So you're looking for the best classical guitar you can get for under $1000. This price range leaves you a lot of room to get a truly fine instrument. You'll have the flexibility to choose your favorite woods and know that you're getting the quality workmanship of some of the best guitar makers in the field.
You'll be looking at the mid-higher-end guitars from companies like Kremona, Ortega, Yamaha and Cordoba. Their beginner classical guitars are nice, but now you're going to get something that shows off all the hours you've spent practicing and performing, and instrument that's worthy of your skills.
We're going to compare and review 10 high quality classical guitars. Every one on the list has earned its right to be there, so there's not a slacker in the bunch. But I'll look at the finer points, woods, construction, feel and playability to help you find the guitar that's right for your needs and playing style.
Let's dive in.
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Fast View: Best Classical Guitars Under 1000 - Top 3
Best Classical Guitar Reviews
Top Wood: Engleman Spruce
Body Wood: Ovankol
In some ways, this Yamaha is a less-than-traditional classical guitar. That's mostly due to the fact that it's a trans-acoustic guitar. So what does this mean?
A trans-acoustic guitar creates it's own chorus and reverb without the need for an external amp or effects hook-up. It does it right in the guitar itself, using an actuator that's placed inside of the guitar.
The vibration of the strings causes the actuator to vibrate. These vibrations are then transmitted to the guitar body and to the air around the guitar. This creates very authentic reverb and chorus effects.
The sound created using chorus is like you're playing live, as if amped in front of an audience. The reverb function creates a sound similar to a 12-string guitar.
Views are mixed, but most people seem to appreciate this innovation. It does inject something new into this traditionally traditional field.
The effects are fully optional, and you still have an acoustic-electric set-up built in. So, if you're willing to try something different, you've got nothing to lose.
We say, if it intrigues you, go for it. The guitar is a Yamaha, so you know you're getting a good instrument regardless of the extras. It's a win-win
Pros: The innovation is great and we love it when companies take a chance. The effects aren't overdone. They've found a good way to expand the repertoire of the classical guitar without compromising its essence. Innovation done well.
Cons: The controls for the effects are not easy to reach while playing, so it's not realistic to be able to make fast changes on the fly.
Top Wood: Western Cedar
Body Wood: Indian Rosewood
For something to be a good value, it doesn't mean that it needs to be cheap, it means that you're getting an excellent product for the amount you're spending.
That's exactly what this Kremona Fiesta FC classical guitar is all about: value.
The Fiesta FC has amazing sound and craftsmanship that rivals that of guitars 3 times its price. The wonderful wood combination and set up produce great sustain and voluminous sound. In all that, it sounds good across the entire range. There are no weak points in this guitar's sound.
The craftsmanship is exceptional, made by hand by expert luthiers in Europe who pride themselves on creating truly expressive guitars. The fact that they do this for a mid-range priced guitar is one of the things that makes Kremona stand out. The Fiesta FC is a brilliant example of their commitment to over-the-top quality.
The ultra-thin, high gloss finish and smooth as a baby's bottom fretboard make this classical guitar luxurious to hold. The ease and comfort with which you'll handle this guitar is unparalleled. It'll make you love playing even more.
Pros: Everything about this guitar, from the wood choices to the dovetail neck joint is more luxurious than its price point. It doesn't just look good on paper, it comes through in every bit of execution. If you're looking for a great guitar, and a great value, this is it.
Cons: Nothing worth mentioning. Nitpicks aren't real cons and they'd just be word filler. We won't waste your time with that.
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Top Wood: Solid Red Cedar
Body Wood: Mahogany
This Alhambra comes with a combination of a Cedar top and D' Addario Pro Arte strings that produce a mellow tone. The cedar itself, and the open pore finish (if you choose it) gives it great volume that especially favors fingerpicking players with a lighter touch.
The cutaway gives easy access to the higher frets and that's a major benefit because this classical guitar from Spain handles the upper range very well, with liveliness and vigor.
The Fishman pre-amp that Alhambra has included is a bit of hardware that been specifically designed to cater to the needs of nylon strings. It maintains the large, warm tones of this guitar even when amplified. An excellent choice.
The neck is slightly narrower than on some classical guitars, making it an easier transition for steel string players or those with smaller hands.
All-in-all, this is a very nicely made guitar that gives you everything you'd expect from a true Spanish classical, and a bit more. Definitely a solid choice of a guitar with a wonderful tone.
Pros: The warmth of this guitar's tone is something to be appreciated. Of course, it can be punched up a little with a string change, but if you're looking for big, round sound, it's great just the way it is.
Cons: Some people don't love the matte look of the open-pore finish. But the advantages of increased volume may outweigh the look. And then there are those of us who love a matte, natural-looking finish. Only you can decide this one.
Top Wood: Cedar
Body Wood: Mahogany
This Yamaha GC12 Classical Guitar is a pleasure to play. The solid cedar top creates a warm, rich tone that is ever-evolving as the wood ages. Really nice amplification here, too. And the mahogany body keeps the tone bright so the richness and depth of the cedar doesn't become overwhelming. They definitely didn't slack in choosing only quality woods for the GC12 and it's resulted in a nicely tone-balanced guitar.
We also like the comfort of the ebony fingerboard. This guitar is easy to play for extended periods of time, hours on end, without regret. The fret positions are dead-on accurate, as well. Nice attention to detail.
The tuners are solid, but smooth, making them great for both fine tuning and holding their position. You might want to switch to a bone saddle, but that's easy to manage while you're setting it up.
There's good reason for this to be one of Yamaha's most popular models. There's definitely top quality materials and craftsmanship going on here.
If you're upgrading from a beginner guitar, or adding classical to your repertoire, this guitar is an excellent mid-range choice that won't disappoint.
Pros: The choice and quality of woods is one of our favorite features of this guitar. These choices give it a great sound and make it a pleasure to play. A solid playing experience.
Cons: Should come with a bone saddle from the outset and it does need some fine adjustments when it first arrives.
Top Wood: Canadian Cedar
Body Wood: Mahogany
The Cordoba C9 is a stand-out classic when it comes to classical guitars. Even players with more expensive instruments will tell you that this Cordoba is their "go to" guitar, especially for fingerpicking.
The Canadian cedar top adds volume but doesn't muddy up the higher tones, keeping the tone warm, but bright. If anything it favors the lower tones a bit, but not at the sacrifice of any segment of the range. The rosewood fingerboard, and nicely polished frets make it a pleasure to play.
Another nice touch is the vintage 1920's design of the rosette, complete with mother-of-pearl inlay.
This Cordoba C9 is truly rooted in Spanish classical design, with Torres-style fan bracing and Spanish heel construction. It also has the neck shape and flat fingerboard feature of traditional classical guitars.
Like all Cordoba guitars, the C9 comes with an adjustable truss rod for all your fine adjustment pleasures.
This is the mid-range classical guitar you may never grow out of. Treat it well and it will be your beautiful-sounding workhorse for years to come.
This is just one of those sure things. It looks great, sounds great, plays well - it delivers on every level.
Pros: This is a solid choice for a great mid-range classical guitar in pretty much every category. We like the classic styling as much as the quality of its sound and the way it plays.
Cons: As we said, this is a very traditionally designed guitar. If we had any complaint, it's that there is nothing that makes it unique. While it stands out for its quality, it doesn't stand out for style or originality. The Cordoba C9 walks right down the middle of expectation road, and while filling those expectations well, it doesn't do so with originality.
Top Wood: Engelman Spruce
Body Wood: Flamed Maple
One of the most significant features of this guitar is the 3/4 depth body. The thin body can be good or bad, depending on your perspective and needs.
For some people, the thin body will be a blessing because it will be more comfortable and easier to play. By reducing the reach, Yamaha is accommodating people of different sizes, shapes and abilities while still offering a beautifully made classical guitar.
For others, the reduction in volume and the general size of the sound will not be acceptable. They'll be wanting a full body guitar, no matter what. If you're looking for the biggest sound, this probably isn't the guitar for you.
Besides the size, though, the Yamaha NTX900FM is a wonderful guitar. The finishing touches, like the interesting design on the oval rosette and the quality electronics keep this amongst Yamaha's expected levels of quality.
Upon arrival, the action tends to run high, so you can expect to need a thorough set-up when the guitar arrives. Whether you do that yourself, or have it professionally done, is up to you.
The flamed maple sides and back make this a very pretty guitar and are a good choice for both sound and appearance.
Pros: Overall, if the thin-body effects don't bother you, this guitar is a great value, classing itself with guitars that cost much more. And, we like the added comfort.
Cons: The string spacing is a bit narrower than that of most classical guitars so there's some adjustment time for your fingerpicking skills. If you have smaller hands, this may even be a benefit.
Top Wood: Red Cedar
Body Wood: Indian Rosewood
This is not a strictly classical guitar. You should know that from the outset. The Kremona Verea Performer Series has a narrower nut and tapered neck and a few other features designed to make it an easier transition for steel-string acoustic players. Most musicians making the shift just love it.
As with all Kremona guitars, the quality and craftsmanship are top notch. You always get a lot more than you pay for from a Kremona.
The Fishman Presys Blend electronics, built in mic, under saddle piezo, three bands of EQ and built-in tuner work perfectly, giving you all the adjustments and versatility you need.
As for the wood combination, the rosewood/cedar combo creates a clear and resonant tone, nicely crisp but still rich and complex. This guitar is never going to fall short in accommodating your preferred tonal range. It spans low to treble without any difficulty.
Kremona is a Bulgarian company that also makes professional quality violins, violas, cellos and upright basses and they've been doing so for almost a century. You can see why their guitar are such good quality as well. You'll never regret buying a Kremona
Pros: This guitar has great sound and plays wonderfully, especially if you're like me and usually favor the steel string acoustic. The Verea is a well-designed compromise that should sway a lot of steel stringers to happily reconsider adding nylon strings to their repertoire.
Cons: If the narrower string spacing is going to be a problem for you, then this isn't the guitar to get. Consider the Kremona Fiesta FC (above).
Top Wood: Red Cedar
Body Wood: Rosewood
This lefty classical guitar from Ortega has a sweet red cedar top with rosewood back and sides that give it a great tone with a nice level of resonance.
It's another of the wave of classical, nylon string guitars with the slightly thinner neck to make playing more comfortable, and more amenable to steel string players, encouraging them to cross genre more often.
The cutaway adds another comfort and convenience factor and it's more moderate size adds to that yet again.
Ortega does a good job with the electronics that include the MagusPro preamp/pickup system with built-in tuner. A great system for this very moderate price.
The quality of the sound on this guitar is impressive at this price point. Warm and rich, but bright, never veering into muddiness. It's the kind of guitar you can play on stage with pride.
The construction includes a Spanish heel and adjustable truss rod just to put a finer point on the quality of this instrument.
Pros: The comfort level of this guitar is spot-on. From the neck width and radius to the body size, you don't have to stress to play this guitar.
Cons: This Ortega is definitely a solid step up from a beginner guitar, but it's not exceptional in a field of higher end guitars. Good quality for its price point, yes, exceptional, no.
Top Wood: Canadian Cedar
Body Wood: Indian Rosewood
The Cordoba C7 classical guitar sits squarely in the mid-field of top quality classical guitars.
There are no thin necks here, or any other compromises for steel string players. In fact, players with larger hands my appreciate the extra space. Cordoba is all about nylon string classical guitars, and what they do, they do very well.
The Cordoba C7 excels in the deep tones, producing a rich, resonant sound nicely enhanced by the solid Canadian cedar top wood. This guitar sounds like a much more expensive model. The value here is undeniable.
There are two minor issues to be aware of. First, with the cedar top you should use a guitar humidifier. Some issues people have had, like the bridge popping off, or the frets sticking out, are probably humidity related.
The second issue is some fret buzz on the higher strings, though a firm touch can sometimes alleviate this.
With a little care, both of these issues can be handled so that you can have a great guitar at a reasonable price. The Cordoba is a solid choice.
Pros: The sound on this guitar exceeds its price tag and that should make any player happy.
Cons: The fret buzz and humidity issues are annoying, but manageable. Expect to have it professionally set up when you receive it, unless you are prepared to do it yourself.
Top Wood: Canadian Spruce top, stained red gloss finish
Body Wood: African Mahogany with stained red gloss finish
Like the other Ortega guitar on this list, this one runs slimmer with a slimline body, narrower neck, curved fretboard and sleek design. The cutaway gives easy access to the higher frets.
The spruce top and mahogany body create and interesting sound, warm in the middle with a little punch and a richness that's fairly complex. The sound should evolve over time as those woods open up.
The electronics are a solid choice and definitely good quality for this price range.
And we have to say that the red gloss finish is a perfectly daring choice for a classical guitar. I actually love that they're willing to take that chance, to stand out and be different. The white edging does the style some nice favors, as well.
This Ortega has is an all-around great choice with good sound and a dash of panache. You can't go wrong getting this quality at such a great price point.
The built-in tuner is a nice plus.
Pros: Love the color and styling of this guitar.
Cons: The slim design might not be for everybody and the sound isn't quite as big as more traditional classical guitars.
Best Classical Guitar Buying Guide
Because wood selection is of such importance to classical guitars, I'm going to start there. And since all of these guitars have Spruce or cedar tops, I'm not going to bother discussing other top woods. The same with body woods, I'll only discuss those that appear on the classical guitars we're featuring.
For a more detailed discussion of the woods used in all types of acoustic guitars, go here.
Spruce – There are several varieties that get used.
Sitka Spruce – Delivers a nice rich, resonant tone without sacrificing clarity. This wood can handle everything from fanciful fingerpicking to aggressive strumming without compromise.
Engelmann Spruce – This European wood is similar to Sitka. It has a more pleasing mid-range and leans toward a mellower, sophisticated sound. It's a good all-around choice for any style of playing.
Cedar – Cedar is less dense than spruce and can range from light to dark. The softness of this wood creates large, warm tones and is best suited to a lighter touch. Fingerpickers will be especially pleased as it's great at amplifying their lighter tones. Cedar tops make one of the best choices for fingerstyle. However, aggressive players may find cedar too limiting. As you can see from our chart above, cedar is especially popular on classical guitars.
Rosewood – One of the legendary woods for acoustic and classical, guitar Indian Rosewood has a massive frequency range with top quality sound on both ends. In general, rosewood creates robust bass notes and spicy high notes with clarity that's unmatched. Rosewood takes well to any style of play, from fingerpicking to strumming.
Mahogany – Another legendary wood, mahogany delivers rich, balanced tone with an explosive, complex mid-range. This wood's density reduces most ringing overtones. It's great for creating a balanced sound to combine well with almost any top wood.
Maple – Maple is very neutral in the way it reacts with the top wood it's paired with. It also doesn't have a fast response. However, it does create some plucky high end tones. Maple's neutral nature shortens the sustain and gives a punchy sense to individual notes.
Ovankol – This African wood has a very rich mid-range and great treble response. Its warm tone works great for all classical genres and is an all-around satisfying wood choice.
Size and Shape of Your Classical Guitar
A traditional classical guitar has a large, deep body designed for creating and projecting big, rich sound. The Cordoba C-series is a good example. The neck is also wider to accommodate the string spacing needed for fingerpicking. Both of these things make for guitars that can be a bit bulky and challenging to get used to if you're a person of smaller size.
These size factors can also discourage steel string players, who are used to narrower, tapered necks and a large variety of size options, from picking up and adding a nylon string classical guitar to their repertoire.
Fortunately, there are a couple of work-arounds if you find the traditional classical guitar a poor fit.
You can get a 3/4 or parlor size nylon string guitar. Sometimes these fall under the designation of flamenco guitars. The sound might not be as big, but if the comfort of using a smaller guitar makes you want to play more, then it's certainly a fair trade-off. Besides, with all of the electric-acoustic options, it's easy to get a bigger sound if you need it. I've listed some acoustic guitars that are great for players with small hands, including a couple of classical guitars, over here.
The other option would be to look at the guitars above that come in thin-body and/or have tapered necks designed to seduce steel string players over to nylon. Kremona and Ortega are doing a great job of accommodating people who may want more size options in their classical guitar.
Cutaways, where a section of the body of the guitar has been re-routed from the traditional shape to allow your hand easier access to the higher register frets, are a nice comfort feature if you spend a lot of time in the higher range. This probably shouldn't be a make-or-break feature, but it's a nice plus if it suits your playing style.
Neck Joints and Bracing
To be honest, unless you're spending some serious dough and working directly with a luthier to design your guitar, you're not going to have a choice in these elements. Dovetail, or other fine woodworking neck joints are nice, as is Spanish fan bracing, but they shouldn't change your decision on which guitar to get. There are bigger, more significant factors, like sound, size and comfort, to base that decision on.
Hopefully this has given you a good idea of the classical guitar that you want to buy. Take a good look at the list above. There's a really good variety, from staunchly traditional to more modern interpretations. Whatever your needs, the important thing is to find the classical guitar that's right for you.
FAQ - Best Classical Guitar Under $1000
What is a good intermediate classical guitar?
Out of the 10 awesome intermediate and advanced classical guitars I reviewed, these are my Top 3:
Any one of the guitars from this list are fine instruments that will make your blossoming skills sound superb and will be a dream to play.
For more FAQ's about classical guitars, check out this page.
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