The Best Acoustic Guitar Brands In Today’s Age

Who is the king of acoustic guitar – Taylor or Martin? Takamine or Gibson? Yamaha or Guild? And Seagull… isn’t that a bird?!

Whether you are a complete newbie or are simply in the market for a new acoustic guitar, you may be wondering which acoustic brands are actually worth your time and money.

Well, wonder no more! We have compiled a list of the most popular acoustic manufacturers on the market, along with a little about how their guitars are produced, their history and what makes them so special.

Martin

When somebody says the words ‘premium acoustic guitar’ more often than not, the word ‘Martin’ is not far behind. The legendary American brand focuses exclusively on building quality instruments and, as such, has a long history of crafting some of the finest acoustic guitars ever made.

History of Martin
After arriving in America from Germany in November 1833, Christian Friedrich Martin set up a small guitar production room in the back room of a shop in New York’s Lower West Side. While most of his customers bought musical instruments and accessories, Martin kept busy by making and selling a range of custom catgut-stringed acoustic guitars.

In 1843 Martin produced the Size 1 model – widely accepted as the earliest X-braced guitar ever documented. By 1873, the brand had a wide range of sizes and varieties on offer, and continued production into the 20th Century. Then in 1921, as demand grew for louder guitars, Martin began focusing on steel-string guitars instead of those with catgut strings.

Despite the Great Depression, Martin continued to innovate and introduced two new concepts that changed the face of guitar – the 14-fret neck and the dreadnought guitar shape. Arriving in 1931, the dreadnought still remains one of the most popular styles of acoustic guitar today.

Notable Models
Martin has a stack of notable golden-era models but the D-1 will always have a place in the heart of acoustic guitarists as it was the first dreadnought acoustic. There are now countless takes on the original Martin dreadnought worthy of note, such as the Martin D-28 (another iconic dreadnought, which evolved from the original D-1).

The Martin OM-45 DeLuxe is another very noteworthy acoustic – an incredibly rare Orchestra Model produced by Martin in 1930. This took the new idea of a 14-fret neck and decorated it with opulent detailing. Again, reproductions of this guitar are still being made, but they will set you back a considerable amount.

Martin produces several signature and tribute models too, including guitars for Jimmy Buffett, John Mayer and John Lennon, along with Ed Sheeran’s Little Martin.

Where are the Guitars Produced?
All of Martin’s higher-end guitars are made in Nazareth, PA, although some of the more affordable series – including the X Series, Road Series and Backpacker Series – are made in their factory in Navojoa, Mexico.

Relative Price Range
You can find brand-new Martin guitars in the accessible $500 price range, although the choice there is still a little limited until you reach the thousand-dollar mark. Then the price increases the more premium you go – you can find exclusive Martin guitars costing up to £100,000!

ImageAcoustic Guitar / RatingSummaryCheck Price
+ - Martin Custom D Classic Martin Custom D Classic

Total of 4.77/5  

A simple and stylish, but serious acoustic guitar from Martin.

+ - Martin 15 Series D-15M Martin 15 Series D-15M

Total of 4.70/5  

Ample warmth on offer with this stylish all-mahogany Martin dreadnought.

+ - Martin D12X1AE Martin D12X1AE

Total of 4.70/5  

An interesting Martin model that packs plenty of bang for the buck.

Our Take on Martin
We had to kick off this list with a Martin. Like a Ferrari, a Rolex or a bottle of Chanel, owning a Martin is a status symbol as much as it is a sensible choice for guitarists. Because, even in 2018, there are few brands that match Martin in terms of tone and quality, regardless of the price. The brand also continues to innovate and produce guitars with eco-friendly materials, meaning they are likely to remain number one for some time to come.

Taylor

Taylor Guitars is a much newer company compared to the likes of Martin and Gibson, but the pioneering American brand holds just as much prestige among guitarists of all levels.

History of Taylor
We only have to go back to 1972 to find the origins of Taylor. Sam Radding opened a guitar building workshop known as ‘American Dream’ in El Cajon, California, then soon hired a young man called Bob Taylor. After two years, Radding sold the business to Taylor along with Steve Schemmer and Kurt Listug, and the trio eventually renamed the brand Taylor.

Due to the combination of a quality tone, design and ease of playability, Taylor acoustics boomed in popularity during the 1980s. Since then, amateur and professionals alike have enjoyed playing Taylor models, including artists such as William Ackerman, Tony Iommi, Jason Mraz and Taylor Swift.

The brand is known for being big innovators, most notably with the usage of exotic tone-woods in some models, as well as the development of the renowned Expression System – Taylor’s own patented pickup system for acoustic guitars – in 2004. Taylor also prides itself on its Taylor NT neck, which is said to be the ‘most playable neck in the industry’. We’d agree!

Notable Models
Taylor’s 200 Series is one of the first places guitarists begin their Taylor journey. It’s a step above the entry-level Academy and 100 Series, with a solid-wood top, but still proves very affordable. The 214ce is a popular part of this collection. For all-solid-wood models, a step up to the 300 Series is required.

Taylor is also well-known for its line of travel-friendly acoustics too, such as the GS Mini Series, the Baby Taylor and the slightly larger Big Baby Taylor.

Finally, Taylor also produces a range of signature models. One of these is Taylor Swift’s TSBT-e while you can also find a nylon-string NS72ce, which is Jason Mraz’s signature Taylor.

Where are the Guitars Produced?
Taylor guitars are still produced close to its original location, in a 145,000 square-foot factory in El Cajon, California. However, some of the more affordable models are built in the brand’s respected Tecate facility in Mexico.

Relative Price Range
Being such a prestigious brand, you can certainly find Taylor guitars stretching up to $10,000 mark and beyond, although most guitarists will be able to find a great model in the $700 to $2,000 region. Note that Taylor’s new Academy Series offers beginners a more affordable way to play a Taylor, as these start from around $500.

ImageAcoustic Guitar / RatingSummaryCheck Price
+ - Taylor Academy 12e Taylor Academy 12e

Total of 4.80/5  

The perfect guitar for beginners? We think so!

+ - Taylor 200 Series Deluxe 224ce-K Taylor 200 Series Deluxe 224ce-K

Total of 4.77/5  

Taylor’s mid-range all-koa model, providing a bright sound and awesome looks.

+ - Taylor 300 Series 314ce Taylor 300 Series 314ce

Total of 4.72/5  

An impressive all-American, all-solid wood electro-acoustic from Taylor.

Our Take on Taylor
With so much focus on quality, innovation and playability, it’s hard to fault Taylor as a brand and it’s usually difficult to put down one of their acoustics. The brand may not have the same lengthy history as Martin or Gibson, but Taylor rightly has just as many fans.

Yamaha

Even if you aren’t a guitar player, you will have almost certainly encountered a Yamaha product somewhere along the way, as the Japanese brand produces everything from motorcycles and sporting goods to a wide range of musical instruments.

History of Yamaha
Yamaha’s founder, Torakusu Yamaha, first built a reed organ in 1887 and the brand’s range of musical instruments has developed ever since then. It now includes pianos, percussion, violins, recorders and guitars – both electric and acoustic.

In 1941, from their base in Hamamatsu, Japan, Yamaha first began working on acoustic guitars, although development was cut short due to the arrival of WWII. However, research continued after the war in 1946 and the new Yamaha Guitar Custom Shop began regularly producing steel-stringed models.

Yamaha acoustics first made their way to America in 1969, which coincided with Woodstock – where the FG-150 made an iconic appearance during an impromptu set played by Country Joe McDonald. Since then, Yamaha acoustics have been played by thousands of guitarists around the globe including countless legends, such as Paul Simon, John Lennon, Bob Dylan and John Denver.

Notable Models
Yamaha has many series worth mentioning, although the FG Series (standing for ‘folk guitar’) is undoubtedly the most famous. In particular, the hugely-popular FG830 is seen as one of the best acoustic guitars for beginners as it is easy to play, sounds great and is very sensibly priced.

Look out for the L Series too (standing for ‘luxury’), which originally launched in 1974. Ever since, this series has focused on offering guitarists an acoustic with a traditional feel but modern upgrades that result in an easily playable guitar with a warm, balanced tone. The Yamaha LS6 is a classic example of this excellent collection, which had a makeover in 2014.

Finally, the A Series is Yamaha’s higher-end collection, targeted at professional and performing musicians. These all-solid-wood acoustics aren’t cheap, but they still provide great value when you factor in the quality and tone on offer.

Where are the Guitars Produced?
Yamaha have factories across Asia and the exact series will determine where the guitar was made. Many of the brand’s lower-priced models are produced in factories in China and Indonesia, while the premium guitars are built in Japan.

Relative Price Range
Yamaha acoustics cover a wide scope, ranging from beginner-friendly models under $200 right up to $2,000-plus for their higher-end offerings.

ImageAcoustic Guitar / RatingSummaryCheck Price
+ - Yamaha A Series A3M Yamaha A Series A3M

Total of 4.82/5  

An acoustic workhorse with beautiful tone.

+ - Yamaha FG830 Yamaha FG830

Total of 4.70/5  

A very popular model from Yamaha – real affordable quality!

+ - Yamaha LL6M Yamaha LL6M

Total of 4.42/5  

An excellent showcasing of what today’s technological advancements are capable of achieving.

Our Take on Yamaha
Yamaha is an excellent brand and one of those rare manufacturers that produce as good a guitar in the budget range as they do in the high-end. The name Yamaha may not have the same level of prestige as a Martin, Taylor or Gibson, but they certainly rival these brands in terms of quality, tone and design – usually at better value for money.

Takamine

Next, we have another Japanese brand which is smaller than the behemoth that is Yamaha, but still offers acoustic guitars of sensational quality.

History of Takamine
The company began as a small family-run guitar shop established in 1959 at the bottom of Mount Takamine in central Japan and have grown since then. In 1968, Master Luthier Mass Hirade joined Takamine and his experience and flair gave Takamine guitars a distinct edge. They launched worldwide in 1975.

Takamine developed the respected Palathetic under-saddle pickup in 1978, before introducing its first acoustic-electric model – the PT-007S – in 1979. The brand also developed the use of intricate laser inlay work in 1994, ensuring fretboards were never the same again.

As well as ticking off big milestones, Takamine has accrued thousands of players worldwide, including professional artists such as Jon Bon Jovi, Toby Keith, David Lee Murphy and Garth Brooks.

Notable Models
Takamine’s Pro Series 7 is the brand’s premium collection, designed for professional guitarists, with an all-solid-wood build, exquisite abalone detailing and a tone to die for. The P7D is the delightful dreadnought version of this high-end series.

Many of Takamine’s artists have their own signature models, which are worthy of note, such as the Garth Brooks Signature (introduced in 1995) and the Toby Keith Signature, which arrived on Takamine’s 50th anniversary in 2012.

Where are the Guitars Produced?
As you may expect, Takamine’s high-end models are still handcrafted in the Pro Series facility in Sakashita at the base of the Japanese alps. Some of the lower-priced models are made in Korea (such as the G Series) and Taiwan.

Relative Price Range
While models in the Pro Series 7 can reach over $2,000, the majority of Takamine’s range is reasonably priced and accessible for most guitarists. Expect to pay around $200 for their more affordable ranges, including the entry-level GD10-NS.

ImageAcoustic Guitar / RatingSummaryCheck Price
+ - Takamine EF360S-TT Takamine EF360S-TT

Total of 4.78/5  

A vintage masterpiece from Takamine!

+ - Takamine EF341SC Takamine EF341SC

Total of 4.82/5  

An elegant black electro-acoustic from Takamine with quality and attitude!

+ - Takamine EF381SC Takamine EF381SC

Total of 4.88/5  

Classic example of Takamine quality that yields incredible sound, playability and performance.

Our Take on Takamine
Playing a Takamine is always a pleasant experience, no matter what price category. The brand offers good value for money across the board and – if you can pick up a premium Takamine – you will have a beautiful guitar that will last a lifetime.

Gibson

Gibson is undeniably one of the biggest names in the world of guitar, thanks mainly to its electric guitar range, such as the iconic Les Paul, the SG and the Flying V. However, some of the brands acoustic offerings are just as legendary.

History of Gibson
Gibson has been producing acoustic instruments in one shape or another for more than 120 years, starting with the archtop mandolin in 1894, when it was just Orville Gibson working alone from his workshop in Kalamazoo, Michigan. By 1898, Gibson used the same carved archtop design to develop the Style O Archtop Guitar.

To keep up with demand, Gibson became an established company in 1902, by then producing six different models of archtop acoustic guitar – three with oval soundholes and three with round soundholes.

The brand went on to develop its first production flattop acoustic – the L-1 – in 1926. Gibson were eventually endorsed by a range of stars (including Woody Guthrie, George Harrison, Pete Townshend, Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan) and continued to grow into the giant it is today.

Notable Models
It’s hard to single out individual models from a brand that produces so many notable acoustics, but one of the first must-have Gibson guitars was undoubtedly the Super Jumbo (J-200) – an oversized flattop acoustic that was custom made for country star Ray Whitley in 1937. This huge guitar became a status symbol in country music and remains just as popular in its modern form today.

Introduced in 1960, the Hummingbird is another classic Gibson acoustic with an unmistakable design. This square-shouldered dreadnought features elaborate etchings on the pickguard, along with distinct neck and headstock detailing to make it a true one-of-a-kind.

Where are the Guitars Produced?
Gibson’s acoustic guitars are now produced in Bozeman, Montana, and have been since the acoustic line was moved and revived there in 1989.

Relative Price Range
Gibson acoustic guitars are not cheap! Unless you are buying used, expect to pay over $1,500 for the cheapest model and more than $7,000 for their premium range.

Our Take on Gibson
Not much more has to be said about Gibson – they are clearly one of the masters of acoustic guitar, although their modern-day offerings are certainly aimed at regular performers and professionals as opposed to the casual player or beginner. Still, if you can get your hands on a Gibson acoustic, you probably won’t regret the hefty sum of money you’ve had to pay (if not, check out Epiphone, who make excellent Gibson replicas).

…And the Rest!

We’ve given you some of the greatest acoustic brands and still you want more!? Well, you’re in luck because there are loads more which we haven’t been able to highlight in detail. Here are some other brands that are well worth your time:

Epiphone

Established in 1873, Epiphone remains one of America’s oldest and best-loved musical instrument producers. They began making acoustic guitars in 1928 to compete with their greatest rival, Gibson. It’s ironic, then, that Gibson eventually acquired Epiphone in the late 1950s.

However, this was great for guitarists, as Epiphone have been able to produce affordable replicas of some of Gibson’s most famous acoustic models (such as the J-200 and the Hummingbird) as well as some of its own original acoustic guitars, including the renowned Masterbilt archtop series. You can always find great value with an Epiphone.

Guild

In 1952, Alfred Dronge established the first Guild workshop in Manhattan, New York. While producing electric jazz guitars was the new brand’s focus, Guild produced its first flattop and archtop acoustics within a few years of business. By the early 1970s, Guild had developed the D-40C, which is accepted as the first production acoustic dreadnought with a cutaway body.

Today, Guild remains a very popular acoustic manufacturer, offering models with simple but attractive designs, rich tones and arched backs for a powerful voice. What’s more, these models are accessible to all players, with both the affordable Westerly Collection and the high-end Guild USA series, which are made in California.

Fender

Fender is another iconic American brand that should need no introduction. While the company is mostly celebrated for its famous electric guitars, Fender also produces a great range of acoustics and electro-acoustics suitable for all players and budgets.

Some of their acoustic models are quite traditional (see the Classic Design Series), although Fender impresses with the bold designs of the relaxed California Series, combining cool paintjobs, super-playable necks and Stratocaster headstocks for a truly unique acoustic experience.

Breedlove

Less established than most of the historic brands on this list, Breedlove is still recognized as one of the leaders in acoustic guitar production, thanks to the quality and tone their models offer. The company was established by Larry Breedlove in Bend, Oregon, in 1990, who – along with Steve Henderson – had the goal of building ‘acoustic instruments unlike any others’.

They succeeded, as their acoustic guitars are very distinctive in shape and feel. All Breedlove guitars are still designed in Bend, although many of the cheaper models are now produced overseas. Look out for models from the premium Legacy Series for huge tone and great craftsmanship, as well as the entry-level Discovery Series for a more affordable way to play a Breedlove.

Seagull

A branch of Godin guitars, Seagull is another relatively modern guitar brand, established in 1982 in the Canadian village of La Patrie, Quebec – where Seagull guitars are still produced.

Seagulls are quickly identified by their distinctive tapered headstock, which allows the strings to stay straight, which helps tuning stability. The brand can also be applauded for their use of reclaimed wood to avoid deforestation, as well as their commitment to offering very good value (i.e. you never end up paying over the odds for a great guitar).

Overall, they are excellent instruments and are always recommended, whatever price category – whether the affordable S6, the mid-range Mosaic, or the higher-end Artist Cameo.

Ovation

Now time for something completely different! The innovative American brand Ovation – founded in 1966 in New Hartford, Connecticut – is best known for its use of composite materials in its guitars, such as Lyrachord bowls instead of wood on the back and sides. They are also famous for being one of the leaders in electro-acoustic technology.

While some purists dislike the lack of wood, these light, ergonomic and powerful guitars have proved a long-lasting hit with many guitarists around the world. In fact, many artists such as Glen Campbell, Melissa Ethridge, Josh White, Nikki Sixx and Al DiMeola all use them, while several artists even have their own Ovation signature models.

Washburn

Last, but certainly not least, is Washburn – yet another legendary name in the world of acoustic guitar. The company was created in Chicago in 1883 by Patrick J. Healy and George W. Lyon (the W stood for Washburn).

More than 130 years of guitar-building experience has served the brand well as it continues to produce a wide range of popular acoustic collections, most of which are incredibly affordable and suit beginner and experienced guitarist alike.

What Are the Best Acoustic Guitar Brands for Beginners?

Many of the brands we have already highlighted provide some excellent models specifically targeted at beginners. For example, Taylor’s Academy Series has a range of comfortable and affordable models that are perfect for newbies. However, these aren’t the most wallet-friendly guitars, so won’t suit all budgets.

Yamaha and Seagull – another two we have already highlighted – offer some great affordable models for beginners, as highlighted in this comparison article on the Yamaha FG830 and the Seagull S6.

Other brands which impress in the beginners’ market include Ibanez – the Japanese brand best known for its electric guitar output – as well as Luna, who craft some beautifully decorated and affordable acoustic guitars.

Look out for offerings from Alvarez and Jasmine too. These brands don’t enjoy the same fame that Martin, Yamaha or Gibson do, but they do specialize in offering affordable acoustics that suit beginners very well.

The Final Word

By now you should be aware of why names like Martin and Gibson are so well-respected and why guitarists love Taylors and Yamahas.

There is certainly an element of brand snobbery, with some guitarists swearing that nothing beats a Martin, while Taylor enthusiasts would rather play anything but a Martin. Our advice – take all advice with a pinch of salt!

Most of the brands offer similar quality and craftsmanship in their respective price ranges, so the brand you settle with will probably end up boiling down to the one you prefer the look, sound or feel of, or the one that best suits your budget.

Read our article highlighting some of the best acoustic guitars on the market today for more inspiration (beginners may prefer to check out our dedicated article on acoustic guitars for beginners.

Do you agree with our list of the best acoustic brands? Are we missing any? Let us know in the comments section below!


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