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Digital_Idyll

Acoustic guitars - how cheap is too cheap?

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I'm looking to get back into acoustic guitar and have been checking reviews and reading about guitars in general, trying to wrap my head around what's important and what isn't. I came across this page, which seems like it has a lot of good info about acoustic guitars, but I don't know how much is legit:

https://www.middle8reviews.com/cheap-acoustic-guitars-beginners-reviews/

I'm particularly interested in the BEST ACOUSTIC GUITAR FOR BEGINNERS UNDER $300 section. is a guitar at that price point really any good? It's kinda my price range, so I want to believe but I don't want to waste my money on something that I won't be able to play eiether.

 

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Looked over the site, generally good info.  “Best” is always a charged word mainly used by people with a financial stake, but the guitars mentioned are good inexpensive guitars, suitable for beginners.

Good luck with the site!

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The list is decidedly off-kilter to my eye and experience. Suggesting a Seagull S6 is a good beginner guitar tells me the rater is not a player with the experience necessary to take into account the physics of the guitar itself in the context of a new player, such as neck heft, and the S6 neck is rather hefty for a beginner. The numerical rating scores are, therefore, simple optics for simple minds but otherwise useless.

A standard rule of thumb for suggesting a guitar to an entry-level person is to get out to the stores and get personal with them. Your hand has to place that F chord, not mine. You have to quickly and fluidly shift from a D-maj to a Bm to an A-maj in three strums (one per chord) and the guitar that best suits that is the one you need to consider buying.

Sound is secondary to the mechanics of developing skills and the best guitar for developing skills is the one you need to buy.

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3 hours ago, Gibson29 said:

Looked over the site, generally good info.  “Best” is always a charged word mainly used by people with a financial stake, but the guitars mentioned are good inexpensive guitars, suitable for beginners.

Good luck with the site!

Yeah, I know. I feel like "best" is more of an attention grabber. Good to know the list is solid.

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38 minutes ago, Idunno said:

The list is decidedly off-kilter to my eye and experience. Suggesting a Seagull S6 is a good beginner guitar tells me the rater is not a player with the experience necessary to take into account the physics of the guitar itself in the context of a new player, such as neck heft, and the S6 neck is rather hefty for a beginner. The numerical rating scores are, therefore, simple optics for simple minds but otherwise useless.

A standard rule of thumb for suggesting a guitar to an entry-level person is to get out to the stores and get personal with them. Your hand has to place that F chord, not mine. You have to quickly and fluidly shift from a D-maj to a Bm to an A-maj in three strums (one per chord) and the guitar that best suits that is the one you need to consider buying.

Sound is secondary to the mechanics of developing skills and the best guitar for developing skills is the one you need to buy.

Thanks for the input Idunno. That's definitely something to consider...once the Covid Quarantine ends. :classic_sad:

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There are plenty of decent guitars in that price range. By all means get out and handle some guitars. Include some that are above your budget so you have a yardstick. Try pressing the strings down. It will be easier on some guitars than on others and a guitar that doesn't fight you will make playing more enjoyable. A "setup" can improve playability but why not get something that plays easily out of the box? Note how the guitar's body feels. Is it comfortable? Too big? Does it feel tiny? Grasp the neck. Does it feel like a telephone pole? Are the strings too close together? Too far apart? If you have a knowledgeable friend all the better. I wouldn't recommend a used guitar unless you know what to look for or, again, have a knowledgeable friend who can help. Best of luck in your endeavor. Let us know if you have any more questions.

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This forum is where you will get the best suggestions on inexpensive guitar. Other than moderators (like wonderful Phil), none of us gets a dime for spouting our views and opinions. Who know what financial considerations, level of expertise are at those "best" sites.

"None of us is as smart as all of us" & much more "all" here

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Posted (edited)

Once it's safe again, I'd get to a place where you can try some and ideally bring someone who can play so you can hear what's coming out the front.

The shape of the guitar has a huge impact on the general sound and not always how you might think. Jumbo acoustics are all about mids, whereas dreadnoughts often have big bass and treble and a generally louder voice. 

If you want a really boxy, Ed Sheeran sound you want a little one like he uses. 

Edited by Grant Harding

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Look for a Solid wood Top at least ( solid back & side to if you can). Also there are tons of great used one and usually you can get them at around 50% of new. 

 

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On 3/23/2020 at 6:27 PM, Emory said:

 Other than moderators (like wonderful Phil), none of us gets a dime for spouting our views and opinions. 

Actually, Moderators, like myself, Isaac, Davie, etc., do this altruistically [okay, for free, voluntarily]. Admins [like wonderful Phil and Dendy] are remunerated, but they do more 'stuff'...

 

Although I do agree that getting out and trying guitars is the best way to find one, in these bizarre times, that is not an option.

A quick look at that list made me chuckle.

D_I, you say 'getting back into' it, so I will take it you already have some experience, and are not a 'beginner', but are looking for an inexpensive steel string guitar, yes?

I would stay way from the Fender acoustics, personally, never played one that sounded good to me. The Yamaha on the list is a great choice, but there are other Yamaha guitars in the same price range, and I've never played a bad Yamaha [mediocre, maybe, but not 'bad']. The Epiphone line does have some decent models in the 'sub $300' category, as does Luna, Ibanez, Gretsch [the 'Jim Dandy', not a great guitar, but worth $170...ask Phil!] and a few other manufacturers missing from the list.

Are you only interested in 'new'? If not, when you narrow your list, go on Reverb.com and look, there are new and used guitars there...

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I just Bought a Yamaha AC5M ,I looked and played every guitar i could in my area and all you tube reviews. I was looking for and playing a AC3M/R and liked the balance and tone ease of playing and very good intonation. If you buy a open box/warehouse reduction sale you can get 15%-20 off normal price a used 35%-50% off . On a used guitar as long as you take care of it will hold the value that you paid for it +or- a few %.If you get used you can play a great guitar.

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1 hour ago, jtr654 said:

I just Bought a Yamaha AC5M ,I looked and played every guitar i could in my area and all you tube reviews. I was looking for and playing a AC3M/R and liked the balance and tone ease of playing and very good intonation. If you buy a open box/warehouse reduction sale you can get 15%-20 off normal price a used 35%-50% off . On a used guitar as long as you take care of it will hold the value that you paid for it +or- a few %.If you get used you can play a great guitar.

Open box/warehouse reduction generally means buying online. I think it's important, especially fore a beginner, to get his/her hands on the guitar first. And while it's possible to do that at a local brick and mortar store they don't make any money if you try first at their store and then buy online. A used guitar can be a great bargain for someone who knows what to look for but most beginners don't. Finally, your AC5M was $1300 new and while that may qualify as "cheap" for some folks in general it doesn't and I'd be hard pressed to recommend one to a beginner.

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Posted (edited)

When I was looking for a guitar for my son, I also came across similar site with acoustic guitars under $300 https://pickadvisor.org/best-acoustic-guitar-under-300/ I’ve read the reviews on listed guitars and bought Epiphone DR-100. There were a lot of reviews just exactly from newbies as my son who had this guitar and were pleased with its sound. My son is really happy with it. I can’t describe his excitement when every day he spends the whole evening practicing.

Edited by lanwill

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As long as he likes the guitar and is playing it, that is all that matters!  Too often we hear about folks who are 'recommended' a guitar who know nothing about guitars, and the instrument is unplayable...cheese slicer action, bowed  or twisted necks...and they do not know how to get it fixed, so it goes under the bed, into the attic/basement/closet/tool shed, and never seen again...and the owner is totally turned off to learning guitar because it was too hard...

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47 minutes ago, daddymack said:

As long as he likes the guitar and is playing it, that is all that matters!  Too often we hear about folks who are 'recommended' a guitar who know nothing about guitars, and the instrument is unplayable...cheese slicer action, bowed  or twisted necks...and they do not know how to get it fixed, so it goes under the bed, into the attic/basement/closet/tool shed, and never seen again...and the owner is totally turned off to learning guitar because it was too hard...

 

When I reviewed the Epiphone PRO-1 over five years ago, I was initially suspicious about some of the "it's designed to be easy to play" marketing that I saw, but when I tried it out I was surprised by how decent it was, especially in light of its very low price. And yes, it does actually have a combination of features that make it a bit easier than usual to play than a lot of acoustic guitars. Because of that, in my review conclusions, I wondered why anyone would risk buying a used guitar for a neophyte player when something like the PRO-1 was available brand-new for only $120. 

If you want something nicer, that's fine - and I can understand how a nice guitar can be inspirational to some people - but there's no way I'd recommend someone spend $100 or so on something at a pawn shop or from the local Craigslist and taking a chance on it if they don't know anything about guitars. If you can't take someone with you who plays to try it out, you're probably better off buying new. And if you don't want to spend a lot of money on a first guitar, you could do a lot worse than that PRO-1. 

 

 

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On 3/25/2020 at 7:15 PM, DeepEnd said:

Open box/warehouse reduction generally means buying online. I think it's important, especially fore a beginner, to get his/her hands on the guitar first. And while it's possible to do that at a local brick and mortar store they don't make any money if you try first at their store and then buy online. A used guitar can be a great bargain for someone who knows what to look for but most beginners don't. Finally, your AC5M was $1300 new and while that may qualify as "cheap" for some folks in general it doesn't and I'd be hard pressed to recommend one to a beginner.

I did buy it from GC where I tried the A3 models. They were very nice but decided to order the AC5M ( no one stocks the 5 series in my area ) . All I really was trying to say is buy the best you can afford and only buy once. Used on solid wood guitars are going to be worth what you paid for it.

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On 3/27/2020 at 12:23 PM, jtr654 said:

All I really was trying to say is buy the best you can afford and only buy once.

Good advice for seasoned, committed players, not so much for a beginner. YMMV.

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On 3/28/2020 at 2:42 PM, DeepEnd said:

Good advice for seasoned, committed players, not so much for a beginner. YMMV.

 

I tend to agree with you. If you're sure you're in it for the long haul, then I absolutely agree with jtr - don't waste your money getting something that is "kind of" what you want - buy what you really want to begin with if at all possible. Otherwise, you'll lose money when you eventually decide to sell / trade in your "make due" instrument to get what you really wanted anyway.

But for beginners - especially for parents who may be considering getting an instrument for a child or teenager that they're not sure is going to stick with it, the trick is to get something decent enough that it won't impede their progress or that discourages them from trying to to play and practice because it's basically unplayable, but not so expensive that you're going to lose a bunch of money if your child loses interest. 

 

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BTW, I have a relatively "cheap" guitar incoming - it will probably arrive today. It's a Fender CN-60S nylon string. They sell for $200 new. It's got the narrowest neck of any nylon string guitar I could find, which is the main reason I wanted to try it. It's supposed to have a solid spruce top, and laminated mahogany back and sides. We'll see how it goes. I'll report back once I've had a chance to sterilize the cardboard box, open it up and give it a try. 

 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Phil O'Keefe said:

BTW, I have a relatively "cheap" guitar incoming - it will probably arrive today. It's a Fender CN-60S nylon string. They sell for $200 new. It's got the narrowest neck of any nylon string guitar I could find, which is the main reason I wanted to try it. It's supposed to have a solid spruce top, and laminated mahogany back and sides. We'll see how it goes. I'll report back once I've had a chance to sterilize the cardboard box, open it up and give it a try. 

 

Good luck with that guitar, Phil. I play mostly nylon strings these days - a mix of classical guitar and a couple of acoustics on which I've fitted nylon strings (I have electronics fitted to both so tend to use them at open mic sessions).

The Fender has a 43 mm neck so that is quite narrow - too narrow for me with nylon strings - but I will await your review with interest. I've been quite impressed with some of the newer Fender models - they seem to have gotten their act together.

PS. Beware! Once you are hooked on nylon strings you are hooked forever.

 

Edited by garthman
Add PS
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1 hour ago, garthman said:

Good luck with that guitar, Phil. I play mostly nylon strings these days - a mix of classical guitar and a couple of acoustics on which I've fitted nylon strings (I have electronics fitted to both so tend to use them at open mic sessions).

The Fender has a 43 mm neck so that is quite narrow - too narrow for me with nylon strings - but I will await your review with interest. I've been quite impressed with some of the newer Fender models - they seem to have gotten their act together.

PS. Beware! Once you are hooked on nylon strings you are hooked forever.

 

 

The very first guitars I ever played had nylon strings on them - a band director had a Yamaha classical in our high school band room, and I started messing around with that at lunchtime when I was a freshman. Mostly trying to teach myself Frampton and Boston songs, since they were all the rage at the time. :lol: 

I had a borrowed Gibson J-45 for a while, and when it was first loaned to me, it had nylon strings on it, so I have experience with a narrow neck and nylon strings. I kept them on it for a while, and later asked the owner if he'd mind if I put steel strings back on it... so I used it for a few months both ways before returning it to him once I received an Ovation for Christmas from my parents. 

I'm really jonesing for another J-45, and I have been for a couple of months. Actually, even longer than that - I did a pickup review a few years back and they sent a J-45 with it pre-installed for the review loaner, and it really impressed me. Then I heard the J-45 Studio a couple months ago and it really knocked me out too... but it's got the Advanced Response neck on it, which I hear is a bit larger than the SlimTaper necks that I generally prefer on Gibsons. But I'd really like a round shoulder Gibby acoustic, but one with the burst (like the one I first got serious on when I was a teenager) and one with a thin neck... so I'm thinking maybe a J-15 Walnut Burst...  

The nylon string is something that I don't currently have in my collection, and it's a sonic hole that really needs to be filled. We'll see if the Fender can do it sufficiently or if I'll have to look elsewhere. My daughter has an Ibanez nylon string with a narrower neck, and I like the playability of it a lot, but they don't make that model anymore, and the Fender seems to have the thinnest / narrowest nylon string neck currently available - hopefully I won't find it too narrow... but again, we'll see. 

 

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On 3/25/2020 at 7:15 PM, DeepEnd said:

Open box/warehouse reduction generally means buying online. I think it's important, especially fore a beginner, to get his/her hands on the guitar first. And while it's possible to do that at a local brick and mortar store they don't make any money if you try first at their store and then buy online. A used guitar can be a great bargain for someone who knows what to look for but most beginners don't. Finally, your AC5M was $1300 new and while that may qualify as "cheap" for some folks in general it doesn't and I'd be hard pressed to recommend one to a beginner.

 

On 3/28/2020 at 4:42 PM, DeepEnd said:

Good advice for seasoned, committed players, not so much for a beginner. YMMV.

why do you keep referring to someone getting back into playing as a beginner?   “im looking to get back into acoustic guitar”  doesnt really suggest beginner to me, your understanding of the language  obviously varies... again. 

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dont buy cheap crap...  inexpensive and cheap are NOT interchangeable terms.     get the best sounding, best playing instrument you can comfortably afford...  if you dont take to it, it at least has some resale value as opposed to cheap crap...  which ends up in the landfill where it belongs instead of beating prospective musicians with failure due to cheap, crappy excuses for instruments and all the pitfalls that come with them... 

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On 3/27/2020 at 7:25 AM, Phil O'Keefe said:

 

When I reviewed the Epiphone PRO-1 over five years ago, I was initially suspicious about some of the "it's designed to be easy to play" marketing that I saw, but when I tried it out I was surprised by how decent it was, especially in light of its very low price. And yes, it does actually have a combination of features that make it a bit easier than usual to play than a lot of acoustic guitars. Because of that, in my review conclusions, I wondered why anyone would risk buying a used guitar for a neophyte player when something like the PRO-1 was available brand-new for only $120. 

If you want something nicer, that's fine - and I can understand how a nice guitar can be inspirational to some people - but there's no way I'd recommend someone spend $100 or so on something at a pawn shop or from the local Craigslist and taking a chance on it if they don't know anything about guitars. If you can't take someone with you who plays to try it out, you're probably better off buying new. And if you don't want to spend a lot of money on a first guitar, you could do a lot worse than that PRO-1. 

 

 

right... but several seem to have missed the very first statement in the OP...  dude isnt a beginner...  

:wave:

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