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Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups

Buy new vs old acoustics

Discussion in 'Acoustic Heaven' started by uriah1, Feb 12, 2017.

  1. studio1087

    studio1087 Telefied Ad Free Member

    May 10, 2003
    Near Milwaukee
    I'm a "new" guy. I like being the first to handle my acoustics and I like aging with them. I think that new vs. old is a classic acoustic debate.

    I have 2 Martins that I bought slightly used and an older Yamaha that I treasure but the bulk of my acoustics were purchased new.

    I played a 1930's Martin OM28 at Nazfest (Martins on Main in Nazareth PA) when I attended in 2014 and it sounded like bells exploding. I know that vibration begets vibration and older guitars can sound amazing but I look at a new D28 for $2300 and I look at a beat up 35 year old one for $7000 and I would buy the new one (and maybe some recording gear).

    I bought my D28 after I played it and I bought my 15's after playing them.

    I bought my Taylor 150 - 12 string via internet. I bought my Taylor GS Mini and my Mahogany Baby Taylor via internet. I think that there are some guitars that are fabricated so perfectly through CNC and highly organized factories that it's hard to buy a dud. If you buy a dud you can exchange it. I think that there are acoustics that you can buy online.
    uriah1 likes this.

  2. Tony Done

    Tony Done Friend of Leo's

    Dec 3, 2014
    Toowoomba, Australia

    I agree that some makes, like Taylor, seem more consistent than others, and I think that is a point worth noting. I suspect this applies more to boutique and luthier guitars than most factory ones.

  3. Hippieway

    Hippieway Tele-Holic

    Mar 15, 2009
    New or used? I've done both. I've had good results with both (dumb luck), So no preference, however buy the one that plays for you. While I might be temped to buy an electric through the mail, I wouldn't with an acoustic.
    Charlie Bernstein and uriah1 like this.

  4. Boomhauer

    Boomhauer Friend of Leo's

    Aug 18, 2013
    New, from a reputable dealer, for me. I just took a bath on a used acoustic on a trade from Craigslist. It looked good and sounded good to me, but had it in for a setup, and got it back $120 in repairs later. The truss rod was maxed out, so the tech had to put a spacer on; every last bit of the bracing was loose, so it all had to be re-glued; and the frets had some odd issues that I'm not exactly clear on, but got fixed when the tech threw in a fretboard rolling for free because of all the hassle he discovered in my guitar (top-notch guy!).

    Add in the "relicking" that comes in buying a used guitar, and dollar-wise, I'm quite a bit in the hole right now on that one. Goes to show the truth in the phrase "caveat emptor," because I had no idea that half the stuff with this guitar was maladjusted.

  5. maxvintage

    maxvintage Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

    Mar 16, 2003
    Arlington, VA
    I'm building an OM size acoustic right now. Just braced the back and glued it on.

    In my opinion guitars are self destructing objects. String tension is always trying to make them fold up. sooner or later they all need a neck reset.

    I don't think it's true that the wood is any more stable. A guitar that lived in, say, arizona is likely to freak out if it suddenly moves to Louisiana or vermont. Old guitars often have cracked or bellied tops. These things are fixable, just like a neck reset is a standard is elaborate and expensive repair.

    But we are living in the firckin' golden age of guitar. Seriously, it's like Stadavari in cremona. There is a vast vast global market for guitars, and thanks to technological innovation you can get an excellent factory guitar for cheap. Or you can buy a new model form martin or gibson. or you can buy an fantastic guitar from any number of small custom makers. Luthiers have a wide community of sharing expertise and innovation, trying new things and evaluating them. There has never been a moment like this in the history of instrument making, really.

    I like making instruments and so I'm not looking to buy one. But for crying out loud, there is no reason not to try one of the incredible instruments being produced now, in what is again the golden age of guitar
    Route67 and uriah1 like this.

  6. nrand

    nrand Friend of Leo's

    Buy Used With Care
    My most recent acoustic, Guild D55 was purchased used. Overall it was as good buy and the price was negotiated due to some minor cosmetic issues needing repair.
    The guitar was advertised and having an acoustic pickup. The jack was in place when I looked at it and when I asked if it worked the seller said 'yes'. Given everything else was OK I took his word for it.
    Well as you might guess, I took it home, and plugged it in and nothing........

    Live and learn!

    The purchase price was approximately 1/2 retail and it plays fine, so from that perspective and its playability it was still an OK deal. Add the cost of a K&K plus shipping from the US and the cost of installation, I am kicking myself for not checking more thoroughly.
    uriah1 likes this.

  7. sbpark

    sbpark Friend of Leo's

    Feb 10, 2009
    The West
    I'm a proponent of both. New guitars are exactly that, new. Biggest advantage is a warranty, unless its a new Maritn and it needs a neck reset, well then you're S.O.L. Used you just have to know what you're looking at. Be able to measure neck angles. This link is a great resource: I usually bring a long straight edge with be and a StewMac String Action Gauge when I go look at guitars, and sometimes also take a little auto mechanics mirror on a telescoping stick that also has an LED on it to check out the internal braces, bridge plate, etc. If the guitar is solid and it's been around a while and hasn't had any major issues, you're usually good to go. I'd never buy an acoustic though without playing it first. If it's really old you have to look at it like vintage amps; they'll usually need some work to bring them back to their former glory, but it's usually worth it, or like buying a classic car. Be prepared ad factor in potential repairs to what you're willing to spend if you're going vintage.

    I tend to favor used these days. I've bought a few new J45's int he also couple years and they've all sounded choked and stiff. Same with most new guitars in general. I'd rather have someone else play them in and have them start breaking in over the years and take the initial financial hit. Normal wear and tear does not scare me off. My best acoustic is a 2012 Gibson Advanced Jumbo that was a backup for a pro musician that suffered a broken headstock with a pro repair and I got it for a great price given the neck break. Pretty much every other acoustic that I've come across can't hold a candle to it (with the exception of some really old vintage J45's from the 40's , Gibson Jumbo from the 30's, and Martins I've played from the 30's, but there are seriously vintage instruments that are WELL BEYOND what I can afford).
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2017
    rocketpatrol and Route67 like this.

  8. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity

    Mar 2, 2010
    I totally agree that we are in a sort of golden age of guitars, but that means that the market is flooded with great used guitars that: 1) have survived their first year or two, and 2) are half retail price.

    I do not think we need to buy vintage to get great sounding instruments.

    I suspect the stories of TDPRI'ers getting screwed buying second hand acoustic guitars are maybe not the typical scenario.
    Buying anything second hand requires a certain amount of preparation, and if we buy broken stuff it is not IMO the fault of the stuff.
    If one does not know how to examine an acoustic guitar to determine that it is in good working condition and not ready to fall apart, then maybe new with warranty is best.

    An aspect of this golden age of guitar is that we can find all the info we need on the net to help us make informed instrument purchases.

    While there's nothing wrong with a preference to buy stuff new, there's no need to scare the used gear buyer. (not specifically saying you are trying to scare anyone!) Buying new gear sometimes leads to selling the gear slightly used at a loss! Keep em coming!
    Stubee and uriah1 like this.

  9. stretford

    stretford TDPRI Member

    Apr 16, 2010
    I'll assume we are talking about flat top acoustic guitars... vintage all the way. By vintage I mean Martin circa 1920 - 1957 and Gibson circa 1928 - 1959. Spend the money and get something good. Then spend more money having somebody good do the repair & setup work.

    If you forced me to buy a new flat top, I would probably get one of those Collings Waterloo models.

    Look for something with a wider nut, 1 3/4" is the standard for flatpicking. Adirondack spruce top is a plus, lighter/scalloped bracing is a plus. Forget the cutaway. Forget the crazy bridge systems. Forget the adjustable necks. None of the technological advancements in the last 80+ years have bettered a 1936 Martin D-18.
    P Thought likes this.

  10. Route67

    Route67 Tele-Meister

    Jan 14, 2017
    Yep, lots of like-new used guitars in pristine condition available from previous owners like myself, kept in cases with humidity and temperature monitored, only handled with meticulously clean hands, wiped down after every use, slightly broken in sound wise, moved in favour of another NGD. Fools gold
    telemnemonics likes this.

  11. Tony Done

    Tony Done Friend of Leo's

    Dec 3, 2014
    Toowoomba, Australia
    Yeah I prefer mine to look well-used, for two reasons.

    There is a fair chance that they are well broken in.

    I'm a dingophobe, but I don't mind a few extra in one that already has its fair share.

    For gigging I used guitars that were period-correct, which also meant old and beat up, but that doesn't really motivate me any more.
    telemnemonics likes this.

  12. Charlie Bernstein

    Charlie Bernstein Poster Extraordinaire

    Apr 26, 2003
    Augusta, Maine
    Makes sense, but you're speaking to the online-versus-in-person debate, not the new-versus-used debate.

    Both are fun. It's like Caddy-versus-Lincoln or Beatles-versus-Stones: Draw the line in the sand and don't give an inch!

  13. popthree

    popthree Poster Extraordinaire

    i don't have loads of cash to invest in guitars. i have college age kids and throw large sums of cash at universities, etc.

    so when i decided to buy a "nice" acoustic, i bought a new martin. it's probably the only one i'll ever own. if i'd found a very nice, gently used acoustic for a considerable savings, sure i'd have bought used...but i didn't find it. i looked. most people looking to sell want top dollar for their instruments, and i didn't find the price difference attractive enough to forfeit a warranty.

    vintage, high end acoustics would be nice, but i don't have that kind of scratch. i mean, sure, maybe i could pull the trigger on one, but man, if it needed a neck reset, re-fret, or some structural work requiring a skilled luthier, that's out of my league, investment wise. it would be nice to have Jeff Tweedy's guitar collection, but i have to live within my means.
    Tony Done likes this.

  14. mabley123

    mabley123 Friend of Leo's

    Aug 21, 2011
    ashland kentucky
    IMHO theres no best answer, as you can buy a nice older guitar, or a newer 1, and does depend on budget.

    I just bought an old 1974 Mossman Flint Hills in all but perfect condition except it needs a Neck Reset. 0 structural issues, and was advertised as in Very Good Condition., and had many photos, incl the height of the strings from the fret, and the need for a reset..

    I messaged Dan Erlewine about this guitar, and surprisingly he knew all about the guitars, and almost went to work for Mossman in the early 70s, and is also Related to Mossman by Marriage.

    Mossman died at 56 in 99. He had to retire, and sell the company in 80, due to respiratory problems from to many fumes, and no mask.

    The necks on these are different than most, and someone else I contacted had never heard of Mossman, so they were off the list. The Mossmans are both Glued in, and have 2 Bolts, I guess similar to Taylor.

    But Dan told me they are great guitars, and are cannons, and if the guitar is in good shape it would be a good guitar to get for repair.

    Many players used Mossmans, incl Doc Watson. Mossman bought wood from Martin in the 60s, incl Brazil Rosewood, and was used t make his guitars, but a fire destroyed his inventory in 1975.

    Every person that worked on these guitars signed the internal sticker.

    This is the 1 I bought, and will go to Dan. I'll get it on Monday.

    telemnemonics and P Thought like this.

  15. BoiseTelecaster

    BoiseTelecaster Tele-Meister

    May 30, 2014
    Boise Idaho

    Care to share some nuggets of wisdom? My problem with experience is that it always gives the test first and the lesson afterwards.

    telemnemonics and P Thought like this.

  16. 63telemaster

    63telemaster Tele-Meister

    Jul 29, 2013
    I prefer to buy used but wouldn't buy a used acoustic without playing it first. Just check for the obvious.....neck angle, saddle height, structure and you should be on safe ground. Advantage being, a 20 year old guitar that sounds and plays great and is in good shape is less likely to change over the next 20 years than a new guitar.
    telemnemonics likes this.

  17. Jupiter

    Jupiter Telefied Silver Supporter

    Jun 22, 2010
    Osaka, Japan
    Apparently there's a gizmo for that these days...
    :rolleyes:? (Meaning I dunno if it deserves a :rolleyes: or not...)
    uriah1 likes this.

  18. 5ofeight

    5ofeight Tele-Holic Ad Free Member

    Oct 17, 2016
    I have only bought 2 new guitars from a shop, nice experience but not as good as a road trip and buying a used guitar, gives the used guitars a bit of identity if you know or have chatted to the previous owner...and sometimes you get an off the cuff jam jam session..

  19. uriah1

    uriah1 Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Feb 12, 2011
    Going to bite the bullet in a couple weeks and try option (a) and go to that sweet place to try
    a couple 'new' ones. Probably the custom and maybe one more. Bummer that Gibson lists the AJ and SJ on their
    site, but, have not been in production with them..

  20. Papa Joe

    Papa Joe Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    Jun 30, 2007
    Swanton Ohio
    I have no problem buying a solid body guitar sight unseen (if the price is right) but I need to play an acoustic before buying..New or used..
    telemnemonics and uriah1 like this.

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