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Martin vs. Gibson vs. Guild

Discussion in 'Acoustic Heaven' started by Rizo, Feb 9, 2006.

  1. Rizo

    Rizo Tele-Afflicted

    Apr 28, 2005
    Athens, OH
    Martin vs. Gibson vs. Guild
    Posted: Thu Feb 09, 2006 5:41 pm


    I'm saving up some pennies and try to decide what my next gear purchase will be. I'm thinking about picking up a MIM Esquire but deep down I would really like to have a high quality acoustic. I've been checking out some options lately and have been leaning towards a Martin (probably a D-28, maybe a D-35) but I love the styling of Gibsons and I like the slight "outsider" appeal of going with a Guild (at least a vintage one, which is quite afordable compared to Gibbys and Martins). With that said, I have a real fondness for rosewood, mahogany doesn't move me much and I don't like maple, tend to be a dreadaught kinda guy also.

    So I would like some imput here. Compare the typical sound of a Guild vs. a Martin vs. a Gibson. I know wood varies, each one sounds different, get one that "speaks" to you, I know... but I'd like to hear some opinions to help steer me. Any opinions or advice?

  2. franchelB

    franchelB Friend of Leo's

    Sep 25, 2005
    Irving, United States of Texas!
    You'd be lucky to find a Guild DV52...highly underrated guitar! Gibsons are still "iffy", IMHO; and you can never go wrong with any Martin standard series, i.e. D-18, 28, 35, etc.

  3. hekawi

    hekawi Poster Extraordinaire

    Apr 29, 2003
    greenville, sc
    martin gibson guild

    tried a couple of gibsons the other day at my local GC. looked real purty, but sounded so-so ('specially for the $:
    (i could get 4 or 5 more of my good ol' washburn d-11 ashwoods that play and sound better for the less than one of them)
    guilds are nice, paul simon used to play one. like the black ones! very striking. but if you got the dough, you cannot go wrong with martin. the sound, the quality, re-sale value (prestige of saying "i own a MARTIN") wish i could afford one.

    good luck on your decision

  4. BB

    BB Friend of Leo's

    May 17, 2003
    Great Pacific NW
    All things being equal, I'd always opt for a Martin. Just a better least I think that anyway.

    Never owned a Guild although I've played quite a few. I do like them, but hey....a Martin is Martin!

    Gibsons are cool and they definatley have their own thing going on. I've owned a couple of cool old Gibson acoustics in the day, but they really paled tone wise next to any Martin I owned. They sure look cool though and the vibe is hard to resist. The local vintage shop I frequent has several older Gibsons and Martins in and over the years, alwasy seem to have a nice selection of both. Many of the Gibsons need neck re-sets and the ones that don't still ahve high action and no where near the tone ( imo of course ) the Martins do. Of course, some Martins are a bear to play too, so there ya go.

    Again, I do like Guilds, just don't have the history with them as I do M & G' that's probably the main reason I'd chose a Martin. you said and already know, whatever speaks to you. You never know whats going to sneak up a bite you on the arse when you least expect it. Keep an open mind and certainly don't rule out other brands..

  5. nogin007

    nogin007 Tele-Meister

    Apr 22, 2003
    Wellington, AL
    Why not see an independent luthier, and see what his price would be to build one like you want? Just a thought.

  6. Rizo

    Rizo Tele-Afflicted

    Apr 28, 2005
    Athens, OH
    Can anyone compare the typical tone of each brand? I've never seen an A/B/C comparison.

  7. Kingpin

    Kingpin Friend of Leo's

    Mar 16, 2003
    I have Martin D-41 and a Guild D-50. The Guild is a very nice guitar for the money, but it ain't no Martin. Of course, to be fair, I paid almost 3X as much for my Martin - so it's an apples to oranges comparison, dollarwise. They both put out a pretty powerful sound compared to most other dreads. The Guild is slightly boomier, with more bottom (built like a tank too), the Martin has a richer, more balanced tone and plays easier.

  8. 4mal

    4mal Friend of Leo's

    Mar 18, 2003
    The Gorge
    2 to 3 grand would be typical for an entry level custom...

    I went through the hunt a while back and for me the larrivee L03 came out on top. Very close behind were the Mahogany Martins J-15 and OOO-15.

    My Larrivee came from an on-line retailer, The Flatcar guitar shop in OK, city. I can recommend them and the Larrivee without reservation.

    I would highly recommend playing a bunch as the differences in the sub- $1000 market are substantial.

  9. Durango Twango

    Durango Twango Tele-Meister

    Nov 24, 2005
    Another vote for Martin, and...

    Gibsons are too variable and have early structural problems - a friend who is a local luthier is doing a fret dress on a brand new AJ as we speak and the customer wants him to try to take the orange peel out of the finish. I had a J-185 that needed a neck re-set when it was 4 years old! There are good ones mind you, but you really have to be selective. Guilds are seriously overbuilt and generally sound it, but I have played some really good ones and they are very road-worthy.

    Martin is making some great guitars again, and I'm actually impressed with the low end as much or more than the high end. I played a $769 D15 yesterday that just sounded great (but I like mahogany in dreads). I've played several HD28V's that were VERY good.

    All this being said, look seriously at Collings. Prices are very similar for comparable guitars (a D2H is much more like a Marquis than a D28) and the consistency is extremely high with no shortcuts I can find (look at the "tortoise" on Martin's). I wouldn't buy into the hype that "all" Collings sound amazing - I've played a lot that left me cold. But the description of Collings as "uber-Martins" I think is pretty accurate.

  10. wordfan

    wordfan Tele-Meister

    Jan 21, 2006
    Durham NC
    I'll try to make an honest comparison...

    I'll go ahead and throw down the disclaimer that I'm a Guild fan. That being said...I've never played a Gibson acoustic that I liked. I love the way they look, they're beautiful guitars, but everyone I've ever played sounded a little...hmm....dead. Granted these were all newer ones in the humidified rooms at large guitar stores. By the way, that's something that should be said...most any guitar is going to open up and sound immensely better once it stays out of that "acoustic room" a few days and dries out. I'm sure there are gasps here, and people who thinks it's sheer heresy not to have a humidifier in the case with a fine acoustic...but do you want to play the thing and love the sound, or spend all your time being obsessive about top and finish cracks? You can get a top crack repaired. Martins are incredible guitars, and it would be very hard to go wrong with one. Keep in mind that, just as with a Gibson, you'll be paying through the nose for the name on the headstock. But that's not such a bad thing. Martin is what most all other acoustics are trying to imitate. I will say were talking about a d-28...if you decide to go that route, spend a little more and get the HV-D28(I think I got that right) It's the herringbone version with the vintage bracing pattern. The sound is worth the extra cost. If you're enamored of the Martin, you also ought to check out a Santa Cruz DPW(if you can find one, that is). It's for all practical purposes a plain-jane vintage Martin. For less money than a new equivalent Martin. Guilds. Ahhh...Guilds. I love Guilds. I love the outsider appeal you talked about. I also happen to think that they're completely different animals from Martins. Guilds are built heavier. They have thicker tops, etc. Pick one up and you'll feel the weight difference. The heavier construction is not necessarily a bad thing. Guilds are maybe the only dreadnought I know that don't sound like a Martin imitation. For my money, they're a little more balanced. They seem to be more versatile than the Martin dreads...granted, my personal guild is d-30, which is worlds away from a standard rosewood...I don't think you can go wrong with a Guild. Find a DV-52. They're going for decent prices nowdays. Hell, if you don't like it, pm me and I'll buy it from you. I need an excuse. You could probably get a couple of nice old Rhode Island Guilds for what you would pay for a new HD-28V(ok...that's it...that's the model I screwed up before). Check out for lots of info on Guilds. This guy also usually has a couple for sale, although his prices are high. Shop around. Hope this helped at least a little.

  11. Paul G.

    Paul G. Friend of Leo's

    Mar 17, 2003
    Rhode Island
    Dreadnaughts are the most common.

    Martins--loud, huge bass, very bright treble. Unbelievable cutting power. Respond best when picked or strummed hard. Country and Bluegrass go pretty well with Martins

    Guilds--not quite as loud, more balanced clear tone. Somewhat more versatile. Responds to hard picking and strumming without compressing, responds to softer picking and strumming by sounding softer, richer and warmer. Not as aggressive sounding as a Martin, so they don't jump out at you in the store, but the tone really grows on you.

    Gibsons--take a towel. Have your friend press it against the soundboard of a Guild while you play. You'll hear a soft, middy sound with some string jangle. That's the sound of a Gibson.


  12. WickedGTR

    WickedGTR Friend of Leo's

    Jul 12, 2005
    Hillbilly Hollywood

    ALL IMO:

    If you do single note stuff, like bluegrass, or delicate fingerpicking, probably a Martin.

    Gibsons are great strummers and rhythm gtrs. The Stones used Gibson hummingbirds on acoustic rhythm stuff- that's the sound I mean.

    The sound of old dry wood is hard to beat. I haven't played any new ones that compare to a decent older one- any brand - any price.

    I was in a similar position a few years back and wanted a strummer, and I found a '66 Gibson Country Western that is one of the best playing and sounding guitars that I own. For about the same price (or lower) as a newer comparable model, that sounded like plastic to me.

    It definitely doesn't sound like there is a towel over it!


  13. oooh, I have to disagree about wet towel sound of a Gibson. I have a J-45 that is the sweetest sounding guitar. It all depends on your playing style. I'll concede it's not the best for fingerpicking stuff. I played Martins and Guilds and many others but in my mind there isn't a better strumming guitar made.

    It's a great guitar for a band. When strummed, it has some great sounding natural compression that sits well in a mix with drums, bass, and electric guitar.

    It's built for rock and roll. It can take abuse. Mine has been dropped, dinged, and left out in all kinds of temperature/humidity situations and it still sounds great.

    Plus it looks great.

  14. Paul G.

    Paul G. Friend of Leo's

    Mar 17, 2003
    Rhode Island
    Boy, I have a way of insulting people without meaning it.

    The towel (not wet) comment wasn't meant as an insult, just a description.

    The middy, woody, jangly sound of a Gibson Flattop makes it my favorite strumming guitar, great backup for singing. In the '70s used to have a J185, lost to finance a divorce.

    I presently am in the process of selling/saving to get an AJ in a local store that just speaks to me. Hopefully I can sneak it in the house in a few months without too much trouble.


  15. jwsamuel

    jwsamuel Friend of Leo's

    May 8, 2004
    Upper Holland, PA
    I also ended up with a Larrivee L-03 after going through a Martin D15, D28, 000-18WG, 000-18 and 000-28. The Larrivee had the best sound, the best feel and I think Larrivee makes better use of natural materials than Martin.




    May 5, 2005
    South Central Pa.

    After 40 yrs. of playing, I have found choosing a guitar by brand is only a starting point. Ultimately, what your ears and hands tell you about an instrument are the best deciding factors for something you can be inspired to play for years to come. I have owned/played all three brands and all ran the gamut from extraordinary to real disappointments. Take some time and try as many pieces from different makers as you can. You will know when you find "your" guitar.

  17. Professor SourTone

    Professor SourTone Tele-Meister

    Sep 27, 2005
    Norfolk, UK

    J45/J50's can be great fingerpicking guitars, if you have a good one that's played in. The new ones may be a bit stiff and the 70's ones are overbraced.

    If you're looking at 1970's guitars, Guilds can't be beat. These days I'd look at a Gibson Historic, martins not being my thing. Guild I would look pre-Fender on principle.

    Very old Guilds (early 60's and older) are wonderful guitars, even/especially the low end ones - if you can find one.

  18. Durango Twango

    Durango Twango Tele-Meister

    Nov 24, 2005
    Towel? Towwwwweeeelllllll?

    I have a mid 90's J45 that I have AB'd with many guitars including my Collings OM and a Collings D1A (basically a very wel made D18 with Adirondack) and the J45 hangs right in there in terms of tone AND volume. Gibson j45's are very heavily recorded guitars - like many mahogany guitars they record beautifully. The comment that they compress well when strummed is right on in my experience (mine sure does) and they are surprisingly loud.

    My only gripe with newer Gibsons is the inconsistency. They can have structural issues early at times and tonally they can vary quite a bit. But if you find a good one, it's a good one. And I've never noticed any terry cloth in my finish.

  19. Bill Ashton

    Bill Ashton Tele-Afflicted

    Dave Van Ronk played a Guild...

    'nuff said? My personal favorite acoustic tone.

    My '95 Gibson J-30 sounds wonderful, and was the pick-o-the-litter in '95 when I bought it, but I think its an anomoly for that model. Really wanted a J-160E, but they sounded terrible as an acoustic guitar...and I guess the ones that sound good acousitcally are awful electric guitars...figures!

    I never did get to try a DV-52, only D-4's and D-6's...

  20. eggman

    eggman Friend of Leo's

    Mar 18, 2003
    Bossier City,La.


    I've never regretted buying my Martin D-28. Sounds beautiful and plays like butter. Nothing sounds as good as a Martin.
    If you want something more affordable, Martin makes a great sounding budget line. The DR-1 sounds like a dream. Good luck!


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