Acoustic dilemma, opinions sought
Okay, I am caught up in a vicious circle of GAS and I need some help getting out.
I work at a summer camp/outdoor education center and my main acoustic guitar is a 1970s Gibson Blueridge. Belonged to my dad. Great, balanced tone. I would like to get a "beater" acoustic to keep in my office or strapped over my shoulder as I work because I want to minimize the risk to this special, vintage guitar.
Now, "work" for me isn't like I go somewhere and do work until a certain time and then come home. I don't really have a typical day-- when we have groups here, my day would involve hosting meals, riding on a golf cart, teaching, leading games, solving problems. (At a campfire, for example, work might mean that I am playing guitar!) When I am the designated host, I am always on duty, which means that I might arrive at 7:00 am and go home at 10:00 pm, but there would be a fair amount of downtime throughout the day. It would be perfectly appropriate for me to be strumming or picking as long as there wasn't anything pressing to do at that moment.
So here's the problem. I went to check out some cheap acoustics, and they sounded TERRIBLE. Already being an Ibanez fan, I checked the Ibby acoustics out and the lower-end ones look good but were some of the worst-sounding to me. The cheap Fenders were the same, tinny and just . . . unmusical. The best ones I found were the Epiphone Masterbilt series (Chinese-made, all solid wood) and they sounded GREAT for $500-600.
But then, I thought wow, if I'm gonna pay five hundred bucks, I could go up a little higher and get a decent Martin or Taylor. And then I found that the all-solid-wood Martins were a screaming value at around a thousand dollars . . . 80-90% of the sound quality of a D-28 for 30-50% of the price. And then, of course, my reasoning collapsed and I found myself back where I started . . . with a nice guitar that ought to stay nice. So I'll just get a beater . . . but they sound terrible, so . . .
I need a guitar that I can play the *@%& out of, indoors and out, don't care if it gets dinged, scratched, stolen, whatever. Oh, and it has to have decent sound, acceptable tone. And it has to cost less than five hundred dollars. I know this doesn't exist, and I keep going around and around between "buy the best you can afford and protect it" and "pay about $150 and get over it -- live with the tin can tone."
Thoughts, recommendations, advice, whatever ya got, gladly accepted.