10 Best Parlor Guitars – Your Eternal Friend

Parlor guitars are a throwback instrument that were popular form the late nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century. The idea was an instrument you played in the parlor for a small audience. They are making a comeback as players are looking for something different to set their sound apart from the rest. Most of the major manufacturers are producing these instruments, which gives you plenty of guitars to choose from. They also seem to be more competitively priced making it easier to buy a really good guitar with for little money. If you want to stand out from the hordes of dreadnought players, then maybe a small parlor might be the trick.

First we’re going to show you a comparison table with all the models we’ve reviewed and their ratings. There are also links to the extended reviews for any instrument that catches your attention. After the table we’ll have some guidelines, tips, and tricks for picking out your new (or next) parlor.

10 Best Parlor Guitars

PRODUCT

FEATURES

PRODUCT

IMAGE

PRODUCT

FEATURES

AR RATING 88/100

  • Good Yamaha build quality and manufacturing processes ensure quality.
  • Great choice of tonewood which includes all solid pieces.

AR RATING 87/100

  • A no nonsense design optimized for performance above all.
  • Great selection of tonewood which gives it a great sound.

AR RATING 87/100

  • A very unique design which is very aesthetically pleasing.
  • All mahogany build that brings a great performance.

AR RATING 86/100

  • Great design with plenty of awesome details, binding and similar.
  • Reliable build quality which ensures consistency.
  • Pretty affordable parlor that is made quite well.
  • Features that standard Gretsch build quality and attention to details.

AR RATING 85/100

  • Good build quality and attention to detail.
  • Decent aesthetics although Fender didn't focus on that.

AR RATING 84/100

  • Decent choice of materials which work out well overall.
  • Great build quality with a good quality control.

AR RATING 83/100

  • Great build quality with good attention to details.
  • Decent tonewood overall, which results in a unique sound.

AR RATING 83/100

  • Simple yet robust parlor guitar that just works.
  • Good build quality all around.
  • Impressive bang for the buck value all things considered.
  • Decent choice of tonewood makes up for good performance.

AR RATING 88/100

Yamaha's acoustic guitars may not be the most exotic, but they're undoubtedly some of the best out there at the moment. A lot of this can be attributed to their impressive mass production technology which almost mimics the handmade stuff. Yamaha CSF3M TBS brings you all of these attributes and more, in a package which is compact, comfortable and robust.

For this build, Yamaha went with a more classic look. The top is a nice piece made of solid sitka spruce while the back and sides are pure, solid mahogany. On top of that, you also get a passive pickup which allows you to go amplified should you need to. Overall, this entire setup is pretty great for performing artists.

WHAT WE LIKE

  • check
    Good Yamaha build quality and manufacturing processes ensure quality.
  • check
    Great choice of tonewood which includes all solid pieces.
  • check
    Built-in passive pickup allows you to go amplified when necessary.
  • check
    Its massive sound which really brings out the details.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    There is a lack of aesthetic details but nothing crucial.

AR RATING 87/100

Some of the best parlor guitars don't necessarily look the part. Case in point, Blueridge BR-341. With that said, there is nothing wrong with the way this guitar looks, it's just that it doesn't come with all the bells and whistles many expect from a higher end parlors these days. What we are more interested in is how these perform.

Fortunately for us, Blueridge did a great job with this one, just like they usually do with most of their guitars. We can thank a good selection of tonewood as well as the pretty spot on build quality. With a solid sitka spruce top and solid mahogany shell, this bad boy packs a mean sound. Overall it's an amazing guitar.

WHAT WE LIKE

  • check
    A no nonsense design optimized for performance above al.
  • check
    Great selection of tonewood which gives it a great sound.
  • check
    Good hardware all around that ensures reliability.
  • check
    Good sound with plenty of power and volume.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    Some may dislike the lack of complexity in its design.

AR RATING 87/100

There is something attractive about parlor guitars which are made completely out of mahogany. Sawtooth ST MH AEP represents exactly what we mean by this. Even though not many have heard about this brand, they have a good track record especially with parlor guitars. What you can expect from them is rock solid build quality and tangible performance all over.

As we have mentioned above, this bad boy is completely made of mahogany. That means a solid mahogany top paired with solid mahogany back and sides. As you can probably conclude by yourself, all this mahogany gives it a slightly sharper sound. If you are worried that it might take all the warmth out, don't be. It sounds quite balanced.

WHAT WE LIKE

  • check
    A very unique design which is very aesthetically pleasing.
  • check
    All mahogany build that brings a great performance.
  • check
    Great build quality with plenty of attention to details.
  • check
    Sound which is massive thanks to built in electronics.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    Factory strings it comes with are not the greatest.

AR RATING 86/100

If there is one brand who has been on the fringes of the market, only to come back into the spotlight, it's Oscar Schmidt. They have been making great guitars overall, but it's fair to say that their quality jumped up when Washburn acquired them recently. Oscar Schmidt O315 is one of the models that have sprung from that acquisition.

It's a very cute package which features a nice spruce top combined with trembesi back and sides. Overall, this selection of tonewood is quite alright despite it being anything but traditional. Sound wise, it's a straight shooter with plenty of warmth, volume and overall quality in there. Additionally, the amount of details Oscar Schmidt has put into these is amazing.

WHAT WE LIKE

  • check
    Great design with plenty of awesome details, binding and similar.
  • check
    Reliable build quality which ensures consistency.
  • check
    Sound which is full of detail, range and warmth.
  • check
    Decent hardware that keeps the guitar in tune.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    Really benefits from a quality set of strings.

AR RATING 86/100

When you hear the name Gretsch, chances are the acoustic guitars are not the first thing that comes to your mind. After all this brand is known for making some of the best and most authentic semi hollow/hollow electric guitars. Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy Flat Top is far removed from all that. It is a different kind of Gretsch.

For a parlor guitar, it definitely packs a very interesting look. Gretsch went with a vintage sunburst finish over and agathis body, which makes it look quite retro. Especially when you include the white pick guard as well. The neck is very playable and resembles Fender's C-shape, while the entire guitar comes across as very playable. Overall, it is great.

WHAT WE LIKE

  • check
    Pretty affordable parlor that is made quite well.
  • check
    Features that standard Gretsch build quality and attention to details.
  • check
    Great sound that really works well with any genre.
  • check
    Pretty playable and comfortable model for beginners.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    Factory strings are definitely not the best.

AR RATING 85/100

Fender acoustic guitars, especially the more budget oriented ones, are usually a great choice for beginners. Same goes for Fender CP-100. It is straightforward parlor design which isn't loaded with bells and whistles. In a market full of brands trying to achieve the next level of aesthetics at the cost of performance, that's quite refreshing. Overall, it's a proper starter.

Here's where things get a bit interesting. The tonewood that Fender went with is laminate spruce for the top combined with laminate mahogany for back and sides. Many may not agree with this decision, but it serves the purpose well. The reassuring fact is that Fender's laminates are pretty decent to say the least. We can comfortably recommend this model.

WHAT WE LIKE

  • check
    Good build quality and attention to detail.
  • check
    Decent aesthetics although Fender didn't focus on that.
  • check
    Good sound considering the use of laminated wood.
  • check
    Decent bang for the buck overall.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    Use of laminate wood for the top is disappointing.

AR RATING 84/100

Luna is one of those brands that really is an acquired taste for the most part. Their instruments are pretty exotic both in terms of design and names. However, Luna guitars offer consistency and that is what has given this brand a pretty good reputation. From that standpoint, Luna Gypsy Muse is quite attractive which is why beginners love it.

The whole thing is made out of mahogany. Now, it is laminate for the most part but that doesn't really matter too much in this price range. The sound it offers is quite alright all things considered. It's bright due to all that mahogany, but it is still fairly warm. If you need something to learn on, this is it.

WHAT WE LIKE

  • check
    Decent choice of materials which work out well overall.
  • check
    Great build quality with a good quality control.
  • check
    Good sound overall,with plenty of warmth and projection.
  • check
    Reliable hardware that ensures consistency.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    This one definitely benefits from a proper setup job.

AR RATING 83/100

Here is another lesser known brand with a guitar that really deserves 5 minutes in the spotlight. EKO Guitars 06217034 NXT is a cute little parlor guitar that is quite promising. Sure, it is not the most attractive looking thing out there, but at this price, it is really hard to argue. This is why so many beginners like it.

This entire build is made of agathis and it results in a quite a reasonable sound. It might be too soft for some, but the color of the sound is on point. The one we are looking at today comes win a nice black finish with white binding all around the body and fretboard. It is a truly beautiful piece.

WHAT WE LIKE

  • check
    Great build quality with good attention to details.
  • check
    Decent tonewood overall, which results in a unique sound.
  • check
    One of the most aesthetically pleasing parlors in this category.
  • check
    Sound which is warm and mellow but pretty tight.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    That glossy black finish is beautiful but high maintenance.

AR RATING 82/100

Another awesome Fender model which is great for beginners is the Fender CP-60S. It's a pretty awesome little guitar, especially at this price. As a matter of fact, it fills up a pretty wide niche that is often under saturated. If you're just starting out with guitar and want something that is comfortable, affordable and reliable, this Fender is it.

The most surprising thing about this guitar is the fact that it features a solid spruce top over mahogany back and sides. There are models out there which are all laminate and much more expensive. In terms of sound, it is pretty straightforward with a well balanced tone. One thing to consider is that the factory strings aren't the best.

WHAT WE LIKE

  • check
    Simple yet robust parlor guitar that just works.
  • check
    Good build quality all around.
  • check
    Great choice of materials which improve sound.
  • check
    Good hardware making it pretty reliable.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    Not the greatest factory strings on the market.

AR RATING 82/100

Last but not least, here is a model that really defines the bang for the buck value. Recording King RPS-7-TS Dirty 30's Series 7 Single 0 might have a complicated name, but it is quite a simple guitar. Overall build quality is more than decent considering the price. This makes it the best starter parlor out there for budget users.

The tonewood of choice for this build is whitewood for the shell and spruce for the top. The whole thing is put together quite nicely, which is apparent when you look at cool details like binding, inlays and the sort. Interestingly enough, there's no rosette design to speak of. Either way, this parlor sounds quite good for what it is.

WHAT WE LIKE

  • check
    Impressive bang for the buck value all things considered.
  • check
    Decent choice of tonewood makes up for good performance.
  • check
    Good hardware which keeps everything pretty tight.
  • check
    Sound that really punches above its price range.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    Might require a proper setup job upon arrival.

Tips, Tricks, and Guidelines

Parlors aren’t for everyone. They have a tone that can be considered very dated, but that is what adds to their charm. An experienced player with a collection of guitars should have a parlor for a different voice to choose from. A young player will find a comfortable instrument to learn on that is sized more to their liking.

The renaissance of the parlor means you won’t have to go to an antique store to get one. These newer instruments even have some improvements that you won’t find on the older guitars. Such as electronics, updated wood selection, and innovations of design from the latter half of the 20th century to today. It combines the best of both worlds to make very good guitars.

We haven’t broken down this group by price range, but by body shape. You are going to find every kind of guitar that is a parlor shape in this grouping. The inexpensive and expensive will be sitting right next to each other. So you have been warned.

For the Beginner

Due to their size they make very good instruments for new player or those with smaller frames. The shorter scale makes the string tension lighter so that it is easier to fret the notes. The biggest issue to worry about when buying a parlor for a young player is the neck width. They are generally considered to be finger-style instruments so keep an eye on the nut width so that you don’t end up with a guitar with a very wide neck.

What You’ll Need

The gear you need all depend on the guitar you buy and your experience level. A beginner has many things to buy, which you can see those items in our article about beginner guitar buying (make sure you check that out, if you haven’t already). The first time buyer of an acoustic/electric is going to have to think about how they are going to amplify their new instrument. Whether you buy an amp or mixing board depends upon your needs. Either way you’ll need a DI (direct input) box for sending your signal to the amp or mixing board. These are easy find at any music store ranging from cheap (about $30) to expensive all depending upon what you want and what your pocketbook can afford (or the limit on your credit card).

Traditionally parlors are played without a pick so the good news is you’ll save a little money (and I stress little) not having to buy a pick. You might want to try a thumbpick or a slide to try something new if you’ve never tried either parlors are amenable to either item.

A Few Words about Price Points

What’s nice about this list is you’ll see all the different price ranges right next to each other. This might be a bad thing if you fall in love with a guitar that is well outside your price range (and who hasn’t). It is also interesting to see where the focus for each builder is. There are instruments that look more expensive than their counterparts, and other instruments that sound more expensive than their counterparts. It really throws this into stark relief each manufacturer’s building philosophies.

You as the consumer have to decide where your priorities are. An inexpensive instrument with a lot of expensive aesthetics is going to have some cheaper parts, such as plastic nut and saddle, wonky tuners, or cheap electronics. These things can be upgraded, but that will add to the price of the guitar. A simply adorned nice playing and sounding instrument would be a nightmare to add “bling” to.

Then there are those magical instruments that look and sound above their price point. It is easy to make a good expensive guitar, making a good one that is inexpensive now that’s the trick.

12th and 14th Fretters

Traditionally a parlor neck joins the body at the 12th fret, but there are several new designs that has the joining happening at the 14th fret. This is sort of a poor-man’s parlor cutaway. It opens up a bit more of the fretboard without adding a cutaway that can hurt the tone of such a small instrument. Traditionalists may find this to be off putting, but it is something to take into consideration. A cutaway is too much since parlors are played between the nut and 12th fret (which had a lot to do with the original design), but 14th fretters will open up a bit more of the fingerboard.

On the Go

The smaller size of a parlor makes it a great traveling companion. These guitars will easily go anywhere from the campsite, to the impromptu jam session, to the poolside, and to the parlor. They may be small, but they are designed to have good projection so you won’t get lost in the mix. If you buy an instrument with onboard electronics you can even take these guitars to the concert hall. No longer are these guitars contained to small venues.

Some Extra Thoughts

An added benefit of the design is that parlors don’t have pickguards. I know you’re worried about the finish and protecting the top, but pickguards are kind of ugly. Plus they only protect on the down stroke of the strum, what about the up stroke? This is personal preference I know, but a point I thought I’d make.

A drawback I’ve noticed about the parlor is that there isn’t much selection for the left-handed player. That should be nothing new to you southpaws, but it seems even more of an issue with parlors. This unfortunately will dramatically reduce your selection, which is a shame.

Editorial Conclusion:

Maybe parlor guitars aren’t your thing, don’t worry we have plenty other acoustic guitar comparisons for you to take a look at. Subscribe to our newsletter so we can keep you in the loop of what’s going on in the world of guitars. Stop back often to check out the new gear reviews and articles that we add all the time. Until next time, may your chords arpeggiate and your bass lines have a melody.

Reader Interactions

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

HOW IT WORKS

The appropriate research can do wonders if done properly. We are here to help you and save your time and money at the same time. In our website you will see our personal recommendations based on our knowledge and extensive research. What we base our rating using the product details and customer feedback.