There’s nothing quite like the resonant sound of a classical guitar. The rich tones they are capable of producing can leave you wondering how such a full sound can come from a single instrument.
Playing a classical guitar inspires you to learn new techniques and improve as a musician. The only danger with these exceptional nylon-stringed models is that you may find it very difficult to put them down!
Best Classical Guitars Under $2000
Table of Contents
- Best Classical Guitars Under $2000
- Best Classical Guitars Under $1000
- Best Classical Guitars Under $500
- Why Choose Nylon Over Steel?
- Essential Aspects of Classical Guitars
The Cordoba GK Pro Negra is an exceptionally playable classical guitar made from premium quality materials. It feels and looks like a traditional gipsy style instrument, with all of the best components included for a flamenco guitar.
Let’s start with the construction. The GK Pro Negra has been built with a focus on tonal output in mind. Solid Indian rosewood is used for the back and sides, and the top is made from European spruce.
The combination of these woods produces a breathtaking resonance that classical guitarists strive for. The neck is made from smooth mahogany, slightly thinner than your average classical guitar to improve playability.
What gives this guitar its character is the small details. Hand-inlayed wood rosette and premium gold tuners add a touch of class to the tonewood appearance. It also has a gloss finish which brings the classical design up to date.
Spanish style fan bracing is employed on the Pro Negra, a commonly preferred feature for flamenco guitars because it encourages the top to vibrate with more freedom while producing a balanced tone.
Fishman Prefix ProBlend pickups are there for amplification purposes. These high quality pickups bring out the best tonal aspects of the Pro Negra with very little feedback issues.
Ovation’s Timeless Legend is a classical guitar that lives up to its audacious name. World-renowned for their highly playable acoustic guitars, Ovation have handpicked their best features for the Timeless legend model, making it a joy to both play and look at.
There is a depth to this guitar’s tone which sounds amazing with the fingerpicked styles of classical guitar playing. There is a built-in feedback resistance to avoid unwanted noise when playing through an amp. The body is in the style of a mid-depth cutaway, offering access to the whole fretboard and making fast transitions easier.
With a slightly narrower neck than a typical classical guitar, the Timeless Legend provides a perfect middle ground for those who are used to steel string guitars but want to start experimenting with more traditional styles.
The electronics on the Timeless Legend provide you with an array of handy features, including; a preset tone enhancement circuit, a battery status light, a chromatic tuner and a 3-band EQ. The OCP-1K pickup makes the guitar stage ready whenever the opportunity presents itself.
This guitar’s Lyrachord construction, rich tones and elegant design make it a great option for classical guitarists.
Cordoba makes another appearance on our list with the 45 Limited. This handmade classical guitar is crafted from a beautiful blend of tonewoods. Part of Cordoba’s Espana series, the 45 limited is made with the traditional Spanish guitar designs in mind.
The guitar gets its visual beauty and rich tone from the combination of a strong European spruce top, with black and white ebony back and sides. The particular ebony that is used has ample figuring and creates a powerful, articulate sound. All of this accumulates to make the guitar feel and sound like an authentic Spanish guitar from centuries gone by.
The Cordoba 45 limited doesn’t have amplification capabilities. To be honest, it doesn’t really need them. It’s better suited to intimate, dynamically diverse styles of playing, and can always be doubled up with a microphone if the need for amplification occurs.
This guitar provides you with all of the things you need from a classical model. Clarity of tone, resilient bass response and good sustain. The construction is sturdy, but has a vulnerable, authentic feel. A high quality hard case is also included for added protection.
Best Classical Guitars Under $1000
Cordoba makes another appearance on the list, this time with their Fusion 12 Orchestra CE. This nylon-stringed classical guitar produces a balanced, full-bodied tone thanks largely to the orchestra body style.
The single cutaway design also allows you to easily get up to the higher frets with none of the restrictions that some traditionally shaped classical guitars can sometimes encounter.
The back and sides of the guitar are composed of Indian rosewood, and the top is made from Canadian cedar. This combination creates rich harmonics across the tonal spectrum. The large sound projection doesn’t take away from the Orchestra CE’s playability, though. Playing fast isn’t an issue thanks to the slightly narrower mahogany neck and 16 inch radius ebony fingerboard.
Once again, Cordoba show their attention to detail with a hand-inlayed rosette, ebony and maple purfling and binding made from mahogany. These finishing touches give this classical guitar an elegant look and feel.
The electronics installed in the Orchestra CE are provided by Fishman, so you can rely on the amplification quality when playing live. Silver tuners with ebony buttons are also included, as is a solid hard case perfect for the touring musician.
5. Yamaha CG-TA
Yamaha’s CG-TA is part of their TA series of if classical nylon-string guitars. This is a truly unique model, as it has onboard reverb and chorus effects built-in. This may leave you scratching you head wondering how it is possible, but somehow Yamaha have pulled off this impressive innovation by installing an integrated actuator.
This small device is caused to vibrate when the strings are played, and the vibrations are transmitted to the body resulting in reverb and chorus being created with no amps or pedals needed!
The overall sound of the GC-TA is lively and resonant. The body is classical-sized and the top is made from Engelmann spruce. The back and sides are composed of ovangkol, a sustainable tonewood that shares many tonal properties with rosewood – a full midrange and a bright top end.
The main selling point is definitely the TransAcoustic technology. Being able to create reverb and chorus without the need of amplification is a real game changer. No matter where you’re playing the GC-TA, you can get the feel of playing in a large hall or theatre just by tweaking the onboard effects settings.
Best Classical Guitars Under $500
Moving on to more affordable classical guitars, we have the Washburn C64SCE. Washburn have a long history of producing brilliant classical guitars, and they continue this with the C64SCE. Made with mahogany back and sides and solid spruce for the top, this guitar offers a warm tone with clear projection.
In terms of comfort, the mahogany neck and smooth rosewood fretboard are shaped with the needs of a classical guitarist in mind. String spacing and width have all been specifically calculated for flamenco style players to make quick, smooth transitions easy.
The C64SCE has amplification capabilities with the built-in B-band electronics. This built in pre-amp provides a clear representation of the guitar’s crisp tonality when plugged in. It also has a tuner and 4-band EQ, allowing you to build the amplified tone around by adding or removing some of the frequencies to your desire before a live performance.
Overall the C64SCE is a great affordable option that has the sparkle of more expensive classical guitars. It is easy to play and suitable for beginners or established players alike.
Cordoba returns with the C5-CE nylon stringed guitar. Designed with the simplicity and elegance you’d expect from Cordoba, this guitar looks and feels like a traditional instrument. With mahogany back and sides and a solid Canadian red cedar top, the tonal output is rich and doesn’t lack clarity. It also has fan bracing that is styled similarly to a Spanish guitar.
The electronics, as with most Cordoba guitars, are provided by Fishman again. This time, the Fishman Isys+ system has been employed. It works to make sure you don’t lose the resonant tone of the C5-CE when it is amplified.
The solid mahogany neck provides ideal transfer of the strings vibration into the cedar top, and the smooth rosewood fingerboard is easy under your fingers.
If you want the classic Cordoba sound and feel without having to break the bank, the C5-CE is definitely an option you should consider. It basically encompasses the best points of the more expensive models by the same manufacturer, trimming off some of the more advanced, luxurious features. The playability, sound and overall look have not been noticeably compromised though, and that is the main thing.
8. Yamaha NTX1
The final addition to our list of classical guitars is the NTX1 by Yamaha. This guitar has been made with the intention to make the transition from electric or acoustic guitars to classical nylon-stringed guitars less painful. In order to achieve this, Yamaha have combined the delicate tones of flamenco guitar with a level of comfort and precision that all guitarists can enjoy.
The NTX1 has a slim nato wood body, a solid Sitka spruce top and a pickup system that is located under the saddle for plugging in and playing through an amp or PA system. The neck profile is in a modern style, allowing for plenty of space between the frets. This is ideal for fast, technical playing and reduces the risk of cramps or strains.
The NX bracing system that Yamaha use on all of their NXT guitars enhances the resonance of low-end frequencies and highlights the natural character of the tone woods which construct the classical guitar.
Why Choose Nylon Over Steel?
I’ve switched between nylon and steel string guitars over the years, as my preferences changed. Something I noticed is when introducing a guitarist to nylon strings for the first time, they are often amazed by how easy they are to play, and the sweet tones they produce.
Due to there being less tension on a nylon-stringed classical guitar, it makes learning new chord shapes and working on fingering accuracy a much easier process.
Both steel string and nylon strings are great for their individual purposes, so I think it’s a good idea to have both at your disposal to really develop your playing in different styles.
Essential Aspects of Classical Guitars
Classical guitars are resonant instruments, and their tone is rich with sweet-sounding treble frequencies. Manufacturers are therefore very particular about the woods they choose to construct them.
Two popular top woods used for classical guitars are cedar and spruce. Cedar is a softwood, which promotes harmonics and highlights the timbre of a nylon-stringed guitar. Spruce, notably the Sitka variety, is stiffer, and thus produces a sharper tone.
Another important thing to be aware of, especially if you’re more familiar with playing a standard steel-stringed acoustic guitar, is that classical guitars have significantly thicker necks.
On average, the neck of a nylon-stringed guitar is 2 inches in width. Electric guitars and acoustic guitars commonly have a neck width of around 1.7 inches. This may not sound like a large difference, but it is instantly noticeable when you pick up a classical guitar.
You might find that it takes a period of adjustment to get accustomed to the increased neck size. However, if your chord techniques are good and you have the required finger dexterity, you may find the neck of a classical guitar easier to navigate.
One of the key areas where classical guitar models differ from one another is their bracing. The bracing on the guitar’s soundboard largely controls the way that the mechanism vibrates, thus shaping the tone.
The two main bracing techniques used by classical guitar producers are:
- Fan bracing
- Lattice bracing
Fan bracing has been around for over 150 years. It involves running several braces along the soundboard wood’s grain and is known to increase the dynamic range of a classical guitar.
Lattice bracing was invented in the 1970s and has gone on to become a popular choice. It uses a pattern of diagonal braces, much like the design of a chessboard. This makes the guitar more responsive and allows for greater expression.
Hopefully this list has pointed you in the direction of the best suited classical guitar for your needs. Whether you are transitioning from standard guitar playing to classical, or you are experienced on a nylon-string guitar, the options provided are suitable for players of all experience levels.