If you go into the acoustic guitar section of a guitar store, you will be confronted with dozens, or possibly hundreds of acoustic guitars from various manufacturers.
So you might rightfully ask yourself. What is the best acoustic guitar brand?
There are many guitar makers out there, but only a few have the knowledge, skill, and resources to consistently produce quality instruments.
Here are the top 11 brands for acoustic guitars, that are rightfully popular with players around the world.
Epiphone quick facts:
- Founded: 1873
- Website: https://www.epiphone.com/Guitars/Acoustic
- Artists who play Epiphone: Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Noel Gallagher, Django Reinhardt, etc.
Epiphone is a Gibson-owned company that primarily caters to Gibson guitar lovers seeking affordable options. Besides making cheaper variants of Gibson classic guitars, Epiphone also makes its own line of guitars. Most people view Epiphone as a Gibson subsidiary. But much before the company was bought by Gibson in 1957 and commissioned to rehash Gibson classics, it had been functioning as an independent musical instrument company. To people unaware, the company first entered the scene in 1873.
Having made a variety of stringed instruments, including fiddles and lutes, Epiphone first started making guitars in 1928, the year that it rebranded itself to Epiphone Banjo Company. Not to mention, Epiphone churns out a healthy range of acoustic guitars and caters to a wider market of acoustic guitar buyers.
Ibanez quick facts:
- Founded: 1929
- Website: https://www.ibanez.com/usa/products/category/acoustic_guitars/
- Artists who play Ibanez: Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Andy Timmons, etc.
Known for its solid range of acoustic guitars, Ibanez is a Japanese company that is particularly dominant in the entry-level acoustic guitar market. The company makes good-quality bass and acoustic guitars for beginners, besides catering to “professionals” with its more modern offerings. Having first set up its guitar manufacturing shop in 1929, Ibanez has been around for quite some time. By the 1960s and 1970s, the company started making high-quality replicas of American guitars.
The objective behind drawing heavy inspiration from the American guitar manufacturing industry was not to make quick money but to make similar quality guitars accessible to guitarists in the other part of the world. In fact, more than a handful of Ibanez guitars reached legendary heights despite not being truly original. For instance, the Ibanez Destroyer, which used the Gibson Explorer as its base, was a major hit among buyers. Besides consistently making high-quality entry-level acoustic guitars, Ibanez has a presence in the higher segment of the market too.
Ovation quick facts:
- Founded: 1966
- Website: http://www.ovationguitars.com/
- Artists who play Ovation: John Lennon, Kurt Cobain, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Eddie Van Halen
Unlike traditional acoustic guitar manufacturers, Ovation broke the mold of guitar manufacturing norms by incorporating a fiberglass-like hybrid material for their guitar bodies, instead of wood. The tops, however, were made of traditional wood. This innovative manufacturing technique lends Ovation acoustic guitar bodies a bowl-like stance that makes them stand out from other acoustic guitars.
Founded in 1966, this New Hartford, Connecticut-based American guitar manufacturer is also known for its electro-acoustic technology, besides the composite materials, it uses in its guitars. These different pioneering approaches combined render Ovation acoustic guitars ergonomic, light, and powerful. Several artists such as Melissa Ethridge, Glen Campbell, and Josh White have Ovation signature models of their own.
Fender quick facts:
- Founded: 1964
- Website: https://shop.fender.com/en-US/acoustic-guitars/
- Artists who play Fender: Buddy Miller, Tim Armstrong
Unlike many guitar manufacturers that started their journey with making acoustic guitars and then turning their focus to electric guitars, Fender did the exact opposite. A lot of that has to do with the background of Leo Fender, the company founder. Leo was skilled and particularly hands-on with electronics and circuitry equipment, such as radios, home music amplifiers, and phonograph players. Over a period, he got a lot more invested in music equipment and started to make and sell lap steel guitars. The rest, as they say, is history.
Fender, as a company, started to make acoustic guitars in 1964. The company has since then made a name for itself in the mid-range and entry-level acoustics guitar market. Fender guitars are primarily known for their build quality, which was a far cry from the flimsy and delicate builds of acoustic guitars back in the day. Not to mention, the company makes a good number of acoustic guitars priced below $200.
Seagull quick facts:
- Founded: 1982
- Website: http://www.seagullguitars.com/
- Artists who play Seagull: James Blunt,
Seagull is not necessarily the most recognizable guitar brand name among non-guitarists, but it certainly has its own legion of fans. There are two types of people: one who has never heard of the company, and another that’s truly in love with the brand. Founded in 1982 in Quebec (Canada) by Robert Godin, Seagull acoustic guitars come with solid tops and are completely handmade. Even the cheaper models are made manually by skilled artisans.
Seagull guitars are also green or environment-friendly. The wood used to make the guitar are sourced from sustainably managed forests that are grown, harvested and processed for timber by forest stewards in a manner that ensures the local ecosystems and landscape remain intact at all times. Seagull makes acoustic guitars that span the entire price spectrum. However, the company has made a name for itself by offering high-end acoustic guitars for mid-range guitar prices. You may call Seagull the OnePlus of the acoustics guitar industry.
Yamaha quick facts:
- Founded: 1966 (guitar branch)
- Website: https://usa.yamaha.com/products/musical_instruments/guitars_basses/ac_guitars/index.html
- Artists who play Yamaha: Bob Dylan, Frank Gambale, James Taylor, Bob Marley, Paul Simon
Yamaha is arguably the most recognizable name on this list, even to people who have zero knowledge about guitars. That’s how massive Yamaha’s reach is. Known widely for their student guitars, Yamaha has come a long way and is now known for making all types of guitars. The Yamaha AC3R is, in fact, an extremely popular and well-received acoustic guitar. Yamaha started its journey in 1887 as an organ manufacturer. The company is currently the largest producer of musical instruments, including acoustic guitars.
Yamaha acoustic guitars cater to guitarists of varying skills and experience. The company’s acoustic guitar range is so large and diverse that both established guitarists and complete noobs would find Yamaha acoustic guitars to their liking. Since the company is such a massive producer, it’s important you know what you’re looking for. Else, you could easily get baffled by the options and may end up picking up a piece that doesn’t necessarily suit your requirements to a T.
Takamine quick facts:
- Founded: 1959
- Website: https://www.takamine.com/
- Artists who play Takamine: Bon Jovi, Garth Brooks, Bruce Springsteen, Bruno Mars, and many more.
Takamine started out as a family-run guitar shop in Japan, at the foot of Mount Takamine. Its main factory operates out of its hometown, Sakashita, Japan. Takamine started expanding internationally in 1975 and has become one of the most esteemed acoustic guitar manufacturers in the world.
They have made several key technological advances that have since developed guitar making, for example, single-unit preamplifiers, and the under-saddle pickup used in acoustic-electric guitars.
Taylor quick facts:
- Founded: 1974
- Website: https://www.taylorguitars.com/
- Artists who play Taylor: Jason Mraz, Taylor Swift, Norah Jones
Taylor is a relatively well-known brand in the acoustic guitars market. Founded in 1974 by Kurt Listug and Bob Taylor, Taylor started its journey as an acoustic guitar manufacturer and has been to date focusing primarily on acoustic guitars. This resolute focus is one of the major reasons why Taylor acoustic guitars are unique and have a following of their own. Taylor is quite an innovative acoustic guitar manufacturer too. It was the first company to use computer mills to precision-manufacture their guitars.
The company makes high-end acoustic guitars, entry-level guitars, and everything in between. Taylor’s premium offerings are made in California, while their affordable guitars are produced in Mexico. Taylor Swift, Jason Mraz, and Zac Brown are some of the many artists who can be seen using Taylor guitars for their performances. Taylor acoustic guitars don’t come cheap, particularly the higher-end variants. But then the company justifies the price of its guitars with unmatched quality.
Gibson quick facts:
- Founded: 1902
- Website: https://www.gibson.com/Guitars/Acoustic
- Artists who play Gibson: Slash, Chet Atkins, Billi Joe Armstrong, Keith Richards
Gibson made a name for itself with its iconic electric guitars. But not many know that the company produced acoustic guitars much before their electric guitars became a force to reckon with. Founded in 1902, Gibson manufactured its first acoustic guitar circa 1910. However, their flat-tops weren’t extremely popular then or didn’t sell according to company expectations, thanks in large to the market dominance of Martin’s acoustic guitars. It was only during 1923 that Gibson acoustic guitars started to make serious inroads into the market and giving Martin a scare. By the 1930s, Gibson steadied its ship and made a name for itself.
Recently, in 2018, Gibson had to file for bankruptcy. But that didn’t cause any major dent to the company’s reputation and following. In fact, the Gibson brand is still a reckonable force in the acoustics guitar industry. Currently, the company operates from a modern facility located in Nashville. The space is purpose-built to make guitars. For American buyers, this means the company would not just sell and repair their acoustic guitars, but it would also help restore most of its classic models.
Guild quick facts:
- Founded: 1953
- Website: https://guildguitars.com/
- Artists who play Guild: Tom Fogerty, Bryan Adams, Jerry Garcia, Muddy Waters, and many more.
The roots of Guild reaches back to 1945, New York City, when Alfred Dronge, a passionate jazz musician, opens a local music shop. He partners with George Mann, a former Epiphone Co. executive in 1952, and they register the Guild Guitar Company.
The company expanded quickly and made the move into the electric guitar market during the '60s.
Fender purchased the company in 1995, and sold it to Cordoba in 2014. Despite the changes in ownership and management, Guild guitars are still some of the best guitar in the world.
Martin quick facts:
- Founded: 1833
- Website: https://www.martinguitar.com/
- Artists who play Martin: Ed Sheeran, Tommy Emmanuel, and many many more
Perhaps the most ancient guitar company on this list, C.F. Martin & Company was founded in 1833 in New York City by Christian Martin. For a brand to stay relevant for so long and still be ruling the roost is a testament to the company’s products and their quality. This also implies how durable and long-lasting Martin acoustic guitars are. Though the company tried its hands at bass and electric guitars for a brief period, it is currently devoted to making high-quality acoustic guitars, pretty much sticking to its roots.
During the more than 180 years of its presence, Martin guitars have been strummed by artists as diverse as Mark Twain, Chris Cornell, David Crosby, Valerie June, John Mayer, and Ed Sheeran. Generating several variations that are currently acknowledged as benchmarks for the acoustic guitar industry, the company’s ingenious X-bracing (first introduced in 1843) gave the acoustic guitar business around the world a definition of sorts. The company’s dedication to the business, the premium materials that go into making its acoustic guitars, and the craftsmanship at work are reasons why Martin is doing so well for so long.
Some of these brands do not produce guitars that cost $1000s, but they still make the list for their effort and consistency in producing quality instruments for beginner and intermediate players. After all, a beginner would never buy a $3000 Guild guitar to start out on.
Don't get bogged down by the dream of owning an expensive Martin, when a Seagull at 1/10th of the price will be perfectly OK for most players.
Just play as much as you can, enjoy the music you make, and entertain others. That is the point of playing acoustic guitar, regardless of which brand is in your hand at any given moment.