It’s almost a given that guitars that cost over $1,000 are going to be a high-quality guitar, but what about guitars that are under $1,000?
Is it possible to get a guitar at an intermediate price point that plays like a higher-end guitar?
What makes these guitars even worth looking at?
These are the questions that I have asked myself while in the intermediate guitar market and I am here to report that there is much more good news than bad when it comes to guitars in this price bracket.
These are my picks for the best readily available acoustic guitars between $500 – $1,000.
Snapshot: Top 6 Acoustic Guitars Under $1,000
- Martin Road Series 000-10E Solid Sapele
- Taylor GS Mini-e Solid Koa
- Yamaha CG-TA Nylon String
- Blueridge BR-43
- Gretsch G5034TFT Rancher Electro-Acoustic
- Guild D-120e
Researching Acoustic Guitars Under $1000
If there are guitars out there that are made of more expensive materials, and if these guitars supposedly sound better, then why are less expensive guitars even worth looking at in the first place?
I have had the good fortune to play and own some very high-end guitars and they have given me hours upon hours of blissful guitar playing experiences. I have also owned guitars that are on the lower end of the budget spectrum that have also given me hours upon hours of blissful guitar playing experiences. The way I look at it, nearly every type of guitar has its time and place as long as it is functional and inspiring to you as a player.
No need for gear snobbery here.
I found myself in the market for a mid-level acoustic guitar four years ago when I joined my first working cover band. This was a Variety Top 40 cover band, so the spectrum of music styles varied from country to 80’s metal to funk. Quite a few of the songs called for acoustic guitar parts. At the time I only had a hand-crafted boutique acoustic and a travel acoustic guitar, neither of which were appropriate for gigging.
I needed an acoustic guitar that could take a beating (even though I take great care of my instruments, playing out comes with its dangers to instruments) and that still felt, sounded and looked great. I also wanted a guitar that could be replaceable if the guitar got destroyed or stolen.
Guitars in the $500-$1,000 price range are a perfect solution for a gigging musician because they fit the description of all the requirements I listed above. Not only that, but the quality of guitars in this price range continues to go up with each passing year.
My experience with guitars in this price range was from the perspective of a working musician looking for a reliable workhorse, but these guitars are also great for learning on. They are at a quality that is enjoyable while maintaining an approachable price point. These are also great guitars to experiment with if you aren’t sure exactly what kind of music you want to play. Many builders take risks on guitars in this price range, so there have been some revolutionary advancements in guitars within this price range that are sure to keep you inspired.
Let’s dive in!
The Best Acoustic Guitars Under $1000
1. Martin Road Series 000-10E Solid Sapele Review
- Top Material: Sapele
- Back Material: Sapele
- Side material: Sapele
- Neck Material: Select Hardwood
Formerly known as the 000-RS1, the Martin Road Series 000-10E is a guitar that I personally own. This is the model of guitar that I ended up buying to use in my first working band, and it has continued to be a favorite guitar of mine. I could write all day about this guitar (maybe a dedicated hand-on article is needed) but I will try to keep it concise.
Part of what makes this model so special is that it is an all Sapele body guitar. Sapele is similar in look, feel, and tone to mahogany, but it is cheaper and a more sustainable tone wood than mahogany is. Combine that with a select hardwood neck and Richlite fingerboard and you have yourself an environmentally friendly guitar!
This is an easy to play guitar. The neck has what is called the “Performing Artist” neck shape, which is a small C-shape that my hands find very comfortable. The satin finish makes moving around the guitar easy and it never gets sticky on hot summer days playing outside. It also has a 24.9” radius, which is slightly shorter than most traditional guitars. This makes the string tension a little looser and to my hands easier to play without feeling floppy.
I can’t say enough good things about the Fishman MXT pickup. I like that the controls are located inside the soundhole. The controls are discrete and when I play the guitar unplugged, it feels like traditional acoustic guitar. The fishman pickup sounds great and can be blended using the blend control. The input jack on the side of the guitar is also placed in a convenient spot and switching out the batteries is easy.
The Martin 000-10E comes with a Richlite bridge and chrome enclosed gear tuners. I find that the guitar is incredibly stable and stays in tune wonderfully.
If you know me then you know that I love all mahogany guitars. I love the dry, woody tones and that little bit of mid bump makes for a wonderfully voiced guitar. So, when I looked into my workhorse guitar and saw that this model used Sapele, my interest had been piqued. I couldn’t believe how much this guitar sounded like an all mahogany acoustic. If mahogany is your tone wood of choice and you are looking for a budget guitar, this is a fantastic option.
- Body Material: Sapele
- Neck Material: Select hardwood
- Fingerboard Material: Richlite
- Pickups: Fishman MXT
- Bridge Material: Richlite
Final Thoughts on the Martin Road Series 000-10E Solid Sapele
I am so happy that I chose to take this guitar home. It is a great guitar for live applications. I feel that it is reliable, and it sounds convincingly like an all mahogany instrument, without the price tag that would require. This is a guitar that I will certainly hold onto for the rest of my life. Honestly, the entire Road Series is an incredible value. Pick the body shape that suits you best and you won’t regret it.
2. Taylor GS Mini-e Solid Koa Review
- Body Body shape: Other Cutaway: Non-cutaway Top: Hawaiian koa Back and sides: Layered koa Bracing pattern: Other Body finish: Varnish Orientation: Right handed Neck Shape: Other Nut width: 1.687"...
I have written about the Taylor GS Mini a few times now. It just goes to show that this model fits into so many “Best-of” lists for a reason: It’s a stellar guitar. That being said, I think that the Taylor GS Mini-e Solid Koa adds has an extra serving of stellar quality to it and it costs under $1,000.
As the name suggests, this guitar is all koa. It has a solid koa top and layered koa back and sides. This is a stunning instrument. The wood grain is organic, bold, and captivating. You’ll probably find yourself just looking at the guitar as much as playing it.
It has an arched back to make up for the lack of bracing and it manages to be a very solid build. The neck is mahogany with a standard carved shape. The scale length is 23.5”, making this a travel size guitar good for taking on the road or a great option for beginners who like a little bit of style in their guitar.
The Koa-E comes with Taylor’s EST Electronic System, which is one of the best pickup systems out there. While standard GS Mini’s can be purchased without electronics, I think that the electronics add to the practicality of the instrument. It is ready to go on tour with you and to make you look and sound good in the process. The chrome closed gear tuners from Taylor are dependable and sure to keep you in tune.
The koa not only looks great, but it adds a unique tone print as well. You’ll find warm tones with shimmering high ends that are unlike any other GS mini out there. The large sound hole allows the guitar to project more than you would think a small body guitar is capable of doing too.
Personally, I think koa encompasses all the good aspects of rosewood, mahogany, and maple all into one wood choice. It is a great option for both strumming and fingerstyle playing.
- Body Material: Solid koa top, layered koa sides/back
- Neck Material: Mahogany
- Fingerboard Material: Ebony
- Pickups: Taylor EST Electronic System
- Bridge Material: Ebony
Final Thoughts on the Taylor GS Mini Solid Koa-E
This truly is an elevated form of an already near perfect guitar design. To be able to get an all koa guitar at this price point is pretty unbelievable. What more can I say, this is a beautiful guitar.
3. Yamaha CG-TA Nylon String Guitar Review
- Yamaha Prorpietary Trans Acoustic technology with built-in Hall Reverb, Room Reverb and Chorus
- Solid Engleman spruce top with Ovankol back and sides
- Rosewood fingerboard and bridge
When I first heard about Yamaha’s Transacoustic guitar line, I was skeptical. I was a scientist in my previous life; it’s how we are taught to be. I was quickly turned into a believer after I heard them though and now Yamaha offers the Transacoustic in a classical guitar for all the nylon string players out there.
This classical guitar features a solid Engleman spruce top with ovankol back and sides. I find the ovankol back and sides to be especially beautiful aesthetically. The fingerboard and bridge are all rosewood, giving you the full tonewood package. It has an understated red and green geometric rosette fitting for any occasion.
How does this guitar include effects in its design? Introducing the Actuator.
Тhе асtuаtоr іѕ іnѕtаllеd оn thе іnnеr ѕurfасе оf thе guіtаr’ѕ bасk. Аѕ thе bасk vіbrаtеѕ іn rеѕроnѕе tо уоur рlауіng, thе vіbrаtіоnѕ trаnѕfеr tо thе Асutаtоr аnd thеn рrојесtеd оutwаrd. Аѕ а rеѕult, уоu hаvе аuthеntіс rеvеrb аnd сhоruѕ ѕоundѕ соmіng frоm thе іnѕіdе оf thе bоdу! Тhеѕе еffесtѕ аrе thеn соntrоllеd bу оnbоаrd соntrоlѕ, gіvіng уоu thе аbіlіtу tо dіаl іn thе ехасt tоnе thаt уоu wаnt.
The fact that these effects can be used via the onboard pickup or unplugged makes this a great option for classical players looking to thicken up the solo performances.
Even if all the electronics in this guitar were to somehow break down on you, you would still have a fantastic sounding guitar. The tone is warm and focused, perfect for fingerstyle playing. The tonewoods are unique and as a result, this guitar has a voice of its own.
The effects are convincing enough for live performances. I would still prefer pedals or studio software effects if I were recording, but that is just a personal preference.
- Body Material: Engleman spruce top, Ovankol back/sides
- Neck Material: Nato
- Fretboard Material: Rosewood
- Pickups: Acutator w/ onboard reverb/chorus
- Bridge Material: Rosewood
Final Thoughts on the Yamaha CG-TA Nylon String Guitar
I am finding it really exciting that nylon string guitars are beginning to show some innovation and Yamaha is doing an especially good job of it. I think that starting with a great guitar build, and then adding satisfying effects after the fact is a great design that will be deemed useful by many working solo guitarists.
4. Blueridge BR-43 Contemporary Series 000 Review
- Solid Sitka spruce top with scalloped braces gives you clean articulation and a crisp tone
- Mahogany back and sides for a robust sound and resonance
- Slim mahogany neck offers fast, easy action and inherently long-lasting stability
- Choice Santos rosewood fingerboard ensures silky smooth playability
It’s no secret that the Blueridge guitars are modeled after Martin classic designs. If you want a Martin style guitar without the Martin price tag, then the Blueridge line of guitars might be the right choice for you!
As I mentioned before, the 000-body shape is very familiar here. The top is solid sitka spruce with mahogany back and sides. This model incorporates scalloped braces for added stability and projection. The neck is slim mahogany, offering easy maneuverability across the santos rosewood fretboard. The headstock has a traditional shape with an ornate Blueridge logo intertwined that is sure to catch an eye or two.
This is a pretty straight forward guitar that traditionalists will find appealing. It also features classic open gear tuners that I find to be super cool and effective. There aren’t any electronics involved here, making it a great beginner’s guitar. All there is to do with it is play!
This is an especially articulate guitar. Every aspect of your playing will be heard through this instrument. The BR-43 manages to have this articulation while still being robust and resonant sounding. Overall, I find it to be a very satisfying, traditional steel string acoustic tone.
- Body Material: Sitka spruce top, mahogany back/sides
- Neck Material: Mahogany
- Fingerboard Material: Santos rosewood
- Pickup: None
- Bridge Material: Santos Rosewood
Final Thoughts on the Blueridge BR-43 Contemporary Series 000 Guitar
Not everyone wants a guitar that is pushing the envelope. Some of the best guitar designs were established over a century ago and it is pretty wild that you can get a classic guitar design, made of high quality tonewoods that sounds like a Martin at a fraction of the price. These are also consistently well-made guitars, so you know that wherever you buy one you are getting a solid instrument.
5. Gretsch G5034TFT Rancher Electro-Acoustic Review
- BodyBody Material: Arched Laminated Maple Top and Back with Laminated Mahogany SidesBody Shape: DreadnoughtBody Back: Arched Laminated MapleBody Sides: Laminated MahoganyBody Top: Arched Laminated...
- Other premium features include an arched laminated maple top and back with binding, laminated mahogany sides, classic Rancher triangular sound hole with binding, mahogany neck, 16-fret rosewood...
I find it to be an extremely unique and appealing guitar. Apparently, a lot of commenters on YouTube feel the same way. This is a unique guitar for a special breed of player.
The body of this guitar is as big as its name. The dreadnought shape is carved out of a laminated maple top and back with mahogany sides. The neck is also mahogany with a rosewood fingerboard. I find the Savannah Sunset finish with white binding to be really pretty. The soundhole is a Rancher triangular shape.
The body and neck are where all normalcy ends with this Gretsch. Right below the neck sits a gold Fideli’Tron humbucking pickup that can be blended with the natural acoustic tone. The bridge is also unconventional for an acoustic. It is a rocking bar bridge with a Bigsby B70G tailpiece and a wire tremolo arm.
The unplugged tone is somehow powerful and boxy at the same time. It sounds great for light strumming or strumming with your fingertips. Once you start incorporating the Fideli’Tron humbucking pickup however, it’s like you’ve been transported straight to the 1950’s. The tone is lo-fi but also organic and nostalgic. The tremolo arm will let you do surf rock tremolo action in your acoustic songs. I’ve honestly never heard an acoustic that sounds like this guitar. It’s like it could be found in any one of Quentin Tarantino’s movies.
- Body Material: Laminated maple top/back with mahogany sides.
- Neck Material: Mahogany
- Fingerboard Material: Rosewood
- Pickups: Fideli’Tron
- Bridge Material: Bar Bridge with Bigsby B70G Tailpiece
Final Thoughts on the Gretsch G5034TFT Electro-Acoustic Guitar
I’ll admit that this is a specialty instrument. It is my suspicion that this is why the reviews are not great online. Gretsch makes fantastic instruments always. I think that this is a guitar that has a certain sound that will either blow you away, or make you want to burn it. In my opinion, it is worth taking a chance on if you like what you hear and see.
6. Guild D-120e Review
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If the sapele Martin wasn’t mahogany-y enough for you and Gretsch was too crazy of a dreadnought, then Guild has a great design for you. This is an all mahogany guitar that is sure to help you write your next song.
It’s rare to find a high quality, all solid African Mahogany bodied acoustic guitar in this price range, but Guild has managed to deliver just that. Even the neck is mahogany, along with a rosewood fingerboard and bridge. The gloss finish isn’t my favorite (I prefer satin finishes on mahogany) but if you like a good shine to your guitar then this will be a good one for you.
“e” stands for Electric. The D-120e is ready to go with you on your next gig with its Fishman Sonitone pickup, a tried and true acoustic pickup that I am always happy to play on. It also features a tortoise shell pickguard and chrome tuning gears.
I honestly think that this is a great strumming guitar. The balanced, woody voice will accompany the human voice without overpowering it, making this a fantastic option for singer/songwriters. It doesn’t breathe quite as well as some of the more expensive, non-glossy models out there, but for the price range it sounds pretty darn good.
- Body Material: Solid Afrifan mahogany
- Neck Material: Mahogany
- Fingerboard Material: Rosewood
- Pickups: Fishman Sonitone
- Bridge Material: Rosewood
Final Thoughts on the Guild D-120e
Guild has released their Westerly Collection as a homage to the early Guild designs. The Guild D-120e is an all mahogany dreadnought acoustic guitar that looks like it came from a simpler time and is bound to be a great instrument for singer/songwriters. I expect to see this guitar at many an open mic from here on out.
These Are Dependable Acoustic Guitars
My Martin 000RS1 (aka the 000-10E) is my workhorse. I play it even more than I play my expensive hand-crafted acoustic guitar, because it is built of a quality that is still enjoyable to play and I don’t have to worry about messing it up.
This is why I think this under $1,000 price range of guitar is so cool and is an often-over-looked bracket of guitars that should be considered more often as a reliable daily instrument.
Not only will they not break the bank, but they offer more than what you pay for. Not to mention, there is something in here for just about every player. From the traditionalist, to the nylon player, to the experimenter, there is a guitar being manufactured for under $1,000 that is worth owning.
I found my “Ol’ Reliable” here and I hope I’ve helped you find yours too
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Davis Wilton Bader is a professional guitarist/writer based out of St. Louis, MO. He plays in the bands Lumet and The Outskirts.