Best high-end acoustic guitars

23rd Nov 2012 | 09:30

Best high-end acoustic guitars
Best high-end acoustic guitars
Take a look at our pick of the best acoustics in the £1000 plus price range

ACOUSTIC WEEK: So, you want to buy an acoustic guitar?

We've plucked the best guitars we've reviewed over the last three years to show you the very best of what's out there.

After looking at budget and mid-range guitars, here are the the very best of the high end, the guitars that are reserved for those lucky folks who have north of £1000 burning a hole in their pockets.

How did we choose these guitars?

Every guitar in this guide has been reviewed within the last three years and has gained a minimum of a 4.5 star rating. That means we feel their build quality, sound, playability and value for money are not in question at their relative price points.

Scale length

A guitar’s scale length is important because it has a direct effect on the tension of the strings and therefore how the instrument feels to play: the longer the scale length, the higher the tension of the strings for a given pitch.

In terms of tone, all things being equal (which they rarely are!) a longer-scale-length guitar will tend to have more pronounced string separation and clarity to single notes; compare a Martin 000-28 with an OM-21 for example. To measure a scale length, measure from the inside edge of the nut to the centre of the 12th fret, then double it.

Nut widths

We’ve quoted the nut widths for every guitar, as it’s a significant factor in playability. To the right are common widths in both metric and imperial sizes – different makers use different units. You’ll be amazed how different a millimetre or two across the nut can feel!

A note on prices

The prices we’ve quoted are the manufacturers’ suggested retail prices, correct at the time of the original review. Some official SRPs will have gone up slightly, while many advertised/web prices from retailers will be lower.

Best high-end acoustic guitars
Breedlove Atlas Retro OM/ERe
£1025/$1635 (approx.)

A very classy OM all-rounder with a great neck, good sounds and elegant looks

TYPE: Folk/OM-sized electro-acoustic
TOP: Solid spruce
BACK/SIDES: Solid/lam rosewood
NUT/SCALE: 42.5/650

We said: This guitar falls firmly within the classic Martin OM/000 genre. However, its slim, fast neck means that the Breedlove can be regarded as a general-purpose contender, although that's not to say it isn't a capable picker. Sound-wise, the Breedlove has great unplugged verve, and its excellent, gainful amplified repertoire is impressive.

Full Breedlove Atlas Retro OM/ERe review

Best high-end acoustic guitars
Tanglewood TW70HSR-B
£1090/$1740 (approx.)

Buoyant, convincing sounds with a wide and shallow neck add up to an exercise in tasty tones and cosmetics

TYPE: Folk/OM-sized electro-acoustic
TOP: Solid spruce
BACK/SIDES: Solid rosewood
NUT/SCALE: 44.5/650

We said: This rivals the Breedlove Atlas Retro OM/ERe for acoustic punch, sustain and dynamics, the main difference being a subtly brighter, slightly snappier overall tone that cuts through really well.

Full Tanglewood TW70HSR-B review

Best high-end acoustic guitars
Yamaha CPX1200II
£1189/$1895 (approx.)

Great looks, great tone and well-priced for a pro-grade instrument – what’s not to like?

TYPE: Mini-jumbo electro-acoustic
TOP: Solid Sitka spruce
BACK/SIDES: Solid rosewood
NUT/SCALE: 43/650

We said: In short, the CPX it a show-stealing instrument that appears to have it all: good looks, high standards of craftsmanship and a versatile, capable amplified and acoustic output.

Full Yamaha CPX1200II review

Best high-end acoustic guitars
Martin 000-15M
£1,250/$1995 (approx.)

The 000 has a bold speaking voice that punches single notes or plucked chords to the front

TYPE: OM-sized acoustic
TOP: Solid mahogany
BACK/SIDES: Solid mahogany
NUT/SCALE: 43/645

We said: We don't recall any acoustic guitars – from any maker and at whatever price point – that have caused the stir that this simple-looking 000-15 and its D-15 sibling have managed. But it's their total, non-frilled fitness for purpose that has galvanised us all into wanting one so much.

Full Martin 000-15M review

Best high-end acoustic guitars
Takamine TAN76
£1,282/$2045 (approx.)

A slick neck, tasty lines and the CTP-2 preamp make for a capable OM from Takamine. Amplified high end can need taming

TYPE: Folk/OM-sized electro-acoustic
TOP: Solid spruce
BACK/SIDES: Solid/lam rosewood
NUT/SCALE: 42.5/645

We said: Sound-wise, the Takamine is a conundrum. It has an engaging acoustic sweetness and, powered, the CTP-2's valve contribution is a valuable trump card. But beyond that, unless you like the slightly excited tonal signature, the EQ does need work to extract more natural sounds.

Full Takamine TAN76 review

Best high-end acoustic guitars
Larrivée 000-3R Ltd
£1,299/$2070 (approx.)

Impressive pro-quality fingerpicker that deserves a permanent slot in Larrivée’s roster

TYPE: 12-fret auditorium acoustic
TOP: Solid Sitka spruce
BACK/SIDES: Solid rosewood
NUT/SCALE: 46/650

We said: The 000-3R Ltd is a shrewd debut. There are some cheaper 12-fretters around, and plenty from upmarket boutique makers, but at its price this Larrivée has precious few rivals. That not only marks it out for attention per se but, given the highly accomplished performance, also underlines what superb value it is.

Full Larrivée 000-3R Ltd review

Best high-end acoustic guitars
Martin OMCPA4
£1359/$2169 (approx.)

Superb build quality, versatile acoustic performance; amplified output isn’t as adaptable as higher-end PA series

TYPE: OM-sized electro-acoustic
TOP: Solid Sitka spruce
BACK/SIDES: Solid sapele
NUT/SCALE: 45/645

We said: Since its launch, the Performing Artist Series has been accused of being too Taylor-like. We'd suggest that with this fourth generation member of PA guitars, Martin has produced an electro even more akin to its biggest rivals in both form and tone. Whether that's a good thing is, ultimately, up to you.

Full Martin OMCPA4 review

Best high-end acoustic guitars
Guild D-40 Std
£1,606/$2560 (approx.)

Punchy and articulate sound with excellent playability this is everything a great dread should be... apart from no second strap button!

TYPE: Dreadnought acoustic
TOP: Solid Sitka spruce
BACK/SIDES: Solid mahogany
NUT/SCALE: 43/650

We said: Okay, it lacks a few Traditional Series features, but these are essentially cosmetic and don't detract one iota from them being a great-sounding acoustic, simply yet elegantly styled, and crafted to a very high standard.

The D-40 is a pedigree example of its body style, amply demonstrating that in no way is Guild letting its, er, standards slip. Indeed it's very much the opposite.

Full Guild D-40 Std review

Best high-end acoustic guitars
Guild F-30R Std
£1,714/$2735 (approx.)

A picker-friendly neck with fluid, precise tones makes this expressive, lyrical and clear: nails the essential OM-genre criteria

TYPE: Folk/OM-sized acoustic
TOP: Solid Sitka spruce
BACK/SIDES: Solid rosewood
NUT/SCALE: 44.5/650

We said: The sustainfully vibrant tone is warm and fluid, with silkily sunny highs, and the whole sound displays a delightfully smooth poise and articulation whether strumming or picking. Try it with various tunings - especially drop D or open G - and the guitar positively sings, making it an engaging and highly enjoyable player.

Full Guild F-30R Std review

Best high-end acoustic guitars
Guild F-212XL Std
£1,714/$2735 (approx.)

Quality super-jumbo 12s are rare around this price point, and this one’s a stunner: dynamic and rich 12-string jangle

TYPE: 12-string super-jumbo acoustic
TOP: Solid Sitka spruce
BACK/SIDES: Solid mahogany
NUT/SCALE: 47/650

We said: Despite their cavernous soundboxes, super-jumbo 12s don't always live up to expectations. This Guild, however, very much does. A steroidal, warm-throated, long- sustaining jangle leaps from the instrument, projecting like a good 'un to deliver a fabulous all-enveloping sound.

Full Guild F-212XL Std review

Best high-end acoustic guitars
Martin D-18
£1,849/$2950 (approx.)

Martin has managed to improve and refine what was an already great guitar. This new D-18 is truly fantastic

TYPE: Dreadnought acoustic
TOP: Solid Sitka spruce
BACK/SIDES: Solid mahogany
NUT/SCALE: 44.5/645

We said: Whether gently played fingerstyle or thrashed with a heavy pick, the D-18 offers a balanced, well-rounded timbre with bags of headroom and sustain. Martin's revisions have come together to take the D-18 to another level. In fact, we'd offer a word of warning for current D-18 owners: try the new models at your peril - you'll want one.

Full Martin D-18 review

Best high-end acoustic guitars
Atkin AA AM Special
£1899/$3030 (approx.)

Puts a fine gloss on the all-mahogany genre, with great style: superb

TYPE: Auditorium-size acoustic
TOP: Solid mahogany
BACK/SIDES: Solid mahogany
NUT/SCALE: 43/645

We said: There's a timeless, vintage-like demeanour to this AM Special that greatly impresses and attracts. It's not a flash instrument but it definitely shines - both literally and metaphorically - where it needs to. It looks and plays the business in AA form, and doubtless will do likewise, whichever Atkin body style takes your fancy.

Full Atkin AA AM Special

Best high-end acoustic guitars
Martin OM-21
£1,949/$3110 (approx.)

New Performance neck profile, same instantly likeable tone; the new Standard OM-21 will remain a firm favourite with fingerstylists

TYPE: OM-sized acoustic
TOP: Solid Sitka spruce
BACK/SIDES: Solid Indian rosewood
NUT/SCALE: 44.5/645

We said: There's good reason why Martin's OMs are so loved; they sound fantastic. The lower registers have that familiar plumpness, the top end has a bell-like clarity and the separation throughout the tonal spectrum is excellent.

Full Martin OM-21 review

Best high-end acoustic guitars
Martin GPCPA3
£2100/$3350 (approx.)

Stunning acoustic tone and great plugged in with the Fishman F1. Versatility, playability and performance: our new favourite electro

TYPE: Audiotorium-size electro
TOP: Solid Sitka spruce
BACK/SIDES: Solid Indian rosewood
NUT/SCALE: 45/645

We said: Martin must be congratulated for this superb guitar. Build quality is high, acoustic tone is compelling and the onboard electronics first-class. Some will initially struggle with getting the desired settings out of the F1, but for those who persevere the rewards are great.

Full Martin GPCPA3 review

Best high-end acoustic guitars
Patrick James Eggle Parlour Cuban
£2995/$4775 (approx.)

Extremely mature, atypical parlour sound: another world-class guitar from PJE

TYPE: 12-fret parlour acoustic
TOP: Solid Cuban mahogany
BACK/SIDES: Solid Cuban mahogany
NUT/SCALE: 47/632

We said: Conventional wisdom says that a parlour's default sound is boxy and brash. Not this all-mahogany Cuban's. It has an impressively grown-up, open timbre: warm, smooth and, for its body size, richly textured and dynamic, counterpointed by a sweetly sustaining bite in the highs to endow the required presence. Lovely.

Full Patrick James Eggle Parlour Cuban review

Best high-end acoustic guitars
Collings OM1AV
£5364/$8555 (approx.)

The ultimate modern version of genuine vintage tone; flawless build and ultimate playability

TYPE: OM-sized acoustic
TOP: Solid Adirondack spruce
BACK/SIDES: Solid Honduran mahogany
NUT/SCALE: 43/648

We said: We have bleated on about the 'law of diminishing returns' in reviews of expensive kit for years. But never has the term been so appropriate. For the gigantic extra outlay you get a palpably better sounding guitar, possibly even the best you've ever heard – by maybe 10 percent.

Full Collings OM1AV review

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