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If you’re looking to find an instrument that combines quality with affordability, then Yamaha should always be your first port of call. This rings very true in the under $300 classical guitar market with the Yamaha CGX102 – an entry-level electro-acoustic nylon-stringed model with a lot going for it. At such a wallet-friendly price, this would be suitable for both beginners as much as experienced players looking for an affordable stage friend.
Like many other classical guitars, the CGX102 is very traditional in style and doesn’t venture away from the tried and tested non-cutaway shape with a 25-9/16″ scale length and high-gloss finish. The body is constructed of good quality laminate tonewoods, with a spruce top, and nato back and sides. The neck joins the body at the 12th fret, and is constructed from mahogany, with a rosewood fretboard, a generous 2.06” nut width, and 19 frets. There’s not much more to comment on design-wise – there are a couple of very subtle dot markers on the side of the neck and the soundhole rosette is attractive, but there’s nothing groundbreaking in style, just timeless beauty. Of course this model comes from a large factory, but still shows a good degree of craftsmanship – in fact, the finish is sleek and pretty flawless, and just feels very well made.
As mentioned, the CGX102 differs from Yamaha’s CG102 in one key way – it has electronics, allowing you to plug directly into an amp. This is a Yamaha-designed System 68N preamp, which is a good little battery-powered system. It comes with an accurate on-board digital tuner, as well as some very simple controls – just volume and tone (so individual bass, middle and treble would be controlled via the amp). Elsewhere the guitar features a rosewood bridge, as well as a set of upgraded tuners on the slotted headstock, which feel smooth to use and hold tunings very well.
The CGX102 offers an authentic classical guitar sound – not too dissimilar in tone to something twice the price. Of course, it’s made of laminated woods, but the spruce and nato combine to deliver a sweet, mellow and warm tone that’s perfect for all sorts of classical and fingerstyle pieces. What the controls of the System 68N preamp lack in versatility, they make up for in simplicity for beginners, and the pickup projects the guitar’s natural tone well, capturing the warmth nicely.
There’s a reason Yamaha are one of the world’s leading guitar brands – you just have to look at the impressive CGX102 to see why. While the price and materials still see it classed as an entry-level model, it feels better constructed with big improvements over more basic classical guitars, and the electronics would suit stage performers just as much as beginners.