The most important thing to look at is the quality of the materials. The resonation of the string vibration through the wood of the guitar’s top, sides, and body will have the biggest impact on the ultimate sound. While there are some decent-sounding entry level instruments that use pressed wood or laminate, a professional acoustic guitar should be made of solid wood throughout. If you want to amplify your instrument regularly, a model with pickups already installed could also be a convenient investment.
If you can afford them, these have our recommendations as the 4 best acoustic guitars under $2000.
Martin Custom MMV Dreadnought
Martin is renowned for their hand craftsmanship and attention to detail in every instrument they make. The Martin Custom line (see full specs) uses a Sitka spruce top and East Indian rosewood for the body to give you a bright and balanced tone throughout the instrument’s range. Martin uses a unique style of bracing on the interior of their guitars which they call “X bracing,” which lets the top vibrate just enough for a powerful tone but keeps it more stable than other bracing styles, giving the guitar a more consistent tone and helping it stay in tune longer. The action is relatively low for an acoustic, giving it more of the feel of an electric guitar, but without any buzz from any of the frets.
Taylor DN3 Dreadnought Acoustic
Taylor’s Dreadnought guitars are renowned for their strong bass and balanced tone. It’s great for flat pickers, giving your notes clear definition and articulation across the range. The Dreadnought body shape is the most traditional design for an acoustic, and Taylor’s take on the classic shape gives you a rich, full sound. The Sitka spruce top is capable of producing a wide range of dynamics and gives this guitar a lot of versatility for use in different playing styles. The back and sides are made of sapele for a bright, consistent tone that has a nice shimmer in the upper range. No ifs and buts, this is one of the best acoustic guitars under 2000 bucks.
The Gibson LG-2 is a great guitar for fingerpickers, especially those in the folk and blues styles. The Gibson company calls this model their “little giant” for the massive sound it can get out of a relatively small-bodied instrument. It uses a classic combination of spruce for the top and mahogany for the back and sides, resulting in a warm, rich tone with a focused attack. It comes equipped with Bagggs Element pickups for easy amplification and has a shorter scale length than many professional guitars, making it a versatile and easy to play option for the gigging musician.
Takamine Pro Series EF261 SAN
This guitar has a unique body shape that’s a bit smaller than a traditional acoustic and with a high fret cutaway, making it excellent for smaller players and giving it a unique profile. The top is solid cedar with a mahogany back and sides that combine for a rich tone across the spectrum. The action of the Takamine is also set a bit lower than a typical acoustic, giving it a more comfortable feel for players used to electric guitars and making it a great option for a gigging musician who plays both electric and acoustic during the same set. This is easily one of the best acoustic guitars under $2000 on the market.
When it comes to an acoustic guitar, the wood used in its construction ultimately defines the tone. The two main places where you’ll see a lot of variation in the wood is in the back, sides, and top (or soundboard). The back and sides are often made of the same material, and in lower-end guitars are often made of laminate, which is less expensive but lacks the resonance of solid woods, making the sound feel constrained or dead.
There are many different woods that can be used. Rosewood is perhaps the most common for guitar bodies. There are a few different varieties of rosewood, each of which will have its own subtle tone variations, but in general rosewood gives you a slightly scooped mid-range and an otherwise relatively balanced tone across the frequency spectrum. Mahogany is another common tone wood. Mahogany guitars have a warm tone with a strong mid-range and less abrasive highs. The Sapele used in the Taylor model (see full specs) above is a less common but very musical tone wood, giving you a brighter sound than either rosewood or mahogany.
In terms of the top, there are two main woods you’ll see being used: spruce and cedar. Cedar produces a warmer tone and is more responsive to soft dynamics, making it excellent for finger pickers. Spruce is a bit of a harder wood and produces a brighter sound that’s generally better at higher dynamics than a cedar guitar, and sounds more natural when amplified. If you do a lot of strumming, a spruce topped guitar will give you a more powerful tone across the range.
The shape of a guitar will have some impact on the tone, and making the choice of which shape is right for you is in a way similar to choosing the right wood in that you want to think about the right sound for your playing style. With the body, though, there is also a size difference between the different guitar body types, and some people may find it easier to play some guitar shapes than others.
Dreadnought guitars have large soundboards, a square bout, and a wide waist that combine to give it a powerful sound. Concert acoustics, meanwhile, are smaller overall with a more rounded bout and tighter waist. This both makes the tone a bit brighter and makes them easier for smaller musicians to play.
Auditorium guitars are between dreadnoughts and concerts in size, generally as wide as a dreadnought but with a smaller waist. Auditorium guitars are gaining popularity as a nice blend of comfort and projection. Some guitars also feature cutaways in the upper bout that can provide easier access to the higher frets. Finding a guitar that sounds good is important, but don’t underestimate the value of comfort when you’re picking out your instrument. The best acoustic guitar under $2000, after all, needs to fit your own body well before anything else.