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Comparing Martin and Taylor: do I have cloth ears?

Discussion in 'Acoustic Heaven' started by goonie, Jan 30, 2021.

  1. Lance Morgan

    Lance Morgan Tele-Meister

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    I have a Taylor 610, a Martin D-18, and a Gibson J-45.

    The Taylor is my favorite, rich and deep sounding with a great neck. The Gibson is also real dark and rich in tone, very nice.

    The Martin projects sound, loud and bright, and plays as well as anything I’ve owned.

    I like them all. Would not sell any of them. This post may not help you, but just know you will be happy with anything you decide on in these three brands.
     
  2. Yuro

    Yuro Tele-Meister

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    Goonie:

    I bought a Martin D-28 in college with my food allowance. I still have it 22 years later. It sounds better than anything else I've owned or played. Just a great sounding and feeling guitar. Even better than new because I had a new top put on at Martin factory a couple years ago. They added scalloped and forward bracing. Now that the wood has had some time to mellow, it's really sweet with big bass and clear highs.

    HOWEVER:

    Adirondac spruce tops split rather easily. Mine had to be replaced when the split reached the bridge. Sound went from great to dead.

    Many flat-tops, including Martins, can warp to top when string pressure pulls on the bridge area of the top over time. Look at the guitar sideways and see if there is a hump under the bridge.

    Most guitars these days have adjustable truss rods. Older Martins don't have them, including mine. If the neck goes out, they need to be re-done by a talented luthier. Not cheap.

    I use light strings on mine and tune to 420 middle C set on my tuner...about a fret and a half lower than regulation. If I'm playing with other people with it, I'll tune to 440 (normal) but it stays at 420 most of the time. This helps me avoid the top pulling up.

    New Martins have adjustable truss rods. The big guitars, however, now offer "pre-war bracing". This is what I have. It sounds great but the risk of the tops warping upward is greater.

    ------

    Other really good brands are Bourgouis, Huss and Dalton and Collings. Find a good guitar shop that has a try-out room and try some different things. I will always have a spruce top/rosewood back and sides dreadnaught around. I love em. I also played a newer Martin OM size that I really liked. It wasn't stupid money either.

    All brands make great once... you have to find the right one. When you pay more, it's usually for the extra work and materials that go into rare woods, inlays etc. Not needed for great sound.

    If you are comfortable playing a big dread and you like the sound, just use that. If you want something smaller, try OM or 000.

    I went out and spent a lot of money on a Huss and Dalton small guitar...It's gorgeous with bear-claw spruce top and really a top mahogany body. All the good stuff, but it doesn't play like my Martin. It's OK for fingerpicking and for use with a pickup. It doesn't fill the room, though.

    I played a Collings once that literally felt alive in my hands. OMG. It was near 7,000 bucks. I didn't have the money to spend at the time.

    I had a Martin D35 12 string once a 1967. Best, fullest guitar sound I've ever heard, but the neck was always warped. I had it fixed twice then gave up on it.
     
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  3. Gjguitarmn

    Gjguitarmn TDPRI Member

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    I listed carefully to the differences when I was about to make my purchase (Taylor was the winner). Any differences in inherent tone (and by the way, I like the brightness of the Taylor) are more than compensated by plugging the Taylor into a good amp.
     
  4. Frank Entele

    Frank Entele TDPRI Member

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    this. A lot of us grew up with the BIG sound of a Martin as defining acoustic guitar. It’s a Martin for me, but I appreciate Taylor’s, Guild’s Gibby’s and even Ovation. Buy the one (or two) that float your boat.
     
  5. Chiogtr4x

    Chiogtr4x Doctor of Teleocity

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    I actually like the sound and necks of Ovations ( in my College band 1979!, our lead singer played a Glen Campbell one).
    But I'm fat, and with that rounded back, it was like a beachball holding a beachball!
    But they are the ones ( maybe you don't like the tone, different issue) that first figured out how to amplify an acoustic at rock volume.

    Still, my taste, reference of great sound and playability ( if properly setup), goes right to a Martin, with a J-45 being a close 2nd.
     
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  6. Jay Jernigan

    Jay Jernigan Tele-Afflicted

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    I came late to the acoustic party. Tried a few in my youth and just wanted to play electric.
    Now I have a Taylor that I have owned for more than ten years and I have gotten a lot of use out of it. It was the second cheapest one made, at the time, but a Taylor in sound and playability.
    A few months ago I picked up a Martin. Also not a high end guitar, but after a little tweaking, an awesome thing. Sounds good acoustically, sounds great Plugged in.
    I dropped the tuning down a step on the Taylor and that's just what it needed.
     
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  7. IceGator8

    IceGator8 TDPRI Member

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    I love all the brands. Martin dreadnaughts definitely have that woody tone that makes me feel warm inside. However, I've found Taylor acoustics to be far more consistent from a manufacturing perspective. The guitar that gets a vast majority of gigs and studio sessions is my Taylor 30th Anniversary 414. It's money and the tone has mellowed with age.

    I've picked up a Larrivee that had frets that had been worked over by some Nashville luthier. I think he removed and then superglued them in. There's literally superglue on each side of the frets that has been blended into the fret. This fret job wasn't mentioned in the sale listing so I was a bit freaked out when I saw it. Then I played the guitar and it was amazing. My hat is off to that Nashville luthier and his freaky fret job.

    Earlier in the thread someone mentioned how certain guitars were more popular in certain genres or eras. I think this is more caused by how brands fade in and out of popularity. In the late eighties, everyone was trying to get their hands on an Ibanez superstrat. Almost no one (that Slash guy being an exception) was rocking Les Pauls. Then superstrats became like some sort of plague and everyone started buying vintage-style instruments. The same trend happens in acoustic guitars. There were no Taylors in the sixties and seventies so Martin, Guild and Gibson were everyone's jam. Bob Taylor starts up his shop and by the nineties, Taylor (and Takamine) were the popular kids on the block. Fast forward twenty years and all my singer-songwriter friends were trading their Taylors for Gibsons which had become the hipster guitar of choice. (I always fight these trends and continued playing Taylor out of spite.) Meanwhile, Martin has been cruising along making great instruments and continuing to capture the purist crowd. As for me I just continue to play a variety and pick up the guitars that speak to me. The latest is a Breedlove.

    I guess the point of my rambling is that there is no best (except maybe the Yamaha Red Labels for bang for the buck) acoustic. All have their place and most of the major manufacturers make great instruments. Now excuse me while I try to find a Santa Cruz for under $3k. ;)
     
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  8. zamdrang

    zamdrang TDPRI Member

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    I owned a Taylor 314ce for a few years, and have played many other Taylors just to confirm. I agree with the bright comment, I'm not sure I agree with thin, but I do prefer something rounder and warmer then what I hear from Taylors
     
  9. decibel

    decibel Tele-Meister

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    Taylors are bright and thin. I think your ears are correct.
    Be glad you have your high end hearing. Many don't.
     
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  10. dreamsinger

    dreamsinger TDPRI Member

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    The differences are sometimes subtle. In my experience I've found that it's easier to find a dud Martin than a toneless Taylor. Martin, with its century long history, is regarded as the benchmark for high end guitar sound. It's undeserved unless you find a pre-war that no one who actually plays can afford. I blame Martin's neck joint as the problem. The neck joint has more of an effect on tone than laymen realize. Any gaps and glue squeeze out degrades tone like a buffer in the vibration chain. Making one correctly take the kind of time and careful fitting that production workers are seldom equipped or allowed to do. Taylor's neck joint is precise and consistent and the bonus is that if the Taylor ever needs a neck reset it's a slam dunk one day job. Resetting a Martin or any other guitar with a dovetail takes time, a lot of money and many times, a fret job. You might be surprised at how discerning your ears can be if you don't know what you're playing. While shopping for my first high end acoustic the shop owner sat me in a corner of the concrete walls in the basement, turned out the lights and started handing me guitars. The one I liked best was one I was actually repulsed by visually. I'm not a fan of bling on guitars but my ears and hands picked an abalone encrusted Larrivee C-10. I gagged but I bought it. Another tip; don't limit yourself to Martin or Taylor. Check out Santa Cruz or Collings. Maybe even explore the possibility of something from a boutique luthier like Roy McAlister or Brent McElroy. The bottom line; get your mind's preconceived notions out of the equation and let your ears and hands choose.
     
  11. oregomike

    oregomike Tele-Meister

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    This is why it’s important to test drive, yourself. There are only a couple brands I’d be comfortable buying over the internets. And I ended up doing just that, once. It was a Collings OM1AT and was just jaw dropping amazing. Also, check out Thompson and Santa Cruz.
     
  12. biblebound

    biblebound TDPRI Member

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    As others have mentioned, Taylors are well made guitars, but IMO they do generally tend to have a different voicing than Martins. I prefer Martins and have owned many over the years. I have a D-18GE that I will never sell as it's tone is glorious. Another consideration is resale value; even in swapping and trading used Martins, I have often made money, which is unusual with non-vintage guitars.
     
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  13. Jim622

    Jim622 Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    When I was looking for an acoustic. I played everything Martin, Gibson, Taylor’s, Seagulls. I did not, not play one, because of price. I played $5000 guitars though I was not prepared to pay over $1500. The guitar I enjoyed the most and bought was a Takamine EG530SC. Cost $490 without the case. Like has been said, go with your ears and hands. Not the name on the head stock. It reminds me of my son with his high end plain white tees.
     
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  14. Andy ZZ

    Andy ZZ TDPRI Member

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    I dont know about the Taylor = bright thing. I've had a ton of acoutstics over the 55 years I've been playing.
    I finally landed on a 514ce that has huge, round and thunderous tone.
    If anything it's a bit dark, but that may be my ears. My J200 was jangly compared to the Taylor. So was my old Ovation Ultra.
    I liked the Martin's I had, and was always after the Doc Watson tone, but could not get there with the models I tried over the years.
    Just 2 cents.
     
  15. crafty

    crafty TDPRI Member

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    Taylors used to sound brighter when they're new because they use lighter bracing and the soundboards are brand new. Their most popular size is the Grand Auditorium, which is a smaller, lighter and thinner-sounding guitar and became the definitive "Taylor" sound. Most of them tend to mellow out over time. I have an original Big Baby that's about 20 years old and has mellowed a lot. Martin is known for using heavier bracing and tops, and the "dreadnaught sound" from the '60s, but they've actually become competitive with Taylor on electronics and adopting modern bracing systems. I view them as sort of the Fender and Gibson of the acoustic world (yes, I know Fender and Gibson make acoustics, but I don't consider them on the same level), and Larrivee kind of rides the middle in between both.
     
  16. Tom Grattan

    Tom Grattan TDPRI Member Silver Supporter

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    Subjective, subjective, subjective. I've got an early Martin 0 18 that IMO is a great guitar. Tiny body, big sound that covers all my bases. I've never cared for Taylors but have no logical reason as I've played a few but they just didn't do it for me. Subjective.
     
  17. barnaclebill

    barnaclebill TDPRI Member

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    A really interesting thread! I've owned Taylor and Larrivee and Seagull (at one time I had a Taylor big baby and a Seagull parlour and didn't want two similar guitars- so I sold the Taylor. I still have the Seagull). After several years I sold the Larrivee for a 000 Martin after listening to a friend's Martin. I still have that one. You mentioned the Maton and I have a Maton M225; it's the one that I reach for when I want to sing John Denver songs (except "This old Guitar" which I finger pick on the Martin). Which leads me to the context. What do you want to do with your expensive guitar? If you are primarily a singer you will need an instrument that compliments your voice. When I brought my Maton home I played non stop for a couple of hours reveling in the joy of having a guitar that worked well with my singing. And it's all subjective - I've recorded enough of my singing/playing to know that what I hear when I'm playing is not the same as what is heard by a listener. As the saying goes I know what I like! The maton is a bit brighter than the Taylors I've owned but it seems a bit more rounded to my ears. And I use K&K pure mini pickups in both the guitars I play amplified. And I've never yet come across a guitar that didn't benefit to some extent from tweaking the setup.
     
  18. davidge1

    davidge1 Friend of Leo's

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    I have a Taylor dreadnaught, and it's anything but thin. It sounds big and full and loud... as good as any by any other brand IMO. The guitar also plays perfectly, with very low action.
     
  19. dlxtele

    dlxtele TDPRI Member Silver Supporter

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    BTW Martin in general will not repair a guitar that needs a neck reset after the instrument reaches an age of 10 to 12 years.
    dlxtele
     
  20. Whitebeard

    Whitebeard TDPRI Member

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    Martin's 000-18 has a mahogany back & sides.
    The 412ce Taylor is currently producing has a ovangkol back and sides with a venitian cutaway. The 414 they produced from 1998-2006 has the same shape as the Martin (no-cutaway) and also has ovangkol back and sides.
    When you played them did you use a pick? If yes try again with your fingers. Also record them both so you can listen without playing. You should hear a difference.
    I think you will find that Taylor provides more guitar for the money (meaning a Martin of the same quality will cost more). I think you will also find that the Martins will have a higher overall resale price because of their long history/brand recognition/reputation. Good luck.
     
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