Best Acoustic Guitar for Beginners and Pros

The art of guitar playing can be complex, challenging and pretty powerful. But for the novice, it can be a whole other story, especially if you’re someone who doesn’t know much about guitars in general, how they work and the features to look for. There’s a lot involved in learning how to play the guitar, so it’s important that you find a model that can handle a little rough use and one that also travels well.

Shopping for the best acoustic guitar can be an overwhelming experience for some players.  Because guitar manufacturers use a large variety of woods, design elements, and hardware, there are a number of factors you’ll need to consider. But there are actually four main areas you’ll want to consider and know about before your start shopping.

Acoustic Guitar Buying Guide

acoustic guitars hung on the wallBefore you start thinking about body styles or brand names, consider what you need a guitar for in terms of performance or simply hobby and also consider how much you’re planning to spend.

Beginners: If you’re a beginner and you need an acoustic to learn on, you might not want to shell out that much cash just yet.

There’s a wide selection of decent beginner and intermediate acoustic guitars to choose from, thanks to modern manufacturing techniques.

Experienced: But if you’re an experienced player who’s ready for an upgrade, it will be important to know the difference between different tone woods and how a soundboard can effect resonance.

In a band? Are you going to play in a band or use your guitar for public events? If so, you should probably consider an acoustic-electric model.

These guitars feature a preamp and pickups which allow them to be plugged into a sound system or amp without distorting the traditional acoustic sound while also not limiting the player’s mobility.

When this type of guitar isn’t plugged in they sound like any other acoustic guitar. This hybrid is quickly gaining popularity with performers and there are several models to choose from that should work with any budget.

man playing acoustic guitarPro Tip: Whether you’re playing in public or at home, upgrading or just starting out, make sure you’ve considered what you’re looking for in a new model.

Once you’ve become familiar regarding the basics of acoustic guitars, you’ll be able to hear and see subtle differences that can help you to choose the model that best fits your needs.

About the Guitar Neck

The guitar neck is attached to the body, terminating at the headstock. You’ll find the fretboard mounted to the top of the neck, while the back is designed in order to accommodate your fret hand.

Most models of acoustics use a set neck. The set neck is glued to the body of the guitar. Another option is the bolt-on neck design, which you’ll commonly find on electric guitars.

At the back of the neck, a heel will provide additional support.

The Truss Rod

The guitar neck also contains the metal truss rod which will prevent it from twisting and bowing when tension is applied to the strings.

By adjusting the truss rod you can correct any issues with the intonation which can prevent the guitar from being properly tuned. The truss can be adjusted just inside the body of the guitar or at the headstock.

Fingerboard

The fingerboard or fretboard is located on the top side of the neck. It’s usually glued to the neck and made from an entirely separate piece of wood. Fingerboards are typically made out of ebony or rosewood.

playing acoustic guitar close up shotFrets

The frets, which are made from thin strips of metal, are embedded in the wood using half-step increments along the twelve-tone scale in order to indicate where the different notes are played.

Most fingerboards feature inlaid symbols or dots for the odd numbered frets, beginning with the third and not including the eleventh or thirteenth in favor of the octave or twelfth.

Headstock

Opposite the guitar body on the end of the neck, you’ll find the headstock. The tuners on the headstock work to adjust the string’s tension, changing pitch.

Body

The acoustic guitar’s body is composed of the soundboard which is supported by internal bracing. The back and the sides form a hollow chamber.

The upper portion of the guitar’s body is called the lower bout, while the area between them is known as the waist.

The shape and size of the guitar’s body will influence playability and sound. Finding the body shape that matches your musical and physical needs ensures that you choose the right guitar for you.

The sound is projected from the sound hole and it’s aligned with the waist, located at the base of the fingerboard. It’s often fitted with a pickguard made from plastic.

The guitar are mounted on the bridge, with each string anchored by a bridge pin. The saddle is made of thin strips of plastic or bone and it spaces out the strings along the bridge. The bridge will transmit string vibrations to the top, which results in the guitar’s sound output.

Many guitarists have found it helpful to be able to simply plug in their acoustic, but how do these acoustic-electric models work? This type of guitar boasts the addition of the pickup system located inside the body. The pickup system turns the soundboard vibrations into electric signals.

These electric signals are pretty weak, which is why most models need the help of the preamp to make them much stronger. You’ll find the preamp on the side of the guitar that faces you while you play. The preamp includes tone and volume controls and some models also come with a built-in tuner.

While most acoustic guitars share the same basic design and construction elements, there are definitely crucial differences that affect playability and sound. Every guitar will share the basic characteristics we discussed, but now that you’re familiar with the acoustic guitar design, you’ll want to consider some of the variations that can change how an acoustic plays and feels.

The variables you’ll run across include:

  • tonewood
  • steel strings versus nylon
  • tops
  • body styles
  • neck length and width

Pro tip: It’s important to ensure that you pick a guitar that can produce the type of sound you want, and also one that’s comfortable for you to play, whether standing or sitting.

In general, the bigger the soundboard, the louder and deeper the sound. Other types of style combinations will feature a narrower waist in order to make the guitar more comfortable to play.

Popular, General Acoustic Guitar Body Shapes

  • Mini and travel acoustics
  • Jumbo
  • Grand concert and concert
  • Dreadnought

woman playing an electric acoustic guitarGrand concert and concert guitars: These date all the way back to the 1850s. The concert’s lower bout and smaller size give them a punchy mid-range and bright sound. Their size makes them more comfortable to play for smaller guitarists. The grand concert style body is a little bigger at the lower bout. These guitars still feature a decent mid-range but they offer a stronger sound.

The auditorium style acoustic is a mid-sized guitar that features a lower bout and a small waist. These guitars balance comfort, tone and volume and have been gaining popular ground in the past decade.

Dreadnought: The lower bout on the grand auditorium is typically wider than a dreadnought’s, but it features a narrow waist which is what gives it that hourglass shape. This type of guitar offers better volume range and a more balanced tone.

The dreadnought features a very common body style that makes use of a large soundboard. These guitars are known for their wide waists, square bouts, and fourteen fret necks.

Did you know? This first model was developed in the early 1900s and has been widely used ever since. Due to their driving, powerful sound, these guitars are popular among bluegrass players.

The jumbo is a boomy, large guitar and it’s often considered the standard guitar for country music. Measuring up to seventeen inches at the lower bout, this type of acoustic projects very loudly and tends to resonates deeply.

mini acoustic guitar with aztec backgroundThe mini acoustic is designed for the smaller player and it’s often used for beginners. This style of guitar was designed for smaller players in search of a more compact design that allowed them to play comfortably.

Most models will utilize the same shape as the standard acoustic. Backpacker mini acoustics are designed with durability in mind and are often easy to pack and lightweight.

The portion of the guitar that has the most impact on tone quality is the top of the guitar. The sound generated by the strings is transmitted by the bridge up to the top where it will be amplified.

How Wood Effects Sound

The wood used for the top of the guitar will strongly influence the tone. Remember when we said the larger the soundboard the larger the sound? Well, that’s because the sound that’s generated by the strings is transmitted by the bridge to the top of the guitar where it is then amplified.

The tops of acoustics are made from laminate or solid wood. Wood tops are usually made from a couple of single ply pieces of wood. The grains are matched down the middle. Laminate models are made using several layers of wood, usually a higher grade piece will be placed on top, with several layers of lower quality wood used beneath and pressed together.

But laminate isn’t able to vibrate quite as well as solid wood, which means it won’t produce as sound that’s as rich or as loud. However, it’s a good choice for beginners.

The width and thickness of the acoustic necks can vary and will depend on the size of the body. It won’t affect the guitar’s sound, however it can affect the player’s comfort. Necks are usually listed as twelve or fourteen frets. The number doesn’t refer to the total number of frets, simply to the number of frets above the body.

Choose your Guitar Strings Wisely

close up shot of an acoustic guitar highlighting its guitar stringsA common misconception most beginners have is that they need to start with nylon strings because they’re easier to play and easier on the fingers. But steel and nylon strings aren’t interchangeable on the same model, so the strings you use should be based on the type of music you want to play, not your level of experience.

Nylon strings will produce a mellow, softer tone. They’re often used in flamenco, classical and folk style music. Classical acoustic guitars feature a wider neck which offers a shorter fingerboard and more space between the strings, compared to an acoustic that needs steel strings.

Steel strings are a lot more common and are often used by pop, country and rock musicians. A guitar that uses steel strings features a brighter tone and louder sound that’s commonly associated with the crisp, classic sound of acoustic guitars.

No matter how good you might be, whether you take acoustic or classical guitar lesson tips, if you do not choose your strings wisely, then it would seem to be useless after all.

Which Tonewood Works Best?

close up shot of the design and wood of an acoustic guitarMore About Tonewoods

As you shop around, you’ll notice a variety of woods listed for the different parts of the guitar. The ability to identify the type of sound you want from your acoustic can help you make a better choice.

Cedar

A soft wood, cedar produces a bright tone and features a quick response that favors lighter playing techniques. It’s also a common top wood that’s found on classical guitars.

Cocobolo

A tropical, Mexican hardwood is Cocobolo and it’s often used for backs and sides of guitars. It offers a bright sound that’s also responsive and fast.

Ebony

Ebony is a type of wood that’s great for fingerboards and it features a slick, strong feel.

Mahogany

A type of dense wood that gives a slower response rate is mahogany. It produces a strong sound with an emphasis on high-end tones when used as a top wood and it’s often used by blues or country playing guitarists.

It’s more commonly used for the back and sides in order to boost mid-range tones and add some snap.

Spruce

A standard for acoustic guitar tops is spruce. It’s strong, but lightweight and offers a solid resonance without compromising the clarity. There are several types of spruce that are used in guitar tops including European spruce, Adirondack, Engelmann, and Sitka.

Walnut

A commonly used alternative to mahogany is walnut and it emphasizes mid-range tones while also enhancing the top wood’s tone projection. It features a similar stiffness and density to Koa, with very similar bright high-end tones.

As you consider the different types of acoustics, you’ll likely come across a couple of main variations to the traditional acoustic. One will have extra strings while the other offers a very different body shape.

The twelve string acoustic is made by a number of manufacturers. They’re commonly used by guitarists who specialize in blues and folk music. They have six string courses, each with a couple of strings that are tuned to produce a chiming effect.

Pro tip: Amidst all the considerations about the tones, shapes and tops, don’t disregard the importance of choosing a model that you truly like playing. Find one that feels comfortable, whether you’re standing or sitting. Be sure you choose on that responds to the way you usually play.

Finally, consider your budget. The amount you want to spend on a new acoustic will really depend on your level of experience, who the guitar is for and whether you need a guitar for practice or on-stage performance.

acoustic guitars lying against the wooden wallIf you’re purchasing a new guitar for a child who is interested in learning how to play guitar, then it might be a good idea to start off with a beginner model or a mini acoustic. One good example would be the Traveler Guitar ULST BRN ultra-light acoustic-electric guitar.

If you yourself are just starting out we recommend looking at a model designed for your skill level. Many entry-level models are reasonably priced and the models in this category that we reviewed also exceed sound quality expectations.

But these entry-level acoustic guitars just aren’t for beginners, some can be used as your go-to backup, for guitarists who are looking for a guitar to take on the road, or even for on-stage performances.

As we mentioned, finding the right acoustic can take a lot of research, but fortunately for you, we’ve narrowed it down to the top five models that we consider the best acoustic guitars on the market for beginners and intermediate players. Ultimately, the model you choose should feel good in your hands, offer stellar sound and tone and feature a design that’s durable and built with quality in mind. This way, it would help you achieve your aspirations on how to play guitar like a pro.

1.    Epiphone HUMMINGBIRD PRO Solid Top Acoustic/Electric Guitar-Best acoustic for 2017

Epiphone HUMMINGBIRD PRO acoustic guitarThis model comes with all the same specs and features as the original Hummingbird Pro, with the exception of its distinctive black finish. This model brings Hummingbird into the twenty-first century with its new Shadow Nano Flex pickup system and ePerformer preamp.

This acoustic can handle center stage power or it can drive an all-acoustic band thanks to its balanced sweet tone. It can definitely hold its own due to the Shadow Nano Flex pickup system and Shadow ePerformer preamp.

The guitar features a spruce top that’s built solid. Spruce is a complex, rich tonewood that begins to improve and breathe with age. The more it’s played, the better it will sound. The neck and body are made from select mahogany and provide more stability to the construction.

The rosewood fretboard features Pearloid parallelogram inlays, a twelve-inch radius, twenty medium frets and a nut that’s 1.68 inches. There’s a single binding of white ply on the fretboard, with five ply black and white binding located on the top of the body. The back of the body features a single binding of ply white. The guitar features the timeless sloped dove wing headstock.

Pros:

For smooth intonation and action, the guitar’s reverse belly rosewood bridge features a compensated saddle. The pickup system is located under the saddle, while the classic tortoise shell pickguard is simple to spot on stage.

When we played this guitar, it had a bit of a bluesy, mellow sound that’s still deeply rooted in the country music and rock n roll world. It also offers some room to navigate, especially when you plug it in and we definitely recommend this model to country players who enjoy a little grind in their sound. It’s also worth mentioning that the guitar comes very nicely intonated. The setup requires just a little tuning when you take it out of the box.

This model is one of the many Epiphone guitars that’s equipped with a cutting edge pickup system that’s able to handle a large crowd while still producing that loved acoustic sound. The Shadow ePerformer controls are located on the upper bout. These controls operate the bass, treble, master volume, dynamics and mute and can be adjusted using a frequency curve.

You’ll need a couple of 2032 batteries to power the preamp. The strap locks and output jack are nickel. Buyers will also enjoy a limited lifetime warranty and excellent customer support.

Cons:

While definitely a beautiful guitar, some guitarists found the pickup system to be a little passive. Perfect for that classic rock sound, it’s not meant for anything harder so if you’re looking for a guitar that can shred, look elsewhere.

Final Thoughts & Recommendation

Epiphone HUMMINGBIRD PRO acoustic guitarIn our opinion, this is an exceptionally good acoustic-electric hybrid and it’s the perfect choice for the avid rock or country musician. For the low price and quality, this is the top model to consider regardless of your personal preference or taste, but if you happen to love playing rock, this is one guitar you have to try.

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2. Taylor BT2 Baby Taylor Acoustic Guitar Review-Best Mini Acoustic

Taylor BT2 Baby Taylor Acoustic GuitarEarlier, we briefly touched on mini acoustic guitars, also known as travel guitars and why they’re so widely used these days. These guitars can be both fun and complicated to play, but their loud, rich sound will definitely pleasantly surprise you and have you running out to get one before you go on vacation.

The BT2 Baby Taylor by Taylor was designed for guitarists who need a solid acoustic they can travel with. It’s also a good option for players with smaller hands. Like all models of Taylor guitars, this model is high quality and in high-demand and is considered one of their most popular models to date.

A smaller acoustic can be difficult to properly manufacture because the compact design can make the guitar more fragile. But by laminating the back and sides, the manufacturer has circumvented that problem easily.

Some guitarists tend to steer clear of laminate acoustics, but in this case, the laminate actually works well because it improves the guitar’s durability. It does feel a little artificial in your hands, but much less so than laminates that are used by cheaper manufacturers. On the top and neck, the varnish is soft and smooth, giving the wood a nicer feel that allows for the most freedom possible.

Judging a guitar by its size isn’t the same thing as judging a guitar by its features. The small size does make a big difference, especially if the guitarist is used to playing a full sized model. It seems to have less substance and almost feels like part of the instrument is missing. But because this model is designed for beginners or travel, the size really makes perfect sense.

The Baby Taylor offers big sound for such a small guitar. The top is made from mahogany and has a bolder tone. It also projects hugely for every single arpeggio, chord, and note. The laminate also works well and supplements the mahogany’s darkness nicely by giving it a more evened-out mid and more bass. This results in chords that sound and feel more powerful and richer and notes that resonate longer.

Pros:

Its compact size makes it perfect for children, beginners or for the traveling guitarist. It features quality tonewoods, excellent sound, and a sturdy finish. Because of its compact size combined with its loud sound, this is a great choice for children who need a reliable guitar to practice on.

Cons:

Obviously, this isn’t the type of go-to model for stage performances, but that’s not what it was designed for. The small build will definitely take some getting used to and the laminate finish is enough to turn some musicians off.

Final Thoughts & Recommendation

Taylor BT2 Baby Taylor Acoustic Guitar If you’re looking for a travel acoustic guitar, look no further. We love what the Baby Taylor has to offer, such as big sound, smooth strumming and a highly durable guitar that’s designed to take rough use on the road like a champ. If you’re in the market for a travel acoustic, this is the model you’ve been searching for.

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3. Fender Beginner Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar CD-60 Review- Best Guitar for Beginners

Fender Beginner Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar CD-60It doesn’t really matter if you play guitar as a hobby or on a pro level, it’s just always nice to have a guitar for the road. An instrument that you can pull out and jam with beside a campfire or on a noisy tour bus. Basically, for use in any type of situation where you wouldn’t want to risk harm coming to your $600 guitar. But the problem we have run into countless times with most affordably priced guitars is that they just don’t sound that great.

Well, Fender seems to have answered our prayers and come up with the perfect solution to this problem with the introduction to the Dreadnought CD60 acoustic guitar.

Despite the price point, it doesn’t feel or look like a cheap backup guitar by any means. This model features a spruce laminate top, laminate mahogany sides and back and a nice fingerboard made from rosewood. This guitar also comes with X bracing that’s scalloped,

It also doesn’t have any minor issues such as wonky bridge pins or stiff tuning machines that often plague most models in this price range.

It handles well and offers a more impressive range and tone than we expected. Ultimately, we felt that this was a solid guitar you could rely on.

Pros:

This model is available in sunburst, natural or a black finish, while it’s not going to turn any heads with its finish, it’s an elegant simple acoustic in its own right.

The CD60 comes in a large variety of body types as well, such as dreadnought, or a folk body with a folk cutaway body and a cutaway body with electrics.

While this guitar doesn’t offer concert-quality sound, it’s definitely one of the better sounding models in this price range. The dreadnought shape in addition with its laminate body, provides a fairly rich and deep tone, especially when you strum it. The action on this acoustic is also comfortable, which doesn’t make using it to play lead a total nightmare.

While the CD60 may be on the lower end of Fender’s product spectrum, it still feels like an acoustic that’s made to last. The best surprise? The polyurethane gloss finish is incredibly tough and won’t yield as easily as we expected to minor scratches and bumps. Fender also throws in a hard shell case for safe storage and travel.

Cons:

When finger-picked, this model falls a little short in sound. This is because it lacks definition and clarity of individual notes that a guitar of higher-quality can produce.

Final Thoughts & Recommendation

Fender Beginner Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar CD-60Whether you’re a seasoned pro on the lookout for a backup acoustic or a beginner looking for a reasonably priced model that offers quality sound, the CD60 definitely offers good value for the money. And with a great setup job in addition to a set of high-quality strings, it starts to sound much better over a short amount of time.

 

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4. Seagull S6 Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar Review

Seagull S6 Dreadnought Acoustic GuitarSeagull is a relatively new manufacturer from Canada who has yet to really make a name for themselves, but the S6 is a pretty cool new model that’s been turning heads for all the right reasons, the main one being sound quality.

The Seagull S6 dreadnought acoustic guitar is an eco-friendly model that’s made from premium woods. This is a solid guitar that’s well-built and made of beautiful tonewoods. But not only is it aesthetically pleasing, it also produces great sound, which is a nice surprise considering the affordable pricing.

When you first look at it, you may feel like there’s nothing exactly extraordinary about it. There’s no cutaway or fancy inlay and the design is fairly traditional.

So, what makes the S6 so special?

Simply put, it’s the quality. While you may not see quality when you look at it, you’ll definitely hear it the first time you play. It’s obvious from the tone that the manufacturer spent some time crafting a guitar that fits the needs of the industry, making this a great choice for entry-level guitarists. Part of what makes this guitar so great are the materials that are used.

Instead of a spruce laminate top like you’ll find on most beginner guitars, this model uses a solid cedar top that’s pressure tested. It’s widely accepted in the music world that the face of a guitar is the most important factor when it comes to creating tone, so this solid top is a total game changer.

The manufacturer chose Canadian wild cherry for the sides and back. You don’t often find this type of wood used in a lower priced guitar. Really, the only traditional part of this model is the fingerboard, which the manufacturer makes using rosewood, which is standard with most guitars.

The S6 is also the perfect example of how little details can make a big difference. This model uses a compensated TUSQ, a saddle which basically compensates lightly on certain strings in order to improve tone and playability.

Most guitarists won’t notice this initially, but when you change the strings you will notice that the saddle grooves in a different direction for the strings, a design which is commonly found on high-end models and is rarely ever found on entry-level acoustic guitars.

Pros:

For the quality, the price is amazing. The Cherrywood sides and cedar top give this guitar a beautiful sound. The specialized, custom nut and saddle have a major positive impact on sound. The tapered headstock is designed to make tuning more stable and easier, which is a must-have for beginners.

Cons:

For guitarists looking for a little flash, this guitar may be too plain. The wide neck can make it difficult to grip.

Final Thoughts & Recommendation

Seagull S6 Dreadnought Acoustic GuitarThe sound the S6 offers is excellent and it’ll only get better over time. The overall feel is smooth and sturdy and the simple design is classic acoustic. While some guitarists may not be impressed with the way this guitar looks, for the sound quality and pricing, it hard to argue with all the benefits. So grab the S6 and take it for a test spin. We bet it becomes a part of your guitar arsenal and it’ll be your go-to guitar for mellow, crisp, clear sound.

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5. Yamaha APX500III Thinline Cutaway Acoustic-Electric Guitar Review

Who hasn’t heard of played a Yamaha guitar before? If you’re a seasoned guitar player then the odds are you’ve had experience with one or two. This new model is a hybrid acoustic-electric that’s designed to provide you with the best of both worlds, so you can enjoy raw electric acoustic power or a traditional classic acoustic sound.

For some, it’s difficult to find the right acoustic that sounds pleasing to the ears, is made from high-quality materials and offers the perfect balance of performance and dependability.

Produced by Yamaha, one of the leading manufacturers in the industry, the APX500III definitely caught our eye. This model is part of their 500 series and it offers a number of features including incredible comfort and easy top fret access.

The sound is designed for on-stage performance with clear, bright mids and balanced highs in addition to controlled lows. It features a well-designed X type, as well as non-scalloped bracing. This will allow the user to maximize the resonance for a natural, full tone.

The guitar comes with a thin line cutaway body that’s extremely comfortable, even for beginners. You’ll love the piezo pickup and three band EQ. It also comes with a chromatic tuner, built right in.

The system 66 is an under saddle piezo pickup that was developed by Yamaha. The controls are quite comfortable and include a three-band EQ, mid-range control for frequency, in addition to the perfect precision tuner which allows you to tailor your sound.

Like most Yamaha guitars, this model is rock solid. It comes with clean molding and a nice finish, although some players may not like all the plywood.

The sound it produces is consistent, clear and pretty remarkable for a guitar in the price range. This is a guitar that sounds better plugged in and when you hear it in a properly setup sound system, this is where the guitar truly shines. Each note seems to ring out full and clear. When you strum it, the full-body sound rings with great color and tone.

Even when you unplug it sounds much better than other models in this price range, but the thin, smaller body doesn’t offer the same type of sheer power when it’s played acoustically.

You can easily wrap your hand around the guitar’s slim neck and easily attack the strings. A younger player might prefer the small body because it will be easier to handle.

Other interesting features include a sound hole ring that’s raised and a stunning headstock pattern. But the greatest aesthetic feature is probably the many color options available. The manufacturer offers this guitar in natural, blue, white, sunburst and many others.

Pros:

This guitar is definitely fun to play and offers a good feel. The slim neck is nice and the guitar action is relatively low compared to competing models.

Cons:

As we have mentioned before, the use of laminate wood deters many guitarists. This model features laminate on the sides, back, and top which is why the guitar doesn’t sound as good when it isn’t plugged in.

Yamaha has been around for almost thirty years and was one of the biggest names to set the stage for acoustic-electric guitars in the mid-1980s. This model is their newest version and it both sounds great and is priced affordably. If you’re on the hunt for an entry-level acoustic-electric that’s priced reasonably, then this acoustic cutaway by Yamaha is worth a closer look.

 

Final Thoughts & Recommendation

Yamaha has been around for almost thirty years and was one of the biggest names to set the stage for acoustic-electric guitars in the mid-1980s. This model is their newest version and it both sounds great and is priced affordably. If you’re on the hunt for an entry-level acoustic-electric that’s priced reasonably, then this acoustic cutaway by Yamaha is worth a closer look.

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