Finding The Best Parlor Guitar: Your Guide For 2023

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Hear that sound? It’s not just any guitar, it’s the unique charm of a parlor guitar playing soulful tunes that fill the room. Welcome to our guide to the best parlor guitars in 2023. Whether you’re a beginner on a budget, a seasoned player looking for a new challenge, or a guitar enthusiast aiming to expand your collection, you’ve found the right article.

We’re going to explore the unique attributes, key benefits, pricing, and pros and cons of each top-notch parlor guitar. So, it’s time to move over big and bulky guitars and tune into the world of smaller, dynamic, and historically rich parlor guitars. Let’s start the fingerstyle playing, blues, and country strumming, and embark on travel-friendly musical journeys.

 

Our Top Pick – The Gibson G-00

The Gibson G-00 parlor guitar

Overview

The Gibson G-00 is a part of Gibson’s new Generation Collection, a line of hand-built acoustic guitars. This smaller-bodied guitar is constructed with solid wood, including a solid walnut back and sides, a solid spruce top, and a neck carved from a single piece of mahogany-like utile.

Its slim and compact design, sans binding, gives it an earthy and elemental appeal. One of its distinguishing features is a player port, which Gibson calls the Player Port, which enhances the playing experience by providing a more intimate means of relating to the guitar’s dynamic potential.

Key Benefits

  • Solid wood construction for an authentic, rich tone
  • Compact and slim design that is comfortable for all musicians
  • Features a unique player port that enhances the playing experience
  • Constructed with a solid walnut back and sides, a solid spruce top, and a mahogany-like utile neck for ultimate durability
  • Nitrocellulose satin finish allows for a more natural and unadulterated tone
  • Excellent playability, with a comfortable neck and low action
  • Well-suited for fingerstyle playing

Pricing

The G-00 model is the least expensive model in the Generation Collection, priced at roughly $999 USD. Despite its affordable price, it does not compromise on quality, offering excellent playability and a compelling playing experience.

See Current Guitar Center Pricing Here

Pros & Cons

The G-00 is known for its powerful volume despite its compact size. The comfortable playability and generous C-shaped neck profile provide a seamless music-making experience. The player port is a distinguishing feature that improves sound projection, making the playing experience even more immersive. This is a guitar that can be appreciated for the subtleties in its sound, and the player port, interestingly, even allows for the smell of the guitar to be experienced during play.

The sound of the G-00 is characterized by a mid-punch and good projection. It has clarity in sound, delivering well-defined chords and high-definition single notes. Also, this model has a surprising amount of bass for its size, which adds to its appeal.

As a part of the G Series, also known as the Player Port series, the G-00 is American-made and offers a price point that competes well with guitars from overseas. In terms of aesthetics, the rosette design on the G Series guitars is distinct and adds to their overall appeal.

However, some musicians might find the lack of onboard electronics in this model a bit limiting. Additionally, while the guitar comes with a gig bag, a fitted hard case is not included, which some might prefer for the optimal protection of the instrument.

 

Epiphone L-00

The Epiphone L-00 parlor guitar

Overview

The Epiphone L-00 is a compact acoustic-electric guitar that is a descendant of Epiphone’s original line of flattops from the 1930s. Despite its smaller size, it is known for its powerful and vibrant tone.

The spruce top, mahogany body, and neck all contribute to its warm and balanced sound. It features a Fishman Sonicore under-saddle pickup and Fishman Sonitone soundhole preamp, allowing for easy amplification on stage. The guitar is also recognized for its comfortable playability, thanks in part to its slim taper D-profile neck.

Key Benefits

  • Compact and lightweight design, making it easy to handle and navigate.
  • Fishman Sonicore under-saddle pickup and Fishman Sonitone soundhole preamp for easy stage amplification.
  • Comfortable playability, attributed to the slim taper D-profile neck.
  • Capable of producing strong and loud sounds, despite its small size.
  • Beautiful vintage sunburst finish and elegant binding.
  • Ideal for a variety of music genres, especially blues and country.

Pricing

Given the L-00’s features and performance, it’s known to offer great value for its price.

See Current Guitar Center Pricing Here

Pros & Cons

What stands out about the Epiphone L-00 is its beautiful design, featuring a spruce top, mahogany back and sides, and elegant binding. Despite being a smaller-sized acoustic guitar, it’s noteworthy for its volume and playability, and the short scale makes it particularly easy to navigate. The Fishman Sonicore under-saddle pickup and Sonitone soundhole preamp ensure high-quality amplification on stage.

When played with a pick, the guitar produces a sustain and ringing tone that is quite impressive. It’s also ideal for fingerstyle playing, offering a pronounced high-mid sheen, and surprising amount of sustain. The Grover machine heads ensure reliable tuning, and the guitar’s overall sound has a crystalline, glassy, bell-like quality that speaks to its top-notch build materials.

On the downside, while the L-00 is versatile and can perform well across genres, its sound quality might not match the standard of higher-end Martin or Gibson acoustic guitars. Yet, it’s important to note that it still offers great value for its price, with build materials and a balanced voice that are more than satisfactory for recording.

 

PRS SE P20E

The PRS SE P20E parlor guitar

Overview

The PRS SE Tonare Parlor P20E is a budget-friendly and compact acoustic guitar that combines excellent build quality, value, and playability. Despite its small body size, the P20E boasts a big tone, resonating with a bold, mid-ranged voice that projects well.

Made with all-mahogany construction, this guitar is marked by its solid mahogany top, laminated mahogany back and sides, and a mahogany neck with PRS’s signature “Wide Fat” profile. Equipped with the Fishman GT1 pickup system, the P20E has a sound that can be amplified effectively.

Key Benefits

  • Solid Mahogany construction for a warm, robust sound
  • Compact size that does not compromise on volume and projection
  • “Wide Fat” neck profile, providing a comfortable playing experience
  • Fishman GT1 pickup system, allowing for effective amplification
  • Comes with a high-quality gig bag

Pricing

The PRS SE P20E is available at an affordable price point, around $599 USD, which is a great value considering its features and the brand reputation.

See Current Guitar Center Pricing

Pros & Cons

The PRS SE PE20 has been widely praised for its premium features, versatile tones, and comfortable playability. The solid mahogany body and flame maple veneer top contribute to a premium aesthetic and a rich, resonant tone. The two PRS-designed SE 245 humbucking pickups provide warm, balanced tones with plenty of clarity and sustain. The three-way toggle switch and individual volume and tone controls for each pickup allow for a wide variety of tones suitable for different musical styles.

The PRS-designed stoptail bridge and tuners ensure excellent tuning stability and intonation. The guitar’s build quality is up to the standard of PRS guitars, displaying attention to detail and craftsmanship that is impressive. The “Wide Fat” neck profile provides a comfortable grip and easy playability, making it suitable for both rhythm and lead playing.

However, while the guitar is equipped with decent electronics, it might not be the best choice for those in need of mega-booming volume. Also, the “Wide Fat” neck might take some getting used to for some players, but it eventually offers a comfortable playing experience.

Despite these minor nuances, the PRS SE PE20 proves to be a high-quality guitar that offers excellent value for its price, suitable for both beginners and experienced players alike. Whether you’re playing rock, blues, or any other genre, the PRS SE PE20 can be a reliable and versatile instrument that will inspire you to create music.

 

Fender PS-220E

The Fender PS-220E parlor guitar

Overview

The Fender PS-220E is a top-tier electro-acoustic guitar with a refined aesthetic, featuring a solid mahogany top in an Aged Cognac Burst finish. This highly versatile and well-constructed instrument combines vintage-inspired aesthetics with modern improvements, offering impressive sound quality and a stunning aesthetic.

Moreover, the PS-220E is acclaimed for its excellent performance and playability, making it a joy to play. Despite its smaller size, the PS-220E delivers a balanced and resonant tone, and is highly responsive to fingerstyle playing, providing a clear sound with a strong midrange presence.

Key Benefits

  • Highly playable and comfortable design with low-action
  • Features upscale details, including a feather-and-checker pattern in multiple colors and a chocolatey burst finish
  • Excels in fingerstyle playing and complex chords
  • Equipped with Fishman Sonitone Plus undersaddle pickup and preamp for enhanced sound
  • Offers excellent performance and playability with a strong midrange tonal push

Pricing

The Fender Paramount PS-220E is priced at $829.99 USD, offering excellent value for its features and sound quality, comparable to much more expensive instruments.

See Current Guitar Center Pricing 

Pros & Cons

The PS-220E is a visually appealing instrument with a well-built and balanced aesthetic, merging classy details with the rustic look of mahogany, and providing the comfort of a satin neck that allows for the grain’s feel. Despite its lightweight design, the PS-220E is a solid mahogany dreadnought with relatively low action, offering a comfortable playing experience without any fret buzz issues. It handles both hard strumming and delicate fingerpicking with ease, showcasing clear and well-defined mid and treble tones. However, the PS-220E focuses on mid and treble tones rather than deep bass and shimmery hi-fi trebles.

The guitar features a Fender/Fishman Sonitone Plus piezo pickup and a body-sensing pickup for top vibrations, representing the unplugged sound well. However, it’s worth noting that the PS-220E does not come with a case, which is available separately. Despite this, the guitar offers excellent value for the price, and is a solid choice for any guitarist seeking a quintessential mahogany dreadnought experience. It’s a versatile and well-crafted instrument offering great sound and playability, and is perfectly suited for beginners and experienced players alike.

 

Gretsch Jim Dandy G9500

The Gretsch Jim Dandy G9500

Overview

The Gretsch Jim Dandy G9500 is a ¾ scale parlor guitar that offers excellent sound quality and is sold at an affordable price. Its design is a nod to the Gretsch “Rex” parlor guitars of the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s, offering a vintage aesthetic.

The guitar boasts an Agathis top wood, sides, and back, and a body bracing design. The neck is made of Nato wood and features a comfortable C-shape, a rosewood fingerboard, and 18 frets.

Additionally, the guitar has open gear tuning pegs, a rosewood bridge with a PPS nut, a 24-inch scale length, and a vintage sunburst color. It’s a superb choice for beginners, travelers, or as a display piece, and its size makes it perfect for intimate performances and songwriting. The Gretsch Jim Dandy G9500 is not ideal for professional acoustic guitarists performing on stage due to its sound projection, which is not as strong as a full-sized guitar.

Key Benefits

  • Offers great sound quality at an affordable price
  • Features a parlor body shape and a vintage sunburst color
  • Has an Agathis top wood, Agathis sides and back, and X body bracing
  • Features a comfortable C-shaped Nato wood neck with a rosewood fingerboard
  • Compact size perfect for travelers or beginners
  • Unique vintage aesthetic, paying homage to the Gretsch “Rex” parlor guitars of earlier decades
  • Offers good tuning stability

Pricing

The Gretsch Jim Dandy G9500 is known for its affordability, offering great value for its price. It’s a budget-friendly option that doesn’t compromise on sound quality, giving buyers an excellent price-to-quality ratio.

See Current Guitar Center Pricing
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Pros & Cons

In terms of pros, the Gretsch Jim Dandy G9500 is affordable and provides a unique, vintage sound that is perfect for bluesy tones and fingerstyle playing. Its compact size is another benefit, making it easy to transport and ideal for travelers or those with smaller hands. Additionally, the guitar’s build quality is solid, and its stylish appearance adds to its appeal.

However, like any product, the Gretsch Jim Dandy G9500 has its downsides. One of the cons of this guitar is its boxy sound projection, which is not as strong as a full-sized guitar. While this gives it a unique character, it may not be suitable for those looking for a more robust sound. Another potential downside is that, due to its smaller size, it might be less suitable for people with larger hands or statures.

Adjustments like sanding down the saddle can enhance the instrument’s playability, and installing a pickup can significantly improve its sound. Although these modifications require extra effort and cost, these upgrades can add value to the instrument and enhance its performance. Furthermore, these experiences can lead to a deeper understanding of the instrument’s mechanics, enhancing your ability to create music.

 

Yamaha CSF-TA

The Yamaha CSF-TA

Overview

The Yamaha CSF-TA is a parlor-style acoustic guitar, part of Yamaha’s TransAcoustic line. This mid-priced instrument is crafted with a solid Sitka spruce top, mahogany back and sides, and a nato neck with a rosewood fingerboard.

The CSF-TA’s compact body makes it comfortable to play and travel-friendly. The instrument is equipped with TransAcoustic technology, a feature initially developed for Yamaha’s pianos, designed to create reverb and chorus effects from inside the guitar itself, enhancing the guitar’s tone.

Key Benefits

  • Solid Sitka spruce top, mahogany back and sides, and a nato neck with a rosewood fingerboard for tonal balance and resonance.
  • Compact body design that’s comfortable for play and easy to carry.
  • Onboard effects including chorus and reverb that integrate seamlessly into the instrument’s natural sound.
  • TransAcoustic technology that enhances the guitar’s tone and can convert it to an electro-acoustic with the inclusion of a piezo pickup system.
  • Comes with a plush gig bag for easy transportation and protection.

Pricing

The Yamaha CSF-TA acoustic guitar is available for purchase at roughly $800 USD.

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Pros & Cons

The Yamaha CSF-TA offers a warm, mid-range tone with a tight bass response. This makes it well suited for fingerstyle playing and quiet vocal accompaniment. It’s comfortable to play, thanks to its smaller body size. The TransAcoustic technology, controlled by unobtrusive buttons on the guitar’s upper shoulder, adds a unique sonic dimension. The onboard effects – chorus and reverb – integrate seamlessly with the guitar’s natural sound, rather than overwhelming it.

When the CSF-TA is plugged into an amplifier, the amplified sound maintains a good timbral balance. Furthermore, the onboard effects can be disabled if desired, providing a clean, straight-ahead acoustic sound. The guitar is powered by replaceable AA-sized batteries, which is convenient, though some might find this a bit old-fashioned.

The CSF-TA’s build quality, tone, and playability are commendable. The TransAcoustic features add value to the instrument, offering a unique experience without detracting from the simplicity and appeal of parlor guitars. This makes it a solid value for its price point. However, be aware that the TransAcoustic technology may not be for everyone, and it does add to the cost of the guitar. Some players might prefer to invest in a traditional acoustic guitar at the same price point.

 

Martin 0-X1E

The Martin 0-X1E

Overview

The Martin 0-X1E is an affordable acoustic guitar from the X Series. Launched in 1998, the X Series was designed with the objective of creating environmentally friendly instruments using composites like resin-based faux ebony Richlite and high-pressure laminate (HPL) bodies and necks.

The 0-X1E features a figured mahogany pattern HPL top, back, and sides with a neck made from rust birch laminate. Brought to life by Martin’s Authentic Acoustic Lifespan 2.0 strings, this guitar captures the heritage, playability, and sound that Martin is known for.

Key Benefits

  • Environmentally friendly construction using composites.
  • Improved playability and superior tone.
  • Equipped with Fishman MX electronics.
  • Comfortable playing experience.
  • Resilient to extreme weather conditions.
  • Suitable for various music settings, including blues.

Pricing

The Martin 0-X1E offers a pleasing sound, good value for the price, and a commendable price-quality relationship. It competes favorably with models costing much more.

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Pros & Cons

The Martin 0-X1E boasts several pros. It’s a single O-style guitar with a high-pressure laminate body, giving it an appearance reminiscent of mahogany. This guitar is designed to withstand extreme weather conditions, making it a perfect fit for various climates. The fretboard, made of a composite material called Richlite, is less prone to expansion and contraction compared to real wood. Consequently, it is durable and suitable for guitarists who frequently change environments or travel.

The guitar’s sound does not disappoint either. It offers great sustain and overall sound quality. The high-pressure laminate (HPL) body contributes to a darker, honkier voice that particularly excels in blues settings. When plugged in, the guitar retains its open and resonant sound. The Martin 0-X1E also comes with a closed-back tuner, a drop subtle, and near lights feature, enhancing its performance capabilities.

Despite its many pros, the Martin 0-X1E does have a few drawbacks. While its mahogany sticker provides an attractive aesthetic, the faux-grain pattern is printed on, which may not appeal to those who prefer natural wood grains. Another potential downside is that the material of the neck is uncertain. Despite these drawbacks, this guitar stands tall as a high-quality, cost-effective option for acoustic guitar lovers.

 

Faith Hi Gloss Mercury Top Scoop

The Faith Hi Gloss Mercury Top Scoop

Overview

The Faith Hi Gloss Mercury Top Scoop is a part of the highly esteemed Hi-Gloss Series of Faith Guitars. Designed as a short-scale parlour guitar, it sports a unique build where the neck joins the body at the 12th fret, resulting in reduced string tension and a bridge positioned further from the soundhole.

This well-balanced construction not only offers exceptional playability but also enhances the instrument’s overall tonal output.

Constructed with high-grade Englemann Spruce for the top and highly-figured Rosewood for the back and sides, the guitar is the epitome of visual and aural beauty. It also features solid Flamed Maple binding and Macassan Ebony components, further contributing to its superior craftsmanship and design.

Key Benefits

  • High-grade Englemann Spruce top and highly-figured Rosewood back and sides provide excellent tonal quality and visual aesthetics.
  • Solid Flamed Maple binding and Macassan Ebony components (fingerboard, bridge, headplate, and heelcap) enhance the durability and overall design of the guitar.
  • The unique design of the neck joining the body at the 12th fret results in lower string tension, offering a more comfortable playing experience.
  • Equipped with Fishman INK3 preamp system and Sonicore piezo pickup for versatile sound amplification.
  • The guitar’s tonal output is bright and zingy with great clarity, making it perfect for fingerstyle and solo pieces.
  • Comes with a hard case for protection and storage.

Pricing

The price of the Faith Hi Gloss Mercury Top Scoop will vary depending on the location and platform you choose to purchase it from.

Pros & Cons

Having experienced the Faith Hi Gloss Mercury Top Scoop, few things truly stood out. To start, the guitar’s overall build and design are remarkable. The sustainable 3-piece rosewood back and sides are not just visually stunning but also contribute to the guitar’s tonal richness. The Englemann spruce top creates a bright and lively tone, which works incredibly well for blues music that requires a focus on treble and mid-range.

The design also incorporates a scoop for added comfort during playing, showing a thoughtful consideration for the player’s comfort. The high gloss range, including this model, has an understated look. There are no flashy pickguards, and the flame maple binding is subtly elegant, giving the model a classy feel.

The guitar also comes equipped with Grover automatic tuning heads and the classic Faith headstock design, ensuring stable tuning retention and easy tuning adjustments.

However, the narrow fretboard may pose a challenge for some as it requires some adjustment, but it generally improves playability and comfort once you’re used to it.

Overall, the Faith Hi Gloss Mercury Top Scoop offers a unique combination of tonewoods and a comfortable playing experience. Its balanced and rich tone makes it suitable for a variety of musical styles, truly embodying versatility in a single instrument.

What Is A Parlor Guitar?

A parlor guitar, also known as a single O-size guitar, is small but mighty. Its unique voices make it a versatile and inviting second or third instrument. Originally, parlor guitars were a home entertainment staple, designed smaller for comfort and primarily played by women.

The classic parlor design features a long narrow body with a lower bout measuring between 12 and 13 inches and a depth of around 4 inches. Initially, these guitars were lightly built and used gut strings, but they’ve evolved to handle steel strings. The size 1 parlor guitar was standardized by Martin.

Despite their smaller size, parlor guitars were loved for their affordability and ease of production. They were the life of the party in the parlor room of homes in the late 19th century. Their popularity declined in the 1920s and 1930s. However, thanks to advancements in sound amplification, parlor guitars have made a comeback since the 1980s. They’re now known for their tonal perfection, complex voices, and suitability for a wide array of playing styles.

Take the Do Gran Deal parlor guitar as an example. It’s a beautiful instrument with a solid back and sides made of granadillo wood, a solid spruce top, and a mahogany neck. This guitar is perfect for fingerstyle playing and versatile for various styles, offering a nice mid-range punch and clarity in the higher frequencies.

The History and Evolution of Parlor Guitars

The birth of the parlor guitar can be traced back to the late 19th century. It served as a bridge between the traditional Spanish nylon-string guitar and the modern steel-string guitar. The term “parlor guitar” comes from the rooms, or parlors, where these compact, narrow-waisted instruments were typically played. They were originally built for women’s smaller frames, but this didn’t limit their use to a specific gender. Both men and women in the Spanish colonies used it even before the US was established.

The parlor guitar played a significant role in the parlor music tradition, a cultural phenomenon that included a variety of dance forms, instrumental arrangements of popular songs, and European guitar compositions. As music became more accessible to you and me during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the parlor guitar’s popularity soared. It facilitated an influential tradition in American society, with families and friends gathering to enjoy playing and dancing to music.

In the early 20th century, the popularity of parlor guitars waned with the introduction of larger-body guitars designed to handle the tension of steel strings. However, with the advent of modern sound reinforcement and recording technology, interest in parlor guitars has been rekindled. Today, you’ll find these historic instruments cherished not only for their midrange tone and historic vibe but also for their portability. Modern luthiers, using a variety of tonewoods, are crafting parlor guitars that provide players like you with numerous options. This resurgence in popularity speaks volumes about the parlor guitar’s unique sound, historical significance, and versatility across musical genres.

Conclusion

On our journey through the world of parlor guitars, we’ve explored various brands and models, each with its own unique attributes, construction, tonal qualities, and pricing. Each one has a distinct personality and offers a unique playing experience, highlighting the versatility of parlor guitars.

From the Gibson G-00 with its player port that adds a personal touch to your playing experience, to the Epiphone L-00 that beautifully combines vintage aesthetics and modern tech enhancements. We’ve seen how the PRS SE PE20 combines premium features with excellent playability, and how the Fender PS-220E delivers balanced and resonant tones packed neatly into its lightweight frame.

The Faith Hi Gloss Mercury Top Scoop showed us how a thoughtful construction can enhance playability and comfort. The Gretsch Jim Dandy G9500 and Yamaha CSF-TA brought affordability to the table without compromising on sound quality, while the Martin 0-X1E proved that environmentally-conscious instruments don’t have to sacrifice any of Martin’s famed playability and sound.

With this wide range of options, there’s a parlor guitar to match your style, preference, and budget. Despite their smaller size, these guitars deliver a rich and resonant sound, easily making their mark in the music world. Their unique voice is as authentic as the intimate gatherings they were originally designed for. Whether you’re a budding musician looking for your first guitar or an experienced player searching for a supplemental instrument, a parlor guitar is a great choice.

Andrew Scrivens

Andrew Scrivens

I am a live musician and guitar teacher from Brisbane, Australia, with extensive experience playing live, in the studio and for TV shows. I play in many venues, studios, music shops and with my students and as such am exposed to a lot of different gear. I form my opinions based on my experiences playing instruments in these locations.

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