In this roundup we're focusing on finding acoustic guitars with low action, meaning the distance from the strings to the fretboard.
But how do we find these acoustic guitars exactly?
First and foremost, a list like this must be based on personal experience. The acoustic guitars I'm recommending here are all guitars I've played, thus I've been able to identify first-hand that they do in fact have low action.
All Acoustic Guitars are Different
Now, the problem is that not every guitar - even within the same brand and model - are going to be created the same or have the same action.
With acoustic guitars especially, the neck and strings can be slightly different from one guitar to another with no explanation of why.
Yet, there are some truths we can look at when trying to find acoustic guitars with low action:
- More expensive acoustic guitars tend to have lower action because they're set up better
- Acoustic guitars with a solid top will have more steady action that stays where you set it
- The action on most acoustic guitars can be changed/adjusted
In other words, there are several brands and models of acoustic guitars that I trust a lot, and that - in my experience - tend to have lower action, right out of the box. Those guitars are usually more expensive and have a solid wood top. Solid wood is a better option than laminate or "layered" tonewood.
Read more: Best acoustic guitars
Laminate tops, even if they ship on an acoustic guitar with low action, tend to shift and move more, making whatever action you set harder to maintain.
So with the disclaimer that no two acoustic guitars are alike, these are eight acoustic guitars that I believe will have low action, or will at least stay low if you take the time to have them set up and/or adjusted.
Acoustic Guitars with Low Action: My Top Recommendations
Taylor GS Mini-e Koa Plus
Taylor 214ce Deluxe
Martin D-15M Mahogany Dreadnought
Taylor 214ce Acoustic-Electric Guitar
Cordoba Fusion 12
Seagull S6 Original
Reliable Brands that Usually have Low Action
Which brands are most likely to manufacture acoustic guitars with low action?
As we've already mentioned, the more reputable the brand, the more likely you are to see low action in their acoustic guitars. Here are the brands we'd recommend targeting:
While other brands can certainly produce acoustic guitar's with low action, the most consistent manufacturers - in my experience - have been the aforementioned three.
But again, you've got to keep in mind that this varies from guitar to guitar.
Every acoustic guitar manufactured is slightly different, which can give you varying levels of string action.
Do expensive guitars have lower action?
You can almost bet that the more expensive an acoustic guitar is, the more likely it will be to have low action and to have the neck properly set up. In this post, we've found acoustic guitars that are reasonably priced, but also high-value from reputable brands that are more likely to have low action.
Though if you buy a $3000 guitar, you should be guaranteed to have everything correctly adjusted, right out of the box.
I've played plenty of guitars that have had high action, that made them difficult to work with. And in almost every instance, those acoustic guitars have been cheap and low-end, from brands that I didn't recognize or trust.
It stands to reason, that sticking with a more expensive brand dramatically reduces your chances of ending up with a guitar with high action.
How can I know for sure?
Is it possible to know for sure whether or not you're getting an acoustic guitar with low action?
In most cases, no. You can't know for sure until you play the guitar in question.
But some companies will set up a guitar for you, like Sweetwater. You can also ask for this when you purchase a guitar. Particularly for more expensive guitars, it's not unusual to request that the retailer make sure it's set up properly and that the action isn't too high.
Since Sweetwater has sales reps that you can actually talk to on the phone, that's where I'd recommend having this kind of conversation.
How can I lower the action of my acoustic guitar?
If you do end up with an acoustic guitar that you want to adjust the action for, this article by the Guitar Answer Guy goes through multiple ways to do the job yourself. Alternatively, you can always take it to a local music shop and have the work done, which is usually quite cheap.
Read more: Adjusting your guitar's action and truss rod adjustments
Keep in mind that action on an acoustic guitar - though trickier to adjust than an electric guitar - can always be adjusted later.
Get an acoustic guitar that you like, then make tweaks as you go.
Also consider that even if you buy online, most retailers have generous return policies since it's hard to know if you'll be happy with a guitar until you actually play it. If the action is just too high, have it adjusted or - as a last resort - just send the guitar back and try something else.
Whatever you do, don't "put up" with a guitar that has high action.
Especially with acoustic guitars, this makes it more difficult to play and a far less pleasant experience overall.
If you have questions about acoustic guitars with low action, leave them in the comments below and I'll help out as much as possible.
Robert Brizendine says
Retired forensic expert. Content and credibility, most important variables in assessment. contemplating taking it up again, impulsively buying these online courses without purchasing a guitar yet. It’s good to find there is a Consumer Reporter specializing in equipment and education. Like to know more about your credibility
Thanks, Robert. Check our about page for more credentials and background.