The Best Classical Guitar?

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Ask 100 different guitarists what they think is the best classical guitar and you will get 100 different answers. Unlike the violin or the piano, the fundamental construction of the classical guitar is still being developed and experimented with by hundreds of luthiers around the world. Whether it be by using new materials like carbon fiber,  changing bracing patterns, moving the sound hole or even adding another one, modern luthiers are forging new paths in classical guitar building techniques.

What is the best classical guitar?

What is the best classical guitar?

It would seem, in an effort to cater to larger performance spaces and help in chamber music situations,  that many luthiers are searching for new ways to improve the instrument’s ability to project.  Greg Smallman was one of the leaders in the late 20th century in guitar innovation and made great developments in guitar projection. His lattice bracing technique, that has now been adopted widely throughout the world, gives a substantial boost in projection, but the resulting change in timbre is too much of a trade for some guitarists who preferred a more traditional , Torres style, sound. Other innovations like the Contreras double top, the Humphrey Millennium Bridge, the Steve Connor sound portal and the Smallman arm-rest are further examples of the new ideas that are being used in guitar building.

With so many differing approaches we are presented with a diverse array of instruments that have very unique and distinct qualities and, in my humble opinion, I think this is more of a blessing than a curse. Hypothetically, it would be nice to have a Stradivarius of the guitar, a singular maker that was renowned to produce a world class instrument. In place of having a consensus on the best classical guitar, however, we are left with an individual mission to find a guitar, a luthier, that suits us.

After being to many guitar festivals, I think I can say the some of the most popular ice breakers are: “what guitar do you have?”, “what strings do you use” and of course… “oh really, can I try your guitar?” It seems like some guitarists are on a mission to either replicate someone else s sound or at least get peer assessment of their own setup. In the end, its not such a bad thing, after all curiosity is a virtue, however, I believe that the sound that is produced from a guitar has more to do with the player and how they wield that guitar, than the guitar itself. It is tempting to think that if we were just to obtain a Smallman we would sound like John Williams, or perhaps a Dammann then we would sound just like David Russell. But its just not the case (I have tried David’s Dammann and, sadly,  my sound was not transformed into something like his :). A good instrument will help to create a good sound and you should always aim to have the best instrument you can afford but in my experience a master guitarist can make even the most basic guitar sound amazing.

In response to a comment posted on this site:

Why are so many artists so reserved about recommending guitar brands or makers?
Is it because they are really not all that taken with what they are playing?  I am currently looking for a classical guitar in the 5-6K price range.  I would really appreciate help from more experienced players of classical music.
Can anyone help me?

I will offer some recommendations of what I think are some of the better classical guitars available. Of course, these recommendations are limited by the fact that I have not played all the classical guitars out there, and like I said, ask 100 different guitarists what they think is the best classical guitar and you will get 100 different answers…

Please give your own suggestion by completing the statement:

I think the best classical guitar is …

Mid Price Range – 5-10k

Thomas Fredholm

Paul Sheridan

Joeren Hillhorst

Zbigniew Gnatek

Kenny Hill

Allessandro Marseglia

High Price Range 10k and up

Robert Ruck

Gernot Wagner

Simon Marty

Greg Smallman

Matthias Dammann

Steven Connor


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102 Responses

  1. Ed Munger says:

    I believe in trying many guitars & continue to search for the perfect guitar for me, even though I have a great guitar of which I would never part with. Many times, playing in a small hall, I was excited to hear the sound bounce back as I begun to play. The tone is reminicent of the Christopher Parkening sound & seems to be mellow & at the same time powerful: A Ramirez 2A 1974.

  2. Luke says:


    the country of Fritz Ober, Karl-Heinz Römmich, Kolya Panhuyzen, Christoph Sembdner, Dieter Müller, Hauser, Armin & Mario Gropp, Andreas Kirmse, Kazuo Sato (yes he’s living in Germany), Michel Brück, Matthias Dammann, Sebastian Stenzel, Bernhard Kresse, Angela Waltner, Frank-Peter Dietrich

    and many more (link1, link2)

  3. Rev. Stan Karloff says:

    In response to the person looking for the best classical guitar, I highly recommend Maestro Renato Bellucci of in Paraguay. Renato can be found in a multitude of youtube videos. His magnificent handmade guitars are created with only the world’s finest woods, Brazilian Ziricote, sinker redwood, etc. Renato loves and loves his work. He was trained by the great Andres Segovia. The stunning guitar he made for me took over 280 hours, not including the handmade, hand-tooled leather case. My guitar is appraised at $35,000. The case alone sells for $2000. If you pursue a guitar from him, you will find him to be a most wonderful man!

    • Frank says:

      Mate, then I can’t even afford your case, I mean if you pay that much money (35K USD), it means that you are either Santana or Eric Clapton.

      How many people can own a Classic Guitar for 35K USD?, I can only think on Paco de Lucia, and for sure he got it for free for any Luthier.

      Yes, I saw the link of Bellucci, all is stunning, but for that price……………….I’m word less with this, maybe a Yamaha for 1000 USD will be okay for playing.

      Anyway thanks for the info.


    • Charles says:

      How does a Reverend afford a $35K Guitar?

      • Charles Watson says:

        He didn’t say he paid $35000, he said it was appraised at that much. You can buy them new for three or four thousand, and less used.

  4. John says:

    From the 5K to the 10K+ range you can’t go wrong with G.V. Rubio. His Elite model is exceptional.

  5. Paolo Carusso says:

    Paulino Bernabe. One of the best guitar makers today.

  6. Cecil says:

    Fine you own sound no a particular guitar.

  7. Dan Flickstein says:

    The 35K was an “appraised” price of the Bellucci guitar. I visit the site often. The most expensive guitar I have seen on it was about 12K. I own five of his guitars with another one being built for me. They sound beautiful and look even better. The cost has averaged about $2500 per guitar. The man has been always a pleasure with whom to do business. He is responsive and caring. The cases are $335. Shipping from Paraguay to the states is $290. Look at his web site and see him play on youtube.

  8. cecil says:

    play many guitars record yourself, go listen your recording and pick the one you sound the best.

  9. R.Rawdon says:

    Get a Jose Oribe ‘Calidad Suprema’ or ‘Gran Suprema’ if you can get one. The ‘Gran Suprema’ model has 100% french polish; the ‘Suprema’ is french polish on the soundboard only. Vasquez Rubio, a respected builder in L.A. will do a complete french polish job for $2,000.
    Oribe guitars have tremendous volume, which is why many players have trouble with them – the overtones are very present and create a harsh tone if the player is using a heavy hand – because heavy technique stretches the string out of tune and makes dissonance with the guitar’s strong overtone ring. Playing an Oribe is like a riding powerful horse – some people are afraid of this. As far as tone the Oribe is much like Ramirez, but more solid with more backing on FF bass playing and more shine in the highs and with perfect tonal balance throughout. I’ve had 2 Oribe guitars over the past 40 yrs. I don’t need to have another guitar – just understand – if you play well, the Oribe will make you sound better BUT if you play poorly the Oribe will also amplify that mess. You choose. You can play a guitar with a low ceiling that you can easily hit that will make your playing sound smooth or you can go with an instrument that you will probably not fathom during your lifetime. My guess is that an Oribe six-string priced at some $9,000 (as I recently saw on Ebay) is selling at roughly half its current value. A good deal. A new instrument of the few left at Oribe’s shop- at $17,000 – is still selling at %50 of it’s value. Learn to play and the Oribe will be there for you and never come up short.

  10. Trevor Welch says:

    Tonino Balardino of The Gypsy Kings Plays a Chet Atkins Model Guitar made by Gibson it costs about $2500.00 US aprox .!!! He is a world class – gifted player !!!!

  11. Rog says:

    Hi i just bought this classical guitar made by Luthier Matuo it is number #25. Does anyone know how much this guitar worth? Thanks.

    • Kaye D. Hickox says:

      Did you ever get an answer about your Matuo #25? I own one as well and would love to know what it is worth.

      Thanks, Kaye

  12. Sam Israel says:

    I currently play a double top made by Marcus Dominelli of Victoria, B.C. Though I am an amateur, I wanted a guitar with delicacy of sound, the volume to fill a concert hall, and easy to play. Marcus was successful on all counts in addition to keeping the price within my budget. Finally, if you are also looking for a builder who takes the time to explain his work, and who obviously simply loves meeting guitarists whether they buy from him or not, drop him a line!

  13. Jim Liu says:

    There are, acutally, two styles of classical guitar. I call them : treble better ones and bass better ones. In this subject of “how to chooce a good guitar”, one should first compare the sound of these two different styles of guitar to see which one’ s sound you will like it better.

    Among the treble better ones, I choose Ramirez as an example. It sacrifices the bass to produce the most beautiful treble in the classical guitar world. That has been the concept for Ramirez family to build a concert modal guitar for generations . However, since it sacrifices the bass, there are three things needed to be noticed:

    1) It’s 6th. open string is muted and weak. Many of this style guitar have worse problem: this string’s ringing can’t be heard even from the player himself when playing.

    2) It’s 5th. open string is too loud compared with other strings. All six strings’ volume don’t have the balance. If you listen to Segovia’s early recordings, you will notice that 5th string “A” note was just too loud. The 6th. open “E” note, on the contrary, was not loud enough.

    3) You won’t be able to compensate the weakness it has no matter what kind of strings you put on the guitar. A muted 6th string is a permanently muted one. I have been trying and studying this for many years, but I failed to improve my treble better guitar’s sound. Does anyone have a successful case?

    Today, there are still lots of guitar makers using this concept to build a guitar.

    Now talking about the bass better guitar, the example will be Hauser or Monch. Their guitars have terrific volume balance. All bass notes on the 6th string sound very deep and loud enough to compete with its trebles. The treble part still has a very good sound quality for the concert halls. If your right fingers playing closer to the sound hole, the sound will be almost like a Ramirez treble’s. If my guess is right, Bream has used this style of guitar for his recordings. I have tried a Monch to play a Bach’s Lute Suite years ago, I can hear the countrapoint melodies against each other very clearly and beautifully. The result was very satisfying.

    This style of guitar will allow you to change the strings and feel the different sound quality. For example, using the nylon, medium tension treble strings to produce not so sharp treble sound. The treble becomes sweeter. For the 6th string, I buy a 0.048 diameter ones for my bass better guitar. It rings even deeper and louder than the traditional 0.045 diameter ones found in most of the six string sold as a set packages. I am not sure whether this arrangement only fit to my own guitar. But, if you have this style’s guitar, it won’t hurt your guitar if you try my way on it.

    If you ask me whether I like better that Mexican guitar than a Ramirez one. I will say yes. However, it all depends on your own tastes. Don’t forget Segovia used a Ramirez guitar to conquere the world. Both style guitars can be used to perform on the stages and for the recordings.

  14. Ilhyung Cho says:

    My Michael Thames spruce top br b/s is pretty good, probably one of the best in its price range $5000-$10000.

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