Table of Contents
- Now, For Our 2019 Acoustic Guitar Review Rundown
- 2. Fender CD-60SCE Acoustic Electric
- 6. Fender FA 300CE Cutaway
There are a lot of Guitar Websites competing for your shopping attention. What makes us different is our depth of review, as well as the fact that we frequently update this guide to reflect which guitars are in stock.
For the unsuspecting shopper, there are ways to cheapen production and provide a guitar with sub-par sound.
You would be surprised at how a few little details can make incredible differences in the sound and playability of an instrument.
If you can’t play the model you are considering in person before buying, please at least read reviews by people who have. This list is here to simplify that process as much as possible.
Around the $300 price range, there are a lot of options that are an excellent buy.
Related: The Best Beginner Acoustic Guitars Click Here
You do want to be aware of the many ways where guitar companies may try to cut corners.
For example, they may use a lesser quality wood or install a pickup that doesn’t sound all that great.
So knowing what wood type and pickup that were used in production are just two things that can give you a really good idea on the guitar’s overall tone and durability, as well as any bugs that the manufacturer may have overlooked.
In this article, we look at the best acoustic guitars for those working inside a tight budget. I picked out the guitars that sound great and that have many raving fans. I’m a personal fan of acoustic electric guitars and so I’ve tried to find a few of those around $300 for your consideration. Having the ability to plug into an amp greatly expands your playing capability.
The major production companies change their models frequently. Mostly, I think, just to attract more frequent purchases from their existing customers. Or, there may have been some specification change on one of the components they used – such as a new pickup – that makes the old model obsolete.
Part of the trick of shopping for an affordable guitar is looking at the details and seeing what changes have been made. You may be able to pick one up very inexpensively that is almost identical to a brand-new release.
I’ll be honest, choosing a favorite from this lineup is not easy. They are all excellent and they all sound amazing. Even if you hope to play in front of people, such as in the church or at the coffee shop, these guitars will sound great and are a great entry point without sounding entry-level.
A Quick Word About Tonewoods And Sound Quality
Especially, if you are a new guitarist, you will love how excellently these instruments sound. There’s none of that struggling with your instrument as you typically get with a beginner model.
Most of these guitars include some laminate. I am not opposed to laminate, and I think it sounds great. Unless you spend several thousand dollars, it will be difficult to find a choice that is mostly hardwood (and of sufficient quality to sound better).
So don’t let the laminate wood deter you from getting an excellent deal.
Now, For Our 2019 Acoustic Guitar Review Rundown
1. Top Sound: The Yamaha FG830
This is truly a great quality guitar at a great price. It is easily comparable to guitars in a much more expensive category. For a long time, this spot was held by the Yamaha FG730S.
It is an especially good choice for beginners as the action is comfortable and easy on the fingers and yet at the same time this instrument has the tonal quality to please more seasoned players.
This model is great for practice but also works very well for use performing or simply jamming with a small group.
Although more advanced players may opt for swapping out the strings, the factory set that comes installed on the instrument are lightweight and have a good feel to them, providing the purchaser with a great playing experience right out of the box.
Although it would be understandable to expect at least some laminate on an instrument in this price range, you will find none.
This Yamaha is solid wood and the finish, which is buffed to a stunning gloss. It is not only beautiful and flawless but also tough. The solid wood top delivers a fantastic tone that is hard to beat. It stays in tune very well and has very good tuners which make adjustments easy.
Once the strings are broken in you will find that it holds its tune fantastically. If you happen to have hands on the smaller side, you might find that the rosewood fingerboard feels a little thick but beyond that, it has a very good feel to it.
The top is made of solid Sitka spruce, a cut that is usually reserved for guitars in a much higher expense category. The use of this particular quality of wood for the soundboard produces a very well balanced sound that is bright and rich. I think it reverberates much better than the laminate guitars that are in a similar price range.
It really picks up the low tones well, thanks to the solid Rosewood back. Often, however, low notes tend to overpower the other sounds in a chord. The rosewood back and solid spruce top complement each other well to preserve the tone on the top end.
When you are cording the guitar, it has a very “rockish” sound that makes it ideal for jamming in groups, singing along with and playing worship music. It isn’t one of those where there is so much sustain that the tones muddle together and overpower the singer. It’s a slightly “brighter” sound (but not as bright as the FG840 is), which helps the guitar cut through in a band and be heard.
You’ll never be embarrassed when playing alongside much more expensive guitars.
The back of the neck has a satin finish to create super smooth sliding for your hand while playing.
Natural rosewood was used on the fretboard and a high gloss finish was also used on the headstock which is nicely accented by pearl Yamaha lettering.
The pickguard, though made from plastic has a surprisingly exotic look to it, wonderfully mimicking authentic brown tortoiseshell. The bridge pins, nut, and saddle are also plastic. The tuning pegs that come on this instrument are very good quality, meaning you won’t be fighting with them while they dig into your fingers in an uncomfortable manner.
They are made from diecast chrome metal and are designed with a manually tensioned internal spring to maintain consistent pressure despite wear on the gears over time. The bridge is also constructed of natural rosewood but left natural with no finish.
Like all of the guitars that Yamaha offers, this model features a hand-fitted dovetail neck joint to ensure that vibrations are efficiently transferred from neck to body to create a perfectly balanced and full tone. This joint also ensures physical stability between the body and neck of the instrument.
Other features on this model include a reverse-L neck block, scalloped bracing (the old FG730 used x-bracing), and cutaway body design. This is very much an ideal option for a budget-friendly price to suit any beginner or intermediate user.
This is not an acoustic-electric guitar. However, the sound quality is so good, I’d still pick it above any other guitar on this list. If you ever want to add an acoustic pickup, you can do that later.
2. Fender CD-60SCE Acoustic Electric
Fender is always well-represented on our lists. As one of the most well-known brands with high build-quality, Fender should always be one of the first Guitars you consider. You’ll see them on this list in a couple of different spots as they make a great guitar for every price point.
Personally, I have a tiny bit of bias on their sound, and so you find them a little bit lower on my list. In reality, this Guitar could be neck-and-neck with the Yamaha above with it’s brighter tones. I find that guitar players who love the Fender sound on their electric guitars will also love the sound of this guitar. If you also play electric, then this is probably the best guitar for you. I’m pretty sure this is the best acoustic electric guitar around this price point.
This guitar comes with the solid spruce top and mahogany back and sides. It uses the x-bracing that has been scalloped to allow the sound to reverberate well. This gives it a very similar sound to the Yamaha, with a little favoritism to the lower notes. I personally think it brings in that nice warm sound most folks are looking for without being quite as “muddy” sounding as the all-mahogany guitars can be.
An added benefit is that solid tops age well and sounds better and better over time as they age. That’s not something you get out of a cheaper laminate top.
The onboard Fishman pickup and preamp and is designed to pickup the sound accurately. I think it is one of the better-sounding preamps that you will run across, and I would highly suggest this for those of you who know that you are going to be playing in
If you are looking for an acoustic-electric guitar, I think that this is the best choice. This is an excellent guitar for playing at the coffee shop and church and sounds better than the guitars that the other folks in your guitar class are going to be playing with. While it picks up the low tones well, it avoids being muddy and provides clear tones that stand out when playing in a band. This is my top pick for those seeking a cheap acoustic-electric guitar. If you want even warmer tones, however, look at the Ibanez below.
3. Ibanez AW54CEOPN Dreadnought Body Cutaway
Most of the guitar review sites gravitate to the Ibanez AW54OPN. This is a very similar model, but one that offers a built-in pickup for playing with an amp. With the dreadnought body shape and full mahogany body, this guitar has features that you only find in much more expensive models.
Both the body and the pickups are major differentiators for this model, so let’s dive into those.
The body is full Mahogany. We’re talking solid Mahogany top, bottom, and sides. This helps to create a much warmer sound than the nato guitars you typically see in this price range. It’s even a little warmer than the Sitka Spruce guitars. It picks up those lower tones and accents them so well. I also feel like the sold mahogany top helps create more sustain since the mahogany carries those low notes so well.
Where this can be a problem is in the middle tones. I feel like the very high notes also get accented, while the middle notes tend to blend in with the low notes, creating less distinction in the sound for those who might want to record or sing along with the guitar.
That said, the warm sound is very attractive. I typically purchase warmer-sounding instruments myself. And, the fact that this is an acoustic-electric is going to push some of you over to this one.
The Ibanez AW54CEOPN uses the Fishman Sonicore pickup that is paired with the Ibanez AEQ210TF preamp. The preamp gives you two bands of adjustment which is more than enough for you to plug and play in most settings. Frankly, I think the Fishman piezo pickup sounds so good that you might never need to upgrade. It captures the tones well for both finger-picking and strumming, and even sounds good when running directly into a soundboard for recording.
The preamp also has the onboard tuner which saves an immense amount of time. I have a clip-on tuner that I waste a surprising amount of time trying to find.
Also, if you want a warmer sound out of your guitar, this is going to be the best choice. For those of you who just want the best overall sound and something that they can play acoustically with friends, I’d still push you towards the Yamaha above for sound quality.
4. Fender FA-235E Concert Body Acoustic Electric
Most of my readers are looking for something with a lot of projection. They want their guitar to sound great around the campfire or in the coffee shop. They’ll be playing bluegrass and country at the bar gigs that they have booked. And they’re going to pick up the girl of their dreams by impressing her with their musical talent (my fantasy, anyhow).
I think that is why this Fender tends to get overlooked. The FA-235E is specifically a concert body guitar. The guitar body on this one is slightly smaller than the other ones we reviewed, making it easier to hold and, frankly, a lot of fun to play.
The body style also delivers a crisper sound. Each note resonates equally well from the maple top, and the overall playing is very crisps and clean without favoring either the highs or the lows. This allows for exceptionally clean fingering and sounds great when accompanying both male and female voices.
This is the only one on our list with the Mahogany neck which gives it a distinctive sound that is different from the others on our list.
It also offers Fishman electronics with a bass and treble control as well as a tuner. You’re basically getting close to the same electronics on all of these top 3 guitars, and I think they sound great both when amped and when running into a soundboard.
In the American style of playing where we blend everything together, harmonize heavily, and add more instruments than is probably good for any single moment in the song, this guitar stands out as the one that can pick through the noise and deliver a clear message to the listeners. It is ideal for the studio, it is ideal for the stage.
It is perfect for the exacting player who wants to hear every error and demands on the best sound. If you are looking at starting a Youtube channel and want a guitar that lets you sound like Boyce Avenue, This is the one I would push you towards.
5. A Well-Rounded Choice: Epiphone PR-4E
This beautiful piece features hand-scalloped, proprietary X-bracing pattern on a premium select Sitka spruce top, mahogany back that is slightly arched and mahogany sides that create a tone that is sweet yet well projected even if not plugged in.
It has a 25.5” scale on the neck which is also made of select mahogany. Long playtimes, such as gigs or rehearsals are easily accomplished due to the SlimPater profile found on this PR-4E. The small body makes this one easy to play.
To further enhance the quality and playability of this guitar, an Under-Saddle Piezo Element was added. This new to Epiphone system really gives the instrument the ability to shine and come alive when it is plugged into an amp. One of the coolest things about this package is that an amp is included with your purchase of this guitar.
The system is powered using watch batteries, an option that is not only lighter weight than the more common 9V batteries, but also provides a battery life that is significantly longer and more reliable.
Yet another improvement is the one of a kind NanoFlex low-impedance pickup by Shadow Germany which is located directly under the compensated saddle.
Due to the integrated active electronics in the flexible sensing material employed by this unique system, it is capable of picking up on string vibrations as well as vibrations from the top and body to create a truly acoustic tone without the harshness that tends to result from piezos.
The hardware featured on this piece is top of the line, in accordance with typical Epiphone standards. The legendary and beautiful Grover machine heads lend themselves perfectly to accurate tuning and stability and come in a premium gold finish that is extremely attractive and complementary to the style and finish of the instrument as a whole.
This guitar also comes with a headstock in Epiphone’s unique Sloped Dovewing style and snowflake fingerboard inlays.
Overall the PR-4E is not only attractive but also very well built and well suited to provide not only the beginner student but also the more advanced and experienced musician with a pleasant and inspired experience. The built-in tools are handy and easy to use allowing the player a level of ease and comfort not always found on instruments in the lower price categories. And, to be honest, the tonal range is truly beautiful considering the slim-line style of the instrument.
The fact that it includes an amp at an affordable price makes this one an especially attractive choice for those singer-songwriters.
6. Fender FA 300CE Cutaway
This beautiful single-cutaway dreadnought sports an authentic Vince Ray pinstriping motif and comes in a three color sunburst finish. Its top is flame maple laminate and its back and sides are laminated mahogany.
This piece features machine heads that are die-cast, a compensated saddle on the rosewood bridge, a built-in tuner in the Fishman pickup system and scalloped X bracing. It also features white dot position inlays.
The string nut is made of synthetic bone and the bridge pins are black with white dots. It comes ready to play with Fender Dura-Tone Coated 80/20 Bronze factory strings.
This piece comes very well set up right out of the box. Since this guitar is electric acoustic the action is set higher than an all electric model.
The neck is similar to that of an electric in regards to its thickness and is, therefore, a pretty comfortable fit, resulting in minimal hand fatigue while playing.
For any smaller built user, be sure to take into consideration that this piece is a dreadnought size, meaning that the body is a little bigger than a standard guitar.
The size of the body, however, works in favor of the sound and volume, even when the instrument is not plugged in. Despite the laminate make of the body and sides, this guitar produces a very pleasing sound for the price range.
The preamp electronics include controls for bass, mid and treble, a volume control, and the aforementioned tuner.
The tuner is a wonderfully helpful option for retuning between songs during a live performance as it allows you to kill the output by pressing the tuner button and then guides you to the correct tuning with a colored light system on the display ( a sharp or flat note gives a red light which changes to green when the correct pitch is reached).
This preamp system is powered by a 9V battery which actually lasts pretty well. Of course, leaving it turned off when you are not playing can stretch that out forever.
Not only does the built-in tuner provide easy tuning capability but, overall, this guitar holds tune very well. This can, of course, be improved upon with the installment of higher quality strings, but the factory strings do a decent job. The compensated saddle bridge gives very good quality intonation.
When all is said and done, this instrument, despite residing in the mid to low price range, provides the purchaser and player with the performance of a much higher priced instrument.
Furthermore, the sound is not the only impressive aspect of this guitar. It also scores very high in the looks department.
Overall, this is a wonderful piece for anyone in the beginning stages of learning to play, but it is also well suited to those who are more advanced and looking for a good quality instrument that won’t break the bank. No one should ever be ashamed to pull this acoustic-electric instrument out of a case.
7. Donner DAG-1 Acoustic
Best cheap acoustic guitar.
As we work down the price list, there is a plethora of options, all targeted at beginners. And they pretty much all sound about the same. Most “low end” guitars are lacking in sound quality, sound “tinny” and are below the quality of what I feel any self-respecting guitar player should own.
When I found the Donner, I was so blown away by the sound that I began laughing giddly. I still have a hard time believing that they were able to generate such a great sound out of such a cheap guitar. It’s one of those guitars that put a smile on your face.
With a solid Sitka spruce top and laminate mahogany back and sides, this instrument is very similar to the ones we reviewed at the very start of the list. It lacks a tiny bit of crispness that you might want for finger-picking, but for the average player who just wants a cheap guitar, this one sounds very close to those guitars that cost twice as much.
One of the features I absolutely love about this instrument is the narrow neck. This design makes fingering a cinch and is especially helpful when you start learning bar chords. The die-cast tuners hold the notes well and adjust easily.
While the Donner is one of the less-known guitar brands, they are rapidly making a name for themselves in the industry by cutting into the competitions margins with both lower prices and better quality products. If you are looking for a guitar that you can learn on, take to parties, and have folks saying “you paid how much for that guitar?” then this is an excellent model to go with.
A Quick Note: This guitar comes with a strum protector that you can install to protect the wood where you are strumming. Once installed, the guitar looks more like this: