I play relatively cheap acoustic guitars when practicing at home. The sound is not so important, the comfort is. Up to a year ago I was playing a Jasmine by Takamine, model no. ES33C, acoustic-electric made in Korea. It goes for about $200.
The ES33C model does not get much praise. I read a few posts about it on various sites, most notably a post at www.guitarplayer.com (see http://www.guitarplayer.com/article/jasmine-es33c/oct-07/31679). The guitar is said to be not very stylish, but with ok but boxy an unexciting acoustic sound and not so well balanced electric sound. I do not care much about style. I have owned the guitar for about 12 years and plugged it in only twice. I actually like the boxy sound – it gives it a bit of sustain and it is not too bright to come up above all else going on around. (The strange thing about this model is that it does not come up on the Takamine site even amongst disconnected models, but that is a topic for another post).
A year ago I switched to a Fender DG-22SCE. This one goes for about $350. It is also acoustic-electric, made in Korea. The sound on this one is also ok. I still like the Jasmine sound better. The Fender is a bit hollow and that makes it truly “unexciting”. It is a good guitar nevertheless and I am enjoying it.
The two guitars are very similar. One is more expensive than the other, but not by much. I could have bought a cheaper Fender, but the cheaper model did not sound well at all. I played the Fender for a year and gave the Jasmine to a friend. Just recently, I got it back.
Here is where it all got interesting: The two guitars, as much as they look the same, feel very different. I still like the Jasmine sound better even though it is 10 years older and much beaten up. I find the Fender much more comfortable though. Switching from the Jasmine to the Fender was easy. Switching from the Fender back to the Takamine was not. The main difference between the two: the necks. The three main differences between the necks: the Fender neck is wider at the nut (42 mm vs. about 37-38 mm for the Jasmine; both are the same the heel); the Fender neck is flatter whereas the Jasmine one has a smaller radius (i.e., has a more notable curve, not sure by how much); the Fender neck has a "thicker" contour (i.e., it is thicker between the thumb and the other fingers; again, not sure how much).
I wrote about necks before. Check out A new strat neck and A new strat neck (again). Those were about a maple-rosewood neck, with boat contour, brass/nickel medium jumbo frets, compound radius, corian nut, a truss rod, no binding, clear gloss finish, etc. If I am to order another neck I would drop the compound radius and go for none, check out the width of the neck, and probably keep the boat contour. This is all personal preference, of course, but it makes a difference.