For many singer-songwriters and folk musicians, a good acoustic guitar is an irreplaceable tool that is central to their craft. Even if you don’t fancy yourself to be a guitar player, having an acoustic guitar lying around can be the perfect thing for getting down musical ideas when inspiration strikes.
While you can certainly spend thousands of dollars on an acoustic guitar made of exotic tonewoods, you can still get one for less than $600 that sounds great and plays nicely.
In this article, we explore some of the great options on the market today and talk about what makes a quality acoustic guitar for any price range.
What Are The Best Acoustic Guitars Under $600?
I personally own a Guild OM240 from the westerly collection. It’s an incredible instrument, being lightweight and having excellent tone unplugged or through a PA. If you are looking for the most “modern player” instrument, the Breedlove Pursuit is the go-to for pushing boundaries. If you are looking for the best value in an instrument overall then the Alvarez AG60CE will never let you down at a gig.
Guild Westerly Collection (Best Overall)
Breedlove Pursuit (Best modern features)
Alvarez AG60CE (Best Value)
Martin X Series
Taylor GS Mini
1. Guild Westerly Collection 240 series (M240, OM240, D240)
Guild has been a legendary American guitar maker, standing alongside Martin and Gibson for the better part of the last century. Their new, affordable Westerly Collection lives by its tagline “made to be played,” and these instruments certainly live up to that standard.
I picked up an OM240 earlier this year, and I’ve been blown away by the overall playability and tone of the instrument, often preferring it to my other, much more expensive acoustic guitar.
What makes the Guild westerly guitars so great is the fact that they take somewhat “cheaper” components (not all one piece neck, some laminate bodies,) and basically upgrade all of the other components that make an important difference in the overall acoustic guitar experience. With a compensated bone saddle and bone nut, as well as a solid Sitka spruce top, a killer sounding fishman designed pickup, and Guild’s unique “arched back” design to give you some extra projection, the westerly guitars are in a unique class unlike most other instruments in this price range.
Another unique advantage of the arched back design of these Guilds is the fact that the weight of the guitar is significantly reduced. While that might not seem like an important element in an acoustic guitar (compared to the weight of an electric), it is a noticeable difference, and makes for more comfortable playing.
The Guild Westerly guitars provide a great sounding and performing instrument that still retains the familiarity and classic look of legendary American guitar builders.
Breedlove is a modern acoustic guitar maker who is not afraid to push the boundaries of sound, look, and style that an acoustic instrument can have. Their new Pursuit line offers a truly modern take on what an acoustic guitar can sound and look like, breaking with many of the established “traditions” to give a modern playing, sounding, and looking instrument.
The Pursuit Concert features Breedlove’s own “concert” design shape, which falls into a similar shape to the auditorium and grand concert designs of Taylor and other makers. The concert shape promises to give players the best sound whether played strummed or fingerstyle, making for a versatile instrument for players of all kinds.
Breedlove also breaks with conventions by using a solid cedar wood top with mahogany back and sides. They further the “unique” factor of this guitar with its wide and very accessible cutaway, providing unparalleled access to the higher frets on the instrument.
Breedlove also includes a genuine L.R. Bagg’s preamp/pickup in the instrument, which only further adds to the quality. L.R. Bagg’s has established itself as the premier acoustic instrument preamp/pickup producer in recent years. This allows the Pursuit to sound as great plugged in as it does naturally.
The Alvarez Artist Series AG60CE acoustic-electric guitar is a Grand Auditorium, which has similar dimensions to the dreadnought, but a narrower waist helping to pronounce the treble notes a little more.
Alvarez is a somewhat underrated acoustic guitar maker in modern times, often not having as much of a presence in the acoustic guitar market. That is not to say that their instruments are not top notch, and the AG60CE is a perfect example of how Alvarez should be a guitar company you ought to pay attention to.
While Alvarez Guitars was founded in the United States, their guitars were designed and built by legendary Japanese luthier Kazuo Yairi. Their custom shop instruments still bear his name and are still handcrafted in the Yairi factory in Japan, and vintage “Yairi” Alvarez guitars are highly sought after by many players. Bille Joe Armstrong of Green Day played a Yairi Alvarez acoustic on their song “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”.
Alvarez guitars are known for being high-quality instruments for working players, giving you everything you need and nothing that you don’t. Their production Artist series guitars provide excellent performance and playability at a price that working musicians can afford.
Alvarez notes that a solid top that isn’t matched to a well-constructed back and sides (of any material) will not perform well, and that their artist series instruments are specifically designed to provide the best performance with the components used in it.
This is an important design philosophy that makes their guitars sound and feel like an instrument that is much more expensive. Going further, the AG60CE is also constructed of all “natural” components for the other parts of the instrument, meaning no plastic binding or inlays. All of this can contribute to a more resonant tone, furthering the overall quality of this guitar.
Add to that the excellent L.R. Bagg’s Element pickup system and an L.R. Bagg’s designed EQ built into the body, and you have an instrument that will not let you down at whatever you throw at it. If you are looking for a modern instrument that sounds ten times better than it costs, take a look at the Alvarez AG60CE.
4. Martin X Series (DX-2E, OMC-X1E, 00L-X2E, 000-X2E)
When it comes to acoustic guitars, one of the quintessential brands that come to mind is Martin. They invented the dreadnought shape we all know and love, and have been responsible for developing and crafting excellent guitars for over 100 years. With their X series acoustics, you get the benefits of a genuine Martin-designed and produced guitar at a price-point that won’t make you need to sell a kidney.
Martin’s X series guitars are designed to be absolute workhorse instruments, giving you classic Martin sound and styling anywhere from the couch to the stage. All x-series guitars are designed with spruce wood tops for a snappy tone, as well as Martin’s eco-friendly and cost-efficient, high-pressure laminate back and sides.
While this means that they are absolutely not solid wood guitars, they are designed to be more resistant to temperature fluctuations and moisture than traditional solid wood guitars, which also benefits them in being great gigging and travel guitars. They all also come in an acoustic electric format, as well as with the option for cutaway or no cutaway (though some of the options with a cutaway put them out of the sub 600 price range).
Overall, Martin’s X series guitars provide you the classic Martin sound and playability with features that make them gig-worthy, yet won’t make you feel like you need to baby them.
While Fender is generally known for making electric guitars, they also make a wide line of affordable and great sounding acoustic/electric guitars. The Fender Newporter player offers a striking acoustic that will appeal to those who want something flashy but do not want to compromise on sound quality.
While the Newporter features the classic spruce top and mahogany back and sides that is known as one of the “gold standard” acoustic guitar designs, the Newporter comes in a wide range of classic Fender finishes to allow your own personality to shine through on these instruments.
The Newporter also features a unique shape, coming somewhere almost like a dreadnought/grand auditorium but also looking unique. Combine that with the fast-playing, Strat-inspired neck, and you have an acoustic that will look and sound great. The Newporter player also comes with a built-in Fishman preamp and tuner so you can make sure you always sound your best and have easy access to amplifying your guitar at your next gig.
The Newporter is a fantastic guitar for those who want a more unique looking acoustic than some of the other “Traditional” style instruments on the market, but still want an instrument that gives great acoustic tone and all the features a working musician needs in an acoustic guitar.
While American acoustic guitar builders have long held the market as being the finest instruments in the world, Japan has also had its fair share of excellent guitar makers, with Takamine being at the forefront. Marketing their instruments mainly to the working musician, Takamine makes instruments that look, sound, and play great without any compromise in performance. The GN71CE is an affordable entry into the world of Takamine guitars, and does not disappoint in any way.
The GN71CE features Takamine’s NEX body style, which essentially makes it a scaled-down jumbo. This means you get some of the best features of the jumbo body shape, with big projection and deep bass response but without all the large body-size bulkiness of an actual jumbo guitar. Add to that the solid Sitka spruce top, as well as walnut back and sides, you get a guitar that responds to subtle nuances and performs powerfully to big strumming.
Takamine guitars also feature their unique “asymmetrical” C-shaped neck design, which makes the guitar fit more comfortably in your hand when playing.
This guitar also features Takamine’s unique split compensated bridge design. This allows for better intonation on the high B and E strings with its more accurately compensated angle than other acoustic guitar designs.
Add to all that the onboard preamp with EQ and built-in tuner, and you get an affordable guitar that packs all the features a gigging guitarist needs to make the Takamine GN71CE a great choice for any guitarist looking for an affordable acoustic electric guitar that sounds and plays great.
Taylor has been making fantastic acoustic guitars for the better part of the last 40 years. While they do not have a centuries-old heritage like Martin or Gibson, Taylor guitars quickly rose up to join those same ranks as the other classic guitar makers, making modern designs that almost give you the “best of both worlds” between Martin and Gibson.
The GS Mini is a unique guitar, marketed as a travel guitar with a small body but with a big sound. The GS Mini’s body is essentially a scaled-down version of Taylor’s Grand Symphony model, which aims to give you the best of both the sound of a Dreadnought and an Auditorium/Symphony model guitar. The result is an incredibly balanced and downright fun guitar that can be likened to a “modern” parlor guitar. You can take it anywhere and still get the fantastic tone you expect out of a Taylor guitar.
Unfortunately, you’ll have to spend a little extra to get one with a pickup installed, but what you trade-off for the lack of pickup you make up for with overall build quality and wood choice. The guitar is available as either an all-mahogany design, or as a rosewood/spruce top design, so you can choose which tone you like more.