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7 Best Acoustic Guitars For Beginners (Under $200)

by | Guitars | 0 comments

Congratulations on your decision to learn how to play the acoustic guitar!

As a guitar player for many years, I know that playing the guitar will provide you with many years of enjoyment.

Now that you’ve decided to learn how to play, your first step is to choose the right instrument.

While acoustic guitars can run from $50 up to many thousands of dollars, finding a quality instrument for a beginner isn’t difficult. It just takes a little knowledge of what to look for, which you’re going to learn here.

First off, instruments under $100 are usually not worth the money.  It’s difficult for a manufacturer to make a quality guitar under $100 without using inferior woods and less than ideal construction materials.

So, it won’t do you any good to bargain shop the cheapest instrument because a guitar that’s poorly made and not setup correctly will frustrate any effort you make to practice and learn.

Instead, what you want to do is find a quality guitar at an affordable price that won’t work against you when you’re just starting to play.

The good news is that a good sounding acoustic guitar doesn’t have to be expensive either. You can find quite a few nice-sounding guitars in the $100 to $200 price range with quality wood, parts, materials, and construction, and a finish that won’t wear unevenly over time.

You’ll get tuners that will stay in tune without slipping so you can spend more time playing than trying to keep the guitar in tune.

Just know that you won’t find a good quality electric-acoustic guitar (with a built-in pickup) at this price point, but you can add a pickup later at a very affordable price.

To help you on your guitar journey, I’ve put together reviews of the seven best acoustic guitars for beginners under $200 that fulfill all the above criteria.   Here’s the list:

Review Criteria

All acoustic guitars included in my reviews were selected based on their widespread use and reputation in the professional music community and from personal use and knowledge.

I’ve also added my insights gained from my 25+ years of experience running a very successful music production company, plus working with dozens of composers and thousands of tracks for my Audio Addiction Music Library, a production music library with global distribution.

But before we get to the reviews of the guitars, let’s start with a short guide on what to look for when choosing an acoustic guitar.

For a more detailed guide, please check out my Ultimate Acoustic Guitar Buyers Guide.

How To Choose An Acoustic Guitar

There are three main things to consider when choosing an acoustic guitar:

  • Body Style & Size
  • Sound Quality & Woods
  • Playability

Body Style & Size

Acoustic guitars come in a variety of body styles and sizes.  The most common styles are Concert, Auditorium, Dreadnought, and Jumbo. These are all full-size guitars.

Concert guitars are mid-size acoustic guitars known for their bright, punchy sound.  They are perfect for players with small hands and are comfortable to play for almost all players.

Concert size acoustic guitar

Auditorium guitars are also mid-sized guitars but are a little larger than concerts. Auditoriums are also louder that concerts and usually have well-balanced tone between the lows, mids, and highs.

Auditorium style acoustic guitar

Dreadnought guitars are the most popular type of acoustic guitars.  They have a larger soundboard than concerts or auditoriums, so they are louder and project very well.  They are suitable for all styles of music.

dreadnaught style acoustic guitar

Jumbo guitars are the largest guitar models and produce a big full sound.  But unless you have very large hands, you will likely find a jumbo guitar too large to play comfortably.

Jumbo acoustic guitar

3/4 size guitars are just that – ¾ of the size of full-size acoustic guitars.  These guitars are perfect for children and those with small hands.

Comfort Matters!

When choosing an acoustic guitar, be sure to look for one that is comfortable for you to play.  Even if you plan to purchase an acoustic guitar online to get the best price, go to your local music store to try out a few guitars.  You want to get an idea of what body style and size is most comfortable for you.

Necks come in different widths as well, so holding the guitar is crucial to deciding the style that fits you best. If you can comfortably get your hand around the neck and the strings aren’t spaced too close together for your fingers, then you’ve probably found the right size.

Sound Quality & Woods

Once you’ve determined the size of the guitar, next up is its sound quality.  You want a guitar that has a warm, full, well-balanced tone.

Check out a variety of guitars in a music store. Have someone play different guitars while you listen a few feet in front of the guitar.  Note the overall sound quality.  Does it sound full and well-balanced?  Or is its tone tubby and muddy?

What makes one guitar sound better than another comes down to the woods and other materials used in the guitar, its design and construction, and the quality of its components like tuning gears, frets, bridge, etc.

The types of woods used are a significant component of the guitar’s tone and overall sound, with the wood used for the guitar’s top being the most important.  You can read more about the different kinds of woods used in acoustic guitars here.

Guitars in the $100 to $200 range are usually constructed of laminate top woods – thin pieces of inexpensive wood glued together.  There is nothing wrong with laminate wood, especially at this price point, but know that solid wood tends to give a richer and more balanced tone and evolve in tonal complexity as the wood matures and ages.

Some of the guitars I review below have solid wood tops, which makes them stand out from the crowd!

Playability

If the guitar is not setup correctly it will be difficult to play, and you may end up losing interest in playing the guitar.

Unfortunately, inexpensive guitars frequently come from the factory not setup properly.  But the good news is that getting the guitar setup is not difficult.  If you’re handy, you can do it yourself or can have it done inexpensively by any reputable guitar shop.

The two most important things to look for are the guitar’s action and intonation.

Action

The guitar’s action refers to the distance between the strings and the fretboard.

If there’s a very large gap between the strings and fretboard,  then the action is set too high.  You won’t be able to play notes or chords easily without having to press down very hard.

It’s normal for your fingers to be a little sore in the beginning, but if the action is too high, the guitar will be challenging to play.

If the action is set too low, then you’ll hear buzzes when playing notes.  A tiny bit of buzz on strings can be OK, but loud buzzes or “dead” notes indicate issues that need to be investigated by a guitar tech.

To check the action, start by playing different notes up and down the neck.

There should not be any loud buzzing on frets which indicates that the action is set too low.  Buzzes can also point to issues with a bowed or warped neck and should be investigated by a guitar tech.

The good news is that if you find a guitar you like, but the action is not setup correctly, it can usually be easily adjusted by a guitar tech.

The Quarter Test

Here’s another quick test: Slide a quarter under the high E string at the 12th fret.  The quarter should be snug and not fall out.

Then slide it under the low E string at the 12th fret.  The quarter should be snug but able to move a little bit.

If the quarter falls out freely, then the action needs to be adjusted.

Intonation

The second thing to consider is intonation. Intonation is the guitar’s ability to remain in tune up and down the fretboard.

A quick way to check intonation is to play an open E major chord and then play an E major barre chord at the 12th fret. All six notes of the chord should sound in tune.

If it doesn’t, this indicates a warped or bowed neck, which is usually fixable by adjusting the truss rod.

OK, let’s move on to the review of the best acoustic guitars from $100 to $200!

Best Acoustic Guitars for Beginners (Under $200) Reviews

The first guitar on the list is the Fender FA-100.  While Fender is most widely known as the manufacturer of the famous Stratocaster and Telecaster electric guitars, it’s also a leading maker of acoustic guitars.

The FA-100 is a full-sized dreadnought acoustic guitar that’s a top pick for those looking for a great beginner instrument.

The guitar features a beautiful blonde color top wood with darker sides and back, and a classic black pickguard. It’s also available in all black.

Construction

The top wood is a spruce laminate, which is a typical wood for lower cost acoustics.

The body is made of basswood, and the fretboard is rosewood. The fretboard has silver frets and mother of pearl-like fret markers. The neck features the distinctive Fender headstock shape.

The FA-100’s X-bracing gives stability to the guitar in withstanding the tension produced by the strings. The neck includes a truss rod for minor adjustments for buzzing or intonation, and it comes with a wrench designed for these adjustments.

The FA-100 has quality die-cast chrome sealed tuners that are quite good for a guitar in this price range.  Users find that it holds its tune very well.

Playability

Uncommon for inexpensive guitars, the FA-100 comes set up nicely and ready to play out of the box.

The action is set at a good height, and most users find no issues with intonation.  As I mentioned earlier, lower-end guitars frequently have very high action that makes them difficult to play.

How Does It Sound?

The FA-100 probably won’t win any accolades for being a fantastic sounding guitar, but in this price range it’s a very nice sounding guitar. It delivers the bright, clear sound associated with Fender guitars.

The video below is a short demo of the guitar. Its tone is a little thin, but overall it’s pretty good for a beginner guitar in this price range.

Fender FA-100 Acoustic Guitar

Overall:

Overall, the Fender FA-100 is an excellent guitar for anyone just starting out.  Many users find that it’s one of their favorite instruments, even if they own other more expensive guitars.

It’s set up well right out of the box and is easy to play.  While its tone and sound won’t win any awards, it’s a solid choice for beginners.

The FA-100 comes with Fender’s limited lifetime warranty.

PROS

  • Nice sounding entry-level Fender product
  • Excellent value package available with gig bag, strings, tuner, strap, picks and instructional DVD
  • Fender limited lifetime warranty
S

CONS

  • Sound quality is good, not great
  • Some users found issues with defective bridge saddles but this has not been a widespread complaint

Fender FA-100 Acoustic Guitar

Check Price:
AmazonGuitar Center

The Fender FA-125 is the FA-100’s newer sibling.  It’s a very affordable dreadnought acoustic that’s another top pick for beginners.  It’s also become very popular for guitarists who want a “beater” guitar to just have lying around the house.

It features a laminate spruce top and laminated basswood back and sides.

The guitar has a “C” shaped nato neck with a rosewood fingerboard. C shaped necks are contoured to fit your hand better and offer easy playability.

One cool visual touch is the Viking styled bridge.  And its natural wood comes with a gloss finish, making this a very appealing guitar.

How Does It Sound?

The following demo demonstrates the FA-125’s nice tone. It’s clear and bright, and a step above the FA-100’s tone. The bottom end is a little light, but that’s to be expected in a guitar in this price range.

Fender FA-125 Acoustic Guitar

Overall:

For the same price as the FA-100 bundle, you can get the FA-125 with a gig bag.  The FA-125 sounds quite a bit better but you won’t get the tuner, strap, strings, and other accessories.

Personally, I would opt for the better-sounding FA-125 and add the accessories later.

The FA-125 comes with Fender’s limited lifetime warranty.

PROS

  • Very good sound quality for a guitar in this price range
  • Comes with a gig bag
  • Fender limited lifetime warranty
S

CONS

  • Newer guitar does not have many reviews yet

Fender FA-125 Acoustic Guitar

Check Price:
Amazon | zZounds

First introduced in 1966, the Yamaha FG series of guitars have been a resounding success. The FG series includes the best-selling acoustic guitar of all time, the FG-700S (sadly, now discontinued).  With over 30 different models available in the FG series, there’s a guitar for every player level and price point.

This review is going to focus on the very affordable FG800 and FS800 models which were introduced in 2016.  They are the successors to the FG-700S.

The two models are virtually identical except that the FS800 is a smaller concert size version of the larger dreadnaught FG800.  I’ll review the FG800 but the same info applies to the FS800.

Construction

Unusual for a low-priced guitar, the FG800 features a solid wood Sitka spruce top.  It also features lightweight nato (Eastern mahogany) back & sides and a rosewood fretboard and bridge.

The neck is also made of nato and has a satin finish to provide smooth playability.

The FG800 includes Yamaha’s newly developed scalloped bracing utilizing their latest cutting-edge acoustic analysis technology. The result is a loud, punchy sound with strong mids and lows that project well.

The guitar also features Yamaha’s trademark ultra-thin glossy finish that protects the wood without interfering with the string vibrations.  The result is brighter more vibrant tone.

The tuners are quality die-cast tuners that are found on all of the FG series guitars, and the pickguard has a classic tortoise pattern.

Playability

The FG800 comes well set up from the factory.  Overall, the action, intonation, and playability are very good which is a major plus for an entry-level guitar.

How Does It Sound?

The FG800 delivers a warm, well-balanced tone that’s surprising for a guitar that retails for less than $200.

Yamaha FG800 Acoustic Guitar

Overall

For more than 50 years, the Yamaha FG series acoustic guitars have been mainstays for guitarists all over the world.  The new FG800 and FS800 models live up to their heritage with solid construction and expressive tone for a very low price.

Plus, the FG800 is available in 11 different colors and wood choices that include flamed maple, nato, mahogany, and rosewood. (But some of these options will push the price above the $200 point).

PROS

  • Solid wood top
  • Unique Yamaha-developed bracing for natural sound
  • Different colors and woods are available
S

CONS

  • Case sold separately

Yamaha FG800 Acoustic Guitar

Check Price:
Amazon | zZounds | Guitar Center

Though not as widely known as other guitar makers, Epiphone has been making musical instruments since 1873.

Epiphone guitars have been a part of the history of blues, jazz, R&B, and rock since the early 1920s.  They are especially known for their iconic archtop guitars.

As part of its storied history Les Paul, guitar legend and inventor of the famed Gibson Les Paul guitar, learned his craft by working in an Epiphone factory in New York City.

Epiphone was purchased by Gibson in the 1950s but continues to produce its products in its own factories here in the U.S.

Epiphone DR-100 Acoustic Guitar

The DR-100 is Epiphone’s best-selling acoustic guitar. It’s a full-size dreadnought acoustic that has found a home with beginners and professional players alike.  Over the years it has become a go-to guitar for rock, folk, bluegrass and other styles.

The guitar is available with a few different finishes/colors –  vintage starburst, natural blonde wood, and black.

Construction

Part of the reason the DR-100 sounds so good it that it features a solid wood spruce top.  It also has a mahogany body and rosewood fingerboard.

The neck is made of okoume, an African hardwood similar in tone to mahogany.  It’s designed with Epiphone’s famed SlimTaper profile for smooth playing as you move up and down the neck.  The neck also features pearloid dot fret markers.

Other visual features are the classic Epiphone style headstock and the vintage black pickguard with a stylized E printed in white.

The DR-100 features quality premium nickel tuners that hold each string’s tuning well without slippage.

Playability

The DR-100 comes out of the box with good action and accurate intonation.  It’s a nice guitar to play!

How Does It Sound?

Many users complain that $100 guitars sound tinny and boxy.  However, the DR-100 sounds like a guitar that costs 2-3x its price.

For an under $200 guitar, this guitar delivers a nice tone with clarity and depth.  It has a rich mid-range tone that will get better with age and the more it’s played.

Epiphone DR-100 Acoustic Guitar

I like the tone of the Fender DR-100 and DR-125 guitars better than the DR-100, but they are more expensive guitars.

Overall

Epiphone’s DR-100 dreadnought is a great entry-level guitar that has received many 5-star reviews for its sound and playability.  This guitar is hard to beat if you are looking for a guitar that retails around $125!

PROS

  • Solid wood spruce top
  • The tone is well-balanced and projects nicely with good volume
S

CONS

  • Case sold separately

Epiphone DR-100 Acoustic Guitar

Check Price:
Amazon | zZounds | Guitar Center

 

Jasmine is a lesser-known guitar maker, but they produce quality instruments that have found homes with both amateur and professional musicians alike.

The Jasmine S35 is an entry-level dreadnought style guitar that has received many 5-star reviews not only for its construction but its sound.  Priced well under $100, it is an exceptional value.

Construction

The S35 has a laminate spruce top supported by Jasmine’s trademark Advanced X-bracing.  Jasmine claims their bracing technique not only strengthens the guitar’s construction but markedly improves its sound quality.

The back and sides are made of lightweight agathis wood (similar in sound to mahogany) which reduces weight without sacrificing sound quality.

The neck is made of nato wood.  Its slim tapered design makes it a more comfortable choice for beginners and players of smaller stature. The fretboard is made of rosewood.

The headstock is the traditional Jasmine curved shape with chrome overlay tuners.

The S35 does have two strap pegs, but the upper peg us actually under the neck instead of above. This arrangement may seem strange at first, but it does offer good positioning once you get used to it.

The guitar comes with a natural satin finish that protects the guitar without coming off as too shiny.   One benefit of a satin finish is that it won’t show dings and scratches as much as high gloss finishes.

Playability

Some users have noted that their S35 came with pretty high action. But for around $20-$30, you can have it set up correctly at a guitar store. With a proper setup, the guitar has the potential to play like a much more expensive guitar.

How Does It Sound?

Being a dreadnought, the guitar produces a full sound that’s won many admirers. For a $100 guitar, it has surprisingly nice tone.

Jasmine S35 Acoustic Guitar

Overall

The S35 makes a great entry-level instrument or an “around the house” guitar that delivers much more value than the $100 price tag.

AND, there are three things you can do to make this guitar a real winner!

First, have a guitar tech set up the guitar’s action and intonation.

Second, replace the strings it comes with a set of high-quality strings like the Elixir Nanoweb HD Light or Martin SP Lifespan strings.

Third, replace the saddle with a compensated TUSQ saddle that will greatly improve the guitar’s tone and projection.  You can get this done in any guitar store quite inexpensively.

If you don’t mind spending a little more after buying the guitar for a professional setup, new saddle, and new strings, you will find your guitar sounds and plays like a much more expensive guitar.  Highly recommended at under $100, or around $175 with the setup, new saddle, and new strings.

PROS

  • Nice tone and quality for the price
  • Potential to be a really nice guitar with a little work
S

CONS

  • Factory setup may be less than ideal so adjustments may be necessary
  • Included strings are not the best quality and should be replaced

Jasmine S35 Acoustic Guitar

Check Price:
Amazon | Guitar Center (bundle)

 

Ibanez is a well-known maker of musical instruments and accessories for more than 100 years.  Though they are better known for their electric guitars and basses, they also produce a well-regarded line of acoustic guitars.

The JV50 is an entry-level dreadnought acoustic guitar that comes packaged into an IJV50 Jampack bundle.   The IJV50 Jampack is designed for beginning players who want a complete package of everything they need – the JV50 guitar, chromatic clip-on tuner, gig bag, strap, and accessories pouch – all at a very affordable price.

Construction

 The JV50 guitar comes with a spruce laminate top wood, agathis back and sides, and a rosewood fretboard.

Ibanez includes their proprietary Advantage™ bridge pins which make changing strings easier and faster.

The JV50 has a natural high gloss finish on the body that looks great while protecting the wood from minor dings and scratches.

Playability

The guitar comes from the factory with the action set correctly.  The tuners are good quality and hold tuning well, something a beginner should not be worrying about when just starting to learn how to play.

How Does It Sound?

The JV50 has a well-balanced tone, though a little thin on the bass.  It’s another guitar in this price range that sounds surprisingly good!

Ibanez JV50 Acoustic Guitar/ IJV50 Jampack

Checking dozens of reviews, most purchasers are very pleased with this guitar.  Spruce ages well and the tone of the guitar should evolve nicely as it ages.

Overall

The IJV50 Jampack is a perfect package for anyone who wants to learn guitar, or even for more experienced players who want a good sounding guitar to just jam on around the house.  The Jampack includes the nice-sounding JV50 guitar plus a chromatic clip-on tuner, gig bag, strap, and accessories pouch.   It’s an excellent package at a very affordable price.   That’s hard to beat!

PROS

  • Nice-sounding guitar for the money
  • Jampack includes essential items making this an excellent value for beginners
S

CONS

  • The extras included in the Jampack are basic and do the job, but you may want to upgrade to higher quality items later, especially the tuner

Ibanez IJV50 Jampack

Check Price:
Amazon | Guitar Center | Zzounds

Washburn has been making guitars, mandolins, and ukuleles going back to the late 1800s.   They are known for quality instruments that have played a part in the history of music over the last 130 years!

Washburn’s Harvest series guitars are made in the USA which gives them a higher level of craftsmanship.

The WG7S is a full-size grand auditorium style guitar with a larger lower body (bout) than a dreadnought guitar.  As a larger guitar, it produces a warm, full tone with plenty of bottom end, something not usually found in under $200 guitars.

Construction

The WG7S has a solid-wood spruce top which is a step above a laminate top.  Spruce is a preferred wood for guitar tops as it allows the sound of the guitar to evolve as the wood ages naturally.

The internal bracing is quartersawn scalloped Sitka spruce. The bracing supports the guitar’s structure while enhancing its tonal qualities.

The back and sides are mahogany, and the 20-fret fretboard and bridge are rosewood.

On the visual side, it’s a very attractive guitar with its custom wood inlay rosette and wood edge bindings.

How Does It Sound?

The WD7S has a tonal quality similar to a Martin but at a fraction of the price.

It projects very well but when played softly mellows out and has a nice warm tone.

Washburn Harvest Series WG7S Acoustic Guitar

Overall

The Washburn WD7S is made in America, making it one of the few under $200 guitars not outsourced to other countries to save on costs.

Overall, it’s an excellent choice from the iconic Washburn brand that produces quality acoustic guitars without sacrificing some of the features of higher end guitars such as solid wood tops and inlay work.

It’s also available as an electric-acoustic (with a built-in pickup) for a little more money, but still under $200.  That’s a bargain for this guitar!

PROS

  • Nice tone and projection
  • Solid spruce top wood
  • Made in the USA
S

CONS

  • Case sold separately

Washburn Harvest Series WG7S Acoustic Guitar

Check Price:
Amazon

 

Final Thoughts

All the guitars I’ve reviewed are perfect for beginners and are an excellent value for the money.  The guitars all have nice tone and are easy to play.

Quality guitars like these top picks will encourage your efforts to practice and learn the instrument.  I highly recommend getting the best guitar you can within your budget, even if you have to stretch it to the top of your range.  It’s worth it!

Happy guitar playing!

Have you decided on your first guitar? Let me know in the comments below which one you chose, or if you’re a seasoned player, what was your first guitar?

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