The 4 Best Acoustic Guitars under $400 – Reviews 2020

best acoustic guitar under 400

Photo by Marc d’Entremont / CC BY

So why get the best acoustic guitar under $400? Well, the acoustic guitar is one of the most accessible instruments in popular music, both because of the ease of learning to play and because of the affordability and availability. Buskers, travelers, and casual players alike love acoustic guitars because they require almost no set-up and minimal maintenance.

A well-built acoustic guitar can stand up to the demands of life on the road, and whereas inexpensive models of some instruments sound like they came out of the bargain bin, you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a quality acoustic guitar that looks and sounds good enough to play on-stage. Most music people tell you to play an instrument before you buy it—frustrating advice for a true beginner, who might not know what they’re looking for even if they could. These models are all consistent, easy to play instruments for players who are just starting out. (Disclaimer: Though these products usually are under $400, there are price fluctuations. The real, current price is the one found on the Amazon page.)

In our humble opinion, here are the 4 best acoustic guitars under $400 on the market:

Fender FA-100 Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar

It’s necessary to make certain material allowances with guitars under a certain price range, but the Fender FA-100 has a warm, rich tone and a solid construction that exceeds its price point. The action is low enough for beginners to play easily, although you may need to make some adjustments to the frets to eliminate buzzing, depending on your playing style. Though the spruce laminate top and agathis back and sides sacrifice a bit of resonance, they can also take a beating. The combination of durability and playability makes this a great choice for a beginning or casual player.

Martin LX1 Little Martin Acoustic Guitar

Martin is a name guitar players know and love the world over, so you might be surprised to see it on this list. With their LX1 Little Martin, they put their full attention to quality and detail into an instrument with a smaller ¾ scale length. This makes it perfect for young beginners, and an affordable way for adult players to get Martin-level quality.

The sound from the LX1 is superb. It uses a solid sitka spruce soundboard for clear, ringing articulation. You’ll also get added warmth from the mahogany HPL used on the back and sides. The projection and depth are impressive for the price range, certainly—it may be the best-sounding guitar you’ll find.

Yamaha FGX800C Acoustic Guitar

Folk musicians looking for a new guitar on a budget will want to check out the Yamaha FGX800C. Like other options on the list, it utilizes solid spruce for the top, pairing it with nato for the back and sides. It has a full 25 9/16” scale, as well, if you’re looking for a full-sized instrument.

The biggest difference between this guitar and other models is the body shape. It uses a western body, as opposed to the dreadnought shape most common among entry-level guitars. This makes it easier to access the upper frets, ideal for bluegrass and folk guitarists. The Yamaha FGX800C also comes with an impressive collection of accessories for beginners, including a gig bag, a strap, a tuner, and spare strings.

Yamaha F325D Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar Bundle

If you’re looking for a more traditional guitar shape from Yamaha, check out the Yamaha F325D. This workhorse of an acoustic is the best choice for beginners, striking a balance of performance and value. While the sound quality isn’t quite as high as with the Yamaha FGX800C above, it’s easy to play and durably built—everything a student needs.

One thing to note: the Yamaha F325D does use laminate for both the top and sides. The difference is noticeable if you’re doing a side-by-side comparison, with a bit less shimmer on the attacks and a weakened sustain. It’s still very responsive, however, and the feel is on-par with Yamaha’s other entry level options.

The Best Acoustic Guitar under $400: Materials

To understand the impact the materials have on the sound of the guitar, you have to first consider how the instrument works. The pitch is determined by plucking a string, causing vibrations at a given frequency. If you’ve ever plucked a rubber band, you know this sound is very weak—and that’s where the body comes in. An acoustic guitar’s body is the resonance chamber that changes the string’s vibration into a full, musical sound, allowing it to be played without amplification. That sound is directly colored by the density and composition of the wood the sound is resonating off of.

A guitar generally uses two different woods in its construction: One for the soundboard (or top), and another for the back and sides. Solid spruce tops—like those of the Martin LX1 and Yamaha FGX800C above—are the most common material for acoustics. It’s resonant and responsive with clear articulations, and great for picking and strumming. The spruce laminate used in the Fender and Yamaha F325D (and many other entry-level instruments) is made of layers of thin or pressed wood glued together to the desired thickness. Since glue doesn’t transmit vibrations as well as wood, the sound is dampened and slightly muffled. While laminate guitars can still sound good, solid wood soundboards will sound better.

The soundboard material has the biggest impact on the sound, but the construction of the back and sides also plays a major role. The most common materials are rosewood, mahogany, and maple. Of the three, maple is the brightest, tending dry and clear in the high end. Rosewood is the darkest, warm and rich, especially in the low end. Mahogany falls in the middle, giving the notes a sweet and balanced tone.

The Action

Action is a term basically referring to the distance of the strings from the fretboard, and it has a direct effect on how easy the instrument is to play. If the action is too low, the strings will touch the frets and cause a buzz; if it’s too high, your fingers will have to work too hard to play, making them cramped and tired. While some guitarists prefer a higher action because it gives their sound more punch, most beginners will want their action relatively low, at least while the muscles in their fingers are developing.

A guitar’s action can be adjusted pretty easily, so if your fingers are getting tired after just a few minutes of playing, take the instrument to your local music shop and ask them to take a look. Odds are they can fix it up for not a lot of money, letting you enjoy—rather than endure—your practice time. And we hope you’ve found the best acoustic guitar under $400 here. Good luck!

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