In addition to being a private violin teacher, Alecia started writing music-related articles 3 years ago and has been enjoying this experience greatly. Loves quilting and scrapbooking in her free time.
Marcus has a vast experience in digital audio and sound design. Thanks to his knowledge, he actively helps musicians with technical problems, improving their audio quality and even promoting their tracks so that thousands of listeners could enjoy some really good music.
Last updated: August 04, 2023
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High-end acoustic guitars are the epitome of musical craftsmanship, blending aesthetic appeal with remarkable sonic quality.
These guitars represent not just an instrument but a journey into the profound depths of music and an unparalleled realm of melodic experiences.
This guide explores the world of luxury acoustic guitars and what makes them a class apart. These guitars are ideal for musicians who’ve mastered the art of strumming as a testament to their skill and passion. They embody the pinnacle of acoustic excellence and provide superior resonance, tone, and longevity. Whether you’re a seasoned performer, a discerning collector, or an enthusiastic hobbyist, this comprehensive review aims to aid you in finding the perfect instrument for your melodious pursuit.
The Martin D-28 is a luthier’s dream come to life. It is a classic dreadnought-style acoustic guitar featuring a solid Sitka spruce top and East Indian rosewood back and sides. This instrument is renowned for its rich aesthetics, which are matched by an equally stunning sound profile. Its well-proportioned body and polished neck allow for a comfortable grip, while the high-quality tuners ensure precise tuning.
When it comes to performance, the Martin D-28 truly shines. It delivers a balanced tonality that suits a wide array of music styles. The rich bass response provides a firm musical foundation, the clear mids contribute to a well-rounded body, and the crisp highs lend an expressive edge to each note. Its large dreadnought body also offers powerful projection and volume, which are key for live performances.
The Martin D-28 is perfect for musicians who demand top-tier sound quality in both studio settings and live performances. Its robust sound can be fully appreciated when recorded with a high-quality microphone or when amplified on stage. Furthermore, its versatility and dependability make it an excellent choice for professional performers who require a consistent instrument for their daily practice and gigs.
Among its competitors, the Martin D-28 has a unique edge. Its rich history and pedigree set it apart. This instrument has been the choice of numerous legendary guitarists and remains popular in the bluegrass and folk music scenes. The Martin D-28 is not just a guitar but a timeless piece of musical history that has shaped countless songs and performances.
However, while the Martin D-28 boasts numerous strengths, it might not be the best choice for everyone. Its dreadnought size might be overwhelming for beginners or players with a smaller build, and its price tag puts it in the high-end category. That said, for the seasoned guitarist seeking an investment that delivers superior sound, longevity, and a piece of music history, the Martin D-28 is well worth considering.
The Taylor 814ce is a well-rounded, high-end acoustic guitar combining traditional craftsmanship and modern advancements. This grand auditorium guitar features a solid Sitka spruce top, Indian rosewood back and sides, and a tropical mahogany neck, making for a visually striking and durable instrument. Its body shape provides a comfortable playing experience, while the addition of the patented Taylor Expression System 2 pickup system allows for incredible amplified sound.
The Taylor 814ce is known for its clear, articulate sound and versatility. It delivers a wide dynamic range, allowing players to extract both gentle whispers and powerful roars from the guitar. It has a bright, resonant tone with impressive sustain, making it ideal for fingerstyle players. Moreover, it’s extremely responsive, accurately capturing the nuances of different playing styles.
This instrument is excellent for recording and live performances. Its rich, detailed sound comes across beautifully in recordings, while the Expression System 2 ensures the natural acoustic sound is faithfully reproduced when plugged in. The Taylor 814ce is an excellent choice for musicians who need an instrument capable of switching between solo performances and full band arrangements.
In comparison to other high-end acoustic guitars, the Taylor 814ce shines with its blend of tradition and innovation. Taylor’s commitment to quality craftsmanship and forward-thinking design results in a guitar that sounds great and offers easy playability and amplified versatility.
However, like any high-end instrument, the Taylor 814ce may not be ideal for beginners or those on a tight budget. Its advanced features and intricate design command a higher price. But for those seeking a versatile, top-tier guitar that can perform admirably in various settings, the Taylor 814ce is worth every penny.
Next in our roundup is the Gibson J-200 Standard, a guitar that exudes prestige and grandeur. Known as the “King of the Flat-tops,” this guitar boasts a Sitka spruce top, flame maple back and sides, and a two-piece maple neck. Its iconic mustache bridge, ornate pickguard, and crown inlays make this instrument as visually impressive as it is sonically.
Performance-wise, the Gibson J-200 Standard is a powerhouse. It offers a deep, robust tone with a strong emphasis on the lower frequencies. Its large body size enables it to deliver tremendous projection and volume, making it ideal for those looking to fill a room with rich, vibrant sound. Whether strummed or picked, each note rings out with clarity and resonance.
If you’re a performer who thrives on stage or in the recording studio, the Gibson J-200 Standard could be your perfect match. It not only stands out visually but its voluminous output and robust tonality can easily hold their own in ensemble settings. This guitar is especially popular among rock and country musicians, but it’s versatile enough to handle a range of styles.
Its distinctive, rich sound and striking aesthetic set the Gibson J-200 Standard apart from other high-end acoustic guitars. It’s an instrument that commands attention, both for its looks and for its impressive sonic capabilities. Plus, it has a legacy that few other models can match, having been played by legends such as Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan.
The Gibson J-200 Standard may not be for everyone despite its numerous strengths. Its large body size can be cumbersome for some players, and its bold, bass-heavy tone may not suit those seeking a more balanced sound. Additionally, this guitar is a significant investment. However, if you’re in the market for a visually stunning, historically significant instrument that delivers in terms of power and tonality, the Gibson J-200 Standard is an excellent choice.
The Guild F-55 is a stellar high-end acoustic guitar steeped in tradition and fine craftsmanship. Sporting a jumbo body style, this instrument has a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Indian rosewood back and sides. With its elegant white neck and headstock binding, mother-of-pearl, and abalone inlays, the Guild F-55 is a feast for the eyes.
In terms of performance, the Guild F-55 excels with its resonant and full-bodied tone. The large jumbo body creates a deep, rich bass, while the unique bracing pattern ensures clear mids and highs. This guitar’s impressive projection and sustain make it versatile for various playing styles and musical genres.
The Guild F-55 is a standout choice for serious performers and recording artists. The guitar’s powerful projection and well-rounded tone lend themselves well to studio recording and live performances alike. The built-in D-TAR Wave-Length pickup and preamp system also offer great plug-and-play capabilities for stage use.
The remarkable attention to detail in its construction sets the Guild F-55 apart from its competition. From the choice of tonewoods to the unique bracing pattern and built-in electronics, every element is designed to create an instrument of superior sound and playability.
Like any high-end instrument, the Guild F-55 may not be ideal for everyone. Its larger size and weight could be challenging for smaller players, and its price point puts it in the high-end category. However, for those seeking a guitar that combines tradition, craftsmanship, and versatility, the Guild F-55 is a fantastic option.
Why is it special?
Excellent craftsmanship and attention to detail
Rich, well-rounded tone
Great for stage and studio use
Versatile for various playing styles and genres
What are the flaws?
Larger size may not be suitable for smaller players
For those looking for a more affordable entry into the world of high-end acoustic guitars, the PRS SE Angelus A20E is a worthy contender. Despite its more accessible price point, this guitar offers some of the features and quality construction one would expect from a more expensive model.
The PRS SE Angelus A20E features a solid Sitka spruce top and mahogany back and sides, delivering a warm, balanced tone. Its understated aesthetics, highlighted by the classic PRS bird inlays, give it a classy and timeless look.
Performance-wise, the PRS SE Angelus A20E offers great playability. Its bright and clear tone makes it versatile enough to handle various styles of music. The Fishman GT1 electronics provide a natural amplified sound, perfect for stage performance or recording.
Its excellent value for money sets the PRS SE Angelus A20E apart from other high-end acoustic guitars. Despite its lower price, it doesn’t compromise on sound or build quality. This makes it a great choice for intermediate players wanting to upgrade or even professionals seeking a reliable backup guitar.
While the PRS SE Angelus A20E is a great entry-level high-end acoustic guitar, it might not satisfy those looking for the unique tonal properties and intricate details that more expensive models offer. However, for its price, it provides a solid performance and a high level of quality.
What makes it special?
Great value for a high-end acoustic guitar
Versatile sound and good playability
Good for various music styles
What cons did we find?
Might not satisfy players looking for unique tonal properties
Less intricate details compared to more expensive models
The Fender American Acoustasonic Telecaster represents a departure from traditional acoustic guitar design. This innovative instrument combines the tonal versatility of an electric guitar with an acoustic’s resonance and natural sound. It features a hollow Telecaster body shape with a solid Sitka spruce top, mahogany back, and sides.
When it comes to performance, the Acoustasonic Telecaster stands out with its wide range of tonal options. The instrument’s unique Acoustic Engine, developed in collaboration with Fishman, allows players to blend between ten different voicings, spanning from full-bodied acoustic tones to electric guitar sounds.
This guitar might be the best option for the experimental musician who wants the ability to switch between acoustic and electric tones effortlessly. Its versatile nature makes it suitable for live performances where a variety of tones are required.
The Acoustasonic Telecaster’s distinct feature set is what sets it apart from other high-end acoustic guitars. Its design innovation allows for a level of tonal versatility that few other acoustic guitars can match. This is particularly beneficial for players who perform in multiple genres or settings and require a diverse sonic palette.
The Acoustasonic Telecaster might not suit purists who prefer the traditional acoustic guitar experience. It may also fall short for those seeking the nuanced tonal characteristics of a dedicated high-end acoustic. However, this guitar is a cutting-edge choice for the adventurous player who values versatility and the fusion of acoustic and electric tones.
Why are we impressed?
Unparalleled tonal versatility
Combines acoustic and electric guitar sounds
Innovative design and features
Great for multi-genre musicians
What negatives must you be aware of?
May not satisfy acoustic guitar purists
Might lack the nuanced tonal characteristics of a dedicated high-end acoustic.
Things to Consider
Choosing the best high-end acoustic guitar is a journey that marries personal preferences, playing style, and budget considerations. While it might seem overwhelming, given the vast array of choices, understanding key aspects of these exquisite instruments can help simplify your decision. This comprehensive guide is designed to lead you through that journey, breaking down critical factors to consider when making such a significant investment.
Arguably, one of the most critical aspects of an acoustic guitar’s construction is the selection of tonewoods – the specific types of wood used to build the instrument. The choice of tonewood significantly influences the guitar’s tone, volume, resonance, and overall aesthetic appeal. Different types of wood produce different tonal characteristics, affecting everything from the richness and depth of the sound to the clarity of individual notes.
Spruce, particularly Sitka spruce, is a commonly used wood for guitar tops, also known as soundboards. It’s renowned for its strength-to-weight ratio, which allows it to vibrate and resonate freely, producing a bright, clear tone with good projection. Our Editor’s Choice, the Martin D-28, features a Sitka spruce top that contributes to its balanced, versatile sound.
Rosewood, often used for back and sides, is treasured for its rich, broad tonal range. It offers deep lows and sparkly highs, creating a resonant, well-rounded sound. The East Indian rosewood back and sides of the Martin D-28 contribute to its full-bodied, mature tone.
Mahogany is another popular tonewood known for its warm and woody tone. It has a less complex tonal spectrum than rosewood but produces a sound with a strong midrange, making it ideal for blues and folk music. Mahogany is used for both tops and back and sides of guitars.
Maple is characterized by its clear, transparent tone. It has a lower resonance than other tonewoods, resulting in fewer overtones and a focus on the fundamental note. Maple is typically used for the back and sides of the guitar, like in the Gibson J-200 Standard, offering a sound that cuts through in a mix.
Grasping Body Size and Shape
The size and shape of an acoustic guitar significantly influence its sound and playability. From small, parlor-style guitars to larger dreadnought or jumbo models, each body type offers a unique tonal palette and playing experience.
Parlor, Concert, and Auditorium Shapes
Parlor guitars are the smallest, known for their comfortable playability and balanced, delicate sound, making them perfect for fingerstyle playing and light strumming. Moving up in size, concert, and auditorium guitars offer more volume and bass response while retaining a balanced tone. The Taylor 814ce, with its Grand Auditorium body shape, offers a sound that is well-balanced across the tonal spectrum and suitable for a variety of playing techniques.
Dreadnought and Jumbo Shapes
Dreadnought guitars, such as the Martin D-28, are among the most popular due to their loud, bass-heavy sound that doesn’t sacrifice midrange and treble clarity. Like the Gibson J-200 Standard, Jumbo guitars are the largest, producing a robust, powerful sound with a pronounced low-end response. Their large size, however, may not be comfortable for all players.
Delving into Playability
Playability refers to how easy and comfortable a guitar is to play, which is crucial for both beginners and seasoned players. Factors affecting playability include neck shape and width, action (the distance between the strings and the fretboard), and the guitar’s overall ergonomics.
Many high-end guitars, like the Taylor 814ce, have a slim, tapered neck profile that is comfortable for a variety of hand sizes. Moreover, these premium guitars often come with a professional setup, ensuring optimal action for smooth and effortless playing.
Paying Attention to Aesthetics and Details
High-end acoustic guitars aren’t just about excellent sound and playability; they also feature intricate details and aesthetic touches that set them apart from their lower-end counterparts. This includes premium inlays, binding, rosettes, and finishes that enhance the guitar’s overall look. The Guild F-55, for example, features beautiful abalone and pearl inlays that contribute to its luxurious appearance.
If you plan to perform or record, consider a high-end acoustic-electric guitar with a built-in pickup and preamp for easy amplification. These models, like the PRS SE Angelus A20E and the Fender American Acoustasonic Telecaster, often include onboard tone shaping controls and even built-in tuners, offering convenience and versatility for the modern player.
Investing in a Quality Case
Protecting your investment is crucial, especially with a high-end acoustic guitar. Most high-end models come with a hardshell case designed to fit the specific shape and size of the guitar. These cases offer the best protection against impacts, temperature, and humidity changes, ensuring the longevity of your instrument.
Remembering Resale Value
High-end acoustic guitars are not only great musical instruments; they can also be excellent investments. Well cared for guitars from reputable brands often hold their value well and may even appreciate over time. Some, like vintage Martin and Gibson models, have become highly sought-after collector’s items, fetching impressive prices on the resale market.
High-end guitars have superior craftsmanship, premium materials (especially tonewoods), excellent playability, and nuanced, rich sound. They often feature intricate detailing and aesthetics and come from brands with a legacy of quality, such as Martin, Taylor, and Gibson.
Yes, for many players, the investment in a high-end acoustic guitar is worth it. The quality of materials and craftsmanship contribute to a superior sound and playing experience that lower-priced guitars often can’t match. Additionally, high-end guitars tend to have better resale value, and some may even appreciate over time.
Proper maintenance is crucial to preserve the quality and longevity of your instrument. This includes regular cleaning, changing strings as needed, and storing the guitar in a controlled environment to protect it from extreme temperatures and humidity. High-end acoustic guitars, like the Martin D-28 or the Taylor 814ce, typically come with specific care instructions.
This decision depends on your needs. If you primarily play at home or in small, intimate settings, a pure acoustic guitar like the Guild F-55 may suit your needs. However, if you perform live or plan to record, an acoustic-electric guitar like the PRS SE Angelus A20E or the Fender American Acoustasonic Telecaster provides the versatility of playing unplugged or amplified.
The guitar’s body shape and size significantly influence its tone and playability. Larger bodies, like dreadnought or jumbo, produce a louder, more robust sound, while smaller bodies tend to have a more balanced tone. Your right body shape also depends on your comfort and playing style.
The quest for the best high-end acoustic guitar is a personal journey, with each instrument offering a unique blend of tonal characteristics, playability, and aesthetics. After careful consideration, our Editor’s Choice is the Martin D-28. This iconic dreadnought features premium tonewoods and superior craftsmanship, resulting in a versatile, full-bodied sound that has shaped generations of music.
Not far behind is the Taylor 814ce, a beautifully crafted instrument that delivers a well-balanced tonal output perfect for a variety of styles and techniques. It blends traditional craftsmanship with modern playability and design, making it a favorite among many players.
Also noteworthy is the Gibson J-200 Standard, a jumbo-sized guitar that delivers a big, robust sound, excellent projection, and a classic, distinctive look.
Whether you choose the Martin, Taylor, Gibson, or any of the other exceptional guitars on this list, you can be confident in the quality and performance of these best high-end acoustic guitars. Remember, the best guitar for you is the one that resonates with your playing style, aesthetic preferences, and, most importantly, your musical voice.