Updated by Bobby
Updated on March 16th, 2022
Updated ratings for the Taylor GS Mini and linked to its individual product review. Removed the Martin GPC-X2E
Best Intermediate Acoustic Guitar (our top Pick)
Seagull S6 Original Acoustic Guitar
The Seagull S6 has long been one of our favorite value picks, providing warm tone and a solid cedar top at an intermediate-friendly price point. It's more than a beginner acoustic, certainly capable of providing a great experience for the committed, advancing guitarist.
Parent article: Best Acoustic Guitars
The best intermediate acoustic guitars are often high-value options, bringing quality features to the table at a reasonable price tag.
We define intermediate acoustic guitars by targeting models designed for people who are committed to the instrument and firmly outside of the beginning stages of learning. These acoustics usually have a solid top, some sort of onboard preamp, are built by a respected brand, and have a reputation for being capable of semi-professional or professional use.
In this article, we'll highlight acoustic guitars fitting those descriptions.
For those wanting a broader look, encompassing all skill levels, checkout our best acoustic guitar parent page.
If you're in a hurry, here are the seven acoustics we'll cover:
Best Intermediate Acoustic Guitars (top 7 picks)
Seagull S6 Acoustic Guitar
Takamine GN93CE Acoustic
Martin LXK2 Little Martin 3/4 Acoustic Guitar
Epiphone EJ-200SCE Acoustic
Seagull Performer Series CW Acoustic
Taylor Academy Series (12e)
Taylor GS Mini-e Solid Koa Top Acoustic
1. Seagull S6 Acoustic Guitar
For a long time the Seagul S6 has been one of our favorite, high-value acoustic recommendations.
Its unique combination of solid Cedar and laminate Cherry tonewood produces a fantastic tone that's warm and fun to play. The QI version (preamp included) gives you the option to pay for a preamp or not, while the price point (for either version) is extremely reasonable, hovering around $400.
If we had to choose one, this is our best intermediate acoustic guitar pick based on value and personal experience.
It's a great upgrade for the beginner acoustic guitar player wanting something more permanent.
Read the full review: Seagull S6
IDEAL FOR: Budgets, rhythmic styles, chord progressions, beginner's upgrade
SEAGULL S6 PROS
SEAGULL S6 CONS
2. Martin LXK2 Little Martin 3/4 Acoustic
It doesn't have a solid top or electronics, but the LX1E is a preamp-equipped version available to those wanting to plug up.
Both guitars are extremely similar and put out a great-sounding resonance, especially considering the small body size.
This is also a good performing acoustic, since it's so easy to maneuver.
IDEAL FOR: Small hands, pain (bad backs), performing
3. Takamine GN93CE Acoustic
Most of these acoustics have an acoustic-electric version or some kind of built in preamp.
However, the GN93CE by Takamine has one of the best onboard preamps of any acoustic guitar we've tested.
It includes a three-band EQ, notch filter, tuner, and EQ bypass option.
If the preamp is your main concern and you're looking for flexibility in that area, the GN93CE should get a long look.
IDEAL FOR: Performing, recording, going without an acoustic amp
4. Epiphone EJ200SCE Acoustic Guitar
To really love the Epiphone EJ-200SCE you need to start with the aesthetics.
It's closer to a jumbo acoustic body size with a distinct sunburst color pattern and what one might describe as a "floral" pickguard and bridge ar. Yet, it's a feature-rich acoustic with a great low-end tone and two interior pickups (NanoMag and NanoFlex) feeding into an ESonic2 preamp system.
In the preamp/pickup department, the EC-200SCE is comparable to the GN93CE.
The EC series is also ideal for performances and recording, perhaps more for the latter.
Epiphone sweetens the deal a little further with Grover tuning heads.
IDEAL FOR: Live performance, recording, pickup flexibility
5. Seagull Performer Series CW (Flame Maple QIT)
Again, on the upper end of the intermediate acoustic guitar spectrum, the CW Flame Maple QIT from the Seagull Performer series is a great option.
The top is solid while laminate Maple is used on the back and sides.
Aside from specs, this guitar just players really well (we tested it at the Midlothian Guitar Center in Virginia). Open chords sound especially full and rich, while the cutaway gives a little extra brightness to finger picking and higher notes.
It's expensive, but well worth it in our view.
IDEAL FOR: Live performances, tuning stability, rhythm, and recording
PERFORMER CW PROS
PERFORMER CW CONS
6. Taylor Academy Series 12e Acoustic Guitar
The smaller size and concert body style has it slated for fingerstyle playing, but we've liked it in a rhythm and strumming context as well. We've also found that the ES-B preamp does a great job replicating the guitar's natural sound in electrically amplified form.
It definitely picks up a lot of right hand dynamics, highlighting pick scrapes and movement.
IDEAL FOR: Fingerstyle, performing, and recording
7. Taylor GS Mini-e Solid KOA Top Acoustic
Everything in this guitar is made from Koa tonewood which has both a flexible tone profile, able to be crisp and bright, yet warm and heavy at the same time.
Koa tonewood looks fantastic and is far more rare than the Spruce, Sapele, and Maple offerings we typically see in this price range.
It also looks a lot nicer than those tonewoods.
For the price, Hawaiian Koa in this guitar gives you a unique and versatile tone profile that can work in just about any musical context. For those who tend to play heavier, or perhaps with a heavy pick, Koa might brighten up too quickly and sound thin.
We recommend it more for players looking to draw out the subtle nuances of fingerpicking or softer playing styles.
Full review: Taylor GS Mini
IDEAL FOR: Fingerstyle, soft playing styles, versatile tone requirements
GS MINI-e PROS
GS MINI-e CONS
Our Reviewing Process
The process we go through to review acoustic guitars involves actually playing what we recommend.
We use a combination of a pawn shop in Staunton Virginia, a Guitar Center in Richmond, and a small music shop in Harrisonburg Virginia to test acoustic guitars, in addition to those we collectively already own and have played.
Because to truly get a feel for an acoustic guitar you need to play and hear it yourself. You can't truly review it with secondhand information. This process allows us to provide a thorough, genuine rating and assessment of each acoustic guitar we recommend.
If you have questions about our review process, leave it in the comments section below and we'll do our best to provide a good answer.
Explaining the ratings system
When we do individual reviews of acoustic guitars we use a rating system with seven points, all of which are weighted in the final score.
Out of this list of best intermediate acoustic guitars, the Seagull S6, GN93CE, and LXK2 have all gotten their own reviews.
For those without full reviews, we've used a simpler four-point rating system that summarizes tone, features, build quality, and cost/value. Keep in mind, this is not as comprehensive as the seven-point reviews and is not weighted.
However, it does provide a basic idea of the quality you can expect compared to other acoustics in this list.
How to measure value in an acoustic guitar
Once we get our overall ratings, we can use them in a graph with the approximate retail cost of each guitar.
This helps us identify value by seeing which guitars are priced lower with better ratings.
In this section we'll provide some context and explanation for how we rate certain categories.
- For tone, we're looking at overall tone quality.
- How does it sound naturally, without any amplification?
- What's the EQ profile?
- Does it handle low-end rhythm well?
- Or is it better in a melodic, finger picking role?
- Does it thin out when you play harder?
These are just a few of the questions we can ask to get a feel for how good an acoustic guitar's tone will be. Here's how all our best intermediate acoustic guitar picks held up in this category:
Pickup, preamps, and electronics
Another feature we consider when recommending intermediate acoustics would be the preamp and electronics system, or at least the option to get the same model with those things included.
We grade these devices based on functionality and tone quality.
- Do they effectively capture the natural resonance of the guitar?
- Do they provide flexibility and allow you to shape your tone?
All of the guitars in this list at least have the option to buy with a preamp and pickup system included.
Wood and build quality
In this price range, build quality is often uniform.
You usually have a solid top with Spruce, along with Mahogany, Maple, or sometimes Cherry, depending on the brand. Scalloped X-bracing and Maple necks are also typical.
- What kind of tonewood is used in the guitar?
- How much is solid wood and not laminate?
- What's the bracing situation?
- What grade of wood was used?
The arrangement of solid and laminate tonewood will have an impact on this rating (the more solid wood, the better).
While we recommend the Seagull S6 for having such a low price tag and still meeting a lot of our feature asks, the two Taylor acoustics and the Martin GPCX are better guitars if you don't mind spending the extra money.
The best intermediate acoustic guitars are, by nature, high-value because they tend to strike a happy medium between quality and price.
For those willing to spend closer to the $800 mark, we'd recommend buying purely based on quality ratings.
Otherwise, aim for the value options in the $400 to $600 price range like the Takamines and Seagull S6s of the world.
Do you have questions about the acoustics in this list?
Perhaps you've had your own experience with one of these guitars. Or maybe you just want to know more about our review process?
If so, leave a message in the comments section and we'll respond there.