Action: Too High VS Too Low; Which To Buy?

Discussion in 'Acoustic Heaven' started by Tarnisher, Apr 22, 2019.

  1. Tarnisher

    Tarnisher Friend of Leo's

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    You go to a shop to buy a new acoustic, and they have two of the model you want in stock.

    One has action that’s a tad too high- it feels stiff and slows you down.

    The other has action that’s a tad too low. It’s buzzing when played aggressively, or even gently on higher frets.

    You planned for a setup in either case, but which do you buy? Why?
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2019
  2. RodeoTex

    RodeoTex Poster Extraordinaire

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    Maybe just ask the shop to do at least a mild setup on each.
     
  3. kbold

    kbold Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

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    New? ..... RodeoTex has the answer.
    If they can't set up the guitar to your preference, find another shop.
    Then you will only have to deal with minor setup adjustments.
    Also, check with them what strings are fitted.
    They may simply be fitted with strings (gauge, type, manufacturer, etc) not to your liking.
     
  4. Chunkocaster

    Chunkocaster Friend of Leo's

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    I would buy the high action one as long as when pressing the strings down to the desired level at the saddle everything looks good. ie, there is enough clearance to easily clear the bridge once the saddle had been sanded down.
    If not then I would get the too low action guitar and ask for a free bone compensated saddle.
     
  5. Guitardvark

    Guitardvark Tele-Meister

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    set up is part of the sale and yup if they cant set it up go somewhere else :)

    acoustics are hard to set up and leave anyway so your going to find that common. The only guitar reps Ive even seen on a regular basis to re string and set up the guitars were the Martin Reps. Hats off to Martin again!!
     
  6. Obsessed

    Obsessed Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    I would go with the one that has the best feeling neck. Ideally, the higher action though, just because it is so simple to sand down the bottom of the existing saddle to achieve the action that you like. Most new guitars come this way for that very reason. Perhaps the low action one is a "return".
     
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  7. AJBaker

    AJBaker Friend of Leo's

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    Assuming they're not new (in which case the shop sets it up), I'd look at the set up in general and in particular how much neck relief there is. If it has high action, and a lot of neck relief (curve), I can probably adjust the action down. Same thing of the action is low, and the neck is set straight: I can probably tweak the action up without any hassle.

    Assuming the truss rod is in working order, and nut and bridge are more or less correct, it really doesn't matter whether the action is too high or too low in this case.

    If it has other issues, like deformations, lifting, or other tricky issues I'd stay away.
     
  8. Charlie Bernstein

    Charlie Bernstein Poster Extraordinaire

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    Since Tarnisher says "new," we should assume that they are new, right? (That's good advice, though. Glad someone got around to neck relief!)
     
  9. rangercaster

    rangercaster Friend of Leo's

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    Buy the one that sounds and feels best ... Then deal with the other issues...
     
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  10. Pineears

    Pineears Tele-Afflicted

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    The buzzing guitar may have other issues. Need to examine its neck closely. With that thought I’d probably start with the high action guitar and have it lowered. If you are going to play aggressive You’ll need a “low” setup. If you will need to play loud with no amplification you will benefit from the “low” setup. String height is relative to your style, so “low” is (the lowest that fits your style).

    Is it an acoustic-electric?
     
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2019
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  11. toomuchfun

    toomuchfun Tele-Holic

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    What rangercaster said.
     
  12. backporchmusic

    backporchmusic Friend of Leo's

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    Assuming the neck set is at the proper angle, buy the high action.

    What I do then is to buy a new saddle or have one made (whichever is best for you) but save the original saddle in the guitar case. That way you have an extra and can also always return it to 'new' if needed.

    I fine tune my setups to my taste, so I always budget a new saddle to work with when I buy a new or used acoustic.
     
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  13. Tarnisher

    Tarnisher Friend of Leo's

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    Great responses, thanks!

    Ok, now I’ll get specific.

    The guitar is a $200 Recording King RPS-9P-TS. It’s a great sounding box for the money, with a solid top, and vintage style.

    I didn’t ask for them to set it up because it’s Guitar Center. I’d just as soon take it to my guy and have him do it right.

    The high action was the one on the floor. The low action was the one in the box.

    Differences in sound seemed mainly due to the strings- the floor model could use new ones, and the NIB guitar had never been played.

    I went with the NIB low action guitar, thinking that a twist of the truss rod might get me close. The wood grain was also nicer.

    I loosened the truss rod all the way when I got home. After 24 hours, it was much better, but it’s still fretting out up the neck.

    I’m thinking I should probably take it back and swap it for the high action floor model, then take it to my guy for a setup and some fret work.

    Oh, and I do know about the issues with bridge lift on these. But I’m willing to take the risk, since this guitar is exactly what I’m looking for in every other respect, and that seems easily repairable.




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  14. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity

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    Acoustic guitar action is a can o' worms far bigger than the bolt on neck Fender.

    High action could be as simple as a truss rod adjustment, or it could be the neck angle which you don't want to get into with a new guitar.
    Low action as well could be truss rod adjustment or maybe the common slight fretboard hump at the body joint.

    For long term good playability and tone, generally you want the guitar that has slightly low action because the strings keep pulling the action higher, and if it's already too high from the factory, it's likely to get worse not better.

    The fact that you can file down the saddle on the g=high action guitar and don't have to buy a new taller saddle for the low action guitar, is sort of saving a penny to lose a dollar.

    There is no way to say which guitar is the one to buy because the answer is determined by exactly what is out of whack.

    Note that the chance that the lower action guitar needs some fret dressing and might have a fretboard hump at the body joint; does not mean that the higher action guitar doesn't have the same problem. Could be the buzzy guitar actually has a straighter fingerboard, but the low action makes it seem worse, and that the higher action guitar only plays without buzz because the action is too high, where lowering it will bring out fingerboard issues.

    I'd even avoid asking the shop to fix both guitars and sell you the one they set up better, because if you clearly have no idea which guitar is better, they are likely to sell you the worse one!
    A "good" guitar shop fixes what's broke before putting it out for sale!

    Course, that may mean there are no good guitar shops...
     
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  15. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity

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    I'd let your tech look it over before returning it.
    Sounds like you might have gotten a rare better guitar.

    I play an acoustic as if it was an electric, and a good acoustic that can be set up with nice low action yet still has a decent break angle at the bridge is a rare bird.

    Lowering the saddle changes the break angle at the bridge and changes the tone.

    Of course we still don't know what's wrong with the two guitars, so a qualified tech (not a youtube wonder) should look it over.
    Should take less than 60 seconds.
     
  16. Tarnisher

    Tarnisher Friend of Leo's

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    Last edited: Apr 23, 2019
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  17. jrblue

    jrblue Tele-Afflicted

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    Unless the shop has a good tech, you're on your own. At that price, the guitar has likely never had a good setup and may not even be all that stable yet. Buzzing can obviously be a matter of saddle height or neck relief, or both (sometimes nut as well; sometimes, basic -- bad -- build). I learned to do this stuff really well myself long ago because it became so hard to find any tech who could do a decent job. Personally, I would pick the one that sounds best and ask the store to do an on the spot setup prior to purchase. Even a lousy tech can do a gross adjustment.
     
  18. Tarnisher

    Tarnisher Friend of Leo's

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    Yeah, but I’m a lousy tech myself, so why make an extra trip to GC!


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  19. zombywoof

    zombywoof Friend of Leo's

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    To start with I have never bought a new guitar. Plus some of my favorite shops have had no repair facilities so at most could adjust the truss rod and change strings. But I always figured the setup was my responsibility anyway. My wife though bought a brand a brand new Martin D12-28 last year. The shop had a repair facility and upon the purchase they told us to go around the corner and grab a cup of coffee while they did a setup for her. A couple of months later she brought the guitar back to have a pickup installed at which time after talking with her they decided to tweak the setup again so she would be perfectly happy with the guitar.
     
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  20. zombywoof

    zombywoof Friend of Leo's

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    Bwahaha. On my one and only visit to a GC I looked at a -1950s guitar. You would have needed a tetanus shot to play it the strings were so old and rusty. When I asked them about why they did not at the least restring the guitar they told me it was not their policy to slap new strings on vintage instruments because they did not want to take a chance on the old tuner buttons giving up the ghost.
     
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