Fender is a powerhouse of a guitar maker.
As creators of iconic electric guitars such as the Strat and Telecaster, it’s safe to say they have the credentials to create great guitars.
But what if you want an acoustic guitar? Making an acoustic guitar is a different challenge compared to an electric one. So, you’d be right to ask…
Are Fender Acoustic Guitars Good?
Fender acoustic guitars are fairly good. Ranging from around $200 to $800, the price point is ideal for beginners and intermediates. The sleek playability of a Fender acoustic guitar makes them great to learn on and they have a tone fitting to the price point. Nevertheless, if you’re a pro, a Fender acoustic will fall short.
In this article, you’ll find everything you need to know about Fender acoustic guitars and the best alternatives.
Fender acoustic guitars have a lot to offer. Let’s look at some of the standout positives.
1. Fender Name
Although this sounds superficial, owning a guitar with the Fender name on the headstock is a huge draw. Since Leo Fender established the company in 1946, Fender has become world-renowned.
With so much world appeal, you can buy everything from collectibles and clothing with the Fender brand name on it. So owning an actual Fender guitar is a prestigious choice.
As one of the leading guitar makers, strumming a Fender has kudos. But beyond the prestige of the brand, the name comes with guarantees of quality.
The price of a Fender acoustic guitar ranges between $200 to $800. For such an iconic brand, the small outlay is a bargain, especially considering the cost of premium brands including Martin and Gibson. Furthermore, Squier offers budget Fender acoustic guitars, so you even find one below the $200 mark.
The low prices are ideal for beginners. As a beginner, you shouldn’t opt for the cheapest guitar available. Often a budget pick for under $100 will have poor action, so it will be difficult to play. But even the lower-priced Fender acoustic guitars will serve as a great platform for learning.
When Fender released the Stratocaster, the ergonomic body shape revolutionized guitar playability.
Of course, an acoustic can’t have the same streamlined body as a Strat, but Fender heightens playability for acoustic players in other ways.
None more so than the neck construction. Regardless of the model, a Fender’s neck is comfortable to handle.
Fender necks generally have a thin profile. This allows for even smaller hands to form chords. Whatever skill level, a Fender neck is playable, but if you’re a beginner, learning on a Fender is a good choice.
Many Fenders come with Fishman electronics with a built-in tuner. A tuner built on the side of the body is great for swift tuning. If you find a handheld tuner difficult to use, a built-in tuner will improve the playing experience.
Low action is a common feature on Fender guitars. The small distance between string and frets makes pressing on notes easier, ultimately reducing hand fatigue.
4. Sound Quality
Despite their reputation, Fender acoustic guitars sound great. The tonal qualities apply to the corresponding price point. For example, an $800 Fender will sound better than a $200 Fender. That said, an untrained ear will not notice the small tonal difference between a $200 and an $800 guitar.
Fender acoustics above $700 punches beyond their price. For instance, a Fender Redondo or Malibu has all solid wood construction. The rich and textured tone wouldn’t sound out of place on a professional recording.
However, a low-end Fender acoustic like a CD-60 won’t have the same characterful tone as a Redondo or Malibu. Not that the cheaper guitars sound bad, but they have less depth and complexity in tone.
Besides, if you’re a beginner who’s not planning on recording anytime soon, slight disparities in tone won’t matter.
There are some scathing reviews on Fender acoustic guitars online. While a little harsh, like all affordable guitars, there are negatives. Let’s look at some cons and see if they’ll put you off.
1. No American Premium Choice
There is no premium option in the Fender catalog. Hence why you’ll often find professionals use brands like Martin, Taylor, and Gibson. It’s legit to ask what makes these guitars so suitable for professionals.
For what’s considered a premium guitar, you’ll have to pay upwards of $1,000 with other brands. The price hike is in large down to the country of manufacture being North American.
North American manufacturers use skilled luthiers with an attention to detail.
Where the handcrafting matters is at the sanding and setup stages. A premium guitar has smoothed edges sculpted by the human hand. Then, a pro setup before leaving the factory means peak playability out-of-the-box.
But, Fender makes no acoustic guitars in the Fullerton California factory. This has been the case since the early 70s.
So if you want a higher-end Fender acoustic guitar, you’ll have to make do with a Chinese-built Fender or look at different brands.
2. The Small Details
As Fender acoustic guitars fly off a production line, there is less time dedicated to the fine-tuning of the guitars.
As you progress and understand the guitar, you’ll notice these discrepancies.
A personal gripe with Fender acoustic guitars, especially the cheaper ones, is the sharp fret edges. When traveling down the fretboard, sharp fret edges scratch the hand and thumb. It’s inconvenient and affects concentration levels.
It’s a quick fix by a guitar tech whereby filing the edges down will make them smoother. But it’s inconvenient to have to do this.
On the cheaper options, I’ve found cost-cutting on the hardware. Shiny gold hardware that looks awesome in the catalog will fade within months.
String buzz is another common complaint with Fender guitars. Using inferior quality bridges and elevated frets can cause the strings to vibrate against the unpolished metal.
These are minor issues that a guitar tech can sort. But, if the beauty is in the detail then Fender acoustic guitars fall short.
3. Laminate Bodies
Another way Fender keeps production costs low is by using laminate woods.
What are laminate woods? These are thin layers of wood glued together to make a larger piece. It’s cheaper than solid wood and is a scratch-resistant alternative, but it doesn’t resonate as well as solid wood.
The more expensive models in the Fender catalog all have solid bodies. But cheaper guitars use laminate woods on the back and sides.
It’s commonplace for cheap acoustic guitars to use laminate woods, so it’s not just Fender. But it’s worth checking out. If you want a resonant characterful guitar, an all-solid body is key. But an all solid-body guitar is more expensive.
So, a good way to ensure good sound quality is to ensure the acoustic has a solid top. This is a cost-effective compromise.
4. More Traditional Options
Think electric guitar, and you’ll most likely think Fender. Their amps and electric guitars are legendary.
But what about Fender acoustic guitars?
The truth is, Fender doesn’t have the same tradition in the acoustic realm. The prestige in the acoustic world goes to guitar brands like Gibson, Martin, Taylor, and more.
First introduced in the early 1960s, Fender acoustic guitars faced competition. Although great guitars, designs like the Martin D-12E took the crown as a market leader.
Nowadays, Fender takes a back seat and focuses on beginner and intermediate acoustics. The lack of tradition is enough for many to stay clear. There are other brands with acoustic guitars written in folklore. It’s guitar brands like Martin that are considered to have produced the best acoustic guitar in the D-28.
Fender Acoustic Guitar Best Pick
One beauty of the Fender acoustic guitar catalog is if your budget is anything below $800, there’s one for you. Below are my three favorites. Starting with the most expensive and down to the cheapest.
1. Fender Malibu Classic (Under $800)
Check current price here.
The Fender Malibu Classic is as close to a premium acoustic guitar as Fender gets. With a unique body style and the distinctive Fender headstock, it’s an extraordinary guitar. Part of the California Series, it boasts a solid Sitka spruce top with solid mahogany back and sides. The quality of woods delivers a tone with plenty of punch and clarity. Furthermore, the woods will age for a mature tone and look. Complete with a Fishman pickup system, it covers all bases.
2. Fender CN-140SCE (Under $500)
Check current price here.
Fitted with Fishman CD electronics, the Fender CD-140SCE is a versatile option. The dreadnought body has a single-cutaway for access to high frets. This is a welcome feature if you want to progress and play lead guitar techniques. The top of solid Sitka spruce has brightness while the scalloped X-bracing produces a balance in tone. Available in natural, mahogany, and sunburst, there’s a finish for everyone.
3. Fender CD-60S (Under $200)
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The Fender CD-60S is one of the more popular in the Fender catalog. For around $200 you’ll get a back to basic dreadnought acoustic guitar perfect for a beginner. A manageable neck and smooth walnut fingerboard make learning comfortable. The CD-60S has a solid top, whereas the CD-60 doesn’t. So it’s worth paying a little extra as the tone will still sound great further along your guitar journey. Durable, affordable, and with a nice open tone, the CD-60S is an ideal entry-level guitar.
Fender Acoustic Guitar Best Alternatives
Fender acoustic guitars range from $200-$800. This price point is rife with acoustic guitars, so it’s easy to get confused with the sheer amount of options. I’ve picked some of my favorites at a similar price to the best Fenders. It always pays to have a look at alternatives to ensure you’re getting the right guitar for you.
1. Taylor 110e (Under $800)
Check current price here.
Taylor is synonymous with acoustic guitars. For under $800, the Taylor 110e offers playability that’ll appease advanced rhythm players. With a narrower nut creating barre chords won’t cause hand fatigue. The solid source top with walnut back and sides produce deep lows, striking midrange and crystal treble. A Taylor 110e is a professional guitar and with all things considered, it’s available at a decent price.
2. Seagull S6 (Under $600)
Check current price here.
For a little more than the CN-140SCE, the Seagull S6 should be a consideration. Seagull is a brand often overlooked but they deserve huge credit for quality. A North American-built guitar is extremely rare at this price. The S6 is handmade in Canada. The build quality feels like a more expensive guitar. The cedar top offers a distinct acoustic tone. An unsung hero of a guitar.
3. Yamaha FG-800 (Under $200)
Check current price here.
At the same price as the Fender CD-60S, the Yamaha FG-800 is a direct competitor. While the CD-60S is a great beginner’s guitar, the FG-800 feels more advanced. The tones are darker with more prominence in the low end. Reminiscent to a vintage guitar in tone, it also feels like a throwback. A satin finish neck allows your hand to glide up and down the guitar with ease.
Fender acoustic guitars are good, particularly for beginner and intermediate guitar players. The affordable price is achievable for newcomers or anyone on a budget.
The Fender Malibu is one of the better in their catalog with its distinctly Fender design and solid wood makeup. The design won’t be for everyone, which is why the Taylor 110e is a top alternative with traditional looks.
For a beginner’s choice, the Fender CD-60S is a great first purchase. It’s a guitar that’ll help you get to grips with the basics of guitar playing.
Nevertheless, none of the Fender acoustic guitar catalogs has premium high-quality craftsmanship.
Because they’re built in China, Fender acoustic guitars, on the whole, are made using mass production techniques.
Mass production comes with some caveats. The sheer speed of production means mistakes happen. Quality control isn’t as strict so the chances of getting a dud are higher.
As of yet, there are no plans for the famed Fender Fullerton, California factory to make acoustic guitars.
So, there we have it. Although Fender acoustic guitars aren’t peak quality, considering the price, they’re great guitars for entry-level guitarists.
Drawing on over 15 years of experience in the music industry, Neal’s writing specializes in all aspects of music. A self-taught guitarist who’s passionate about words, he’s at peace when songwriting. He finds comfort recording, traveling, and wearing his favorite leather jacket. Keep up to date on Twitter @TheNealSawyer