Cordova's C7 CD is the best classical guitar for most people. Handcrafted in Portugal with a Canadian Cedar top and extreme attention to detail, you won't find a better guitar around $500. Both users and critics have been surprised at the cost/value proposition. If you want a great classical guitar that is durable, playable, and sounds awesome for that price, the Cordova C7 CD is the one to get.
We want a classical guitar that sounds good and plays well (obviously). But more importantly, it should have a track record of reliability and quality.
Like our guide for the best ukulele, there are so many boutique and handcrafted manufacturers we couldn’t possibly cover each one. Even if there was a great handcrafted classical guitar (let’s be honest, at that price level, they’re all pretty great) it would be hard to recommend buying locations online. Besides, you’d probably wanna sit down and try it out to see how it plays – especially when you’re dropping a big chunk of change.
The biggest difference is that guitars used for rock, blues, and singer-songwriters are traditionally steel strings, while classical guitars have nylon strings. Also, the strings are a little closer together. Classical guitar fretboards are generally wider, so the classical guitarist has room for complex fingerpicking.
There are exceptions, of course. In fact, many of the big brands make nylon string guitars that are configured like steel string guitars. If you are simply interested in the nylon string sound but would like your guitar to play like a regular acoustic guitar, check out our guide, Best Budget Classical Acoustic-Electric Guitar.
Be warned! There are endless debates online about which wood is better, and there really is no clear winner. Don’t get all wrapped up in that. Instead, go to your local music store and try a few different brands, sizes, and shapes to see what works best for your playing style. If you have no idea what your playing style is yet, just go with our recommendation and you’ll be more than fine.
Currently, most classical guitar enthusiasts seem to prefer ceder to the other common wood, spruce. But this is not an absolute, as Classical Guitar Store notes:
The question is often asked about the relative qualities of cedar and spruce as sound board woods. Neither wood is inherently superior to the other, they just have different tonal characters in general. Spruce is harder and stiffer than cedar and gives a brighter, clearer and more focused sound, while softer cedar is darker, mellower and warmer. So it’s a matter of what sort of tone the player is looking for. Take Andres Segovia as an example. He played a Hermann Hauser with a German Spruce (bright, clear, focused) top from 1928 to the 1950s, then switched to a Cedar-topped (dark, warm, rich) Jose Ramirez on which he performed until the end of his career in the 1980s.
So, figure out what kind of sound you like, maybe even check out Segovia’s work on Youtube, or Spotify, and see what kind of sound you prefer. Or even better, head over to your local music store and try cedar-topped classical guitars, as well as spruce-topped ones.
In this guide we are reviewing generally available, highly regarded but affordable, classical guitars.
A good mid-range classical guitar these days costs between $500-$750, with acceptable budget ones around $250 – $500. There are also some generally available higher-end models in the $1000 – $2500 range with fancy inlays, cutaways, extra features, and more attention to details.
At MSCGR we aren’t generally impressed with lots of bling. We just want a guitar that sounds and plays well. If I needed a new classical guitar tomorrow, I’d head over to Guitar Center and drop $500 on a Cordoba C7 CD.
They continue to get astounding reviews from critics and users. The cedar top sounds warm, yet, bright and present. When a guitar, handcrafted in Portugal, has such a high level of craftsmanship and attention to the slightest detail at $500.
Over on the Classical Guitar Forum, an experienced user was more than pleased with the Cordoba:
Is it just me or are these Cordoba C7 Iberia guitars fantastic? I have been practicing classical guitar for eleven years and have gone though my share of student guitars to expensive luthier built. I have sold most and ended up owning an old Goya G10 that is nice but hardly concert level by a long shot, a cheap Yamaha 101 all-ply and a Lucida Artista Picado flamenco guitar. The Picado is a very good sounding guitar on par with some costing four times as much from various makers.
GuitarFella had this to say:
The quality of the sound that you receive per dollar spent is outstanding. The tone and the response of this instrument will satisfy even the seasoned player. The guitar is well balanced and provides good bass and more than а decent volume of the output. This git is more than any starter or casual player could ask for, it is in fact great even for live performances as long as the public is not very demanding. The C7 is a traiditional handmade nylon-string acoustic that has everything you could possibly ask from a $1000 instrument. The only time you will associate this model with the word “cheap” is when you are buying it. When you start playing on it, this a term that will never pop up in your mind, ever again.
Really, the surest way to select the right classical guitar is to play several models which fit your budget, one after the other. If you are just starting out, bring an friend with guitar knowledge give you feedback on the quality of construction, playability, intonation and sound. The person(s) on staff at the music store can even play different models for you. There’s really no wrong answer if the guitar you like sounds the way you want it to.
“It’s not so much the equipment as how you use it. I’ve heard people with really cheap studios do great recordings.” —Frank Gambale
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