Expensive Vs. Cheap Acoustic Guitars – Are They Worth It?

Expensive Vs. Cheap Acoustic Guitars

Deciding on the right guitar for you is never an easy task. Before you make any purchase decision, it’s a must to consider more than a few factors, especially if you are just starting.  

Which company will fulfill all your demands?  

Will that guitar make you comfortable with your playability?  

What kind of wood do they use to make that guitar?  

Will that guitar meets all your criteria?  

Well before you consider any of these factors, I would suggest you decide on a budget.  

Yes, you heard that right! The most important and difficult factor to consider is how much you should spend on your instrument. 

So, the question remains: expensive vs. cheap guitars, are they worth it?  

Well, the thing is, while more competent artists may choose to spend a lot of money on the “ideal” instrument, the difference in sound quality between an expensive and a cheap acoustic guitar is not significant enough to justify the price difference. So, we wouldn’t advocate investing in a high-priced acoustic guitar.  

Expensive acoustic guitars are not worth the astronomical prices they command. 

But there is a lot to be answered before we come to any conclusion. What could be the most notable distinction between expensive and cheap acoustic guitars?  

Give this article five minutes to read to know more in detail about all the pros and cons of expensive and cheap guitars. Hopefully, by the end of this article, you will be able to make a specific decision on whether you should invest in an expensive or cheap acoustic guitar!  

Do Expensive Guitars Create a Better Sound?

There is no getting around that. Yes, more costly guitars will almost always be of higher quality than less expensive guitars.  

The attention to detail with which the guitars are constructed, the materials utilized, and how skillfully the modifications are made are what raises the quality of a guitar, and hence the price. 

Martin Guitars are the most popular acoustic guitar makers for a reason. They not only existed for almost 180 years, but they also invented the dreadnought form of the acoustic guitar, which is still one of the most popular models today. On their website, you may discover guitars ranging in price from $499.00, such as the Martin LX1R, to $10,999.00, such as the Martin SS-0041-15. 

Granted, a $500 guitar is still a bit pricey, and we will compare inexpensive and costly guitars later in this post, but what must be realized is that the materials, specifications, and attention to detail with which both guitars were constructed are what distinguish them in quality and, of course, price. 

The Martin SS-0041-15 is constructed of Guatemalan rosewood, which is a beautiful but pricey wood. It also has Fishman Aura VT electronics and a very fine finish. The Martin LX1R, on the other hand, is built of Sitka spruce, a considerably more common and less expensive wood to produce. 

Another distinction that impacts both quality and affordability is that this guitar does not have electronics. Finally, the finish is fairly basic, with few frills. 

All of these characteristics will ultimately determine how much the guitar is worth, and the Martin SS will sound better than the LX1R. The Martin SS-0041-15 will have a richer tone and a louder overall volume, not to mention cosmetic enhancements! 

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So yes, expensive guitars do create a better-quality sound than the less expensive ones.  

And if that’s the case for an expensive guitar, the next question that should come to your mind is:  

Do Cheap Acoustic Guitars Sound Bad?

The first thing I would like to point out is that the word “cheap” might be a bit misleading.  

Let me tell you why that is.  

There is a difference between anything that is less expensive than something else and something that has very little value, was badly built, or is completely useless. This misunderstanding may lead you to believe that a “cheap” guitar always has low value, poor manufacture, and inadequate detail. 

Another common fallacy is that an inexpensive guitar is constructed cheaply. Of course, we must acknowledge that less expensive guitars will be manufactured from less expensive materials, but nonetheless, there are several reasons why guitars can be less expensive. 

Mass production is one of them. Naturally, mass manufacturing will result in two things: a reduction in cost as well as a reduction in quality.  

By making the process identical for each guitar, utilizing the same mass of hybrid woods, and employing other strategies to cut costs, guitars will lack the level of intricacy that a boutique guitar store would provide for its products. 

Eventually, this becomes a concern since any flaws that a guitar may have when mass-produced will not receive the same attention, resulting in a lower quality product. 

Are Cheap Guitars Poorly Made? 

No, not exactly. A certain level of competence is still required to manage all of the assembly procedures required to create guitars.  

Furthermore, firms like Fender and Gibson can afford to build cheaper, mass-produced guitars but cannot afford to make “cheap” instruments. Why? Because the quality of all their items, including the cheapest, is closely tied to their reputation. 

Of course, there is still the possibility that 30 out of a batch of, say, 100 guitars may be of poor quality. How can we avoid purchasing one of these low-quality guitars by mistake or on purpose? By contrasting the characteristics of a good and bad acoustic guitar and their variations! 

The Differences Between a Good and a Bad Quality Acoustic Guitar 

After conducting thorough research, I concluded that these five major distinctions must be recognized before deciding how much you are willing to pay for a high-quality or useful guitar. 

Intonation 

When it comes to acoustic guitars, intonation is by far the most crucial factor to consider.  

It is a much more manageable problem on an electric guitar since intonation can be correctly adjusted. The intonation of an acoustic guitar, on the other hand, is exclusively determined by the quality of the instrument.  

Because acoustic guitars do not have the same setup as electric guitars, this is extremely difficult to adjust after the fact. As a result, you must check the intonation on your intended acoustic guitar. 

Construction Hardware  

Good guitars are constructed with high-quality, long-lasting hardware. At the same time, low-cost guitar companies typically minimize expenses by employing lower-quality materials. 

But you should know that most people can’t tell the difference when the guitars are brand new. However, the sound quality of bad guitars degrades over time. 

String Action 

String action is also an essential consideration. Proper string action guarantees that your guitar will play as smoothly as possible.  

Mind you, not all hands are created equal, and your activity requirements may alter, so the simplest method to ensure you feel comfortable is to just play the guitar all the way around the neck. 

As you progress up the fretboard, keep an eye out for any rattles or notable changes in tone and sustain. If any of these things start to happen, you should get a new guitar. Due to the nature of how an acoustic guitar is built, sting movement is also difficult to adjust.  

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Tone 

Once you’ve evaluated all of the functional features of your preferred acoustic guitar, the tone of the instrument becomes the determining factor  

I must emphasize that each acoustic guitar will sound unique. There is no way around it; there are several things that will impact each and every guitar differently.  

The age of the wood, the temperature at which it was constructed, the temperature in which it was stored, and so on. All of these elements will influence how the wood grows and, as a result, the tone and resonance of a guitar. 

Finishing 

When we bought a new guitar, the sensation it gave us compelled us to play it more and more. 

Good quality guitars are beautifully crafted, with no flaws. This is an area where many major guitar manufacturers place a premium. 

While inexpensive or poor-quality guitars appear to be in good condition, at first sight, they do have certain flaws. 

Some manufacturers save their best-looking wood for their most costly guitars and utilize common wood for their less expensive or lower-quality guitars.  

Things You Will Find in An Expensive Guitar  

What exactly distinct the expensive acoustic guitar from the cheap acoustic ones? Of course, there are a few factors you are going to find in the expensive guitars which may lead you to invest in them as well!  

Even Volume & Pitch 

Guitars can have uneven volume and pitch up and down the fretboard, and across the strings from low to high E. Quality acoustics respond with consistent volume and accurate pitch across the whole guitar. 

Dynamic Range 

The ratio between the largest and lowest values is referred to as dynamic range. It mainly refers to the loudness range of a guitar.  

How does the guitar sound when you softly fingerpick it? How does it sound when you strum all the way through a rock song? An excellent guitar will perform effectively at both extremes, reacting to the player’s input with sensitivity. 

Perfect Fit

When you play the guitar, it should be a good fit for your body. Fine luthiers examine the form of the neck, the cut of the body, and the fretboard when designing a guitar. 

Solid Wood Vs. Laminated Wood 

Higher-priced acoustic guitars employ higher-quality ‘tone woods’ rather than laminate wood. There are several tone planks of wood that sound wonderful for various reasons – Brazilian rosewood, cedar, maple, and so on. 

In every case, guitarists prefer solid tonewoods to the laminate wood utilized in less expensive versions. 

Wood Maturing

Because these guitars are made of solid woods, they age and mature well (usually). Laminate guitars, however, do not. Collectors swoon for “pre-war Martins” and other vintage acoustic guitars because the excellent quality wood utilized in these instruments has aged and developed, resulting in a wonderful tone. 

Attention to Detail 

As you get into the $750+ range, the fundamental artistry of an acoustic guitar will definitely increase. Poor craftsmanship is often seen at the neck joint, bridge, and fretboard in an inexpensive guitar.  

The edges and joints should be smooth, the glue tidy, and the instrument should feel well built, and they are only seen in the expensive guitars.  

The Acoustic Guitar Parts That Influence Its Tune 

The Top 

Wood is unquestionably the most crucial factor in influencing a guitar’s tone and resonance. It is especially significant in the building of the top of the guitar, sometimes known as the “soundboard.”  

Cheaper guitars would often employ laminate wood, which is created from tiny pieces of wood that have been pressed and bonded together. This is a less expensive method, but it has a significant impact on the tone. 

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In terms of durability, laminated tops are made up of several layers that are glued together to increase their robustness.  

As a result, a laminated top is less likely to be impacted by external elements such as temperature and humidity. That is one of the most significant advantages of laminated tops.  

The Fretboard Wood 

The kind of wood chosen for the fretboard, as well as its thickness, are crucial aspects that influence tone and playability. 

Generally, a thicker fretboard means deeper tones, and a wider distance between frets can improve sustain without impairing the playability.  

Electronics 

This applies to acoustic-electric guitars and is the factor that has the least influence on the sound. Nonetheless, it is an important factor to consider if you intend to play “unplugged.”  

The greatest electronics will just improve the previously developed tone in the acoustic guitar, so plug in your instrument and compare the tone to just playing it on its own. 

Should You Buy an Expensive Acoustic Guitar?

To put it simply, expensive guitars are almost always way better than cheaper ones. You’ll not only get a better build quality and materials, but the tone and the overall performance will be much better. Yes, it is completely okay for a beginner to buy an electric or an acoustic guitar that’s way past $1000. 

The degree of musicianship you have, in my opinion, is critical in determining whether or not to purchase an expensive guitar as well.  

If you are a newbie or even an advanced musician, you should generally look for a guitar in the lower price range (obviously without buying something you are not happy with). 

My rationale is that there are so many intricacies involving technique, fretboard knowledge, harmony understanding, and natural growth of creativity that can only be obtained via practice and patience. 

Purchasing a costly guitar represents a commitment that you are convinced you will spend the time (years, if not a lifetime) honing your musicianship. If you’re so sure, then just go for it!  

Frequently Asked Questions  

Is an Expensive Guitar Easier to Play?

Expensive guitars tend to be built with higher quality components and have fewer manufacturing flaws, which makes them easier to play than very low-end guitars.  

However, due to advances in manufacturing and other factors, differences between mid-level and high-level guitars are often unnoticeable to most guitar players. 

How to Make a Cheap Guitar Sound Expensive?

There are plenty of ways you can make your guitar sound loads better, and without spending much. 

Just get some new strings, tone up from plastic, install new tuners, upgrade your pickups and ensure that it’s properly set up. Make it all your own and your guitar will sound more expensive than it is!  

Final Words

After considering all of the advantages and disadvantages of costly and inexpensive guitars, I can state that an expensive guitar has a far higher chance of producing a better sound that is more suited to your needs.  

However, I am a firm believer that pricing disparities between acoustic guitars do not always indicate which instrument is best for you.  

The most essential thing is that you choose a guitar that feels nice to you and instantly produces a pleasant sensation for you. A guitar is a significant commitment, so be sure it’s one you’re willing to make.  

So, my advice to you is to go to your favorite guitar store with an open mind and open ears and spend some time playing every guitar you can get your hands on. I am pretty sure you will find the right guitar on your own! 

Tuners Read

Welcome to TunersRead. We are a community of musicians, and we often review musical instruments according to our tastes, specification and, affordability. As musicians, it is our mission to provide accurate information about our reviews. Our website TunersRead.com is a place to learn about musical instruments. Here we talk about many of the things musicians deal with every day, as well as share some insights about how we play our instruments. We also do our best to give unbiased opinions on everything from guitars, to drums, to sheet music.

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