7 Best Acoustic Guitars Under $300 In 2020

Guitars can get expensive. Fast.

Lucky for you, there are guitar manufacturers out there that are well aware that while there are countless people that want to play the guitar, there are far fewer than can afford to drop a whole lot of money on their instrument. This could be because you are a beginner looking for your first guitar. Or it could be that you are searching for a backup instrument. Maybe you want a guitar to have around the house for friends to play on to facilitate spontaneous creativity. Or maybe $300 is simply the max you can afford at the moment.

As I have mentioned before, we live in a world where good guitars exist at every price range.

Here is my list of best acoustic guitars from $200-$300.

Snapshot: Top 7 Acoustic Guitars Under $300

  1. Ibanez AW54OPN Artwood Dreadnought
  2. Alvarez Artist Series AF30
  3. Yamaha C40 Classical Guitar
  4. Breedlove Discovery Concertina
  5. Ovation Applause (AB24II-HB)
  6. Fender CD-60S
  7. Ibanez AEG10NII Nylon String Cutaway Acoustic Electric

What to Expect from a Guitar in This Price Range

 It is totally possible to make a playable and enjoyable guitar for under $300, however that doesn’t leave luthiers with a whole lot of wiggle room in their designs. These instruments are streamlined in their design to give you the most out of the fewest raw materials.

In short, corners get cut.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For example, fewer guitars in this price range have electronics included compared to guitars that are just a couple hundred dollars more. Maybe having a pickup in your acoustic guitar doesn’t matter to you. If you don’t plan on playing out, it makes perfect sense to save yourself the cash and get a cheaper guitar.

Another common aspect of acoustic guitars in this price range is the use of laminate woods instead of hardwoods. Think of it like having real hardwood floors vs laminate hardwood floors in your home. Laminate woods give the look of hard woods but feel and sound different. If this kind of detail is way over your head and you like the guitar tone that you hear, then it’s still a good guitar for you!

Laminate woods also cost less because they are more efficient for guitar builders. If sustainability is of a concern to you, then opting for laminate woods is a great choice due to the lack of waste they produce.

I purposefully avoided “travel” and scaled-down guitars, because I think they are a class of their own. These guitars often cost less and can be found in this price range, but for this article I felt it best to keep to full size guitars. If acoustic travel guitars are something you are interested in, you can check out my post on those.

Some guitars in this price range also come in bundles with extra features beginners will need, like guitar cases, picks, straps, even video lessons. These guitars can offer you a lot of bang for your buck.

The thing to remember is that while I have listed out some great guitars for you to check out, there are also some less than desirable guitars out there for at this price point. Do your research and trust your ear. Pay attention to the reviews and pick the guitar that is best for you.

The guitars on this list could be perfect for different people, so they are not presented in any particular order.

Enough explaining. Let’s look at some acoustic guitars!

1. Ibanez AW54OPN Artwood Dreadnought Review

Ibanez AW54OPN Artwood Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar - Open Pore Natural
106 Reviews
Ibanez AW54OPN Artwood Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar - Open Pore Natural
  • Dreadnought body
  • Solid mahogany top
  • Mahogany back & sides
  • Mahogany neck

Similar to the Ibanez AW54CEOPN Cutaway I reviewed in my “Best Acoustic Under $500” article, this model features a traditional dreadnought body shape (no cutaway) and doesn’t feature any electronics. What it shares is fantastic, rich tone and a beautiful design.

Body/Neck

Ibanez manages to deliver an acoustic guitar with a solid mahogany top in combination with laminate mahogany back, sides, and neck. The fingerboard and bridge are both rosewood. Not only do these wood choices make for a beautiful looking instrument, they also contribute to the overall tone. More on that later.

As part of their Artwood series, Ibanez incorporates an open pore finish that simultaneously protects the guitar and allows for the wood to breathe. The result is a natural looking guitar with an open sound.

Electronics/Hardware

You’ll have to go outside of the $300 price range to get this model with pickups, but the option is available if you are willing to spend the extra cash. This guitar uses Ibanez’s Advantage bridge pins for increased string stability. Otherwise, when it comes to hardware, this is a straightforward and easy to play guitar.

Sound

I’m blown away at how rich this guitar sounds. The combination of wood choice, open pore finish, and dreadnought body shape make this guitar sound big with layers of overtones to spare. I would consider using it for flatpicking or fingerpicking. Of all the guitars on this list, I have to admit that this is the best sounding to my ear. It sounds like a guitar well beyond its price range.

Spec Summary

  • Body Material: Solid mahogany top, mahogany back/sides
  • Neck Material: Mahogany
  • Fingerboard Material: Rosewood
  • Pickups: None
  • Bridge Material: Rosewood

The best “budget” all mahogany guitar

Final Thoughts on the Ibanez AW54OPN Artwood Dreadnought

I mean it when I say that if I needed an acoustic in a pinch, the Ibanez Artwood series is where I would start. It is a well thought out design that sticks to the basic elements of what make a great acoustic guitar: tonewood, finish, playability.

This is my favorite guitar on the list for its aesthetic and sound quality. This is my personal opinion of course, so keep reading on if this one doesn’t do it for you!

2. Alvarez Artist Series AF30 Review

Alvarez Artist Series AF30 Folk Guitar, Natural/Glass Finish
13 Reviews
Alvarez Artist Series AF30 Folk Guitar, Natural/Glass Finish
  • Solid Sitka spruce top
  • Hand sanded, scalloped bracing
  • Mahogany back and sides
  • Dovetail neck joint

The Artist Series from Alvarez brings a wide variety of high spec, yet affordable guitars. The AF30 features a solid top and high-end craftsmanship at a price point that is hard to believe. And if this model doesn’t do it for you, there are other affordable options in the Artist Series that you can look at too.

Body/Neck

Featuring a solid sitka spruce top and laminate mahogany back/sides, the AF30 is built with quality. Not only is the top solid, but it is ‘A’ grade hand selected from quarter sawn wood. While the sides are laminate, that solid topwood and advanced FST2M bracing system gives the guitar a resonance that is unheard of by many of its peers. The OM (or folk) shape is a little smaller than dreadnoughts and are suitable for those who find dreadnoughts to be too big. The neck is also mahogany with a rosewood fingerboard and bridge. This is all finished with a satin finish, giving it an understated look and smooth feel that won’t get sticky when playing.

Hardware/Electronics

The Alvarez AF30 doesn’t come with any electronics, but if that is a must-have for you there are other models within the Artist Series that feature pickups. You can also hold off on pickups for the time being and install your own at a later date. Even though there are not any electronics, the hardware is all high grade, from the real bone nut and saddles to the tuners. This is a well-built guitar.

Sound

My favorite thing about this guitar is its sound. I find that all the strings can be heard individually, yet they blend together well when strumming. It sounds warm, open and balanced. If the Ibanez Artwood series is too woody and mellow for you, then this is a punchy alternative worth looking into. The wood selection and attention to detail in the design truly paid off with this model.

Spec Summary

  • Body Material: Solid sitka spruce top, mahogany laminate back/sides
  • Neck Material: Mahogany
  • Fingerboard Material: Rosewood
  • Pickups: None
  • Bridge Material: Rosewood

An OM guitar with hand crafted tonewoods

Final Thoughts on the Alvarez Artist Series AF30

Alvarez is another company that has kept quality in mind first, even when working on budget level guitars. The AF30 is an extremely reliable guitar that sounds beyond its price range.  I could see this being a good acoustic guitar option for a beginner or for someone who needs a guitar in the studio. So many guitars in this price range are dreadnoughts, but if you are looking for an OM shape body, then the AF30 is a fantastic option.

3. Yamaha C40 Classical Guitar Bundle Review

If you’re a classical player there are options under $300 for you too! Yamaha’s C40 is a focused and excellent sounding nylon string guitar that is great for learning or rehearsing on. All this is helped with the bundle accessories that come with it, making this a real bargain for beginners.

Body/Neck

The Yamaha C40 has a spruce top and mahogany back/sides. The neck is made of Nato paired with a rosewood fingerboard and bridge. The fingerboard doesn’t have fretmarkers, which can be challenging for beginners, but think of it like bowling without bumpers. You will learn your way around the neck that much faster because you have to.

The build quality is solid, which makes up for the undeniable traditional look. When I think of what a traditional classical guitar looks like, this is what comes to mind. It may not be the most inspiring looking guitar, but playability and sound matter more.

Hardware/Electronics

This is a classical guitar through and through, which means no pickups. The tuners are of traditional rear design and will make sure that the guitar stays in tune. This is an instrument that helps you get straight to the point: the music.

The bundle is worth getting on its own. It comes with literally everything you need to get started and then some. A clip-on tuner is always worth having, along with a set of strings and string winder (winding by hand is tough) are some of my favorites, but the biggest value is the hard case. This ensures perfect protection of your instrument wherever you go.

Sound

The combination of spruce top and mahogany back/sides is tried and true for classical guitars. Because the nylon strings are so warm, that spruce top gives the added high end it needs. Its overall sound is a little squeezed with some sparkling high end. It’s not the richest sounding guitar, but its good enough for getting started.

Spec Summary

  • Body Material: Spruce top, mahogany back/sides
  • Neck Material: Nato
  • Fingerboard Material: Rosewood
  • Pickups: None
  • Bridge Material: Rosewood

The perfect bundle for budding classical players

Final Thoughts on the Yamaha C40 Classical Guitar Bundle

Lots of bundles include the extra materials because the guitar isn’t really worth having. This is not the case with the Yamaha C40 Classical Guitar. Yamaha makes quality instruments at an attainable price point, and the fact that they include high quality bundle materials makes this an absolute steal for classical players and beginners alike.

4. Breedlove Discovery Concertina Review

Breedlove 6 String Discovery Concertina Sunburst CE Sitka-Mahogany Acoustic-Electric Cutaway Guitar, Right...
  • Solid Sitka Spruce Top, Mahogany (Okoume) Back & Sides, Mahogany (Nato) Neck
  • Ovangkol Fretboard, 24.75” Scale Length, 1.69" Nut Width
  • Ovangkol Bridge, Centered Dot Inlays, Black Binding
  • Fishman Presys 1 Electronics, Chrome Closed Gear Tuners

Breedlove is a company that I am pretty new to and I am quickly discovering that they make quality guitars, and their introductory “Discovery” line is an excellent option for those looking to get their first guitar. This is another guitar than manages to balance quality with cost by using a solid wood top with layered sides and back. This guitar not only sounds amazing, but I would rank it as the most eye-catching guitar on this list by far.

Body/Neck

The top is solid sitka spruce and the sides are layered mahogany. The sunburst finish is exquisite and makes it one of my favorite looking guitars. Even the wood grain on the back of the guitar looks stellar. While many guitars in this price range lack quality finishes and wood grains, this one stands out.

The neck is a slim profile piece of Nato, which is easy to play for those who have small hands. The 12th fret meets at the body, thereby reducing the scale length. It’s not to the point of being a travel guitar, the Concertina body shape with shorter scale length does make it comfortable to play in terms of size and string tension.

Hardware/Electronics

While there aren’t any electronics on this guitar, Breedlove does have a couple of hardware innovations that make this worth looking into. The most notable design innovation is the pinless bridge. While it may seem like a minor detail, the pinless bridge actually helps maintain structural integrity of the topwood. This is done by eliminating the need for drilling string holes into the top. This gives you better structure and additional resonance. Last, but not least, you don’t have to worry about keeping track of six bridge pins whenever you change strings.

Sound

Much of the quality of sound in this guitar can be attributed to the wood choice and body shape. Spruce has been used as a topwood for decades because of its resonance and focused, warm tone. This makes it a great option for strumming. You’ll notice that the tone is much more nuanced than that of a dreadnought, so if you are looking for an articulate tone this is a great choice.

Spec Summary

  • Body Material: Solid sitka spruce top, layered mahogany back/sides
  • Neck Material: Nato
  • Fingerboard Material: Ovangkol
  • Pickups: None
  • Bridge Material: Pinless ovangkol

An entry level guitar that will last

Final Thoughts on the Breedlove Discovery Concertina

While Breedlove advertises this as an “entry level” guitar, I think it has quality and tone to keep you satisfied well into your guitar playing journey. While the tone may not have as much character as I would prefer, the aesthetics, forward thinking bridge design, and build quality make up for this.

5. Ovation Applause AB24II-HB Review

Ovation Applause 6 String Acoustic-Electric Guitar, Right, Honey Burst, Mid-Depth (AB24II-HB)
33 Reviews
Ovation Applause 6 String Acoustic-Electric Guitar, Right, Honey Burst, Mid-Depth (AB24II-HB)
  • New for 2017
  • Ovation Lyrachord Mid-Depth Cutaway, Ovangkol Fingerboard
  • Applause by Ovation CE304T with three band EQ and built in tuner, Ovation Under the Saddle Piezo Pickup
  • Spruce top


No guitars with pickups? What is happening here??

Not to worry, because Ovation has a guitar for you that is weather/humidity resistant and that has electronics included. Say hello to your next budget friendly gigging guitar: Ovation’s Applause.

Body/Neck

The Applause AB24II-HB comes in many finish options, all of which come with a spruce top. My personal favorite is the Honey Burst.

The body is where things start to get interesting. Ovations come with a parabolic shaped back made of a material called Lyrachord. In an early sales brochure, Ovation explained that Lyrachord is “an aerospace material – resin-impregnated silicone fiber”. In short, it’s not wood!

This material is extremely durable and heat resistant, while also being shaped for a deep tone.

My only complaint about the round body shape is that it can fall out of your lap easily when playing sitting down, so you almost always need to have a guitar strap on hand.

This model has a fast, satin-finished mahogany soft ‘V’ neck that lends to grabbing chords. I find ‘V’ necks, though a bit less traditional, to be quite comfortable to play. I feel like I can really anchor my hand around the neck.

Hardware/Electronics

If you are in need of a gigging guitar on the absolute cheap, this is a guitar worth considering. It comes with an Applause by Ovation CE304T preamp and Under Saddle Piezo pickup. Piezos definitely have their own tone, sitting somewhere between electric and acoustic, but in gigging situations the audience will know that you are playing an acoustic. It is high definition, clear sounding and reliable. The Applause also has a 3 band EQ and onboard tuner for fine tuning in live situations. The bridge is also pinless, which means if you have to change a string at a gig you don’t need to keep track of bridge pins.

Sound

The rounded Lyrachord definitely gives this guitar a unique sound, but it isn’t too far away from a woody sound. I’m rather surprised. To my ear the tone is a little thinner, almost like the effect of strumming with a thin pick. That being said, this guitar still sounds natural and has remarkable note clarity whether it is plugged in or not.

Spec Summary

  • Body Material: Spruce top, parabolic Lyrachord body
  • Neck Material: Nato mahogany
  • Fingerboard Material: Ovangkol
  • Pickups: Applause by Ovation CE304T with Piezo pickup
  • Bridge Material: Pinless ovangkol

The cheapest gigging guitar worth buying

Final Thoughts on the Ovation Applause AB24II-HB

The body shape won’t be for everyone, but if you are truly on a tight budget and you need to get out there and play some songs, go for this guitar. Its weather resistant and can take a beating, while still delivering sound that is passable for live scenarios. It’s a workhorse that’s ready to be played.

6. Fender CD-60S Starter Pack Review

Fender CD-60 Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar - Sunburst Bundle with Hard Case, Strap, Tuner, Strings, Picks,...
80 Reviews
Fender CD-60 Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar - Sunburst Bundle with Hard Case, Strap, Tuner, Strings, Picks,...
  • Dreadnought body style
  • Spruce top with scalloped "X"-bracing
  • Mahogany back and sides
  • Mahogany neck

You have to start somewhere if you are a beginner. Many guitars are suitable for beginners, but you need more than just the guitar. Fender is a reputable brand that has you covered, giving you a classic body design with all the extra features you need to learn guitar, and without having to spend too much money through trial and error.

Body/Neck

The CD-60 is a dreadnought body shaped guitar made of all laminate woods that is available in a wide variety of finish options. If the color of your guitar is important to you, then this is a good place to start. The body is laminate spruce top with laminate mahogany back and sides. The neck is also mahogany in a C-shape. This is an easy to play shape that is used on many guitars. The fingerboard and bridge are made of walnut. Overall, not the highest quality materials, but they are formed in the shape of a guitar for just little enough money that you can get all the extra stuff with it.

Hardware/Electronics (The Extra Stuff)

Like many of the guitars on this list there aren’t any electronics onboard, so it isn’t a great choice for gigging, but it is a great choice for getting started. It comes with a strap, tuner, guitar picks, extra set of strings, instructional book and even an instructional DVD. One last thing, I am always thrilled when a guitar comes with a hard case, meaning you can take this to your lessons or anywhere without having to worry about it getting crushed.

Sound

You’ll start to notice the tonal differences between this guitar and the others on this list that incorporate solid wood for the top. This one sounds a bit boxy in comparison and not as resonant. That being said, it does have a crisp attack and good note definition, as well as plenty of volume from the dreadnought body shape. It’s also important to note that the guitar will stay in tune with its die cast tuners. Not all guitars in this price range can guarantee that.

Spec Summary

  • Body Material: Laminate spruce top, laminate mahogany back/sides
  • Neck Material: Mahogany
  • Fingerboard Material: Walnut
  • Pickups: None
  • Bridge Material: Walnut

A starter steel-string guitar with everything you need

Final Thoughts on the Fender CD-60S Starter Pack

This guitar made it onto the list mostly for the goodies that come with it, but the guitar is sturdy and enjoyable enough to be worth having. It is certainly a starter guitar and a good starter guitar at that.

 

7. Ibanez AEG10NII Nylon String Cutaway Acoustic-Electric Guitar Review

Ibanez AEG10NII Nylon String Cutaway Acoustic-Electric Guitar Tangerine
66 Reviews
Ibanez AEG10NII Nylon String Cutaway Acoustic-Electric Guitar Tangerine
  • "AEG Body Mahogany Neck Abalone Rosette Fishman Sonicore Pickup Ibanez AEQ-SP1 preamp with onboard tuner Balanced 1/4"" Output Rosewood Bridge and Fretboard Ibanez Ivorex II Nut and Saddle Case sold...
  • Mahogany Neck
  • Abalone Rosette
  • Fishman Sonicore Pickup

Rounding out the list is a nylon string guitar with pickups. I wasn’t going to leave the working classical guitarists out to dry! This is just another example of a great acoustic guitar from Ibanez at a price point that is hard to pass up.

Body/Neck

Most noticeable about the body of this guitar is its slim shape. It seems to play more like a steel string guitar than a classical. This narrow body shape is made with a spruce top and mahogany back/sides and neck. Unlike many classical guitars this fingerboard has fretmarkers, making it easier to keep track of where you are playing on the neck. I think that the tangerine finish is also really unique, which seems to be the theme for this design. This isn’t your classic classical guitar.

Hardware/Electronics

The AEG10NII has Ibanez’s AEQ-SP1 preamp system paired with a Fishman Sonitone pickup. It’s pretty amazing that you can get a guitar for under $300 with a Fishman pickup in it. These are top notch pickups for gigging with. The onboard tone controls include 3 band EQ and tuner as well. Overall this is a well-tested live rig that will work well for just about any gigging situation you could find yourself in.

Sound

On its own, the thin body is reflected in the tone. It is a little thinner sounding, but once it is plugged in the tone can be shaped to sound bigger than it really is if needed. I think this is a guitar that sounds better plugged in than it does naturally, but that is what this guitar is built for. It’s meant to be out at shows, not necessarily in small intimate gatherings.

Spec Summary

  • Body Material: Spruce top, mahogany back/sides
  • Neck Material: Mahogany
  • Fingerboard Material: Rosewood
  • Pickups: Ibanez AEQ-SP1 preamp/Fishman Sonitone pickup
  • Bridge Material: Rosewood

Don’t call it classical. A unique gigging nylon string guitar.

Final Thoughts on the Ibanez AEG10NII Nylon String Cutaway Acoustic-Electric Guitar

This is a unique guitar. It’s also a quality guitar. It must have come from Ibanez! This is a great option for someone in need of a nylon string guitar to play at gigs. It is comfortable to play and has the best onboard electronics that you can possibly expect for $300.

$300 Can Take You a Long Way If You Are Willing to Compromise

For the most part, you aren’t going to get a $300 guitar that sounds like a boutique instrument and that has ground-breaking electronics. Believe me, I tried looking for you.

That being said, there are still guitars worth looking at here.

Sure, some of them have less special woods in them or some don’t sound like top of the line guitars, but what matters is that your instrument meets your biggest needs. Each of the guitars on this list has some kind of advantage or a top quality to it that makes it worth having. That could be an excellent top wood, a unique finish, quality electronics, or all the extra stuff that a beginner would need.

In order for these guitars to have that one special quality at this price range, compromises have to be made elsewhere. It’s up to you to decide what is most important to you in a guitar and to then weigh that against the features the guitar doesn’t have.

$300 isn’t much in the guitar world unfortunately. You likely can’t have it all for that much money. However, you can still find a guitar that costs this much or less that ends up meaning a lot more for you if you look hard enough and are willing to compromise.

Thank you for reading and have fun playing guitar!

Further Reading:

Last update on 2020-08-10 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

About Davis Bader

Davis Wilton Bader is a professional guitarist/writer based out of St. Louis, MO. He plays in the bands Lumet and The Outskirts.

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