There is some discussion as to what a Parlor guitar actually is. But it is usually taken to be a small-bodied acoustic. I know that seems to be a little bit of a vague description, but as we take an in-depth look at the best Parlor acoustic guitars, you will see that even the manufacturers don’t agree.
Is it a New Idea?
Not all, it is over 200 years old. It first emerged in Europe in the 1800s and looked a little similar to a standard classical guitar. The main difference was apart from usually being a little smaller, is that it had steel strings. Classical guitars, of course, don’t.
It gets its name because it was a guitar introduced for use in private gatherings at home, sometimes in larger houses, in the Parlor. Small intimate gatherings of friends or family who would entertain each other.
As it was able to project considerable volume considering its size, it made them perfect for these and other performances.
Why Are They Different From Small Acoustic Guitars?
You will notice that the majority of parlor guitars have a slightly different design to their straight acoustic cousins. Parlor guitars have an almost pear-like shape being wider at the bottom end than they are at the top. Some even look like a figure 8.
That is no accidental design. The extra size at the lower end increases the amount of volume and the richness of the tone the guitar can generate. And that was one of the reasons they became so popular in the first place.
Out of Fashion
With designers trying to convince everyone that bigger is better with their Dreadnought and the Jumbo creations, the Parlor guitar fell out of favor. But in recent years, interest has been resurgent.
Joan Baez and a young Bob Dylan were partly responsible for that. You now see them in the hands of musicians everywhere. So, let’s stop talking about it and check out the best Parlor acoustic guitars currently on the market and find the perfect one for you, starting with the…
Top 7 Best Parlor Acoustic Guitars of 2023
1 Yamaha CSF1M TBS Parlor Size Acoustic-Electric Guitar – Best Acoustic-Electric Parlor Guitar
Since the early 70s, when Yamaha arrived in Europe with their range of guitars, they have gotten better at making them. That is no idle comment. The first acoustic efforts were not so good. It didn’t take them long to up their game. Now they make some of the best guitars on the planet. The CSF1M TBS is a worthy place to start our look at Parlor guitars.
It has a solid Sitka Spruce top with a Mahogany back and sides. To those that may not be familiar with tonewoods, that is important. The Spruce top gives the sound a brightness and a great top-end.
The mahogany is more resonant and warm-sounding. Put them together in the same guitar, and you get the best of both worlds, a great-sounding instrument. The neck and fingerboard are also mahogany which is also hard-wearing and durable.
Yamaha has used great woods for the construction, which makes this one of the best high quality parlor acoustic guitars you can buy.
Always important to generate the right amount of vibration from the top, this Yamaha has what is known as forward-shifting bracing. Quite a recent design idea that helps to create deeper resonance and increases the volume.
What you get is a full, rich, resonant sound with plenty of depth. A sound that you wouldn’t think possible from a smaller instrument. And the sound and its easy-to-play feel make it one of the best parlor guitars for fingerpicking on the market.
It has a scale length of 600mm, and at 34mm is shorter than a standard acoustic. But it is interesting how it doesn’t affect the sound quality. It plays and feels like its larger cousin, but it just feels easier to play and more comfortable to hold.
Having a pickup built-in gives this guitar an extra dimension. If you are using the guitar for a larger audience, then the Piezo pickup under the saddle will allow you to plug it in.
Even when through an amp, the guitar can hold its typically “Parlor guitar” sound. So early in this review, we have a contender for the best parlor acoustic guitar.
- Well-built with a creative internal bracing pattern to enhance the sound.
- Quality woods are used to ensure a great sound.
2 Gretsch Guitars Jim Dandy Flat Top Acoustic – Best Budget Parlor Acoustic Guitar
One of the oldest names in the guitar world, Gretsch, was founded in New York as far back as 1883. They have had some famous players. Chet Atkins, of course, was inextricably linked with the name.
But possibly George Harrison did more to promote the Gretsch name in the early to the middle part of the Beatles career. He was more often than not seen playing a Gretsch in their live performances.
Other famous names
But there have been others. Eddie Cochran, Neil Young, AC/DC’s Malcolm Young, and even Pete Townshend. Although, he only ever uses his in the studio.
This “Jim Dandy Flat Top” is a Parlor guitar. It may seem like a budget instrument, but it still delivers a nice sound. If you are on a budget or buying for a beginner, you could do a lot worse than this guitar.
It has an aged look and design to it. Reminiscent of the Gretsch parlor guitars that were made in the 30s and 40s. The dark wood finish and the white scratchplate give you that vintage feel. As a result, it’s one of the best vintage style parlor acoustic guitars on the market.
They haven’t used the very highest quality woods. Nevertheless, they do their job quite well. The body is made from Agathis, and it has a Nato neck with a Rosewood fretboard.
Agathis is similar to Spruce in many ways in that as a wood for the top; it does offer a bright sound. Internally there is a standard X-bracing pattern that is always a sign that you will get good sound projection.
One of the highlights of this guitar is its C-shaped neck. Comfortable in the hand with an easy-to-play feel, it’s one of the easiest to play parlor acoustic guitars out there.
As I have already mentioned, it is surprisingly good with a rich, warm bottom-end added to a decent brightness from at the top. You may also be surprised by the amount of volume it generates, being that it is a smaller instrument. It has a 24″ scale and weighs just two pounds.
- Nicely made with a vintage Gretsch look to it.
- Well-projected sound and plenty of volume.
- Some may just want a higher-quality instrument.
3 Cordoba C9 Parlor Small Body Classical Acoustic – Best Premium Parlor Acoustic Guitar
For those that may want to invest a little more cash in one of the best classically-styled parlor guitars, this is going to be of interest. If you are not familiar with the Cordoba name, they have a reputation for building quality guitars true to original Spanish traditions.
It has a solid all-wood body with a Canadian Cedar top. The sides and the back are made from African Mahogany, as is the neck. It has a Rosewood fingerboard and bridge and a mother of pearl rosette around the soundhole.
The traditional techniques used in making the instrument give you a great sound. The “Spanish heel” construction and traditional internal bracing patterns make sure of that. The use of good materials to enhance how it sounds continues with the bone nut and saddle. And, of course, good materials also contribute to making it a beautiful-looking guitar.
How Does It Play?
It has a smooth and easy feel to it. The fingerboard is flat and quite wide at 52mm, as is traditional with this style. But it is easy to play and at 3.5 pounds in weight, no problem seated or standing.
How Does It Sound?
The solid all-wood construction goes a long way to ensuring the sound is good. I have already mentioned the traditional construction techniques, and these also play a big part.
The tone is warm and resonant, and the way it is built allows the soundboard to vibrate responsively. This is what helps it be louder than it appears it might be. It is a sound that will impress wherever it is played.
The C9 Parlor guitar comes with a padded Polyfoam case. Not the cheapest option by any means but a quality instrument.
- Well-made using traditional Spanish guitar-making techniques.
- Pleasant, warm sound with adequate volume levels.
- Might be expensive for some.
4 Fender Paramount PM-2 Standard Parlor – Best Sounding Parlor Acoustic Guitar
Fender as a manufacturer has had their ups and downs. Untouchable at one time, they disappeared into a dark hole in the late 60s and have been up and down ever since. These days they make good guitars rather than great ones.
However, they are still able to make a decent guitar at a reasonable price, and this Paramount PM-2 is one of them. It gives you good quality woods used in the construction and a solid-wood body design that generates a warm and rich sound.
Let’s take a look at the woods used. It has a Sitka spruce top. This is a common wood used in a lot of the better quality guitars. It is known to give a bright sound when used as the soundboard.
To balance up the brightness of the spruce, you need some warmth and bottom-end. You get this from the solid mahogany back and sides. That not only looks good but sounds good. Furthermore, it’s one of the best mahogany body parlor guitars you can buy.
The neck is also mahogany, and the fretboard is hard-wearing Ebony with pearl dot inlays. And to complete the quality of the materials, Fender has used real bone for the nut and the saddle.
Inside there is a quarter-sawn X-scalloped bracing design to give it extra response. Never underestimate the importance of internal bracing. The bracing allows your top wood to vibrate. The more controlled vibration there is and the more responsive it is, the better the sound.
Larger Than The Usual
As Parlor guitars go, this is one of the larger ones. It measures 42 inches long, but it does have that familiar pear-shaped design that gives it away. It isn’t lightweight either, coming in at eleven pounds.
The preamp is designed by Fishman in association with Fender. It has a tuner and bass and treble controls, and a master volume. The controls are knobs rather than sliders which is an interesting change. They do sit quite flush to the body, so they do not protrude very far.
The sound is reasonable for an acoustic-electric, given they are never a replica of the acoustic-only sound. Overall, a nice design and good performance from Fender, which these days isn’t always the case with their acoustics.
It isn’t a cheap option, though. But, if you’re thinking about spending a little more on a Parlor guitar, you should have a look at this.
- Good materials and well-made with a good look about it.
- Very nice sound with good electrics.
- Some may not want to pay this much.
5 Ibanez Performance PN1MHOPN Mahogany Parlor Acoustic Guitar – Best Beginner Parlor Acoustic Guitar
From one of the larger parlor guitars, let’s go down to one of the smaller versions. Ibanez is sometimes an underrated guitar manufacturer. They have had some well–known adherents to their instruments, including Van Halen, Steve Vai, and, of course, jazz player George Benson.
This is a budget option from the Ibanez performance range. Despite the cost-effective price, it has plenty of qualities.
It has some nice woods used, including a laminated Spruce top and laminated Mahogany body. A combination that produces a great sound. The neck is also Mahogany with a Rosewood fingerboard. The bridge is also made from Rosewood.
The body has a nice herringbone design purfling around the edges and a prominent rosette around the soundhole. Open gear tuners at the headstock with imitation ivory knobs.
I should remark about its appearance. It has a natural open-pore finish that gives it real appeal. And especially so when considering the purfling and rosette that have been added. An impressive-looking instrument.
It has a 24.4-inch scale length, and there are 18 frets. Easy to play, and at 5.5 pounds, lightweight, and ideal for beginners and more experienced musicians alike.
What you might expect from a guitar with those tonewoods. Warm and resonant with an extra brightness courtesy of the Spruce top. You will be surprised at the quality and well-balanced sound it produces.
It is adequately loud enough for small performances or just playing along by yourself. Not as loud as some Parlor guitars, but that is due to its slightly smaller size. It is good for both finger-pickers and those who like to strum.
A very cost-effective price point along with the quality of the manufacture means this could be one of the best Parlor Acoustic Guitars.
- Well made using good materials with a nice sound.
- Ideal for a beginner at a cost-effective price.
- At this price point, nothing.
6 Ibanez PN15 Parlor Size Acoustic Guitar – Loudest Parlor Acoustic Guitar
Let’s stay with Ibanez for another quality, cost-effective Parlor guitar. This is a guitar that demonstrates how Ibanez sticks to the basics of what makes guitars good. And then take those disciplines and do a good job manufacturing it.
This is a guitar that will be great sitting around the campfire as well as playing in the evening at home. In other words, it’s one of the best travel Parlor acoustic guitars around.
This is a slightly larger Parlor guitar than the PN1MHOPN we just looked at. But it is still compact and has that recognizable pear-shaped design. And it still only weighs 5.5 pounds.
Once again, Ibanez sticks with the Spruce top and Mahogany sides and body. The trusted warmth and resonance from the Mahogany and brightness from the Spruce. The Sunburst finish adds a nice vintage kind of styling to it. And the white edging and simple rosette design keep the guitar understated in appearance.
This is where you will need to give this guitar careful consideration based on what style you play. The neck is made from Mahogany with a rosewood fingerboard and has a standard 18 frets.
However, it is quite narrow. The width of the neck at the nut is only 1.65 inches. That is a great width for a beginner or for those who strum their music. But for those that like to fingerpick, it could be a little thin depending on the size of your fingers.
The nut and the saddle are made from Ivorex 11, and there are impressive die-cast tuners at the headstock.
As it is a little larger than most Parlor guitars, it does tend to play louder than most. The sound, though, is that familiar tone created by those tonewoods and will fit any style of music. Not as precise and good as the more expensive Parlor guitars, but at its price point, there can be no complaints.
- Well-made with good decent materials and a nice look.
- Set at a great price point.
- Some may want a higher-quality sound.
7 Yamaha CSF1M VN Parlor Size Acoustic Guitar – Best Value for the Money Parlor Acoustic Guitar
Let’s close this look at Parlor guitars by returning for another look at what Yamaha can offer. And there is something very special that this guitar offers. More on that later.
One thing this guitar is certain to give you is a full-bodied, rich, warm, and crisp sound. This is because Yamaha has used solid Spruce for the top and Mahogany for the back and sides. There are a lot of guitars that use that combination, as we have seen so far. But this guitar is special.
The neck is made from Nato with a Rosewood fingerboard, and the nut is made from Urea. Up at the headstock, the die-cast chrome tuners are of good quality. It has a scale length of 23.6 inches and so is quite a bit smaller than the standard acoustic size.
You don’t want to use too many words, but the sound is lush and rich, bright and resonant. It is fair to say that Yamaha has taken the quality of the sound of the Parlor guitar to a higher level.
The volume is not as loud as its larger cousins, but it is more than adequate for playing acoustically. And that brings us to what the special feature is that this guitar offers.
To describe them as just Electrics is not going to do them justice. This guitar is fitted with an under-saddle piezo pickup. Under each string is an individual sensor. When you connect up to an amplifier or to a PA, the pickup delivers an improved sound that is monitored for each string. And as it is a passive design, it doesn’t need batteries.
There is no doubt this is a great guitar not only with the way it sounds but with its vintage classical look. And at this price point, it must be considered as one of the best Parlor style guitars you can buy.
- Great looking guitar made with quality materials.
- A rich and warm sound that can be controlled.
Best Parlor Acoustic Guitars – Frequently Asked Questions
Are they loud enough since they are smaller?
They are not as loud as the Dreadnought and Jumbo designs that we are used to today. These guitars were built for performances at small gatherings. But they still need a good projection of sound, and most do have that.
Back in the early 1900s, smaller acoustics were the norm. Parlor guitars were considered quite a standard size. But they were made to be heard, and today that is still important. Being loud enough isn’t a problem.
Do they sound like other acoustic guitars?
Very similar, as you would probably expect. It does vary from guitar to guitar, of course, as it does with full-size acoustics. But generally speaking, they produce a clear and balanced sound that has a prominent mid-range to it.
What genres do they suit?
Any genre that could use an acoustic guitar is the simple answer. But they are great for playing fingerstyle Blues or Folk music.
How many frets do they have?
A Parlor guitar will usually have 18 frets, although you can get them with up to 22.
Are they travel guitars?
No reason why they couldn’t be, but that is not what they were made for. However, for weekend getaways, they are ideal and easy to transport, being a bit smaller.
What is the difference in shape to a standard acoustic guitar?
Parlor guitars tend to be narrower with a shorter scale length. They look the same in build, just a bit smaller and thinner. They also have what you might call a “pear shape.”
Looking for a Great Acoustic Guitar?
We can help with that. Check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Acoustic Guitars Under $600, the Best Acoustic Guitars Under $500, the Best Acoustic Guitars Under $300, the Best Cheap Acoustic Guitars Under $200, the Best Left-Handed Acoustic Guitars, and the Best Acoustic Travel Guitars you can buy in 2023.
You may also enjoy our detailed reviews of the Best Low Action Acoustic Guitar, the Best Acoustic Guitars For Kids, the Best Acoustic Guitar Gig Bags, the Best Acoustic Guitar Pickups, the Best Acoustic Guitar Strings, and the Best Classical Guitars currently on the market.
What are the Best Parlor Acoustic Guitars?
The thought of owning a Parlor guitar is a nice idea. It gives extra options for sound but being so easy to hold and play; it becomes a recreational thing. For me, I would want an instrument that just played well and sounded good. Therefore, I would choose the…
An exceptional instrument at a great price.
So, until next time, let your music play.