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After doing so many reviews on the entry-level guitars, I was really excited to do this review.
Guitars in this price range are truly professional. The “real deal”, you might say.
But at the same time, when spending $1,000 on a long term purchase, you’ve got to choose carefully.
I am amazed at some of the crap that is peddled for a grand. Some that sounded awful were name-brands who you would expect to care more about their reputation!
Ideally, this list is going to save you time, money, simplify the choosing process, and leave you a lot happier with your purchase.
It’s as if the manufacturers figured out that people will buy anything if it has a certain logo on it and is being sold above a certain price point. (Especially Gibsons. Some of their remakes are simply shameful, in my opinion. They don’t sound anything like I remember my Grandaddy’s instruments sounding.)
And while the internet makes it easy to scroll through a list of guitars and sort them by price range, that is all it does. In this article, I am going to attempt to take it a step further and rank some of the top guitars on the market according to my own tastes.
Music tastes are fickle. I get that. But if you read each review, I try to explore what differentiates each option so that you can easily decide which is the best selection for your style.
Since you are shopping in this upper price range, I’m assuming that you are very serious about your craft. So I won’t shy away from mentioning upgrades you can do to customize your tone.
Most of these guitars won’t need much setup, but if you take a little time to get everything dialed in at the start you are going to be much happier overall.
Whether you are playing at a coffee shop or in front of 5,000 people, any one of these choices are going to make you sound really good.
Now you just need to decide which one to go with.
Our 2017 Ultimate Review Roundup
1. The Yamaha NCX1200R
The world of classical guitars is starting to bloom again. The proof of that is a number of new models that are hitting the market periodically. There’s just something about that flamenco sound coming from a set of decent nylon strings that is hardly replicated without a proper classical instrument. Yamaha is one of the few manufacturers who keep a consistent line of classical guitars and keep evolving them even more. Their NCZ1200R is a very balanced instrument that brings a great value for the money ratio. It comes with some features that aren’t generally found on classical guitars, which makes this particular instrument that much more exciting.
What you see here is an amplified classical model with a cutaway. That is not something you see every day, and we can report that the results are interesting, to say the least. This particular model sports a solid Sitka Spruce top with Solid Rosewood back and sides. NCX series also offers a Hokkaido Spruce top in their NCX2000. The main difference between the two is the tonal qualities they deliver. Hokkaido Spruce is much closer to Cedar when it comes to tone, and it has that warmth which is generally associated with this wood.
Solid Rosewood sides and back increase the weight of this model, which is one of the main complaints people have. However, this added weight is pretty much nullified by the sound improvement Rosewood brings to the table. Sure, it’s not the most common choice of materials for back and sides, but it just sounds so good. The neck comes in the form of African Mahogany piece that features a nice Ebony fingerboard. Overall choices of wood they went with for while producing this model complement each other very well.
This option is amplified, and the system that takes care of that is Yamaha’s A.R.T 2 way pickup unit. This system utilizes a different approach to amplification compared to the regular piezo style pickups. The pickups are placed below the bridge, which allows them to reduce a good portion of vibrations and feedback that you usually have to deal with. The whole package is topped off with manufacturer warranty, which makes the deal that much sweeter.
The whole array of features we just talked about work together to produce a very distinct sound that is defined across the range. Lows and mids are very well defined and abundant, while the trebles are crisp as they can be. Rosewood takes care of that with its snappy response. All of this makes the NCX1200R suitable for flamenco style. A.R.T electronics perform as marketed, doing an excellent job at reproducing the sonic capabilities with great success. The preamp gives you enough flexibility to dial in the perfect sound.
All in all this Yamaha is an excellent hybrid guitar. The extra weight takes some getting used to, but that’s a small price to pay for the impressive performance this choice offers. If you are open to new things and ideas, Yamaha NCX1200R is an excellent choice.
2. Martin GPCPA5K
It’s no secret that Martin guitars have a reputation for offering the best quality when it comes to high-end instruments. With that said, their mid-range acoustic guitars bring some of the best value for the money deals on the market.
Martin GPCPA5K is often considered to be the sweet spot of their range, as it delivers all the features you could need in a very affordable package for a manufacturer of their caliber. This beautiful product comes under the name Performing Artist, and there is a good reason for that. It’s a workhorse that designed and crafted with regular use in mind.
Martin GPCPA5K comes with a solid Sitka Spruce top and a Koa-patterned HPL back and sides. HPL stands for High-Pressure Laminate, which is technically an artificial material they use for their mid-range models. If you think this is a drawback, you will be surprised at just how authentic the sonic properties of this material are. It actually works very well. HPL allows Martin to significantly cut down on production costs, all while giving you the performance you expect from a world renowned manufacturer. HPL back and sides feature a Koa pattern, which gives them a more natural appearance.
The neck is a Stratabond design that is complimented with a Richlite fretboard and white dot inlays. Speaking of black Richlite, it was the material of choice for the bridge as well. The nut is a white Corian piece and the saddle is made of the proven Tusq material. This guitar sports a cutaway which allows you to reach those high notes more comfortably. Cutaways usually have some impact on the sound, but that is not really the case with Martin GPCPA5K.
When you need to be heard, or cut through the band, you have a Fishman F1 analog electronics system at your disposal. It’s a rather simple setup that gets the job done more than well, all while having a low profile and bringing the ease of use that is always welcome. This option doesn’t come with a case, but there is a hardshell case available for it, which is also made by Martin.
The combination of Sitka Spruce top and Koa-patterned HPL gives a very balanced tone. You get the warmth and richness of sound that only a solid top design can offer, while also enjoying the resonance and volume of the HPL. The cutaway takes off very little of that performance. An amount that is marginal at best. Martin GPCPA5K is extremely playable. The neck is smooth and the action sits just right. Fishman F1 electronics amplify the natural toner in a way that allows you retain a lot of that definition and clarity even in a decent sized venue.
Martin GPCPA5K is definitely one of the best amplified acoustic guitars in this price range at the moment. Its performance and overall quality of design follow the established Martin policy that has made them popular in the first place. It is a workhorse guitar capable of finesse, and that is something we just have to appreciate.
3. Seagull Entourage Burgundy CW GT QI
The never ending race to provide the necessary performance at a lower price has forced the manufacturers of acoustics to use mass production techniques to a larger extent. While this gets the job done, it can’t replace the work of a skilled luthier.
These days if you want a hand-made acoustic guitar, especially a North American one, you will have to put aside a big chunk of money. Seagull is an exception to that rule. This Canadian manufacturer actually delivers hand-made acoustic works of art that feature high-quality materials, at a very competitive price. Seagull Entourage Burgundy CW GT QI is a perfect example of that policy.
First look at this awesome guitar reveals the solid pressure tested Cedar top and wild Cherry back and sides. These materials alone tell you that you are dealing with a very high-quality instrument. Now add the fact that this instrument was hand-crafted by some of the best luthiers in the business, and the whole thing looks almost too good to be true. The solid Maple neck is beautiful and equally smooth in your hand.
This acoustic guitar is amplified using Quantum IT electronics. This system is standard when it comes to the way it works, but it is absolutely one of the best in this price range. Quantum IT electronics also come with a built-in tuner, which is very fortunate. One of the main downsides of this guitar is the fact that it doesn’t react well to frequent changes in tuning. However, if you don’t go crazy with alternate tuning, you won’t have to worry about it dropping out of tune.
If you ask anyone who has some experience with different acoustics, they will tell you that certain brands of acoustic guitars have certain sound properties that are found in every model in their range. Same goes for Seagull. These generally have a very bright tone with a lot of projection and volume.
The sound is warm and clear, but definitely distinct compared to a Martin or a Taylor. Not that this is a bad thing, on the contrary. It’s different in a good way. Quantum IT electronics works well, especially if your EQ requirements are robust. When amplified, some of that brightness is lost in the conversion, but you can still tell from far away that it’s a Seagull guitar being played.
The fact of the matter is that Seagull is one of the few, if not the only North American manufacturer that gives all the benefits of hand-crafted instruments at a price that is very much affordable. Whether this is one part of their attempt to acquire a larger market presence, or just their policy is up for discussion. What matters is that we get the option of obtaining high-quality acoustic guitars that are hand-made in North America, using top quality materials you won’t find outside of Canada, and all that at prices which are just too good to ignore.
4. Ovation AX Series C2079AX-5
Ovation is not the first name that comes to mind when you talk about mid to high-end acoustic guitars, but it definitely should be. Their AX series bring a lot of good stuff to the table, features that might not be too obvious right away, but ones that mean a lot if you want the kind of performance only a high-quality instrument can give you.
Their C2079AX-5 is the model we’ll look at today. As you are about to find out, it’s the perfect example of the kind of policy Ovation is currently implementing in their more refined guitars.
There is nothing standard about the way this baby looks or feels. The shape Ovation went with is their own design that has a pretty noticeable impact on the way C2079AX-5 sounds. The body features a solid Spruce top made with wood that was hand-selected and claims premium quality. A simple inspection of the guitar confirms these claims. One of the noticeable features that are worth mentioning is the quartersawn scalloped X-bracing which was made to work with this specific shape of the guitar.The results are impressive, to say the least.
The neck is a narrow five piece Mahogany/Maple design which just impresses with its smoothness. Being narrow might be an issue for some users, but once you get used to it you will understand why they went with this kind of design. On the top, you will find a high-quality Ebony fretboard with 20 accessible frets and very well made Abalone inlays.
This model is amplified and comes with OP-Pro Studio electronics. This system uses Ovation OCP-1K pickup, which work are designed in a way that best replicates the sonic properties of this guitar. What makes this preamp interesting is the integrated compressor and very flexible three-way EQ. These two features give you a lot of room to shape the sound to your needs. OP-Pro Studio electronics are compatible with just about any stage amp, sound system or recording console you could think of.
The sound this Ovation model offers is impressive, to say the least. Its shape, bracing, and other elements work together to give a very balanced tone that is rich in every part of the frequency range. Whether you are looking for a wide low-end, or crystal clear trebles, this guitar does it all. Electronics that come with Ovation C2079AX-5 add a whole new dimension of fidelity. You can dial in just about any kind of tone you want. Versatility is definitely one of the strong suits of this model, which is exactly what makes it a good choice for those who perform frequently.
Ovation definitely spiced up the race for the best acoustic electric guitar in this price range. C2079AX-5 brings some features that are not commonly found elsewhere, and this makes it stand out considerably from the competition. Finding a guitar that brings this kind of versatility in this market segment won’t be easy.
5. Epiphone EF-500RCCE
What started as a more affordable branch of Gibson quickly grew into a giant in its own right. Epiphone is no longer the cheaper alternative to Gibson. Instead, they are a serious competitor. Epiphone’s acoustic guitars are definitely some of the best when it comes to value for the money balance.
The build quality is there, but more importantly, their acoustics have a great sound. Epiphone EF-500RCCE is one such model that definitely deserves recognition. This guitar offers a very balanced performance that is exactly what most guitarists are looking for.
This Epiphone features a solid Cedar top along solid Rosewood back and sides. The shape is standard Masterbilt, meaning an Orchestra design with a cutaway. Masterbilt series first appeared in the early 1930s and has since become a legend in its own right.
The neck is a Mahogany design that features a particular ‘V’ shape. This neck is actually the main difference between the Fingerstyle and Dreadnought version. Its narrow fretboard makes it more suitable for finger picking while the Dreadnought one comes with what you would consider a standard neck.
Epiphone EF-500RCCE is an acoustic electric guitar. The amplification is taken care of by Epiphone’s Shadow NanoFlex pickups wired to an eSonic-2 stereo preamp. This combination has been proven numerous times by now. The preamp features a built-in tuner, stereo output and a whole lot of EQ controls that allow you to dial in a decent range of tones.
The sound is the defining characteristic of this guitar. When Masterbilt series first appeared, it offered a unique sound and the same can be said for the modern Masterbilt series. The combination of solid Rosewood and Cedar results in a very warm tone that has a lot of low-end saturation. It comes across very strong, an effect which is only multiplied when you play it finger style.
The electronics do a great job at reproducing this unique tone through an amp. With very flexible EQ controls, you can fine-tune the tone and bring it even more in line with finger picking style. With that said, the Epiphone EF-500RCCE reacts very well to more aggressive strumming as well. The only real flaw this baby has is the fact that you might have to set up the intonation right our of the box. Once you do that, you will experience the full potential of this incredible acoustic electric guitar.
Epiphone EF-500RCCE is definitely one of the memorable acoustic guitars on the market today. Epiphone did a great job at reproducing all the qualities that made the original Masterbilt series so appealing. This guitar is definitely catered to finger style players. All of its elements are working towards that end.
However, it’s flexible in a sense that it reacts well to strumming as well, with or without amplification. If you are looking for a different tone that stands out from what is usually available, this Epiphone will get you exactly that kind of experience.
6. Godin A6
Godin is a Canadian manufacturer that has several subsidiaries, one of which is Seagull. All of the guitars they make, along with their daughter companies, are manufactured in the same town in Canada.
If you appreciate Seagull’s hand-crafted quality, you will definitely love Godin guitars. The one we are going to take a look at today is Godin A6, a very interesting electro acoustic that comes with some unusual solutions. It is definitely not your run of the mill model, and that gives it a unique character.
The first thing you will notice on this Godin is the lack of orifice on the top of the guitar. Instead, you have two pickups to work with. This means you won’t get much out of this guitar without an amp of some sort, but this guitar was never intended to be acoustic in the first place. Speaking of the top, it is a solid design made of that same hand-selected Cedar that we find in most Godin and Seagull guitars.
The whole design of this model leans more to a standard electric guitar nature. The neck is made of Mahogany, and it combines the qualities of electric necks with an acoustic neck profile. The fretboard is crafted from Rosewood and looks a lot like what you can find on an average electric guitar. In comparison to a standard acoustic guitar, Godin A6 is smaller and thinner. However, this reduced volume allows it to retain the best qualities of acoustic sound.
Electronics come in the form of a single Godin GHN1 humbucker and a custom under saddle transducer. Both of these units are wired to a custom preamp that features a separate three-band EQ for each of these pickups, and separate outputs. The controls of the preamp are definitely different from the standard configuration all of us are used to. Instead of knobs, you can adjust your bass, mids, and trebles using a set of sliders. Another great feature on this guitar is the double action truss rod. This solution reduces the risk of neck deformation and offers better intonation properties.
Godin A6 gives a very odd, yet practical sound to its users. With two different pickups, you can get the acoustic sound as well as electric sound from a single instrument. Godin achieved this by delivering what are basically two sets of electronics combined into one.
When you plug into an amp using the acoustic pickup output, you will get that authentic sound only an amplified acoustic guitar can give you. On the other hand, the humbucker output offers a very nice clean electric tone that is enhanced by the semi-acoustic nature of it. The best thing is that you can blend the two using the preamp controls. This gives you a whole new dimension of sound flexibility that is unique to this guitar.
Godin A6 is definitely not your standard guitar. It offers a unique combination of two worlds that many will find to be very practical. The quality of tone is there, no matter which output you go with, while the blending of the two provides some pretty interesting results. All in all, Godin A6 is a very interesting guitar that is worth checking out.