Donner DAG-1C Review – The Best Starter Acoustic Guitar?

Best Cheap Acoustic Guitar

Is the Donner DAG-1C the best starter acoustic guitar? In this review article, we’ll tear apart this affordable acoustic guitar to see if it lives up to the hype!

An acoustic guitar for beginners has to have an accessible price point whilst still offering a good balance of sound and playability. As one of the cheapest acoustic guitar packages currently available, the Donner DAG-1C certainly ticks the affordability box, but how does it sound, and is it easy to play?

Let’s find out!

Disclosure: Donner was kind enough to send me this guitar to test out. I have tried my best to provide a fair and unbiased review. If you decide to purchase the DAG-1C using the links in this article I will earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you!

I have included links for both the left handed and right handed versions of the guitar. It is available both at Amazon or direct from Donner themselves depending on current stock levels.

Donner DAG-1C Review

Donner DAG-1C Review Acoustic Guitar

Who Is This Guitar For?

The Donner DAG-1C is a cheap beginner acoustic guitar that is ideal for new players who are on a tight budget, or for intermediate guitarists looking for a good backup instrument. It is an excellent choice for beginners, particularly for the following reasons.

  • Incredibly affordable
  • Excellent quality and sound for the money
  • Bundled with all accessories you’ll need to get started

For beginner players, the only real downside to this guitar is that the larger dreadnought-sized body may be a little bulky for smaller people. Check out my guide to the best beginner left handed acoustic guitars if you’d like to explore smaller options.

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Donner DAG-1C Unboxing

Will the Donner DAG-1CL actually get to you in one piece? The guitar is shipped in a sturdy triangular cardboard box, nestled safely inside the padded gigbag, and wrapped in a standard protective guitar bag.

So I would suggest that the guitar will most likely arrive at your doorstep intact. The only way Donner could improve the packaging would be to double-box the instrument for extra protection.

Inside the box you’ll find the guitar itself, a Donner branded gig bag, and if you unzip the bag’s front pocket you’ll find a zip lock bag containing all of the bundled accessories.

best starter acoustic guitar

My first impressions were that the DAG-1C is a very handsome guitar indeed, appearing like it should cost far more than its meager price tag. It’s difficult to put my finger on it, but I think it’s the all-black body-binding, bridge pins, and tuners that really add an air of class to this instrument.

Included Accessories

The gig bag is a smart, Donner-branded design that is fairly basic but perfectly adequate. The padding isn’t super thick, but should be sufficient to protect the guitar from small knocks and bumps.

Don’t quote me on this (as I haven’t tested it!), but the material appears to be water-repellant. It will probably protect the guitar from a light rain shower if you get caught outside.

There is a single, 14.5″ x 11″ (36.5cm x 28cm) zipped pocket on the front for accessories. On the side is a thick padded carry handle that won’t cut into your hand, plus two adjustable shoulder straps on the rear if you’d rather carry it on your back.

In addition to the gigbag, this beginner acoustic guitar bundle also includes the following accessories.

Donner DAG-1C Accessories
  • Donner DT-04 Headstock Tuner (Battery Included)
  • Donner DC-1 Capo
  • 4 Picks (0.46mm and 0.71mm)
  • Donner Strap
  • Cleaning Cloth
  • Spare Strings (.011-.050 Gauge Phosphor Bronze)
  • Scratchplate (Peel And Stick)
  • Allen Key (To Adjust Truss Rod)

So, everything you could need to get started then! There isn’t really much I can say about these – everything works as intended.

The headstock tuner is your typical $10 budget model and quickly got the guitar up to perfect pitch. It was nice to see that Donner had included the required CR2032 battery inside the packaging.

The optional adhesive scratchplate is also a nice touch, giving you the option of how you’d prefer the guitar to look. Personally, I much prefer the appearance of the guitar with the pickguard attached (compare the images above).

Specifications

Before I give you my thoughts on the guitar, let’s jump through a few of the key specifications.

There were a few specs that I wasn’t able to discern (I did ask Donner, but they only seem to have a very basic list), however, as a beginner, you likely aren’t going to be too bothered about exactly what wood the fingerboard is made from, right?

  • Body Shape: Dreadnought (Full-Sized)
  • Body Woods: African Mahogany w/ Sitka Spruce Top

The Donner is a full-sized dreadnought acoustic, which for most beginner players is the style to go for. It is the most versatile body shape and is perfect for strumming chords, although smaller players may find it a little bulky to handle.

The classic mahogany and spruce tonewood combination provides a well-balanced sound that easily cuts through the mix and is suitable for pretty much any style of music. A smooth satin finish means your arm won’t stick to the soundboard during sweaty practice sessions.

The cutaway ensures that you have good access to the higher frets for when you advance a little beyond basic chords.

The body is fully bound in black binding, affording the instrument a slightly non-traditional and more contemporary appearance compared to most other acoustic guitars.

Finally, front and rear strap pegs mean that you can easily attach the supplied strap to the Donner. It’s quite common that inexpensive acoustics don’t include a front strap peg, forcing you to awkwardly attach the strap to the headstock – so this was nice to see!

  • Neck: Mahogany (C-Shape)
  • Frets: 20 Brass Frets
  • Scale Length: 25.5″
  • Nut: Synthetic
  • Nut Width: 1.7″ (43mm)
Donner DAG-1CL Review Back Photo

The beginner-friendly slim mahogany neck perfectly matches the guitar’s back and sides and has a nice satin finish that makes for a really smooth playing experience.

I wasn’t able to ascertain what material the fingerboard is made from, however, lookswise it appears to be somewhere between your typical rosewood and ebony.

Scale length is your standard 25.5″. Not sure why this is important? Check out my guitar scale length guide.

Like the body binding, the tuners are black which really helps to give the guitar more of an upmarket premium vibe. They complement the mahogany headstock nicely.

Donner Acoustic Guitar Headstock Tuners
  • Length: 41″ (104.5cm)
  • Width 16″ (40.5cm)
  • Depth: 4.5″ (11.6cm)
  • Weight: 3.75lbs (1.7kg)

The guitar is a fairly standard dreadnought size at 41″ long and 16″ wide at its widest point. It is also very light in weight at just 3.75lbs, making it a great beginner acoustic guitar.

Is The Donner DAG-1C A Good Guitar?

I have to admit that, for this sort of money, I wasn’t expecting too much from the inexpensive Donner kit. But the truth is that (for the money) this budget beauty really impressed me, both with its sound and playability.

Playability

After a quick tune-up, this guitar played great straight out of the box. The action (string height) wasn’t too high, intonation was perfect across the entire fretboard, and there were no sharp fret ends whatsoever.

The slim mahogany neck is super-easy to play, and the satin finish makes sliding around the fretboard buttery smooth.

If I had to be super picky I would say that the frets are fairly scratchy when performing vibrato. Not a big issue for beginner players that will mainly be strumming chords and picking simple lines, however.

I would also say that while the tuners do look fairly premium with their sleek black finish, they aren’t the smoothest to use in practice. Again, beginners probably won’t even notice, and once tuned up the guitar holds pitch very well.

Sound

The sound is bright and lively, especially when using the thin picks supplied with the guitar. As you’d expect from a dreadnought acoustic, the tone is very well balanced, with a bold low-end and crisp highs.

This guitar is ideal for strumming chords and will sound great in a band situation where the dreadnought excels. It’s not the best choice for fingerpickers however, as its boomy nature tends to lack a little clarity.

In moving higher up the fretboard the sound loses a little of its richness, but as a beginner, you will be spending the majority of your time in the lower 12 frets anyway.

You could improve the sound by upgrading to premium strings, swapping in a bone nut and saddle, or perhaps using higher quality bridge pins – but why would you? As a beginner guitar, it plays and sounds just fine as is.

Check out the demonstration video below to hear the Donner in action. Note that the video is a few years old now, so the price has increased a little since!

The Best Beginner Acoustic Guitar?

Is the Donner DAG-1C the best beginner acoustic guitar?

For those that are on a tight budget, you are really going to struggle to find anything that offers better value for money than what is on offer here. Beginners need a guitar at an accessible price point that sounds and plays good, is solidly made, and holds its tuning well.

The Donner happily ticks all of these boxes.

It’s not going to compete with the entry-level models from the big brand names such as Fender and Ibanez, but at a fraction of the cost of most of those, you wouldn’t expect it to!

As a new player, the Donner DAG-1CL is absolutely ideal for testing out your new hobby without breaking the bank. Most other guitars around this price point would probably be considered toys, but Donner has somehow managed to keep the cost low without sacrificing quality.

If I had to award the Donner DAG-1C a title, I would call it the best cheap beginner acoustic guitar, or perhaps the best beginner acoustic guitar package.

I certainly wish that a bundle like this was available back when I first started learning to play guitar. When you consider that this guitar also comes complete with all of the accessories you’ll need to get started, there really isn’t a lot to complain about here.

For us southpaw players especially there really is no other choice for this sort of money. The next step up in the ladder would be the Fender CD-60S which is almost twice the price and comes with no bundled accessories whatsoever.

BUY THE DONNER DAG-1C

What I Like/Dislike About The Donner DAG-1C

Like:

  • Includes everything you’ll need to get started with guitar.
  • Low price without sacrificing quality and features.
  • 2-year warranty
  • Classic mahogany and Sitka spruce dreadnought body will give a balanced tone suitable for any style of music.
  • Has the look of a guitar which is much more expensive than it is.
  • Also a good option for intermediate players after something less pricey that they don’t have to baby.

Dislike:

  • Dreadnought body size may be a little large for smaller players
  • No ability to connect to an amp or computer.
  • Brand snobs may not approve.
  • Scratchy frets.
  • Tuners aren’t the smoothest to use.

BUY THE DONNER DAG-1C

Other Models To Consider

If you can afford to spend a little more then you may want to also check out my guide to the best beginner left handed acoustic guitars for some additional choices.

Here you will find guitars with solid wood tops, rolled fretboard edges, electronics, and other desirable ‘upgrades’.

Best Beginner Acoustic Guitars