Having trouble finding a good acoustic

Discussion in 'Acoustic Heaven' started by Torz Johnson, Dec 22, 2019.

  1. Torz Johnson

    Torz Johnson Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Many years ago, a friend of mine had a high end Takamine that sounded unbelievable. The notes just jumped out of it. I've played other acoustics as well, although they weren't in the same league as the Takamine they were pretty good.

    I don't think I've seen any high end Takamines in the stores I go to. But they do have the brands I've heard of the most: Martin and Taylor. I've always heard of how great the D28 and D18 are... Yesterday I went shopping, prepared to lay down some serious cash for the right guitar.

    I played 2 D18's, an D28 and several Taylors with price tags similar to the Martins. I was pretty underwhelmed. I thought these guitars would be cannons, but they sounded weak and muffled. People talking a few feet away pretty much drowned them out. A $235 Chinese acoustic (Eastman?) was louder and projected better.

    So was it dead strings? On all of them? Do I have unrealistic expectations? Is it hard to judge sound in a wide open showroom?

    Please give me your thoughts and recommendations.
     
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  2. 8barlouie

    8barlouie Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    It’s possible that both the Martins and Taylor’s were duds, but highly unlikely. Maybe the strings were old. Maybe the setup was lousy. One way I check out the soundness of an acoustic is to rub my hand along the sides of the body. If the sound resonates like you’re dragging 200 grit sandpaper across the sides, chances are you got a good one.
     
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  3. Guitarteach

    Guitarteach Poster Extraordinaire

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    Get someone to play them for you.

    i keep reverting back to Yamaha despite repeatedly trying lots of Martins and Taylors. A Larrivee nearly won me over.
     
  4. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Friend of Leo's

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    Yes to all your questions. Many new guitars are very "tight" when they are first built and take some time to "open up". I build guitars and are often a bit underwhelmed when I first string them up but with some time and playing they develop volume and complexity. Some woods like cedar don't seem to need any break in, stiff spruces are like good wines that continue to improve with age.

    There are all sorts of explanations for this - resins in the wood crystalizing, the vibration of the wood changing its stiffness. There have been things proposed to help speed this up - the top vibrator thingie (which is an offshoot of putting your guitar in front of a loud speaker. In recent years "torrified" wood has become the rage - spruce is baked at a moderate temperature to cause the same sorts of changes that aging does (or is supposed to).

    Often guitars that seem to be very lively and loud at first are that way because they are very lightly braced which can result in problems down the line. However it is also possible to lighten the bracing in an already built guitar - remember that commercial guitars are built in mass to a pretty conservative design.

    Your friends Tak may have been an exceptional guitar to start with, it may have aged very well, it is possible that your hearing and recollection is colored. There have been some very interesting experiments in "psycho-audiology" - the way our hearing seems to be influenced by all the outside factors. I have been a part of a couple of blind listening tests at GAL conferences - we often hear what we want to hear.

    Bottom line, most of the time if you like what you are hearing in a new guitar it will only get better. Most of the time older guitars sound good because they are old and have had time to open up. You are wise to play everything you can, let you own ears and fingers speak to you, and choose accordingly.

    ps - I'm going to add that many new Martins and Taylors don't impress me at all, but I have been impressed by every Eastman I've ever played. How important is the name on the head?
     
  5. Dismalhead

    Dismalhead Poster Extraordinaire

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    It may have been dead strings, but more than likely they didn't have good setups.

    I have also played many Martins and Taylors expecting ecstasy and been disappointingly underwhelmed. I ended up finding a Seagull for far less that played and sounded better to my fingers and ears.
     
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  6. loco gringo

    loco gringo Tele-Holic Ad Free Member

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    See if you can find a store that has Huss & Dalton, Santa Cruz, and Bourgeois guitars. I bet you find your cannon.

    Specifically, if you are interested in a D18, try a H & D TD-M. If you can find one with an adirondack top, even better.

    Bourgeois Banjo Killers are amazing guitars, too. Santa Cruz makes some killer dreads as well. I've played some really good Eastmans, too.
     
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  7. Texicaster

    Texicaster Tele-Afflicted

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    As with anything....what's your budget?


    I suggest trying a Collings. D1A's are my favorites. Can be had used ~$3000 last I shopped. I bought a new one for ~$4200 a few years ago and best investment I've made!
     
  8. Switchy

    Switchy Tele-Afflicted

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    Perhaps it's just over hyped by your memories? Kinda like I expected Shakeys pizza to be the most delicious pizza on earth many years later. As a child, I remember it was the greatest, cheesy goodness, with corn flour underneath which added to the flavor, almost yeasty beer flavor. But no. It was just normal pizza when I finally went back.
     
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  9. Obsessed

    Obsessed Telefied Ad Free Member

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    I have an Eastman parlor that projects way better than any other parlor that I have ever played and it keeps getting better as it ages. Not sure why this is, but I must admit that it is not a traditional parlor sound. I was aiming for a unique sound and got it. Not sure what is making the beautiful tones, but it seems like the pattern shape of the body is a cross between a Gibson and a Martin. Some thing special is happening at Eastman IMO.
     
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  10. Milspec

    Milspec Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    Maybe look for a Martin D16....those always surprised me with their volume.
     
  11. charlie chitlin

    charlie chitlin Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    I'm not an acoustic guy, so I tend to like different sounds than are supposed to be great.
    Taylors and Martins don't do it for me.
    I like the Yamaha FG series.
    I find it helpful to stand close to a hard wall when trying an acoustic.
     
  12. Texicaster

    Texicaster Tele-Afflicted

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    NO!

    Shakey's WAS THE BEST!!!!

    I can still taste it and nothing ever close! I think the name was bought but don't have the 7 cheese recipe!

    :D
     
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  13. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Friend of Leo's

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    Parlor guitars can be amazing loud. I submitted one to the Steel String Listening session at the last GAL conference and a couple of people came up to me and commented on how well it projected. They said they were sitting in the very back of the hall and it was one of the loudest of the guitars played that day.

    I'll add another comment - I own a very nice old D-18 from the "over built" era of the 1970's. Nice guitar, not outstanding. When I had the neck reset a few years ago I had the technician replace the heave rosewood bridge plate with a small maple one and do some thru the sound hole scalloping (we didn't pop the popsicle however). When that guitar came home my wife's comment was "you are playing louder tonight". I didn't think I was doing anything different. I took it to a bluegrass gig and it held up nicely to a 1937 D-18.
     
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  14. JL_LI

    JL_LI Friend of Leo's

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    Don’t dismiss the guitars you played out of hand. Your ears aren’t in front of the sound hole when you play an acoustic. I’d go shopping with a friend. Listen while your friend plays to see if the guitar has opened yet. Play it yourself to judge comfort and ease of playing. If you’re serious but are concerned that strings are holding the guitar back, tell the sales person, manager, or bench tech and ask for the guitar to be restrung. One more thing to consider is a used instrument. You can get a higher spec for your money and owners of acoustic guitars typically take better care of them than rockers playing in bars. You might open your mind to other guitars besides Taylor and Martin too. My #1 acoustic is a Simon and Patrick Showcase Rosewood that I bought gently used. I’d never even heard of the brand but playing it convinced me that I had to have it. Be patient and have an open mind and you’ll find that guitar that’s perfect for you.
     
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2019
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  15. rolandson

    rolandson Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

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    Ain't no difference between electric and acoustic in this regard...keep playing, then, sooner or later "the one" will surface and ...

    all will be as it should be.
     
  16. Fretting out

    Fretting out Friend of Leo's

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    I found out the exact same thing you did a couple months ago I went to the store to find a decent Martin ,All the martins I played just sounded dead I don’t know if it was the strings or not
    I usually don’t go for brands I’ve never heard of but this shop had a couple tanglewood’s (apparently a u.k company that has guitars manufactured in China) I ended up playing one and at least to me it sounded 100 times better than the martins , just brighter and crisper and costs less than half the price of a USA Martin
    I really liked the idea of the Martin and almost took one home thinking “maybe it will sound better later” I couldn’t bring myself to do it at that price so I ended up getting the tanglewood Martin copy and couldn’t be happier
    I don’t really believe price equals better sound these days maybe better quality but good sounding instruments can be had at many price ranges
     
  17. Sparky2

    Sparky2 Friend of Leo's

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    I went into a local guitar store with a friend from work recently, and he was looking for a good playing acoustic guitar.
    The fellow sat down and played guitar after guitar, from all price ranges and brands.

    Believe it or not, the best sounding, best playing guitar that the fellow found was a $300 Yamaha.

    It surprised me.

    :)
    Capture.PNG
     
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  18. drf64

    drf64 Poster Extraordinaire

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    it's hard to judge sound in an open showroom. Get a d-28 and take it home. if it doesn't do you for there, take it back.
     
  19. nedray

    nedray Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

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    Guitars in stores are often hyper humidified, especially this time of year when fear of cracking and checking in higher-end guitars outweighs tonal quality. That can cause dead sounding wood and oxidized strings, which will kill guitar tone. It's hard for me to believe you managed to play nothing but "duds" on your outing to the store, so something else must be going on. Not to mention, your heart may not have been in it the day you shopped, which raised your buyer resistance. All kinds of things in play. Keep at it--you'll connect with one of them--and a Chinese cheapie really isn't a substitute, even if it seems to sound louder and brighter in the store. For one thing, laminated wood isn't subject to the humidity that deadens solid wood, so it very will might sound better at first blush. That still doesn't make it a quality guitar. Good luck. And if you want a cannon, a Martin HD-28 might be more your style.
     
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  20. ndcaster

    ndcaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    there are a lot of dogs...

    it's hard to make an exceptional acoustic

    last weekend I played about twenty vintage Gibsons (I was running an errand, I swear). Only three were better than ok. Only one was outstanding, and it stood out pretty far.

    this was in a big market with lots of turnover. my local GC has a pile of dead boxes. serviceable, but dead. the locked-up Gibbie was pretty but certainly not worth 5k.

    dry wood is the key imo, all else held equal. that's why it's hard to find a really good acoustic. I have an old Fender F-3, a crap guitar when I got it in 83. it's dry as a bone now and rings woody and beautiful. I'm glad I kept it. the neck is crap, so I'm thinking it might be worth it to spend $300 on a new (and wider) neck from a luthier in town.

    that or sell stuff to get a really good vintage Gibson -- probably by kismet at this point

    I've let two now get away... third time's the charm?

    good luck fishing
     
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