticking the Luna Gypsy Exotic Spalt Grand Auditorium in the bottom spot. Still a beautiful and nice sounding guitar, but the least of the best.

Best Acoustic Guitars For The Money – Overview

#7 Luna Gyspsy Exotic Spalt Grand Auditorium

3.5/5 Star Rating

Specs

  • Top – Laminate Spruce with Spalted Maple veneer
  • Body – Mahogany
  • Neck – Mahogany
  • Fingerboard – Balsamo

Pros

  • Super beautiful veneer
  • Cutaway for easy upper fret access
  • Spruce + mahogany tonewood combo for classic acoustic sound

Cons

  • Wide neck hard to play for small handed players or total beginners
  • Laminate top

Review

I became a fan of Luna brand guitars when my best friend bought one for his three year old daughter. I wasn’t much into flashy pretty guitars up to this point, but after playing around with hers, I decided to give Luna a bit more credit than I previously thought they deserved.

Experienced players might first turn their nose up to this brand, and I understand. For the most part, instruments that have such a focus on being aesthetically pleasing often lack in the most important aspects, such as playability and tone.

Luna does skimp a little bit on these more important points, using a laminate spruce top rather than solid wood and rather old-fashioned wide C-shaped necks, but with all things considered still produce some pretty good acoustics.

The Gypsy Exotic Spalt is certainly beautiful, and it really doesn’t sound half bad at all. It’s got a pretty standard tone, nothing to gawk about, but its intonation is good and it’s pretty evenly balanced throughout the ranges.

For the price, it’s hard to find a decent cutaway acoustic, and it’s so pretty that you can easily forget about the laminate top after a few minutes playing.

#6 Yamaha FG850

4/5 Star Rating

Specs

  • Top – Solid Mahogany
  • Body – Mahogany
  • Neck – Nato
  • Fingerboard – Rosewood

Pros

  • Top-of-the-line in Yamaha’s renowned FG series
  • Great deep mahogany tone
  • Rosewood bridge transmits pure tones

Cons

  • Nonstandard nato neck wood

Review

Nearly every “best guitars” review has at least one Yamaha in it, and this one is no exception.

We at BeginnerGuitar are big fans of the Yamaha FG and F series, having previously raved about the FG800, and the FG830.

The FG850 is among the top of this line, with a full mahogany body giving you the type of rich, warm, dark notes that make blues and folk music strike deep into the souls of audience and musician alike.

Yamaha could do just a bit better on this line if they used a neck wood other than nato, but for the price it’s totally acceptable and performs beyond expectations.

They use the traditional rosewood fingerboard and bridge to keep the tone even and natural anywhere and anyway you play it, and keep it in tune with high quality Yamaha designed tuning machines.

I love the FG series, and this is the best guitar Yamaha offers in this line. For beginners to pros, it’s bound to be a crowd-pleaser.

#5 Yamaha Storia I

4.25/5 Star Rating

Specs

  • Top – Solid Spruce
  • Body – Mahogany
  • Neck – Nato
  • Fingerboard – Walnut

Pros

  • Concert body comfortable for all size players
  • Walnut fingerboard for balanced tones and smooth playability
  • Spruce + mahogany tonewood combo produces terrific tone

Cons

  • Nato neck, like most Yamaha acoustics

Review

This was my first chance to check out Yamaha’s Storia series, and I was won over immediately.

I’m not an exceptionally small person, but I think concert style bodies, like the one found on this Storia I, are much more comfortable to hold and to play than the standard acoustic dreadnought.

Although smaller than a dreadnought, no sound is sacrificed with this body design, and Yamaha’s innovative bracing patterns ensure that every note carries through with clarity and full-bodied beauty.

Speaking of beauty, the Storia I is a delight to look at. Its cream colored solid spruce top contrasts with the mahogany back and sides to create an instrument that is just as much a piece of art as it is a functioning guitar.

It has minimal electronic capabilities, but if the need arises to plug in, the Storia I is ready to go with a Yamaha passive undersaddle pickup and 1/4″ jack located in the bottom bout’s strap button.

Designed with beginners in mind but engineered for professional sound, the Yamaha Storia I can meet nearly all your musical demands. Thinking about a Yamaha but want to play on nylon strings? The Yamaha C40 might be right for you.

#4 Seagull Entourage Autumn Burst

4.25/5 Star Rating

Specs

  • Top – Solid Spruce
  • Body – Wild Cherry
  • Neck – Silverleaf Maple
  • Fingerboard – Indian Rosewood

Pros

  • Slim neck profile for easy, comfortable playing
  • Bright, cheery sound
  • Ethically sourced local tonewoods

Cons

  • Sound can be too bright when played heavy-handed

Review

If you’ve been perusing our acoustic guitar articles, you’ll know we love Seagull guitars here.

All bearing the signature of quality that comes from master luthier Robert Godin, there isn’t a single guitar in their inventory that disappoints.

The Seagull Entourage Autumn Burst is a beautiful acoustic made in the guitar-crafting center of La Patrie, Quebec.

Combining a solid spruce top with wild cherry back and sides gives the Entourage a bright, vibrant sound that is great for genres like bluegrass and blues. It has a definitive mid-range that speaks loud and proud, with lows and highs coming in at a nice balance.

All Seagull guitars tapered headstocks designed to keep you in perfect tune through hours of playing. They’re well-intoned, have pleasantly low action, and are made to sound better the older they get.

Try out the Seagull Entourage for just a few minutes, and I’m sure you won’t be disappointed a bit. You might also be interested in our review of the Seagull S6 Original.

#3 Taylor Academy 10

4.25/5 Star Rating

Specs

  • Top – Solid Sitka Spruce
  • Body – Sapele
  • Neck – Hard Rock Maple
  • Fingerboard – West African Ebony

Pros

  • A Taylor model built with beginners in mind
  • Loud dreadnought body shape with integrated armrest
  • Taylor trademark slim neck design for easy chords and riffing

Cons

  • Slightly shorter neck not ideal for players who want standard acoustic

Review

One of my favorite offerings on the lower end of Taylor Guitars is the Taylor Academy 10.

Taylor made this guitar as a student instrument, but it holds up to their professional standards in all ways.

This acoustic was designed for comfort. Although it’s built with the large body style of regular dreadnought acoustics, it has a sloping armrest between the bouts that is gracefully curved to accommodate for the fatigue that can plague inexperienced players.

They also took into account the hand and finger pain that comes with learning guitar, reducing the neck both in width and length to allow for easy playing up and down the fretboard.

With these few quirks, nothing was lost in the Academy 10’s tone. It still sings like any other Taylor, with a solid spruce top and sapele back and sides projecting a bold, powerful acoustic tone from its dreadnought body.

A beginner guitar from Taylor is a professional grade guitar by any other standard, and as far as $500 can get you, this is one of the best options on the market.

If the Academy 10 is too large for you but you still want a Taylor, check out our review of the Taylor Big Baby.

#2 Blueridge BR-140 Historic Series

5/5 Star Rating

Specs

  • Top – Solid Sitka Spruce
  • Body – Solid Mahogany
  • Neck – Mahogany
  • Fingerboard – East Indian Rosewood

Pros

  • Handmade craftsmanship for a perfect build
  • Solid back and sides for absolute tonal purity
  • Traditional bracing style for vintage style sound

Cons

  • None

Review

Blueridge guitars are all one hundred percent handcrafted, with each piece of wood hand selected to ensure that each instrument is as flawless as can be.

The BR-140 is a vintage style acoustic in their Historic Series, made with a traditional bracing pattern that makes this acoustic sound like you picked it up straight out of the year 1909.

It has a stunning tortoise pick guard, and a nut and saddle made from real bone. Although I’m a big animal lover, bone is by far my favorite nut and saddle material, as I find that nothing really resonates as well as it can.

You won’t find many guitars made today whose back and sides are made from solid wood; it’s a costly and time-consuming luthier process, and most that you find with this feature will cost thousands of dollars.

Blueridge delivers though. The BR-140’s body is totally solid wood, producing a harmonic-rich tone you’ll only experience from a guitar of this caliber.

There isn’t an acoustic genre that this guitar isn’t suited for, and if you have the money, it’s one of the best guitars you can get your hands on.

You can read more about the Blueridge BR-140 in this article by Premier Guitar Magazine.

#1 Martin D-15M

5/5 Star Rating

Specs

  • Top – Solid Mahogany
  • Body – Solid Mahogany
  • Neck – Solid Mahogany
  • Fingerboard – East Indian Rosewood

Pros

  • Handmade, superior Martin craftsmanship
  • Quartersawn construction for lifelong durability
  • 14 open frets for easy high-end riffage

Cons

  • None

Review

I know too many guitarists who would think I’m a fool if I didn’t put a Martin somewhere on this list.

All things considered, I believe the Martin D-15M is hands down the best acoustic guitar for the money.

It’s on the cheaper end of Martin’s lineup, clocking in at a little over $1000, and this is probably out of budget for many players. But, if you have the patience and ability to save up enough for a truly amazing guitar, the D-15M is well worth the wait.

Martin makes their guitars using a quartersawn technique that keeps them solid for decades and decades after construction. You can read more about this here.

It’s completely solid wood, from body to headstock, which is a rare quality in acoustics these days when the cost of laminate is so low and the time and difficulty of constructing a solid neck are out of question for most manufacturers.

The difference is evident from the moment you pick this baby up. It feels… magical.

Being a guitar of pure mahogany, its tone is on the warm, dark end of things, but it’s got enough brightness from the spruce bracing and rosewood bridge to make your sound shine in any range.

Martin’s D-15M is an amazing guitar in any genre and playing style, but is particularly good for singer-songwriters. The warmth of the mahogany blends beautifully with singing, and the perfectly balanced tone means that there’s no register that it won’t work with.

I am far from rich and a D-15M will probably always be out of the realm of possibility for me to own, but if I ever inherit an unexpected fortune, one of the first things I do will be to buy this Martin.

Buyer’s Guide

What Makes an Acoustic Guitar the Best for the Money?

There’s a common theme throughout every guitar recommendation that I write, and that is that the best guitar for you is the best guitar for you.

It may sound recursive and redundant, but it’s the best advice I can give. I have, at times, foregone all recommendations from friends and more experienced guitarists to buy the guitar that felt right for me, based purely on a gut feeling, and for the most part I suggest you do the same.

As far as guitar quality goes, there are some key factors considered when I write about the best guitars.

Usually, I won’t include a guitar on a list like this that doesn’t have a solid top, but I made an exception for the Luna model because its cost to quality ratio is more than acceptable. For beginners or someone looking for a new extra beautiful guitar, it’s a great choice.

Build quality is obviously a huge deciding factor. If a guitar will ship with major flaws that can’t be simply fixed by you or an experienced guitar tech, it won’t make the cut.

All the guitars on this list are guaranteed playable out of the box, bearing in mind that most acoustics can use a proper set-up when purchased new and from time to time after the fact.

Playability of course factors in big-time. If the neck is sticky, or awkwardly graded, or anything that won’t allow me to play a lightning fast bluegrass lick, it doesn’t past my muster.

Why else play guitar besides the sound? I won’t pick any guitar that I wouldn’t want to listen to. This excludes many of the models available today, and even entirely excludes some brands from my lists. I only choose guitars that sound good. My standard is usually: Would I play an open mic with this? If yes, it passes the sound test.

The best guitars shouldn’t just sound good though; they should sound great. This increases my hypothetical concert size: Would I play a solo show to a crowd of 50 people with this guitar? I’m pretty shy and picky about what instrument I want to be heard playing, so if I decide that I would in fact play a small to medium sized show with a guitar, it’s deemed to sound great.

Taking all of this into account, I narrow down the choices based on my own personal experience with each model and what others are saying about today’s guitars. This list could obviously contain only guitars that sell for $3,000 and up, because sure those will be great guitars for the money. But I’m writing for players I can relate to, and for the most part we need to know the best guitars within a reasonable budget.

Should I Buy a Used Guitar?

With a little research first, yes you should.

New guitars are great; they’re basically untouched, should be in pristine condition, and it’s like getting a puppy — you get to grow together and learn each other and become best friends.

But, they’re costly. Since they’re new, they’re going to be sold at top market price. Add to this the cost of a set up and any basic upgrades you want to make, and the price can quickly get out of hand.

Used guitars are another story. They can be like finding a wise, old guru, who through their years of experience have grown beautifully mellow and learned.

You can find amazing deals on used guitars sometimes. A lot of the time, people just won’t know what they have and will sell it for much less than it’s worth. Other times, they may just really need to clear some space or get rid of unplayed instruments in preparation for a move.

Whatever reason it is that people sell their instruments, it can be a major win for someone looking to buy.

You just have to know how to check the guitar for quality: this means looking for obvious damage such as cracks and scratches, subtle flaws like a warped neck or lifted bridge, and markers that are up to your own personal taste, such as the sound and playability.

For sure, you need to take a good look at any used guitar you consider buying. Play with it for a while. Jam out your favorite tunes, and make sure you check the intonation.

In the modern age, many of us usually have the internet in our pocket, so I recommend doing a quick search of the model. You can find out a lot in just a few minutes, such as tonewood composition, age, general opinions, and real value.

So yes, if you’re prepared to look for what makes a guitar great, I absolutely recommend buying a used guitar should the perfect one present itself to you.

How Much Should I Spend on a Guitar?

This is totally up to your budget and your musical needs.

First, budget. Buy what you can afford. Don’t open a credit account just to get a new guitar. If you can’t afford even the most inexpensive model, save and wait until you can. An acoustic is not worth going into debt for.

Once you know your budget, ask yourself what you need the guitar for.

If you’ll just be practicing in your room or are looking for a travel guitar, $300 and under can get you a pretty decent instrument that you can have a great time playing.

If you’ve been playing a while and want to try your showmanship skills at an open mic, guitars in the $300-$500 range are all great for small gigs.

Then, if you’re really serious and are planning to book shows or do some studio recording, I probably would suggest spending at least $500. At this price point, guitars go from being good to being great. You can get something perfectly playable for most small to medium-large shows starting at around $500.

Once you peak the $700 mark, you’re in the realm of professional grade instruments that are suitable for all purposes. Of course, I wouldn’t take a $700+ guitar on a trip backpacking around China, but I wouldn’t hesitate to jump on any size stage with it.

Are These Really the Best Acoustic Guitars?

Yes and no! I said it earlier and I’ll say it one more time for those in the back: the best acoustic guitar is the best one for you. If your budget is $100, the best guitar for you is not on this list. But if you have a few hundred more to spend, these certainly are some of the best guitars worth the money at varying price points.

Best is totally subjective, but in my opinion I’ve done a good job of rounding up some great quality instruments for you to choose from.

The Final Word

I’m itching to play these acoustics again, and definitely have some ideas for my next guitar purchase.

Hopefully one of these called out to you, and you’ll do yourself a favor and check them out when you’re ready to buy a great acoustic guitar.

If they’re not the most amazing guitars in the world, they’re all certainly some of the best acoustic guitars for the money.

Leave a Reply