God bless the child who is in the market for an acoustic guitar! Without a doubt, this is the golden age of guitars, the absolute best time ever to be looking for a creamy, sweet, stringed beauty.
The popular brands of ultra-fine guitars – Martin, Gibson, Taylor, etc. – are almost always awesome in sound quality and playability. Their top of the liners are expensive but they all have models in the $600 to $1,000 range. There are other large or larger companies that are not as well known as the Martins and Taylors but offer comparable, remarkable quality and support. See Breedlove, Larrivee, and others.
What seems like a shamelessly well kept secret, however, are the scores of small to very small guitar workshops belonging to virtually unknown luthiers who produce very expensive but ultra, ultra fine quality handmade flattop and other guitars made of Rosewood, Koa, Maple, Mahogany and so on. I am talking about brands such as Oriskany, Sheppard, Galloup, Robinson, Kevin Ryan, Hoffman, Bourgeois, McPherson, Goodall, Collings, Huss and Dalton and many, many others. These instruments are outrageously crafted from the utter finest materials. They sound vast if you know what I mean. They are breathtakingly beautiful and play like, well, shall we say, warm buttered cream on an intoxicating spring day (?).
Not for the meek of budget though, these singular treasures usually start in the range of at least $3,000 to $4,000 and if you add extras like, say, a neck or headstock, you can go as far as the eye can see…really -$15,000, 20,000 and beyond. If you are one of those extremely passionate players who has been very careful with finances over the years, (or has a rich daddy) you would be nuts not to at least shop some rare exotics.
But for this forum, the true fertile ground lies in the great brands known to almost every guitarist – Takamine, Gretsch, Epiphone, Guild, Yamaha, Alvarez, Fender, Ibanez, Tacoma, Washburn, and many not so well known companies like Blueridge, Seagull, Godin, etc, etc. The combination of computer assisted machines and cheap third world labor (for better or for worse) provides quality at prices that were unheard of 20 years ago. A guitar comparable to one costing $1,000 twenty years ago could actually be found today for as little as $400 or so. The trick is to get out and try lots of guitars. Don’t be impressed by a brand, stay open minded and let your ear and hands show you the way…but play a lot of guitars!
To get an idea of what’s out there start at acousticguitar.com. Any edition of Acoustic Guitar Magazine or its website will reference scores and scores of brands with beautiful photos in articles, ads, comparisons, spec sheets, profiles, etc.
Good luck to you lucky bastards looking to buy a guitar.