Comparable Acoustic to 'Martin' without the price tag?
deckard1
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19th July 2013
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Comparable Acoustic to 'Martin' without the price tag?

I would love to get a nice Martin acoustic/electric guitar but they are simply too expensive. So, I was wondering if someone could suggest another brand that is more or less comparable to Martin but not nearly as expensive? In other words, a guitar not marked up pricewise simply because of a company's very well known name.

My budget is approximately $600 (US currency).

Thanks.
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19th July 2013
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Originally Posted by deckard1 View Post
I would love to get a nice Martin acoustic/electric guitar but they are simply too expensive. So, I was wondering if someone could suggest another brand that is more or less comparable to Martin but not nearly as expensive? In other words, a guitar not marked up pricewise simply because of a company's very well known name.

My budget is approximately $600 (US currency).

Thanks.
"a guitar not marked up pricewise simply because of a company's very well known name."

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I have a Simon & Patrick dreadnought with a cedar top I ended up picking over several Martins. It has a beautiful warm tone and an amazing big dark sound when strummed heavy. I don't know if they all sound and play this great, but it might be worth finding one to try out.
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Originally Posted by CrankyChris View Post
"a guitar not marked up pricewise simply because of a company's very well known name."

Fair enough. I probably should not have included the word 'simply'. Martins are amazing guitars. But, there must be other companies that make comparable guitars (or close to it) that don't have a 150 year history. No?
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I don't think you'll find a Martin-esque guitar, but I like the Seagull (same maker as previously mentioned Simon & Patrick) guitars in your pricerange. Well made axes for a reasonable price.
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19th July 2013
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I agree with Arch, I have a Simon & Patrick 12 string and love it. Solid guitar and it came with the B band electronics. My friend has had a Seagull artist series for years and it's starting to look like Willie Nelson's guitar (no hole yet) because he has played the crap out of it (soft satin finish). Look up Godin's website, there's a whole village in Canada (of about 5 brands) that makes these quality guitars in your price range.
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I agree, you won't find something that will sound like a D28 or anything in that price range. But the Seagulls are nice for the price!!
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19th July 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deckard1 View Post
Fair enough. I probably should not have included the word 'simply'. Martins are amazing guitars. But, there must be other companies that make comparable guitars (or close to it) that don't have a 150 year history. No?
In my opinion; No. I think Collings, Huss and Dalton, Santa Cruz, Bourgious and other boutique builders are in the same league but they are considerably more expensive.

Now is a $2400 Martin 4 times "better" than a $600 guitar? Maybe not. But that's in the eye of the beholder. It depends a lot on the skill of the player. To me, it is worth it, but I've been playing for 25 years. Most new players can't hear the difference and they almost certainly don't have the touch the get the most out of a Martin.

2 suggestions:

1. Buy used and don't spend $600. A $600 guitar is a $200 after you walk out of the store. Get a used Yamaha or Epiphone or Takamine (or other) for $200 -$300. Try to get one that is all solid wood - not plywood - or at least an all solid top. Play it for a year or two - see where it leads you. Check craigslist - research on manufacturers websites for specs. Get a good deal.

2. Even though Martins, Gibsons, Tayolrs, etc. are expensive, they will hold their value. You can (eventually) get a used D18 for ...around $1400. It will still be worth $1400 in 10 years.
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Originally Posted by CrankyChris View Post
In my opinion; No. I think Collings, Huss and Dalton, Santa Cruz, Bourgious and other boutique builders are in the same league but they are considerably more expensive.

Now is a $2400 Martin 4 times "better" than a $600 guitar? Maybe not. But that's in the eye of the beholder. It depends a lot on the skill of the player. To me, it is worth it, but I've been playing for 25 years. Most new players can't hear the difference and they almost certainly don't have the touch the get the most out of a Martin.

2 suggestions:

1. Buy used and don't spend $600. A $600 guitar is a $200 after you walk out of the store. Get a used Yamaha or Epiphone or Takamine (or other) for $200 -$300. Try to get one that is all solid wood - not plywood - or at least an all solid top. Play it for a year or two - see where it leads you. Check craigslist - research on manufacturers websites for specs. Get a good deal.

2. Even though Martins, Gibsons, Tayolrs, etc. are expensive, they will hold their value. You can (eventually) get a used D18 for ...around $1400. It will still be worth $1400 in 10 years.
Supposing I do go the 'new' route, what do you think of the lesser expensive Martins in my price range? Here is one example that piqued my interest...it has a solid top as well:

Martin DX1KAE | Sweetwater.com

Thanks.
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Check out the brands Recording King and Blueridge. I think they're right up your alley.
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Checking out all these other brands you guys have suggested right now. If you have any more please let me know.

Thanks.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deckard1 View Post
Supposing I do go the 'new' route, what do you think of the lesser expensive Martins in my price range? Here is one example that piqued my interest...it has a solid top as well:

Martin DX1KAE | Sweetwater.com

Thanks.
I don't know. I haven't played one. It has a solid top and ply/laminate sides. It is probably comparable to other guitars in it's price range. It's probably built overseas (as are all in that price range), but likely designed by martin. Go to guitar center and play some...see which ones you like.

I'd still recommend getting a used Yamaha or other, though.
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I just go out and play everything when I am guitar shopping. (I mean EVERYTHING!) I am only hunting for 2 things in an acoustic, playability and tone. I purposely ignore all pricing and brands until I have found my guitar. I try to not even let myself look directly at the guitar. I will politely interrupt sales descriptions and ask that they please hold the explanations until after I select the front runners by ear and feel. I ended up picking the Simon & Patrick over 2 high dollar Martins without factoring in price. (And yes, I have been playing for 25 years as well) If the winner ends up being outside of my price range (I check used prices as well if it is new), then I move to the next down.

I refuse to test a guitar with ultra-light or light strings. They mask setup problems and have horrible tone to my ears. This usually limits my guitar testing to the nicer guitars, since the beginner guitars are strung light for easier beginner playability with a poor setup or have an inability to handle higher string tensions due to construction.

I would not trade my current Simon & Patrick for one of those high dollar Martins. I even stock pile my current acoustic strings in case they discontinue them. It is too much of an important part of my sound and has too much of a positive impact on my songwriting.

Try to nail down your ideal guitar sound first. Then try every guitar you can find and try to ignore our advice.
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Originally Posted by archfrenemy View Post
I just go out and play everything when I am guitar shopping. (I mean EVERYTHING!) I am only hunting for 2 things in an acoustic, playability and tone. I purposely ignore all pricing and brands until I have found my guitar. I try to not even let myself look directly at the guitar. I will politely interrupt sales descriptions and ask that they please hold the explanations until after I select the front runners by ear and feel. I ended up picking the Simon & Patrick over 2 high dollar Martins without factoring in price. (And yes, I have been playing for 25 years as well) If the winner ends up being outside of my price range (I check used prices as well if it is new), then I move to the next down.

I refuse to test a guitar with ultra-light or light strings. They mask setup problems and have horrible tone to my ears. This usually limits my guitar testing to the nicer guitars, since the beginner guitars are strung light for easier beginner playability with a poor setup or have an inability to handle higher string tensions due to construction.

I would not trade my current Simon & Patrick for one of those high dollar Martins. I even stock pile my current acoustic strings in case they discontinue them. It is too much of an important part of my sound and has too much of a positive impact on my songwriting.

Try to nail down your ideal guitar sound first. Then try every guitar you can find and try to ignore our advice.
I agree. Forget about buying an acoustic new or online. There are many things that you can buy without trying them out first, but I would NEVER buy any acoustic instrument without playing it first. I don't care who's name is on it. Every instrument is different. And it is also my opinion that acoustic instruments benefit greatly from age, especially cheaper ones. I have an Alvarez at home that when I first got it, it sounded shrill and harsh. Over the years it's mellowed out a bunch and now has an amazing tone that it didn't have ten years ago!

So buy a used acoustic. They're cheaper, they sound better, and most of the problems will have been worked out as the wood slowly dries out and settles. Forget price and brand names. They don't have anything to do with playability or sound. I have a friend who bought an amazing sounding Yamaha with the best action I've ever seen for under $100 at a pawn shop! I've played a lot of Yamaha's since then looking for another one like it, but it's one of a kind. Just get your hands on as many different examples as you can find and keep playing them until you find one that sounds and feels just right. They're out there. It just takes patience, dedication, and a discerning ear to find them.
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Check out the brands Recording King and Blueridge. I think they're right up your alley.
I went with Blueridge when looking for something to take on the road. Great sounding/playing guitars that don't break the bank.

R.
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When it comes to the "wow factor" you get from companies like Martin, the old adage "you get what you pay for" definitely applies; you're not just paying for the name.

Having said that, I think I understand your dilemma and can recommend Seagull, Blueridge, and Epiphone's Masterbuilt series.

But herein lies the rub; even with those manufacturer's you're still getting what you pay for (sonically). There is still a big difference sonically between Blueridge mid priced guitars and their higher priced models. Same thing with Seagull, or Godin, etc.

With regard to the Martin DX series, sure they're pretty decent guitars but the HPL back and sides are pretty stiff so you get some darn aggressive mids from those models. The response is nowhere near as smooth or beautiful as their higher priced models. And how the guitar will age can be sketchy.
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19th July 2013
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I agree that you should test drive some used Yamaha and Alvarez guitars if you can, any and all for that matter. Like everyone else said, and it is also about finding out what you don't like. So you have perspective in choosing what you really like. Bug the piss out of Guitar Center, then go home, think about it and research stuff online about some of the guitars you played, and then repeat the process all over again. If you're looking for a keeper, it's a quest.
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Top of the line Larrivee 9 or 10 series
Collings
Santa Cruz.
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19th July 2013
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Pretty much everyone is giving you the same advice. There really isn't a $600 guitar that's any better than another $600 guitar. There may be a better one for you but on the whole, they are all pretty much equal. All the brands mentioned are fine.

The breaking point (and I think this is kind of what you're looking for) is when the guitar is made of all solid wood (no plywood)..and it's made in America (or North America ...thinking of Larrivee). At this level you will generally get a guitar that will maintain it's value, and sound great. This level is around $1000 - $1500 ish and up.

IMO a guitar that isn't all solid wood (and costs...say $800) is kind of a waste. You're likely paying for bling. You're close to a "quality instrument" but you're just as far away (quality wise) as a $200 used guitar. This is why many people are suggesting you go the used route. Again, a $200 used guitar (quality wise) is about the same as and $800 new guitar - (assuming it has plywood).

I've made some sweeping generalizations here, but I'm just trying to get you in the right frame of mind. Really nice guitars are expensive b/c they're really nice...not just b/c the manufacturer is just jacking up prices. Why do you think good players play Martin, Gibson, Taylor, etc. ? B/c they're insecure about name brands or maybe b/c they know what they're doing?

Don't sweat getting a Martin just yet. Learn to play, save your money, learn all you can about guitars, and if you still love playing a year from now....get the Martin.

Best wishes.
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19th July 2013
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You should hang out at "The Gear Page". Check out some of Eastman's acoustic offerings. Great guitars for the money. Also check out Blue Ridge Guitars and older Tacoma's. If you buy these used, you can get a great guitar for a steal. In particular, some of the Eastman guitars may outperform the Martins that they're compared to.
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When I was looking at guitars, I tried out this little Alvarez Yari Parlor and that little thing was a sound cannon. I was really surprised.

I must have tried over 30 acoustics before I bought my Larrivee P-10 Parlor.
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Excellent advice. I obviously came to the right place with my question. I've actually owned two acoustic guitars...a Takamine G series (made in Korea) and a Taylor Mini GS. The Takamine I bought new online and had a solid top. The Taylor was nice but had no bottom end. Just recently sold both guitars because i just wasnt happy with them so thought I would play it safe and buy a guitar from the most reputable acoustic guitar company in the world...Martin. The problem is they cost an arm and a leg.

I'll go over to the Guitar Center and check out the different brands you guys have suggested...including used. Any tips on how to deal with the salesmen who are guitar 'experts' at Guitar Center? How do you know if the salesman knows what he is talking about? Any obvious signs?

Thanks.
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Tip #1 - Don't just go to Guitar Center. Hit several different guitar stores and try everything they have. Most stores only carry the certain brands and models to get you to buy up to the next level. You need to hit several stores to avoid merchandising traps and limitations.
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Jumping in late, but here goes:

I've played Martins that sounded like 2 x 4's, and I've played no-name guitars that were great.

Each box is an individual and the quest for the one that suits you can be a long one. My advice is to play as many as you can without thinking about the name on it. The unsuitable ones will show up instantly and can be ruled out. If you should find a brand/maker who seems to consistently come close to what you want, go ahead and look at them.

When you get up in the price range, the boxes should have a tendency towards consistency. There is a music store owned by a guitar player up the street from me. A lot of his business is entry-level stuff, but he makes sure that the ones he sells are properly set up. The stuff he finds (and he shops hard) has a consistency from his choosing the inventory. His average price is probably $399, and they are definitely the best of the bunch at that price. I always enjoy stopping in, pulling one down off the rack and jamming with him a bit.

A larger shop about 200 miles from me has an entire wall of Taylors. I've sat down and gone through dozens and dozens of the various models and the sound and playability are all over the map, from great to trash.

Keep an open mind, open ears and look until the guitar speaks to you personally despite the label. I play a hand-made Charlie Hoffman dreadnought from 1976 ($650.00 new, now worth around $3500.00) and a Harmony Sovereign from 1968 ($80 new, now worth around $900.00). They are very different, but both play themselves, have great intonation and keep me happy picking everything from Carter Family to Scott Joplin to Duke Ellington. I wouldn't part with either of them...

Edit:

I just remembered (although I tried my best to forget) that I had a Martin acoustic/electric on stage a month ago. Absolutely the worst sound ever, although it is very likely that the player had mis-adjusted every parameter on it and the battery was dying, but he was a "star" in his own mind, so nobody could tell him anything.
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19th July 2013
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Acoustic guitars can fool your ears.

The guitar that sounds nice and warm and full on the low end, may be great with just
voice and guitar solo'd, but become a burden, producing too much of a boomy low end in a busy mix where a more mid focused guitar like a Parlor or 00 will actually cut through much better.

If the GC will allow you, ask if you can try tracking a short piece in their studio demo area.
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I like S Yairi guitars of the mid-1970s.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deckard1 View Post
I'll go over to the Guitar Center and check out the different brands you guys have suggested...including used. Any tips on how to deal with the salesmen who are guitar 'experts' at Guitar Center? How do you know if the salesman knows what he is talking about? Any obvious signs?
I ended up buying my last guitar (Martin 000MMV) at a Guitar Center. My trick was to get there right after they opened. The sales associate was not quite awake, nobody was there, and I just played everything in my price range while he drank his coffee........went to a couple of them on successive days.

If you like martin, I had a Martin Sigma DM-1 that was a real gem. You would need to find a preowned one.
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In terms of used guitars, keep an eye out for old USA-made Guild acoustics (from the Westerly factory, the label should mention this). The budget models (D4 for instance, solid top and sides, laminate back) are amazingly good guitars and sell for relatively little cash in the second hand market.

Guild D4 - Westerly Guild Guitars

Guild was a classic brand and their acoustics are used by many big players, but the brand is not as well known as Martin and they can be found for less money.
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Originally Posted by Santiago View Post
In terms of used guitars, keep an eye out for old USA-made Guild acoustics (from the Westerly factory, the label should mention this). The budget models (D4 for instance, solid top and sides, laminate back) are amazingly good guitars and sell for relatively little cash in the second hand market.

Guild D4 - Westerly Guild Guitars

Guild was a classic brand and their acoustics are used by many big players, but the brand is not as well known as Martin and they can be found for less money.
Shhhhh!!!

This was supposed to be a secret...
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Shhhhh!!!

This was supposed to be a secret...
Oops, I've blown it now!
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