Classical guitars are a whole different animal for those of us who came upon steel-string acoustic guitars.
The sound, playing feel, playing method and construction all live on the opposite side of the world from the typical flattop normally seen on stage and in studios.
Having said that, adding a classical guitar to your collection makes sense if you’re looking for a new acoustic texture or songwriting inspiration.
You don’t necessarily need to buy formalwear and become a full-time classical player to enjoy owning one of these instruments.
You don’t even need to play them in the traditional fingerstyle way, as was solidly proven by the great L.A. session guitarist of the 60s and 70s and Wrecking Crew member Tommy Tedesco and his “Villa-Lobos with a pick” approach.
Our hangout today is all about choosing the best classical guitar under $1000.
That’s a pretty affordable sum for one of these, as the high-end classicals you see the world’s masters playing can sell for $30,000 or more.
Soon, you’ll know which one of these fine instruments is worth your hard-earned pay and why you should own it.
Ready to sling some nylon?
Quick Top Classical Guitars under $1000:
Keep reading for the full reviews!
The Best Best Classical Guitar under $1000
The Yamaha NTX1200R is one of a number of guitars made today that aim to be classical but not too classical.
It’s a professional-quality instrument that’s meant to appeal to steel-string acoustic players, who often find pure classicals to be foreign territory.
Yamaha’s entire NTX line is packed with features such as thinner bodies, narrower necks, 14th-fret neck joints and cutaways that will feel like home quickly to anyone used to electric or steel-string acoustic playing.
The guitars also have a much more modern look to them than does your usual classical, which are the ultimate old-school axes.
The NTX1200R is built with a solid Sitka Spruce top and solid Rosewood back and sides.
This is a time-tested combination of tonewoods known to produce a superior acoustic tone, even in a thinline design like this.
The neck is crafted from African Mahogany.
This blend of woods achieves a warm, balanced tone perfect for nylon-string playing and many players will find more-than-suitable for Latin, Pop, Jazz and Rock styles.
The 1200R also features Yamaha’s A.R.E. (Acoustic Resonance Enhancement), an original wood-reforming technology that employs precise control of temperature, humidity and atmospheric pressure to simulate the molecular characteristics of woods in guitars that have been played for many years.
This offers the closest thing to true vintage tone you can get without actually buying an old guitar.
What’s more, Yamaha's ART (Acoustic Resonance Transducer) pickup system makes getting a natural and expressive amplified sound quick and painless.
Proprietary multi-layer contact sensors work in conjunction with the Yamaha System 61 preamp to give you one of the best plugged-in sounds in the guitar game.
The Yamaha NTX1200R is an all-around performer and needs to be experienced by anyone looking for this type of guitar.
Watch this video to see the best classical guitar under $1000 in action!
- Solid Western red cedar top and mahogany body
- Fishman Presys Blend pickup system
- 48 mm neck width at the nut and 500 mm fretboard radius
Kremona’s Artist Series Guitars are made from the finest tonewoods gathered from around the planet.
The Kremona Sophia has a Red Cedar solid top, a solid Sapele back and sides, an African mahogany neck with an Indian Rosewood fingerboard, bridge and headstock overlay, a wooden rosette and is edged in birch with stylish rosewood purfling.
The Sophia is a traditional classical guitar with a wide neck, no electronics and an elegantly muted sense of style.
It’s not an entry-level guitar by any means, however, and seems to be aimed at players who wish to leave their expensive recording classicals at home, safe and sound.
Other features include a set dovetail neck joint, a bone nut and saddle and gold-plated tuners decked out with amber buttons.
A CGHC deluxe hard case is included with your purchase.
Although many guitarists haven’t yet become familiar with the Kremona brand, fine instruments have been emerging from the Kremona Valley of Bulgaria for over 100 years.
Many players who’ve bought one feel that Kremona makes the best straight-up classical guitars available for the money.
The Sophia’s tone, volume and projection are uniformly excellent and can compete directly with guitars costing many times more than itself.
The Kremona Sophia is one of those guitars that you buy with your ears and fingers and not with your eyes on a famous name on the headstock.
These instruments do have their fans out there, and a quick test drive will show you why.
An all solid wood guitar in this price range is nothing but a bargain, especially if you don’t need built-in electronics.
This video will make you a fan of the entire Kremona line!
Godin guitars are made entirely in Canada and the USA by LaSiDo and, as a company, represent one of the best values in the guitar market.
You always get an onshore guitar at an offshore price.
The Godin ACS-SA is an ultra-modern guitar that blends classical design with elements of leading-edge solidbody concepts and powerful electronics.
It’s made with a chambered Silver Leaf Maple body and a Cedar top, a Mahogany neck taken from the Godin Multiac Nylon Guitar and an FSC Richlite fingerboard.
Obviously, this isn’t the guitar for the hardcore traditionalists among us.
The response from the Cedar top is more akin to a solid guitar, even though chambered, and this makes the ACS-SA practically impervious to feedback, a feature that anyone playing with a loud band will immediately appreciate.
The onboard electronics put this Godin even further away from tradition.
Plugged-in tones are bossed around by individual transducer saddles powered by a customized preamp system from the RMC Pickup Company.
Not only does this rig get you amplified in a hurry, but it also produces a hexaphonic output through a 13-pin connector enabling direct access to Roland GR-Series guitar synthesizers.
That’s right, synthesizers.
It’s not traditional at all but is an amazing option to have as original equipment.
Be advised, however, that there is precious little unplugged volume to this one, being solid and all, and it’s really intended to be used for amped-up performing and not front porch picking.
If you’re down with that idea, it’s tough to beat this Godin at what it does.
It’s a fun and inspiring guitar that will quickly become a mainstay of your collection.
A gig bag is included.
Does this sound like a solidbody to you? Nope!
The Cordoba C9 CD/MH Nylon-String Classical Guitar is one of the premier models in the company’s Luthier Series.
It’s an entirely hand-made instrument with a solid Canadian Cedar top and solid Mahogany back and sides.
The C9 is built in the Torres style, using Spanish fan bracing and Spanish heel construction, as well as the neck shape and flat fingerboard of a true classical guitar.
Fan bracing gives the top of the guitar more space to vibrate and adds much to the overall volume and tone the C9 produces.
The Spanish heel construction, where the top of the guitar is attached to the neck, the sides are added next, and the guitar's body is sealed by the installation of the back adds to the classical coolness of this guitar.
The Cordoba C9 is the most traditionally-minded instrument in our discussion today and is aimed at players who are seeking the real classical guitar experience.
As you might expect, this means no pickup system or other electronics.
Cordoba has been helping to evolve the classical guitar since 1997 and puts features in player’s hands normally found only on the most expensive nylon-string instruments in the business.
The C9 is expressive, honest and beautiful and is a direct descendant of the Spanish guitar-making ideal.
It’s an instrument with a clear and authentic heritage and will satisfy any player looking for that sort of vibe.
A Cordoba Polyfoam case is included with purchase to keep the C9 in fighting shape for years yet to come.
Just listen to what a wonderful-sounding guitar this Cordoba is!
What Is The Best Make Of Classical Guitar?
The top end of the classical guitar world today is populated by independent luthiers whose guitars are Stradivarius-level creations that will set you back $10,000 or more.
These are guitars for serious classical players who are actively studying and concertizing, not playing local Open Mic Nights or cocktail lounges.
Some of the builders of these dream machines are Robert Ruck, Gernot Wagner, Simon Marty, Greg Smallman, Matthias Dammann and Steven Connor.
The good news for you is that you probably don’t need anything quite that heavy.
You don’t even need one of the older higher-end classicals by Ramirez or Torres.
Just about every major full-line guitar company makes classical and nylon-string models that will work perfectly well for the vast majority of folks out there and don’t require a bank loan to obtain.
Any of the guitars in this article will serve your purpose and beyond and there are many others to consider, too.
Takamine, Epiphone, Martin and Taylor all make outstanding nylon-string instruments that can be had for a fraction of what those opera house folks are playing.
As always, the best guitar is the one that feels the best to you and makes you want to play it.
Tuning A Classical Guitar With Nylon Strings
If you’ve never tuned a nylon-string guitar before, prepare for a bit of an experience.
Nylon strings take exponentially longer to break in than steel strings do and you’ll go through a much longer period of tuning instability while your new strings stretch themselves out.
You’ll still use our standard E A D G B E tuning and your regular clip-on or plugged-in tuning device, so no worries there.
You just need to plan on playing and stretching new guitar strings in for a few days, at least in most cases.
This means you need to plan ahead and get your guitar ready before the day of your performance, unlike a steel-string acoustic or electric, which can be broken in quickly.
The good part of all this is that nylons last much longer than steel strings do, and you won't have to change them nearly as often.
Can I String A Classical Guitar With Steel Strings?
No, no, and no!
This is actually a pretty common question from those new to nylon strings, and it's an important-enough topic that it needs to be addressed.
Classical guitars and steel-string acoustics are 100% different animals in the way they’re built, conceived and played.
Putting nylon strings on a guitar made for steel strings won't do the instrument in question any damage, but it won't make it feel or sound very good.
It won’t have much volume or projection at all and will feel like mush under your fingers.
On the other hand, putting steel strings on a classical will, in all likelihood, destroy your guitar.
Classical guitars are not built to handle the much-higher tension of steel strings and attempting to put them on one will result in your bridge pulling off and smacking you in the face, probably with a chunk of the top along for the ride.
Doing this could also cause serious damage to your neck joint.
It’s really about the worst possible idea you could have.
You’d best just plan on having both nylon and steel-string guitars hanging around if you need both sounds rather than trying to convert one into the other.
This is the best situation available because it always ends with you having more guitars and that’s always more fun than having fewer, am I right?
Of course, I am.
So Which One Is The Winner?
By all the metrics at our disposal, the Kremona Sophia is the best classical guitar for beginners.
It packs everything needed to begin the human vs. instrument battle of learning classical music with no additional gadgetry to distract you or get in the way.
It’s a great-sounding guitar made from solid woods and represents an excellent value in its class.
Guitars like the Yamaha and Godin instruments in this article are modernized hybrid instruments not really intended for the full-on classical players in our ranks.
They’re for more advanced players who know what they want and need to handle the gigs that they play.
They let you get that lovely nylon-string sound without asking you to alter your technique or playing style or sacrificing the type of playability to which you’re accustomed.
A beginning classical guitarist should probably start on a good-quality instrument with a fairly traditional design.
This is exactly what the Kremona Sophia is and what makes it a perfect choice for those new to the classical scene.
Expert working players will be drawn to the Yamaha and the Godin due to their modern designs and features, particularly in the electronics arena.
The synth access available with the Godin is a huge extra and is more than you’d expect to get from a guitar in its price range.
I hope this article on the best classical guitar under $1000 was informative and entertaining for you.
Classical guitar is a distant, parallel universe for most of us steel-stringers but investigating it and spending some time on nylons can only be a growth experience.
We only improve as guitarists and musicians by taking on new challenges, new material, and new styles.
Inspiration also comes in all colors and sizes, and the understated beauty of the classical tone could just be the jumpstart your songwriting process needs.