Test and Review of Bristol BD-16 Acoustic Guitar

As a professional musician and notorious penny pincher, I am always on the hunt for an affordable guitar that can withstand the pressures of recording and playing live.  Whether you’re buying your first acoustic guitar or just need an affordable travel guitar, the Bristol BD-16 is an acoustic to consider.  Crafted with the same materials that more expensive guitars use, the Bristol BD-16 is a top contender for top acoustic guitars cheaper than $300 and may just be a perfect choice.

Although comparable to other entry-level guitars, the Bristol BD-16 continues to fly under the radar.  Could it be that “sleeper hit” that guitarists are constantly looking for?  Throughout this Bristol BD-16 review, we’ll take an in-depth look at where this dreadnought succeeds and areas where it could use some improvements.

Bristol BD-16

Bristol BD-16 Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar
  • Spruce top with scalloped braces provides a bright, full range sound
  • Beautiful mahogany back and sides for robust volume and responsive tone
  • Slim mahogany neck offers fast, easy action and inherently long-lasting stability
  • Chrome-plated 14:1 die-cast machine heads are smooth and precise to always keep you in tune

The Bristol brand is owned by the reputable guitar manufacturer Blueridge.  Blueridge is known for producing top-quality replicas of more expensive acoustic guitars.  The Bristol brand is considered Blueridge’s entry-level line, but the Bristol guitars are made with similar woods and construction as their more expensive Blueridge brethren.  Both the Bristol and Blueridge brand of guitars are manufactured in China, which is where a vast majority of musical instruments are made.

The BD-16 is Bristol’s dreadnought-shaped guitar, which is the most popular acoustic guitar body shape.  It is crafted from classic tonewoods of spruce, rosewood, and mahogany.

What We Liked

  • Quality tonewoods
  • Reputable brand
  • Easy to play

What We Didn’t Like

  • Not as affordable as other entry-level guitars
  • Not a good size for kids and those with small hands
  • No pickup for amplifying

Just Starting Out or Need Another Guitar?

Everyone has to start somewhere, and the Bristol BD-16 is a great beginner’s guitar, especially for a teenager or adult learner.  It may be tempting to spend big money on a flashy guitar from a top brand, but for anyone just getting into their first lessons, an acoustic guitar like the Bristol BD-16 is a good place to start.

Being a full-sized dreadnought, this guitar may seem big, especially to a beginner.  However, for teens and adult learners, the dreadnought body shape is just the right size, and capable of delivering a huge sound.

Do you already have a collection of valuable acoustic guitars, but want something you can take to parties, festivals, and outdoor gigs? The BD-16 could be just the guitar you’re looking for if you need something that can survive a few scratches and won’t break the bank.  It may not play as well as your $3,000 Martin D-28, but most people’s ears won’t know the difference.

While not a deal-breaker for most new guitarists, those interested in recording or playing live with the BD-16 may wish for some kind of electric pickup to amplify their sound.  If you plan to play live gigs with this guitar, you will need to either put a microphone close to the soundhole or install some kind of pickup.  With the amount of home recording and DIY set ups in modern music, having an acoustic-electric greatly expands your sonic palette.

Time Tested Woods

Acoustic tonewoods, the woods that are used to construct an acoustic guitar, are historically limited to just a few – spruce, rosewood, and mahogany.  These woods have been found to have vastly superior sonic and structural capabilities. Spruce is the most commonly used acoustic guitar wood, and used for its durability and also because it can produce a lot of projecting volume. The Bristol’s mahogany back and sides is perhaps the most important aspect, as mahogany is known for its sweet and rich mid-range tone. Finally, with a hard rosewood neck, the Bristol BD-16 can withstand years of use and play.

By using spruce, rosewood, and mahogany, the Bristol BD-16 can stand among other much more expensive acoustic guitars.  Why spend thousands of dollars on an acoustic guitar made virtually the exact same way with the exact same wood? Some entry-level guitars are made of cheap soft woods like paulownia, white wood, and even plywood.  According to Bristol, no such woods are used in the construction of the BD-16.

The Shape of Music

The dreadnought guitar body shape revolutionized the sound of music when introduced in the 1930s.  Known for its bold volume with a robust and clear tone, the dreadnought shape has become the industry standard for acoustic guitars.

For any level of musician, one thing is clear – good tone and playability are a must.  With that in mind, the Bristol BD-16’s dreadnought shape is sure to provide the most natural and “recognizable” acoustic tone.  Scale length is the measurement from the nut to the saddle of the guitar. For most of us, this simply dictates the spacing between the frets. The Bristol BD-16’s scale length is 25.6”, which is considered “full size”, and suitable for most hand sizes. For those with smaller hands, you may want to consider a short scale length guitar.


Tone Woods: Laminated spruce top, laminated mahogany back and sides
Fingerboard Material: Rosewood
Scale Length: 25.6”
Number of Frets: 20
Nut width: 1.69”
Accessories: None

What Customers are Saying

The Bristol brand does not have much of a presence outside of Amazon, but customers there are nearly unanimous in their praise of this guitar.  Several players favorably compared this to much more expensive guitars in terms of playability and sound.  In reading customers’ opinions and reviews, the Bristol BD-16 is one of the most popular entry level guitars on the site.  Its solid construction, quality woods, and ease of play are the most respectable features mentioned by buyers.

Compared to other beginner’s guitars, such as those from Fender, Epiphone, and Jasmine, the Bristol BD-16 is not as affordable as some customers would like.  Some buyers feel that because the BD-16 is an imported guitar, it could benefit from being just a bit cheaper.

Being a full-sized dreadnought, the Bristol BD-16 may be too big for young guitarists.  The length, width, and depth of the dreadnought body style can make it hard for those with small fingers and hands to effectively finger notes and strum at the same time.  Most reviewers are adults buying a guitar for the first time to learn on, or those who wanted something to complement their current lineup.

Acoustic guitars are susceptible to damage and warped woods. A minority of customers have reported that a hard case would be a great addition to this guitar, with many recommending that you buy a case along with your new guitar.

For an in-depth Bristol BD-16 review, check out this video.

Ready to Play

Searching for the best guitar under $300 can be a daunting task, especially with the multitude of options available.  The Bristol BD-16 is, by almost all accounts, ready to play “out of the box” and maybe the right choice for those looking for a no-frills acoustic guitar.  From learning the basics to entertaining your friends at the bonfire, there is no wrong situation for the BD-16.

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Bristol BD-16 Acoustic Guitar Review
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