8 Best Classical Guitars – Reviews of Nylon-Stringed Axes

Updated on by Ross McLeod | Please note that there may be affiliate links on this page.

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

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.

  • Traditional flamenco style
  • Indian rosewood promotes a full-bodied sound
  • Includes HumiCase Protégé case
  • Smooth playability
  • None

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.

  • Impressive projection
  • Rich, versatile tone
  • Cutaway design for access to all frets
  • Built in 3-band EQ
  • None

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.

  • Crafted from exotic woods
  • Naturally warm, full tone
  • Real bone nut and saddle
  • Elegant design
  • No electronics installed

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.

  • Maintains natural sound when plugged in
  • Access to higher frets thanks to cutaway design
  • Full bodied tone
  • Narrowed neck for increased playability
  • None

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.

  • Built-in chorus and reverb effects
  • Rich mid tones
  • Built in gold tuner
  • Slightly thin sounding low-end

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.

  • Wider strings for easy transitions
  • 4-band EQ for amplified playing
  • Understated design
  • Lacks resonance in the higher tones

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.

  • Traditional Spanish fan bracing for balanced sound
  • Comfortable chord transitions
  • Good projection
  • Built in Fishman electronics
  • Electronics can sound muddy when recording straight into a D.I.

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.

  • Resonant low-end
  • Ready to plug in and play
  • Transition guitar perfect for electric or standard acoustic players
  • Modern design
  • May have feedback issues if gain is cranked

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.

To Summarize

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.

Ross McLeod

About Ross McLeod

Ross McLeod is a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer. His most recent project is named Gold Jacket, and he is the frontman and bassist of the garage rock band The Blue Dawns with whom he has released 4 EPs and toured extensively.

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