11 Very Best Acoustic Guitar Brands

The Highest Rated Acoustic Guitar Brands

What are the Best Acoustic Guitar Brands?

This is a question that is often given subjective answers. Most respond by stating their favorite brands. While others base their recommendations on their limited experiences. These responses are acceptable, but they have a narrow range of perspectives.

Here at Gearank, we want a more objective response to this question, so we took a data-driven approach.

We used our extensive database of guitars to rank the brands based on real-world ratings. This way, our selection reflects the opinions of thousands of guitar owners, not just a few.

Note that we focused on guitars that more people can actually afford. So we decided to have a price ceiling of $2000.

This means that only brands with highly rated guitars priced below $2000 were eligible. This is why Collings, Maton, Gibson and other high-end brands did not make the list. For more information, please read the Methodology section at the bottom of this article.

Without further ado, here are the results of our research.

 

The Best Acoustic Guitar Brand

1. Martin

C.F. Martin & Company is one of the oldest and most well-reputed acoustic guitar brands in the US today.

It was established back in 1833 by Christian Frederick Martin and is credited as the creator of the first acoustic guitar in the USA.

It is rare for any brand or company, to stay in business this long. This longevity speaks volumes about the exceptional quality of Martin guitars.

The company started small in New York City but has grown to receive worldwide acclaim. Martin’s main claim to fame is the iconic dreadnought shape, which the company developed.

Over their long history, Martin guitars have been played by artists as diverse as Mark Twain. David Crosby, Chris Cornell, John Mayer, Valerie June, and Ed Sheeran.

The Martin D-15M and the Martin 000-15M are Martin’s best-rated acoustics in the sub $1,500 price range. Both models continue to gather almost perfect ratings across multiple review platforms.

Martin offers even better options for those who have more though, including a $119,999 guitar called the Martin D-200 Deluxe.

They also have great quality mid-tier guitars with small bodies. This includes the Martin D Jr. and the popular Martin LX series. The superb ratings of their guitars meant that Martin is deserving of the top spot in this guide. It is currently leading the pack as the best acoustic guitar brand to get in the sub $2000 price range.

Martin guitars rarely go beyond traditional designs. So don’t expect unique and eclectic acoustic guitar designs from this acoustic guitar brand.

As a Martin guitar owner, I have to say that there’s something special about their instruments. Their iconic logo never fails to catch the attention of musicians. They are quite pricey, but the benefits make them worth saving up to.

 

Guild is the 2nd Highest Rated Acoustic Guitar Brand

2. Guild

From its humble workshop beginnings, Guild Guitars quickly rose to fame in the ’60s. At that time, it was competing toe to toe with top acoustic guitar brands like Martin.

Guild’s acoustic designs did not veer from familiar territory. But they were known for being one of the good guitar brands when it comes to playability and tone.

They made a big impact in the acoustic guitar industry by being the first to mass produce a cut-away model. These days, cutaway models are industry standard, especially for acoustic-electric guitars.

However, their success in the ’60s was short-lived. They ended up being sold to Fender and more recently to Cordoba.

But all is not lost. There have been big improvements in quality under Cordoba’s ownership. And this sentiment is reflected in reviews across many retailers.

In particular, the Guild M-20 gets rave reviews for its build quality, playability, and warm guitar sounds. These high ratings helped Guild jump up to the 2nd spot. They outranked more famous guitar brands like Taylor and Fender.

Compared to other brands, Guild is a small manufacturer. This means delays in production and releases. But fans are hoping for Cordoba to ramp up production.

Many are waiting for modern reproductions of iconic Guild acoustics. Including the 12-string Guild guitar that SRV used in his MTV unplugged performance. With these releases on the way, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Guild retaining its spot as one of the best guitar brands acoustic for a long time.

 

Seagull is the 3rd Highest Rated Acoustic Guitar Brand

3. Seagull

Seagull may not be as popular as some of the acoustic guitar brands here, but they have an almost cult-like following. And these fans can give you a long list of why Seagull is the best brand of acoustic guitar for them.

At the top of this list are the solid tops that they use and the way they build their guitars by hand. This includes their budget models, all the way up to their top-of-the-line guitars. This is the reason why their guitars come with higher quality than similarly priced instruments.

Seagull’s eco-friendly production is another reason why they are popular. This acoustic guitar brand uses sustainable materials and utilizes hydropower.

Seagull guitar hails from La Patrie, Quebec in Canada. It is a sub-brand of Godin Guitars, one of the more popular Canadian guitar brands.

Robert Godin started the company himself back in 1982. It is said that 200 out of the 750 population of La Patrie are involved in making guitars. This is why Godin used to have a LaPatrie brand for their nylon guitars. Note that Godin has dropped the LaPatrie brand. They now use their main brand, Godin for their nylon string guitar series.

The Seagull S6 Original is a great showcase of this acoustic guitar brand’s quality. It has a solid cedar top, modified dreadnought shape, and narrow headstock. These qualities give it a unique appeal and tone.

 

Taylor is the 4th Highest Rated Acoustic Guitar Brand

4. Taylor

It may seem like Taylor has been around forever. But compared to most big-name brands of acoustic guitars, Taylor is a relative newcomer.

It was founded by Bob Taylor and Kurt Listug in 1974. It started as an acoustic instruments company and remained this way to this day. Now they are one of the most famous guitar brands, able to go head to head with other good guitar brands.

This guitar company introduced innovations like precision manufacturing of guitars using computer mills. This build quality consistency helped build their reputation as one of the best brands of guitars. They’ve also transitioned to a more employee-friendly business model. The company is now 100% employee-owned.

They still make their high-end guitars in California. But they produce some of their more affordable lines in Mexico. This allowed them to expand into mid to low-tier markets.

The Taylor Academy 10 is a good example of their successful foray into beginner-tier guitars. It impresses even experienced musicians with its specs and build quality. And it does so while retaining a relatively accessible price tag. This student-friendly guitar comes with a beveled armrest that makes it more comfortable for your right arm.

Taylor vs Martin

Taylor vs Martin is an interesting rivalry. And as a buyer, it’s easy to get confused by this. This rivalry is often brought up in response to questions like “what brand of acoustic guitar is best”?

This rivalry benefits Taylor more because it pits them against a true heavy weight of the acoustic guitar industry. And it is a testament to how Taylor has made it big in a relatively short amount of time.

There is no one way to conclude this battle, but here are some things to expect.

  • Taylor guitars have more high-end zing, while Martin has more mid-range punch.
  • Taylor guitars have more mid and treble clarity, while Martin offers more low-end depth
  • Taylor guitars generally have modern neck specs that are easier to play.
  • Martin guitars have a more traditional setup and playing feel.
  • Taylor doesn’t emphasize low-end depth as a traditional hollow body guitar would.

Taylor vs Martin Verdict:

    If you prefer modern playability, high-end clarity, and crisp tones, you’d love Taylor guitars. But if you want a fuller sound and traditional vibe, then you’re better off with a Martin.

In my opinion, PRS guitars is a better rival for Taylor, since they also make modern acoustic guitar types and designs. While Martin is better matched with Gibson guitars.

Artists that play Taylor guitars include Jon Foreman, Jason Mraz, Israel Houghton, Taylor Swift, Zac Brown, and more.

 

Yamaha is the 5th Highest Rated Acoustic Guitar Brand

5. Yamaha

For a long time, Yamaha was regarded as one of the best producers of student guitars. Unfortunately, their reputation as an acoustic guitar brand didn’t go far beyond that.

Over the last decade or so, Yamaha has expanded into more kinds of guitars. But they are still known for the quality of their student-friendly nylon and steel string acoustics. Based on ratings, the FS800 (pictured) is currently the best Yamaha acoustic guitar for serious students who want to learn on steel strings.

While Yamaha is mostly known for student guitars, some pros play their acoustics. This includes Chad Kroeger from Nickelback, Ed Roland from Collective Soul, and Joe Bonamassa.

Are Yamaha guitars good? Yes, they make excellent guitars, especially for beginners. Many of my students are satisfied with their Yamaha acoustics.

I also enjoyed learning to play on the popular student nylon string C40 guitar. This led me to recommend learning to play on a good nylon string guitar.

 

Fender is the 6th Highest Rated Acoustic Guitar Brand

6. Fender

Fender is an interesting entry because this company is more known for electric guitars. It is the company behind the popular Telecaster (then named Broadcaster).

It wasn’t until 1964 that Fender began to produce acoustic guitars. This was just one year before Leo Fender, suffering from health problems, sold the company to CBS. So if you ever find a ‘Pre CBS’ Fender acoustic in the attic you’ll have one of the rarest modern acoustic guitars in existence.

These days, Fender is well respected for entry to mid-tier level acoustics. What sets Fender acoustics apart are their specs and value for money. They offer better specs than what you’d normally get for the price. And they do so while retaining the label of one of the best brands of guitars ever.

Interestingly, affordable Fender acoustic guitars have the main “Fender” branding. But affordable electric guitars are assigned to a sub-brand called Squier.

The Fender CC-60S is a prime example. For a sub $200 acoustic guitar, it comes with a solid spruce top. It is quite inviting when compared to what other big-brand guitars offer in the entry-level range. There are variations of this guitar model. You can get it in other popular guitar shapes while retaining a very accessible tag price.

Fender is competing with no-name acoustics using their main guitar brand label. And given the popularity of their acoustic guitars, their gamble has paid off.

One thing to watch out for with Fender is how often they change their acoustic lineup. There is a long list of discontinued Fender acoustic guitar models.

 

Gretsch is the 7th Highest Rated Acoustic Guitar Brand

7. Gretsch

Gretsch Guitars gained popularity in the ’50s for their Filter’tron pickups. Their guitars were popularized by virtuosos like Chet Atkins, Brian Setzer, Duane Eddy, and more.

But back in the ’30s, they dabbled in acoustic guitar production with much success. These acoustic guitars were under the sub-brand “Rex”. These old-school Rex guitars now serve as the inspiration for their current line of acoustics.

One of their highly-rated acoustic guitars is the Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy. It is an affordable parlor style acoustic reminiscent of old Rex models. It is well-received for its compact size, easy playability, and warm tone.

This acoustic guitar brand has distinguishable aesthetics. Some come with triangular-shaped sound holes. While others have pickguard shapes and hardware like their electric guitar designs. These quirks set them apart from other brands of acoustic guitars.

 

Jasmine is the 8th Highest Rated Acoustic Guitar Brand

8. Jasmine

Jasmine started out as a Takamine brand. But it was later sold to KMC Music in 2005 who remain the owners today.

This acoustic guitar brand carries over much of the playability and design sensibilities of more expensive Takamine models. The main difference is the use of more affordable materials production. This results in a line of guitars that are accessibly priced.

Jasmine produces a range of acoustic guitars including steel-string dreadnoughts and orchestra models. They also offer nylon string guitars. But it is definitely their student models which garner the brand’s highest ratings.

Jasmine’s highest-rated model is the cutaway grand orchestra bodied S-34C.

You can find their budget-friendly guitars in major national stores. You can buy them through Guitar Center and online through sites like Musicians Friend and Amazon.

 

Ibanez is the 9th Highest Rated Acoustic Guitar Brand

9. Ibanez

The Ibanez brand has a fascinating history beginning with Spanish luthier Salvador Ibáñez in the 1800’s. Original Salvador Ibanez guitars are still in-demand today. They are revered by the likes of Eric Clapton and the select few who are either wealthy enough or lucky enough to own one.

But that’s not the Ibanez we know today, although the two are related. Japanese company Hoshino Gakki began importing guitars made by Salvador Ibáñez’s company to Japan in 1929. It was so successful that they started producing guitars manufactured in Japan under the same name in 1935.

They soon made modern guitars under the shortened Ibanez name in 1957. Ibanez began exporting these guitars to the USA in 1971. This is after the US Air Force destroyed their factory in 1945.

These days, Ibanez is easily one of the most famous brands of guitars, thanks to their impressive line up of virtuoso artists which include Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Tim Henson, and Jon Gomm.

Ibanez is also one of the most productive brands of acoustic guitars. They have a large range of acoustic guitars and are particularly strong in the entry-level market.

The highly rated Ibanez AW54 is one of their more traditional guitar offerings. But they have other acoustic guitar models with modern designs and unique shapes. If playability is important to you, then you should definitely consider looking at Ibanez acoustic guitar models.

 

Epiphone is the 10th Highest Rated Acoustic Guitar Brand

10. Epiphone

Epiphone has been owned by Gibson since 1957. But their history runs deeper than that.

They began as an independent musical instrument company in 1873. They were making stringed instruments like lutes and fiddles in the Ottoman empire until they relocated to the US in 1903. in

The founder’s eldest son, Epaminondas Stathopoulos took over the company. He later renamed the business to Epiphone Banjo Company in 1928.

This rebrand emphasized their transition to more popular stringed instruments. And this happened in the same year they first began making guitars.

The name comes from ‘Epi’ which was Epaminondas’ nickname, and the Greek word ‘phone’ meaning sound.

Today Epiphone is one of the most widely available acoustic guitar brands. They make affordable versions of Gibson classics such as the Dove, Hummingbird, J-45, and more. They also put out their own designs, including the popular entry-level guitar the Epiphone DR-100. They also produced more eccentric acoustic designs including a Resonator Guitar model.

 

Blueridge is the 11th Highest Rated Acoustic Guitar Brand

11. Blueridge

Blueridge is owned by Saga Music. This acoustic guitar brand specializes in producing excellent ‘pre-war’ style guitars. This means their designs are based on instruments made in the USA during the 1930’s and earlier.

Pre-war guitars are sought after because they were built before war restrictions on materials were implemented.

Many guitar players favorably compare Blueridge with famous guitar brands like Martin and Gibson. They offer guitars of the same design and build materials, but at much lower price points.

Selling for under $1000 is one of their highly rated models, the Blueridge BR-70. For the price, it comes with a solid Sitka spruce top and premium aesthetics. It even has generous amounts of abalone and mother-of-pearl inlays.

It sports a design based on pre-war ’30s era dreadnoughts but built using modern production methods to keep the price accessible.

Methodology

For a brand to be eligible, the guitars should be available from major American retailers. This includes Sweetwater, Guitar Center, Amazon, Sam Ash, B&H, etc.

We took the Gearank rating data that we have for individual qualifying guitars for each brand. Then we combined them using a weighted average to produce a rating for each brand. This ensured that our selection is more representative of overall market sentiments toward the brands.

Only ratings for guitars that met the following criteria were included in the data set:

  • Steel string acoustic
  • 6-strings
  • No electronics (acoustic-electric models were excluded)
  • Maximum street price of $1,999.99

Using these criteria meant that some well known brands have fewer guitar models for consideration, if not none at all. Examples include:

  • Collings – aren’t available from the major retailers – here is a list of their dealers.
  • Maton – is an Australian brand (played by Tommy Emmanuel) only sold by smaller specialty guitar sellers in America at prices above $2000
  • Gibson – Most of their acoustics sell for more than $2000.

Note: Gibson’s G-Series acoustics (under $2000) are getting some market traction. But not good enough yet to make it to this guide. If they continue to rank well, Gibson will be in the running for the next update.

We ended up processing the ratings of more than 118 individual models from the following 28 brands: Alvarez, Antonio Giuliani, Blueridge, Breedlove, Bristol, Cigano, Dean, EKO, Epiphone, Fender, Gretsch, Guild, Ibanez, Jasmine, Journey Instruments, Larrivee, Luna Guitars, Martin, Paul Reed Smith, Recording King, Rogue, Seagull, Sigma, Takamine, Taylor, The Loar, Washburn, and Yamaha.

This gave us over 30,200 rating sources to process and you can see a list including the individual models in our Music Gear Database. For more information about how we calculate product ratings see How Gearank Works.

Another advantage of this approach is that it allows for a direct comparison of the market sentiment of brands regardless of the average price of their guitars. People generally don’t rate a $100 guitar relative to a $2,000 guitar – instead they tend to rate it according to how good it is for the price they bought it.

What surprises you about the brands that other guitar players like and don’t like as much? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

About the Authors

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104 thoughts on “11 Very Best Acoustic Guitar Brands”

    1. Avatar
      Alexander Briones

      The Gibson G Series are gaining traction, if they continue to rate well, Gibson will be in the running for the next update.

  1. Alvarez and Alvarez Yairi should have been on the list. As well as Ovation. I recently purchased an Alvarez Yairi for less than $2000.00. It’s handmade and I couldn’t fathom a guitar that would play better than the one I have. All the guitars listed are fine guitars, but you should expand the perimeters. The ones listed seem to be the “popular kids”.

    1. Avatar
      Alexander Briones

      Hello Russ,

      Note that this list is based on recent ratings data, so market favorites will naturally be included. But we do appreciate your brand recommendation, there are definitely special instruments from other brands. You’ll find a few more of these brands in the comments section.

  2. I cannot imagine how much time and effort went into this list. Nobody else had the class to say anything so I will. Your work has not gone unnoticed nor has it gone unappreciated. Thank you for this, you’ve done a fantastic job! 😀

    1. Thanks for your balanced review. Appreciate your rich history of these guitar makers. I also own a Seagull S6, which i bought over 15 years ago. Exceptional brand, good quality and skilled craftsmanship

    2. Thank you very much for your words of appreciation – things like this really do inspire and encourage us!

      PS – As a bit of a military aviation buff myself, I like the high flying Canadian screen name of yours 🙂

  3. Gees, guys! The author explained how the list was compiled. I actually agree with it. Keeping his own bias out of the equation is a brilliant idea.
    It’s not his fault how the list ended up.
    Please, stop the whining.
    Personally, I’ve never played a Martin I liked so I would never buy one.
    So.. Thank you for gathering all of the data and giving us all a decent starting point.

  4. Seagull… smh that is pretty shocking. I mean… wow.. I’ve played a lot of guitars and I’m certain Seagull would be barely competing for spots 8-10 on a best of brands list. I think Seagull was sort’ve a gimmick for a few years around 2006-2009.. but the hype quickly wore off. Time to redo the list…

    1. I have a Maritime that I bought for gigs. It is a beautiful guitar and sounds wonderful through my JBL Eon One stick on a sub. In the studio, it sounds “scratchy.” I do not use it for double-tracking acoustics anymore because of it.
      Also, the Seagull I bought had a small, repaired crack near the battery compartment when I got it (used) at a good value. Since then, I have had to repair two more cracks… I have 25 guitars and use a dehumidifier to keep the humidity between 45-60. I’m not sure if I got a clunker that was made from bad wood, if the guitar was dried out somewhere from the previous owner or if I am just a bull saving up for his own china shop, but this guitar is NOT a good road guitar IMO. I bought it to be able to leave my ’78 Gibson Gospel at home. The Gospel is safe, but the Seagull is a delicate flower and I worry about her all of the time.
      I suggest a hard shell case (not a bag).

    2. Guitars are like cars. Cheap to unbelievably expensive. People have opinions on what’s best because of their experience, knowledge and what they’ve owned. There will never be a list that everyone agrees with. Buy the guitar you like and want and don’t sweat the list. In fact buy as many as you can afford. That’s what I do.

    3. Just curious, which Seagull models did you try? I have the Maritime solid wood series and I think it’s amazing. I think the S6 is their most popular model, but I haven’t tried that one.

    1. We’ve never seen one selling at any music gear retailer and we have not done any research on the brand.

      I just had a quick look and I couldn’t find any for sale, nor could I find any useful information about La Costa.

    1. We do not accept any money or gifts (not even free samples or gear loans) from companies that make products eligible to be rated or recommended on this website.

  5. What a joke. Many of these companies make cheap laminated models. How did Collings, Santa Cruz, Eastman or Guild not crack this list?

  6. Cort acoustic is a beautiful sounding comfortable guitar they are relatively on the lower side as far as cost but that’s because they don’t advertise its far better in my opinion than the seagull

  7. How about HONEY BEE guitar brand?? Do you familiar about this brand? I love my Vintage RARE HONEYBEE Guitar..

    1. It’s a small boutique brand that isn’t widely distributed so it wasn’t included in our research. We only included brands that are available from major music gear retailers.

  8. Ridiculous, no creds after this. Change the name for the most highly user rated but the best, I sure hope this has a date of writing of April 1, this is basically one of the worst best lists in any category since the K cars were ranked in the top 10 at one time. Seagull over Martin, Taylor, Gibson is like a Ford Pinto being ranked higher than a Plymouth Valiant with a push button transmission.

    1. The issue you’ve raised was addressed in the first 3 paragraphs of the article – specifically the article is only about the highest rated brands and only took into consideration the models sold for less than $2000.

  9. James – thanks for the effort but gotta agree that this rating list is a shocker, there are so many fine top end guitar makers left off this ranking: Collings, Santa Cruz, Breedlove, Larivee, to name a few. Guild have returned to the market with some fine instruments. While Yamaha, Takamine, Ibanez, Yairi, Yamaki and early Epi had some great years with the big Tokyo (and Korean) factories, let’s be honest: there aren’t too many professionals who would use a Jasmine, Fender acoustic, Epi acoustic – all considered providers of student guitars and entry-level guitars, made in China, and many now in Indonesia with thick polyurethane finishes, throw of the dice set ups, plastic nuts and timber of unknown origin. Finally, Seagull tries hard, their red cedar tops are gorgeous and sound great, I love their use of local sustainable timbers, and as a Canadian I wanted their guitars to be great – but talk to any repair or warranty expert and you’ll hear the stories. I had an S6 puchased in Montreal and the top bowed and bridge started coming off after a year plus. It was under warranty. Let’s just say the repair shop staff were unsurprised. This isn’t to say that the ‘big 2’ or the most expensive are always the best. I currently own Gibsons, Martins and a Breedlove of various periods and vintages and – truth be told – my 1969 (Fujigen factory) Yamaki rosewood guitars, purchased at the Hudson’s Bay way back when, are the best sounding, most seasoned guitars for recording in the house. Maybe it’s the nitro finishes and 5 decades of seasoning and playing: but many Japanese Martin clones of this era are simply outstanding. Use your ears and hands: put any Seagull up against a Collings and you’ll experience the difference immediately.

  10. I played and been around acoustic guitars all my life to me there’s nothing like a Martin HD 28 or D 28 then Gibson,Taylor and seagull

  11. Why did you ignore one of the best acoustic guitar manufacturer in your analysis?
    FURCH
    These guitars blow away guitars at twice the price.
    Play one and I bet you will agree

    1. I agree about Furch. But its American shops and what they’re selling.
      I have a beautiful Peppino Seagull which was under 2000, and in that bracket hammers any of the top brands. Furch would slay in this price range, or any price range. Buying famous brands equals wasting money.

  12. 65 been playing on and off for 50 years. If the new Guilds are close to the old guilds (I had a starbird and a f212) and played a little 3/4 size steel string a friend won in a poker game – they’re hard to beat. I’m sure you’re talking current production but LoPrinzi and Bozo made magnificent guitars and although I’ve never played one I hear Bourgeois guitars are supposed to be the Finest on the planet. Martins impress me with their style and construction but something about them – I’ve never appreciated the tone. But the finest guitar I’ve ever seen or played was a Yamaha fg2500 6 string

  13. K.Yairi should be on this list! Best sounding guitar I have played. Have owned several of the guitars on this list and have to say my Yairis win hands down.

  14. I have several k.yairi guitars and have played many of the guitars on this list.the Yaris I have should have been on the list.they are fantastic!

  15. I love Gibson guitars, but sometimes the price is too high for experienced but not professional guitar player as i am. Anyway, i love that brand.

  16. I have to be honest… this list… while a lot of work may have went into it… isn’t too great. I feel like it should be titled, the highest rated brands… AT GUITAR CENTER. Alvarez guitars have -*–**9-incredible mid and high end guitars. My MD90 is far better than 90% of the Gibson’s I’ve played. Furthermore, Guild makes great guitars, not on this list. Takamine makes fair guitars, certainly better than Jasmine, Ovation, and Blue Ridge. And Yamaha should be closer to 10 on this list. Plus, the author left off most of the boutique acoustic manufacturers out there… like say, a Collins. If you want to spend around $200-500, at Guitar Center, then this list is fine. Otherwise… let’s get a new list going of the top 20 brands that make high end acoustic guitars for true acoustic enthusiasts!

    1. I’m the author and I think that next time we do this we’ll go to greater lengths to explain the methodology and scope – for example boutique brands were explicitly excluded from the research data.

      In the meantime you might be happy to learn that Alvarez, Guild and Takamine are included in our recently updated guide to The Best Acoustic Guitars.

      Also just under 3 months ago we published a separate guide to the best acoustic brands using a completely different approach in which you will find Collings along with Guild and Takamine – you can see it on GuitarSite.com.

  17. If I may, in 2001 I needed an acoustic guitar. I entered a very well-stocked music shop and tried a Yamaha, which was my target. Absolute disappointment. I then tried a Fender, then Gibson, Epiphone, a Takamine. I liked no one.
    But then a gorgeous guitar hung on the wall called me; it was a Crafter (Grand Auditorium 30)- I’de never heard that brand before. A slightly higher price, but what a difference! Deep and brilliant sound and astonishing finish, a real jewel.
    Obviously there were Taylor and Guild too, which were totally out of game (and budget…).

  18. Can’t believe Guild didn’t make it, it has a great history, popularity with some well known players, has a strong market presence, and top notch building quality. This list has zero credibility without it.

  19. Avatar
    Davidhayden774@gmail.com

    I find it hard to believe that out of all the guitar builders you listed that you omitted Guild Guitars. When I started playing over 50 years ago they were in the top three. Martin, Gibson and Guild. I own two and will play them until I can’t play any longer.

  20. I understand that no list is going to meet everyone’s expectations. But Ovation? The standing joke when The Who reunited was “Why does Pete Townsend play an Ovation? Because He’s deaf!”

    1. I agree Jim, Seagull and Ibanez should get knocked down a few notches as well. Although I will allow Martin makes good instruments in the U.S., the X series sucks and their instruments under $3 – 4K are not of consistent quality. IMHO

  21. Yamaha…ya mama…yuck…
    Seagull…birdshit..
    Epi…no way…
    Martin will always be top dog…along with larivee…taylor…guild…also…kwasnycia guitars in chatham ontario…pse customs….windsor ontario… Larry dalbello guitars…windsor ontario…sammyguitars…windsor ontario…curtis guitars…chatham ontario…aside from my top four the rest of these builders all reside in. Essex county..ontario canada…superb tone and build quality…bar none!!!

    1. Apparently you haven’t played the L-series Yamaha’s. They’re handmade guitars and will rival any guitar in that list for number one. Until you played on those guitars you don’t know what you’re talking about. To the person who made this list, Seagull shouldn’t even be on there. They’re junk. I had their prized S6 for 2 years and played it maybe 3 hours. But for the money anywhere between $200 and $800 Yamaha beats anybody in this list. Period.

      1. Between $200 and $800 I would go for another lawsuit Takamine. I have three of ’em now, and these are the best bang for the buck under $1,000. When Martin feels compelled to send a cease and desist letter, you’re probably doing something right!

  22. I’m extremely unsure about this list. You’ve missed some very worthy brands and put cheap stuff up way too high. Seagull..really?? Maybe Seagull poo. I have or had most of these axes over quite a long period of time and think, in my opinion, that the list should go something like this:-
    1 Martin
    2 Taylor
    3 Gibson
    4 Collings
    5 Larrivee
    6 Guild
    7 Takamine (Pro series)
    8 Maton
    9 Blueridge
    10 Ovation
    Please remember that I’ve compiled my list taking into account the guitars listed are all top of the range models, not affordable ones. I have a Martin DC28E…awesome. Gibson Songwriter..also awesome acoustically but pre-amp could be better. Takamine P7NC..unbelievable plugged in as it has a “Tube” pre-amp and Ok without amplification. Plus various other acoustics that are definitely brilliant for the money. The rest are mostly Fender and Gibson electrics. Anyway, hope some of you will comment about whether they should be changed around or some added or subtracted. In any case, it don’t matter what ya got, just keep playing. That’s the most important thing. Cheers

    1. I was just going to ask about Tanglewood. I tried one for kicks when looking for a new 12 string acoustic. Well, I was pleasantly surprised. It’s sound was exactly as I prefer, rich, deep and clear. Everyone has sound preferences, and it did not disappoint. I’m still partial to the tone of rosewood construction.

  23. Thank you for your efforts. Even though I’ve been a guitarist for 14 years now, I still find your article quite informative.

  24. Have read all of this forum’s comments. RTFQ…who and why. But having three Godins i must say…to my old ears, Godin etal, outperformed Taylor, PRS, Tach, and a host of way more expensive guitars. And therein lays the magic. I don’t use my guitar collection to make money, gigging,etc. It’s about getting superlative sound and not being attracted to the name on the head stock. Once you can close your eyes and really listen to the instrument, Godin may be your next guitar. And the kicker…you will have a lot more jingle in your pockets. Good luck

    1. I totally agree with you here, Terry. I’m not swayed by the big names myself. I own two Godins myself. An Exit 22 an XTSA. SA Ed a ton of money.
      And.. My next guitar will be a Seagull.

  25. 2 years ago I bought an early used seagull Maritime. I am not a pro but have been playing for more than 40 years and tried many instruments over that span. To my ear, it is the best sounding acoustic I have ever played. Plugged in very good as well. Perfect intonation on every fret. While the opinion on the sound is personal preference, intonation is quantifiable. We all have personal preferences for sound so any list is necessarily colored by qualitative means as well. My best advice. Play the instruments and choose that which best suits you in all regards including price.

  26. Hi, just wanted to put in my tuppence worth. We were looking to get a new, half-decent, steel strung electro-acoustic guitar for our daughter about three years ago. She’d been playing for five years by then, from age 9, and needed something more appropriate to her level. She tried out several different makes (even a Taylor, fortunately reduced by 50%, which still was priced at around £1000!). I guess she played about half a dozen ranging from £250 to the “reduced” Taylor, with Takamine and Martin in there too. She kept going back to the same instrument; a Seagull Classic S6. It was by no means the most expensive one but she just fell in love with the sound and feel. If I remember correctly it was around £450-£500. She plays it every day and still loves it. Even though I don’t play I think that that’s the most important thing about an instrument, it’s a very personal thing. BTW she called it Steven (Seagull)!!!

  27. Fantastic! I am a beginner guitarist looking to move on to the mid level range, and I found this list extremely informative and helpful. I found it hard to figure out why one guitar was much more expensive that another; and your research helped clear up some of the guess work. Thanks much.

  28. How is Seagull the top acoustic guitar brand? And where is Guild, which are superb acoustic guitars and have the deep, crisp sound that bluegrass players like. If you are talking about bigger names un the guitar world and not the smaller ones like Santa Cruz or even Zager, Guild is a classic name that makes quality guitars that have been used on many classic and current records by many artists.

    1. We haven’t rated any 12 string guitars yet so there’s no official rating from us.

      I haven’t played the 12 ISYS T so I can’t offer a personal opinion either.

    1. From what I’ve seen of Tanglewood they do make some nice guitars. Being a British brand they weren’t excluded but they didn’t feature strongly in the data set, just like the Australian brand Maton, due to the US focus of the data we collected.

  29. I was in a music store recently. Played some very nice guitars from the brands in this list. I was waiting for that special moment when 1 of them spoke to me. I was disappointed. I will keep playing my 10 year old Yamaha FGX730. It just keeps getting better with age.

  30. I have a beaver creek that sounded fine in the shop where I bought it,it was demonstrated to me by plugging it into an amp great clear sound,after I brought it home I tried it without an amp because I did not have one and it sounds horrible seems to be no way to get it in tune,any suggestions

  31. This article was tremendously helpful! My daughter is entering college for music therapy, and she is already an accomplished pianist but needed a more portable instrument to see patients. We have been scouting out guitars for some time and are looking to get a quality instrument without breaking the bank. Thank you so much for this well-researched article.

  32. I was very surprised by your article on acoustic guitars and the ratings given by you. I have been playing acoustic guitars for most of my 62 years and have owned and played all of them. I cannot believe that you put Seagull guitars at the top of your list! I’ve played as well as owned a Seagull guitar for some time and I have found it to be constructed out of cheap materials with no regard to detail. The guitar’s intonation was horrible… could never get the damn thing in tune beyond the fifth fret,which frustrated me very much. Lastly, the lack of a finish on the product lent itself to getting stains on it. With that being said,I just cannot see how you can even be on that list at all.
    Sincerely,
    Joseph Aprea

    1. Hi Joseph, thanks for your feedback because it allows me to highlight why we base our analysis on thousands of reviews instead of a single person’s experience.

      It seems as though you had a sub standard guitar – something that can happen no matter how well regarded a brand is.

      We avoid providing inaccurate ratings and recommendations that can arise due to the tested product or method of testing being flawed by analyzing large numbers of user and expert reviews to produce our ratings. This has the effect of reducing the impact of single opinions, including potentially flawed ones, in our results. We only end up with a high rating for a brand or product if the majority of reviews are positive and in the case of Seagull the overwhelming majority of reviews of all types are indeed positive.

      For more information on how we produce our ratings generally, please read How Gearank Works.

  33. If you were to add them to the list, where would you place Takamine? I have played a few and though Martins have typically been my favorites, I was blown away by the Takamines. I am a fingerstyle player, so I’m sure this has an effect on my preferences. Perhaps for that reason, I’ve never played a Taylor that I like.

    1. It’s been a while since I played a Takamine, however if I had produced the list above based on my personal opinion then I probably would have included them in place of Jasmine.

      1. From a full time working pro , takamine may be the best acoustic electric ever made for the onstage pro. Top notch craftsmanship in their high end pro series.
        The reason they dont show up is because martin and taylor own the us market.
        I’ve never worked with a better guitar for the stage and I’ve owned them all.

        1. ^^^ These guys ^^^ seems to know what they are talking about. I see where some people may get upset over this list, but they obviously hadnt read the criteria for making the list. The builder of said guitar must be:
          1) male, between the age of 30-35.
          2) predominantly right handed, but golfs lefty.
          3) married with 2.7 kids.
          4) wife has a limp due to being pregnant with the 3rd child.

          Tah Dah, list complete.

          Blueridge: makes some very nice guitars.
          Ovation: one of my favorites.
          Jasmine: very nice guitar prior to them going on their own.
          Ibanez: Fantastic electrics. Subpar acoustics.
          Fender: again, great electrics. Subpar acoustics.
          Taylor: Great guitars when Bob ran the show. BWAhahahahahaha since Andy took over the helm.
          Epiphone: Older models ( which you must have included ) could be exceptional. New ones are subpar at best.
          Yamaha: older models made in Japan are excellent, just excellent. New models, meh.
          Martin: One of my all time favorites. Price point was between $100-$20,000 right ? $2,000 Martin is hit and miss.
          Gibson: I cant hate the brand as the Les Paul, SG, Hummingbird and Dove have always been a favorite of mine but as far as acoustics, under $2,000 … you meant used right ? At the price point suggested, you are better off with an Epi.
          Seagull: Somehow the flagship of Godin, I own Norman, La Patrie, Simon & Patrick and Art & Lutherie that are clear winners over Seagull especially for the lower price point.

          What on this list touches a Takamine, price point or otherwise ? Nothing. Not sure if the list was generated with an agenda behind it or just insufficient data but we just have to take it for what it is. Sad.

          This was written in 2017 however and if you are familiar with trends, you’d remember what was going on at that time. People were smoking Carolina reapers, snorting condoms and eating tide pods. Lets hope the next list will be better.

          Darren.

  34. This is a good list although after owning most of these brands or at least having played all of them, I would re-rearrange the order. Gibsons although a good guitar are simply no longer the quality of Taylor or Martin. They are lagging behind these guys. Yamaha and Epiphone despite online “reviews” are also not near a Taylor or Martin for that matter. So I would drop Gibson, Yamaha, and Epiphone down the list, and although Seagull makes a decent guitar, they are no better than Blueridge, so I would drop them down and bring Blueridge up. Of course this is all subjective, but here is my list re-ordered for what its worth.
    1. Taylor
    2. Martin
    3. Gibson
    4. Blueridge
    5. Seagull
    6. Epiphone
    7. Ovation
    8. Yamaha
    9. Ibanez
    10. Fender
    11. Jasmine

    I would also add Tanglewood to the list somewhere in the seven slot maybe.

    1. I totaly agree about your rearanged list! But wonder why nobody mention Guild? To me this american brand belongs in the first alf of the list!!

    2. Your order makes much more sense. I was kinda stunned when Seagull came in first. They are decent guitars fir the price point, however I do feel like Martin , Taylor & gibson are the most desired for anyone who has gotten past the novice stage. I’m privlaged to own a Martin standard series, as well as a Taylor & my own small bench custom guitar. As someone who has been playing over 20 years, you cant beat solid wood construction.

    3. I like this list. My personal one would be similar but I’d remove Jasmine and add Maton into the top 5.

    4. Avatar
      Alexander Briones

      Thanks for sharing Matt. We all tend to have our own Top Ten lists based on experience. I for one would put Martin at the top, if I were to choose.

      And while most experienced guitarists will usually go for build quality, tone, and sometimes brand loyalty – others prioritize value for money and practicality. We combined all these feedback to produce the list that we have here, factoring in a huge amount of data to come up with a list that reflects actual market sentiment.

  35. Thought you’d like to know. Before Christmas, I stopped by a local music shop to buy my 12 year old granddaughter a new guitar to replace an old Beaver Creek she’d been banging on for a few years. Since I’m an old folky from the 1960s, I thought a low end Gibson or Martin would give her both good sound and some bragging rights at her school’s guitar club. The shop owner was in the acoustic guitar room strumming something I had never seen before and quickly told me I should forget Martin or Gibson and get what he was playing. It was a Seagull. An equal sound for half the price, he said, so I looked it over, strummed the few chords I could remember, and bought it on the spot. Later, I was still pondering how a little Canadian guitar could be called better than a Martin or Gibson when I found your ratings post. I do believe I kept repeating “Oh my God, it’s true!” over and over. And she loves the guitar, especially the smaller neck and fuller sound. Thanks for helping this old folky who always thought Martin and Gibson were names to be spoken in hushed reverence believe in something new.

    1. Avatar
      Alexander Briones

      We are glad to be of help Ray!

      I’d like to point out that higher ratings doesn’t usually mean better sounding, rather it implies that more people appreciate them – and they usually emphasize getting their money’s worth as important. This is why some affordable guitars outscore the more expensive ones.

      In the end, it’s what inspires your granddaughter to play that matters.

  36. How is it possible Larrivee’ is not on this list? One of the best guitars in the world hands down. What about Maton as well?

    1. Hi Eric,

      That’s a fair question, and there were similar reasons for each of those two brands not making the list.

      My results were based upon statistical analysis of market sentiment and was limited only to brands that were widely available in the United States.

      As I mentioned the the Summary section above, Maton is an excellent Australian brand but it doesn’t yet have sufficient market penetration in the USA in order for there to be a significant number of rating sources for them in our data set.

      Larrivee is much ‘closer to home’ and have been operating out of California since 2011. Although you can buy their instruments from Guitar Center and Amazon, and I personally like what I’ve read about their approach to lutherie, they didn’t quite score high enough to make the final cut due to the method I used having a bit of a bias toward wide availability – I may rethink the approach if I revisit this topic.

      Jason.

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