The Best Classical & Nylon String Guitars - $99 to $1000

This guide covers all the main types of guitars with nylon strings including classical, flamenco, hybrid and both acoustic and acoustic-electric models.

Methodology

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 - for 3/4 and smaller options see this roundup on Parlor.Guitars
  • Types of guitars with nylon strings that were excluded: Travel & Silent Guitars

With this 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 54 guitars to process for their Gearank scores - you can see most of them listed in our public Music Gear Database. The Gearank algorithm processed more than 2,800 data points during this process.

I then produced the Top 10 tables below based upon the Gearank scores of each guitar, and I've included a deeper look at the market sentiment of some of the top models from the most highly rated manufacturers for both Acoustic and Acoustic-Electric models.

For more information about this process please read How Gearank Works.

Things to Consider When Buying a Nylon String Guitar

This section explains some of the terminology 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 for you.

  • Classical, Flamenco, Spanish, Concert?

    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 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.

  • 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 $150 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 roll 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 actually 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. I've presented a list of each type below:

Acoustic Classical & Nylon String Guitars

Here we take a look at how some of the best nylon string acoustic guitars are viewed by musicians - this is what we refer to as 'market sentiment' here at Gearank.com..

Lucero LC100

88
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$100
Lucero LC100 Nylon String Classical Guitar

Lucero is a Guitar Center brand (owned by GTRC Services, Inc.) and with the exception of Amazon, it's primarily available through retailers that are part of the Guitar Center group including Musicians Friend, Music123 and Woodwind and Brasswind.

The Lucero LC100 is positioned as a student/beginner instrument with a slightly smaller scale length and nut width than the other classical models below but still within the size range that can be considered a Classical Guitar.

Specifications

  • Top: Laminated Spruce
  • Body: Mahogany back & sides
  • Finish: Available in Gloss Natural (pictured) & Gloss Black
  • Bridge: Rosewood
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Scale Length: 25-1/2″
  • Nut Width: 50mm (1 15/16″)

Pros

In addition to positive customer reviews at retail websites we also found independent recommendations on forums including some from guitar teachers.

Cons

To their credit, Guitar Center does allow negative customer reviews for this brand on the retail websites they own . In terms of consistently reported negatives, there were some complaints about the tuning pegs/machines being low quality.

Overall

This is the cheapest guitar included in this guide and is the one to go to if your budget is limited.

Yamaha C40 - Mk II

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 425+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$140
Yamaha C40II

The Yamaha C40 has been an extremely popular beginner/student guitar for decades.

It has the main characteristics of a classical guitar including the nut width, scale length and string height.

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.

Specifications

  • 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")

Pros

Phrases such as "great beginner guitar", "best beginner guitar" or words to that effect are extremely common in customer reviews. Quite a lot of people who have bought this say they did so on the recommendation of a guitar teacher.

Cons

It's very hard to find any consistently reported negatives about this guitar - most negative reviews were about shipping issues or damaged/demo models that were sold as new.

Overall

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.

Cordoba C3M

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 90+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$200
Cordoba C3M

Cordoba's C3M has the main characteristics of a Classical Guitar including the nut width, neck shape, scale length and string height.

Specifications

  • Top: Solid Canadian Cedar
  • Body: Mahogany back & sides
  • Finish: Satin (Matte)
  • Bridge: Rosewood
  • Neck: Nato
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Scale Length: 650mm (25.6")
  • Nut Width: 52mm (2.04")

Pros

Customer reviews of the C3M often include phrases equivalent to "great value for the money". The positive reviews have come not only from people using this as a beginner guitar, but also more experienced players who wanted a low cost couch or camping guitar.

Cons

Although there weren't really any consistently reported negatives, I did see a small number of customer reviews in which they said the bridge had come off, however most were not written by verified customers and a couple of them were written at around the same time on different websites and could have been from a single person who had a bit of bad luck.

Overall

This is essentially Cordoba's entry level Classical Guitar (we ignored their CP100 which only comes in a package with other items) and is generally regarded by the market place as a step up from the "C40" models of other brands like Yamaha and Washburn.

Cordoba C7 CD

90
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$500
Cordoba C7 CD (Canadian Cedar) Nylon String Guitar

From the tonewoods used in its construction, to the dimensions of the body, neck and nut, the Cordoba C7 CD has a true Classical Guitar design.

There is also a version called the Cordoba C7 SP which has a Solid European Spruce top, however it is only the Solid Cedar top version that we have rated and described here.

Specifications

  • Top: Solid Canadian Red Cedar
  • Body: Maple back & sides
  • Finish: High Gloss PU
  • Bridge: Indian Rosewood
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Scale Length: 650mm (25.6")
  • Nut Width: 52mm (2.04")

Pros

A common theme expressed in positive reviews from experienced players was that they were impressed with the tone and the solid cedar top. There were also many classical guitar students who reported very positive experiences with this guitar.

Cons

There was one negative that was reported multiple times and on more than one website - the bridge had either begun to lift or had come off completely. This issue was only mentioned in a very small percentage of cases and didn't occur frequently enough to have much impact on its overall ratings..

Overall

Based on the data we collected, this guitar is popular with experienced guitarists and serious classical guitar students, even at the college level.

Acoustic-Electric Nylon String Guitars

Here we look in detail at how some of the best options currently available.

Yamaha NTX700 Acoustic-Electric

92
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$500
Yamaha NTX700 Acoustic-Electric Nylon String Guitar

The Yamaha NTX700 had the highest Gearank score of all the nylon string guitars we had found at the time of publishing this guide.

The Yamaha NTX Series have the scale length of a Classical Guitar but with a thinner body, nut width and action that more closely resemble a Flamenco Guitar. Yamaha say they designed this series as a 'crossover' range that steel string acoustic and electric guitar players will find easier to adjust to than a standard classical guitar.

Yamaha have also employed their A.R.E. (Acoustic Resonance Enhancement) technique to prepare the tonewoods in order to produce a result that Yamaha says makes them sound like aged or vintage instruments.

These features are also found in the higher priced NTX1200R.

Specifications

  • Top: Solid Spruce
  • Body: Nato back & sides
  • Finish: Available in Natural (pictured) & Black
  • Bridge: Rosewood
  • Neck: Nato
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Scale Length: 650 mm (25 9/16")
  • Nut Width: 48 mm (1.889")
  • Electronics: System61 2-way A.R.T. pickup/preamp system

Pros

In their January 2016 review, Acoustic Magazine concluded by saying, "There’s no doubt that players of acoustic and electric guitars would very quickly find themselves feeling at home with the NTX, blowing the doors wide open to a new timbral experience in the process. As a stage ready instrument it succeeds at virtually every level, the ART system proving its worth in giving an accurate account of the gently voiced forefather of the steel string acoustic"

Yamaha's goal of making this easier to transition to than a standard classical guitar appears to have worked with many customer reviews stating that they found this much easier for them to play than high action, wide nut classical guitars.

The electronics and the pickups in particular were also praised in many reviews.

Cons

There was no aspect of this guitar that came in for consistent negative commentary - this is not uncommon with a product that receives the highest Gearank score in its category as this did.

Overall

If you are an experienced guitarist who wants to start playing nylon strings then this is the first guitar you should consider.

Cordoba GK Studio Negra Acoustic-Electric

90
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$700
Cordoba GK Studio Negra

This is the highest rated nylon string guitar in the $500 to $999 price range.

Cordoba designed the GK Studio Negra as a Flamenco Guitar rather than a classical with a solid spruce top, slightly reduced scale length, thinner nut width and body depth, low action, spanish fan bracing and protective golpeador.

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

Pros

Guitarists playing a wide range of styles from flamenco, classical, jazz, blues and folk have praised this instrument in their customer reviews. It has been exceptionally well received for both its unplugged and plugged in tone.

This was reflected in Interactive Guitar Magazine's review that said, "While the GK Studio was designed to play Flamenco, in my opinion this instrument is a very versatile guitar, which can be used to play and record a variety of genres, including Folk, Brazilian music such as Bossa Nova, Samba, and fingerstyle in general. Even if all you wanted to do was just explore some different tones to expand your horizons, this would be a good choice. The low action and cut away makes this guitar great in terms of playability and ergonomics."

Cons

There were no consistent negatives reported about this guitar in customer or expert reviews.

Overall

In addition to being well loved by experienced flamenco and nylon string players, this guitar is also one that many people have successfully transitioned to from steel string acoustics.

Godin Multiac Nylon Encore Acoustic-Electric

89
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$849
Godin Multiac Encore

The Multiac Nylon Encore is another hybrid or 'crossover' guitar with a 1.9" nut width and was designed with live amplified performance in mind.

It has a chambered body which Godin says reduces feedback problems when playing through an amplifier.

Specifications

  • Top: Solid Cedar
  • Body: Chambered Silver Leaf Maple
  • Finish: Natural Semi-Gloss
  • Bridge: Rosewood
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Scale Length: 25 1/2" (647.5 mm)
  • Nut Width: 1 9" (48.26 mm)*
  • Electronics: Custom Fishman Dual source electronics with under-saddle transducer & acoustic soundboard transducer

*NB: the nut width is listed as 1.875" (1 7/8'' ) by some retailers and there is conflicting information in some of the official documentation so I contacted Godin to ask them about this and they responded saying that the correct size is 1.9".

It also sports Tusq nuts and saddles by Graphtech.

Pros

Positive customer reviews cite a neck that is comfortable and easy to move your left hand around - something transitioning guitarists appreciate. It also received a lot of praise for the versatility of tones it provides when amplified as well as its feedback rejection characteristics.

In his review for Music Radar, Dave Burrluck gave it 4.5/5 and summed it up by saying, "Where the Encore comes into its own is at those difficult shows, especially with a full band, when issues such as loud monitors or little or no soundcheck time can make a full acoustic a difficult proposition. But this hybrid steel-meets-nylon design is not only highly practical, it's also classy looking and has an appealing feel - plus some excellent and highly adaptable, realistic sounds.".

Cons

There were few negative comments from owners with the only main issue referenced more than once was that the preamp used up the battery too quickly with one customer suggesting an LED to indicate low battery power should have been included - I must point out that this guitar uses the same Fishman electronics that many other guitars have which haven't received the same criticism.

Overall

If you come from a steel-string background and are looking for a versatile solid workhorse nylon string guitar for gigging, then this is a good starting point in your selection process.

Kremona Verea Cutaway Acoustic-Electric

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 10+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$899
Kremona Verea Cutaway

If you hadn't heard about Kremona before, you'll be glad you have now. Originally emanating from Bulgaria and now with operations also located in the USA, this guitar manufacturer has a history that dates back to 1924 - they even survived the post war era when they were nationalized by the then communist government in their home country.

The Verea Cutaway is a hybrid instrument with a small 48 mm nut width that even electric guitarists find easy to transition to.

Like the Cordoba GK Studio Negra above, it uses Fishman Presys Blend electronics which includes a built-in condenser microphone in addition to a more traditional under-saddle piezo pickup.

Specifications

  • Top: Solid Red Cedar
  • Body: Indian Rosewood back & sides
  • Finish: Polyurethane
  • Bridge: Indian Rosewood
  • Neck: Honduras Cedar
  • Fingerboard: Indian Rosewood
  • 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

Pros

At the time of publication, this guitar had a perfect score of 5 stars on all the customer reviews at major music gear retailers in the USA (albeit from fewer than 10 customer reviews). Still, the sentiment surrounding this guitar, and the Kremona brand in general, is very positive in the occasional English language expert review and forum discussions. There were also a number of sources of apparently positive feedback in other languages but we didn't take those into account when processing its Gearank score.

Cons

There were no consistently reported complaints about this guitar - there was one reviewer who joked that although his Verea inspired him to play more it hadn't instantly made him a better guitarist.

Overall

This is also a good guitar to consider if you're making the transition from steel string acoustic or electric guitars.

Summary

We aim to be thorough in our research but there's always a chance we may have missed something.

If you believe there is a nylon string guitar that we've missed which meets the criteria set out in the Methodology section above, then please check first to see if it's in our public gear database, and if it's not there please leave a comment below. Also please feel free to suggest any new models that come out if you would like us to consider them when we update this guide.

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