Either Seagull, or if you like a brighter sound, the used taylors. My first acoustic was a taylor big baby ($600 or so these days) and it still rips like nobodies business. But, you either like taylors or you dont. Taylors are very... chimey. They sound AMAZING for modern sounds. But they dont have that wooly grit that martins do, or the woody chunk of a gibson slopeshoulder (generally, there are exceptions that tend to pop out often enough in the cedar topped 700 and walnut ranges). The only taylors id avoid
are the 200s (too much price hike compared to the 100s for not enough improvement) and the 312s. I've never heard a good 312, and lord knows how many i sold. Id frankly never buy any of the 12s/GCs without a slotted peg-head. It makes the small body sound work well with the brightness taylor has. Opens it up a bit. Makes it... airier? I dont know quite how to describe it. But it tames the taylor high end so the small bodies dont just end up as pure zing.
Also, s00p is right. There should be 100% solid wood. Shit, $600 gets you a solid indian rosewood ibanez sthese days. (albeit coated in 17 inches of polyurethane. Also keep an eye out for tacomas. There was a run of tacomas a few years back ('02?) that had finish issues (read: It peels off in massive chunks
). Most of them were replaced, but there are a lot of them out there. Looks bad, but they sound amazing. Find me another USA all solid rosewood or flamed koa acoustic for under $400. For being on the small side, they sound startlingly similar to a gibson slopeshoulder, but with the chunk shifted up into the high midrange. Great axes for a great price.