Other Guitars

Deciding on a new acoustic


Well...if you're just asking opinions, not considered advice, I personally have a strong bias against anything Taylor, no matter how well made, and a solid lukewarm shrugging ambivalence about Martin.

I hear you say the Taylors are all very consistent, which is all well and good - but I don't hear you say you like what you hear. And that's my problem with them. They sound like solidbody zithers. All twinkle, no guts.

I've played a couple of Martins I would have owned - notably, both were slotted-headstock 00s with 12th-fret neck joint - a slew I admit blasted like cannons (though I didn't care), and more that were just ehh, OK. Their main claim to fame (as I understand it) is a bright punchy full-bodied tone and (in a good one) volume and projection. I get the purpose for all that, especially in their native country-rhythm and bluegrass context, but it doesn't interest me.

It took me decades to figure out, but I finally learned I prefer anything but a dreadnaught, and really warm up to the rich warm round tone of a plain-ol Gibson mahogany-and-spruce slope-shoulder. Donovan's and Pete Townshend's acoustic tones from their classic 60s records probably seduced me - that fat textured dark tone with all the string-to-string definition.

It doesn't have to come from a Gibson - there are nice clones out there - but in my ear the tone of a J-45 (or if you're big enough) a J-200 just can't be beat.


Couldn’t agree more, Prot. Although I like my old Guild maple jumbo, the sound that is me is Gibson. You heard how sweet my J-45 sounds. My new favorite acoustic is Tokai copy of a J-200. I always wanted one, but who can spend $5000? It rocks.


(Just saying, Bob...if you're ever of a mind to let that J-45 go, you know where I am.)


We’ll see how lasting the infatuation with the Tokai turns out.


I'm late to this, but in Dallas I played a HD28.

Nothing came close. Not even remotely.

Now that was a killer acoustic. It's in the Dallas Guitar Center on Northwest Highway.

USD 3300.


But I would love to have bought it.



Konrad called it. An HD-28 rose to the top when I needed a new acoustic workhorse. Dave’s Guitars in La Crosse, Wisconsin had about 30 dreadnaughts in the store. I made the drive over there with the intention of buying a Huss & Dalton, but after playing every possibility, the HD-28 was unquestionably a better guitar for my purposes.

I should mention that I use acoustic guitars as exactly that, acoustic guitars. Volume, projection, and the ability to actually be heard when playing with other instruments are the main things I need. I had to borrow a D-18 for a recording project last year because the HD-28 was too overwhelming. Other than that, the 28 has been good. Needs new frets, but it’s really opened up in the 15-or-so years I’ve owned it.


Proteus makes some very good point. An important question is “what do you want to do with your guitar”?

Hang out on acoustic guitar forums and you will hear people sing the praises of Martin guitars. That’s because they want a “cannon “ for bluegrass jams. I, however, wouldn’t even know where to find a bluegrass jam. That makes a lot of advice irrelevant.

Taylors have a crisp, clear sound, are easy to play, and have good electronics. Great for modern band scenarios. The 816 is a fave of mine, but doesn’t have a lot of complexity to my ears. The 414 is a popular mid-level Taylor that has decent value if you like the Taylor sound.

Gibson excels at mahogany top guitars. They have a real thump to them. Not what I was looking for personally, but it is a classic sound. Not surprisingly, my favourite Gibson acoustics have been an Advanced Jumbo (rosewood top) and a maple-topped (yes topped) J-200. Neither of those give the classic warm, woody Gibson sound, though.

When doing a shop for a nice acoustic last year, I too found that a dreadnought was not for me. Wound up with an OM which is great for strumming and picking, but doesn’t have the huge projection of a dread.


The hd28 I tried had what looked like good electronics--didn't plug it in though so can't vouch. It was not a fingerprinting guitar, but otherwise... wow.

Anyway, this time I disagree with Proteus... bluegrass Martins are cannons, but relative to most guitars pretty dark sounding. That's what to me sets them apart-- a darker lead that you can hear. TOTALLY agree on the tailors though.

The only bright Martin I can think of is Tony rice's guitar, but the wider sound hole probably contributed to that. Lot's of guys amp the highs when recording or gigging, but the soul of a D28 or D35 is fairly dark. That's what I hear anyway.



"Bright" was probably a poor word choice; rather, I find most Martins very balanced, with no frequency predominating. Taylors are bright. Man are Taylors bright!

Dreadnaught Martins seem to me...aggressive, percussive, like they want to be played pretty hard. I don't know that they only respond if played hard - they're probably as dynamically responsive as others - but at least in my experience, there's something about them that begs to be flogged.


I can see that!



When I first saw Cat Stevens on one of those concert shows on TV in the 70s, he was playing a J-200 and I was smitten with the clear, beautiful sound. A few years later I saw him play live and, to my disappointment, he had switched to an Ovation. It sounded like plastic.


A lot of Martin bluegrass players use 13s and crazy heavy (and illegal) tortoise shell picks so yeah, they like to be played hard. But they hold up when played hard, which I dig, instead of dying out under the attack (which I hate).

That's hard to find (Although once I had a yamaha like that, as crazy as it sounds).



A good Martin dreadnaught has a broad dynamic range. They can be played delicately in the upper register or used to create a punchy bass line while socking rhythm on the high strings. I have owned several and played many, many more. One thing most Martin dreads have in common, especially the rosewood models, is that they are hard to overdrive. In other words, you can dig in hard and, short of abusing them, they will continue to respond in a musical way.

Gibsons I have owned, while nice guitars, had a top limit to the the amount they could be driven. If you are just going to put a pickup on your acoustic and do the finger picky, singer/songwriter thing, it doesn’t much matter what you use. It then becomes more of an image question. If you do something like, let’s say, back up fiddlers at a fiddle contest, you need something with serious headroom. I don’t even want to talk about playing with a bluegrass band.


All very good points to consider. I'm still sans guitar at the moment, so no decision has been finalized. I would agree that in general Taylor guitars have a brighter voice and Martin a darker voice. Just based on my playing perceptions.

I did play a $3,800 Martin HD28 on a whim, as well as an H15m. I can't get along with the Ovation bowl back. Just doesn't work for me. I've not tried a Gibson yet though, so I may have to rectify that this weekend to see.


personally, i've only ever played one Martin dreadnought that i liked much, an early 60s D-18 owned by my oldest friend. the vast majority i've tried are modern production that's uniformly dull and dead-sounding, stiff as the proverbial board. the extra-expensive ones are probably better, but i'll never know. Taylors are too tinkly for my taste. i played dreadnoughts for years for the volume, but in recent years have switched over to an Eastman OOO. i had to sell my Blueridge spruce-over-rosewood J-45 clone, which i loved dearly.


I've been hearing some interesting things about breedlove guitars. I'm not sure about them though since I haven't tried one. Anyone?


Of the two models you mention, I would be likely to select the Taylor. Reason being that the Taylor has a more standard 24 7/8" scale length as opposed to the 24" Martin. I like the fact that the Martin has all "solid" woods, though..so it would not be an easy decision...but in the end, Taylor would likely win that battle for me.

If your price range goes up...(don't they always )...I would likely look at the Eastman E10 series...maybe even the E20. When I was shopping for an acoustic I almost bought the E20...but, then I found a good deal on a Gibson J-45 so I went with it.

For perspective, I own two Taylors (plus two others in the past), the aforementioned J-45 and also a RainSong. If you are open to non-traditional...the RainSong should be looked at. They make bulletproof guitars that sound very, very good. One of their parlor series can be had for about $1300.


I've been hearing some interesting things about breedlove guitars. I'm not sure about them though since I haven't tried one. Anyone?

– Suprdave

I've played a few at Blue Dog guitars in North Vancouver but I couldn't tell you what models, only that they were dreads as orchestra models aren't comfortable for me to play. They are very well built and I found them to have a nice tone and not heavy on either end of the bright or dark spectrum. Not cheap though.

What I do recall though, and whether by design or not, was that all of them had an already 'opened up' sound to them. Nice sustain and the neck has a nice feel. By comparison, new Gibsons always sound 'tight' with the sound sounding 'squeezed' to get out for lack of a different term. In my experience, day and night difference between the sound and ease of playing between a vintage and new Gibson. Gibsons sure do look pretty in their headstock shape and overall appointments compared to the plain look Martin has always embraced.


I can't recall her name right now, but there's a lady luthier in England whose guitars, custom order only - have gotten rave reviews. She has the highest of standards and is very precise in making your dream guitar to the most exacting of standards, right down to the tone and sound you're looking for. If I were in the market for a new acoustic and had the coin, her guitars are something I'd seriously consider.


very precise in making your dream guitar to the most exacting of standards, right down to the tone and sound you're looking for.

And there's precisely the problem with custom built acoustics, at least for me: I apparently don't know what I'm looking for till I hear it, and couldn't specify materials or build details. I guess I'd say "make it sound like the acoustic guitar in Tommy, and look like a J-45.

Or, in fact, the Blueridge version of the J45, which - except for the over-ornate logo - is gorgeous. I have one as well, but it hasn't been stable for me. Kind of a heartbreaker.

Register Sign in to join the conversation