5 Acoustic Guitars Perfect for the Quad


Yes, pop music has migrated away from the guitar in the last few years. But you know what hasn’t changed? The laws of attraction—especially on the college quad. Let’s face it, if you’re heading to campus this fall, you probably want to make friends. In fact, you might want to make more than friends. Playing an acoustic guitar is still a great way to succeed in this endeavor, enough so that iconic comedies from Animal House to Family Guy have lampooned the practice.

But there’s a problem in bringing your acoustic to campus: if your college boldly borders on the bacchanalian, you probably don’t want to bring your golden-age Guild or tuneful Taylor to some dorm room, only to see it dropped by your roommate, who—let’s face it—will have no respect for you or your things. No. You need a guitar that sounds good, plays great, looks snazzy, and most importantly, is friendly on the wallet, should the unthinkable happen.

So without further forestalling, here are our picks for the five acoustic guitars best suited to the campus quad.

The Ibanez PF15 Performance Series


True story: my first guitar was an off-the-shelf, $130.00 Ibanez acoustic. Long after I had secured other instruments, I still found my original axe useful, especially for situations which required a budget-friendly model (picnics, hikes, etc.). I found that with my entry-level Ibanez, I could often avoid the tinny, claustrophobic sound often prevalent in other product lines oriented for the noob.

Other Ibanez acoustics I’ve played since then have engendered the same fondness. This is certainly the case with the Ibanez PF15 PF, a dreadnought-style guitar quite suitable for folky strum-alongs. Its pointed tone can cut through the conversations of chatty quad-walkers, easily piquing their attention (provided you’re playing something piquing). Also, if this model is anything like my personal Ibanez from twenty years ago, it will stand the test of time.

Ovation Celebrity Elite Plus Series


Ovations are excellent campus axes for one simple reason: by and large, their bodies are not made out of wood, but instead, are fashioned out of “Lyrachord”—something Ovation touts as “an omni-directional silicone cloth, bonded with aviation resins, precision-molded and oven-cured [sic]”. Because of this construction, they are not nearly as susceptible to the temperature irregularities of your standard dorm room. They are also quite adept at projecting sound, though not at the sacrifice of tone.

Indeed, when I tested this model, I was surprised at how smooth it sounded—and so were my coworkers. I recalled the Ovation I had owned some 16 years ago, whose tones recalled the timbre of a tin can, and marveled at how far the brand seems to have come.

I can say that this axe is decidedly well-rounded in timbre, quite evenly balanced, never harsh in the high end, and definitely loud enough to summon students to the quad. It also looks unique, with its elegant upper-bout sound holes.

One slight problem: in picking it up, I was immediately drawn to playing “Come to My Window”, “Run Around”, “Two Princes” and other ’90s hits, not without a certain ironic sensibility in my strumming. But maybe that’s a plus. Fun is fun, am I right?  

Takamine GD10CE Dreadnought Acoustic/Electric Guitar


For years, Takamine has been taking on the mainstream Martins and touted Taylors of the word, making a fierce name for itself in the hands of such artists as Bruce Springsteen, Garth Brooks, and Kenny Chesney. These days, their cost can often be commensurate with their lauded competitors; however, they also make instruments totally suitable for the college quad—models that offer both the workmanship and brand-name recognition of Takamine at a lower price.

Take, for instance, the GD10CE acoustic/electric. Costing less than whatever you’ll pay for your semester’s textbooks, this guitar not only provides a sleek cutaway style and onboard preamp—it also gives you astoundingly clear and full tone, as well as a lovely shimmer whilst strumming the opening chords of any campus classic, from Tom Petty’s Free Fallin’ to Jason Mraz’s I’m Yours.

No substandard binding or enclosed, claustrophobic timbre here. This guitar features a spruce top, mahogany back and sides, a pin-less rosewood bridge, and chrome die-cast tuners—but more important than the specs, it just sounds good. Furthermore, it can plug into a PA system (if your frat feels like going electric for the evening), and its cutaway gives you room to solo and noodle as high as you’d like, without cutting away into the guitar’s tone.

Jasmine JD-36CE Dreadnought Acoustic


Another excellent and wallet-friendly option for the quad is the Jasmine JD-36CE dreadnought acoustic/electric. This guitar also has an onboard preamp, giving you the same electric capabilities as the Takamine. Sonically, this instrument provides you enough cut to sit under a college oak and sing the praises/curses of your unrequited love. However, there’re some goodies in here you won’t get with other models, such as a built-in digital tuner (no weird dangling thing on your headstock now!) and a four-band equalizer for the preamp.

This model also comes with a stand (necessary for displaying your guitar to any persons entering your dorm—especially if you intend to hang a sock on the doorknob within ten minutes of their arrival) and a universal guitar care kit (because you might not need to be clean at college, but your guitar sure does). All of this makes for an excellent autumnal choice.

Martin Steel String Backpacker Travel Guitar


Okay, maybe you’re not into making friends. Maybe you’d rather be practicing because you’re a serious musician. Problem is, it’s lovely outside—trees turning all crisp and gold, the sweater-weather making each sunset more radiant as the days shorten minute by minute until that inevitable day whereupon the clocks roll backwards and swaddle everything in a deep and unrelenting darkness of the sky/soul.

You can’t take an electric guitar outside in this situation; at the same time, you’re not “hanging out” to “take requests” from party-bound lotharios or sad walk-of-shamers.

If this sounds more like your speed, then the Martin Steel String Backpacker Travel Guitar might be right for you. I have one myself, so I can tell you first-hand that it’s quiet, eminently portable, and super hard to play; I promise you that its action will be higher than your college-tuition loans.

But this can be a practicing advantage, not a liability: I find that when I run scales on the backpacker, I become faster and more efficient on all of my other guitars, because I’m working twice as hard to produce the same speed, tonal consistency, and range of motion. After a practice session on such an instrument, flying around the fingerboard of my PRS Archtop II or Custom McCurdy Telecaster becomes a piece of cake.

Well there you have it—the five acoustic guitars most suited to the campus quad. If you think you can come up with a better model, and have the time to comment to that effect, please do.


no "backpack travel"whatever guitars and no Jasmines. ever.

I would add that since space will most probably be a consideration, that 3/4 size guitars might be of interest. Easy to grab-an-go, and of course, downsized, it's slightly smaller size will not be a problem for most guitarists. Yamaha makes the JR2 which has top user reviews.

The Ibanez AVN4 Artwood Vintage Guitar is a parlor guitar which means its got a smaller body but comes with a full sized neck. This would also work wonderfully in a down-sized dormitory room. An the instrument is a beauty to behold!


The Yamaha Travel Guitar is another I would highly recommed.