The Best Classical & Nylon String Guitars - From $100 to $1000

The Highest Rated Nylon String Guitars

Disclosure

We recommend all products independently of 3rd parties including advertisers. We earn advertising fees from:
• • • • •
Sweetwater
• • • • •

Amazon

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.
• • • • •

Nylon string guitars have a distinct voice and softer playing feel that appeals to guitarists across different skill levels. In fact, many started on a nylon string guitar, because of how easy they are on the hands. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you'll find professionals playing classical guitars on big stages and recordings.

Classical and flamenco guitars make up most of what's available in the market, but some manufacturers have been breaking out of the mold, to make crossover nylon string guitars that are more relevant to modern gigging and music styles.

Here we feature the best rated of these guitars, divided into three popular price ranges: sub $200, sub $500, and sub $1000. Whether you are looking to seriously study classical or flamenco music, or you just want to expand into nylon string territory, these market favorites will be a good fit.

Classical guitars retain a very specific profile and set of specification that fit the classical music genre, making them the default guitar for many music conservatory teachers and students. Flamenco guitars have a slightly different design, meant to better handle more aggressive and percussive style of playing. Other nylon string guitar variants are meant to appeal to those who want the tone and soft feel of nylon strings, minus the bulk and traditional look of classical and flamenco guitars.

The Best Classical & Nylon String Guitars - 2022.09

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.

The Best Budget Classical Guitars Under $200

Yamaha C40II

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 1600+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$160
Yamaha C40 MkII Classical Nylon String Guitar

Cons

  • Lacks sustain
  • Generic specs

Pros

  • Time tested quality and longevity
  • Most popular student classical guitar
  • Good clarity and balanced sound
  • Student friendly playability
At publication time this was the Highest Rated Nylon String Guitar Under $200.

The Yamaha C40 has been an extremely popular beginner / student guitar for decades. It gets the most recommendations from teachers, and continues to be the perennial classical guitar for novices.

On paper, it doesn't offer anything out of the ordinary. It just bears the expected characteristics of a classical guitar, including the body shape, nut width, scale length, and string height. But thanks to Yamaha's penchant for build quality and attention to detail, they have made a seemingly ordinary instrument, into a consistent market favorite.

This good build quality translates to good playability, easy enough for beginners and can also handle advanced techniques used by experienced musicians. Given its price, there can be inconsistencies with the fretwork and setup, but mine was properly setup by my instructor so I didn't really experience the problem personally. I never even had to had the guitar worked on after that.

It also has a balanced sound with good clarity and projection, and it feels responsive to how strong or soft the strings are plucked. My main gripe with it is its lack of sustain, volume dips quickly after playing a note.

Longevity is another common reason why the C40 remains as one of the most universally recommended beginner guitar. The Yamaha C40 that I used back when I was enrolled to classical guitar studies is still playable. Many teachers, myself included, have years' worth of good stories to tell about the instrument.

Whether you specifically want to learn Classical Guitar, or you simply want to learn guitar in general, you can't go far wrong with the world's most popular entry-level nylon string guitar: the Yamaha C40.

I have a personal soft-spot for it because it was the Mk I version of the C40 that I initially learned to play guitar on and I'm pleased to see that the MkII version has been rated so highly by today's beginning guitarists, their teachers, and parents.
--Ed, Jason Horton

Features

  • Top: Laminated Spruce
  • Body: Meranti back & sides
  • Finish: Gloss
  • Bridge: Rosewood
  • Neck: Nato
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Scale Length: 650 mm (25 9/16")
  • Nut Width: 52 mm (2 1/16")

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
YouTube Mike Paradiso 94/100
YouTube 5 Minute Music 95/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

The Best Classical Guitars Under $500

Kremona Soloist S65C

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 80+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$499
Kremona Soloist S65C Classical Guitar

Cons

  • Can be a bit too bright for some
  • Neck shape is hit or miss

Pros

  • Solid cedar top
  • Handcrafted in Bulgaria
  • Lively tone with detailed highs
  • Good overall quality for the price
At publication time this was the Highest Rated Nylon String Guitar Under $500.

Europe made guitars are usually not associated with affordability, but there are exceptions like the Kremona Soloist S65C. This guitar is handcrafted in Bulgaria, yet it stills retains a reasonable price tag. Since production is not outsourced, Kremona has better control over quality, so there are less build quality and material related issues. Kremona began life in 1924 founded by Dimitar Georgiev; a gunsmith-turned-luthier after his apprenticeship at Markneukirchen, Germany.

Thanks to its solid cedar top, it has a lively tone with detailed highs. The extra emphasis on the highs gives it a trebly zing that's not common among nylon string guitars, which in turn makes it viable for non-classical types of music. Thankfully, it's not overly bright though, so it doesn't stray too far from traditional classical guitar tone.

Response and projection is also outstanding. Shifting right hand position dramatically changes the flavor of the voicing, warmer near the neck, and brighter near the bridge. And it also responds well to dynamic changes as you play. This makes it a great baseline nylon string guitar to develop preferences for construction tone and feel.

The neck shape can be a hit or miss depending on the player, but it should be a non-issue if you are used to traditional classical guitar necks. Those who are used to narrower steel string guitar necks will notice a substantial difference.

The Soloist S65C is a great pick whether you're starting out or want a backup guitar for your collection.

Note: Be careful not to confuse this with the similarly named, but cheaper Kremona S65C GG.

Features

  • Top: Solid Red Cedar
  • Body: Sapele back & sides
  • Finish: Natural
  • Bridge: Indian rosewood
  • Neck: African Mahogany
  • Fingerboard: Indian Rosewood
  • Scale Length: 650 mm (25.6")
  • Nut Width: 52mm (2.04")

Rating Source Highlight

Website Source *Rating Value
Reddit truemeliorist 90/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

The Best Classical Guitars Under $750

Taylor Academy 12-N

94
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$749
Taylor Academy 12-N (2017)

Cons

  • Not a traditional classical guitar
  • A bit expensive for a student guitar

Pros

  • Crossover build - steel string neck feel
  • Premium build quality
  • Warm yet detailed tone
  • Solid spruce top

Taylor guitars is well known for their premium steel string acoustics, but they occasionally tread into unfamiliar territory. Case in point is the Academy 12-N, a nylon string guitar with steel string like feel and playability.

It has to be mentioned that this is not a traditional classical guitar. Rather, it follows Taylor's Academy series build, having a grand concert body and a narrower neck, which makes it look and feel more similar to its steel string siblings.

The neck doesn't follow traditional specs, with its narrower 1.875" nut width, and 25.5" scale length. This makes the Taylor Academy 12-N more of a crossover instrument, ideal for steel string players who want to try their hand at playing nylon strings. So if you are looking for a true to form classical guitar, then this is not for you.

Thanks to its solid top, and the big lower bout of its grand concert body, the Academy 12-N has a warm tone with slight bumps in the mids and lows. This is quite a departure to the usual trebly tone that is expected from Taylor acoustics. Bass is deep yet retains clarity, and it doesn't overwhelm the highs. It has good projection, but has a hard time sustaining notes.


Taylor Academy 12-N Beveled Arm Rest
Beveled Armrest

Taylor is a brand that's hard to fault when it comes to build quality, and this same standard applies to the Academy 12-N. Another noteworthy feature of this guitar is its beveled arm rest, which makes right arm positioning more comfortable. It also comes with modern TUSQ nut and saddle.

While its quality does punch above its price range, student guitars from Taylor can be beyond the budget of some guitarists. Still, if you're willing to invest in a premium and easy to play crossover nylon string guitar, then this is for you.

Features

  • Top: Solid Lutz Spruce
  • Body: Layered Sapele back & sides
  • Finish: Varnish
  • Bridge: Ebony
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Fingerboard: Ebony
  • Scale Length: 25.5"
  • Nut Width: 1.875"

Rating Source Highlight

Website Source *Rating Value
YouTube Heartbreaker Guitars 98/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Cordoba GK Studio Negra

94
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$749
Cordoba GK Studio Negra

Cons

  • Lacks projection due to thinner body
  • Can be too sensitive to attack

Pros

  • Balanced voice with clear highs and lows
  • Consistent and reliable, good build quality
  • Good sustain with harmonic overtones
  • Gritty and percussive flamenco tone when hit hard

The Cordoba GK Studio Negra is a flamenco style nylon string guitar with a soft cutaway and built-in Fishman Presys Blend electronics.

It is essentially an acoustic-electric guitar for flamenco, with a thinner nut, reduced scale length and lower action, all of which contribute to making the instrument great for flamenco playing techniques. Since it can handle flamenco's blazing fast runs and percussive attack, it'll easily tackle anything else that you can throw at it, and you can do so with less stress on your hands. This easy playability is its focal point.

It sports premium specs that include solid European spruce top supported by Spanish style fan bracing along, and what separates it from the standard studio version is the use of rosewood for the back and sides. And build quality is up to par, if not above its pay grade. It has a balanced voice with good upper and low end clarity. String balance is superb, and it sustains notes really well, complete with complex harmonic overtones added in.

The downside to its thinner profile though is its lack of projection. Lower action means that the notes have a bit more grit when plucked hard, sometimes even buzzing. Losing clarity when you hit the strings hard is more of a design choice given that this guitar is meant to emphasize flamenco style percussive attack.

While this guitar is meant for flamenco, it is more than capable of handling other styles, including jazz, blues, folk, pop and even classical - as long as you don't overdo your right hand attack.

The Cordoba GK Studio Negra is a stage ready acoustic-electric nylon string guitar for fans of flamenco and even for use with other styles of music

Specifications

  • Top: Solid European Spruce
  • Body: Rosewood back & sides
  • Finish: High gloss PU
  • Bridge: Indian Rosewood
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Scale Length: 650mm (25.6")
  • Nut Width: 50mm (1.96")
  • Electronics: Fishman Presys Blend with 4 Band EQ + phase, undersaddle piezo and internal microphone with blender, built in digital tuner

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
American Songwriter Editor 92/100
Gitarzysta Editor 90/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

The Best Classical Guitars Under $1000

Kremona Verea Cutaway

93
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$899
Kremona Verea Cutaway

Cons

  • Strays from traditional designs
  • Lacks low end depth

Pros

  • Fishman Presys Blend electronics
  • Solid Red Cedar Top
  • Mellow voicing with percussive attack
  • Comfortable playing feel

The Kremona Verea is a Bulgaria made acoustic-electric nylon string guitar packed with some nice specs. It's not a strictly classical guitar, rather it strays from the old path to include modern stage-ready electronics, and make playing more comfortable.

As indicated by its name, it comes with built-in electronics and the body has a cutaway for easier access to upper frets. These features will obviously not fly with classical purists, but it makes sense for those who want to gig with a nylon string guitar.

Pre-installed in this guitar is a Fishman Presys Blend system that combines an under-saddle piezo pickup with a built-in condenser mic. It has controls for blending the mic and pickup, and comes with a 3-band EQ and onboard tuner. This feature alone puts this guitar a notch higher than others in terms of functionality and value. More importantly, it does a good job of capturing the warm tonality of the guitar's solid cedar top and rosewood back and sides.

Being a gigging guitar, the Verea has a mellow voicing that can work great with many different styles. Attack on the strings sound crisp and percussive, without sounding too harsh. To my ears, it highlights the upper mids a bit more than the lower spectrum, which gives it good clarity. But it also means that it lacks a bit of low end depth. When plugged in, it loses some of its body, but you gain more control over the resulting tone via the included controls. And this plugged in tone is really the focal point of this instrument.

Another noteworthy distinction of the Verea compared to traditional classical guitars is its narrower neck. This works in conjunction with the its soft cutaway design, allowing for easier playability. Note that it is still wider than the neck of most steel string guitars, but it does make a difference.

All in all, the Kremona Verea is a great option for those who want to gig with a nylon string guitar.

Specifications

  • Top: Solid Red Cedar
  • Body: Indian Rosewood back & sides
  • Finish: Polyurethane
  • Bridge: Indian Rosewood
  • Neck: Honduras Cedar
  • Fingerboard: Indian Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Radius: 16"
  • Scale Length: 650 mm (25 9/16")
  • Nut Width: 48 mm (1.88")
  • Electronics: Fishman Presys Blend with dual source pickup system, built-in condenser mic with blend control, Fishman Sonicore pickup, 3-band EQ controls, phase switch and built-in tuner with LED display

Rating Source Highlight

Website Source *Rating Value
Alister & Paine Neil Bostock 95/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Things to Consider When Buying a Nylon String Guitar

This section explains some of the terminologies that you will come across when you look at nylon string guitars and discussions about them - this along with a few tips will help you work out which guitar characteristics will suit your playing style. If you are unsure about what the different parts of a guitar are called then the diagram at the bottom of this blog post will explain them to you.

The Different Types of Classical Guitars

Flamenco Guitars are generally built to have a more punchy sound and are intended to be played in a more percussive style including tapping on the top soundboard - in fact, they usually have a protective plastic cover called a golpeador to facilitate this without damaging the finish. They have a smaller nut width which means the strings are closer together than on a standard classical guitar, and a lower action (aka string height). They are often made with spruce tops and cypress or sycamore back and sides to enhance volume from their thinner bodies. Their tonal characteristics are designed to cut through the sound of dancers loudly clapping and tapping their feet.

Classical Guitars usually have deeper bodies, wider nut widths, and higher actions than flamenco style guitars. They usually have thicker spruce or cedar tops and rosewood or mahogany backs and sides which tend to give them a more mellow or rounded tone roughly covering the frequency spectrum of an orchestra. They are primarily intended to be played solo or in very small ensembles.

Spanish Guitars are a sub-set of classical guitars traditionally made in Spain with bracing, construction techniques, and tonal characteristics which experts say vary by region.

Concert Guitars are high-end classical guitars made by luthiers usually following centuries-old traditional methods and use of expensive materials. A typical luthier may only produce 4 to 6 guitars per year or in a larger operation perhaps as many as 20. A lower-priced concert guitar will usually cost between $2,000 and $3,000 with higher-end models going well into the 5 figure range.

Nylon String Guitars include all of the types of guitars above in addition to many modern hybrid guitars which can combine characteristics of many different types of guitars including steel-string acoustic and electric guitars as well as some that come with pickups and electronics built-in. Due to the price range that this guide covers, most of the guitars here are considered to be Classical, Flamenco, or Hybrid guitars.

Crossover Nylon String Guitars

Instead of being a distinct type like the ones listed above, this refers to nylon string guitars designed with specifications that make it easy to transition from steel-string guitars, and as such many of the types above can be made with crossover characteristics. The main one is that they typically have smaller nut widths so that the strings are closer together than on a standard classical guitar. Traditional classical guitars also have flatter fingerboards (a larger fingerboard radius) than regular acoustics while crossover guitars can have curved fingerboards. Some crossover models also feature a cutaway to make it easier to reach the higher frets - particularly with acoustic-electric models.

Tonewoods

Just as with other types of guitars, there are ongoing discussions and debates about which species of wood produce superior tones or tones better suited to certain styles of playing. There are two main types of wood used for the top or soundboard of nylon string guitars: Spruce is generally considered to produce a crisper tone with more definition while Cedar is regarded as having warmer or darker tones. However, many luthiers will tell you that the thickness of the wood, types of bracing, and other construction techniques can be just as important as the materials in determining the tone. One thing that pretty much everyone agrees on is that having a solid wood top instead of a cheaper laminated wood top will provide better projection (they'll be louder) and lead to richer tones over time as the wood grains open up, with a caveat that on cheap guitars under about $200 a laminated top will have a more consistent tone between individual guitars of the same model than the variations in grain that come with cheap solid woods. Similar discussions take place about the woods used on the rest of the guitar, but the top or soundboard dominates in terms of tone.

Scale Length

This is essentially the distance measured between the saddle and the nut, or more accurately described as double the distance from the nut to the 12th fret plus some "compensation" added by the position of the saddle. A longer scale length requires higher tension in the strings and results in a brighter tone. A more detailed explanation with examples is presented quite well by Stewart MacDonald and a good description of the implications of different scale lengths can be found on Guitar Player.

Nut Width

This is the main thing that determines the distance between the strings, although the width at the saddle plays a small role too with the strings usually being closer to each other at the nut than they are at the saddle. The nut width and action height are the things that most influence the 'playability' of a guitar with smaller nut widths better being suited to guitarists transitioning from steel-string guitars.

Action / String Height

Guitars with a low action allow for faster runs and the use of playing techniques such as tapping on the fretboard and hammering on/off. This comes at the expense of introducing some fret buzz which is considered a feature of flamenco style playing. Beginners and those transitioning from steel-string acoustic or electric guitars generally find a lower action easier to play. For a more in-depth discussion on this topic see this thread on the Delcamp Classical Guitar Forum.

Straight Acoustic or Acoustic-Electric?

Acoustic-Electric models come with pickups and other electronics such as preamps and EQ installed, while the straight-forward acoustic models don't. These additional components may have subtle effects on the tone or resonance of the guitar, but the most practical differences are that they cost more but can be amplified.

Best Nylon String Guitar Selection Methodology

The first edition was published in 2016 and the current edition was published on September 21, 2022.

To be considered for inclusion in this guide a guitar had to meet the following criteria:

  • Must have nylon strings
  • Priced from $99 to $999.99
  • Only 6 string guitars were included
  • Must be available from major online retailers in the USA
  • Must have upper and lower bouts consistent with a full-sized body
  • Types of guitars with nylon strings that were excluded: Travel & Silent Guitars

With these criteria in hand, we looked at the individual guitars that the major retailers in the USA listed as their most popular models and selected the most promising 57 guitars to process for their Gearank rating scores. The Gearank Algorithm processed more than 7,800 reviews and ratings during this process, including the most recent ones up to mid September 2022, in order to produce the rating scores out of 100 that you see above..

Finally, we selected the highest rated options to recommend in each of the price ranges above.

For more information about our methods please read 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.

While I've mainly taught steel string guitar, I did three semesters of classical guitar training at music school progressing to their advanced tier. Although I didn't push through to becoming a formal classical guitar teacher, I have taught many young students on nylon string guitars and I usually recommend starting this way unless the student specifically wants to learn electric or steel string guitar.

Contributors

Alden Acosta: Product research.
Jason Horton: Supplemental writing, Editing and Illustrating.

Media

Main/Top Image: Produced by Gearank.com using photographs of the Taylor Academy 12-N, Cordoba GK Studio Negra, Kremona Verea Cutaway and Kremona Soloist S65C.

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.

Comments

the Cordoba Fusion 12 with

The Cordoba Fusion 12 with spruce top and rosewood back/sides at $500 barely used was a DEAL from a pal in another state. I am delighted with it for a modest price and it helps a primary steel / electric player stay with some intermediate classical pieces (Sor etudes, Guardame las Vacas, Alman by R. Johnson, etc.). And I owned 1 and played several built by pro luthier Thos. Rodriguez. For normal play a good mid-range Cordoba is hard to beat and easy to re-sell.

I’m on my second Córdoba c5

I’m on my second Córdoba c5 and the first one the bridge came off and now this second one is beginning to do the same. You mentioned that was the only negative but unverifiable however I can’t imagine this not happening frequently. Not a well built guitar.

Thanks for mentioning it -

Thanks for mentioning it - the Taylor Academy 12e-N is on our short-list and will be considered for recommendation when we next update this guide.

This is an exceptionally well

This is an exceptionally well-written and informative article about nylon string guitars and I enjoyed learning about the nuances and main differences among the several varieties. As a writer myself, I feel compelled to point to one tiny, nit-picking correction you could make in order to make it a near-perfect piece.

Near the beginning, under Methodology, you say, "With this criteria in hand . . . " It should be "these criteria." Although in your case, because of the high quality of your writing, I would assume it to be a typo, many people are not aware that "criteria" is the plural form of the singular, "criterion."

Thank you for pointing out

Thank you for pointing out the error - I've corrected it now. If you look at our other guides you'll see we do usually refer to 'criterion' in the singular and 'criteria' in the plural. BTW - We really do appreciate it when our readers help us to improve these guides!

Santos Martinez SM150CEA. My

Santos Martinez SM150CEA. My go-to practice guitar. £147 UK price. A real gem in my opinion.

That looks like an

That looks like an interesting guitar, but I couldn't find anyone selling it at that price - here's the Amazon UK price.