The Best Parlor Guitars - From $150 to $2000

The Highest Rated Parlor Guitars

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Parlor guitars offer a smaller, lighter and more comfortable alternative to regular-size acoustics. More importantly, they have a distinct sound that harks back to Victorian era guitars that were played in parlor rooms, and affordable "blues box" mail-order guitars from the early 1900s.

Here we present you with the best parlor guitars that keep the legend of the "blues box" alive. All of which you can readily buy from major American music gear retailers, covering different types of parlor guitars and divided into four popular price ranges: under $200, under $500, under $1000 and under $2000.

The Best Parlor Guitars

Author & Contributors

Alexander BrionesAlexander Briones

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

Parlor Guitars Under $200

Ibanez PN1MH

88
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$150
Ibanez PN1MH (Mahogany) Parlor Guitar

The PN1MH is all that you'd expect a "blues box" should be, including having 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 into this guide.

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.

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

As expected from Ibanez, neck is designed to be easy on the hands.

Features:

  • Body Shape: Parlor
  • Top: Sapele
  • Back and Sides: Nyatoh
  • Finish: Gloss Polyester
  • Bridge: Nandu
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Neck Profile: Not Specified
  • Fingerboard: Nandu
  • Fingerboard Radius: 9.8"
  • Number of Frets: 18
  • Frets to Body: 12
  • Scale Length: 24.41”
  • Nut Width: 1.653"

Pros

Owners love the Ibanez PN1MH because it's easy to play and stays in tune, contradicting common issues that plague other acoustic guitars that are within the same price range. It logically follows that users are pleased with its overall value, especially those who are pleased with its warm tone. Those who play folk, blues and slide find its tone to be just right for their taste.

Cons

There are some reports of minor cosmetic flaws, while others find the sound to be too thin for their tastes, which is unfortunate because this parlor guitar is not meant to produce big rich tones given its small size. Also some find the compact shape of this guitar to be a bit awkward at first.

Overall

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.

Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy Flat Top

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 1100+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$179
Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy Flat Top

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Parlor Guitar Under $200.

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.

More importantly it does all this while having a very affordable price tag.

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

Features:

  • 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"

Pros

Owners describe this guitar as a very fun and inspiring instrument to play with, resulting in longer yet more enjoyable playing experience. Many are also surprised at its overall quality, given its price, with many reviewers commending various aspects of the guitar, from its fretwork, to its vintage style appearance, to its warm tone. One user nicely summarizes market sentiment by saying that this is one guitar that's hard to put down.

Cons

Some experienced musicians were able to get more out of the G9500 by replacing the nut and saddle. There are a few reports of tuning issues and minor cosmetic blemishes.

Overall

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.

Parlor Guitars Under $500

Fender CP-60S Parlor Guitar

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 450+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$230
Fender CP-60S Parlor Guitar

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 rare in its price range.

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

Thankfully, this one does not come with manufacturing issues and string setup problems that plague old guitars, rather many are impressed with the CP-60S' craftsmanship.

It has a mahogany neck that joins the body at the 14th fret, and a walnut fingerboard with rolled edges.

Features:

  • 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"

Pros

Value for money is the most common reason why the Fender CP-60S is rated highly. Experienced musicians appreciate its solid spruce top and good craftsmanship, which translates to good playability and tone. It is often described as a good sounding low-cost acoustic, and gets commended often for being easy on the hands. There are also plenty of positive comments regarding its build quality, which is a plus given the price and its specs.

Cons

There are a few who report string setup related issues like fret buzz, while others notice some imperfections on the finish.

Overall

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.

Gretsch G9520E Gin Rickey

95
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$249
Gretsch G9520E Gin Rickey Acoustic-Electric Parlor Guitar

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Parlor Guitar between $200 and $500.

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.

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 many experienced musicians love.

Being small also means that the G9520 is easy to carry around, and ideal for couch guitar duties.

What sets it apart though is the use of a magnetic soundhole pickup as opposed to the typical piezo and preamp system found in many acoustic-electric guitars. The Gretsch Deltoluxe magnetic sound hole pickup gives this parlor guitar a gritty amplified tone that works great for blues, rock and similar styles.

Many also find the tone fitting for slide playing.

Features:

  • 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)

Pros

Tone is the main reason why the G9520E is beloved, many love its warm acoustic tone and its throaty amplified sound, as attested to in reviews. Being easy on the hands is another common reason why people rate this highly. Even Nick Millevoi of Acoustic Guitar magazine is impressed, summarizing his review by saying: "Ultimately, the Gretsch G9520E Gin Rickey is exactly what it claims to be: a low-cost guitar that’s meant for fun, is comfortable to hold, and sounds great. The Deltoluxe pickup certainly elevates the guitar in both sound and appearance, but it still sounds great acoustically." Finally, many consider the G9520E to be a great buy - if you're into its distinct tone.

Cons

Speaking of tone, this guitar has a specific voicing that may not appeal to those who prefer traditional acoustic sound. The use of magnetic pickup also means that it has a different sound when plugged in.

Overall

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

Yamaha CSF1M

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 40+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$450
Yamaha CSF1M TSB Parlor Guitar

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

This fuller shape gives it a distinct yet familiar appeal, and adds a bit more volume and low end to its tone, compared to slimmer parlor guitars.

Helping it project its sound is its solid sitka spruce top, along 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.

Finally it comes with 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.

Features:

  • Body Shape: Parlor
  • Top: Solid Sitka Spruce
  • Back and Sides: Mahogany
  • Finish: Gloss Tobacco Brown Sunburst
  • Bridge: Walnut
  • Neck: Nato
  • Neck Profile: Not Specified
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Radius: 16"
  • Number of Frets: 20
  • Frets to Body: 14
  • Scale Length: 23.5”
  • Nut Width: 1.692"

Pros

Most of the positive comments point to its good tone, which resembles the sound regular sized acoustics. It is well received by those who just want a smaller more comfortable acoustic guitar that doesn't sound too different from what they are used to. Comfort and playability are also a big factors for many who gave this perfect ratings. Finally, users are are impressed at the overall build of the Yamaha CSF1M, they describe its quality to be a step above its actual price.

Cons

Those who are looking for a bluesy voicing will want to look elsewhere. There are a few reports of string setup issues, but the users themselves were able to resolve it by a bit of adjustment. The passive pickup is a bit of a letdown for some users.

Overall

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.

Parlor Guitars Under $1000

Yamaha CSF3M

93
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$620
Yamaha CSF3M TBS Acoustic-Electric Parlor Guitar

The CSF3M takes Yamaha's parlor guitar line up a notch with the use of solid wood for the body.

Like the CSF1M, the top is crafted from solid sitka spruce top, but the main difference is the use of solid mahogany wood for the back and sides.

This all-solid wood body results in a more resonant and lively sounding parlor guitar, which together with its classical style body shape, results in tone that's closer to a regular sized acoustic. This makes the CSF3M ideal for those who want an all solid body parlor guitar that doesn't stray too far from familiar acoustic guitar tones.

The neck is crafted from nato, and is topped by a 23.5" scale rosewood fingerboard with 20 frets.

It also comes with the SRT Zero-Impact piezo pickup, a passive pickup system that lets you plug-in the guitar with no modifications required.

Features:

  • Body Shape: Parlor
  • Top: Solid Sitka Spruce
  • Back and Sides: Solid Mahogany
  • Finish: Gloss Tobacco Brown Sunburst
  • Bridge: Rosewood
  • Neck: Nato
  • Neck Profile: Not Specified
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Radius: 16"
  • Number of Frets: 20
  • Frets to Body: 14
  • Scale Length: 23.5”
  • Nut Width: 1.692"

Pros

Owners are happy with its all solid wood body construction, which result in full sounding tones. Many are impressed at how much low end it has, given its compact size. There are also plenty of positive comments regarding its playability and overall build. Even experts like Rob Laing of Music Radar have good things to say: "Yamaha’s design skills shown in a rich, surprisingly full-bodied sound from compact proportions. Impressive plugged-in performance." Given its specs, it is only natural for reviewers to be happy with its overall value.

Cons

There are some reports of minor finish imperfections, specifically on the headstock. While a few encountered string action related issues that were resolved by some adjustments.

Overall

The Yamaha CSF3M's all solid wood body, high ratings, and full sounding tone makes this very easy to recommend.

PRS SE P20E

94
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$629
PRS SE P20E Acoustic-Electric Parlor Guitar

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Parlor Guitar between $500 and $1000.

Paul Reed Smith joins the parlor guitar market with the PRS SE P20E, bringing with it their brand of 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, developed to improve resonance and structural stability.

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.

Finally, this guitar comes with Fishman GT1 electronics, which includes under-saddle piezo pickup and soundhole mounted controls.

Features:

  • 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"

Pros

As expected from PRS, owners are bedazzled by the SE P20E's craftsmanship. In addition to eye candy and solid build, users are pleased at how well the neck and strings are setup, which some describe as far better than their previous instruments. Tone is another important factor in reviews, described as mellow yet detailed, and very endearing especially to experienced musicians. Even Art Thompson of Guitar Player magazine is pleased, concluding his review with this: "I’m sold on the Tonare Parlor SE P20E. This is a great-sounding guitar with a price/performance ratio that is off the hook."

Cons

There are a few reports of minor finish related issues.

Overall

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

Parlor Guitars Under $2000

Martin 00-15M

98
GEARANK

98 out of 100. Incorporating 125+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$1299
Martin 00-15M

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Parlor Guitar Under $2000.

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's getting near perfect ratings across major retailers.

The 00-15M comes with a 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.

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".

Features:

  • 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"

Pros

The 00-15M is just one of the many Martin guitars with all-solid mahogany bodies that are currently rating very highly in the market. It captures the hearts of guitarists with its mellow yet expressive tone, many of which are happy to report how pleased they are with the sound. Beautiful tone combined with excellent playability makes for an inspiring instrument to play, which in turn inspires users to write heartfelt commendations in reviews. Being well built is also another commonly praised trait.

Cons

With its near perfect ratings, there's not much complaint to write about. Note that while this is still a quality Martin guitar, it does sound distinct compared to the familiar spruce top dreadnought acoustic configuration that they are more popular for.

Overall

It's hard to go wrong with a Martin guitar, even more so when you check out their top rated offerings like the Martin 00-15M.

Guild M-20

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 50+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$1599
Guild M-20

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.

The body follows a compact concert shape that's comfortable to play and easy to carry around.

This shape, together with its all solid mahogany construction results in a clear yet warm tone 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".

Features:

  • 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"

Pros

When users start their reviews with titles that include the words "superb", "fantastic" and "outstanding", you know that they are mighty impressed with what they got. And this is exactly what reviews for the Guild M-20 are all about, with users mostly commending it for its warm yet clear tone. The same positive responses are also pointed to its build quality and playing feel. Music Radar's Dave Mead and Dave Burrluck concluded their review of the Guild M-20 with this: " Build quality is tip-top and price point is very competitive for a premium-marque all-solid build. Clean, no-nonsense build at attractive price with engaging fingerstyle, friendly voice and feel."

Cons

The wider nut width may be a turn off for some players, and like most parlor style guitars, its warm mellow tone may not be everyone's cup of tea.

Overall

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.

Things to Consider When Buying a Parlor Guitar

What is a Parlor Guitar?

The label "parlor", also called "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, shapes, and price ranges.

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 improve 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 expected to 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, said to be bearing the same characteristics as spruce, but more affordable and environment friendly. Mahogany seems to be 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.

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 is the reason why many consider parlor guitars to be easier to play. Still, there are some manufacturers who stick to standard scale lengths, these are preferred by guitarists who want their instruments to have a more uniform playing feel.

Nut width is the spacing between strings at the nut. 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.

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 usually 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 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.

Best Parlor Guitar Selection Methodology

The is the first edition which was published on September 7, 2021.

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. We also decided to stick to steel-stringed acoustics and set a ceiling price of $2000.

With these filters set, we looked at the most popular and highly rated steel-string parlor guitars, including those that are labeled as parlor by their manufacturers, or those that are equal to or smaller than 00 (Martin standard) size. We ended up with a short list of 32 parlor guitars, which entailed the analysis of over 3,200 relevant user reviews, ratings and recommendations. All of these data were then processed via the Gearank algorithm, which gave 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 Over $1000.

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

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

Drawing from his experience in performing and recording, he teaches guitar and bass and mentors young artists to be better musicians. And when he is not busy playing or tinkering with musical gear, he puts on his entrepreneurial hat, which helps fund his passion for collecting guitars, mecha figures and Gunpla kits.

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.

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