In this Guide
If you’re looking at guitars costing as much as $1,000, chances are you’re an experienced musician. You’ve worked hard to get there, and you deserve a guitar that can take you even further! You know what sounds good, and you care enough to want a guitar that can help you sound good with whatever style of playing is your natural range.
You want a guitar with your ideal look, sound, and price, and in this price range, you can find your perfect one! With so many to choose from, though, and so many brands competing for your patronage, you’ll need our expert guidance to know which ones are best.
We’ve chosen a select few of our favorites, which we think are real bargains. They have deluxe sound quality at a workman’s price! We kept a lot of playing styles in mind, and we think at least one of these three guitars is sure to suit your own musical touch.
Here’s our Top Three, at a glance!
Best on a Budget
What to expect from a guitar between $500 and $1000:
If you’re prepared to spend a little more money for your new acoustic guitar, you can get out of the budget range and get something that’ll really shine. Between $500 and $1,000, you’ll find dozens of great guitars from the best brands. However, guitars in this price range are a pretty big purchase. You’ll want to make sure you really get the ideal guitar. These guitars will be your companions for a long time!
After the $500 mark, you’ll find a big jump in quality, both in construction and sound over the budget class. As you get closer to $1,000, you’ll find solid woods, premium tuners and fittings, and much better finish options. You shouldn’t accept laminated tops on instruments at this price range, and you should expect high-end fittings that hold tuning for a long time without getting out of whack.
They’ll have much better fit and finish overall, without all the glue and paint imperfections you’ll find on cheaper guitars. Expect refined bindings, aesthetic pickguards, and other features that you just can’t get for cheaper than $500. You’ll also have the option to plug in most guitars in this price range! Most $500-$1000 instruments have pickups and preamps built in standard!
So, let’s see all those features in our favorite axes!
Top-Rated Acoustic Guitars Under $1,000
1. Martin Road Series
The Martin Road Series is a real player’s guitar. A full size dreadnought, it’s designed for a life on the road, with extra-durable woods and fittings. We think it’s a great way to get the quality of a Martin for half the price of most of their guitars.
As you’d want from the best acoustic guitar, the Road Series uses solid pieces of wood for the whole body construction. This means you’ll have richer, fuller sound and better structural integrity.
The Road Series uses sapele wood for all its parts. This wood has a timbre similar to that of mahogany. However, it’s much more sustainable to grow, and more affordable to consumers. It keeps the full, rounded tone of mahogany while adding a bit more treble clarity on the high end. It’s full, but bright.
The neck is made from mahogany, which is incredibly sturdy and is a natural extension of the tonality of the body. Previous buyers said that the whole body, from headstock to tailpiece, resonates with each strum. That produces a strong, unified tone with some excellent projection.
Professional reviewers as well as previous buyers complimented the resulting timbre of the Road Series. They said it was one of the warmest guitars they’d ever played!
The most impressive aspects for us are the resonance and projection. It has the size of a dreadnought with the kind of sound you’d expect from a jumbo.
It’s designed to be more rugged than your average guitar. The neck binding is multi-layered, and both the bridge and fingerboard are made from a Richlite synthetic compound. It won’t warp or disfigure with changes in humidity or temperature. It’s also less prone to staining and fading than rosewood or ebony. Overall, the Road series is meant to be a strong companion to the traveling, gig-playing musician.
The Road Series is also equipped for amps, with a built-in Fisher preamp, pickup, and output jack.
It’s a Martin. When you’re looking at higher-end acoustic guitars, Martin is (and always has been) one of the major players. As any experienced guitarist will tell you, the sound of a Martin is a standard to which all other guitars are measured.
As an added bargain, this guitar ships with an included hard case.
It looks a bit plain.
Some more traditionally-minded players might be put off by the presence of synthetic materials in the fingerboard and bridge.
See a demo and review from Acoustic Guitar Magazine here:
2. Simon + Patrick
“Players in search of an inexpensive but high-quality solid-wood guitar with a vintage vibe and an impressive, diverse voice, made all the more versatile with an optional pickup, would be remiss not to consider this fine instrument.” -Acoustic Guitar magazine
This parlor model is from Simon and Patrick, an offshoot of the Godin family of guitars (the same people who make Seagulls). It’s a smaller, more playable alternative to standard dreadnoughts. We particularly love these guitars for fingerpicking and blues playing.
All the body construction uses solid wood–no laminates here! The top is made from spruce, and the sides and back are made from solid mahogany. The bracing is made from matching Adirondack spruce, which accentuates the sound of the top board.
It’s all made in North America, with North American woods. Between the solid woods and the quality of the construction, it produces a remarkably improved tone over the $500 acoustics.
Because of the parlor design, the guitar has a different tone. It’s a bit lighter, and is less booming than dreadnoughts or jumbos. It lends itself to subtlety and mellower tones. The Parlor is perfect for blues and fingerpicking. You’ll also have a nice mellow tone suitable for jazz chords, with plenty of sustain. Previous buyers said it sounded much less compressed or limited than other parlor models they had played before.
A lot of the tone is thanks to smart touches in the appointments, like the compensated saddle design, TUSQ nut, and double action truss rod. The integrated, set neck is also responsible for a lot of the tonal transfer.
“The low end it generates, at times, seems to defy physics. And in spite of the diminutive dimensions, it generates not just freakishly big bass, but a bottom end full of overtones, body, and dimension. Likewise, the sustain is sometimes mind-blowing—way more in line with a piano than parlor guitar.” -Premier Guitar magazine
Premier Guitar said it holds its own with any other guitars, even dreadnoughts.
The parlor design also makes this guitar more playable than any dreadnought. The neck is slim, and cut low and close to the body. Since the front end is a bit slimmer as well, you have easier access to the high end of the fretboard. This makes it a convenient, comfortable guitar to practice with around the house.
The looks on this guitar are a big selling point for us. This is a classic parlor design, with simple but elegant appointments. Plus, quality control is at a high on this guitar, thanks to the North American manufacturing.
The parlor design isn’t ideal for loud playing or heavy strumming. While the Simon and Patrick has notably fuller sound than some other parlor guitars, it still won’t cut to the front of a bluegrass group, say, in the same way that a dreadnought would. Parlor guitars are best for music that suits them, like blues, folk, and jazz.
See the Simon and Patrick in action here:
3. Godin Seagull Rustic Entourage Acoustic Electric
This acoustic-electric combo is a cutaway dreadnought with serious versatility. The body gives the projection of a full-size dreadnought, but with more definition. You can also get more technical with fretwork, thanks to the cutaway access to frets near the neck. We love this guitar especially for country and rock styles.
The design is based on a modified dreadnought, with a full body without the booming quality of some other models.
Guitars in Seagull’s Rustic series feature a soft but dynamic sunburst finish. It complements and accentuates the natural cedar top, and adds a bit of flair to the simple design of the guitar. The guitar also has matching fittings, like gold tuners on the headstock and warm-toned joinery.
It’s made in Canada, to a high standard of quality. Aside from the rosewood, the wood used is grown in Canada, and the guitars are built in a village in Quebec.
Seagull guitars have a great reputation for durability, thanks to the woods used, as well as the high level of quality control at the factory level. Cedar wood doesn’t warp or detune under changes in humidity nearly as much as spruce or pine.
Plus, all the wood used is high-quality. The top is a solid piece of pressure-tested cedar, and the back and sides are in 3-ply wild cherry.
Godin has used some special construction techniques to create the top, first using a pressure-tested piece of cedar, then using a special compound curved top to reduce the bracing needed inside the guitar (giving you better tone and resonance without weakening the structure of the guitar).
It has a warm, clear tone. That’s partially due to the specially set neck, which is integrated into the body to achieve perfect resonance. This design reduces warping or twisting, thus preserving smooth tone throughout the life of the guitar. The tone is also helped by the extra-thin finish, which allows the wood to resonate with less interference.
The guitar also comes fully-loaded with an impressive set of electronics, for playing plugged in or live. There’s a built in tuner, preamp, and adjustment knobs.
While the cherry back and sides are 3-ply laminate, they’re still not solid pieces of wood, However, that’s at par in terms of its price.
Hear the Seagull in action here:
How to Shop for an Acoustic Guitar Under $1,000
Expect better, solid woods:
A higher-priced guitar should always have higher-quality woods. You’ll want to make sure any guitar in this price range has a solid top, for the best tone. No acoustic guitar above $500 should have a laminated top.
As you get closer to $1000, you can expect solid pieces of wood to be used for the sides and back as well. This will make a noticeable difference in the sound of the guitar. It’s the main factor that sets a $1,000 guitar apart from a $500 model.
You’ll also find a wider range of woods used on these nicer guitars. Instead of the usual pine and mahogany, you’ll see guitars made from koa, cedar, maple, and cherry. These woods all have their own tonal qualities, and provide an even greater range of sounds to the more experienced player who knows what they want.
Look for improved fittings and appointments:
Guitars in the $500-$1,000 price range start to see a steady improvement in tuning knobs, bridge construction, and truss rods.
The visual appointments also get an upgrade. As you near $1,000, acoustic guitars have more decorative headstocks and fretboards. Many have pearled inlays, subtly decorative trim, and more elegant pickguards. While many of these don’t directly affect the sound of the guitar, they certainly have a big impact on the look and feel of a guitar. It’s the difference between liking and loving a guitar.
Look for acoustic-electric options:
Even if you’re just shopping for an acoustic guitar, and have no intention of plugging it in any time soon, having an onboard system never hurts. Most guitars over $750 have acoustic-electric systems built in.
If you’re already playing live or recording, a built-in system ensures that you’ll have great tone that’s engineered to suit the guitar. This saves you the time, hassle, and investment of having to suit pickups and preamps to your guitar later on. Plus, it all blends in so much more nicely with an onboard system.
And don’t forget about the tuner! Pretty much all acoustics with built-in pickups and output jacks also have a tuner built into the body. These are so much more convenient than carrying around an external tuner. They’re also much more accurate, since they’re responding to the tones inside the actual guitar. They’ll help you tune the guitar to both the notes of the scale, and its own internal dynamics.
Take your time when you’re considering style and ergonomics:
If a guitar isn’t the perfect fit for you, it probably isn’t worth spending close to $1,000. You’ll want a guitar that looks and sounds 100% of what you want it to. And you’ll have the variety to make that search rewarding in the end.
Expect to do some basic adjustments:
Even the nicest acoustic guitar isn’t going to show up at your house tuned and aligned perfectly out of the box. Bumps and jostles during shipping, as well as changes in air temperature, pressure, and humidity, mean that all guitars will be somewhat out of whack when they’re unpacked. Be prepared to spend $25-$50 to have a local professional tune your new guitar, so you can hear what it’s really capable of sounding like. In our research, we found that many people who were disappointed in their new guitars were assessing them based on out-of-the-box performance.
Which Guitar is Best for You?
The Seagull is our top choice for people who want a high-value guitar that’s not too extravagant. It has a tone that competes with the best $1,000+ models, but keeps things simple and elegant, rather than lavish and elaborate.
The Simon and Patrick is our top recommendation for people who play blues, jazz, or folk-style guitar. It’s also a great option for a small, playable guitar to have around the house, for practicing and writing.
Finally, the Martin Road Series is our top quality recommendation. It takes you into the legendary quality range of a Martin without the cost normally associated with the brand.
Still searching for the perfect guitar for you? Head over to the Amazon best sellers page or check our Reviews for Cheap Acoustic Guitars!