Other Guitars

Acoustic-Electric Shopping Advice Sought

1

A person (not me) wants to buy a guitar as a gift for a spouse, who has a "Crafter" acoustic-electric which is certainly no better than it should be. It's not staying in tune, other problems, gotta go.

He's a good-sized guy of intermediate strummin' & pickin' skills who plays mostly for home entertainment. (I mention that he's not diminutive in order to rule out tiny guitars.)

The brief is: acoustic-electric WITH cutaway, full depth (not a thinline). Budget is realistic, 400.00 - 2k. I think the high end is unnecessary, and my sense is that 500.00 - 1k is about right.

The buyer has no preference, doesn't know if the player has any. (Other than acoustic/electric/cutaway, I think not.)

So I'm filtering choices through my experience, judgment, and pet peeves. That means
• no cedar tops (there are surprisingly many out there)
• preference for spruce tops
• little love for maple as a body wood
• preference for mahogany over rosewood bodies
• openness to exotics as long as they aren't ugly

I don't prefer dreadnaughts, but I don't hate them. I think parlor guitars are too small for this application, but concerts and mini-jumbos are fine. No jumbos.

I believe any pickup/preamp system in the price range is going to be fine; there shouldn't be any tinny junk in the range, and this guy isn't doing sound-critical gigs anytime soon, if ever. Maybe he jams with friends.

I've been through my list of favorite/reliable acoustic guitar makers in the range: Seagull, Guild, Martin, Alvarez/Yairi, Epiphone. Breedlove has been suggested, and I've trawled their site and like what I see, if what I see lives up to its billing.

I'd love to include Gibson; there are a couple of attractive cutaway A/Es in the sub-2k range. But my experience with Gibson acoustics over the last 15 years has been that individual examples vary considerably within any model, so would have to be personally auditioned (not practical for a gift). If anyone can disabuse me of that notion and give me more confidence...well then OK.

I have ruled out Blueridge and Recording King (spotty quality, poor customer service). I've prejudicially refused to look at Takamine (unpleasant experiences) and Taylor (unpleasant tone, I know they've fixed it LA LA LA).

I remain agnostic about Yamaha and Ibanez, and haven't looked. And, alas, Gretsch doesn't presently have anything that really suits the brief.

Unless I've overlooked something, my shortlist is down to some mid-priced Martins, two Guilds, two Breedloves, and the Epi DR500 Masterbilt (which, specnically, looks too good to be true).

So, my questions.

• Given the brief (A/E, cutaway, no cedar tops, no jumbos), are there specific models of other brands worth a look, or any reason I should reconsider anything I've deconsidered? I'm always willing (if not happy) to have my assumptions challenged.

• What do we know about Breedloves? Tone, quality, durability, anything? I find them handsome. Any reason to stay away?

• Is the Epiphone Masterbilt as wonderful as it reads?

• Midrange Martins: any experience with the GPC/GPCX series?

2

Doesn’t tick off all the boxes but this guitar by Eastman looks and sounds amazing. Ps. Easy to add electronics.

I have a high end 12 string made by Eastman and its an incredible guitar.

3

Ah, Eastman. I'd forgotten about them. They do have a range of cutaway AEs with some endearing specs. I'll include them on the shopping list. Thanks for the reminder.

4

The Guild I bought sounds great for folk, grass and blues--and it's holding up. You should have a look--it's a flatpicker guitar though, not really for fingertpickers.

K

5

Perhaps you had an unlucky experience with Takamine but thay are a major player in the world of acoustic guitars and they might be worth a reconsideration. My own experience with my pro-model Takamine is that it is an excellent well-made guitar that is easily equal to Martin and Lowden. Takamine currently manufacture a huge range of electro-acoustic guitars with cutaways, spruce or mahogany tops and rosewood or mahogany back & sides. These are priced from $200 for beginners models to >$3000 for professional models The preferences listed at the beginning of your post included spruce tops but lower down you state 'no spruce tops' so I am not sure whether you would really prefer a spruce top or not.

6

A friend has an Eastman J45 like and it's a great sounding/playing guitar. If the guitar ends up being the J45 clone it's under built and I would have a K&K Pure Mini with volume installed. They replicate a mic in front of the sound hole better than anything I know.

7

I was also thinking Eastman though I'm not even close to being an expert. The ones I played sounded very nice and had a very good feel and were pretty affordable. I think you'll get a lot of guitar for the money spent.

8

Get him an old Fender Sonoran. I think they might have discontinued them, but they can still be had new.

I have one. Solid Spruce Top. (The post lists preference for spruce, but then you say no spruce so that was a tad confusing) Dread body. Mahogany laminate back and sides. Servicable Fishman Preamp/tuner.

Only thing he might not like would be the Strat neck (1.75" nut width, 9.5 radius, med Jumbo Frets). I had one for years (still have it, solid guitar for around 350 bucks) and gigged it regularly before upgrading to my Black Falcon Rancher. (I actually prefer a Jumbo, and the fact that Gretsch uses Vintage Sized frets. I can't stand medium jumbos and that's what everyone uses now)

Given what you've said about this cat this guitar would check the boxes, and do anything he'd need without breaking the bank.

9

I'd look for a Larrivee LV-03. All solid woods, Ebony board and American or Canadian made (depending on when it was made). If it doesn't already have a pickup installed, then put in a K&K and you're good to go. If you buy used, you're home free for under a grand.

11

Yep, I dumbo'd the second mention of what should have been "cedar"; that's fixed. To be clear, spruce is very much in favor, and cedar very much isn't.


Thanks for the suggestions.

I guess it won't kill me to look at Taks, but my every experience has been that they sounded better plugged in than anything else at the time, but sounded thin and weak and ... well, Taylor-y ... played purely acoustically. That applied to every one I've heard. And they all played artificially well, because they were set up with too-low action and too-light strings. Guys said "man, it's as easy to play as an electric!" And that's how they sounded: like an unplugged electric with fret buzz. These were Taks owned by various differently people, over a period of time, so I gathered these characteristics were common to the brand. It was clear the owners were all using them plugged in, and using board EQ to get the amplified sound they liked. I'm sure there has to be more to the brand.

Don't know about the Sonoran. 1.75" nut and 9.5" radius seem an odd combo. It will be a question of how it fits the target player's hands...which are not petite. The nut width would be good for him; maybe not the radius. And that's an odd acoustic radius!

Larivee is a good suggestion; I'd forgotten them as well. I'll look.

G5034TFT Rancher

Well now, aren't we funny! I'd like one of those, because it looks so ridiculous and sounds so good. But plugged in, in its own way - a way that's more like an electric than an acoustic. In any case, no cutaway!

12

When Musicians Friend cleared out the Fender Paramount Limited Edition series, I liked the one I bought so much I bought every model in the line (when it was their turn on Stupid Deal of the Day of course).

All solid woods--mahogany or rosewood versions, adirondack spruce top (which I prefer to Sitka), Fishman pickup. ;acquer, quatersawn, X braced. They made a OOO size with a cutaway the PM-3

Because they were made in China, they cost peanuts and they are about 80% in sound at least to Martins I've had.

Specs are here: https://www.musiciansfriend...

13

"Your" judgment of "NO" cedar-tops is off.

Cedar kicks tail for bottom. We all like big bottoms!

...!

15

If your friend is willing to consider a used instrument, I think a Guild F47 might be worth considering.

It comes in several flavors, all of which have spruce tops. F47 should have mahogany back & sides. F47M has maple back & sides. F47R has rosewood back & sides. F47RCE pairs rosewood back/sides with a Venetian cutaway and (I think) an undersaddle pickup. F47K is quite rare, and might be above the top of his price range, but has koa back/sides with a Florentine cutaway and a blended transducer/microphone pickup system.

Personally, I think this model is a little-known gem in Guild's lineup. Its mini-jumbo body provides a full tone with a rather articulate bass response that is especially nice for fingerstyle.

I don't believe it is in current production, and therefore would have to be a used-instrument purchase. In case your friend cares about a guitar's country of origin, any F47 that he purchases should have been built in the US.

Similar to what Curt previously stated, a lot of Guild fans prefer the K&K Mini pickup system in their acoustic guitars.

16

Your" judgment of "NO" cedar-tops is off. Cedar kicks tail for bottom. We all like big bottoms!

Ehh. Cedar sounds great when new, because it's soft and flexy. (That's where the big bottom comes from too.) It sounds better new than many spruce tops, which need a lot of exercise to start to flex along the grain lines and limber up so they sound fullerbigger.

Cedar also flatters fingerpicking and intimate detail. But it tops out to strumming, like it's compressing. The upper end of the dynamic range just isn't there.

All of which would be fine in an amplified acoustic - except I imagine there will be vigorous strumming on this guitar without benefit of amplification. The pickup is built in, yeah, but a good acoustic amp is whole nother bridge these folks haven't crossed yet, and I don't know that they will. The pickup is mostly there for when he finds himself in situations where amplification is provided.

In any case, the worst thing about cedar is that it's so soft/fragile/easily damaged, and subject to premature wear. Even babied cedar classicals get top dents and abrasions - even little fingernail indentations. I know Tommy Emmanuel goes through the tops of this guitars in the process of wearing them out with the music passing through, and those are sacrifices well worth the making. Also, Tommy can afford more. But I beat the hell out of a cedar top in a few years of intermittent playing. I treated the guitar no differently than I treat my spruce-toppers, which all remain perfectly presentable. I know this guitar will sit out on a stand in a living room for easy access, with kids and dogs.

No cedar.

17

I was looking for a new acoustic with pretty much the same parameters. Solid spruce top, mahogany back and sides, a cutaway and some pickup system. I was trying to keep it under $700. I was in midtown Sac and I stopped at a local music shop. I played just about everything on the wall. I really wanted to like the Rancher Jr, but I kept coming back to the Yamaha A1M. It’s got a slick neck and it just sounded bigger and richer than everything in that price range.

It’s not what I was expecting to buy, but man it sounds great.

18

It's called home-grown relicing, and everyone likes an old, beat up guitar.

It's comes from the Keef in all of us...regardless, time to move on. Good hunting.

...!

19

No love for Godins?

They are great guitars for the money, in my humble opinion.

20

There was a 5034TFT Rancher at the last Sierra Nevada Round-Up, one of Ric12's acquaintances who gigs the Lake. Why or whatever, just too much fun, slightly lunatic but in a good way.

21

I've been a Godin proponent in the past, but the options for a cutaway acoustic-electric with spruce top just didn't seem to be there. Well, there was one, the Performer mini-jumbo - but maple body, which I'm not a fan of on an acoustic. Also, 1,000.00. There was another series that was interesting, the Entourage Autumn Burst. But NOWHERE could I find what wood it's made from. You're an acoustic guitar builder, and your website doesn't tell me what it's made of. Kind of a fail, I thought.

22

Tim, if you are talking about the Seagull Entourage Autumn Burst, it’s a solid spruce top, cherry sides and maple neck. Link

23

Ah! I take it back. Fail on my part. I expected the wood species in the list of features, not under chiclets of color at the top of the column. I'm a text guy, Bob. I don't like pictures. If you looked like I look, you wouldn't like pictures either.

So OK, cherry body wood. That's OK. It's also what I'd guess for Godin. Robert's story used to be that the Canadian government gave him free wood from any falls or culls from Canadian national forests - he just had to arrange transportation for it. True? I don't know. He was trying to explain how his guitars could be so good for so little money. It sounded plausible. Thus, wild cherry and cedar.

Glad to see the Entourages have spruce tops, not Godin's ever-present cedar. I'll put that model back on the OK list.

24

I would definitely look at Eastman. They make a great product.

25

The new, Westerly line Guilds are worth exploring. I've played several of their sub-1k offerings and was impressed. I wouldn't hesitate to gig or record with them.


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