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

The Highest Rated Classical & 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.
• • • • •

With a long history that goes back to the 19th century, nylon string guitars are still very much alive today, loved for their distinct tone and playability. Here we feature the best of them, divided into three popular price ranges: sub $200, sub $500, and sub $1000, based on real market feedback, including the most recent reviews and ratings up to late June of 2021.

All these years after it was developed and first used, the classical guitar still retains a very specific profile and set of specifications, which many manufacturers still adhere to. It is still the go-to instrument for many guitar teachers and students, especially for those who are into classical music, hence their continued popularity. But there are some manufacturers who release modified versions to better fit the nylon string guitar into other styles like flamenco, pop, Latin, RnB and others. Some of these non-traditional nylon string guitars received high enough ratings to make it to this guide.

The Best Classical & Nylon String 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.

The Best Budget Classical Guitars Under $200

Yamaha C40 - Mk II

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 1300+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$160
Yamaha C40 MkII Classical Nylon String Guitar

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 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. 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 it is still playable after many years of use.

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.

Cordoba C1M Protege Spruce

89
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$159
Cordoba C1M Protege Spruce Full-Size Nylon String Guitar

The C1M is Cordoba's entry-level classical guitar, meant for beginners.

It follows standard build for classical guitar, with laminate spruce top and mahogany for the back and sides.

The same can be also said about its specs, with a 25.6" scale length and 2.04" nut width.

More importantly it offers Cordoba's renowned build quality at a more affordable price, in direct competition to popular beginner guitars.

Features

  • Top: Spruce
  • Body: Mahogany back & sides
  • Finish: Gloss
  • Bridge: Rosewood
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Scale Length: 25.6"
  • Nut Width: 2.05"

Pros

Owners describe this as a good beginner guitar, good enough sound for the ears of beginners and more importantly, good playability. There are also many who are satisfied with its build quality given its price. The finish and aesthetics of this guitar also gets commendations.

Cons

There are a few reports of tuning related issues, some recommend immediately changing the strings for better results.

Overall

With Cordoba's reputation for quality nylon string guitars, the C1M is a good beginner classical guitar to consider.

The Best Classical Guitars Under $500

Cordoba C5

92
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$349
Cordoba C5

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 was previously 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.

Yamaha CG172SF

92
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$400
Yamaha CG172SF

The Yamaha CG172SF is described as a nylon-string guitar for Flamenco style playing.

As such it has a lower string action setup that's essential for the rapid strumming and melodic runs used in Flamenco.

This lowered action also adds a bit of string buzz that gives the guitar the expected "growl" needed in Flamenco style playing.

For the price, this flamenco guitar comes with a solid spruce top, paired with cypress for the back and sides.

The neck is crafted from nato and topped by a rosewood fingerboard.

Specifications

  • Top: Solid Engelmann Spruce
  • Body: Cypress
  • Finish: Gloss
  • Bridge: Rosewood
  • Neck: Nato
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Scale Length: 650mm (25.6")
  • Nut Width: 2.0625"

Pros

It's no secret that Flamenco style guitars are well loved for their playability, and this is reflected in reviews. There are also plenty of positive comments regarding its tone, which many consider to be better than what they expect in its price range. Overall build quality also gets mentioned often.

Cons

One downside of a Flamenco guitar's low action is that it affects tone in a way that may not appeal to those who are used to clean and full sounding traditional classical guitars.

Overall

If you're looking for a budget friendly flamenco guitar with solid spruce top, then definitely check out the Yamaha CG172SF.

Kremona Soloist S65C

96
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$399
Kremona Soloist S65C Classical Guitar

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

Kremona began life in 1924 founded by Dimitar Georgiev; a gunsmith-turned-luthier after his apprenticeship at Markneukirchen, Germany.

Handcrafted guitars like this 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.

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

Taylor Academy 12-N

94
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$599
Taylor Academy 12-N (2017)

At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated Nylon String Guitar between $500 and $1000 along with the Cordoba GK Studio Negra and Cordoba GK Studio.

As the name implies, the Taylor Academy 12-N is a nylon string guitar meant for students.

It strays away from traditional classical design, rather it goes with Taylor's distinct build, having a grand concert body with a beveled arm rest, and a narrower neck that makes it more comfortable for those who are used to acoustic electric and steel string acoustic guitars.

It has a solid spruce top paired with layered sapele for the back and sides.

The neck is crafted from mahogany, and is topped by a 17-fret ebony fingerboard. The neck doesn't follow traditional specs, with its narrower 1.875" nut width, and 25.5" scale length.

Finally it features modern TUSQ nut and saddle.

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"

Pros

Easy playability is the main reason why many rate the Taylor Academy 12-N highly, some even describe it as a good crossover nylon string guitar - the electric guitar player's classical guitar. Many appreciate its narrow neck and the beveled arm rest that makes playing this guitar very comfortable. It also gets commended often for its good tone, to the point that some users have made this their beater guitar at home, even when they have more expensive guitars lying around. Interestingly, while this guitar is marketed for students, there are plenty of experienced guitarists who gave their thumbs up. It also helps that it looks premium and well built, especially with its slotted headstock design.

Cons

Entry-level for Taylor can be beyond the budget for some guitarists. This is not recommended for those who prefer traditional instrument.

Overall

If you're looking for a premium and easy to play crossover nylon string guitar, then check out the Taylor Academy 12-N.

Cordoba GK Studio

94
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$699
Cordoba GK Studio Acoustic-Electric Nylon String Guitar

At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated Nylon String Guitar between $500 and $1000 along with the Taylor Academy 12-N and Cordoba GK Studio Negra.

The Cordoba GK Studio is an acoustic-electric nylon string guitar designed with flamenco style playing in mind. It comes equipped with the Fishman Presys Blend electronics, which combines both an internal mic and a piezo pickup in one system.

The guitar's mahogany neck has a slightly thinner nut width, and scale length, which together with low action makes for a very comfortable playing feel that's ideal for flamenco style playing. But this does not stop guitarists from using this for other styles of music.

The guitar's top is crafted from solid European spruce, with Spanish style fan bracing. The back and sides for the GK studio model is crafted from Cypress, which is traditionally preferred by flamenco players.

Specifications

  • Top: Solid European Spruce
  • Body: Cypress back & sides
  • Finish: High gloss PU
  • Bridge: Indian Rosewood
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Scale Length: 650mm (25.6")
  • Nut Width: 50mm (2")
  • Electronics: Fishman Presys Blend with 4 Band EQ + phase, undersaddle piezo and internal microphone with blender, built in digital tuner

Pros

Tone seem to be the main reason why users are rating this guitar highly, they are impressed at how good the guitar sounds acoustically, and when plugged into a PA system. Speaking of plugging in, the built-in Fishman Presys system is well received, along with its overall build quality. Reliability also comes up often, with some users reporting many years of use without any issues.

Cons

While most are happy with its tone, there are some who feel that the sound is a bit tinny, but this maybe more of a preference to classical guitar sound over flamenco.

Overall

The Cordoba GK Studio is a good stage-ready entry way into the world of flamenco style music.

Cordoba GK Studio Negra

94
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$699
Cordoba GK Studio Negra

At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated Nylon String Guitar between $500 and $1000 along with the Taylor Academy 12-N and Cordoba GK Studio.

The Cordoba GK Studio Negra is another 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 thinner nut, reduced scale length and lower action, all of which contribute to making the instrument viable for flamenco playing techniques.

It sports a solid European spruce top supported by Spanish style fan bracing along, and what separates it from the Studio version is the use of rosewood for the back and sides.

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

While this guitar is said to be designed for flamenco, there are many guitarists who have put this guitar to good use in other styles, including jazz, blues, folk, pop and even classical. The sound it produces is well loved, be it when unplugged or when plugged in. American Songwriter reviewer Jake Kelly is just as impressed, stating that "Just about anything played fingerstyle on this guitar sounds classy and elegant." There are also plenty of positive remarks regarding its build quality.

Cons

Aside from this being a non-traditional classical guitar, there aren't any notable complaints about its design and performance.

Overall

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.

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.

  • 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 .

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 56 guitars to process for their Gearank rating scores. The Gearank Algorithm processed more than 6,300 reviews and ratings during this process, including the most recent ones up to late June of 2021, 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

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

Alden Acosta: Product research.
Raphael Pulgar: Supplemental writing.
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, Kremona Soloist S65C and Cordoba C5.

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.