We’ve all had to deal with the stress of buying a new guitar. It might be your first ever guitar, and you don’t want to throw away thousands on something you’re not sure about yet, but you also don’t want something so cheap that it’s unplayable! You want to know which are the best acoustic guitars on the market, right.
But thats not all.
When you start looking around to buy a new guitar, you’re hit by a ton a terms that make no sense to you. How on earth would you know whether you want high or low action if you’ve never even played before? What’s that, should I buy a guitar with a cut out or not? These kinds of questions don’t help you to make a good decision. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be so hard.
It’s simple to buy a new guitar, with your savings and sanity (mostly) intact.
First off, try and learn a few chords or a simple song on a friend’s guitar. This will give you a great chance to try out a new guitar to see if you like the way it sounds and feels in your hands. Chances are you’ll get an opportunity to test out the same model in your local music shop.
Got that bit down? Great.
In a second, we’ll get to our pick of the five of the best acoustic guitars that are great for beginners, with simple explanations for any unfamiliar terms. By the end of this article, you’ll be able to make a great decision for your first guitar.
But I want to you to be aware of some things you’ll need to know before you make a decision.
At a Glance: Our Choice Of The 5 Best Acoustic Guitars On The Market
Note: The links above take you to more information, current prices and customer reviews on Amazon. If you do purchase something we get a small commission, which has absolutely no effect on the eventual price that you pay.
Buyer's Tips: What makes a good acoustic guitar?
Since we aren’t looking at the ultra top range of guitars, you need to have realistic expectations.
Thankfully, you can get a very good guitar for that price these days. The trick is knowing how to tell the great ones from the just okay ones.
A quick guide is to look at the manufacturer. Well known names in the acoustic guitar world are Martin and Taylor. They have a reputation for producing top quality instruments, at all price ranges.
What else should you consider?
- What woods are used in the guitar’s construction? There are a lot of different types used, and they each contribute in different ways to the tone of your music. You’ll want to experiment with a few in your local music shop to get a feel for what you prefer.
- What size is the guitar? Guitars come in a range of sizes. Most of the time, you’ll picture the “dreadnought” body, but there are smaller sizes too.
- Especially if you are buying a second hand guitar, what kind of condition is it in? Is it in good repair, is the action (the distance between the strings and the fretboard) at the right height for you, does the truss rod need adjusting? The best way to correct any issues is to take your guitar to an experienced luthier.
Ok let's look at each product in more detail. To make things easier for you, we've added pros and cons for each one, as well as a video demonstration so you can see them in action. So without further ado, let’s take a look...
1. Epiphone Hummingbird Artist Acoustic Guitar
A no frills guitar, making it good for beginners who just want to get started and have something to jam on. It’s based on the rather famous Hummingbird design used by some of the biggest names in guitar history.
- The neck is rosewood, which is a common choice for good reason. It feels slick under the fingers to help you play that little bit faster.
- Spruce and mahogany solid woods for a full, warm sound.
- Slim taper neck is ideal for trying out different styles to see if you prefer finger style (like me!) or if you like to use a plectrum.
- It will most likely need taking to your local guitar shop for a proper set up before you can get the best out of it.
- No included case means you’ll have to spend a little extra unless you already have one.
- The fingerboard of a guitar has a slight curve, and this one is slightly flatter than is typical, which takes a little getting used to.
2. Fender CD-60 Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar
This is a very popular guitar. It has a powerful voice, yet is still capable of producing softer, mellow tones on demand. It’s a very affordable model, and a great first guitar.
- The same model is available in a range of woods, including all mahogany and others woods such as spruce so you can find your perfect tone with the same great guitar.
- Scalloped bracing (the wood that criss-crosses the inside of the guitar body) boosts the guitar’s resonance so you can play to the furthest seat from the stage.
- Sounds just as good as much more expensive models, so you can just focus on getting some great practice in without worrying about being held back by poor quality.
- There’s no cut out (a section of the body closest to the neck removed for easier access) which can make it harder, but not impossible, to play higher frets.
- Doesn’t always come with a hard case included, so you’ll need to check.
- The strings may lose their tuning fast, so you’ll need to make sure you keep listening out for it during long playing sessions.
3. Yamaha FG720S Solid Top Acoustic Guitar (Editor's Choice)
Yamaha produce some really great budget acoustic guitars (and played by some great musicians to boot, including the late Elliott Smith), and this one is no exception. It’s one of the all round best acoustic guitars under $300 you can get.
- Can buy in a number of different woods, so you can get any tone you want.
- Available in concert and dreadnought size, so if you find dreadnoughts too big or too loud you have the option to go down a size or vice versa.
- Low slung action makes it very easy on the fingers for a novice without needing to be taken to a luthier or an expert friend for adjustment.
- It’s not as a great as the most expensive guitar in the world. But for the price, you’re getting the most bang for your buck!
- Truss rod is known to have issues with being stiff and “jumpy” when turned
- Bass is a little low in the concert size, even compared to other concert body guitars.
4. Washburn WD7S Harvest Series (Budget Choice)
This guitar boasts a spruce top and mahogany back and sides, so has a strong combination of tone woods with no low quality materials.
- Can handle low action without buzzing, which will make it much easier when you're trying to hold down strings four frets apart or just starting out as a guitarist.
- Full sound thanks to the use of only solid woods for construction.
- Narrow neck makes it easier if you have small hands, or need to play arrangements with dramatic distances between the notes on melody and harmony lines.
- No cut out.
- Dreadnought sized.
- No plug in options.
5. Recording King RPH-05 Dirty Thirties
This guitar is built around an “old-timey” theme. As such, the guitar is a little smaller and has less bass than the majority of acoustics out there these days. It’s perfect for travel, but you will need to make some serious adjustments before it’s a playable instrument.
- Once any necessary adjustments have been made, it has a surprisingly good sound.
- One of the cheapest on the list, although if you need a professional to set the guitar up for you then you should factor this cost in too.
- Parlour size makes it a comfortable guitar to play while sat in an ordinary chair rather than a stool.
- This is a bit subjective, but the guitar looks awful. The colours of the body, neck, dots and pegs look cheap, and the extra large dots look cartoonish.
- Unless you’re buying it second hand and already set up, you’ll need to be prepared to make some serious adjustments before it’s even remotely playable.
- No case included means the price will climb up again for a decent hard case, making the low price tag a little misleading.
If you’re still having trouble deciding which the best acoustic guitar under $300 is, then don’t worry. Without a doubt the clear winner of the five is the Yamaha FG720S Solid Top Acoustic Guitar.
You can choose from so many different woods and different sizes that no matter what your preference, you’ll get a guitar that suits you perfectly. It’ll stick with you long after you stop considering yourself a beginner, and if you take good care of it you’ll have a beautiful sounding instrument for the rest of your life.
Before you go, why not take a moment to leave us a comment. We’d love to hear about your experiences with any of these guitars. If you can think of another that we should have included then let us know!
Ged is Founder and Editor-in-chief at Zing Instruments. He’s a guitarist for London based gypsy jazz band ‘Django Mango’ and a lover of all things music. When he’s not ripping up and down the fretboard, he’s tinkering with his ’79 Campervan.