The first image that comes to mind when Dean guitars are mentioned is either Dimebag Darell dive bombing or Dave Mustain shredding. I know I’m not the only one to connect Dean with metal, yet their acoustic selection of guitars is getting almost as large as their electric. Even though not all are great, among the many value models they offer, I found a few gems that I consider to be the best Dean Acoustic Guitars.
Bottom line up front: Dean acoustic guitars are the ideal choice for rock guitarists who want a value acoustic instrument added to their arsenal. They are built to be easy to play for beginners first starting guitar or intermediate players who often play gigs.
Their value lies in comfort and good electronics; the backlash is that most of them lack rich acoustic properties.
Best Dean Acoustic Guitar at a Glance
- AXS Dreadnought Mahogany – Best For Beginners
As I’ve said in most of my acoustic reviews, a Dreadnought will always sound good, no matter the price. For under 200$, it could be a perfect first guitar.
- Flight Spruce Travel – Value Travel Guitar or for Children
This is a great value instrument for beginners who don’t prefer a big body. It does not have the rich tone or volume of a normal-sized guitar but is easy to carry around.
- Exhibition Acoustic-Electric – Best Value For The Stage
This guitar blends excellent playability with a mean look in true Dean style. A lot of focus has been placed on unplugged tone and detailed preamp.
- Resonator Cutaway Electric – Best For Blues
Dean and southern music have a long history together. This resonator guitar is great for getting those delta vibes, fingerstyle slide playing, country twang, and overall nailing all blues gigs.
- St Augustine Elite Dread – Best Tone
Even though it’s shaped like a classic Dreadnought, the guitar blends in a few of Dean’s electric elements with a rich acoustic tone. Out of the list, it’s by far the best-sounding guitar.
Dean Acoustics vs. Electric Guitars
Dean offers electric guitars for all price ranges, from the
Dean acoustics, or, in general, every acoustic guitar made by companies specializing in rock and metal instruments, are mainly an extension of their electric line with a few excellent models in the mix. Value is the primary concern, and with Dean, they got that right by balancing ‘rock’ models with traditional looking and sounding acoustics.
For Who are Dean Acoustic Guitars For?
I like to divide Dean acoustic into two categories – ‘rock’ and traditional ones.
- Most ‘rock’ acoustics are aimed at the electric player who might want an acoustic to use for an unplugged show, for fun occasionally, or seldom for the classic singer-songwriter acoustic style.
The shapes, open high frets, and exotic finishes demonstrated that these guitars take inspiration from the electric main line.
If you have seen any metal bands’ unplugged shows, they are most likely using these types of guitar styles. The focus is put on playability and getting a balanced plugged-in tone. They are excellent at these two, especially great for
- Traditional-looking acoustics from Dean, I think, are far better sounding both unplugged and plugged than the other category. They are not as easy to play as lead one in a rock context but will ultimately sound better.
A good plugged-in tone comes from a great-sounding unplugged guitar. No matter how much focus some acoustic electric models put on the preamp, there’s no escaping quality tonewoods and body shape.
As a session musician, I can guarantee that even Pantera, Megadeth, Metallica, or every metal band recorded their acoustic tracks in the studio with a big body vintage acoustic guitar through a mic, not a budget model through a pickup.
These models from Dean are normally more expensive, and I wouldn’t recommend them to a total
AXS Dreadnought Mahogany
Dreadnought guitars are the all-time solution to get a good tone at an affordable price. The shape helps get the best out of cheap tonewoods, as in the ones the AXS uses.
It’s not always easy to play big guitars as a
This guitar could improve the action, which is good but could be better, especially for playing barre chords beyond the 5th fret. There are ways to fix that, though; however, the decent tone you get for under 200$ is rare to find.
AXS Dreadnought Pros
- Loud guitar
- Balanced tone
- Great for fingerpicking
- Good value for the price
- Classic look
AXS Dreadnought Cons
- The action is not very low
- Hard to travel with
- Not fit for small children
Flight Spruce Travel
Travel guitars are a side passion I always experimented with through my backpacking years. After turning every small body acoustic, I owned into one, I found that it’s probably better to stick with a budget guitar for traveling for many reasons.
This guitar is not only good for travel but equally great for children. It has an almost standard scale length making it suitable to learn guitar with it. Unlike some travel guitars with frets so small, it feels like learning guitar again; the decent length and modern C-shaped neck make it easy to play for every hand size.
The tonewoods on the instrument are surprisingly good, resulting in a well-balanced tone. The tone is generally bright, and I don’t feel there’s much rich mid-range in the sound. There’s also a Mahongay version available which could sound slightly warmer.
I would not let tone stop you from buying the guitar, as its primary role is to be a good road companion or learning tool.
Flight Spruce Pros
- Easy to play
- Great value
- Good Tonewoods
- Easy to carry around
- It comes with a gig bag
Flight Spruce Cons
- Not loud
- Not much tone on the guitar
Exhibition Acoustic Electric
The Exhibition is the best example of what the Dean’ rock’ acoustic guitars section is all about. This guitar looks like a metal guitar merged with a mid-range acoustic. A shredder’s acoustic might be too far-fetched, but it somehow suits it.
The neck on this guitar is my favorite element. It’s so easy to play you would think it’s a Dean electric. For rock guitarists who need a guitar on stage for a few songs/shows, it’s an overall great instrument. It won’t hold an entire song together sonically like a vintage acoustic, but in a band context, it will work perfectly.
You should be careful with the EQ on the guitar as it’s easy to sound extra thin or muddy. Unless, of course, you’re after the warm ‘meaty’ grunge unplugged tone Nirvana and Alice in Chains had in their MTV shows
I sometimes have a love-hate relationship with acoustics that look/feel more like electric; this guitar, however, proves to be good for either. As expected, it’s not the fullest-sounding instrument I’d choose to record in the studio, but I’ve played guitar with half its playability, which doesn’t sound any better. It leaves some space to want more if you want chords to sound full and rich.
I’d pick the Black Satin finish as it’s a good middle ground; you can choose between many colors.
Exhibition Acoustic-Electric Pros
- Excellent build quality
- Fantastic neck, good for lead
- Great preamp system and detailed EQ
- Many colors and finishes
- Very good plugged-in tone
Exhibition Acoustic-Electric Cons
- Not the best Tonewoods
- It lacks some mid-range punch and warmth
Resonator Cutaway Electric
Resonator guitars with the look and feel are at the core of the delta blues sound. Originally used because of their loud volume, now you can use them to recreate classic tones.I chose this resonator because it has two elements that make it more versatile than just lap steel slide playing.
The wooden body makes carrying easier while the pickup assures it’s stage-ready. You can choose a wide range of tones with only the volume and tone knob combined with a good amp.
The guitar is worth the money if you’re into the blues, folk, country, or bluegrass.
Resonator Cutaway Electric Pros
- Traditional sound and look
- Reliable on stage
- Good warm lipstick pickup
- Excellent price/quality ratio
- The wide tonal range for blues, country, and folk.
Resonator Cutaway Electric Cons
- Not suited for rock, pop, or traditional singer-songwriter
- Strumming might sound hollow
St Augustine Elite Dread
The best Dean acoustic guitar for me is the St Augustine Elite for many reasons. It’s an easy-to-play instrument with some electric features and has the rich tone of a classic Dreadnaught.
Out of all the guitars on the list, this is the only one I’d choose to record a song in the studio. Mahogany and Solid Spruce are tonewood combinations most premium guitars have, at times with much higher prices. One Am chord strumming, and you will feel the quality of this guitar.
Dean has published a video on their YouTube channel reviewing the series. I’ll be blunt in saying this is the most non-reliable review I have seen of an acoustic. The tone has so much compression, reverb, and delay in the video that it is impossible to tell the guitar’s tone.
The guitar lacks that mid-range punch and extra richness that only instruments in the 1000$+ range have. However, this is still the value of a guitar with its limits. If you’re into the upper tear of acoustic instruments, Dean is not where you should be looking.
The Fishman electronics are very flat, and the EQ is as detailed as you need it for a live show. It’s good to have it, yet I would have preferred if all the focus was placed on the acoustic properties, and I’d have the space to install an acoustic pickup myself.
St Augustine Elite Dread Pros
- Rich acoustic tone
- Quality Tonewoods
- Flat electronics with detailed EQ
- Easy to play, especially fingerstyle
- Good guitar to record with
- Reliable for the stage
St Augustine Elite Dread Cons
- Lacks some focused mid-range
Alternatives to Dean Acoustic Guitars
Dean is not the only brand that makes value acoustics. I’ll share a couple more models from brands that do an equal or better job.
Washburn Festival E-20
The Festival E-20, inspired by the great Nuno Bettencourt, is the best example of what a Washburn acoustic can do. It’s slick and easy to play with an unmatchable plugged-in tone. All of it while being affordable.
Washburn vs. Dean guitar is a topic that I will get to in the future, as both brands share many similarities. I give my vote to Washburn for intermediate acoustic guitar through, as their selection is far broader.
Yamaha Red Label FG3
Yamaha is the superior elder compared to both Washburn and Dean. They have one of the biggest selections of value guitars and some high-end models. Beyond Yamaha, Taylor or Martin are the most you should look out for if you need the ultimate acoustic guitar.
The Red Label FG3 is richer sounding and has a more vintage vibe than Dean’s St Augustine. The only downside is that the guitar is acoustic only, with no electronics. This can also be seen as an advantage, as Yamaha insisted on getting the best acoustic tone possible.
Question: Where are Dean guitars made?
Answer: The premium instruments are made in Tampa, Florida. Other quality guitars are made in Japan, while beginner models are in Korea and China.
Question: What was the Gibson-Dean Lawsuit about?
Answer: Gibson won a lawsuit against Dean in May this year, forcing them to stop producing V, Z, and Gran Sport-shaped electric guitars. Dean has not yet called it quits as they continue to oppose the lawsuit declaring that no trademark liability has been found in most parts of the guitar’s designs.
Question: Who Plays Dean Acoustic Guitars?
Answer: There are only a few famous guitarists that officially use Dean guitars. Some of them are Bret Michaels, Crispin Earl, Hugo Ferriera, etc. Most of their signed star players come from the electric guitar section.
Final Though on Best Dean Acoustic Guitars
Ultimately I believe Dean offers excellent value with their guitar but lacks any solid alternative for advanced acoustic players. The guitars are great for using alongside their electrics on the few bits acoustic guitar is used in power ballads. On their own, only a few hold up when playing a stage where you need a big rich acoustic tone.
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