I've been on a bit of a guitar-buying kick lately. When it comes to a really good-quality instrument at a low price, I have a tough time saying no. (I've actually written an entire post on my affinity for budget instruments.)
Guitars have such a wide variety of shapes, styles, and sounds, that it's tough to limit yourself to just one. As a [mediocre] slack-key player, having multiple guitars is also convenient because I can leave them in different tunings, and simply pick up the guitar for the song I want to play. (Something I wouldn't have the luxury of doing with higher-priced guitars.)
Here is my humble collection of bang-for-buck guitars I've collected along the way:
Yamaha FG700S Acoustic Dreadnought Guitar
This was the first acoustic guitar I bought for myself.
After doing a lot of research on the web, I decided on the Yamaha FG700S, as it is consistently recommended as one of THE "best beginner guitars under $500." (Quite a bit under, actually. I think I paid under $200, shipped, for a bundle that included a stand, gig bag, string winder, and a few other accessories.)
I was shocked at the quality of this guitar. It looks great, sounds great, and perfectly playable out-of-the-box. The quality is superb, and it has a nice robust feel to it. This guitar is meant to last.
After about a year of playing though (and learning more about guitar sizes and shapes), I began to yearn for an OM/000 size guitar (the large dreadnought just wasn't all that comfortable, especially for someone who grew up as a uke player). I also wanted a wider nut, since I mostly play finger-style. (The FG700S has a 1 11/16", and I wanted something with a 1.75"-1.8" nut.)
Admittedly though, my FG700S still gets the most playtime of my guitars because I keep it on a stand within arm's reach from my desk.
Recording King RO-26 Acoustic OOO Guitar
One of my biggest regrets is having missed out on the Silver Creek guitar deal that musiciansfriend.com had going on a few years ago. The Silver Creek T-160 and T-170 were amazing guitars at under $100. So much so, that many were buying one of each, just to have both a mahogany (T-160) and a rosewood (T-170) in their collection.
Alas, by the time I got keyed into these guitars, they were all sold out, and the Silver Creek brand, discontinued.
To this day, I still search ebay in hopes of finding one for sale, but you'd be hard-pressed to find someone that wants to part with theirs.
Rumor on the web however, was that Recording Kings were being made out of the same factory (if not re-branded versions of the same guitars). So...
This lead me down the path of looking into the Recording King RO-10 as my next-choice of reasonably priced OM-sized guitar. As I was looking for one however, I found a lightly used RO-26 at a really good price and pulled the trigger!
The previous owner added a pick guard (not my first choice, style-wise...but I suppose "function over form"), and he also included a really nice hard case to go with it.
I have to say, I couldn't be happier. If I had to pick a favorite of my guitars, this would be the one.
The RO-26 turned me into a huge fan of Recording King, which leads me to...
Recording King "Dirty Thirties" RPH-05 Acoustic Parlor ("Single O") Guitar
My most recent purchase. (Sometimes you come across a deal you just can't pass up!)
I always thought a small parlor guitar would be nice-to-have (comfortable to hold, and easier to take around to friends' houses and such).
The new "Dirty Thirties" line has been getting astounding reviews for the price (the RPH-05 sells for about $200). So when I found one for $130 new, I couldn't pass it up.
It's a great little guitar. I'm shocked at the big sound that can come from such a small guitar. (I was actually worried how well it would respond when down-tuning to open G and drop C, but this thing can kanikapila like a champ!) Amazing, amazing guitar for the money.
(I plan to do a full video review on it shortly. Stay tuned.)
Line 6 Variax 300 Electric Guitar
Ah, yes--my neglected electric guitar. This was actually the first guitar I bought for myself about 7-8 years ago.
I had never played an electric guitar before, but became obsessed with watching tutorials on youtube and was thinking it would be a fun thing to try out.
Coincidentally, I happened to stumble upon an article on how Line 6 was shaking up the guitar market with the technology in their new Variax models that really spoke to my inner geek. The Variax line had a digital signal processor built in to the guitar, which could emulate the sounds of virtually any guitar--50's Gibson Les Pauls, 60's Fender Telecasters, semi-hollows, acoustics, even a banjo!
While some traditionalists might snub their nose at the idea, I embraced the concept. With an MSRP of around $800 though, I put the idea on the backburner for a while.
Then came along the clearance deal on musiciansfriend.com. They were blowing out the red version only for $299. (Don't get me wrong, I would have preferred a nice sand-burst or even a black, but not for more than double the price!)
The blowout price was enough to convince me to put in an order (At the time, I also justified it by telling myself that by buying this guitar, I wouldn't need to buy an acoustic. Hah.)
Unfortunately, this doesn't get played a lot these days. Partly because I don't really have a decent amp for it. Also because I just prefer acoustics as of late.
So does this mean I'm done buying "budget" guitars?
Nope! I have, however, told myself that my next purchase needs to be a banjo before buying another guitar. (Either the Deering Goodtime 2 or the Recording King R20.)
There a few more I might pick up at some point, if the right deal pops up:
- I'd still like to find a Silver Creek T-170. (I'd like the rosewood version to compliment my mahogany Recording King RO-26.)
- The Seagull Coastline Folk consistently gets outstanding reviews (and I'd love to add a guitar with a 1.8" nut to experiment with), but it always hangs out at the high-end of the "budget" category at around $500.
- I'm also constantly on the lookout for a cheap acoustic bass. (Always good to have around for jam sessions!) The BC/Crescent EAB's I see on ebay/amazon are really tempting at $80. I might have to grab one just for fun.
Anyway, I hope you found this interesting or perhaps even helpful if you're debating about investing in a budget guitar. You'll be surprised with how much music you can make for such little cost.