"So What is the best Classical Guitar Brand?" is the most frequently asked question when it comes to buying or getting to know about Classical Guitars. And to tell u the truth giving the answer to this question isn't as easy as it seems. A few months back I had searched the net for top classical guitar brands. Unfortunately I got redirected to a several top 10 electric guitar brands page. After suffering from such serious set of disappointments of Classical Guitars being not famous or sold as much as the electric, and after being tormented by the idea that no one cares to write a blog on it, I decided to do something about it. So after a lot of suggestion & thinking, I'm finally going to put the list of 10 Classical Guitar Brands on the objective basis of Global reputation, Professors' recommendations, and from what I've heard at the Guitar Festival's from the Maestros. It is obvious that the maestro's guitars are made by Professional Lutheirs, who make around 10 expensive guitars a year. So these lutheirs do not mass produce guitars, and hence I'm not going to include them here. Most people who are curious enough to search for the top 10 classical guitar brands probably don't intend to buy those guitars that come with gigantic price tags. Anyways, here's the list :
Now just to be fair and honest, from what I've understood - there is no number one brand. Sure you can have an objective mathematical model on the basis of certain attributes which can tell you who is going to be number one. But I won't do so, I'll just name the guitar brands with some of their guiatrs photos and info. And this list is for those whose budget is from $100 - $2000 ( USD).
Jose Ramirez Guitars
( a photo of the Jose Ramirez shop in Madrid )
This needs a proper introduction. When it came to Ramirez Guitar, everyone I asked seemed to answer in a consistent way, which was by simply addressing it as 'great'. It was almost as if this brand was impeccable, and no one had any grievances against it. Even the Maestro's talked a lot about it. It's obvious that Ramirez has a huge legacy and history, and since Segovia once said in his documentary that Ramirez is the best luthier along with Hauser, it gained itself an automatic 'the best status' with Herman Hauser guitars on which both Segovia and Bream has played.
( a photo of the Jose Ramirez 125th Anniversary Guitar)
Here's a brief history on Jose Ramirez.
José Ramírez (1858 - 1923) was a luthier, the founder the Ramírez Company and of the Spanish luthier dynasty who continue to run it. His grandson José Ramírez III was in turn head of the company, and a noted innovator who made significant changes to the classical guitar.Ramírez was the first child of José Ramírez de Galarreta, a very well-off land owner. In 1870 he became apprenticed to Francisco Gonzalez (1830-1880). In 1890, he opened his shop in Madrid; Ramirez Guitars would continue to operate from these premises until 1995.Ramírez' work generally followed the designs of Antonio Torres (1817 – 1892) in all respects except one: He produced a larger flamenco guitar known as the tablao guitar. Both this innovation and the quality of his guitars generally were favourably received, but he is chiefly remembered as the founder of the dynasty of luthiers and the guitar manufacturing company that still bears his name. Click here to go to their website.
Manuel Rodriguez Guitars
( a photo of a Manuel Rodriguez Junior)
Manuel Rodriguez And Sons is also an excellent brand considering all of their guitars from their diverse price range. They have guitars from 500 $ - 4000$ + and they have been making Guitars for over a 100 years. This is perhaps a brand of guitar that everyone owns or owned at some point of their life. I've personally fetched a great review on almost all valid Rodriguez guitars. Manuel Rodriguez, the grandson of flamenco guitarist Manuel Rodriguez Marequi and son of classical luthier Manuel Rodriguez Perez, learned the art of constructing a guitar firsthand. His apprenticeship began at the age of 13 in Madrid, and after operating in his own shop in Spain, Manuel emigrated to Los Angeles in 1959 and opened a business there.
Manuel resided in Los Angeles for nearly 15 years, making guitars for professionals, Hollywood actors, teachers, and students before moving back to Madrid in 1973.
Using only the finest woods, and hand-forming each to precise tolerances, Manuel Rodriguez developed distinctive guitars fit for the world’s preeminent artists. Each instrument is as unique and individual as the musician who plays it.
Click here to go to their website.
Armin Hanika Guitars
(A photo of Hanika 56 pf spruce top )
There's a saying that you can't go wrong with a Hanika and I want to assure you that the statement is indeed very true. Founded in 1953, Armin Hanika is currently among the top notch brands from Germany. In case you didn't know, Germans have made serious contributions to the world of classical guitar making and playing. All traditional classical guitars are made with the traditional Hauser Bracing which was invented by the German luthier Hermann Hauser. Hauser's indispensable contribution made piano players envy the guitar and also made just about everyone from Segovia to Bream happy. Most of the Music conservatories in Germany teach Classical Guitar and their teachers are some of the best in the world. Hanika Guitars have been recently added to the book of German standards year of the century. They have four categories of Classical Guitars: 1. Studio Line 2. Recital Line 3. Concert Line and 4. Professional Line. Studio line deals with Guitars for beginners and the rest are an ascension of quality and price.
Price starts around $500 and ends somewhere around $5000 ( they make custom guitars as well).
They are also well known for their after sales service and they give a Lifetime Warranty on manufacturing defects although it's next to impossible to find a manufacturing flaw. The only thing people often don't like about Hanika Guitars is their unconventional Rosettes and their Matt top finish which doesn't look so polished but does a brilliant job when it comes to tone production.
Click here to go to their website.
(photo showcasing another Hanika Guitar's unconventional yet stylish Rosette and Logo )
( Photo of a Yamaha CG 150 A )
Among the best of all guitar manufacturers Yamaha is probably the most underrated, and this is probably because of their intermediate $500 guitars being made in China & Indonesia and not in Spain or Western Europe. Seriously, it is a unusual problem for Yamaha to sell guitars at this price range! Why would someone invest 600$ to buy a Spanish Classical guitar that is made in China. He/she would only buy it if the guitar surprisingly seems to be better than all the Spanish, Brazilian, Bulgarian, name-any-country-nian , guitars in the shop. Even if this happens the buyer would have second thoughts about the Spanish made guitar to open up it's volume after some months, and would eventually stick with an Paco Castillo or anything that has 'made in spain' logo on it. Funny as it may sound, but this is all true. If I still recall correctly then Yamaha has probably made the best guitars in the cheapest price range like Yamaha C40 and C70 which costs around 100-150 dollars, and these guitars last long as well. And due to this made in China and Indonesia dilemma people often forget about the top of the line expensive Yamaha series., the ones that are made in Japan. They have been considered by many to sound insanely good. And don't forget that for cheap and beginners guitars it's really hard to find a something more reliable. They have four series of Classical Guitars - 1. C Series 2. CG Series 3. CGS Series and 4. GC Series.
Click here to go to their website.
Orpheus Valley / Kremona Guitars
(To the left is a photo of the Orpheus valley sofia Guitar)
Orpheus valley, a Bulgarian Brand have been making Classical Guitars for more than 85 years.
Coming from a country which was once under communist rule, the guitar makers do not believe in the capitalist ideologies of tricking people just to earn more money. Probably if u invest around 1500 U.S. dollars, then u cannot get a better alternative in this price range for a full solid body guitar. Sofia and Romida are two of their great guitars among many. I personally loved the sound of Romida Rds, it easily makes a lot of guitars that cost twice as much look lame. Click here to go to their website.
Madrigal Guitars might have not been so popular internationally but on my score book, they've done extremely well.
Unlike Ramirez or Rodriguez the Madrigal isn't well known for its sound/tone, but for being well built and providing great volume.
However the top of the line Madrigal model which is the B11 not only has great volume but also a sweet tone and good sustain. Soundwise most people said that they would go for a Rodriguez. Madrigal Classical Guitars are made with the best materials and craftsmen following the handicraft building method as learned from the Spanish Masters.
All guitars have solid tops for a rich warm sound, mahogany or rosewood back and sides, rosewood or ebony fretboards, top quality tuning machines and a sophisticated.
Madrigal has also promosing models in their A1 - B1 , student range.
( to the left is a photo of Alhambra 11P)
Alhambra, the name might not sound as catchy or fashionable as Ramirez or Rodriguez, but these guitars in the last 30 years have built a strong reputation all over the world. From what I've found, the first thing about these guitars is that they look great, the finish and rosette are probably a lot better in their student / beginner models compared to other brands. Their c1, - c3 range guitars have good volume as well. Their 5p model which has a solid top with an ebony fretboard is considered the best selling model. Their Iberia model is worth checking out. The problem with Alhambra guitars is that for some reason they take more time to mature, this is possibly very true for their German spruce top guitars. I've heard that it takes 3-4 years for the guitar to completely open up. I've seen this happen with at least 7 people I know personally. Most people however compliment on the comfort of playing an Alhambra, with the soft fretboard along with their nice touch and feel. An important point to note is that the Alhambra 8p and higher models which have solid top along with solid back sides are built by a small special luthier's workshop. So 8p and higher models tend to sound great. All of Alhambra's guitars are made in Spain. To sum things up, Alhambra might not be an old brand, it initiated progress around 1960, but in recent times have gained a lot of popularity mostly for producing guitars that are a product of good wood and craftsmanship. Click here to go their website.
You might not want to believe me but Cordoba has produced some outstanding guitars on the basis of innovation. It has been only Cordoba who has dared to experiment and push the envelope. Why many people secretly or openly resent Cordoba is simply because of the fact that some of their classical guitar series has a 'truss rod'. Now in case u didn't know this Classical guitars don't have truss rods. What is it ? Truss rods are rods which run inside the neck / fretboard of a guitar and are extensively used for adjusting the neck other than adjusting string tension, action etc. Steel string guitars or acoustic guitars always have truss rods, and when the neck warps it is usually easy to fix it by inserting an allen key inside the rod and gently applying some pressure. (never do this if u don't know how to, just pay a few extra bucks for the expert to do it, that's better than breaking your own guitar ) However, if the neck of a classical guitar warps, u the only option is to take it to a workshop and applying certain ' heating' techniques. This often ends up in damaging the neck. However, Classical guitar necks generally don't warp. I don't know why Cordoba had done this, but I bet they're courageous. I've played on a few Cordoba's that had truss rods and I wasn't even told. It sounded like any other classical guitar, i don't understand how they did it because I don't happen to be a lutheir, but for once I was seriously impressed. If you like a Cordoba guitar, then go for it, and u might not want to listen to what the purists are saying. I have personally always felt that guitars are evolving and becoming better and better, but you ought to know what you really want. Click here to go their website.
Iberica is a portugese guitar brand. They have made some unconventional classical guitars that u can consider checking out. They have some special guitars which makes it easier for the right hand to rest on the guitar top while finger picking, which is not exactly an arm rest. The guitars are designed and built in a very fashionable way. They call them ' ergonomic' guitars, i've tried Iberica's ergonomic models myself, and I have to say , they aren't bad at all. Overall I'd say that their guitars are pretty fair if your budget is around 300-700 dollars.
These are another breed of Spanish Guitars that initiated progress from the early 1990's. The luthiers brought skills and techniques acquired from time spent in the workshops of other makers such as Rodriguez.
Almansa is slowly building a good reputation. Post 2005 these guitars are becoming more and more popular.
You can also get 400/500$ dollars student guitars, along with the top of the line $2000 ones. For a student guitar one can buy an Almansa, I personally haven't played on their expensive models, incase anyone did please share your experience with us by commenting below.
The above guitar brands are the ones that I've shortlisted out of 27 brands that currently aim at mass producing guitars and selling them internationally in a varying price range.
I have not numbered them, as it would be inappropriate and would seem like I'm advertising.
These guitar brands make guitars that more or less has a starting price of about $400-$500 ( some start at S1000)
The Top 100 Guitar Players today mostly use custom made handcrafted guitars which are diligently made by the luthiers whose philosophy, aesthetics and goodwill meets their expectations. They specify the wood, binding, bracing, neck, fret board radius, scale length , headstock, etc. If you're looking for a top 100 or top 10 guitar luthier list, there isn't any. Because you can objectively evaluate guitars in terms of materials, design, aesthetics, sonority, volume, intonation, projection, depth, finish, dynamics range, response etc up to 70-80%, and the rest is obviously better left subjective, hence it becomes personal after a certain point.
The Problem with all Acoustic Guitars is that they don't sound mature when they are just born. Guitars like wine, need to be played, seasoned and maintained properly for 6 months to one year to open up and sound mature. And for this reason, it is obviously a safer option to get a 'trial period' from a luthier. Many good luthiers and guitar sellers offer trial periods, just give them a security deposit and ur bank info / id and gain some trust. Sign a deal. Get some decent Computer Recording consoles like a condenser mic and an usb recording device / sound card, headphones etc. and record a piece that u know well, and record it again after 6 months or more, you will obviously notice a big difference ( if u only have been playing your guitar regularly for 2 hours i.e. you must surpass around 400 hours of playing the same instrument which you are re-recording). Branded Guitars generally come with warranty and if you buy an expensive branded guitar that costs above $2000, then u can e-mail the guitar company directly regarding your guitars flaws / lack of volume / tonal maturity etc. Post a video on youtube if necessary. Scan your bill, and send it to them via e-mail. Most reputed guitar brands will co-operate with you in changing your guitar. Always, remember to keep your guitar inside a hard shelled case when you are not playing, always use a hygrometer, humidifier kit etc. Do not expose your guitar to direct sunlight.
If you want an International Guitar Luthier list : http://www.delcamp.net/liens/luthiers.htm
If you are in Spain and looking for Guitar shops in Spain then check this out : http://spainforvisitors.com/module-pagesetter-viewpub-tid-46-pid-84-meid-4054.htm
Guitar Maker list from wiki : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Guitar_makers
Hope you found the information useful. Thanks and come again :)