The best Yamaha acoustic guitar for every player and Budget

Yamaha is known for, well, a lot of things.

The Japan-based company is known for manufacturing motorcycles, snowmobiles, home appliances, electronics, and — perhaps most importantly — musical equipment. In fact, musical equipment is where the company started, first releasing a reed organ in 1887 and later offering pianos, synthesizers, drums, brass instruments, woodwind instruments, and guitars.

What's the best Yamaha acoustic guitar?

Yamaha is also very well known for its electric and acoustic guitars. Yamaha acoustic guitars have an almost cult-like following in some circles, thanks to prominent use from singer-songwriters and performers like Elliott Smith, Billy Corgan, and many others. The company expects to be quite busy over the next few years (1).

If your knee-jerk reaction is to think of Yamaha acoustic guitars as cheap (or beginner) instruments, you wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. However, you might be blown away by the high-end quality and playability of these Yamaha acoustics.

If you’re a beginner looking to get into playing and want something that’s built well, sounds great, and won’t break the bank, Yamaha acoustic guitars are a great pick. If you don’t know where to begin (Dreadnought? Classical? 12 string? Jumbo?), we can help you choose a beginner guitar

The company also offers their Player Port mobile app that includes a free tuner, tips, resources, articles, and more. If you’re a more experienced player who wants to try something new, this company has something for you, too.

Let’s take a look at the best Yamaha acoustic guitar models in a variety of body styles, as well as 6-string and 12-string formats. 

The Best Yamaha Acoustics You Can Buy

Yamaha has a solid lineup of acoustics across all body styles, sizes, and price points. In this rundown, we’ll take a look at 6 and 12 string models as well as dreadnought (full and ¾ size), concert, thinline, classical, and jumbo body styles. We’ll also take a look at Yamaha’s acoustic-electric models.

Best 6-String Yamaha Acoustic Guitars

Six-string acoustics are the most common acoustic format and a staple of any guitar collection. Yamaha has a wide range of 6-string acoustics for players (and budgets) at all levels.

Yamaha FG-800

Yamaha FG-800

The Yamaha FG800 is the latest entry into the world’s best-selling acoustic guitar series. Carrying on the legacy of the FG700 with quality tonewoods, including a solid spruce top and Nato wood (aka mahogany) sides, the Yamaha FG800 adds a handful of upgrades while maintaining a very budget-friendly price point of $219.99 — making it one of the best Yamaha acoustic models for the price.

One of the main upgrades you’ll find in the FG800 over the FG700 is scalloped bracing inside the body. This essentially gives you enhanced bass tones and makes the guitar project better. You’ll also find a satin neck with rounded fret edges, making this a very comfortable and easy to play acoustic guitar. 

Many guitars in this price range will use cheaper, laminate wood construction, but the FG800 boasts a solid spruce top, mahogany (Nato/Okoume) back, body and sides, and a walnut fretboard.

Pros
  • New scalloped bracing. For enhanced bass tones.
  • Satin neck with rounded fret edges. Easy on the hands.
  • Solid top, back, and sides. Excellent value for beginners or serious players
Cons
  • Budget hardware. While very playable out of the box, the quality of the tuners and the nut are common complaints. 

Is it the best? Maybe not, but it’s the company’s best-selling instrument for a reason: Surprisingly solid features at a killer price.

• • •

Yamaha JR1

Yamaha JR1

Are you just learning how to play guitar? Looking to buy a guitar for a kid or someone with smaller hands?

The Yamaha JR1 is one of the best cheap acoustic guitar options for beginners. With a ¾-size dreadnought-style body, it’s easier for players of all ages and sizes to play the full length of the neck. 

While the Yamaha JR1 is decidedly aimed at beginners or young guitar players, its compact size, lightweight, and low price make it a great option for a travel guitar for more seasoned players.

Modeled after Yamaha’s FG series (like the aforementioned FG800), the JR1 is a folk-inspired guitar with a spruce top, meranti back and sides, and a rosewood fingerboard.

Pros
  • Shorter length. Easier to play for beginners, kids, or players with small hands.
  • Big tone. Despite its small size, spruce top, and solid construction shells out formidable tone.
  • Fantastic vintage looks. Inspired by Yamaha’s FG line of folk guitars
Cons
  • You get what you pay for. While this guitar plays and sounds great at its price, more advanced players will likely find themselves wanting more at some point.

You’ll be surprised by the full-bodied tone that this diminutive guitar can dish out. While it might not hold up tone-wise to a higher-end Yamaha acoustic, you can certainly do much worse at a street price of $159.99. 

• • •

Yamaha LL-TA TransAcoustic

Yamaha LL-TA TransAcoustic

While Yamaha is perhaps most famous for its budget and entry-level acoustic guitars, models like the LL-TA TransAcoustic bring higher-end features and functionality to an instrument aimed at more serious players (2).

From a distance, you can instantly tell that the Yamaha LL-TA TransAcoustic dreadnought-style acoustic guitar is a high-end instrument with a beautiful brown sunburst finish with ebony appointments. If you look a little closer, you’ll find a number of unique features that sets Yamaha apart from the crowd in the $1,000+ price range.

Starting with the finish, the Yamaha LL-TA TransAcoustic’s solid spruce top features Yamaha’s A.R.E. technology, which makes a brand new acoustic guitar sound like a beautifully aged vintage instrument.

Rounding out the solid tonewoods on the LL-TA TransAcoustic are solid rosewood sides and back. Featuring Yamaha’s trademark L body shape, the LL-TA TransAcoustic features the hallmark projection and bass response that the L series is known for.

This is definitely one of the best Yamaha acoustic models out there to upgrade to.

Pros
  • All solid tonewoods. A.R.E.-treated top achieves vintage tone right out of the box.
  • Onboard effects WITHOUT needing amplification. Use onboard chorus and reverb anywhere, anytime.
  • High-end construction and craftsmanship. L body shape provides big, warm tones.
Cons
  • Piezo pickup. You might prefer the tone and functionality of a traditional soundhole pickup.

One very unique feature of the Yamaha LL-TA TransAcoustic is its onboard chorus and reverb effects. While that may sound fairly straightforward, these effects can be used without any amplification–giving you the ability to add a lush shimmer to your tone without having to plug in.

This is the first guitar on this list to feature onboard electronics with its System 70 TransAcoustic preamp and a piezo pickup. Love them or hate them, the under-saddle piezo pickup may be the most polarizing feature on the LL-TA TransAcoustic. 

While significantly more expensive than Yamaha’s entry-level guitars reviewed in this article, the LL-TA TransAcoustic is still a great value – packing a lot of tone and features into a beautifully-appointed dreadnought. Includes a hard gig bag to help protect your investment.

• • •

Yamaha AC1M Concert Cutaway

Yamaha AC1M Concert Cutaway

The Yamaha AC1M Concert Cutaway is the first concert-style acoustic guitar on this list. Concert guitars are smaller than dreadnoughts and feature deeper body contours. Concert guitars are also generally seen as being more comfortable to play while sitting down and provide great clarity and definition for fingerpick playing.

This Yamaha acoustic-electric guitar packs a lot of tone into a reasonably sized concert guitar package. Boasting a solid Sitka spruce top along with a mahogany back and sides, you’ll find the AC1M Concert Cutaway to be a very well-balanced, resonant, and punchy sounding guitar with a middle-of-the-road price. 

The Yamaha AC1M Concert Cutaway features a full complement of onboard electronics, including a System 72 SRT preamp and piezo pickup, 3 band EQ, volume controls, and a built-in tuner.

This makes it one of the best Yamaha acoustic in terms of electronics.

Pros
  • Comfortable to play. Thanks to its concert-style body.
  • Solid tonewoods. Solid Sitka spruce top, mahogany back, and sides.
  • Convenient onboard electronics. 3 band EQ, volume controls, and tuner built-in.
Cons
  • Style might not be for everyone. Is a concert guitar right for you?

These features are great for gigging musicians, but even casual players can appreciate the extra tone sculpting possibilities when plugging into an amp or soundboard.

If you prefer concert guitars with a cutaway, the Yamaha AC1M is a very appealing option at a price ($569.99) that will not break the bank.

• • •

Yamaha APTX2 3/4-Size

Yamaha APTX2 3/4-Size

We actually reviewed this guitar as one of our top fingerstyle guitars.

The Yamaha APXT2 is a ¾-size Thinline acoustic-electric guitar based on the extremely popular Yamaha APX500II. Your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you – this guitar is definitely small. Great for kids, beginners, or even as a travel guitar for more serious musicians, the Yamaha APXT2 is a fun little acoustic-electric guitar with some nice features at a great value.

Pros
  • Super easy to play. Scaled-down ¾-size thinline with cutaway allows effortless playability and portability.
  • Gigbag included. Nice touch for a guitar in the $200 price range.
  • Excellent value. For an acoustic guitar with onboard electronics.
Cons
  • Hit or miss electronics. Might leave you wanting a bit more, but it’s hard to complain for the price. 

• • •

Yamaha AC5R ARE Concert Cutaway

Yamaha AC5R ARE Concert Cutaway

While the Yamaha AC5R ARE Concert Cutaway is undoubtedly one of the most expensive Yamaha guitars available, the spec sheet (and sound quality) on this acoustic-electric guitar really speaks for itself. This concert-style acoustic guitar boasts a solid Sitka spruce top, solid rosewood back and sides, mahogany neck, and ebony fretboard. Handmade in Japan, the AC5R ARE Concert Cutaway also employs Yamaha’s A.R.E wood torrefaction treatment, which not only gives the guitar a classic vintage look but also greater stability.

Featuring a western-style cutaway that allows easy access to the highest register on the ebony fretboard, the Yamaha AC5R ARE Concert Cutaway featuring scalloped top bracing along with shorter back board bracing, giving this instrument greater natural resonance and volume.

Under the hood, the AC5R ARE Concert Cutaway features Yamaha’s signature SRT2 pickup system, volume, treble and bass controls, automatic feedback reduction and a blend control.

Pros
  • Top notch craftsmanship and construction. Handmade in Japan with a beautiful vintage finish and classy snowflake inlays.
  • Versatile electronics. Balance the output of the piezo pickup with modeled mic’d up tones.
  • Effortless playability. Smooth straight taper neck and western-style cutaway make this guitar a joy to play.
Cons
  • It will cost you. With all of its high-end features, this is one of the most expensive Yamaha guitars on this list.

What’s this blend control, you ask? This feature allows you to balance the output from the onboard piezo pickup with modeled tones of a Neumann U 67 large-diaphragm condenser mic or a Royer R-122 active ribbon mic. 

Regardless of price, the AC5R ARE Concert Cutaway is one of the best Yamahas you can buy. With its handmade construction, high-end features, and select tonewoods, the Yamaha AC5R ARE Concert Cutaway more than holds its own with some of the top acoustic guitars on the market. 

• • •

Yamaha APX600 Thin-Line Cutaway

Yamaha APX600 Thin-Line Cutaway

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Yamaha APX600 Thin-Line Cutaway acoustic-electric guitar is yet another contender for the crown of being one of the best Yamaha acoustic guitars for the price. Featuring a solid spruce top, rosewood fingerboard, and nato neck, this thinline cutaway body is incredibly comfortable to hold and play, and it sounds great unplugged. Per Sweetwater, “Yamaha uses locally sourced tonewoods for the neck and body in an effort to minimize waste and support sustainable harvesting of wood.”

Plug in and you’ll find that the System 65A preamp, three-band EQ and piezo pickup provide a lot of amplified flexibility and some extra “oomph” to the tone of this thinline acoustic guitar. The APX600 also features a convenient built-in tuner.

Pros
  • Comfortable and easy to play. Thanks to its thinline cutaway body.
  • Rosewood fingerboard. Sounds warm and sweet.
  • Onboard electronics with 3 band EQ. Tone sculpting at a reasonable price.
Cons
  • Vintage white finish. Some love it, some hate it. How do you feel about it? 

Perhaps the most polarizing feature of the Yamaha APX600 is the “Vintage White” finish. Some love it, some hate it, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder here. Other finishes, such as Black, Natural, Old Violin Sunburst, and the equally-polarizing Oriental Blue Burst are available as alternatives.

For the price, the APX600 might be one of the best Yamaha acoustic thin-line cutaway options available today. With a balanced tone unplugged or plugged in, there’s a lot to like about the Yamaha APX600 Thin-line Cutaway acoustic guitar. 

• • •

Best Yamaha Acoustic 12 String Guitar

If you’re looking for more depth and dimensionality in your acoustic guitar tone, a 12 string guitar produces plenty of shimmer, sparkle, and rich overtones – especially if you like to play in open tunings. Let’s take a look at the best Yamaha 12 string guitar models on the market.

Yamaha FG820 12-String

Yamaha FG820 12-String

Another solid entry into the best-selling Yamaha FG series of guitars, the FG820-12 brings the latest FG series updates to a 12-string format. Similar to many of Yamaha’s entry-level models, this guitar features professional tonewoods such as a solid spruce top, mahogany back and sides, rosewood fingerboard, and a nato neck. 

Following the latest FG series upgrades, the Yamaha FG820-12 includes scalloped bracing for enhanced low-end tones and overall projection. Paired with the crisp tones from the spruce top and musical midrange from the mahogany back and sides, it’s hard not to love the way this guitar sounds.

Pros
  • Standard shaped neck. Feels great with its rosewood fingerboard. 
  • Solid tonewoods. Sensing a theme here? Another entry-level Yamaha with high-quality tonewoods.
  • Includes FG series upgrades. Scalloped bracing provides improved low-end tone and projection.
Cons
  • No onboard electronics or pickup. Although, for what you do get for the price, it’s hard to complain.

Overall, it’s hard to knock the Yamaha FG820 12 string guitar. You get a high-quality guitar constructed with professional tonewoods for less than $400, making it a great beginner guitar or an extremely solid backup instrument for gigging musicians. It’s also available in tobacco brown sunburst and autumn burst finishes.

• • •

Yamaha LL16-12 ARE Original Jumbo 12-String

Yamaha LL16-12 ARE Original Jumbo 12-String

Let’s cut to the chase. The Yamaha LL16-12 ARE Original Jumbo 12-string is one of the best 12-string models for the money. From top to bottom, this is a premium instrument and solid performer. 

Featuring a hand-selected solid Engelmann spruce top that utilizes Yamaha’s A.R.E. process to “age” the wood to sound like a classic vintage instrument, solid rosewood back and sides, a 5-ply mahogany and rosewood neck, and an ebony fingerboard, Yamaha did not cut any corners with selecting these high-quality tonewoods that provide unmatched sound quality.

The Yamaha LL16-12 ARE Original Jumbo 12-string guitar also features a unique SRT Zero Impact Pickup. This passive piezo pickup has individual elements dedicated to each string, providing a more natural tone and rich sound. Important to note: This Zero Impact Pickup is passive, meaning that you will need to use an external preamp when you plug in, but the payoff is an amazing acoustic sound.

Pros
  • Premium with a capital P. Fantastic playability and tone.
  • Top-notch tonewoods. Solid Engelmann spruce top, 5 ply mahogany neck, and ebony fretboard.
  • Special passive SRT Zero Impact pickup. Uses individual elements for each string.
Cons
  • No onboard tone controls. While the passive SRT Zero Impact pickup is designed to capture the guitar’s natural tone, there are no onboard tone controls or preamp.

The Yamaha LL16-12 ARE Original Jumbo 12-string is an extremely high-quality guitar, with solid wood choices and high-end finishes throughout. At $1,019.99, it might actually be a bargain considering it comes in at a fraction of the cost of a similar 12-string acoustic guitar from other high-end guitar manufacturers.

• • •

Classical Guitar

Famously known for fingerpicking, classical guitars also make a great beginner instrument thanks to nylon strings that make playing a little more comfortable.

Yamaha C40II Full-Scale Classical

Yamaha C40II Full-Scale Classical

The Yamaha C40II Full-Scale Classical guitar is a tremendous value as a first guitar or as an addition to your collection. With a spruce top, meranti back and sides and a rosewood fretboard, you’ll find the trademark classical tone that’s perfect for fingerstyle playing.

Staying true to the classical style, the C40II Full-Scale Classical guitar also features a full 2 inch wide nut designed to help develop proper finger techniques. Yamaha’s Player Port mobile app can also help you in your journey to learn and master the classical guitar style. Whether you’re completely new to guitar or trying to learn how to play in the classical style, the C40II is an excellent option at a bargain price. 

Pros
  • Excellent option for first guitar. Great value at $159.
  • Spruce top. Provides balanced, bright sound.
  • 2-inch nut. True to classical specifications.
Cons
  • Bare bones. But what more do you want for $159?

• • •

Yamaha CG122MSH Classical

Yamaha CG122MSH Classical

The Yamaha CG122MSH Classical is a definite step up from the entry-level C40II. Featuring an upgraded solid Engelmann Spruce top, nato neck, and satin finish, you get great projection, warm tone, and an overall balanced sound. 

The Yamaha CG122MSH  is a full-size model with a full 2-inch wide nut, making complex chord configurations easier to play. Every collection, no matter how big or small, needs a classical guitar, and the Yamaha CG122MSH is the best Yamaha classical option for the money. It’s a fantastic value with high-quality tonewoods at an extremely reasonable price.

Pros
  • Solid wood top. Great tone and projection.
  • Full nut width. Full spacing for learning proper classical techniques.
  • Full size classical at a very reasonable price. Need I say more?
Cons
  • Matte finish. I’m a fan, but it might not be for everyone. 

• • •

Yamaha NTX1 Nylon String Acoustic

Yamaha NTX1 Nylon String Acoustic

If you’re an electric player, transitioning to playing a classical electric guitar can be challenging due to the wider nut, neck and string spacing. The Yamaha NTX1 Nylon String Acoustic-Electric Guitar is designed to bridge that gap, giving predominantly electric guitar players a comfortable cutaway, onboard electronics, and a narrower nut than you’ll find on traditional classical 6-strings .

The Yamaha NTX1 features high-end solid tonewoods including a solid Sitka spruce top and nato wood on the sides, back and neck. Unique to the NTX1 is a refined bracing system that beefs up its low end resonance and projection. 

The NTX-1 is built for the stage, with an onboard tuner, 3 band EQ, and an under saddle pickup. Depending on your preference, you might be put off by the fact that the onboard preamp is powered by AA batteries instead of a more conventional 9-volt battery. If that doesn’t bother you, then you’ll likely be very pleased by the tone sculpting possibilities that the NTX-1 offers for the studio, stage, rehearsal or just playing unplugged around the house.

Pros
  • Designed for electric guitarists. Slimmed-down body and nut make the transition from electric to classical easier.
  • Modern neck profile. Very comfortable and easy to play.
  • Solid tonewood construction. Sounds great and cuts through the mix. 
Cons
  • Preamp needs AA batteries. 9V is preferred by many players.

In short, the Yamaha NTX1 is a fun guitar to play. With its slimmed-down body and neck, along with nylon strings and onboard preamp, it’s an easy-to-play guitar that’s also relatively easy on your wallet.

• • •

Yamaha Guitar History

As we touched on earlier, Yamaha has a long and storied history in producing a wide variety of musical instruments. Starting with reed organs, Yamaha went on to manufacture pianos, harmonicas, band instruments, studio equipment, drums, synthesizers, samplers, amplifiers and for the last 60 years, guitars. Yamaha has produced guitars geared at all genres, including classical, folk, rock, and heavy metal. Attention to detail and quality manufacturing has been Yamaha’s calling card since the beginning, and as you’ve seen in this review of their acoustic guitars, they go to great lengths to build high-quality guitars (with high-quality components) at approachable prices.

Yamaha Acoustic Guitar FAQs

Is a Yamaha acoustic guitar good?

From their entry-level instruments to their high-end guitars, Yamaha has a guitar for every player at every price point. Yamaha takes special care to include quality tonewoods and advanced features even in their entry-level guitars – making high-quality, great-sounding instruments accessible to everyone. 

Are Yamaha guitars good for fingerstyle?

Yamaha offers a variety of high-quality, affordable classical and hybrid guitars that are perfect for fingerstyle playing. Want to take a deeper dive into fingerstyle playing? Read our fingerstyle article here.

Who plays Yamaha acoustic guitars?

Elliot Smith playing a Yamaha
Elliot Smith

With their wide range of instruments released over the last 60+ years, the better question might be “Who doesn’t play (or at least own) a Yamaha acoustic guitar. Elliott Smith famously played 1970s Red Label Yamaha acoustic guitars, and contemporary Yamaha players include Billy Corgan, Billy Sheehan, Peter Hook, Tony Kanal, and even Joe Bonamassa.

What strings come on Yamaha acoustic guitars?

Depending on the individual instrument, Yamaha acoustic guitars come with a variety of strings including Elixr, D’Addario, Savarez, and Yamaha’s own strings.

Which Yamaha acoustic guitars are made in Japan?

Some high-end models like the Yamaha AC5R ARE Concert Cutaway are still hand-made in Japan but nowadays, most Yamaha acoustic guitars are manufactured in China or Indonesia. Don’t knock them until you try them – these are high-quality instruments made out of professional tonewoods.

• • •

What’s the best Yamaha acoustic for you?

A pair of Yamaha acoustics

Yamaha does a really impressive job of cramming a lot of high-quality features and tonewoods into their guitars at all price points. From their entry-level guitars to their pro instruments, you’ll find solid wood selections, advanced features, and electronics. Even at the high end, Yamaha acoustic guitar prices still pale in comparison to other acoustic guitar builders like Martin, Gibson and others. 

My pick? I’m pretty partial to dreadnought body style acoustic guitars, and I’m picking the Yamaha AC5R ARE Concert Cutaway if money is no option. My budget pick? I really like the Yamaha FG830 for an affordable, straightforward acoustic guitar – getting my vote for the best Yamaha acoustic if you’re on a budget. And since I’m a sucker for a good burst, the tobacco sunburst finish makes that decision a little easier for me as well.

• • •

References

  1. Yahoo Finance, “Global Guitars Market By Distribution Channel” as published here: https://finance.yahoo.com/news/global-electric-guitars-market-distribution-111600428.html
  2. Johnathan Horsley, “Yamaha puts upper-fret access on the menu with first cutaway models in its TransAcoustic Series,” as published here https://www.musicradar.com/news/yamaha-transacoustic-series-guitars

• • •

Image credits

Featured image: Freebird from Madrid, Spain, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons; Elliot Smith image: Constintina Trainwreck, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Streaming access to every course in our library!
Monthly $29 On Sale! $24.99/month
Annual $249 On Sale! $179/year

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.