Recommend some better-than-entry-level acoustic

Discussion in 'Jazz, Acoustic, Classical & Fingerstyle' started by TedEH, Oct 24, 2018.

  1. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    Pretty simple -> I'm looking potentially for another acoustic. It's getting close to xmas+bday time of the year, and I usually use this as an opportunity to just buy myself a thing, because why not. I currently have an acoustic but it's old and playing it is a bit of a fight - intonation isn't quite right anymore, the action is kind of off, the whole thing is kind of beat up. I don't think it was ever a fantastic instrument, but it served its time. It might be time for an acoustic that isn't on the cheapest end, isn't 30 years old, and isn't beaten to death.

    What I'm looking for is something that:
    - Is dreadnought shaped, or at least pretty close.
    - Could consider with a cutaway, but not picky either way
    - Preferably a natural-ish finish, no bursts or anything
    - Doesn't sound dull. Loud is good. Bright is good.
    - Electronics or not, doesn't matter.

    I've looked so far at:
    - Martin DX1
    - Martin D16
    - Seagull S6 Mahogany

    I think that I'm a fan of the general vibe of Martin D - type guitars, and derivatives of that design. Seagull (and other Godin brands) seem like a good value for price, since they're Canadian made, so you tend to get solid woods for much cheaper this way. Also Seagull stuff usually plays pretty well.

    Lets say budget is max $1500. Any recommendations for other things I should try? In the end though, I imagine it'll be down to whatever speaks to me when I pick it up.
     
  2. KnightBrolaire

    KnightBrolaire unofficial sso pickup tester

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    acoustics are very much a try before you buy situation ime, moreso than electrics. Big price points don't necessarily mean that the guitars are going to sound better to you. I've played ibanez/seagulls/godins that more than hold their own against taylors and martins, with some sounding way better. I can't really recommend an individual model besides a rainsong (if you get the chance to play one) dreadnought. Those are amazing and wiped the floor with comparably priced martins/taylors (and a surprising number of even more expensive taylors).
     
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  3. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    I think that's a lot of why I've been leaning towards the Seagulls. Even their cheaper models look, play, and sound really nice. I noodled with the Mahogany S6 and kept coming back to it. They had an S6 original right next to it, but I liked the mahogany more.

    I feel like these also tend to be hit-or-miss within the same models. And, unfortunately, in-store guitars tend to have crummy old strings that kill the experience. So I think I need to find a store that maintains their stuff and just have at em.

    I'm still all ears for suggestions on things to try.
     
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  4. tedtan

    tedtan SS.org Regular

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    A used Martin D-18 made in the last few years (they were redesigned in 2012) will tick all of your boxes and be a lifetime guitar, but it will be at the upper end of your stated budget. The Seagulls are nice, but if you opt to go that route, you'll probably end up upgrading over time, especially if volume is a concern.

    But if you're willing to spend the money, I say bite the bullet and buy once - that way you only cry once.
     
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  5. High Plains Drifter

    High Plains Drifter SS.org Regular

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    I'm looking at upgrading my low-budget Taylor 110 series with something more substantial. Recently I've begun comparing specs, construction, woods, etc... and I keep coming back to the PRS SE Angelus series. I'm also a fan of the Fishman GT1 electronics, ebony board, mahogany neck, and bone nut/ saddle. IMO they sound fantastic and for under $1k I think they're worth looking at. Good luck on your search.
     
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  6. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    It's super tempting to expand the budget a bit and go for something super nice.
    OR
    Go way overboard and get something built.
     
  7. JohnIce

    JohnIce Singlecoil Enthusiast

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    I'm super with you in being tired of dull sounding acoustics without enough brightness. I really think you should consider Taylor, then. I own two 114 series (a 6 and a 12) and I can't recommend them enough. I used to have a Martin Dreadnought, can't remember the model but it was in the $1000 range. I've had a few other brands in that range as well. The Taylors definitely play more like electrics, that's kind of what they're known for, but the main thing I like about them is that they sound "mixed" if that makes any sense. They have a naturally scooped midrange unlike the Martins (and most acoustics really) which I find to be middier and "harder" sounding and needing an EQ to get a smooth strumming sound out of. Being that the Taylors don't have such a powerful midrange, you hear more of the brightness/detail of the strings which makes them less picky about mic choice, so they record very well in my opinion. You can throw pretty much any mic anywhere on it and it'll sound ok, never experienced that with other acoustics.
     
  8. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    Part of me wants to go a slightly less traditional route, and get something that isn't quite the same off-the-shelf stuff you see everywhere.

    These look cool:
    https://www.riversongguitars.com/

    I've also tried a couple of guitars by this guy before, and have always wanted one since:
    http://dkguitars.com/
    (The site's a bit broken right now, I think?)

    Edit: The site is kinda wonky for me, but his facebook has lots of cool photos:
    https://www.facebook.com/DKGuitarsCanada/
     
  9. gnoll

    gnoll SS.org Regular

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    I would try as many guitars as possible and try to figure out what you like in an acoustic guitar before dropping a bigger amount of money on one. Do you like more of the Martin, Taylor or Gibson sound, or something else? Do you like mahogany or rosewood or something else for back/sides? Do you like a top wood other than spruce? What type of bracing pattern do you like? Do you like the bracing forward or rear-shifted? Scalloped? There are lots of things that influence the sound of an acoustic guitar. Again, best is of course to try as much as possible, but there's also a lot of good demos on youtube comparing different models and guitars with different construction specs.

    I dropped about your budget (slightly less) on a good acoustic a bunch of years ago and ended up with a guitar I never bonded with. Over the years the fact that I never really liked that guitar triggered me to do more research and figure out what I actually like. Then I bought another guitar and got it right. I wish I'd done the proper research from the start, though.
     
  10. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    I'm certainly not rushing into anything. Trying all the things is definitely the plan. Maybe I won't buy anything at all. :lol:
     
  11. gnoll

    gnoll SS.org Regular

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    Have you checked out Larrivée? They're also Canadian, although I think they moved production to California recently... Anyway they're known for using very good wood and having quite a balanced sound.

    If you like the sound of Martin Dreadnoughts maybe it would be worth it to check out the similar Chinese made guitars like Blueridge and Eastman. That way you can get similar specs to the higher end Martins but for a lower price. The cheaper Martin Dreads have different specs to the dovetail guitars and don't sound the same. Not necessarily worse, but if you like guitars like the D-18, D-28 etc. but don't wanna spend that money then I would probably look into another brand rather than getting a cheaper Martin.
     
  12. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    Because of how much I seem to lean towards the Martin D style stuff, I had looked at their X series stuff - the ones with the laminate sides and backs - and they're not terrible. Seemed a bit hit or miss though in terms of sound. One I picked up I think sounded convincingly good, and another I grabbed another time was disappointing. I can't tell if it was a question of told/bad strings, stuff in the store just not being maintained, etc. Larrivee is another brand I've been aware of, but I haven't tried one yet. Will check that out next time I'm at a shop.
     
  13. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    As a Martin owner, I'll second this.

    Whether or not it's the right fit for you is a matter of just going out and playing a whole bunch of guitars and deciding what works for you. And, in my particular case, it wasn't - I bought my acoustic (a Martin MC16GTE) used in my old local shop which was otherwise a Taylor dealer, with my first post-college paycheck, and after playing a whole bunch of nice Taylors picked this one up, and after a few minutes a guitar that initially sounded "restrained" and kind of weak in the high end began to sound balanced and even. I initially left the store without it, made it as far as the parking lot, before I doubled back and bought the thing. :lol:

    But... If you want a loud, bright, punchy guitar, a Martin is the first place I'd look. They do sound very modern, almost to the point of being a little "hyped" sounding, which may or may not be a good thing - for what you're saying, I suspect you'll like it. I can make my Martin sound like that, but it takes some EQing, clearing out the midrange and adding some high end shimmer.

    And a really nice acoustic is worth spending money on. Mine actually tried to commit suicide a few years ago when the strap slipped off and it caught the corner of my dining table, splitting the side - my local luthier was able to repair it and if anything it sounds better than it used to (there was also an odd resonance in one of the braces he addressed), but I spent the time it was in the shop going out and playing acoustics and looking for a "nicer" one to buy (mine's sort of a midrange Martin, the same basic construction of a D-series but without any of the nicer cosmetic touches and a synthetic bridge and fretboard), and I kept thinking whenever I picked something up that it was nice, but I just wanted my own guitar back. Maybe one of these days I'll find something that really floors me, but the one I have is now a 20-year-old Martin that was a splurge at the time, but it plays comfortably, I've made a LOT of music with it, and I think if I were to find something that would so clearly eclipse it that I'd want to upgrade, it would involve spending a LOT of money on something, potentially something used with some age on it.

    That said - as far as more "budget" brands I've played that I've liked the sound of, Seagull is usually very good, some of the better Alvarez guitars I've played are way nicer than their price would suggest, and I've played a couple affordable Breedloves that were quite nice, too.
     
  14. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    I'd honestly be more concerned with in-the-room sound than recorded sound. Something I could noodle with at home, play for small groups of people, use for shows, etc. I've been liking the idea of trying to book some small acoustic shows for those in-between times when the bands aren't doing much - but it's a secondary concern to just having an instrument that I can sort of 'gel' with in any situation.
     
  15. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    Yeah, that's why I think something in the Taylor sort of family might do it for you. Right out of the box, I suspect you'll be very happy with how it sounds when you just pick it up and strum. And, not that I'm not, but it's just a very different sounding guitar...

    Also, maybe a bit of a longshot, but if you want something very "contemporary" sounding and looking, a Rainsong might interest you. A college buddy of mine owned one - I recall it being a seriously clear guitar, bright high end and piano-esq lows. And they're certainly visually striking...
     
  16. tedtan

    tedtan SS.org Regular

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    Specifically the re-voiced D18. It is loud, bright, punchy and has a very comfortable (Taylor inspired) neck carve, so it will play as well as a Taylor, and can be found in your stated price range (used, but very good condition). It's definitely worth checking out before making a final decision. Maybe a 0000/Jumbo body style, too.


    I mainly played acoustic guitar from 2012 through 2015, though I still played electric during that time as well, and made it a mission to find the best acoustic guitar for me I could; one that fit like a glove, so to speak. Not that I was unhappy with my Taylor 814ce that I was playing at the time, I just wanted to see what else was available. And having family spread out throughout the US, I used trips to visit family as an excuse to check out some of the better guitar shops in each city I traveled to (Austin Vintage, Hill Country, et al. in Austin; Gruhn's, Carter Vintage, Cotton, Artisan, et al. in Nashville; Dusty Strings, The Guitar Store, Emerald City, et al. in Seattle; and so on).

    In that time I was fortunate enough to get to play everything from typical $2K Martin/Taylor/Gibson/et al. guitars to $5-10K boutique builder guitars by Collings/Santa Cruz/Huss and Dalton/Goodall/Bourgeois/et al. on to $20K hand made Olson/Ryan/Petros/et al. custom guitars, to prewar Martin and Gibson guitars into the $80-100K price range. All told, I probably played several hundred guitars in period (in addition to the couple hundred I had played previously).

    And out of all of those guitars, only three grabbed my attention and screamed BUY ME! One was a Goodall RGCC ($5,500), one was a Huss and Dalton DS with "special" wood ($6,500) and one was a banner era Gibson J45 (a 1944 model with mahogany top; $9,000). Those custom built guitars were great, too, as were the prewar guitars. But only these three jumped out at me. And while I would love to have brought them home, I couldn't justify buying them, so I left the store empty handed each time. But that Goodall haunted me, so over the next month or so, I called the shop several times to negotiate the price and finally got it down to a price that was, while still more than I wanted to spend, at least justifiable. I've had that Goodall for three and a half years now, and it is still the best fit for me that I have found, so I don't regret splurging on it.

    Long story summed up, Martin/Taylor/Gibson/Guild/Larrivee/at al. make great guitars. To get a better guitar, you gut instinct that you will have to shell out a chunk of change is spot on.

    As an aside, I also played a lot of vintage Gibson and Fender electrics from the 50's and 60's during that time and can say from my experience that most I've played were not great instruments. Sure, there are a few vintage guitars that are, whether due to manufacturing tolerances, component values drifting over the years, or something else, special instruments. But most of those are already in the hands of pros, producers, studios, etc. The typical vintage guitar is well worn (to the point of being worn out) and nothing special, either. Give me a modern guitar instead.
     
  17. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    Dammit, that was a typo, lol. A TAYLOR is the first place I'd look. :lol: I haven't played the new D-18 though, so I'll try to track one down some time.
     
  18. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    Coooool, will take a look into those.

    On the topic of vintage guitars - I suppose the "vintage" sound is what I've sort of gotten used to. The two acoustics I've owned are both above the 30 year old mark at this point, and the last 12 string I really enjoyed playing was around the same age. There's something that age does to an acoustic that I like (depending on the guitar of course). Unfortunately, while gaining something in character, they certainly lose certain elements of playability.
     
  19. LordIronSpatula

    LordIronSpatula Indeed.

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    I would also suggest a Taylor. If you go used, you could probably get some of that broken-in character you like, and in a higher-end series than you could afford new. Plus Taylors are built for adjustment with their removable necks etc, so that like-new playability is probably still attainable. The trouble would be finding one you can try before buying...

    Not everyone is a fan of their expression system electronics, though you don't seem to be too picky on that front. At least they're unobtrusive...
     
  20. gnoll

    gnoll SS.org Regular

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    When you say bright my instinct is also to say Taylor or something along those lines, but you also mention vintage and Martin Dreads, which feels a bit like going in the opposite direction. Not that Martins can't be bright, but those two have kind of different approaches to making guitars. I don't know that much about Taylors though, I just played the ones I came across and concluded they weren't really my thing.

    The new D-18 is my current guitar actually. I would say it's loud but not necessarily bright exactly. The sound is pretty midrangey from the mahogany, and the forward-shifted scalloped bracing gives it a lot of power and projection. Strum a loud chord on it and you can really feel it. It really growls in a way I haven't heard another acoustic do. That's what I like about it.
     

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