Let’s chat about the best parlor guitars. If you’re ready to invest or wish to learn more about parlor acoustics. Then look no further.
See, all acoustics are unique. With varied nuances in tone, they’ll flourish in contrasting scenarios. So how do you identify the best one for your style?
In this article—you’ll pick up answers. With your new wisdom, you’ll be ready to make an informed judgment on the best parlor for you.
Let’s jump in.
Table of Contents
What is a Parlor Guitar?
Long before TV, guitars were a means of entertainment in sitting rooms. The traditional term for these rooms is a parlor. This is where the parlor guitar earned its name. It was the slighter and narrower-shaped parlors played in these scenarios. The size provides more clarity in mid and upper frequencies, characteristics suiting finger styles of playing.
The Best Parlor Guitars
- Cordoba C9 Parlor – Editor’s Choice
- Ibanez PN12E – Best for Beginners
- PRS SE Parlor P20 – Best Under $500
- Takamine GY93 New Yorker – Best Value
- Martin 000-15SM – Premium Pick
- Luna Gypsy – Best Under $200
- Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy – Budget Pick
- Yamaha CSF-TA TransAcoustic – Best Acoustic-Electric
- Guild P-240 Memoir – Best for Intermediate Players
Cordoba C9 Parlor – Best Overall Parlor Guitar
The Cordoba C9 has the hallmarks of a top classical guitar, a type of acoustic where this brand excels.
As a manufacturer, Cordoba might have gone under the radar. Jumbos or dreadnoughts aren’t in their catalog. They stick to their domain-—and they’re masters at it.
A guitar that’s well worthy of Editors Choice the C9 stands testament to their prowess. Parlor by name, but by design, the C9 edges towards a classical guitar with its ⅞ size. The short 24.8″ scale length could explain the parlor label.
Far from entry-level, the solid wood construction ensures the premium build of the C9. Handmade in a boutique workshop, the craftsmanship will please professional classical guitarists.
Talk of boutique workshops on the Cordoba website conjures up images. It comes as a surprise that the C9 is a Chinese-built guitar. This is conclusive evidence for the excellence of overseas production. But there may be consistency issues.
The traditional Spanish bracing adds vibration to the soundboard. The warmth from the Canadian cedar top compliments the punch and balance of the mahogany. Every inch is solid, prime tonewoods slick to touch. The nylon strings round off the purity and earthy tones from this instrument.
The C-shape neck has modern playability. Yet the flat fingerboard is a nod to tradition. The two-way truss rod is a current feature ensuring long-term endurance.
This guitar is an investment that’ll last. Alluring with vintage aesthetics harkening back to the 1920s. You’ll understand why this guitar sells in droves.
The handcrafted approach and use of solid tonewoods make this a premium pick. Players who finger-pick will revel in the smooth playability and rounded C9 sound.
- Warm powerful tone
- Includes polyfoam soft shell case
- Classical nylon string parlor guitar
- Traditional Spanish bracing livens sound
- Material list: Solid Canadian cedar top, mahogany neck, rosewood fingerboard solid mahogany back and sides
- Chinese build consistency
Ibanez PN12E – Best Parlor Guitar for Beginners
The Ibanez PN12E is an affordable introduction to parlor guitars.
Need to test out the smaller body of a parlor? Want a manageable guitar to learn on? If you’re answering yes to either of these. Let’s talk about why the PN12E is for you.
Narrow bodies will ease you into playing the guitar. Faced with a jumbo body as a beginner is going to make learning difficult.
The small PN12E parlor body is convenient for those making the first steps. Your elbow will pass the body, allowing freedom of movement. The lack of restrictions will help you along the way. Priced under $200, it’s an entry-level parlor offering beginners a platform to progress.
But the size of PN12E also makes it a fantastic travel companion for advanced players. For portability and writing on the go, it’s a worthwhile addition to your collection.
The tonewoods on the PN12E are a unique assortment that combines well. Sapele on the top offers prominence in higher frequencies. Nyatoh, also known as nato, is a cost-effective mahogany replacement. Used on the back and sides it’s a feature that keeps the PN12E affordable. Then, the genuine mahogany neck offers solid mids. It’s a steady foundation for a guitar.
So you have the basics of an amazing guitar here. Over time, you can personalize the PN12E to heighten performance. Address out-of-the-box high action with a setup. Solve tuning unreliability, replace the stock strings and the cheap plastic nut. You have a guitar ready for studio application.
If you’re searching for a steel-string parlor to learn on—you can’t go wrong. But with some care and attention, the PN12E can progress into a studio instrument.
Consider the PN12E a cheap but lively and bluesy-sounding parlor guitar. With plugin capabilities, for the price point, it has it all. You can also address the imperfections to get it performing beyond a beginner’s pick.
- Loud projection
- Bright and bluesy tone
- AEQ-2T preamp with built-in tuner
- Material list: Sapele top, mahogany neck, nandu fingerboard, nyatoh back and sides
- Cheap plastic nut
PRS SE Parlor P20 – Best Parlor Guitar Under $500
PRS is not a brand you’d associate with a parlor guitar. So how does their take live up?
A parlor by shape, the SEP20 has classical tendencies. The X-bracing is an age-old method employed in guitars. The rigid nature of the back and sides balances the resonant top. They compliment each other, offering a powerful tone diminishing no intricate detail.
A trendy-looking parlor, it’s a modern take on a classical design. If you’re a fan of PRS, you’ll embrace the design. The signature bird inlays and angular headstock give it the official PRS stamp. The modern appointments work together with the traditional to create a unique appearance.
Cream herringbone binding and the rosette accents are pure beauty and a nod to the past. Available in plenty of colors, you’ll find one to fit your style, whatever your taste.
Thick, rounded, and crisp articulation, the SEP20E suits finger styles and a heavy pick. The punchy midrange translates when connected through the Fishman pickup.
The wide neck isn’t for beginners, but developed players will love the string spacing. For bluesy bends and classical scales, it’ll hit the spot.
The Chinese-built SEP20E displays top craftsmanship. You can expect it to go through some rigorous PRS quality control to ensure it’s up to scratch.
Shortcuts to keep costs minimal are small. The plastic truss rod cover isn’t the best, while the back and sides are veneer mahogany. There’s little audible damage because the top wood is of the premium stock.
The P20E deserves to be on the shopping list of intermediate and pro guitarists. If you want tonal variation, it’s affordable enough to broaden your guitar collection. If you’re playing traditional music like classical, blues, jazz, or folk—this could be your number one guitar.
- Fishman GT1 pickup
- Projection of classical X-bracing
- Wide neck with roomy string spacing
- Balance of modern and classic aesthetics
- Material list: Solid Mahogany top, ebony fingerboard, mahogany neck, back and sides
- Plastic truss rod cover
Takamine GY93 New Yorker – Best Value Parlor Guitar
The New Yorker is the smallest full-size guitar in the Takamine collection. For the guitarist loyal to Takamine, this is your parlor. Not yet had the chance to trial run a Takamine G-Series? Here’s what to expect.
The GY93E oozes value and comes complete with the hallmarks of a Takamine. Solid tonewoods are of high quality and craftsmanship is on point. The 3-piece back is attractive with the contrast of the middle maple piece being the centerpiece.
Focused and articulate, the GY93E sounds like everything you’d want from a parlor. This means fingerpicking has a profound impact that studio musicians will thrive on. The thing is, this parlor also sounds great for strumming. Chords chime with brightness—this isn’t a one-trick pony.
Fancy an upgrade? You can pay extra for the TK-40D preamp. The electronics deliver an admirable tone with purity. The ‘D’ stands for dual meaning it’s the split saddle version of the TK40D preamp. So, you can expect more detail in tone when connected.
This is a high-end pre-amp. Further emphasizing the value of this investment should you opt for this feature.
But even in its purest form, the GY93E has a singing tone ready for the record. Depending on your recording methods, you may not need the preamp if you have access to quality mics.
The out-of-the-box action requires no TLC. It’s low, easy to play, and you won’t stumble across any dead notes across the rosewood fingerboard.
The action and feel of GYP93E all point towards premium playability. But one thing missing—the premium price point.
Fret edges aren’t the best feature so this is an area that may need attention. Weighing up the pros and cons, the scales dip in favor of a tremendous bargain.
Every bit the studio instrument, the GY93E is a parlor acoustic for a budget-conscious pro.
- Playability: Out of the box low action
- A solid wood instrument, tones will age
- (Optional) TK-40D dual saddle preamp with built-in tuner
- Resonant solid spruce and scalloped X-bracing for projection
- Material list: Solid spruce top, mahogany neck, rosewood fingerboard, rosewood/maple back, and rosewood sides
- Fret edges
Martin 000-15SM – Best Premium Parlor Guitar
The name Martin says so much. Since 1833, they’ve been delivering professional excellence. Safe to say, when investing in a Martin you’ll have guarantees of craftsmanship.
The 000-15M is an investment. When acquiring the Martin 000-15M you’re outlaying for a guitar with the long term in mind. Considering build quality, you’ll still be playing this guitar in 20 years.
The Martin 000-15M is a wonderful instrument with the supreme tonewoods at the core. The tonewoods further contribute to why this guitar is an investment. Over years, solid wood guitars mature in tone. The Martin 000-15SM sounds remarkable out-of-the-box. It’s hard to believe that it could improve—but extra richness will develop.
The all-mahogany body exhumes warmth. A classic tone that’ll sound at home strumming or finger-picking. So, if you seek a classic tone with dark and mellow overtones, this guitar sounds incredible on stage and record.
The 000-15M is every-inch a premium quality. You can feel the durability of the workmanship. Negatives are hard to find. If you read user reviews, you’ll find nothing but happy customers. But for nit-picking purposes, the tuners could be better. For heightened tune reliability, an upgrade wouldn’t go a miss.
It’s a top-pick parlor and the price tag upwards of $1,000 is money well spent when you consider the lifespan. The Martin 000-15M could be the only acoustic you’ll ever need.
- Martin craftsmanship
- Included: Martin hardshell case
- Modified low oval neck with a satin finish
- All solid body, warm tone that develops extra richness
- Material list: Solid mahogany top, back and sides, mahogany neck, East Indian rosewood fingerboard
- Nickel tuners
Luna Gypsy – Best Parlor Guitar Under $200
Who doesn’t love a bargain? Priced at under $200, the Luna Gypsy Parlor is an affordable guitar within reach of most players.
The co-founder of Luna guitars is a stained-glass artist. A background in art goes a long way to explain the artfulness of design.
Creativity drips from every wood grain. It’ll translate to you as a writer and inspire your imagination. If you consider yourself a spiritual-minded free-thinker this guitar could be a match.
Somewhere between visual art and instrument, this parlor is as much an ornament as a guitar. With slender curves and laser-etched dealing, the aesthetics are a work of art. Further details include the inlays that are pearl moon phases.
But it’ll be more than aesthetics that’ll have you joining the “luna tribe”.
This guitar is comfortable. Its mini body lends itself for travel or as a couch guitar ready to help you write when the moment strikes.
The body and neck of all-mahogany deliver a coherent sound with a prominent midrange. Expect little in the low end but a mid-heavy high-end sparkling tone that would sit well in folk and blues.
This guitar could retail for more. Of course, there are telltale signs of cost-cutting. The cheap plastic nut and saddle being the standout negative. But for the price, you can’t complain.
It’s an affordable yet artful, cultured, unique take on a parlor. And one with a typical parlor sound that begs for a slide and open tuning. For the lone wolf who pushes creative boundaries, you’ll love the Luna Gypsy.
- Artfulness design
- Feel of satin finish
- Playability of smaller parlor body
- Luna’s moon phase fingerboard inlays
- Material list: Mahogany top, neck, back and sides, black walnut fingerboard
- Cheap plastic nut and saddle
Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy – Best Cheap Parlor Guitar
Who is Jim Dandy? Is the G9500 named after Jim “Dandy” Mangrum, lead singer of Southern rock band Black Oak Arkansas? Or is there a broader meaning? It’s surprising to find the term jim-dandy in the dictionary. And the meaning? “Something excellent of its kind.”
This could explain it all. See, this is a downright amazing guitar in the parlor variety. When you see the price tag, you may think there’s been a mistake.
An adaptation of the Rex parlors of the 30s, 40s, and 50s, the G9500 seeps tradition. This flat tops inspiration will give you a clue about who this will appeal to. Conjuring up images of cowboys plucking guitars in spaghetti westerns. The Jim Dandy is perfect for all things Americana.
Fun and comfortable, it’s a laid-back guitar for sunset canyon vibes.
Its tone is plucky, lending itself to bold percussive strumming or defined finger-picking. Braced for a warm tone, the basswood body resonates with power. The C-shape neck with walnut fingerboard is smooth to touch. The vintage-style frets and enlarged dot inlays further emphasize the retro aesthetics.
At the price, some modifications won’t go amiss. Change the strings at the first opportunity. Whilst the strings are off, replace the synthetic nut and you’ve got an instant upgrade.
For the beginner, the G9500 is affordable and fun to play, urging you to return and keep playing. Benefits go beyond the newbie and into the realms of the intermediate player. It’s an ideal camping trip buddy to pluck under the stars. And for the pro, the woody vintage tone is a handy delta blues Americana coloration for recording.
- 50s style open-gear tuning machines
- Vintage look, modeled on Gretsch Rex
- Retro sounds like instruments of the 30s and 40s
- Material list: Basswood top, back and sides, nato neck, walnut fingerboard
- Stock strings need changing
Yamaha CSF-TA TransAcoustic – Best Acoustic-Electric Parlor Guitar
The Yamaha TransAcoustic CSF-TA is characterful. A unique selling point of this parlor is TransAcoustic electronics. So what is it?
You’d be correct in thinking there’s a typical pickup system. You’ll have connectivity through a standard jack lead into a PA or amp. But the CSF-TA goes beyond the norm, this guitar offers more than standard guitar protocol.
TransAcoustic has built-in reverb and chorus effects. Most amazing of all—-you can apply these effects when unplugged. Explain this wizardry?
It’s all about an integrated actuator hidden in the sound hole.
Vibration from the strings causes the actuator to move. These pulses transmit to the guitar body and surrounding air. The reverb and chorus effects resonate from the sound hole.
It’s no doubt a clever piece of tech. Fast access to reverb effects will boost creativity during songwriting. The light showing that the effects are active is inside the guitar— a minor headache. It’s difficult to know whether it’s turned on when playing.
This guitar excels in recording scenarios. It possesses a twinkling quality that shimmers through busy instrument-heavy mixes. In these practices, the TransAcoustic effects may become redundant. In pro-studios there will be high-end effects available. So it makes you wonder. Was it worth the effort?
The debate could rage about whether the TransAcoustic is a novelty. But the CSF-TA, in its most primitive form, is stunning.
The tonewoods read like what we’d expect on the dreadnought, but it does the parlor with precision. The touch of the neck and rosewood fingerboard offers the playability of a premium pick. Hand fatigue won’t be an issue as you revel in the sparkling tones of the CSF-TA.
Translated through the SRT Piezo Pickup you have a studio-ready electro-acoustic. Whether you view the onboard effects as a novelty—that’ll be down to you and your experience. Regardless, every player will love the tone of the CSF-TA.
- Sparkling focused tone
- Smooth neck playability
- Quality of SRT Piezo pickup
- TransAcoustic reverb and chorus effects without amp or PA.
- Material list: Sitka spruce top, nato neck, rosewood fingerboard, mahogany back and Sides
- Light to indicate TransAcoustic effects are active is inside the body so difficult to see
Guild P-240 Memoir – Best Parlor Guitar for Intermediate Players
As an intermediate player, you need to think long-term. Now your playing has surpassed the beginner stage, get a guitar that meets your standards. One that’ll perform as you progress. The cheap thrift store guitar with monstrous action won’t cut it anymore.
Guild is a company that, since 1953, continues to produce quality. The P-240 Memoir is a sleek and compact parlor guitar that’ll deliver to your needs.
Solid spruce top, mahogany back, and sides provide good looks and tonal character. The gloss finish will go a long way to prolong its lifespan.
In tone, this Guild will stop you in your tracks. When finger-picked, it sounds like a suave, clean, and bright instrument. Plucked chords sing with the same amount of charm. There has been a folk revival. Thinking of bands like The Lumineers, the strummed tone of the P-240 Memoir wouldn’t sound out of place.
The vintage looks and classic styling mean it would look the part on the stage. Guild logo, mother-of-pearl rosette, it all has a very 20s feel.
It does the simple things very well. It’s a stage guitar, but it doesn’t have a preamp. That’s OK for an intermediate player. But when the stage calls consider installing a preamp.
Its small size means this guitar is not about loudness. The beauty is within the detail. The P-240 Memoir is a fine-sounding parlor that’ll gratify both intermediate and pros.
- Out of the box action
- Playability and comfort
- Rich tone ideal for record
- Simple yet exquisite 20s design
- Material list: Sitka spruce top, pau ferro fingerboard, mahogany neck, back, and sides
- Quiet projection
What Are Parlor Guitars Good For?
Parlor guitars offer a distinct tone. The definition in which notes resonate makes them optimal for fingerpicking. The brightness in tone can also work in some strumming scenarios. Slight bodied, they’re portable so are perfect travel guitars. Manageable in size, they’re easy to play. Traditionally a folk instrument, the appeals of parlor guitars now reach many genres.
Parlor Guitars Vs Dreadnought Guitars: What’s the Difference?
Dreadnoughts have a larger and squarer body shape than a parlor. Because of their bigger capacity and firepower, C. F. Martin named them after the battleship. Generally, a larger body will produce more volume. Parlors are smaller and narrower with more focus on the mid and upper frequencies. As a rule of thumb, dreadnaughts suit strumming whereas parlors suit fingerpicking.
How to Choose The Best Parlor Guitar – Buyer’s Guide
Materials & Build Quality
There’s a surge of fake guitars on the market. Needless to say, they won’t perform. Prevent becoming the owner of a counterfeit by purchasing from reputable sites.
Good sellers will also cover you should you choose to return your guitar. Links in this article will go to sites that protect should you need to return your guitar.
This article is the product of considerable research. Guitars reviewed here have a build quality that surpasses their price point.
As a general rule, solid woods will be peak tonewoods. The more solid woods on a guitar, the more resonance. Solid woods will also age like a fine wine.
Manufacturers use laminate woods to keep costs down. These will be less resonant but are a durable cost-effective replacement.
So check the tonewoods. Cedar, spruce, mahogany are good starting points.
Diving deeper, it still isn’t as cut and dry as the type of wood. For example, the premium pick and under $200 pick both have a mahogany top. Are they as good as each other?
Well, no. This is where the country of manufacture comes into play. The wood used on American-made guitars goes through a stringent period of drying and aging. This increases stability and lifespan.
Seek advice like we’ve offered in this article and look for brands with a strong reputation.
No guitar is perfect. If guitars have cheap plastic parts, you can always replace these parts down the line.
Parlor guitars, with their small narrow bodies, have heightened playability.
But what else contributes to making your new parlor comfortable to play?
Every guitar is unique. What some musicians like, others might not. Here are a few details to examine.
- Body size – Although smaller than dreadnoughts, parlors cover a range of sizes. Consider what dimensions will serve your physique. What’s the proposed usage of the parlor? For example, if you crave a travel guitar, smaller is more portable.
- Neck profile – Referring to the shape of the back of the neck, the cross-section can be C, U, or V-shaped. C is the most common with an oval profile. Modern C shapes are thinner than standard. V-shaped neck profiles are old school. They’re preferable for players who like their thumb to protrude the fingerboard. U-shaped necks, also known as ‘baseball bats’ and are suitable for players with larger hands.
- Action – This refers to the distance between the string and the fretboard. If the action is too high, you’ll need more finger pressure to hit a note. So a sweet action results in little hand fatigue.
- Finish – Again, this is down to preference. Generally speaking, guitars come in gloss or satin finishes. Both have advantages in comfort and speed.
You can achieve heightened playability by getting the basics right. If the guitar has a shape, finish, and neck you can address other features. A guitar tech can modify action with a setup and you can change strings to suit.
You can expect commonalities in tone throughout parlor guitars. Focused and detailed, they’ll have profound upper mids and highs. The slight nuanced difference in tones across parlors’ tones comes from tonewoods. Here’s what some top woods will offer in sound.
- Basswood – Lightweight and soft, basswoods are also abundant, meaning it’s cheap. Don’t let the expense fool you. It provides a balanced tone, edging towards warmth as opposed to bright.
- Cedar – Soundboards of cedar are common for classical guitars. Dark and dense but with the less low end they work well for finger styles. For heavy attack strumming, they can be less responsive.
- Mahogany – Often mahogany tops compliment the back and sides of the same wood. Direct and bold in mid frequencies, they have a punchy attack. For finger styles found in country, blues, and Americana, guitars of this material sit well.
- Sitka Spruce – This is one you’ll see on plenty of guitars. Its dynamic range allows it to respond well to strumming or picking. While overtones aren’t prominent, consider it an all-around top wood.
The sheer sound quality of a premium guitar is going to cause longing urges. If you have the cash—great! If you don’t have the disposable income—don’t give in to temptation.
There are top-performing guitars in all price points. Creativity is all-inclusive. Whatever your background you should be free to express yourself regardless of budget.
Number crunch and find what you can afford. Use this article as a guide to uncover what’s available for the cash.
As you train your ears you’ll notice the difference between a premium pick and a cheap one. But remember, most listeners won’t notice an audible difference. If what you’re playing is pure gold, the price won’t matter.
Recap of the Best Parlor Guitars
|Cordoba C9 Parlor||Editor’s Choice|
|Ibanez PN12E||Best for Beginners|
|PRS SE Parlor P20||Best Under $500|
|Takamine GY93 New Yorker||Best Value|
|Martin 000-15SM||Premium Pick|
|Luna Gypsy||Best Under $200|
|Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy||Budget Pick|
|Yamaha CSF-TA TransAcoustic||Best Acoustic Electric|
|Guild P-240 Memoir||Best for Intermediate Players|
I hope you enjoyed this buyer’s guide to parlor guitars. This post is full of incredible guitars. Best of all, there’s a parlor for every budget.
Whether it’s to learn on, for travel, studio application, or as your go-to, parlors are awesome.
Offering variation to the common dreadnought, they’ll push the boundaries of your creativity.
So with your fresh knowledge of parlor guitars—good luck with your adventure!