Top 10 Best Acoustic Guitar Brands

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 are impeccable, and 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 balanced.

None of that "tinny" Taylor quality which, while useful in certain applications and seems "easier to play," cannot hold a candle to 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.

2 Gibson

Along with Martin, Gibson has done what every guitar company would want, and that's to establish themselves as iconic brands in their profession. Since I was a little kid, the guitars I dreamed of were Martin and Gibson. American-made guitars have always been the industry standard, and Gibson is the premium standard of American-made guitars, therefore the world's standard in guitar making.

Many companies do electrics or acoustics very well, but Gibson is unique in the fact they produce world-class acoustics along with their famous electrics. Countless guitarists have resorted to Gibson acoustics for some of the best music ever recorded. Whether it be the renowned J-45 or amazingly toneful SJ-200 to the small body L models, to this day, Gibson stands in a small group of truly great companies making acoustic guitars.

3 Taylor

Taylor, Martin, Gibson are all great production brands. Which is better comes down 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 two 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 $3,000 to $4,000 price range. If you're looking for something in a lower $500 to $1,000 range, you probably should be considering Yamaha or Takamine. Though in the end, you get what you pay for.

4 Ovation

I bought a 1651 back in the early '80s, known as the Lennon Model. Had no idea at the time Lennon used one. The sound without electronics is deep and rich with medium light strings. Incredible action as well.

Ovation gets a bad rap...I say pick one up and play. I love the deep bowl sound. Recording plugged in...again, I love it. USA made.

Only disappointment: the heavy finish on the old models tends to crack. NOT the spruce top, just the finish...does not affect play or sound.

I bought another 1651...I love this guitar.

Plug one in, and you'll understand what an acoustic instrument is supposed to sound like while playing live. Unplugged, they sound great as well, especially the deep bowl models. I hear from my friends that they think those rounded backs feel awkward to play while sitting down.

I have a deep contour bowl that is way more comfortable playing relaxed on my couch than even my little 000-Martin.

5 Takamine

Some of the most well-rounded acoustics on the market. They may not boast the character of some of the big names like 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 the 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.

6 Yamaha

I've been playing guitar for several years now, so I have played a wide variety of instruments. Of course, bigger companies such as Martin or Taylor are going to be higher up in the ratings because they produce very expensive guitars, and their name has been widely spread.

My first ever Yamaha six-string, which after three years is still my favorite guitar, is amazing. Its deep and rich tones make it a blast to play. I can find myself playing any genre for hours because of how reliable and durable it is. They are very well priced for their quality, and I would label Yamaha as being the working man's guitar.

7 Fender

Recently, I had an Epiphone acoustic... it had an irritating twangy sound and was 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 and pain, so I traded it for the warm sound of a Fender. Not only am I playing better, but holding down the strings doesn't hurt nearly as much (a little is 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.


8 Seagull

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 because 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 hours 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. It plays and sounds like an overpriced $4k+ guitar from the market leaders. It has a wide nut for ease of playability and 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 are other great brands 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 than just the overpriced Martin/Taylors/Gibsons.

9 Ibanez

It's all personal preference. Some folks just like expensive name brands and they pay for it. Love my Ibanez. Sounds and feels great. And money left over for beer!

I have used Ibanez for about 3 years now, and the sound is quite comparable to the guitars of some great brands. Plus, the price offered is also fantastic.

I really love Ibanez guitars. I have an Ibanez acoustic guitar, and I love it!

10 Epiphone

Okay, I read "are you joking?" I am a guitar snob, having guitars worth well over $50k and several from the late '40s to early '70s, both electric and acoustic. I must admit, my favorite acoustic was my 1958 J45 (stolen). Before all of you get too personal, I have played and checked out almost this entire list of guitars. I wouldn't touch a Martin unless I shell out $2k plus. Matons are dreams. Guild and Gretsch put out some really nice affordable guitars, as well as Blueridge, which is very surprising to me that it was not mentioned here.

Here is what you need to do with any of the affordables: Take it to a tech, bottom line. Bone saddles and nuts are a must. Set your trusses to your playing style. Get the right strings. It will make a huge difference. Set that action up. For me, I'm about a nickel's width off the fret. Stop making BS claims on any guitar and don't show bias. Any of these guitars, I could take any one of them and make them play like one of my $6k customs I owned, provided we are talking solid tops, backs, and sides with tone woods. It will cost another $250.00 to have a pro set up, but it's worth it.

The Contenders
11 Guild

I have had a 1979 Guild 12-string F212XL NT for over 30 years (found it in a pawn shop in Aberdeen, WA). It has the most beautiful sound I've ever heard, more like a piano. It offers amazing balance and sustain.

I just bought a 1996 JF55 (one of the few ever made with a 1.75 nut, although specs say it should have been 1 11/16. It is a full 1.75, and I looked forever to find one). Not as bright as the mahogany F212XL, but the JF55 (6-string jumbo) with rosewood back and sides gives it a warm, full sound. You can slam strum these guys, and they just take it and give great full-range tone back with zero spillover. They offer great playability and are built to last, though a bit heavy. I'll pass these on to my guitar-playing children. They have more power and clarity than any guitar at the same price range. Both are Westerly, RI-built guitars and they are stunning to look at. The sound fills the room.

12 Andrew White Guitars

I've met and talked to Andrew as his shop is 20 minutes from me. When you talk guitars to Andrew, you will get the feeling that this man knows his guitar building. He strives for perfection in his small WV workshop.

There is plenty of evidence seeing some of his production models hanging on display. His quiet voice belies his guitar building abilities.

As a luthier, his personal handmade guitars command a big price tag. But when you understand how he builds them, you'll understand why. One day, I'll own one of his creations from his workshop. But until then, I'll just drool over the pictures. Not sure why his production models are rated at 42 though.

13 Washburn

I can't have them above Guild. Their USA-made stuff and vintage acoustics are gems, no doubt, but they set 7th 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 altogether, which is a shame.

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 famous musicians, including Tommy Emmanuel, John Butler, and even Angus Young from AC/DC has one. The sounds and quality are second to none.

15 Breedlove

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. It always impresses!

If you look at their website, they explain their philosophy and research of pushing the envelope forward. Then you understand why they're 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.

16 Lakewood

Superb guitars. Lakewood offers both standard and custom production of 12-fret cutaway guitars.

Other producers do not offer standard production - except Taylor, but Taylors at the same price level are made technologically cheaper, or at the same quality level, are much more expensive. My impression is that Lakewoods have a slightly livelier sound than Taylors.

I am interested in well-made, i.e., with high-quality craftsmanship, 12-fret cutaways, and the brand is not so important to me.

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

17 Larrivee

I bought my first Larrivee (L Series) in the mid-1980s after recording with my Gibson. The Larrivee has sustain, a consistent sound, and allows the bass strings to come through without infringing on the sound of the treble strings. I think Larrivees are still one of the top 2 guitar makers.

A few years ago, I wanted a mini/parlor guitar. I tried a few, did not like what I heard in the Taylor line, and I did not want another Larrivee. The irony of it is, I did buy a Taylor and now realize it was because it sounded like a Larrivee, bright and even. This is an anomaly Taylor, I know that now.

I bought a Larrivee Parlor, which is okay, but I also have learned that I am not a parlor, mini fan. They, for the most part, do not deliver an even enough sound for me.

I have played Lowden, Martin, Gibson, Guild, Olsen, Huss and Dalton. I recently played an Irvin guitar. Wow, what a beautiful line of guitars. I want one. It is my next guitar with its sustain, consistency, brilliance, and ease of playing (chords, soloing, finger picking, and flat pick usage). This is one to consider if you are looking for a guitar with tone.

18 Tanglewood

I don't think Tanglewood should be below Yamaha. They sound amazing, and the materials they use are very comfortable to the touch. I own a Yamaha, but when I played a Tanglewood, I got mesmerized.

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

Tanglewood should have been in the top ten when it comes to acoustic.

19 Alvarez

Alvarez is the best-kept secret in the acoustic guitar industry, hands down, bar none. It offers more value at a lower price than any other guitar maker!

My message to those in the know: let's keep it our little secret.

It's like a great swimming hole when you were a kid. Once "everybody" found out how great it was, your swimming hole was overwhelmed with kids, and it was ruined.

With something like a great guitar at a reasonable price, once people start catching on, the price goes up, and the advantage is gone!

The mahogany-topped parlor model AP66ESHB sings and projects astonishingly well for a small body guitar. The Delta models from their Jazz and Blues line are wonderfully playable and are well suited to playing the music invoked by their names.

Nicely balanced tone across and along the neck on all of these guitars.

20 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 the 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. 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.

21 Cort

The best value for the money. I have an AP55 V-B parlor, and it is very well made. It has great balance and is light. The neck is comfortable and stable.

It has a rosewood fretboard, spruce top, and the sides and back are mahogany. Beautiful finish and attention to detail. The hardware is excellent.

This is a no-frills acoustic guitar, so don't expect fancy inlays or a pickguard. The AP 55 V-B is comfortable to play and sounds great.

I own a Cort MR 710, and I love its bold yet balanced tone. I have tried a few different guitars, but I find it to have the best sound you can buy for the money.

They have some very nice-looking models, too. Also, I love the narrow necks on most of their models. Perfect.

22 Lowden

I have been playing electric, acoustic, and classic for 20 years. I have owned high-end Taylors and played my fair share of Martins.

My current daily player is a Lowden F 35... and it continually surprises me after years of working with it. It's an amazing instrument, and I whole-heartedly recommend these guitars.

The guitar is constructed completely differently from mainstream acoustics: A-frame bracing, super strong 5-piece neck, split saddle, and handmade attention.

If you ever have the good fortune to encounter one of these, for heaven's sake, try it out. There's absolutely nothing out there that sounds as good as a Lowden, at least not for under 10 grand.

I've never played a Lowden that didn't haunt me afterwards.

23 Yamaki

Amazing, amazing acoustics. I am partial to it because the Japanese imported spruce from British Columbia for the top, and I live in Vancouver. Massive volume, great tone, and my favorite neck.

I played one 17 years ago, and have never been able to forget it. So, I hunted and found one this year from the early '70s. Absolutely love it.

Terrific guitars. I also have a Martin D18 but play the Yamaki almost exclusively. Nice deep sound and plenty of volume. If I had to give up one of them, I would keep the Yamaki as I much prefer the sound of it to the Martin.

By the way, both are of the same '70s vintage.

24 Godin

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

25 Faith

Faith guitars, as far as I'm concerned, are on a par with all your top makes like Martin and Taylor. I have a Neptune natural best acoustic I've ever played, solid top grade woods and ebony fretboard. Just try one!

I've had my Faith guitar for 7 years now and the action and tone is fantastic. It features great quality materials and workmanship. Well recommended.

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