Review of 7 Best Classical Guitar Under 500

Classical guitar is one of the most captivating musical genres--whether you want to play in the style of virtuosos like Julian Bream or use a nylon-string guitar in writing your own music, a classical guitar can be a great addition to your musical stable. Best of all, you don't need to spend a huge amount of money to get a great-sounding instrument. In this article, we'll go over several candidates for the best classical guitar under 500 dollars.

The Top 7 Picks for Best Classical Guitar Under 500 Dollars

Make

Model

Rating

Price

Full Review

Cordoba

Mini II EB-CE

Cell

Yamaha

CGS104A

Cell

Cordoba

F7

Cell

Ortega

R221SNBK

Cell

Ibanez

GA5TCE

Cell

Takamine

GC1 NAT

Cell

Ovation

Applause Balladeer AB24CII-SPR

Cell

Review of our Top Picks

In this section, we'll go through our top selections and mention what makes each one stand out.

Cordoba Mini II EB-CE -- Best Travel Classical Guitar

Important Features

  • Modern aesthetic with a cutaway is great for players who play more contemporary music
  • Solid, fan-braced tone gives it great sound for the size
  • NuBone nut sounds much better than plastic
  • Smaller size is great for travel or for kids learning to play
  • Comes equipped with a pickup and onboard preamp for easy live playing

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Solid top and fan bracing offer great tone
  • Small size lets you practice on the go
  • Quality electronics make it easy to play live

Cons

  • Doesn't have the same rich tone as a full-size instrument
  • If you're learning, it's hard to master good classical guitar posture on a smaller instrument

Brief Review & Star Rating

Review

Cordoba is a renowned manufacturer of classical guitars, and this attractive, high-quality mini model is great for travel or for smaller players. Despite its small size, it has an impressively big sound--the solid spruce top is fan-braced just like many full-size classical guitars.

The back and sides are made of beautiful striped ebony. This guitar is also ready to be played live--it comes with a Belcat pickup with a two-band EQ. It's important to note that this is a classical model with a distinctly modern aesthetic, and it comes with a cutaway for easy fret access.

Our Star Rating

This guitar is great for modern players, but it doesn't have the tone of a full-sized classical guitar. We give it four out of five stars.

Yamaha CGS104A - Best Affordable Student Model

Important Features

  • It's one of the most affordable models on the list
  • Full-size body with relatively compact width helps beginners learn proper playing position
  • Laminated body is very durable and produces surprisingly good tone
  • Plastic nut and saddle can be upgraded for better sound

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Very affordable price point makes it a accessible for most players
  • Full-size body makes it easier to learn good playing habits
  • Slightly slimmer width makes it easier for beginners to handle

Cons

  • All-laminate body won't sound as good as a solid top
  • Doesn't have the classic fan bracing of most quality classical guitars

Brief Review & Star Rating

Review

If you're just beginning your classical guitar journey and want to start building good playing habits, this affordable, full-sized classical guitar is a great way to start. While it's an all-laminate model (spruce top and meranti back and sides), its affordable price makes it one of the most accessible on the list.

The concert-style body is about four inches deep, making it easy to handle and play. Its full-scale neck is the right width to help beginners practice and master playing techniques specific to classical guitar.

Our Star Rating

While the laminated top isn't ideal, this is a solidly-built beginner guitar that will help you form good habits. We give it three and a half out of five stars.

Cordoba F7 - Best For Flamenco Guitar

Important Features

  • It's one of the best values on the list
  • Solid European spruce top is highly responsive and has a great sound
  • Narrower body has excellent projection and classic flamenco tone
  • Bone nut and saddle give you full sound with great harmonic content
  • Traditional design will suit anyone looking to play classical guitar

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Solid spruce top is responsive and offers rich sound
  • Offers quality projection ideal for flamenco playing
  • Bone nut and saddle sound better than the plastic found on most entry-level classical guitars
  • Offers exceptional value for the price

Cons

  • Might not be ideal for those wanting to learn non-flamenco classical guitar
  • Does not come with electronics

Brief Review & Star Rating

Review

If you're looking for a Cordoba classical guitar but want a full-sized model, this is one worth looking at. Flamenco guitars have thinner bodies for a snappier sound that projects well. This one is an excellent value--it has a solid European spruce top and laminated cypress back and sides.

The nut and saddle are made of bone, and the fan bracing is typical of quality Spanish-style guitars. The F7 has a beautiful aesthetic and great playability, making it a smart choice for beginners or intermediate players.

Our Star Rating

Even if you don't want to specialize in flamenco, this is a solid-top guitar with a quality build that still remains affordable. We give it five out of five stars.

Ortega Guitars R221SNBK - Best Distinctive Look

Important Features

  • Slimmer neck makes it easier to play than standard classical guitars
  • All-black aesthetic makes it good for those who want to stand out
  • Spruce and mahogany construction offers balanced tone
  • Full-size, all-laminate body makes it a great choice for students

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Unique, all-black look is good for those who want to stand out
  • Slim neck is easier to play, especially if you have smaller hands
  • Spruce and mahogany offer great tonal balance

Cons

  • All-laminate build won't sound as good as a solid top guitar
  • It's fairly expensive given the build quality and lack of electronics

Brief Review & Star Rating

Review

If you want to play classical guitar but have smaller hands, this slim-neck style guitar is a great choice. It also has a distinctive, all-black aesthetic, setting it apart from most classical guitars.

Though it is an all-laminate model, it has a classic tonewood configuration of spruce and mahogany for balanced tone with a strong midrange. The plastic nut and saddle can be replaced if you want to improve the tone.

Our Star Rating

While the slim neck makes it easier to play than many classical guitars, this instrument is somewhat expensive given its build quality. We give it three out of five stars.

Ibanez GA5TCE - Best Performance Guitar

Important Features

  • Thinline body and slim neck make it exceptionally playable
  • Electronics make it easy to play live
  • Spruce and sapele construction gives you a bright yet balanced tone
  • Cutaway makes fret access easier

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Thinner body and slim neck profile make it very playable
  • Quality electronics and onboard preamp make it great for playing live
  • All-laminate, spruce and sapele construction make it very lightweight
  • Fan bracing offers great classical tone

Cons

  • Laminate top won't sound as rich as a solid top
  • Thinline body with a cutaway won't have the same tone as a traditional classical guitar

Brief Review & Star Rating

Review

If you want classic nylon-string tone with easier playability, the Ibanez GA5TCE is a great choice. This guitar is ideal for the modern performer. It's got a thinline body that is easy to hold and play, whether you want to perform in true classical tradition or hold it like a steel-string acoustic. It also has a slim neck, making it easy to play even if you have smaller hands.

This guitar has a spruce top with traditional fan bracing, and its back and sides are made of lightweight sapele. It comes equipped with Ibanez electronics and an onboard preamp, making it easy to play live. A cutaway makes it easy to access frets further down the neck.

Our Star Rating

Though this is an all-laminate guitar, the included electronics and great playability make it a great choice if you play live and want something a little different from traditional classical guitar construction. We give it four out of five stars.

Takamine GC1 NAT - Best Upgraded Student Guitar

Important Features

  • True classical guitar build makes it a great choice for those who want to learn classical guitar
  • Synthetic bone nut and saddle and fan bracing make it sound like a more expensive guitar than it is
  • Spruce and mahogany construction offer classic tone
  • Affordable, all-laminate build make it a good choice for students on a budget

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Features like fan bracing and synthetic bone nut and saddle aren't often found on student guitars
  • True classical guitar build makes it great for learning proper playing posture
  • Affordable price makes it a great value for those just starting out

Cons

  • All-laminate construction won't sound as good as a solid top instrument
  • It doesn't come with electronics

Brief Review & Star Rating

Review

You might already know Takamine for their quality steel-string acoustics, but this affordable classical guitar is great for those just starting out. While it's made of all laminate woods, it includes several features of more expensive classical guitars, including fan bracing and a synthetic bone nut and saddle.

Its spruce and mahogany construction offer warm, balanced tone and impressive durability. Because it's a full-size instrument with no cutaway and a traditional classical guitar neck, it's ideal for those who want to start mastering the classical guitar.

Our Star Rating

While a solid-top guitar is ideal, the bracing and the synethetic bone nut and saddle on this one make it remarkably good for the price. We give it four out of five stars.

Ovation Applause Balladeer AB24CII - SPR 

Best Non Traditional Build

Important Features

  • Unique, resonant build gives it distinctive tone
  • Easy playability and quality electronics make it a good choice for performance
  • Scalloped X bracing gives it a sound different from many classical guitars
  • Cutaway offers easy fret access

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Resonant fiberglass composite "bowl" back offers surprisingly good tone
  • Is very playable
  • Comes with quality electronics, making it easy to play live
  • Unique aesthetic is good for players who want to stand out

Cons

  • Laminate top won't sound as good as a solid top
  • Unusual build isn't ideal for those who want to learn traditional classical guitar

Brief Review & Star Rating

Review

Ovation is a company known for innovative guitar builds. And if you want a nylon string guitar that makes a departure from what you'd expect from a classical guitar, it's definitely worth a look. This guitar has a slim yet resonant body with a cutaway fro easy fret access.

And unlike traditional classical guitars, it has scalloped X bracing for sparkling highs and deep, focused lows. This guitar has a spruce top, and its back and sides are made of Ovation's signature fiberglass composite. It also comes equipped with Ovation's high-quality slim line pickup and an onboard preamp for precise live tone.

Our Star Rating

You might not choose this guitar if you want a true classical guitar learning experience, but it's great for performers who want a truly unique tone. We give it five out of five stars.

What Should You Think About When Choosing a Classical Guitar?

When buying a guitar, "less expensive" doesn't necessarily mean "poor quality"--provided you know what to look for. Here's what to keep in mind as you shop:

Don't Let Price Be Your Only Guide

Especially if you're relatively new to classical guitar, a more expensive model is not always going to sound better. Many experts explain that higher-end classical guitars sound better when the player has more advanced technique. For those newer to playing, there won't be a whole lot of tonal difference between a well-built entry-level instrument and a much more expensive model.

Focus on the Soundboard

The soundboard, or top, of a guitar is one of the most important things when it comes to choosing an instrument. Of course, guitars made with all-solid wood will sound better than those with laminated back and sides, but that difference is much less glaring than the difference between a solid top guitar and a laminate-top instrument.

Getting a solid-top guitar is important, but you'll also want to pay attention to the soundboard material. Two common soundboard woods for classical guitars are spruce and cedar. Spruce has a bright, almost sparkling sound. Cedar is a little darker and warmer. Choose the one that best suits the type of music you want to play.

Listen to Sound Demos

Many articles offering advice on buying a guitar focus on playing several instruments in person before buying one. This is ideal, but it isn't always possible, especially when you're just starting out. If you can't try out several instruments before buying, listen to a few sound demos of each. This will give you a sense of how each one sounds, and it can help you choose the one that sounds the best to you.

Remember That You Can Make Upgrades Later

The tone of a classical guitar is influenced by many things--the way you hold it, the position of your right hand, and even the length of your fingernails. Of course, the components of your guitar also have an impact on tone.

Most higher-end classical guitars have more expensive components--bone nuts instead of plastic, higher-quality factory strings, etc. If you're on a budget and want to improve your guitar's tone, keep in mind that you can upgrade certain guitar components. One simple upgrade that can drastically improve tone and harmonic content is replacing a plastic nut with bone or a high-quality composite. You can't change the core tonewoods of a guitar, but quality strings, a better nut and saddle, and a professional setup make a huge difference when it comes to tone and playability.

In Conclusion

While we think you can't really go wrong with any guitar on the list, our top choice is the Cordoba F7. This is a solid-top, great-sounding guitar that still manages to be affordable. We also think the Ibanez GA5TCE and the Ovation Applause Balladeer are great runner-up choices. While these guitars don't have solid tops, their quality electronics and impressive playability make them excellent performance instruments for those who want an affordable guitar to play live.

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