It’s easy to understand why dreadnoughts are the best-selling acoustic guitar type. On a shop floor and in the heat of a quick test drive, the average dread will sound bigger and bolder than just about anything else. But you have to wonder, if the average buyer had a whole day to lounge about and compare the average dread to a small-bodied flattop like the three guitars reviewed here, how would the big guy fare? Comfortable, pretty, compact, versatile, and nuanced—small bodies like 00s, 000s, and grand orchestras are full of personality, color, and subtlety. And they’re typically pretty forgiving, if not flat-out superior, in recording situations.
The three guitars profiled in this roundup—the Larrivée OM-40, Martin 000-15M Burst, and Taylor 214ce SB DLX—offer a sometimes-startling breadth of sonic options in the $1,200–$1,500 range. If you’re ready for an upmarket move from your affordable or mid-priced acoustic, each is an intriguing option full of surprises and rich rewards.