What is an Acoustic Guitar?
The origins of the classical guitar go back centuries and were strung with strings made from animal gut. As these guitars developed acoustic guitars strung with steel strings started to become popular.
These days, when we refer to a classical guitar it generally means to be strung with nylon strings (they evolved from the animal gut given its cheapness and playing qualities) whilst reference to acoustic guitars means those that are strung with steel strings. In essence therefore, both classical and acoustic guitars are very similar or indeed the same except for the strings they use.
Acoustic Guitar Qualities
Acoustics guitars (steel stings) are loader and have a punchy, jangly and vibrant sound. This enables the instrument to cut through other band noise to provide a rhythmic sound and edge to the band and have therefore become popular with both the country and rock genre of music.
The good quality acoustic guitars are made of solid hard woods like rosewood, maple and mahogany which, apart from making the instrument more robust, enhance its sound qualities. Some cheaper instruments are manufactured using laminated woods but this does affect the tonal range and quality. Some mid priced acoustic guitars will use a mixture of solid and laminated woods.
Since the 70's the acoustic guitars manufacturer Ovation, started to develop and build acoustic guitars with solid wooden tops but plastic bowls or backs. These again have provided a further individual sound for the acoustic guitar. Given their curved back, some consider them more comfortable to play.
Acoustic guitars have been further developed to include built in pick-ups, pre-amps and graphic equalisers to further manipulate the tone. Coupled with that, specialist amplifiers for acoustic guitars have been developed that enable the natural sound of steel strung acoustic guitars to be mirrored at high volume levels.
If you are looking to purchase an acoustic guitar, given the massive variety and price ranges available, it is not something that you should rush into and you really need to try as many instruments as you can in order to find one that is comfortable for you and has the sound you are looking for. If you are serious about your guitar playing, I would always recommend spending as much as you can afford and try not to skimp. That will only result in more expenditure when, and you will inevitably will, wish to upgrade your instrument.