5 Best Acoustic Guitars Under $850
Are you a non-beginner, but also don’t want to spend an arm and a leg on an acoustic guitar upgrade? People often ask for “something that isn’t super expensive, but is also a step-up from what I have.” The guitars that fall within that description typically run anywhere in the $400-$900 range. So what are the best acoustic guitars in that price range? Here’s what I think the best-sounding, greatest-feeling, and most valuable options are on the acoustic guitar market today.
1. Taylor GS Mini
The Taylor GS Mini is an excellent choice for anyone who is looking for a smaller, more portable acoustic guitar that compares in sound to their prized dreadnought. The scaled-down design makes it exceptionally comfortable to hold, so you can easily pick it up and lean back into the couch the minute a catchy song idea pops in your head. The GS Mini is available in several options, tailored to further to suit your tone needs. For $499, the GS Mini Mahogany is the most stripped-down, no-nonsense version, delivering rich, warm tones. The GS Mini-e Koa model turns things up a notch in appearance, with a Hawaiian Koa top and ES-B electronics. There is also a spruce top version with walnut back and sides for $649, as well as their most recent development – the GS Mini-e acoustic bass.
All GS Minis feature Taylor’s famous easy-playing neck, and include a hard-sided gig bag for safe, lightweight transportation. The reason I chose the GS Mini as one of the best acoustic guitars under $850 is the variety of choices, versatility, and overall value. However, if you can’t sacrifice the true projection of a larger-bodied guitar, you should give the 114ce a try. It’s a dreadnought cutaway with electronics, includes a hard bag, and rings up at $899.
2. Seagull S6 Cedar
Like the GS Mini, the Seagull S6 Cedar is also available in a variety of options. Seagull acoustic guitars are well-known for their chunkier necks, creating wider string spacing, making them ideal for finger-style picking. The S6 Cedar Original models sport the chunkier 1.8″ nut width, but there is also a SLIM model with a 1.72″ nut available for those who prefer a smaller neck.
Seagull S6 Cedar models are crafted in Canada, and are crafted with select solid cedar tops and wild cherry back and sides. They feature silver leaf maple necks, and nearly every model sports a traditional dreadnought body with a semi-gloss custom finish. Cedar is a great tone wood option for those who want to cut back on unnecessary brightness, and want a guitar that sounds organic, or “earthy.”
For those who like to hangout on stage, the S6 Cedar line offers options with built-in Godin Quantum I electronics (QIT). Most of the models keep it “all-natural” with the beautiful tinted blonde color of their cedar top, but if you want your guitar’s appearance to really turn some heads – go for the Burnt Umber – a beautiful, deep sunburst variation.
3. Yamaha LS16 ARE
All-solid and innovative, the Yamaha LS16 ARE is a great choice for anyone trying to avoid sticker shock, but still wants top-notch quality. The “S” in the model number represents “small body,” which fits in the “concert,” or “OM” category. This particular guitar has the depth of a traditional dreadnought guitar, but with slightly shrunken bouts to increase comfort. It’s amazing how much projection this guitar is able to maintain despite its smaller frame.
The “ARE” in the model number stands for “Acoustic Resonance Enhancement.” This technology was originally used by Yamaha on their violins in the ’90s. It’s an organic process that is used to age the wood and remove any oils or resins that you would find on a naturally aging guitar. The LS16 features an ARE-treated solid Engelmann spruce top, with solid rosewood on the back and sides. When combined with the ARE treatment, these tone woods produce outstanding resonance and balance.
Another unique feature on the LS16 is the SRT Zero Impact pickup. This passive under-saddle system features a separate piezo element for each individual string. Since the SRT Zero Impact system doesn’t include any controls, you’ll need to invest in an external preamp to make your sound adjustments. Some players prefer this method anyways, since external preamps typically have a wider range of features than the preamps you find mounted on a guitar. There is also no structural integrity lost with a passive under-saddle system. We suggest an LR Baggs Para Acoustic DI, because it includes a variety of features optimized specifically for acoustic guitars.
4. Martin DRS2
The Martin DRS2 hails from the Road Series, “where tone and value intersect.” The series consists of all-solid wood guitars that were built to defy the rigors of the road. All-solid wood acoustics are hard to come by under $1,000, but the DRS2 pops up on the radar at $829 – including a hard shell case.
The DRS2 is a dreadnought that’s constructed of a classic tone wood combination: solid spruce top and sapele back and sides. This combo delivers truly balanced tone. It also features an allover satin finish, a 1 3/4″ nut width, and a Performing Artist neck shape with a high performance taper. It’s equipped with Fishman Sonitone electronics, which is a simple and effective system that features sound hole-mounted volume and tone controls. These systems are great if you need a simple way to adjust your sound without obstructing the integrity or construction of the instrument. No extra holes needed!
Everything about this guitar screams “traditional,” so it’s the perfect choice for players who want an acoustic they can inject their own character into. The DRS2 combines quality, and tremendous value in a way that many other guitars in its price range don’t.
5. Art & Lutherie Roadhouse
Art & Lutherie guitars are made in Canada, and are kin to the well-known Seagull brand. While they live up to the same quality standards as their brothers and sisters, they offer something completely different in terms of style. Their unique appearance really sets them apart from any other acoustic guitar, no matter the price. Colored guitars may jump out at you on a wall full of Naturals and Bursts, but they don’t always elicit a positive reaction. We’ve all seen that blue acoustic hanging up in our local guitar shop and thought to ourselves, “Wow, that’s really blue.”
Art & Lutherie guitars are colorful, but encompass a truly rustic vibe that isn’t overbearing. “Rustic” is not only a good way to describe their appearance, but is also a great way to describe their sound. All models feature a select pressure-tested solid spruce top with wild cherry back and sides, which help these guitars project a truly raw, organic tone.
The Roadhouse is their parlor-sized model, and is the only option that includes a gig bag for the same price as the others. Its size makes it a great “couch guitar,” and a go-to option for travel. It’s available with or without electronics, and is offered in Tennessee Red, Faded Black, Bourbon Burst, Faded Cream, and Denim Blue. The Americana model may be a better fit for those of you who prefer the boomy projection of a dreadnought, but overall, each model truly has a lot to offer.