The Best Classical & Nylon String Guitars - $140 to $1000

The Best Classical & Nylon String Guitars

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Although to many purists the term Classical Guitar has a very specific meaning in terms of specifications, it has become a generic term meaning any guitar with nylon strings when it comes to the sub $1000 price range. So we will use the term Classical throughout this guide even when referring to crossover and acoustic-electric models.

As a result of our 2019 update we replaced the Cordoba C5 and Cordoba C7 with the Kremona Soloist S65C and Antonio Giuliani CL-6 in the Under $500 section. And in the Under $1000 section we've removed the Yamaha NTX1200R and instead we're now recommending the Cordoba F7 Paco and Kremona Verea Cutaway (Acoustic-Electic).

The Best Classical & Nylon String Guitars

The Best Budget Classical Guitars Under $200

Yamaha C40 - Mk II

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 650+ 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.

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. Some experienced players who play higher-end classical guitars have mentioned in forums that they bought a C40 to use as a camping guitar.

Cons

A small number of people reported some fret buzz while a smaller number reported the opposite issue of the strings being too high although it wasn't clear if they understood that classical style guitars often have higher sting heights than regular acoustic guitars.

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

87
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$199
Cordoba C3M

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

It sports a solid cedar top which is a bonus you don't often see in guitars in this price range.

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" with the sound from the solid cedar top garnering a lot of the praise. 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, there have been sporadic reports of the bridge lifting off and blemishes in the finish, but these have been less prevalent over the last year than they were in previous years suggesting that quality control may have improved over time.

Overall

This is essentially Cordoba's entry level student classical guitar (although they do have a cheaper option in the form of the CP100 which only comes in a package with other items) and the Cordoba C3M is generally regarded by the market place as a step up from the "C40" models of other brands like Yamaha and Washburn.

The Best Classical Guitars Under $500

Kremona Soloist S65C

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 20+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$399
Kremona Soloist S65C

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.

Specifications

  • 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

The majority of users love the quality and tone of the guitar given the price. Reviewers with several other guitars find it comparable in quality to more expensive guitars in their collection. They describe the sound as "rich and lively". A great baseline 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 out 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.

Antonio Giuliani CL-6

84
GEARANK

84 out of 100. Incorporating 20+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$450
Antonio Giuliani CL-6 Rosewood Classical Guitar

Featuring solid woods instead of laminates, The CL-6 offers some very nice features at a great price. Each Guitar is built using traditional Spanish methods and professionally set up with proper fret dressing, bridge height and neck relief adjustment for optimum playability out of the box.

Specifications

  • Top: Canadian Cedar
  • Body:Rosewood back & sides
  • Finish: Natural
  • Bridge:Rosewood
  • Neck:Mahogany
  • Fingerboard:Rosewood
  • Scale Length:650 mm (25.6")
  • Nut Width:52 mm (2 1/16")

Pros

Reviews give universal praise for the factory set up and fretwork. The guitar itself is said to feel like one they've owned and played for years because of the set up and intonation. It gets high marks from long time players for it's playability

Cons

One reviewer stated that there was some buzz on the D string but was later resolved with a minor truss rod adjustment. That being said, The neck may need adjustment after long shipping times even with the aforementioned superb factory setup.

Overall

The Antonio Giuliani CL-6 is an example of how far you could go with amazing post-construction setup and great materials. If your priority is maximum playabiity out of the box, at this price point, the CL-6 is tough to beat.

Yamaha NTX700 (Acoustic-Electric)

92
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$500
Yamaha NTX700 Acoustic-Electric Nylon String Guitar

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.

The Best Classical Guitars Under $1000

Cordoba F7 Paco

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 30+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$549
Cordoba F7 Paco Nylon String Flamenco Guitar

The Cordoba F7 Paco is an homage to classical guitar legend Paco de Lucia. It features a thinner, flamenco style similar to the guitars that were used by its namesake in his lifetime. To contrast the brighter tone with thinner bodied guitars, Cordoba opted to use warm sounding Indian Rosewood for the back and sides. The result is a well balanced tone while being lighter than most guitars.

Specifications

  • Top:Western Red Cedar
  • Body:Indian rosewood back & sides
  • Finish:Natural
  • Bridge:Rosewood
  • Neck:Mahogany
  • Fingerboard:Rosewood
  • Scale Length:648mm (25 1/2")
  • Nut Width:52-millimeter (2.04")

Pros

Many people love the flatter neck angle which gives it a nice, low action. The weight was also seen as a plus by some especially for a guitar that projects very well. Modern appointments like a dual-action truss rod are noted by some as convenient for the touring musician as necks tend to shift depending on the temperature.

Cons

While comfortable for most, a few found the guitar's C-shaped neck to be a dealbreaker as they preferred D-shaped necks which are flat at the back for better thumb anchoring.

Overall

The Cordoba F7 Paco, with it's great combination of vintage looks and feel with modern playability and set up makes for a great intermediate guitar. Its light weight and dual-action truss rod also make it a great travel and touring guitar.

Kremona Verea Cutaway (Acoustic-Electic)

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 20+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$799
Kremona Verea Cutaway

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

Specifications

  • 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

The Verea Cutaway gets praise from reviewers and users for its playability and comfort. In contrast to a traditional fretboard and neck, the Verea has a 16" radius fingerboard and narrower string spacing. These specifications made it easy for some users to transition between their other guitars and made playing complex chord shapes easier.

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 60+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$799
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 includes 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.

Specifications

  • 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 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 pickup 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 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.

  • 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 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.

Best Nylon String Guitar Selection Methodology

First published on August 8, 2016 and last updated on June 26, 2019 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 66 guitars to process for their Gearank scores. The Gearank algorithm processed more than 4,300 sources during this process.

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

For more information about this process 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

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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