Wesman Todd Shaw started playing the guitar when he was 12 years old. He loves nothing more than to pick one up and pluck some strings.
As a lover of all things guitar-oriented, you can't expect me to do much in the way of nay-saying about one of the loves of my life. The orchestra model and 000 body style, however, may be the single most lovable style of guitar there is. Why? Utility. There's not much in the way of drawbacks with these guitars.
If a good orchestra model or 000 steel-string guitar can't do, musically, what you are aiming to do, then you clearly need to own either a nylon-stringed instrument or a solid-body electric guitar. But these are generalizations, for sure. An objective case can be made for the orchestra model steel string acoustic, and the 000 guitars are suitable for more genres of music than any other style of guitar.
Smaller than the ubiquitous dreadnought, the orchestra models and the 000s provide nearly as much volume while maintaining a responsive character not dominated by the bass strings. These guitars work for finger-picking, flatpicking, and chordal accompaniment.
Small-Body Acoustic Guitar Value Buys
The best of Collings, Santa Cruz, Bourgeois, and Martin are lights-out amazing. There is no question the boutique-level manufacturers of the USA make the finest acoustic guitars in the world. But some of those instruments cost ten thousand dollars or more.
This list of five small-body guitars will be dollar for dollar the best value buys I know of. These are not beginner guitars, but they can be. If someone is reallyt serious about the guitar, there is no reason why they can't start off with one good enough to use forever. A good value orchestra model or 000 will be a guitar a person can start with as a child, but never outgrow.
Yamaha FS700S Orchestra Model Guitar
The Yamaha FS700S is a great little guitar. Yamaha has long been a great place to start with guitars. They have always provided a terrific product for the money. This Yamaha FS700S is what I would want someone to start off with, because I think people should start off with something good enough to be proud of. And with a solid spruce top, the Yamaha FS700S is definitely good enough to start with and grow with.
This guitar is priced very low, in the range of two hundred dollars. It is impressive to see a solid spruce top on a guitar selling at two hundred bucks. This can partially be explained because the back and sides of the instrument are of nato, a tonewood rarely seen tonewood in acoustic guitars. The wood looks like mahogany, and has a pretty bright responsiveness. The video I've got here is very good, and the guitar sounds terrific. But that guitar can sound better than that after it has been played for a while and broken in.
- Solid spruce top
- Nato back and sides
- Nato neck with rosewood fingerboard
- 25" scale
- Rosewood bridge
- Die-cast tuners
- Hi-gloss finish
Yamaha FS700S Acoustic Guitar Performance with Jake Blake
Alvarez AF30CE Artist Folk Acoustic-Electric Guitar
The Alvarez AF30CE. Artist 30 Series Folk Electric is another great guitar with solid spruce top and laminated back and sides. This guitar is slightly more expensive than the Yamaha because it has a cutaway and electronics so one can play it plugged into an amplifier.
Alvarez guitars out of Japan are built to compete against Yamaha. They both offer great value guitars, from beginner level all the way up to things any professional would love to own and play. This guitar is more traditional than the Yamaha in that it uses laminated mahogany on the back and sides. Mahogany is a very responsive tonewood for an acoustic guitar, even when laminated pieces are used. You can hear how it sounds in the video.
This guitar costs between two hundred and fifty dollars to three hundred and fifty dollars. You get one with a cutaway and electronics on it, and it will cost you more. Two hundred and fifty bucks for this guitar sans cutaway and electronics is a stellar deal for a person looking to start, or looking to upgrade from a laminated top guitar. At one point in time you typically had to pay five hundred dollars for a solid spruce-top guitar. Times have changed in favor of the guitarist with little in funds. Specifications below are for the basic guitar without the cutaway and electronics.
- Solid Sitka spruce top
- Hand-sanded scalloped bracing
- Mahogany back and sides
- Alvarez bi-level rosewood bridge
- Rosewood fingerboard
- Natural satin finish
- Dovetail neck joint
- Real bone nut and saddle
- Die-cast chrome tuners
- ABS binding
- Case sold separately
Alvarez Guitar Review AF30ce
Takamine Pro Series 3 P3MC Orchestra Model Cutaway Acoustic Electric Guitar
The Takamine Pro Series 3 Orchestra model is a big step up from the Yamaha and the Alvarez previously discussed. As the name implies, the guitar is professional in every way imaginable. So how is it a value orchestra model? Simple. If it had the Gibson, Martin, or Collings name on it, it would magically increase in price by about three hundred percent.
So when it comes to bang for your guitar bucks, this Takamine is a huge value buy. This is a guitar good enough for the best of the best in the huge and wide world of great guitarists. Takamine is earning more and more respect in the world of fine guitars as the years go by. It is possible they have upped their game. It is also possible that people finally started taking notice as the older model solid wood construction Takamine guitars got broken in well, and started sounding more expensive.
This guitar is all solid wood construction; an all-solid-wood acoustic guitar could last many generations, and is a professional's or at least a very serious amateur's guitar.
With the top-shelf electronics Takamine loves to use, and the Venetian cutaway, this is a twelve hundred dollar guitar. If you are lucky you could find a used one to buy. This guitar is a solid cedar top. Cedar makes for a terrific soundboard, but is different from spruce; cedar tops shine best when played lightly, while A spruce top shines brightest when played loudly.
So if you are a person who uses a very thick pick and flatpicks with a very heavy hand, trying to drive as much volume and snap from your guitar as you possibly can, then you absolutely must play this guitar before purchasing it, to make sure you are not going to be over-driving the soundboard. But if you are a rhythm king chordal strummer, or a finger style whiz, this guitar could well be the single best choice you make as a consumer.
The all-solid-wood back and sides are of sapele, a cousin of mahogany. You will be seeing more and more sapele bodied guitars, and you will see those guitars climb in their prices and resale values, because sapele is becoming more and more respected.
But Takamine is especially noteworthy these days for their use of cutting-edge electronics in their acoustic/electric guitars. This guitar is no different; it gets the upscale electronic treatment. Below is a little more about that.
CT4B II Preamp Features
The CT4B II preamp is designed for ease of use and purity of tone. The CT4B II consists of three bands of graphic EQ tone control, a volume control slider, and a built-in chromatic tuner.
The three-band EQ provides control over the bass (LOW), midrange (MID), and treble (HIGH) frequency response. With the sliders set at the midpoint (0), the electric signal from the guitar is evenly balanced across the frequency range. The desired tone is then dialed in by using the sliders to add or subtract frequency response as desired. Each frequency control slider will raise or lower the band response by +/-5db.
Below are the basic bullet point specifications for this terrific value, all-solid-wood construction, professional-level guitar which could last you several lifetimes were you only able to live them:
- Solid cedar top
- Hand-scalloped X bracing
- Solid sapele back
- Ivory binding, with dark purfling
- Concentric-ring rosette with wood marquetry.
- Venetian cutaway
- Takamine split-saddle bone bridge
- Mahogany neck
- Rosewood fingerboard with wood œdot-in-dot inlays
- Gold tuners with amber buttons
- Natural satin finish
- CT4B II preamp system with three-band EQ, volume control and built-in tuner
The Blueridge BR-43AS
Without a doubt, this is my pick here. This is the guitar I would most want out of these on this list. Why? Because this one most suits the style of music I can play. And because I know what outstanding value Blueridge has to offer.
This is a six-hundred dollar guitar that if American-made would sell for quite a lot more. Why is the price so low? It is made in China. Most of the Blueridge guitars are copies of Martin guitars. But they are very good copies priced very low. Chalk the high value at low cost up to macroeconomics and the global marketplace. This guitar sounds better than many with twice the price.
This Blueridge BR-43AS guitar has an Adirondack spruce top on it. It is highly unusual to be able to purchase a guitar with such a soundboard for such a very low price. I am uncertain as to why Blueridge would put Adirondack tops on a laminated mahogany body, but the results make for a guitar whose sound speaks for itself, loud and clear. Below are basic specifications for the Blueridge BR-43AS:
- Solid Adirondack spruce top with hand-carved parabolic braces in authentic Pre-War forward X-position
- Rosewood bridge with maple bridge plate
- Sunburst high-gloss finish
- Mahogany back, sides and rosewood peghead overlay
- Elegant multi-line rosette and single line backstrip
- 5-ply body purfling (B/W/B/W/B)
- Carved low profile mahogany neck with East Indian rosewood fingerboard with adjustable truss rod
- Unique Blueridge M.O.P. peghead inlay and dot position markers
- Dovetail neck joint
- Bone nut and saddle
- Black pickguard
- Nickel-plated vintage-style, open-back tuners with butterbean-style buttons tuners and a 14:1 ratio
- Scale length: 25 5/8 inch
- Nut width: 1 3/4 inch
Guild OM-140CE Westerly Electro Acoustic Guitar
If that Takamine Pro Series 3 guitar up there made your mouth water, but was just a little too pricey for you, then pay close attention to this Guild Westerly OM-140CE. What's the difference? There are several differences. But besides the Takamine, this Guild is the only other all-solid-wood construction guitar on the page. And this Guild is priced at nine hundred dollars.
Guild can price this guitar below the Takamine because it is cheaper to have a guitar built in China than in Japan. The Guild Westerly OM-140CE is a much more traditional guitar than the Takamine. If you play primarily with a plectrum or pick, then the Guild with its Sitka spruce top may be the better sounding guitar for you, because spruce responds more favorably to picking than does cedar.
The Guild Westerly OM-140CE can be had with a sunburst finish or a natural finish. This guitar comes with electronics by Fishman, one of the premier makers of electronics for acoustic/electric guitars. You don't have to purchase a Guild Westerly OM with electronics or a cutaway, but if you buy one with a cutaway, you get the electronics. The Guild Westerly OM-140 without cutaway and electronics is, of course, less expensive still—by about one hundred and fifty dollars.
- Body top: Solid Sitka spruce
- Back and sides: Solid African mahogany
- Body shape: Orchestra
- Bracing: Westerly orchestra Sitka spruce scalloped X-brace
- Rosette black/white striped with MOP ring
- Finish: Natural gloss polyurethane
- Body depth (upper bout): 3 1/2″ (89 mm)
- Body depth (lower bout): 4″ (101 mm)
- Body length: 19 1/2″ (495 mm)
- Body width (lower bout): 15 1/4″ (387 mm)
- Body width (upper bout): 11 1/4″ (286 mm)
- Overall guitar length: 41″ (1041 mm)
- Body binding: Ivory ABS
- Top purling: Black/ivory/black/ivory
- Neck material: Mahogany
- Neck shape: C shape
- Scale length: 25 1/2″ (648 mm)
- Nut width: 1 3/4″ (44.5mm)
- Nut material: NuBone
- Fingerboard material: Indian rosewood
- Fingerboard radius: 16″
- Fingerboard inlays: Mother-of-pearl dot
- Frets: 20
- Tuning machines: Guild vintage-style open-gear
- Hardware finish: Nickel-plated
- Truss rod: Single-action
- Truss rod wrench: 4mm hex key
- Bridge: Indian rosewood
- Bridge string spacing: 2 1/4″ (57 mm)
- Saddle: NuBone
- Bridge Pins: Ovory-colored plastic with black dot
- Electronics: Fishman Sonitone with Sonicore pickup, volume and tone controls, battery bag, and endpin jack
- Strap buttons: Ivory-colored plastic with black dot
- Pickguard: tortoiseshell
© 2016 Wesman Todd Shaw