According to recent stats, acoustic guitar sales rose by 28.5% in 2020. Moreover, 40% of the people who purchased guitars during that year were beginners or first-timers. What’s more, the average money spent on that purchase was $453.
But why is all of this important? Well, it’s a golden era to buy an acoustic in this price range since that’s where big companies made the big investments in the past few years. Yes, what once was a competitive niche has become even tighter. We, players, benefit from it.
Yet, once you go online to buy your new axe you find out there are way more options than you can handle. Moreover, every company claims they have the right guitar for you. Well, worry not and read on because the best 6 acoustics under $300 are on this list.
Furthermore, you’ll also read about the red flags and what to expect so you can make a proper, informed decision and strum the night away. Every night.
6 Best Acoustic Guitars Under $300
Table of Contents
- 6 Best Acoustic Guitars Under $300
- What to Expect at this Price Point?
- Cheap Acoustic Guitars Red Flags
- Should You Go for an Acoustic-Electric Guitar?
- The Bottom End
1. Yamaha FG820
The fact that Yamaha has been doing outstanding instruments for well over a century should be no surprise. Indeed, the Japanese giant started out as a piano manufacturer in 1887. As proof, the logo is clearly three intertwined tuning forks.
This FG820 is the perfect representation of the traditional dreadnought acoustic guitar. Certainly, the solid spruce top and mahogany back and sides give you that bright top end with the low growl backing up every chord you play.
On top of that mix, you get a nato neck, which is a cheaper alternative to mahogany adding more lows. The fretboard is either walnut or rosewood adding the sweet touch you need for those minor and minor seventh chords to shine.
Speaking of chords and arpeggios, the neck shape and its satin finish give you a great playing experience. I attempted my best silent version of “Wicked Game” and “More than Words” and both sounded fresh and snappy.
Believe me, this guitar was a beautiful surprise because I wasn’t expecting that much definition and tone in this price range. I could see myself carrying this guitar to small gigs or using it as a backup to my Martin on big shows.
Perhaps, the only thing that would stop me from that would be the fact that this is an acoustic and not an acoustic-electric guitar. Nevertheless, there are countless options to transform this guitar into a stage-ready instrument but add to the final price of the guitar.
So, if you’re a seasoned player looking for a backup or a beginner trying to find a guitar that will age well and play great, this is a great choice.
2. Gretsch G9520E Gin Rickey
Entirely made of basswood, this little parlor guitar is as friendly as it gets.
The Gretsch G9520E is a great example of this guitar shape that is making quite a comeback. In the old days of roots blues when people gathered at the parlor to just share some tunes (there was no radio back then), these guitars were the main choice. Thus, the name “parlor guitars”.
Finding out it features a basswood body was a bit surprising because of how loud this instrument is. Perhaps, the X-bracing does wonders in helping projection and volume.
In terms of size, this guitar feels and sounds like a smaller instrument. I mean, the 24” scale is completely normal if you play Mustangs or Jaguars. That being said, I tried playing big open-chord songs on it and my rendition of “Wonderwall” wasn’t anywhere near the depth and tone of the original.
On the other hand, when I slid my slide on my pinkie and went for more of a Delta blues approach, this guitar shone bright and sang loud and proud. Yes, it followed me with fast transients, clear tones, and accurate notes throughout my fingerpicking adventures.
Speaking of which, it is also a great country guitar. Yes, fingerpicking and chicken picking were not only a lot of fun but also sounded perfect.
Finally, the bolt-on soundhole pickup sounds just like it looks: like an antique. It’s got a traditional, balanced, and warm tone that’s very familiar and welcome.
If you’re in search of a smaller guitar and don’t need that big-chord tone, this is a must-try. Otherwise, you can go for something bigger, like a dreadnought or a jumbo.
3. D'Angelico Premier Tammany LS
Although they might strike you as a new or unknown brand, D’Angelico’s first guitars date back to the early ‘30s. After the man himself, John D’Angelico passed away in 1964, the company disappeared to resurface in 2011 with the same Art Deco ornamentation and jazzy vibes.
This Premier Tammany LS is not a dreadnought, jumbo, or parlor. It’s a shape we know as OM or orchestra and sits between a parlor and a dreadnought. I have to tell you that it feels very comfortable and is the perfect size to play and carry around.
This guitar sports a 25.5” scale which makes it easy to play for those who play electric guitar. In the same vein, the C-shaped mahogany neck feels fast and allows you to play your favorite licks effortlessly.
Sound-wise, this guitar belongs to the all-mahogany tradition. Although it’s all laminated wood the low-end growl and midrange are at your disposal at all times. Furthermore, the satin finish on the guitar body and neck feels great as a player.
I once again tried to test the boundaries of this instrument by attempting some open chords and common bonfire singalongs. The result was smaller than I expected in terms of volume and projection.
On the other hand, once I got my slide going and did some fingerpicking, the whole guitar came alive. The fast transient and resonance of this body size are perfect for playing complex chords and arpeggios because you can hear each note individually at all times.
Finally, I plugged the guitar in and, besides sounding great, all the electronics shine in the dark. Also, the phase switch, built-in chromatic tuner, and 3-band EQ are very handy in shaping the guitar’s live sound.
If you’re looking for a guitar that works well with chords and fingerpicking and is 100% stage-ready, this is a great hybrid instrument. For bigger sounds, you need a bigger body.
4. Ibanez PF15ECE
Ibanez is one of the best-selling guitar brands in the world today. The company has a reputation for being a bold innovator providing the canvas for virtuoso players to paint their passion.
Ibanez’s acoustic guitar division is known for delivering great instruments at highly competitive prices. Plus, if you’re used to playing the electric, you’ll find Ibanez’s acoustic necks to be just very familiar. In the case of this guitar, if the company had chosen a satin finish instead of a glossy one, the results would be more player-friendly.
Although it might be a little too big for your forearm (it is for mine), the sound projection of this guitar’s dreadnought body is full, round, and balanced. The cutaway is very welcome to access those higher frets and go a little crazy.
I have to say that, sound-wise, whenever a chord was fading, I heard how the laminated okoume back and sides and spruce top kind of killed sustain a bit with almost no decay time. But that’s something to be expected at this price point. There are very few guitars with solid tops in this range.
Nevertheless, the Ibanez AEQ-2T preamp made the under-saddle pickup sound round, full, and rich. This Ibanez PF15ECE was the perfect guitar to practice arena-ready open chord singalongs. I played some quite believable renditions of “Wonderwall”, “Sweet Home Alabama”, and “Free Fallin’”.
When I moved over to the fingerpicking and slide, the result was a little too boomy on the bass section. But the laurel fretboard and bridge added a healthy amount of sweetness to the resulting sound.
If you’re looking for a big strummer, this guitar is a great choice, especially with such a small price tag attached.
5. Epiphone J-45 Studio
Ok, before I start, I just want to say that I’m a huge Beatles fan. That means this guitar struck me at an emotional level with its look-a-like vibes. I won’t tell you it sounds like a ‘60s Gibson J-45, but it sure does look like one. Especially in the vintage sunburst finish.
So, when I came out of my awe and picked it up, the slope shoulder body felt just right. Moreover, the satin finish applied to the back, sides, and neck is very welcome. I live in a humid area and had no sticky-thumb problems at all.
My first chord was an E major in the open position and it felt weird to hear the beautiful decay of the chord entirely. I had to check Epiphone’s website and it was a pleasant surprise to see that this J-45 Studio has a solid Sitka spruce top. This is the kind of tonewood you expect to find in guitars that double or triple the price tag on this Epiphone.
But that’s not all, because, with a mahogany neck and a laminated mahogany back and sides, this guitar conveys the quintessential acoustic tone you hear in your head.
Perhaps, the only drawback I had with this guitar wasn’t at all in the sound department but was more related to playability. Yes, the factory setup was beyond unplayable. When I lowered the strings and got them ready for some action, I heard buzzing in a couple of frets. I had to sand down the problem.
It’s something to be expected that guitars in this range need a thorough setup when you get them out of the box, but this was a little too much.
That being said, once the guitar played nicely, I played “Blackbird”, “Here Comes the Sun”, and “I’m Only Sleeping” and I almost felt like jumping into a tight suit and growing my bangs.
After a professional setup, this is a great instrument for the price.
6. Fender CD-60SCE
I’ve played many Fender CD-60 guitars in my life. They are, for many players, including me, their first good acoustic guitar. Yet, this was the first time I had an all-mahogany model.
I’m the proud owner of a Martin D15M, a beautiful all-solid mahogany dreadnought guitar. I won’t be comparing that to this mahogany CD-60 but some of that depth, warmth, and bass-oriented response was definitely recognizable in this Fender acoustic.
I did the test of the E major open chord and the soundboard or top sounded nice and even with natural harmonic overtones. I had to go online and look for it, and yes, this guitar sports a solid mahogany top, laminated mahogany back and sides, and a mahogany neck.
In other words, the growling beautiful tone for that huge chord was coming from the entire guitar. Moreover, the walnut fretboard and bridge add a little sweetness and more character to the resulting sound. Plus, the C-shaped neck feels and plays effortlessly and is quite thin for an acoustic.
Sound-wise, I first tried the guitar unplugged and the X-scalloped bracing helped a lot to project the sound and fill the room with every note. Plugged in, the Fishman CD-1 pickup and preamp system proved to be very clear. Also, control-wise, there are a few handy features like a low-battery indicator, a built-in chromatic tuner, and a two-band EQ. I missed the phase switch quite a bit because it’s very convenient in the fight against feedback.
I spent a total of 40 minutes playing this guitar and I have to say I had a lot of fun. Yes, I played some Beatles songs, some Oasis songs, and I even got away with a close rendition of “Wild Horses” by the Rolling Stones.
So, if you like the low-end oriented acoustic sound and want a great guitar that won’t break the bank, this Fender is a great candidate. For something more traditional sounding with a brighter top-end, you’d be better off with a spruce-top guitar.
What to Expect at this Price Point?
Going for an affordable instrument with the expectations of an expensive one is a recipe for disaster. Therefore, let me tell you what’s wise to expect at this price point.
Laminated Back & Sides
Some guitars in this price range can feature a solid top. That’s very welcome, but finding an all-solid instrument is a chimera.
So, you should aim for a solid top but expect sides and back to be laminated.
While high-end guitars use precious woods such as mahogany, rosewood, Sitka spruce, and ebony, guitars in this price range can’t afford that. So, companies have begun a quest to find the best substitutes.
This means tonewoods that sound similar to those but cost a fraction of the price. Okoume, nato, and walnut are perfect examples.
When you buy a mid-to-high-priced guitar, it usually comes inside its hardshell case. When you buy a low-to-mid-priced guitar you might expect it to come with an original gig bag to carry it around. At this price range, you’ll very often receive your new guitar in a box.
Cheap Acoustic Guitars Red Flags
While it’s normal to find shortcomings when you compare high-end with entry-level instruments, there are some indicators from which you should walk away.
So, what follows are the red flags you should notice when trying your soon-to-be new instrument.
A Twisted Neck
A twisted neck is a nightmare. Believe me, there’s absolutely nothing you can do to keep a twisted neck in tune. It just won’t work. So, this is a red flag.
Why does it happen? Well, there are many causes. Sometimes, cheaper instruments use wood that hasn’t been dried for long enough. That causes the wood to continue moving after it’s been shaped. Hence, you have a twisted neck.
To spot it, you need to look at the neck from the top or the bottom of the instrument to see any deviations. Here’s a handy video that will show you exactly how to do it.
Look for a Belly
Some guitars, like the Baby Taylor, have a belly that’s carved on purpose to enhance volume at such a small size. On the other hand, acoustics are known as “flat tops” because they have one. So, if you see a belly on the top or the bottom, just walk away.
- Accidental shipping damage
- Broken Bracing
- Bad environmental conditions
PRO TIP: Action can be adjusted. So, if the guitar’s strings are too high, a professional setup can fix that problem. Moreover, having the guitar professionally set up is paramount to keep it sounding and playing at its best and, more importantly, in tune. So, it’s a good idea to find a good technician you trust to send all your instruments to.
Should You Go for an Acoustic-Electric Guitar?
This is a very common question among acoustic guitar players. The answer to it is very simple, if you’re going to play out, you have to plug in. That’s a motto you can keep, courtesy of yours truly.
- You should buy an acoustic – If you’ll be playing that guitar mostly unplugged, you should go for an acoustic. That’s especially true in this tight price range. Every penny saved from the electric part can be found somewhere else on the guitar. Furthermore, it could mean a solid vs. a laminated top! You can always add aftermarket electronics to it.
- You should buy an acoustic-electric guitar – If you’ll be using the guitar to play live connected to a PA. In other words, mostly plugged in. In that case, the best is to buy an acoustic with a pickup. The reason is that most companies spend time with their R&D departments trying to find the right pickup to match the guitar’s qualities.
On the list above, you’ll almost surely find the best acoustic electric guitar under $300 for you, suitable for your unique needs.
Buying a $300 guitar is taking a great step. It might not only be your first good guitar, but it will surely be the one to accompany you during a crucial time of your career. I remember my first $300 or so guitar. I remember the feeling of playing it for the first time. It was “the real deal”.
So, choose wisely and let that fine instrument walk with you these crucial steps toward guitar proficiency.
Happy (acoustic) playing!