As guitarists improve their skills, they often think about improving their gear, too.
Some see it as a reward for a few years of hard work on the instrument and some of us just like buying guitars.
In either case, getting a higher-quality acoustic guitar is always a wonderful experience.
Entry-level guitars are cool and have their place, certainly, but a nicer acoustic is an inspiration-dispensing possession and an essential part of your tonal arsenal.
Every player should have one.
Today, we’re here to look at some mid-level acoustics that are all capable of stealing your heart away, writing hit songs, and generally making the world a better place.
All of these instruments are fully-evolved professional guitars aimed at more advanced players.
They are no-excuses instruments that are able to do anything you’re inspired to play or create.
Enough talk, already; let’s look at the best acoustic under $1500!
Quick Top Acoustic Guitars Under $1500:
Keep reading for the full reviews!
The Best Acoustic Under $1500
- Solid Sitka spruce top with scalloped braces gives you...
- Solid Indian rosewood back and sides guarantees deep...
- Slim mahogany neck offers fast, easy action and...
The Blueridge BR-163CE Historic is a well-executed blend of both vintage and modern design features and construction.
It’s an extremely versatile instrument that will work for a wide variety of players which is why we give it the nod for the best acoustic under $1500.
It’s a cutaway 000-sized guitar, which is smaller than the typical dreadnought and makes the BR-163 suitable for pick and fingerstyle playing.
The smaller body is also very comfortable to play and will fit in the arms of more players than a dreadnought or jumbo.
Plus, the more compact size delivers a tighter bass response and never gets boomy or muddy in the way bigger guitars sometimes can.
The body features a solid Sitka Spruce top, which is an amazing species of wood for this task, and an Indian Rosewood back and sides, which is a much more sustainable and available wood than the Brazilian rosewood so common in the pre-WWII Golden Era of acoustic guitars.
Blueridge does, however, build these much like the old days in terms of design, including using the famous pre-war forward-shifted X-brace pattern to support the top, just like the old masters.
The neck is a slim-tapered Mahogany affair with a 1 & 11/16” nut width, which is a more modern spec and will help players used to electric guitar necks feel right at home.
The bridge and fretboard are both Indian Rosewood, once again.
A Fishman Presys Blend pickup system with onboard tuner pushes this ax further into the 21st Century and makes getting a killer amplified sound easy.
The look and style of the 163 also lean heavily toward the vintage side of things, with herringbone purfling, beautiful headstock inlays, and a Tony Rice-style Dalmatian Tortoise pickguard for that extra bit of onstage coolness.
A deluxe hardshell case is included with your purchase.
The Blueridge BR-163CE is a solid selection for any player seeking a modern stage-worthy acoustic/electric with a vintage 1930s image.
If this sounds like you, be sure to take one of these for a test drive.
Dig the great Blueridge tone:
- Construction: Ply Blocks/Simple Dovetail Neck Joint...
- Includes a Martin vinyl laminated hardshell guitar...
- Quality-built with a solid Sitka spruce top, mahogany...
No acoustic guitar hunt would be complete without at least one Martin because, to a lot of people, the company represents the pinnacle of steel-string guitar design and tradition.
The Martin D-16GT makes a fine shopping quarry and will give many players exactly what they’re looking to find.
It is built upon a 14-fret-to-the-body design, a Sitka Spruce top with hybrid ''X'' scalloped top bracing pattern and Mahogany sides and back.
The GT neck is made from select hardwoods and topped with a Richlite fingerboard.
The bridge here is also Richlite and is topped with a Tusq compensated saddle.
The headstock sports a Corian nut and enclosed chrome tuning machines.
All of this adds up to a nice mix of old and new guitar design ideas and will make a lot of players feel comfortable right away, especially those who didn’t grow up playing Grandpa’s vintage bluegrass machine.
No electronics are included on this one, but you can have a pickup installed easily enough by your local guitar repair tech if you must plug in.
You get a hardshell case, though, so don’t cry too loudly.
Other nice finishes include a herringbone rosette, black Boltaron binding and a tortoise pickguard.
The D-16GT Dreadnought puts classic Martin tone and build quality into a straightforward package that will appeal to modern guitarists.
It's one of the best-sounding instruments in its class, and its vibe is all business.
Treat yourself to a Martin and feel like a legend!
Nothing sounds quite like a Martin!
Tone is the main reason Martins have been in production since 1847.
Listen for yourself:
Takamine is one of the all-time most popular acoustic guitar makers in the world and has been for decades.
Its guitars are seen everywhere from local bars to stadium shows, and the company has a solid reputation for quality instruments with outstanding electronics.
The Takamine Pro Series EF508KC NEX All Koa Acoustic/Electric Guitar is a fine part of the Takamine line.
It’s a fully pro-level world-class guitar with the stunning beauty of Koa wood to make you look as good as you sound.
The entire body is made from Koa, not just the top, so you get the full benefit of the exotic wood’s superior tone.
It looks like a jumbo but is scaled-down a bit.
This makes it a physically comfortable choice for most players.
The neck is Mahogany with a Rosewood fingerboard and is attached to the body with a traditional dovetail joint.
A dual-action truss rod ensures that the Tak will always play perfectly.
Your amplified sound will also be perfect thanks to Takamine’s proprietary Palathetic under-saddle pickup and CT4B II preamp system.
This pairing is made for the stage and provides the typically amazing Takamine tone, and sports a three-band EQ, volume control and built-in tuner.
The interesting thing about a full-on Koa guitar like this is that the sound tends to get more defined in the low end the more it is played.
The tone will grow and mature over time and use, just like the great acoustic guitars of decades past, and large amounts of playing time will only make the wood sound better.
The Takamine Pro Series EF508KC NEX makes for a great ride for players who roll solo or those who rock with a band.
It's hard to go wrong with any Takamine, and the EF50 is just one more example of how true that statement is.
This short video clip will give you a sample of just how toneful the EF508KC is, especially for fingerstyle.
- Solid Sitka spruce top with scalloped braces gives you...
- Solid mahogany back and sides for robust, warm...
- Slim mahogany neck offers fast, easy action and...
Blueridge guitars are so much fun that we had to put two of them on this list.
This one, the Blueridge BR-140CE Historic is a cutaway dreadnought, arguably the most popular size for a steel-string acoustic, and offers the expected Blueridge mix of Golden Era styling and design with features that also appeal to guitarists in the present day.
Dreadnaughts were developed to be a louder guitar than the 00, 000, and parlor-sized instruments that preceded them and that volume factor is the chief advantage the BR-140 has over the smaller-bodied Blueridge covered above.
Like all the guitars in this series, it employs a Sitka Spruce top and an Indian Rosewood back and sides.
Bracing is again the hand-carved and forward-shifted X-brace pattern for tonal excellence and balance.
The neck is made from Mahogany and features a comfortably-slim shape and a 1 11/16” nut measurement that will please just about everybody.
That comfy neck is topped with an Indian Rosewood fingerboard.
Blueridge has a good handle on the classic tonewood combinations that most guitarists are used to hearing and playing, and this is one of the reasons the company's instruments feel like home right away.
The detail aspects of the BR-140CE are lovely and contribute to the stage mojo this bad boy gives off.
White body binding, abalone purfling, elaborate headstock inlay work and the Blueridge signature Dalmatian Tortoise pickguard make the 140 a real looker.
A Fishman Presys Blend pickup system comes factory-installed for your plugged-in pleasure, which is a huge bonus.
Fishman is one of the best names in acoustic pickups and preamps and having one always makes the gig sound a little bit sweeter than other choices might.
The Blueridge BR-140CE Historic is a killer mid-priced acoustic/electric that delivers clear and powerful unplugged tones and all that Fishman goodness when plugged in.
Value, style, and performance are all high here, so be sure to shop one of these if you're in the market for a new dreadnought.
Dig this video clip to hear the amazing tones inside every Blueridge guitar!
In a relatively short time, Taylor Guitars has made a seat for itself at the table with heavyweights like Martin and Gibson, firms that each have more than a century in the acoustic guitar game.
Taylor is the most visible modern American acoustic builder, and even the company's more affordable guitars carry a certain status and vibe few other makers can match.
The Taylor 214ce DLX is one of those affordable models but don’t mistake it for anything but a real Taylor.
It’s made in Taylor’s popular Grand Auditorium body size and style, which is more compact than a dreadnaught but still produces a punchy, balanced tone.
The top is made of solid Sitka Spruce, which is never a bad choice, and the back and sides are crafted from layered Rosewood. A Venetian cutaway on the treble side completes the classic Taylor look and makes for easy upper-fret access.
The use of laminated wood in place of a solid wood back and sides is one of the ways Taylor can make these at a reasonable price.
The Sapele neck is capped off with an Ebony fingerboard and a NuBone nut for extended life and playability.
Taylor’s unique Expression System 2 provides amplified glory any time you plug the 214 in and makes it a super stage guitar.
What Taylor does better than most guitar makers do is carve necks that feel right to players who are primarily used to playing electric instruments.
With no grand Golden Era tradition to cling to, Taylor has developed some of the fastest and easiest necks to play in the guitar kingdom.
There are plenty of other picks for you if a giant bluegrass neck is what you need to be happy.
The Taylor 214ce DLX will feel and sound like a big step forward if you’ve been playing a starter guitar for a while and is an instrument you’ll never outgrow.
You know you want a Taylor, anyway, so start with a 214ce and then collect them all!
Watch this video clip to learn just how cool the 214ce really is:
Dreadnought vs Concert
In the olden days, acoustic guitars were mostly small-bodied instruments that were played in the home or in a supporting role in a group with louder lead instruments such as fiddle, banjo, and mandolin.
Martin developed the dreadnought guitar in the early 20th Century in response to pickers requesting a louder and bassier guitar than what was available.
The name comes from a class of battleships and means “fear nothing.”
Those pickers got what they wanted, and the dreadnought style became extremely popular, to the point that it's what many people have come to consider the "standard" acoustic steel-string guitar.
It’s big and bold, well-suited for hard strumming in an unplugged jam session, but still nimble enough for fast flatpicking and other styles of lead playing.
A Concert is a smaller guitar with roots in those olden times mentioned previously and revitalized by many modern makers such as Taylor and Blueridge.
Concerts are never as loud as dreadnoughts but have their own attributes that many folks love.
They are certainly strummable but really come into their own when played fingerstyle, as the smaller top takes less effort from the picking hand to vibrate properly and produce a good sound.
There are fingerpicking greats who have used dreadnoughts and even jumbos, of course, like Rev. Gary Davis, but the smaller guitar just seems to feel more responsive to most of us.
Which one is better?
They are simply different tools for different players.
To get an idea of which one might be better for you, some playing time is a must.
Even if you’ve always owned dreadnoughts, you may well come to appreciate all that the concert-sized ax can do.
If you mostly strum and sing in a loud bar environment, a dread probably makes the most sense although, with modern electronics, body volume has become less of an issue.
Fingerpickers, especially those working without fingerpicks, will love the responsiveness of the concert and the ease with which dead-thumb and Travis picking happen on it.
You just don’t need to dig in as much as you do with a jumbo or dread.
It really all comes down to personal choice, just like with every guitar.
Find out which one screams “take me home” and follow its advice.
Top Acoustic Guitar Brands
There are a handful of companies that have become known for making outstanding acoustic guitars.
They represent the mainstream of acoustic thinking and design and are the brands most often seen in the clutches of your favorite players.
There are, of course, many small-shop and independent builders out there making amazing guitars but they’re beyond the scope of today’s discussion.
Martin is the big dog in American acoustic guitars and has been making guitars in Nazareth, Pennsylvania since 1847.
The company helped to develop the entire idea of a steel-string acoustic guitar, and its innovative designs have gone on to become industry standards, like the dreadnought.
Today, Martin still makes its classic D-18, D-28, and D-45 models but also produces more modern instruments with the features working musicians need.
Gibson is known for both acoustic and electric guitars, as well as mandolins, banjos, and all manner of stringed instruments.
Gibson also has roots in the 19th Century and, like Martin, did its part to help define what an acoustic guitar is.
Iconic Gibson acoustics include the J-45, J-200, and J-160E and, even now, Gibson acoustics tend to appeal to players who lean more towards the vintage side of things.
Gibson does make more modern guitars, of course, but the company is going through a huge transition in ownership and management currently and what it will be making going forward is uncertain.
Taylor is the modern acoustic player’s guitar and has been creating its own fame and tradition over the past few decades.
Taylor’s biggest selling point is its necks, which are fast and easy to play.
They are popular with guitarists who come from an electric background and lend themselves well to acoustic lead playing, fingerstyle, and singer/songwriter activity.
Taylor is also known for its excellent electronics, especially the Expression 2 System that’s one of the most natural-sounding pickups in the business.
Taylor makes high-quality and consistent guitars up and down its line and has become the choice of many fine modern guitarists.
How To Make An Acoustic Guitar Electric
Amplifying the relatively modest voice of the average acoustic guitar is a challenge that has been answered in a variety of ways.
At first, folks singers had to simply stand in front of a microphone aimed at their soundholes, like Bob Dylan in the 60s, but that approach was primitive, prone to feedback, and trying to stand still in front of the mic got old quickly.
Today, we use different types of pickups mounted on our guitars to get them plugged in, the most common types being soundhole and under-saddle.
Soundhole pickups are just what you think they are.
They mount in the soundhole of a steel-string acoustic and are often magnetic, like an electric guitar pickup, in operation.
Soundhole pickups are usually a quick and relatively simple way to amplify an acoustic, but they do hinder the top a bit from vibrating as it should, which could hurt your unplugged sound.
Under-saddle, or piezo pickups, are tiny little devices that mount on the underside of your bridge’s saddle and operate by sensing the vibrations of the strings physically.
They are the most popular kind of acoustic pickup by far and are the reason it’s so easy to just plug in and play on stages these days.
Most acoustics have under-saddle pickups installed during production today, but they can be easily added as an aftermarket item, too, though it's best to let a competent guitar tech do the job.
Also, these pickups are often connected to preamp units mounted on the top side of the guitar that provide controls for volume, EQ, phase reversal and sometimes even onboard tuners.
For most of us, a factory-installed under-saddle pickup is the right thing to have if playing through an amp or PA system is a normal part of life.
Everything else is just too much trouble.
I hope this article on the best acoustic under $1500 has been informative for you and showed you some instruments that you might want to make part of your guitar family.
I’d also be pleased if you learned some things from our Buying Guide discussions of body sizes, brands, and amplification options.
There are always a lot of big decisions to be made when selecting a new instrument, but you should be a little more confident now in deciding which one is right for you.
Just play and listen and you’ll bring the best one home.
See you next time with another article!