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Acoustics? I don't get what makes one better than the others?

Discussion in 'Other Guitars, other instruments' started by Axis29, Mar 8, 2011.

  1. Axis29

    Axis29 Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

    Jan 2, 2007
    Virginia, USA
    I know this is going to sound ignorant... but here goes nothing!

    My first guitar was a Fender acoustic. I bought it at the shop where my Dad was the accountant. I've taken care of ti kept it all these years now. It's a nice little ax. A little dreadnought that sings brightly and projects pretty well. It's aged nicely, the spruce top is getting a bit darker and the finish has sunken down into the grain nicely. There's one or two little battle scars, but I've kept it relatively free from destruction. The couple of times I've played it out, I get compliments on it's sound and tone.

    I've played some other guitars, in fact, I literally just got home from GC where I tried about ten or fifteen different acoustics. I keep trying to talk myself into wanting a more expensive acoustic, but it just never happens.

    I've tried a couple of Taylors and didn't really care for them. The Martins I've tried have all sounded dark and dull. The Ibanez's I've tried, I actually kinda like. The Epiphone Hummingbird I tried sounded nice. The Takamine was okay, nothing special.

    Now, I didn't try any of the high dollar Martins today, or any of the Gibsons.

    About the only difference I could really tell was that the Martin frets were a little bit smaller... but all the necks felt pretty close, kinda modern C's. Most were relatively buzz free (there was one that took about three seconds to find a big buzz on the low e). Sure, some of them were prettier than others... some had fancy inlay on the fingerboard.

    But my question is, what is it that people look for in an acoustic that I'm missing? I mean I keep thinking one of these days I'll find an acoustic electric to justify it, but nothing yet. Nothing sounds or plays better than my old (relatively) inexpensive Fender that's 25+ years old now.

    When it comes to electrics, I can debate the finer points of minute details, but acoustics I just can't find anything THAT different.

    Help me find my acoustic inner snob. :D
     

  2. piece of ash

    piece of ash Friend of Leo's

    Dec 29, 2010
    Sugar Land, TX
    Try a Martin DR16... plugged in.
     

  3. JeradP

    JeradP Former Member

    Jan 21, 2011
    michigan
    I've never played a Martin that I liked the feel of.
     

  4. SamClemons

    SamClemons Poster Extraordinaire

    Jan 23, 2011
    Jasper, TN
    Here is what I like about my Ovation. It is the full deep body and has a full, resonant sound. It is louder than most guitars. It has a slim fast neck with low action that is more like a electric than an acoustic, fairly small for my small hands. It is probably one of the best sounding guitars plugged in there is. Pretty close to a perfect guitar for me. The answer is pretty simple...does it play comfortably, does it sound good. Looks are secondary to me, but that can be a factor also. I am not impressed by names and never liked the Taylors either.
     

  5. Mark Davis

    Mark Davis Telefied Ad Free Member

    Mar 2, 2003
    Bakersfield Ca.
    The wood the finish the bracing the top and how it vibrates.

    Strings on an acoustic are like different pickups and amps on electrics and all the myths people apply to electrics like thinner finish are all true on acoustics.

    I own a Martin OM21 its the small body size and the bass doesnt overpower the sound its very balanced.
     

  6. outlawyer

    outlawyer Tele-Holic

    904
    Dec 8, 2010
    AL
    Whew. Thought I was the only one.
     

  7. Telesavalis

    Telesavalis Friend of Leo's

    Try a Martin 000-28, D-41 or a Taylor 810 and you'll see the difference right away. The quality of the tone wood, inlay, craftsmandhip, and did I mention wood?
     

  8. Mark Moore

    Mark Moore Tele-Afflicted

    Jan 11, 2009
    OKUSA
    I went acoustic shopping a couple of years ago and played everything in 3 stores, including some really nice high end Martins and Eastmans. I ended up buying a Taylor 214e. It sounded nice and sparkly and was easy to play and the price was right.

    When it comes right down to it, all that matters is if the guitar works for you. Public opinion doesn't matter (except on the internet, of course).
     

  9. String Tree

    String Tree Doctor of Teleocity

    Dec 8, 2010
    Up North
    Acoustic Guitars are an acquired taste.
    It took me many years to figure it out.

    There is no shame in not being able to tell the difference.
    If you haven't been exposed to it, there is no way you can tell.

    But one of these days, you will come across an old acoustic and it will leave you speechless. THEN you will get it.

    My wife has an uncle who owns an early 50's Gibson Southern Jumbo. MAN!!! That guitar vibrates every bone in my body when I play it.
    Can't say the same about my mid-line Takamine.

    I can see no reason for you to spend big bucks on an acoustic if in your heart of hearts it does nothing for you.
     

  10. wshelley

    wshelley Tele-Holic

    Age:
    29
    727
    May 1, 2009
    Oxford, MS
    Playing the higher end Martins may give you a little more drastic difference so you can notice a change. Remember that the $500-800 Martins are their economy line. This is not to say that cost= quality, but generally speaking you should be able to a difference in clarity, balance, and tone of the sound that comes out of a high end Taylor/Martin/Gibson when compared to their cheaper models.

    I too have trouble with telling the difference in sound of acoustics, but when you pick one up that's a gem, you know it. I've also found much more variance in the same model with acoustics...a D18 at one shop can play completely different than a D18 in the same shop right next to it. I haven't had that problem as much with electrics.
     

  11. outlawyer

    outlawyer Tele-Holic

    904
    Dec 8, 2010
    AL
     

  12. AlanC

    AlanC Tele-Meister

    360
    Sep 1, 2008
    Ocean city, NJ
    A well built acoustic made with good materials-wood- will sound better as it ages. That is one reason your "old fender' sounds so good.
     

  13. brookdalebill

    brookdalebill Telefied Ad Free Member

    Age:
    60
    Nov 15, 2009
    Austin, Tx
    I agree that it a challenge to find the "one".
    I have been through about a half dozen newer acoustics in the last 5 years.
    None of them stuck.
    My current plan of action is to find and older, "drier" sounding guitar.
    I'll let you know how it goes.
     

  14. Tim Armstrong

    Tim Armstrong Super Moderator Staff Member Ad Free Member

    Age:
    58
    Mar 5, 2003
    Austin, Texas
    Admin Post
    Fresh strings can make a profound difference on any guitar in a store! Just sayin'...

    Tim
     

  15. BradKM

    BradKM Tele-Holic

    884
    Apr 27, 2003
    Charlotte, NC
    First, Tim is right. Most of the really nice guitars I see in local shops sound like dogs off the rack because of dead strings.

    I could go on about this at length, but will try to keep it brief.

    I was lucky enough to work for a dealer for several years that sold everything from $89 imports to $10,000 limited edition Martins and Gibsons.

    In the world of electric guitars, it's easy to see a cost/quality grade as features improve.

    It isn't going to be as evident in the acoustic world.

    You can pay more for inlay and electronics, and you may stumble across some very nice guitars in the beginner to intermediate offerings. In fact, some recent Guild GADs and Epiphone Masterbuilts I've seen were shockingly good.

    Once you cross a certain threshold, however, you're going to start finding some GREAT guitars that have those bone-rattling, soul moving characteristics others have mentioned.

    I'm not saying any guitar costing $XXX will have those qualities, but once you find one, you'll see the difference.

    Back to the strings...when I was working in the shop I mentioned, we kept the strings on the high-end models fresh, if the guitars were in the shop for very long. Few of them were.

    I eventually stopped trying higher-end acoustics when I realized I'd likely find "the one" and spend big bucks for an instrument that I wouldn't be worthy of at my skill level simply because it would be one of those "has to be mine" guitars. I'd played a few that were so good I was truly sick to my stomach with desire for them.
     

  16. Flatfoot

    Flatfoot Tele-Meister

    302
    Sep 17, 2009
    Southern Missouri
    Me neither! That includes a D-45 that I thought was one of the hardest things to play I've ever picked up!
     

  17. Telesavalis

    Telesavalis Friend of Leo's

    Also, a good set up on an acoustic is important. Just like fresh strings, that will make an otherwise hard to play or tonally inadequate acoustic play and sound much better, no matter which maker or model it might be.
     

  18. Big Steve

    Big Steve Tele-Holic

    707
    Apr 24, 2006
    I would suggest that you just go play as many as you can. I have come to the conclusion, that most of the brand new acoustics just don't sound very good to me. So I go to places where I can try used acoustics. Even cheaper used acoustics sound better to me than most brand new high end production acoustics.

    Having said that, I have played some simply amazing high end Santa Cruz guitars. The one I loved was around $4,000. I don't play enough acoustic to justify that sort of purchase, but man it was an amazing 15 minutes playing it in the shop. I would suggest that if you want something special, get it made from one of the many boutique builders.
     

  19. Mike Eskimo

    Mike Eskimo Doctor of Teleocity

    Nov 9, 2008
    Detroit
    I couldn't think of a worse place to try acoustic's than GC.

    I'm spoiled out of my mind w/ Elderly being so close to me.

    I always make a point of playing the most expensive old vintage flattops they have (no problem at Elderly).

    When you play the best ones ever built it gives you a sonic benchmark. Not all the high-dollar ones sound phenomenal - but a lot do. Gives you something to try and find - cheaper.

    A properly set-up Martin M guitar (0000 size) would change a lot of people's minds about Martins.

    I had 90% of my immersion in guitars over the last 25 years w/ acoustics. I'm so glad I did.

    BTW - almost all acoustic-electrics are compromised guitars. Takamine has made some good ones in the last 20 years as have Martin.

    Piezo "quack" is not what an acoustic is supposed to sound like.

    What a good acoustic sounds like :



     

  20. DuncanAngus

    DuncanAngus Tele-Afflicted

    Age:
    58
    Jan 5, 2010
    Massachusetts
    I agree with Mike the Eskimo. If you have 10 new acoustics with prices between $200.00 to say, $20.000 and all had eaqually dead strings, they'd all sound about the same. Dead. Filthy strings on an acoustic is about the same as an electric with poop in the PUPs sonically.

    That said (hate that term, need to start a thread about it), I've played some Epi's, Seagulls, etc. that will buzz your belly. You don't have to take it hard to get a nice acoustic anymore.

    Naturally, more bling = more $, better wood = more $. It goes on and on. Depends what you like and what sounds good to your ear.

    Any acoustic w/o a proper set-up for YOU is most likely going to be tough to play. I think this'll get better in the next few years with PLEX and such, but a good luthier watching how you play then setting it up for you is the best money you can spend.

    I could go on, but I forgot what I was going to say... ;)
     

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