The Best Classical & Nylon String Guitars - $150 to $1000

The Best Classical & Nylon String Guitars

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Here we feature the best nylon-string guitars on the market, divided into three of the most popular price ranges: sub $200, sub $500, and sub $1000, based on actual user feedback, including the most recent reviews and ratings up to August of 2020.

While acoustic steel string guitars can be built in many different ways, the classical guitar has retained a very specific profile and set of specifications that goes back to the 19th century. And up to this day, this centuries-old design is still very much alive and in-demand, especially for those who want to play classical music.

Still, this does not stop manufacturers from introducing their adjustments to their nylon string instruments, for use in modern musical styles like pop, RnB and more. So for this guide, we will use the term "classical guitar" interchangeably with "nylon-string guitar".

The Best Classical & Nylon String Guitars

The Best Budget Classical Guitars Under $200

Yamaha C40 - Mk II

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 700+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$150
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.

By Jason Horton:

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.

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")

Pros

The Yamaha C40 is the perennial beginner classical guitar, it continues to be highly rated by students and their parents for its good tone and comfortable playability. They are also often bought because of recommendations from teachers who for years have had good stories to tell about the instrument. Even those who have more expensive instruments have a C40 in their collection, either as their first guitar or as a grab-and-go alternative.

Cons

Much like others in this price range, there are a few reports of string setup related issues like fret buzz and high-action. There are also a few complaints regarding cosmetic blemishes and fretwork.

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.

Yamaha CG102

91
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$200
Yamaha CG102 Classical Guitar

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

The Yamaha CG102 is another classical guitar meant for serious students, featuring laminate spruce for the top, and Nato/Meranti (an affordable alternative to mahogany) for the back and sides.

It follows full-size classical guitar specifications, with a 2.05" nut width and 25.56" scale length, built to meet the strict quality demands of Yamaha while using alternative materials to make this instrument more accessible.

Features

  • Top: Spruce
  • Body: Nato/Meranti
  • Finish: Gloss
  • Bridge: Rosewood Bridge
  • Neck: Nato Neck
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Scale Length: 25.56"
  • Nut Width: 2.05"

Pros

First-time guitar owners have mostly good things to say about the Yamaha CG102, from its comfortable playability to its tone and overall build quality. There are even some who compare it favorably over more expensive options. Some experienced guitarists also chimed in with their approval, stating that this is a great affordable grab and go guitar.

Cons

Some recommend replacing the stock nylon strings for tone improvement. String setup and action issues also come up a few times, mostly from more experienced players who can notice.

Overall

Hard to go wrong with this affordable classical guitar, given its high ratings, especially when considering that it tops other equally well-reputed classical guitars from Yamaha's stable of student-friendly instruments.

The Best Classical Guitars Under $500

Cordoba C3M

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 225+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$249
Cordoba C3M

The main advantage of the Cordoba's C3M lies in its solid Canadian cedar top, a feature that you normally won't see from similarly priced nylon string guitars. This is essentially Cordoba's entry-level student classical guitar, but they do have cheaper options like the CP100 but it is only available as part of a bundle.

Specs-wise, it follows conventional classical guitar builds, with its 2" nut width and 25.6" scale length. More importantly, Cordoba's reputation for quality makes this a worry-free choice in terms of build quality and playability.

Features

  • 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

Value for money seems to be the C3M's strong suit, but it's not just a solid top guitar for the sake of good specs, because many owners report significant tone improvement compared to other similarly priced classical guitars. And while many of the reviews are from beginners and their parents, some experienced players are pleased with how good it is for the price.

Cons

There are some reports of cosmetic issues, while a few others report string buzz and other fretboard action related issues.

Overall

With its solid Cedar top, the Cordoba C3M is regarded by many as a good step up compared to more affordable entry-level classical guitars.

Cordoba C5

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 325+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$349
Cordoba C5 Nylon String Classical Guitar

The C5 is one of Cordoba's top-selling nylon-string guitars, and rightly so given its impressive specs for the price and slightly modified classical body design.

Its main draw is its solid cedar top, which works well with its slightly bigger body and smaller sound hole, which give it good projection and clarity. This particular model is a step-up model compared to the C3M which is also featured in this guide.

Specifications

  • Top: Solid Western Red Cedar
  • Body: Laminated Mahogany
  • Finish: Gloss Polyurethane
  • Bridge: Rosewood
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Scale Length: 650mm (25.6")
  • Nut Width: 52mm (2.04")

Pros

The price of this guitar is still accessible for students, and this affordability combined with good specs makes it very appealing for experienced guitarists and teachers who recommend it as a great starting guitar or couch guitar. Market sentiment is mostly positive concerning tone, some even comparing its sound to more expensive classical guitars. It also gets a lot of thumbs up for its sustain.

Cons

There are a few older reviews that report minor aesthetic and fretwork issues, thankfully these are mostly from older reviews.

Overall

If you're looking for a premium looking and feeling nylon string guitar in the sub $400 price range, then this is your best bet.

Kremona Soloist S65C

95
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$399
Kremona Soloist S65C

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

Handcrafted guitars are usually not associated with affordability and demand prices above the $1000 Mark. The Soloist S65C is Handcrafted in Bulgaria by Kremona at a student-friendly price. The company began in 1924 by Dimitar Georgiev; a gunsmith-turned-luthier after his apprenticeship at Markneukirchen, Germany.

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")

Pros

With its lively and open tone, owners of the Kremona Soloist S65C are pleased with what they got considering the price. Some even compare it favorably over more expensive instruments in their collection and hail it as a great baseline nylon string guitar to develop preferences for tone and feel.

Cons

The neck shape is said to be a hit or miss depending on the player. This can be a problem especially when buying online and are unsure whether the neck profile will feel comfortable. Forum users suggest trying one out first wherever possible.

Overall

Heritage, handcrafted quality, and value are tough to find as you'd have to choose one or two qualities in a guitar. The Soloist S65C is a great pick whether you're starting or want a backup guitar for your collection. It is also a great starting point for finding out your preference in construction, tone, and feel before moving on to guitars costing several times as much.

The Best Classical Guitars Under $1000

Cordoba C7

95
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$549
Cordoba C7 CD (Canadian Cedar) Nylon String Guitar

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

The C7 is Cordoba's mid-priced true to form classical guitar, following traditional dimensions for the body and the neck. This is meant to appeal to more experienced classical guitarists, who want nothing less than correct specs, from the scale length, to bout measurements down to nut width.

Also worth mentioning is how this guitar utilizes traditional tonewoods, with its solid Canadian cedar top and rosewood back and sides.

Specifications

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

Pros

The tone is the focal point of reviews of the Cordoba C7, impressing students, and experienced guitarists alike with its expressive and detailed sound. The quality of the neck and fretwork are also often commended, which translates to easy and comfortable playability. This great blend of tone, build quality, and affordability help make this the top-rated classical guitar in this price range, tied to the Kremona Soloist S65C.

Cons

There are a few who report minor cosmetic issues, and a few action related concerns.

Overall

If you're looking for nothing less than the best of what Cordoba offers in the sub $1000 price range, then get this one.

Kremona Verea Cutaway (Acoustic-Electic)

94
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$799
Kremona Verea Cutaway

The Kremona Verea Cutaway Acoustic-Electric features a Fishman Presys Blend System, an under-saddle piezo and mic. A 3 band equalizer and tuner round out the electronics. The combination of Red Cedar and Rosewood makes for a warmer and less aggressive sound which is perfect for amplification. Narrower nut width and spacing allows easier transition from steel-string and electric guitars.

Features

  • Top: Red Cedar
  • Body: Indian Rosewood back and sides
  • Finish: Gloss Natural
  • Bridge: Indian Rosewood
  • Neck: Honduras Cedar
  • Fingerboard: Indian Rosewood (16" Radius)
  • Scale Length: 650 mm (25 9/16")
  • Nut Width: 48 mm (1.889")

Pros

With its narrower string spacing and 16" fingerboard radius, the Kremona Verea Cutaway appeals to guitarists who are used to steel-string guitars. And this is reflected in reviews that rate this guitar highly for its comfort and reliability. The tone is also well received, even from those who aren't too happy with its non-traditional neck profile.

Cons

Some criticism came from traditionalists who prefer playing on classical specifications like a flat fingerboard and wider 52mm nut width.

Overall

The Verea Cutaway is a great pick for those who want a classical guitar that already plays similarly to other guitars in their collection. These modern specifications combined with the pickup system, make it most at home with performers who need to switch between different types of guitars on stage.

Cordoba Fusion Orchestra CE CD (Acoustic-Electric)

92
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$849
Cordoba Fusion Orchestra CE (Cedar)

'Fusion' refers to the fact that this is a crossover guitar with a nut width much smaller than a traditional classical guitar which makes it much easier to transition to if you're used to playing a steel-string acoustic or electric guitar.

Other than the cutaway section, the rest of the body has upper and lower bought and depth measurements that are similar to traditional classical guitars - the same goes for the neck thickness.

It comes with Fishman electronics that include a built-in microphone which helps to produce a more 'natural' tone which is particularly useful when recording. The preamp also has phase control which can help in reducing feedback problems when plugged into an amp.

Features

  • Top: Solid Canadian Western Red Cedar
  • Body: Rosewood
  • Finish: Gloss Polyurethane
  • Bridge: Rosewood
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Fingerboard: Ebony
  • Scale Length: 650mm (25.6")
  • Nut Width: 48mm (1 7/8")
  • Electronics: Fishman Presys Blend

Pros

A common refrain in customer reviews is that this has a full-bodied sound similar to that of a traditional classical guitar when unplugged. The plugged-in tone is also well regarded. Surprisingly, I read several reviews that favorably compared their Fusion Orchestra CE with much more expensive Italian made Ramirez guitars! Several reviewers said this is a great guitar for Latin/Gypsy/Jazz styles.

Cons

A small number of people pointed out that the mic part of the pickup can pick up vocals, so if you're using it with a looper and singing at the same time, or if you have feedback issues, then you need to adjust the pickup blend to turn the mic down. Some also complained that they needed to get a professional setup done to lower the action, however, this is more of a personal preference issue but not an uncommon one from guitarists used to low action steel-string guitars.

Overall

If you want an acoustic-electric nylon string guitar with a good classical sound when unplugged, then this is one of your best options.

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 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.

  • 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 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 August 2016 written by Jason Horton and the latest edition was published on August 12, 2020 written by Alexander Briones with contributions by Raphael Pulgar and Jason Horton.

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 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 59 guitars to process for their Gearank scores. The Gearank Algorithm processed more than 6,700 reviews and ratings during this process, including the most recent ones up to August of 2020, 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.

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.

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.

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