The Best Parlor Guitars - All Prices up to $2000

The Highest Rated Parlor Guitars

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Parlor guitars have smaller bodies that look and sound distinct, evoking the classic appeal of Victorian era late 1800's guitars, or the more gritty aesthetics and tone of "blues box" mail-order guitars from the 1930's.

Thanks to their smaller size, parlor guitars are generally lighter. With their shorter scale length, they often have a softer comfortable playing feel, making them viable for both old and young musicians who want an instrument that's easy on their hands.

The Best Parlor Guitars - 2022.07

Author & Contributors

Alexander BrionesAlexander Briones

I've written about and researched music gear for many years, while also serving as a music director at my local church, in addition to teaching guitar, bass and mentoring young musicians.

Author's Pick

This is a review of my favorite parlor guitar that I play regularly.

Takamine GY11ME

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 60+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$450
Takamine GY11ME

Cons

  • Not as full sounding as bigger acoustics
  • Built-in preamp had issues after 3 years
  • No solidwood component

Pros

  • Easy on the hands beginner-friendly playability
  • Vintage style square tapered slotted headstock
  • Mid-focused voicing great for blues, rock and older musical styles
  • Reliable tuning and intonation
  • Proven beginner friendly durability
  • Compact body

Takamine is known for stage ready yet reasonably priced acoustic-electric guitars, so when I saw the GY11ME at our local store, I immediately checked it out.

I was initially drawn to its classic aesthetics, especially its nice looking square tapered slotted headstock, which matches its "New Yorker" parlor style body. This was a big deal to me because Takamine usually employs their regular headstock shape on their acoustics. The top, back and sides are crafted from mahogany, wrapped in natural satin finish that showcases nice wood grain patterns.

Given its tonewood configuration and shape, it produces a warm midrange focused tone that suits my preferred styles of music, which include blues, gospel, rock and the like. For plugging in, Takamine equipped it with a TP-4T pickup and preamp system, which has essential controls including 3-band EQ and gain, as well as a nifty built-in tuner.

Another factor that made me decide to get this parlor guitar is its easy playability, thanks to its shorter scale length, flat fretboard radius and narrow nut width. At the time, I was looking for a good pickup-equipped acoustic that's easy enough to play for my son, who I trained to play on a 3/4 size nylon string guitar. So it made perfect sense to get the GY11ME, especially when considering that I had been hunting for a parlor guitar.

Thankfully, the transition into steel string went smooth for my son, and I also ended up enjoying the GY11ME as a beater couch guitar.

Fast forward to today, the GY11ME is still our go-to guitar at home, surviving hours and hours of practice, and it has seen action in many church services, school events, gigs, and home recordings.

Note that while this version of the GY11ME is still available, Takamine has a new version with sapele body, slightly different specs, and a regular (not-slotted) headstock.

The Takamine GY11ME scratched my parlor guitar itch with its classic appeal, smooth action and bluesy tone, highly recommended if you're into similar musical styles and guitar aesthetics.

Specifications

  • Body Shape: New Yorker Parlor
  • Top: Mahogany
  • Back and Sides: Mahogany
  • Finish: Natural Satin
  • Bridge: Laurel
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Neck Profile: Soft-C
  • Fingerboard: Laurel
  • Fingerboard Radius: 12"
  • Number of Frets: 21
  • Frets to Body: 14
  • Scale Length: 24.8”
  • Nut Width: 1.67"

Rating Source Highlight

Website Source *Rating Value
Gearank Alexander Briones 95/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Demo

Parlor Guitars Under $200

Ibanez PN1MH

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 100+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$160
Ibanez PN1MH (Mahogany) Parlor 6-String Acoustic Guitar

Cons

  • Compact shape can feel awkward
  • Not for those who want full sounding acoustics

Pros

  • Retro inspired slim and sleek body design
  • Blues, rock and slide friendly tone
  • Stays in tuner better than most entry-level acoustics.
  • Easy playability

The PN1MH is all that you'd expect a "blues box" should be, and has a very affordable price tag.

It carries Ibanez' reputation for quality and playability, while being the cheapest among the top rated parlor guitars that made it onto our recommended list.

To get the price low, Ibanez utilizes cheaper and more sustainable alternatives to the usual guitar tonewoods, including sapele for the top and nyatoh for the back and sides.

Thankfully, they did not skimp on the tuners, because this one stays in tune better than most entry-level acoustics. But at this price, it is normal to expect some minor cosmetic inconsistencies.

It features a retro inspired slim and sleek body design, with old school style appointments.

As expected from Ibanez, the neck is easy on the hands - very playable.

If you're looking for a budget friendly parlor guitar that can be your main portable and beater acoustic guitar, then this is for you.

Specifications

  • Body Shape: Parlor
  • Top: Sapele
  • Back and Sides: Nyatoh
  • Finish: Gloss Polyester
  • Bridge: Nandu
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Fingerboard: Nandu
  • Fingerboard Radius: 9.8"
  • Number of Frets: 18
  • Frets to Body: 12
  • Scale Length: 24.41”
  • Nut Width: 1.653"

Rating Source Highlight

Website Source *Rating Value
YouTube Rick Merwin 94/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Demo

Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy Flat Top

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 1250+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$189
Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy Flat Top Parlor 6-String Acoustic Guitar

Cons

  • Some minor cosmetic flaws
  • Not for those who prefer traditional full bodied acoustics

Pros

  • Great value for money
  • Period correct Gretsch Retch build and tone
  • Comfortable playability
  • Very portable

The Gretsch G9500 is an excellent example of the staying power of parlor guitars, impressing modern players with its old school design and tone, inspired by '30s era Gretsch Rex guitars.

The top, back, and sides are crafted from basswood, forming its compact parlor style body that makes this a very handy beater instrument that you can easily carry with you when needed.

The G9500's compact body combined with its short scale neck makes it easy to pickup and hard to put down.

The neck is crafted from nato with a C-shape profile, and it joins the body at the 12th fret following traditional blues box specs.

It is great value at this price point, but don't expect it to have perfect cosmetics.

For better tone and sustain, you might want to consider upgrading the nut and saddle.

If you're looking for an affordable grab and go acoustic that's fun to play, then definitely check out the Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy Flat Top.

Specifications

  • Body Shape: Parlor
  • Top: Basswood
  • Back and Sides: Basswood
  • Finish: Semi-Gloss Polyurethane
  • Bridge: Walnut
  • Neck: Nato
  • Neck Profile: "C" Shape
  • Fingerboard: Walnut
  • Fingerboard Radius: 18"
  • Number of Frets:
  • Frets to Body: 12
  • Scale Length: 24”
  • Nut Width: 1.6875"

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
Guitarspace Alizabeth Swain 90/100
Guitar Kitty Iris 90/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Demo

Fender CP-60S Parlor Guitar

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 475+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$200
Fender CP-60S Parlor 6-String Acoustic Guitar
At publication time this was the Highest Rated Parlor Guitar Under $200.

Cons

  • Low action sometimes causes fret buzz
  • Not for those who prefer traditional full bodied acoustics

Pros

  • Solid spruce top
  • Good craftsmanship for the price
  • Easy on the hands
  • Good midrange tone

The Fender CP-60S is a step above other similarly priced parlor guitars when it comes to specs because it sports a solid spruce top, which is quite a steal for the price.

The guitar's solid spruce top and mahogany back and sides form its slim body, resembling blues boxes of the past both in terms of look and cost.

Thankfully, this one does not come with manufacturing issues of the past, rather the CP-60S' craftsmanship meets current build quality standards. It also has better tuners and modern fretwork, to avoid the usual tuning and string setup problems that plague old parlor guitars.

It has a mahogany neck that joins the body at the 14th fret, and a walnut fingerboard with rolled edges. Note that it has a low action setup, which makes it easier to play, but can also cause fret buzz when strumming hard.

With its solid spruce top and big brand backing, the Fender CP-60S is definitely a great deal, it is a great entry way into the world of parlor guitars.

Specifications

  • Body Shape: Parlor
  • Top: Solid Spruce
  • Back and Sides: Mahogany
  • Finish: Gloss Natural / 3-Color Sunburst
  • Bridge: Walnut
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Neck Profile: Easy to Play Shape
  • Fingerboard: Walnut
  • Fingerboard Radius: 12"
  • Number of Frets: 20
  • Frets to Body: 14
  • Scale Length: 24.75”
  • Nut Width: 1.6875"

Rating Source Highlight

Website Source *Rating Value
YouTube Johnny Adams 92/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Demo

Parlor Guitars Under $500

Gretsch G9520E Gin Rickey

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 200+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$279
Gretsch G9520E Gin Rickey

Cons

  • Bluesy tone may not appeal to everyone
  • Colored amplified tone
  • Not for those who prefer traditional full bodied acoustics

Pros

  • Old school blues box tone and appeal
  • Throaty amplified tone via magnetic pickup
  • Good build quality
  • Relaxed playing feel

The Gretsch G9520E takes you back to the era of the "blues box" with its compact parlor body, while adding the option of having a gritty amplified tone thanks to its magnetic pickup.

The use of Gretsch' Deltoluxe magnetic soundhole pickup strays from the typical piezo and preamp system found in many acoustic-electric guitars. With some tweaks on an amp, this gives it a distinct throaty tone that works great for blues, rock and similar styles.

Basswood is used for the top, back and sides, all of which follow the traditional parlor guitar shape with its small body size, resulting in warm tones that you won't get from regular sized acoustics. The resulting unplugged and plugged-in tone is quite fitting for slide playing.

Being small also means that the G9520 is easy to carry around, and ideal for couch guitar duties. Like the G9500, its reduced scale length gives it a noticeably more relaxed playing feel.

If you're looking for a "blues box" sounding couch guitar with a special stage sound, then the Gretsch G9520E is for you.

Specifications

  • Body Shape: Gin Rickey Parlor
  • Top: Basswood
  • Back and Sides: Basswood
  • Finish: Black Semi-Gloss
  • Bridge: Walnut
  • Neck: Nato
  • Neck Profile: C Shape
  • Fingerboard: Walnut
  • Fingerboard Radius: 12"
  • Number of Frets: 18
  • Frets to Body: 12
  • Scale Length: 24"
  • Nut Width: 1.6875"
  • Electronics: Gretsch Deltoluxe Acoustic Magnetic Soundhole Pickup (Passive)

Rating Source Highlight

Website Source *Rating Value
AcousticGuitar Nick Millevoi 95/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Demo

Yamaha CSF1M

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 30+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$450
Yamaha CSF1M - Tobacco Brown Sunburst
At publication time this was the Highest Rated Parlor Guitar between $200 and $500.

Cons

  • Not for those who prefer blues box style tones
  • Pickup is passive

Pros

  • Projects like regular size acoustics
  • Fuller sounding tone
  • Great build quality
  • Student-friendly playability

Drawing from their experience and expertise with nylon string guitars, Yamaha gave the CSF1M a parlor style body that follows the shape of a classical guitar, albeit smaller.

This shape gives it a distinct yet familiar appeal, and adds a bit more volume and low end to its tone. It also has a solid sitka pruce top that helps it project better, with volume and tone that's closer to regular acoustics than what other parlor guitars offer.

The solid top is paired with laminate mahogany for the back and sides.

The neck is crafted from nato, and is topped by a 23.5" short scale rosewood fingerboard, with a slightly wider than usual 1.692" nut width.

And it comes with a built-in discrete SRT Zero-impact piezo pickup; note that this is a passive pickup which means that it is meant to be paired with a preamp pedal or compatible acoustic amp.

If you're looking for a compact guitar that doesn't stray too far from the acoustic sound that you're familiar with, then this is for you.

Specifications

  • Body Shape: Parlor
  • Top: Solid Sitka Spruce
  • Back and Sides: Mahogany
  • Finish: Gloss Tobacco Brown Sunburst or Vintage Natural
  • Bridge: Walnut
  • Neck: Nato
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Radius: 16"
  • Number of Frets: 20
  • Frets to Body: 14
  • Scale Length: 23.5”
  • Nut Width: 1.692"

Rating Source Highlight

Website Source *Rating Value
YouTube The Guitar Spa Singapore 92/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Demo

Parlor Guitars Under $1000

PRS SE P20E

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 150+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$629
PRS SE P20E Acoustic-Electric Parlor Guitar
At publication time this was the Highest Rated Parlor Guitar Under $1000.

Cons

  • Not for those who want short scale playability
  • Not for those who prefer gritty tones or full bodied sound

Pros

  • Superb PRS craftsmanship
  • Great neck and string action setup
  • Mellow yet detailed tone
  • Ideal for those who want a parlor guitar with regular scale length

Paul Reed Smith joins the parlor guitar market with the PRS SE P20E, bringing with it their brand of premium quality and craftsmanship at a relatively accessible price.

This parlor size acoustic features a solid mahogany top, supported by a hybrid bracing that combines the best features of X and classical bracing which gives it good resonance and structural stability. The resulting sound is mellow yet still detailed and responsive.

It uses mahogany for the back and sides, and has a slim parlor style body that's reminiscent of actual parlor guitars used back in the 1930's. It comes with a walnut fingerboard that is as premium feeling as PRS' other acoustic guitars.

It also comes with Fishman GT1 electronics, which includes an under-saddle piezo pickup with soundhole mounted controls.

You don't have to be a fan of PRS guitars to appreciate the quality and sound of the PRS SE P20E parlor guitar.

Specifications

  • Body Shape: SE Parlor
  • Top: Solid Mahogany
  • Back and Sides: Mahogany
  • Finish: Satin
  • Bridge: Walnut
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Neck Profile: PRS Wide-Fat Shape
  • Fingerboard: Walnut
  • Fingerboard Radius: 11.8"
  • Number of Frets: 20
  • Frets to Body: 14
  • Scale Length: 24.72"
  • Nut Width: 1.6875"

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
Guitar Player Art Thompson 90/100
Acoustic Guitar James Rotondi 95/100
Guitar Girl Mag Alex Windsor 94/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Demo

Yamaha CSF-TA

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 30+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$800
Yamaha CSF-TA TransAcoustic Parlor Guitar

Cons

  • Effects may be "gimmicky" for some
  • Not for those who prefer traditional parlors

Pros

  • Apply reverb or chorus while unplugged
  • Great sounding tone
  • Solid top and good quality build
  • Student friendly playability

The CSF-TA is part of Yamaha's TransAcoustic line of acoustic-electric guitars, combining old school parlor body with their modern System 70 TransAcoustic + SRT Piezo Pickup system - you can read more about Yamaha's pickup systems here.

This system lets you add reverb or chorus to the reverb on the guitar itself, without having to plug into an amp. This is achieved via a built-in actuator device, which transfers the effected sound to the body of the acoustic guitar as vibrations, essentially turning it into a speaker that can reproduce effected sounds.

Since it utilizes the body of the guitar, the effect blends in to the acoustic sound in a more natural way, resulting in great sounding tone that is impressive. The effect also works when plugged in via the preamp, and it comes with intuitive controls for tweaking.

The body shape is similar to a classical guitar, only smaller; the main difference being its use of steel strings. It comes with a solid sitka spruce top, paired with mahogany back and sides, a familiar tonewood combination that many manufacturers utilize.

Coming from Yamaha, this parlor guitar is meant to be student friendly, with a short 23.6" scale length, flat 16" radius fingerboard, and 1.6875 nut width. There's also no question when it comes to its quality.

If you're looking for a grab-and-go guitar with modern enhancements, then the CSF-TA with its TransAcoustic technology is a good buy.

Specifications

  • Body Shape: CSF Parlor
  • Top: Solid Sitka Spruce
  • Back and Sides: Mahogany
  • Finish: Vintage Gloss
  • Bridge: Rosewood
  • Neck: Nato
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Radius: 16"
  • Number of Frets: 20
  • Frets to Body: 14
  • Scale Length: 23.6"
  • Nut Width: 1.6875"

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
Acoustic Guitar Emile Menasché 94/100
Guitar Interactive Jonathan Graham 92/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Demo

Parlor Guitars Under $2000

Martin 00-15M

98
GEARANK

98 out of 100. Incorporating 150+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$1499
Martin 00-15M 6-String Acoustic Guitar
At publication time this was the Highest Rated Parlor Guitar Under $2000.

Cons

  • Not for those who prefer trebly tone

Pros

  • Beautiful warm tone
  • Premium craftsmanship
  • Traditional playability
  • Elegant appearance

C.F. Martin & Co. continues to be a fixture in the acoustic guitar market, with a long list of iconic guitars and big name artists that keep the brand up top.

The 00-15M is an excellent example of why Martin guitars are well loved, and they didn't even need to add anything fancy to it, just good old premium craftsmanship resulting in a great instrument that retains near perfect ratings across major retailers.

The 00-15M comes with an all solid mahogany body, shaped into Martin's compact 00 style body design. The resulting sound of this configuration prominently features the mids, giving it a warmer flavor while still retaining Martin's distinct woody tone.

It is worth noting that Martin's mahogany body acoustic guitars are getting much higher ratings compared to their spruce counterparts, and it's all thanks to their warm tone.

The neck is also crafted from mahogany, and joins the body at the 14 fret via a dovetail neck joint.

To give it a familiar playing feel, Martin did not stray from its usual neck/fingerboard specs, equipping this with a 20-fret, 25.4" scale rosewood fingerboard, with a nut width of 1.6875".

It's hard to go wrong with a Martin guitar, even more so with the Martin 00-15M.

Specifications

  • Body Shape:00
  • Top: Solid Mahogany
  • Back and Sides: Solid Mahogany
  • Finish: Natural
  • Bridge: Rosewood
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Neck Profile: Modified Low Oval / Standard Taper
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Radius: 16"
  • Number of Frets: 20
  • Frets to Body: 14
  • Scale Length: 25.4”
  • Nut Width: 1.6875"

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
Audiofanzine gregprika 100/100
Tonepedia Editor 95/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Demo

Guild M-20

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 70+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$1599
Guild M-20 6-String Acoustic Guitar

Cons

  • Nut width can be too wide for some
  • Not for those who prefer trebly tone

Pros

  • Beautiful warm yet clear tone
  • Great craftsmanship
  • Vintage style look
  • Premium all-solid mahogany wood construction

The Guild M-20 is a US-made parlor style guitar that retains many of the traits it had when it was first introduced in 1967.

It sports an all-solid mahogany construction, with the top, back and sides all crafted from solid mahogany. Its premium quality tonewood is matched with superb craftsmanship, forming its compact concert shape that comes with vintage style look and streamlined aesthetics.

This shape makes it more comfortable to play and compliments the all solid mahogany body, resulting in a beautiful warm tone that retains impressive clarity, with emphasis on the mids.

The neck joins the body at the 14th fret, topped by a 24.75" scale rosewood fingerboard with a slightly wider nut width at 1.75".

The Guild M-20 is a no brainer for fans of Nick Drake, but even those who aren't aware of him will find themselves in love with this guitar's tone.

Specifications

  • Body Shape: M Concert
  • Top: Solid Mahogany
  • Back and Sides: Solid Mahogany
  • Finish: Satin Nitrocellulose Lacquer
  • Bridge: Rosewood
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Neck Profile: "C" Shape
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Radius: 12"
  • Number of Frets: 20
  • Frets to Body: 14
  • Scale Length: 24.75”
  • Nut Width: 1.75"

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
Music Radar Dave Mead, Dave Burrluck 90/100
Guitar Huw Price 80/100
YouTube Acoustic Life 95/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Demo

Things to Consider When Buying a Parlor Guitar

What is a Parlor Guitar?

The label "parlor", sometimes spelled "parlour", is based on 19th century Victorian era reception rooms where guests were often received and entertained with music. In the 1930's, small body guitars became more accessible, thanks to cheap "mail-order" guitars. These parlor guitars became widely used in early blues and folk music, earning the title "blues box".

Fast forward to today, the parlor guitar is still very much in demand especially among experienced musicians who appreciate the tone and convenience. Much of the old design is retained, but with improved reliability and better playability, thanks to modern production technology. These days, you can choose from a wider variety of designs and shapes, depending on your allotted budget.

Size and Shape

Since there are no set standards that manufacturers agree on, today's parlor guitars come in a variety of shapes, sizes and specs - the main limitation though is that they should be smaller than regular sized acoustics like dreadnoughts. Generally speaking, the smaller the body size is, the less bottom end it will have, resulting in more midrange. This warm midrange tone is ideal for blues, folk, rock and similar styles of music, and this distinct tone is often credited for the continued relevance of this old school guitar design up to this day.

Shape also affects tone, specifically the size of the lower bout which proportionally increases bass response. This is the reason why some parlor guitar manufacturers opt for a bigger lower bout to give it a more balanced tonality. This balanced tone makes it viable for more musical styles, freeing it from the limitations commonly associated with parlor guitars.

Wood and Tone

In conjunction with its body shape, wood plays a major role in shaping the tone of a parlor guitar. Solid wood is favored by many because it resonates better and improves with age, while laminate wood has the advantage of being more affordable and more resilient to environment and humidity changes.

Different types of wood are also affect the tone, and this difference may become more obvious as you're experience and playing skill grows. Spruce is the most commonly used wood for the top, preferred for its balanced tone and good projection. Sapele is a common alternative to spruce, with it bearing the many of the same characteristics as spruce, but more affordable and environment friendly. Mahogany is the favorite as the price tier goes up, it is well received because of how it further mellows the already midrange heavy sound of small bodied guitars. There are also affordable and renewable alternatives to mahogany, like the nyatoh, which manufacturers use to bring the price down. In addition, there are other tonewood types that are used in parlor guitars, but they are not as common, each type of wood adds its distinct flavor to the overall sound of the instrument. You can read more about acoustic guitar tonewoods here.

Scale Length, Nut Width and Playability

Scale length is the distance between the saddle and the nut, which proportionally affects string tension. The shorter the scale length, the looser the strings feel, which impacts playability and tone to some extent. Many parlor guitars have scale lengths that are shorter than their regular sized counterparts, and this lower string tension is the reason why many consider parlor guitars to be easier to play. Still, there are some manufacturers that stick to standard scale lengths, these are preferred by guitarists who want their instruments to have a more uniform playing feel.

Nut width determines the spacing between strings at the nut. A narrower nut width makes it easier for smaller fingers to do different chord patterns, and ideal for those who are used to electric guitars. Wider nut widths allow for more room to position your fingers on frets, ideal for those who are used to more traditionally spec'ed acoustics, and classical guitars. For a more in-depth look at the acoustic guitar neck and playability considerations, you can go here.

Pickups and Electronics

Some parlor guitars come with built-in active electronics, the most common configuration includes an under-saddle piezo pickup paired with a battery powered preamp. This setup allows you to plug-in your instrument to an amp or direct to PA systems, with basic tone and volume control. This is a good feature to look out for especially those who are looking to perform on stage with a parlor guitar.

More premium guitars come with more complex pickup systems, some even adding a soundhole mounted mic which you can blend with the piezo pickup. Other manufacturers opt for passive pickups which install discretely because they do not come with preamps. This means that there is no need to drill a hole on the body of the guitar to position the preamp. Note that while these can be directly plugged in, this configuration works best going through a preamp first, before going to an acoustic amp or PA system.

Magnetic pickups, while not as popular, also work well with parlor guitars in certain styles, as exemplified by the Gretsch G9520E Gin Rickey, with its throaty and gritty amplified tone that works great with blues and slide playing.

Interestingly, there are now plenty of non-intrusive pickup and preamp systems that you can equip into parlor guitars without the need for too much body modifications. These types of pickups usually have basic volume and tone controls that are mounted just under the soundhole. If you decide you want to add pickups to a guitar that doesn't have them already installed, then check out our guide to The Best Acoustic Guitar Pickups.

Best Parlor Guitar Selection Methodology

The first edition was published in 2021 and the current 2nd edition was published on July 11, 2022.

Since there is no set size and shape standard for parlor guitars, we needed to make a distinction between parlor, travel and kids guitars. And to do so, we decided to filter out those labeled as Travel, Mini, Kids, and 3/4 size guitars - since these instruments are designed with a different purpose in mind. To be eligible for consideration to be included in this guide a guitar had to meet the following criteria:

  • Listed as a parlor guitar by the manufacturer or retailers or sized 00 or smaller
  • Have 6 steel strings (no nylon string parlors)
  • Is acoustic - with or without pickups installed
  • Have a street price less than $2,000
  • Had to be available from a major USA based retailer

With these filters set, we looked at the most popular eligible guitars currently available. For this July 2022 edition, we ended up analyzing a short-list of 34 guitars, which entailed the analysis of over 3,900 relevant user reviews, discussions, ratings and recommendations. All of these data were then processed via the Gearank algorithm to give us the rating scores out of 100 that you see above. We used these scores to select the highest rated options in four price brackets: Under $200, Under $500, Under $1000, and Under $2000.

For more information about our methods see How Gearank Works.

About the Author and Contributors

Here are the key people and sources involved in this guide's production - click on linked names for information about their music industry backgrounds.

Lead Author & Researcher

Alexander BrionesAlexander Briones

I've written about and researched music gear for many years, while also serving as a music director at my local church, in addition to teaching guitar, bass and mentoring young musicians.

I’m a big fan of the practicality and aesthetics of parlor guitars. After trying out every available parlor that I could get my hands on from local stores, I ended up getting a Takamine GY11ME for my son. It was supposed to be his, but it quickly became “our” main couch guitar. Eventually, it became our most used stage guitar, and has inspired friends to also get their own parlor guitar.

Contributors

Jason Horton: Editing and illustrating.

Media

Main/Top Image: By Gearank.com using photographs of the Ibanez PN1MH, Guild M-20, Gretsch G9520E, PRS SE P20E and Fender CP-60S.

The videos have been embedded in accordance with YouTube's Terms of Service.

The individual product images were sourced from websites, promotional materials or supporting documentation provided by their respective manufacturers, with the exception of the Takamine GY11ME Headstock which was photographed by the author.

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Publication of our March 2022

Publication of our March 2022 Edition resulted in the following guitar coming off the recommended list above, but you can still see our analysis of it: Yamaha CSF3M.

Let us know if you have any

Let us know if you have any questions about the parlor guitars listed above, or any other related questions.