Best Acoustic Guitar Brands

Christian.H.Mills
Notice the inconspicuous absence of the suffix "ists" from guitar. This list is devoted to your favorite guitar brand.

The Top Ten

1 Martin & Co.

Nothing compares to a Martin. The craftsmanship and attention to detail is impeccable, and the sound: the sound. The sound is like heaven. If you're used to an electric, a Taylor may feel more comfortable, but nothing compares to the timbre of a Martin acoustic. In the right hands, the bass and treble are perfectly actuated. None of that "tinny" Taylor quality which - while useful in certain applications and seems "easier to play" - cannot hold a candle to the the deep, rich, nuanced tone of a Martin acoustic. Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Woody Guthrie, Eric Clapton... Need I say more? I own a D-35, and I wouldn't be caught dead without a Martin guitar in my arsenal. Complete, unequivocal perfection.

Acoustically I own a Martin for the living room. Best sound but I won't let it leave the house. (Taylor people are so defensive, but lets face it Martin owners never have to say "Oh it sounds just like/as good as a Taylor") I own an Ovation, the thing is bullet proof, a little thin on sound but can take it anywhere. If I plug it in, it has amazing electronics and sounds 10X better. I own an Ibenez exotic wood, pretty but a stiff box that just does not resonate, hate it.

Even Taylor players know that Martin is king. They just won't admit it. Who do you think invented the Dreadnought?

I own a Martin DX1RAE and no regret. Price compare to Taylor I will say better chose Martin instead Taylor. In future if I will own additional guitar, probably Taylor will be my option. K.E. Ch'ng

V 88 Comments
2 Gibson

Every time I guitar shop I come back to Gibson. Pricey, but the look, feel and tone are to my tastes. A lot of classic songs have been recorded over the years on these guitars. Are they superior to Martins or Taylors? It's a matter of preference. I own a hummingbird custom and the aesthetics, tone and feel are unsurpassed, but it doesn't "cut" like a Martin. For chording though, it's a better balance. I also own a J-45 which is the ultimate acoustic blues guitar.

Just picked up a J-45 PureVoice.. the sound is sweet, the play is dynamic, and it is responsive to the max. It works with me, and I with it - one really feels the relationship is mutually needy, and if you like the mid-range feel of Jackson Browne or Cheryl Crowe, Gibson lays it out for you.

One day I want to own a Martin IN ADDITION to my Gibson.. but having tried both a lot.. the D-18, the D-28... I went with the J-45. The J-45 is special in that it has slim shoulders - you won't get an enormous boom out of it when un-amplified. But the sustain is super fine, and as accompaniment to the singer and as a tool for the songwriter, it is rock solid and it gives, gives, gives, then gives some more. Plus, it's sexy as hell - every boy might think he longs for a Martin, but every girl goes home with the guy with the Gibson.

I just got a hummingbird and it's by far the nicest guitar I have ever owned. And I've had so many fenders martins, and Taylor's. Taylor were decent also but Gibson. Both electric and acoustic have that rich warm sound and feel. Bottom line, gibbons are the best.

I have several top of the line guitars. A Martin, A Taylor and a Gibson. I love them all for different reasons. But when it comes to performing, my Gibson SJ 200 is the best. There is nothing like the tone of that guitar!

V 34 Comments
3 Taylor

Taylor, Martin, Gibson all great production brands... Which is better comes done to what you like sonically, visually and of course the feel in your hands. It is also difficult to compare one brand versus another unless you are comparing similar designs using the same tone woods and in the same price range. Anyone espousing one is better than the other without doing this is not being honest with themselves. I own a Martin and two Taylors, all are great and have different voices and feels... Even the 2 Taylors are very different in sound and looks. In the end I vote for Taylor because I like the neck carve and feel that the looks and build quality are a bit better in the $3K - $4 price range. If your looking for something in a lower $500 - $1, 000range you probably should be considering Yamaha or Takamine. Though in the end you get what you pay for.

I have been a musician for many years now. I have played in everything from metal bands to acoustic coffee house sets to worship/praise bands. I feel that with these many years of playing I have earned a sharp ear, no pun intended. By that I mean that I have developed an ear not only to hear pitches, tones, and notes, but I can also hear good and bad timbre. I feel that Taylor guitars simply produce the best timbre of any acoustic guitar I have played. Naturally, all of my acoustics are Taylor! With that, thanks to Bob Taylor for doing it best and doing it right the first time!

Taylor and Martin are the best. I like Taylors cause of their higher sound. A Martin has a deeper, more mellow tone.

When you get into their all-wood category you'd assume they're great products. But the surprising thing is their lower-end laminate guitars like the 114 are sooo good as to compete with their $2k+ brothers! As a value buyer that can afford ANY guitar, to me, I'd start there.

Problem is that market leaders like Taylor and Martin overprice their entire guitar line--because they CAN! So I shy away from M & T, as I find other great makes that punch above their price weight like Seagull, Takamine, Blueridge, Breedlove, Larrivee, Yamaha.

And as for the Martin vs. Taylor debate, there is a tone difference, and I prefer Taylor for its openess/crispness/balance (with still a LOT of bass)--playability is great too. If you want a warm sounding BOOM box, then a Martin dread will be for you--both brands are well made, but ask too much versus the competition, but they can get away with it (for now). If you're a fickle buy/sell type of guitarist then the choice is clear: M & T will ...more - dr150

V 50 Comments
4 Washburn

I can't have them above Guild. Their usa made stuff and vintage acoustics are gems no doubt, but they set 7 or 8th for me. I just wish they still made American made acoustics. Like guild they are a hallmark name in the acoustic guitar world. Unlike guild they aren't being made in america. Guild and their supporters really lucked out with the Cordoba purchase. They're bringing Guild back where they belong. On top. Now if someone would do the same for Washburn. I really thought the usa made stuff would get back to greatness with that solo deluxe warren haynes model, but they stopped American made guitars all together which is a shame.

I was handed down my fathers Washburn, the only time I remember being allowed to touch it was when he bought it and put it across our laps when I was 5, this was about 30 years ago and even then we were only to protect it. I now play it and it is beautiful and has such a rich tone. I love it.

Just got a new washburn a few days ago and it sounds just as good as most of the martins and other top brands that I tried I don't know why it has such low ratings

Surprising quality at a reasonable price!

V 18 Comments
5 Epiphone

Unbelievable quality and sound

#5? Are you joking? I have a PR-200 that I've owned for 15 years. I hate it. The action is ridiculous unless your fingertips are made out of adamantium or whatever the heck Wolverine is made from. The sound is muddled and a clash of midrange. Sustain is nonexistent. The frets have flattened on the high strings. News flash- I'm not spending $350 to re-fret a $279 guitar. Epiphone may make some good high end guitars but I don't trust them. If you make crappy low end guitars why should I trust your brand? You were supposed to get me to fall in love with the brand but you've made me hate it. My next guitar will be a Yamaha, Martin or Taylor.

I like it cause it's the greatest sound I have ever seen and the other thing that it gets better when it gets older

Their Masterbuilt guitar is the gem of the line. Competes at twice its price.

If you ever wanted a Gibson and never could afford one, then this is the model to get and will leave you with NO regrets--seriously! - dr150

V 20 Comments
6 Fender

Honestly, a couple of years back I never looked at Fender for acoustic guitars because everyone was always talking about Taylors, Gibsons, Martins, Takamines, Paul Reed Smiths etc. Despite being a very good electric guitar company not to mention the inventor of the no. 1 guitar in the world, the strat, everyone always looked Fender, alongside with Ibanez and Washburn (good electric guitar brands) as bad acoustic manufacturers. I was one of them too. For me, Washburn and Ibanez might be a good budget acoustic guitar manufacturer but they don't deserve to be high in this 'top acoustic guitar brands' list. But for Fender, these past few months my mindset about them changed. I never realized how authentic and good sounding fender acoustics were way back then but I'm happy now that I changed my mind about them. I love them now. It's not about having vintage acoustics, or having high end prices. Fender don't set their prices as high as taylor, martin or gibson but they must not be judged ...more

Recently had an Epiphone acoustic...irritating twangy sound and always falling out of tune. The body of the guitar is so large it's uncomfortable, even holding down the strings felt as though I would be drawing blood any minute. I hated to practice because of the sound & pain, traded it for the warm sound of the fender. Not only am I playing better, but holding down the strings doesn't hurt nearly as much (a little expected) and I can't wait to hear it. Now I understand how the phrase "it's music to my ears" came about. I'm in love with my Fender.

Crystal

Absolutely not. Way too high. Fender make great electric guitars particularly the Strat., but have no desirable vintage acoustics worth anything nor are they making first class American made acoustics today that come even close to the sound or quality of say their American strats. No acoustic history or brilliance from Fender and don't deserve this spot on an acoustic list.

Bright honest sounds and great depth.

V 16 Comments
7 Seagull

Though I'm a Martin fan and definitely don't feel that anything else truly rivals my Martins, I do love my Seagull. It has a much deeper, warmer, fuller sound than any other guitar I've played in its price range. (Helps that mine is a cedar-top; the wood type makes all the difference in tone.)

It's the best backup guitar I've used when not playing a Martin -- and I don't even have a high-end Seagull, just a basic, cheap model. It also plays so nice that you just don't want to put it down once you get your hands on it. I can't say enough great things about it.

I've really listened and played the Gibson, Martin, and Taylor and it really comes down to the top and what it's made of. My late father in law made acoustic guitars & patterned his after Martin. Other than playing the ones he made, SEAGULL is handmade & is a very rich sounding, underrated guitar from Quebec.

Went to guitar center and tried 30 guitars. The best was a Gibson hummingbird, and my next two favorites were both seagulls. You can't get a better value under $400. The cedar top on mine sounds fantastic and combined with the cherry sides and back and the mini jumbo shape it brings out the low notes very well while the others seemed to not show the highs. Great guitars

I did a lot of research when purchasing my next acoustic guitar.

I'm fortunate enough to have the ability to afford any guitar, but I don't like paying for overpriced stuff b/c of the market leading legacy name (M *cough* T *cough G).

I went to several stores to try all makes and models--spent 3-4 hrs. on each visit. The ones that stood out to me most as a line were Seagull and Breedlove.

I ended up with the Studio Artist all-wood guitar. Plays/sounds like an overpriced $4k+ guitar from the market leaders. Wide nut for ease of playability. Top notch construction too (better than the $2.5k+ Gibsons I played). This is my type of guitar that's fairly priced with no need to ever second-guess your purchase.

There's other great brand that punch above their weight like Breedlove, Larrivee, Blueridge, Yamaha, Epiphone Masterbuilt or even Tone King (if you can find a pristine one). Tons of up and comers as more people realize that the guitar world is made up of more ...more - dr150

V 23 Comments
8 Gretsch

The Gretsch "Jim Dandy" is a little known secret and it is one of those guitars you can't put down. Out of the box it was in tune and setup was right on. No sore fingers and you can play it for hours. Chet Atkins played the Gretsch and produced some great songs not a Jim Dandy but still Gretsch. Mike from Ga.

Should be higher than ibanez and washburn lol so much hate. Ibanez and washburn may produce nice budget acoustics but they don't deserve high spots on this list. Gretsch and fender acoustics are always underrated.

You can't drink them in the desert or invite them to dinner in front of distinguished guest such as the prime minister or marie antoinnennette who happens to be my sister by the way however as a violin for the bath well I ask you is this ninety six thousand dollar machine better than my fifty six dollar Stradivarius I stole from school with it.

Gretsch really should be higher on the list.

V 1 Comment
9 Yamaha

Yamaha guitars are very reliable instruments, my grandfather bought the guitar that I currently own, and it's gone through 60 years of being played, and there are only a few dents in it, and they don't even affect the sound. If you want a guitar that has an amazing sound, pretty good price, and will last a very long time, buy a Yamaha.

I bought an LL11 about 15 years ago and never wanted anything else since. It matches up to up to a Martin/Gibson costing up to three times the price.

I have played several acoustics and owned several... The best sounding acoustic I have ever played... Ever... Is my Yamaha. $300-$400 or something... Don't remember. My dad bought it for me in the mid 90s. It's had the frets redone several times due to playing the crap out of it haha. Best tone for rock, blues, country, whatever... It sounds puly amazing.

This brand's guitar is too good to use...
Now I am using this company's guitar.its sound is so sweet,like a candy.

V 26 Comments
10 Ovation

Bought an ovation a couple of years ago and it hasn't failed me yet. Mine's a fairly lower in the range Ovation Celebrity, but it's excellent. One of the most comfortable feeling guitars I've ever held, good projection, nice tone, even been known to out do a Gibson further down the neck. Plus bonus feature is that it does sound so much clearer and warmer out of the amp

Ovation Guitars have the very best tone of all of my guitars. I love the distinquished look too.

Ovation make interesting and unique acoustics. They have a particular sound that works for many, pros included. But 7 is a bit high of a rank. Their new American stuff carry that solid tone, but at 3 to 4,000 are over priced. The cheaper ovations just don't play well or sound like the American versions.

Round Back guitar is very unique. The sound is more powerful and stylish than wood guitar.

V 20 Comments

The Contenders

11 Ibanez

Ibanez Artwood and Exotic Wood are amazing.

What? Ibanez acoustics? oh man...

I have an Ibanez acoustic and it is always my go to guitar

Its honestly been the best type of guitar for me and I've been playing for 2 years

V 11 Comments
12 Takamine

I have a beautiful 2003 Ltd and my friend who has played for many years has the Taylor and he ended up borrowing my tak for five months he didn't want to give it back you know the guy has played with some well known folk's so I trust his judgment played with Keith Green and America and I have played over thirty years so I haven't let to many go by without some trial and ownership this tak is as good or better than the best Martin can offer. Ovation can't touch it and of course Gibson is too soft for me I own a fender and a Yamaha 6 and 12 for the money you can't beat a yam and I have played hummingbird to dove guild gretch Washburn breedlove which is a favorite not many I haven't played so with all this my top ten is Takemine Martin Gibson Breedlove Hagstrom Taylor Guild Gretch Washburn and Yamaha. If you can find a Hag it will blow your bag I have a 1971 Hagstrom acoustic I believe it was a demo for Golden Earing it was a gift from an old friend from Deutschland any way I will say ...more

My tak is an amazing sound an unforgiving strong clear medium to deep sound great feel it's a limited edition and kicks my buddies 3800 buck Taylor's ass my guitar was a bit pricey at 2800 but well worth it my 6000 price Martin is not as nice as my takemine maybe I got lucky and the guitar just turned out that way who knows it is the most amazing clean very vibrant and holds the notes so long I have played them all only one guitar has this sound and its this one only for deeper sounds I have my Martin and ovation has unique sounds and the Gibson is softer and Taylor sucks sounds like a osterizer blender if you tried my guitar you would be shocked by its sounds I have played the same model and the other ones sounded the same as each other I don't know why the one I own sounded so much different I guess I lucked out. I also have an old Hagstrom acoustic and it sounds phenomenal better than any Taylor I have ever played it sounds very much like a high end Gibson but not as soft. try a ...more

Some of the most well-rounded acoustics on the market. They may not boast the character of some of the big names like the Martins and Gibsons but they fit in most musical situations just as well. Remember that Takamine achieved its success by copying Martin guitars - and they did a good job. Also they have some of clearest and cleanest electronic preamp systems on the planet. In fact, they essentially pioneered the style of electronics that we see in most guitars today. While you can spend an arm and a leg on one, you don't have to. I've had Takamines under $1,200 that played phenomenally. Don't make your purchase until you've tried one out.

Often called the "Japanese Martin". YES, they are that. GREAT instruments.

I had a $300 Taklamine once and it played and sound great. Sharp frets though from my Made in China model. I think that should have been corrected by them at the factory.

Their pricier stuff is obviously on another build level and worth a hard look. - dr150

V 38 Comments
13 Breedlove

You can tell these lists only consist of people who don't dig deep on info of great guitars. Breedlove's USA lines are top shelf. They quality and tone is outstanding and they are a top 5 or 6 company. I have an Oregon Parlor that is quite possibly the best sounding Parlor size guitar I've ever played or heard. And that's a plain Jane American made acoustic. They offer higher end American made stuff. I've played their other body styles and they aren't copying anyone's sound or style. They sound like Breedlove and that's something special. Much like Taylor's have their own sound so do Breedlove.

I've owned and played Martin, Ovations, Fender, and Gretsch acoustics but none has thrilled me more than the Breedlove Concert Pursuit with cedar top. The tone is definitely different - so balanced and the midrange really shines. Absolute joy to play despite this is not their top line. Not so much a strumming guitar - shines when finger picked. Last but not least, the tone when plugged in is so deep and warm it astounded me. Far better than the others I've had.

The Pro series is astounding. For a finger picker the resonance and depth is the best. Also the dynamic range. Go from gentle to digging and it will respond. Problem is of course, only a few thousand were made, but they are the business.

This will be the next GREAT American guitar company.

Their entire line is impressive in Tone and Playability. In their price categories, their models compete with any make.

I'm astonished that when I pick a Breedlove at a store, waiting to hear a dud, it never happens. Always, always, always impresses!

If you look at their website, they explain their philosophy and research of pushing the envelope forward. Then you understand why their elbowing their way into the elite ranks and why their guitars stand out so well in a sea of guitars at a store.

If they keep this up, 25 years from now of market growth, and they'll be regarded like Taylor and Martin. - dr150

V 16 Comments
14 Maton

I have many acoustic guitars in the collection including Gibson, Taylor, Fender and Washburn. That said none of these guitars come close to the richness in sound of a Maton. I'm assuming this is due to the quality of the Australian timbers and workmanship. Although a little expensive I highly recommend you at least play one in a shop as a treat and hope a dead relative leaves you some money to give you an opportunity of taking one home.

Good ol' Australian quality. Played by many, many famous musicians, including Tommy Emmanuel, John Butler, even Angus Young from AC/DC has one. The sounds and quality are second to none.

Their guitars are specifically design to have a flat tone like a Gibson j45 because it was design to be played electronically and a flat tone is a must have but I wouldn't rush out to get one for just playing at home

The best acoustic guitarist in the world Tommy Emmanuel has his own Maton signature guitars! Maton, they build only boutique instruments; the top of the line!

V 19 Comments
15 Larrivee

I own Larrivee walnut and a Martin, both are great but Larrivee seems to have a better value. Exotic and unusual woods, beautiful craftsmanship, and balanced sound makes this the most underrated guitar on this list

Expertly made, beautifully balanced (affordable! ) guitars with perfect necks/fingerboards for finger style playing.

Great guitar has not let me down the wood seems to look richer with age and the sound is full with warmth. Underrated guitar up there with the best in my opinion.

I own a Larrivee D-03R (along with 20 other guitars), and I think it is the best sounding commercially produced guitar I have ever heard. That includes Martins, Guilds, Taylors, and Blueridges. They have the most balanced sound of any guitar you'll ever play. And I don't mean for the money. I mean they are better period. And they don't make any laminate guitars, with just a solid top, like Martin, Taylor, etc. They are all solid wood, and have a superior bracing system. - TomJoad

V 11 Comments
16 Guild

Top 4 in my opinion. Countless guitarists have played them on some of the best albums ever written. I've owned numerous vintage guilds and still own a vintage f50 and d55. Recently Fender bought guild and I bought a new d55 which was a bit over rated and over priced in my opinion. But Fender has sold Guild and I sold my fender owned guild d55 only to buy a brand new by the new owners who moved Guild to a California facility and I must say it holds its own with the vintages I have. Guild is back! A great name in acoustic guitars. A great build (thank God once again), and the quality has always been with the best. Long live guild and it's a top 4 brand just behind Martin, Taylor and Gibson.

I have a bluegrass jubilee D-40 and it's sounds great

Overall solid guitars with great tone!

Much better guitar than 16. American classic. On par with Martin.

V 5 Comments
17 Alvarez

Each brand of guitar has it's low, mid, and high-end models. I've played all brands and it usually comes down to an individual guitar... even within the same model. However, the best bang for the buck (especially for vintage Yairi's) seems to be Alvarez and Takamine.

Alvarez guitars are underrated. I'm an intermediate guitar player. When I play my 5056 in a group setting, Martin and Taylor players sit up and take notice. Some of them have told me my guitar is better than theirs.

This company is simply unmatchable when it comes to the value you get for the price. Especially their bottom end models! I have an rd20sc that will blow most guitars from other brands costing twice as much out of the water. This brand should be at least in the top 5 of this list.

For the first time I feel inloved again, and this is the alvarez rd20s! it should be in the top 5! alvarez is one of the best guitar iv'e ever played with, and its inexpensive, I played gibson and fender guitars, but this one is the best.

V 14 Comments
18 Godin

I love my Godin..I have Taylors, Ovations,Martin but this is an awesome guitar..

V 2 Comments
19 Lakewood

I have a A54, 1997, and it's the only guitar which ever said to me "play me"!
Superb tone & finish and, due to Brazilian rosewood manufacture, will never depreciate!
I live in Scotland and have never seen another Lakewood here, seems to be Gibsons, Martins and Taylor's, two of which I also have and love, but the Lakewood is unique!

Excellent tone and finish. Unique concept, with very high quality standards.

The best guitar I ever had... a lakewood j32 (I put elixir strings)... unparalleled... I'm sorry they only mention the guitars Martin and Taylor... Have you ever played a Lakewood?

I had a Lakewood J32... and I also put elixir strings... I never found another guitar with such a good sound... I just did not like the shape of the arm... very round (Porto-Portugal)

V 7 Comments
20 Tanglewood

Best Sounding Acoustic, Just bought on today and the most beautiful sound I've heard

Tangle wood should have in top ten when it comes to acoustic.

Best sounding guitar I have played! If you are going to buy a guitar, definitely recommend buying a tanglewood!

Best acoustic guitar for me

V 8 Comments
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