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!
A beginner acoustic guitar 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 Guitars 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
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 beginner guitar players, particularly for the following reasons.
- Incredibly affordable musical instruments
- Excellent quality and sound for the money
- Bundled with all accessories you’ll need to get started
For beginner guitarists, 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 left handed beginner acoustic guitars if you’d like to explore smaller options.
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 gig bag, 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 guitar 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.
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.
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 cheap acoustic guitar bundle also includes the following accessories.
- Donner DT-04 Digital Clip On Tuner (Battery Included)
- Donner DC-1 Capo
- 4 Picks (0.46mm and 0.71mm)
- Donner Guitar 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).
Just be careful if you decide to attach it, as you’re only going to get one shot at placing it in the perfect position. Make sure you know where the scratchplate is going before you remove the adhesive backing.
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 guitar 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. I also just think that acoustics with cutaways just look way cooler, am I right?
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. Donner does this on a lot of their instruments, including their left handed ukuleles, and it really helps them to stand out in a crowded market.
Finally, front and rear strap pegs mean that you can easily attach the supplied strap to the Donner DAG 1CL. 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)
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. Whatever it is, it feels smooth and has a good solid heft to it.
Scale length is 25.5″ which is standard on most acoustics. Not sure why this is important? Check out my guitar scale length guide to find out everything you need to know about scale length.
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.
- 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 guitar for beginners.
Is The Donner DAG-1C Acoustic A Good Guitar?
I have to admit that, for this sort of money, I wasn’t expecting too much from the inexpensive Donner acoustic guitar kit. But the truth is that (for the money) this budget guitar really impressed me, both with its sound and 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. I found that I had to turn the pegs quite a distance for the pitch to actually change, and when it did, it jumped in fairly large increments. This made it fairly fiddly to get the guitar in perfect pitch.
Again, beginners probably won’t even notice, and once tuned up the guitar does hold its pitch very well.
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 guitar player, 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 complete beginner guitar set, it plays and sounds just fine as is.
Although, it would be a good idea to replace the guitar strings right away, as who knows how long the instrument may have been in storage before reaching you. Find out more about why you should do this by reading how often to replace guitar strings.
Check out the demonstration video below from our friend Shane to hear the Donner acoustic guitar kit in action. Note that the video is a few years old now, so the price has increased a little since as you’d expect!
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 guitar 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 honestly 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 most likely 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 acoustic a title, I would call it the best cheap beginner acoustic guitar, or perhaps the best beginner acoustic guitar package.
I certainly wish that an inexpensive guitar 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.
What I Like/Dislike About The Donner DAG-1C Acoustic
- 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.
- 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.
Check out the guitar at the links above for current pricing.
Look out for more Donner guitar review articles soon! The brand also offers an excellent beginner electric guitar package that I am hoping to test out later this year.
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’. We’ll also compare this Donner DAG 1CL vs Fender alternatives plus many others to see how the budget acoustic stacks up against the competition.
I also have a guide to the best left handed electric guitars for beginners if you would prefer to go down that route.
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