Acoustic Guitar Buying Advice

That’s a good point. A good setup is important.

I rarely see any guitar in the store that’s setup correctly. They’re typically a little high from the factory.

Sweetwater is a very respected online dealer. They sell a lot of pro gear. Mixers, microphones, amps and instruments.

It would definitely be worth asking them for a setup. I think it’s less than $40. It’s cheaper because your buying the instrument too. I pay $60 locally.

Please don’t take any instrument to Guitar Center for setups. You don’t want a inexperienced person learning his job on your guitar. I have bought instruments at their stores. They’re prices are OK.

I’ll add to the recommedations of having your son check out a bunch of guitars on several visits. Most guitarists play better or worse on any given day, and it’s an important enough investment to take the time to ensure that you’re making the right choice. Dealers and instrument makers usually have plenty of guitars that they want to get rid of because they didn’t turn out very well. Because of that, if you return to check out the same instrument, you’re going to want to have a way to identify it (serial number, weird blemish, etc.) An unscrupulous dealer might show you a different (inferior) guitar, and a forgetful one might make an honest mistake.

I like your idea of surprising your son, though, so if you have a friend who’s played guitar for a long time and will do you the favor, that’d be a way around the problem.

Surprise him with a picture of a guitar and a check. Then let him go to a few different places, try out a bunch of guitars, and get the one that feels right to him.

As someone upthread said, 500$ will get you a very respectable starter.

I had an Epiphone Jumbo that I loved. Epiphone is the poor man’s Gibson. Great tone, nice action…but one day I bumped it, it fell, and the headstock broke. I guess the two brands are kind of famous for it—the strings put a lot of tension on it, it’s thin and oddly angled, and oops.


I think you’re asking for an Acoustic Electric, which has the electronics on board all ready so you can amplify. Sorry if I missed it upthread but you realize the fretboard sizes vary, right? On nylon/gut stringed classicals, it’s really wide; then on acoustic (-electrics) it’s narrower, though they go wider for acoustic 12 strings. If you pay an electric, that’s narrowest. So there may be an adjustment period when changing style of guitar because the distance your fingers move will change.

Wife has Taylor and Martin. I have Washburn and Oscar Schmidt (made by Washburn). I reach for my $150 Oscar Schmidt, but it doesn’t have electronics. I also had an OS 12 string, but never played it so I gave it to my sister. They’re decent quality.

If you want to bundle or need ideas for future gifts…I play d’Addario extra light phosphor bronze…you could buy some other varieties of strings, brands for him to try. Strap, guitar holder, capo, tuner, assorted pics (I like Clayton), polishing cloths…

Something easy to overlook: guitars are not “one size fits all.” Big hands, small hands, short arms, big gut, whatever, means some guitars will fit and be easier to’s part of what people mean when they say play the guitar and get the feel of it, but it’s often not consciously addressed

There you go.

Another thing is to know some appropriate chords to test the guitars you consider buying. If all the kid’s experience is with electric guitar, he should be aware that barre/power chords won’t tell him much about the response of an acoustic guitar. He’ll get better results from chords with open strings at different points along the fretboard. If that’s an issue, let us know and I’m sure you’ll get plenty of suggestions.

Great advice everyone. Thanks!

So after talking about it with my son, he’s more interested getting a better amplifier than the super cheap one he has now. He is looking at this one. Any thoughts on whether it’s decent or not? Any better options in a similar price range?


What amp is he using now?

This Donner.

That’s very cheap for a half stack w/ tube amp. But the brand is generic, and the low price would give me pause. If you’re going down that road, there are a lot of Peaveys, Laneys, etc. that can be found for $300 to $400 used.

My opinion only… if the amp is primarily for practicing guitar in the house, and occasionally playing with others, I would stick with a quality portable amp. The Fender Mustang LT-25 is really nice, and has built-in effects. And it’s a real bargain at $180.

That amp is one you could perform with - very loud. Plus, off brand. I agree with Crafter_Man and would go for a modeling amp with effects. There are a lot of choices out there. I have a Yamaha THR10 which I really like. I also have a 15W Blackstar 12" combo which can be very loud. I have a Boss multi-effect unit, along with a few pedals to play with it. Both those amps were less than the Monoprice unit.

That’s good to know. He seems intent on a tube amp for some reason. By the way, he is playing almost exclusively in his 15’ x 18’ bedroom. That may change, but there doesn’t seem to be a need for “really loud.” At least to me…

Of course. Tube amps are the sound of rock and roll. :slight_smile:

You can of course pay any amount for an amp and cabinet.
Modelling amps have become ridiculously good, and given they can model just about any high end tubeamp straight out of the box, they are great idea for someone learning and playing different styles (assuming he is.)

Needless to say, your son is showing early signs of GAS - gear acquisition syndrome. This is a permanent affliction sadly. It can be treated for a while with purchases of pedals, amps, and guitars. But the symptoms always reappear, and there is currently no known permanent cure.

Loud is bad. Tube amps tend to only sound really good when they are at full tilt. If you have a powerful amp that means silly loud. Unless you need the amplifier to deliver sound into an audience, the smaller the amp the better. For practice, recording, or performance with the amp mic’ed and run through the PA, you want small. It has become common for many boutique brands to offer very low per amps, and amps with various forms of power reduction.

The amp you linked to has two pairs of EL84s. That is two too many. One pair, and an output of 15 watts is more than ample, and will still get insanely loud. The build quality looks pretty mediocre.

The speaker used is important. A very common upgrade for any cheaper cabinet is to swap out the loudspeaker. It has a significant effect on the sound. I say “speaker” and not “speakers”. There is again no value and only downsides using more than one speaker.

To get him on the right path, point him to five watt world

If he (and you) are up to it, I would seriously consider a kit built combo amp. Its a pretty significant amount of work, but anyone can do it, and you get a hand built, point to point wired, tube amp. Which is serous money boutique amp territory.

The absolute perfect amp to build is an 18Watt. (That’s its name.) is the enthusiast forum for builders. There are quite a few kit vendors. The amp is based on the classic Marshall 18 watt.
A nice writeup of kits building The Mean 18: British-Style 18-Watt Amp Kits from Mojotone and Tube Depot - Premier Guitar
A kit is less than the Monoprice amp linked to, up to 50% more depending on parts and vendor.

A fabulous resource for amp builders, especially low power high quality sound is Guitar Amp Builders Forum (which used to be the AX84 site.) There are a range of kits available and lots of support and enthusiastic builders and players.

Wow. Thanks so much for that information! I will read about the amp kits. I think that sounds like a great project I can work with him on.

I was hoping that might strike a chord. It is a great parent-child project. Learn some useful skills, and build something that is as good as anything you can buy. There is a whole universe of pedal builders and kits as well. There are lots of resources out there now. I used to be active on many years ago the two forums I linked to, and they were very supportive. Any problems with a build and there was always someone ready to help.

I’ve really wanted to build my own amp and pedals. That 18W seems like a great winter project… :thinking: :sunglasses:

Red Special - Wikipedia

Worked for Brian May and his dad.

So now my son is interested in an acoustic after all. Any experience or thoughts on this Ibanez? I have an acquaintance who says this is a good beginner guitar. It sells for $199 which is certainly reasonable if it’s decent. I would take my son to try it first, but figured I’d see if anyone here had any thoughts.