I did some looking around yesterday for a guitar for one of my kids. Here's what I found, might be useful. Prices are in Cdn$ before taxes, divide by 1.5 for US equivalent, cases extra for all of them.
Full-size Yamaha F310, ply top, but sounds, plays and looks good. Really doesn't sound like a cheap top. $165. Good buy if you don't mind the top and the size suits the player. Least expensive solid-top Yamaha (at this dealer) is an FG432, $299.
A surprise to me, Fender makes a nice small-bodied dreadnaught style 14-fret-to-body, with a "concert spruce top", model is GS12 but it's a 6-string, and 14 frets to the neck. I quite liked this made-in-China guitar. Nice top, nice playing feel. I hope the "Fender" markings all over the pickguard are only on the decal. $289.
I also tried a Larrivee 12-fret slotted peghead parlor guitar, which was just totally scrumptious, maple sides and back, spruce top I think, with no binding whatsover but just lovely to look upon, and playing it gave me insight into what afficionados mean about the different and better sound qualities of a 12-fret design. Way out of the price range at $950 Cdn.
Another dealer which specializes in Seagull-Simon & Patrick-Art& Lutherie (all the same company, made in Quebec) was also a worthwhile stop. Two Seagulls were definitely good buys at $319 each:
- Seagull Grand, small parlour size guitar, 14 fret, cedar top, nice feel and sound.
- S6 Folk, still a fairly small bodied guitar, but larger than the parlour, about OO size, also 14-fret cedar top.
Another small bodied one from the same dealer--Simon & Patrick I think-- is probably a good seller at $270 with onboard EQ, but a cheap and nasty sounding black plywood top. Didn't try it plugged in, but I wonder what quality the electronics can be at that price.
The best used guitar I found was a Sigma DM1ST on consignment for an asking price of $375. Were I looking for one for myself, that's likely the one I'd buy.
The only really inexpensive student-model, child-size guitars I saw were "Oscar Schmidt by Washburn", very narrow fingerboard and short scale. Suitable for kids not teenagers. $121
Overall, based on the preference for a small-bodied, short-scale, but aesthetically pleasing instrument, the Seagull Parlour size would be my top pick, and the Fender GS12 probably the second.
I'm probably not going to buy any of these due to late-breaking developments, but since I did all this looking around figured I'd share the results with you.
Anyone else looking to outfit a student?