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Discussion in 'Jazz, Acoustic, Classical & Fingerstyle' started by TedEH, Oct 24, 2018.
Don't tempt me maaaaan.
Well, you're already saying that "it's just not 'the real deal'", so I'd say that this matters to you, even if it is just the name. For what it's worth, those Sigmas are good guitars, but they are not as responsive or loud as a standard series Martin.
Yep - this is always the correct answer.
I walked into a L&M this weekend and they had a D-15M on the wall, so I couldn't not play it. Other guitars were heavier, lighter, brighter, etc., but I kept grabbing other guitars, noodling for a minute, then putting them back down and picking the 15 back up. Something about the way the body resonates on these is really pleasing. Sort of like most of the other instruments are made to project forward and be loud and cutting - but the 15 didn't react the same way. I think it might be the mahogany itself, since that's the one thing that was entirely unique to this instrument compared to the other ones.
The best way I can describe it: One thing I was doing as a sort of "test" to see how the guitars reacted - I did a sort of pick scrape ending with a big ol' mute/chug on the low E. I know that's more a metal thing, and not something most people do on acoustics, but it's the kind of nonsense I might do with an acoustic anyway. Some guitars reacted to the mute by just having a choppy percussive sound that mostly stopped there. Others would sort of resonate a bit with it, in kind of a boxy way, then die off pretty quick. The mahogany body seemed to be the only one that really liked the mute sound - the whole body reacted to it, so you could sort of feel it, and it didn't just chop and die off right away. The best analogy I can think of is when you chug away through a Recto - it has that low end that sort of blooms out from under the initial attack and you can feel it happening, where a really dry amp just immediately dies off after the initial dig.
So.... the mahogany guitar is comparable to a loose dirty amp compared to a quick and dry amp.
The only thing that bugs me about it is that the factory action is a bit on the high end. It seems to be a pattern with all Martins -> they all have more height at the bridge than I expected. Maybe this is an intentional way to give a lot of room for personal setups? Is it supposed to be part of the buying process that you would get a setup done to drop this down to where you want it? Maybe someone who has bought more acoustics than I can explain if this is how it's supposed to work. It's not so high that I couldn't get along with it, but it seems like it's higher than most would want it to be.
I've noticed that I've quite enjoyed any Larrivee I picked up as well. So far I'm really leaning towards saving up some money and grabbing a 15M in a couple o months. Current research leaves the list at:
D-15M (for the mojo) > Larrivee D-03 (Has some dreadnought mojo, but also is pretty bright) > Taylor (pretty much any one, they're all pretty good) > Any other Martin > Everything else.
If I had a ton of money to throw away, I'd grab the Martin, but ALSO a Taylor 814 -> It's way out of my price range, and too far from "my sound" to be my main acoustic, but these were also really enjoyable to play, for entirely different reasons than the others. They're just so big and active and present, etc. They're also very expensive.
This is intentional. Martin leaves the action a bit high so that the shop selling the guitar can set it up to the buyer's preferences because people look for different things in action (finger style players typically like low action, bluegrass players have to have higher action because they beat the hell out of the guitar trying to be heard alongside the banjo and violin/fiddle, etc.). Note that Martin expects that the shop will set the guitar up free of charge; the cost f the setup is included in the price of the guitar.
Before you buy, try to get your hands on a Guild D20. It is also an all mahogany dred at the same price point as the D15M, but it is a little warmer than the Martin (more lows, less highs). Between the two, you should have a preference for one over the other.
Cooool. My plan was to definitely try to negotiate the setup into the price of the guitar if it wasn't already included. At that price, I'd be pretty disappointed if they can't do a setup.
If I can find a D20, I'll try that for sure. Gut reaction is that I'd probably still like the Martin better, just in the sense that I'd be worried about it getting tooo dark.
Yeah, that's a possibility.
As the owner of a MC-16 with a mahogany back and sides, yeah, I can confirm there's something warm and "big" about the way notes bloom.
Have you tried a D-18 or something that's similar in construction to one?
I ask because of what you write about the chugging on the mahogany guitar. I love my D-18 for playing metal stuff with a thinner tortex pick because of how the palm mutes behave. It does feel a bit like playing a high gain tube amp.
However... I also have a D-15M actually, and it doesn't do the palm mutes like the D-18 does. (Nor did the D-28's/35's I've tried, but then they're rosewood!) If you like the D-15M maybe you would like the D-18 even more. I know that the D-18 is almost twice the price of the D-15M but (I mentioned this earlier in the thread) there are Chinese made guitars similar in construction to a D-18 that many people seem to like (Eastman and Blueridge are the brands that come to my mind but maybe there are others too). I haven't played these but in hindsight I think for me buying one of those would probably have been a better a better idea than getting the D-15M. Of course, you might very well prefer the 15 when all is said and done, but if you can get your hands on a mahogany/spruce guitar with probably forward shifted scalloped X bracing, maybe it'd be worth giving it a try.
I can't remember if I found an 18 yet, but I'm not rushing into anything, so I'd not hesitate to try one if I find one. I definitely found some of the $3k+ CAD models (mostly a couple of variations of D-21 I think), and they were certainly good guitars, but outside of what I think I'm willing to spend, and didn't have that dark thing that Mahogany does.
I'm hesitant to buy something that's just a cheaper version of a Martin design (Blueridge, Sigma, etc) since that's more or less what I have already, and I think it would leave me wanting more again. A few posts up, I mentioned that I had tried a Sigma that was pretty much the exact same design as the 15M - it very well might be exactly the same design from what I understand of the history of Sigma, just with a slightly cheaper construction, and I think that's the only thing I'd consider so far in terms of knock-off/cheaper variants now that I've got an idea of what I'm aiming for.
But you never know, maybe my circumstances will change, or I'll just run into something that speaks to me and I'll grab it. Wouldn't be the first time I picked up a guitar on feel alone.
Hm, that Sigma is a pretty cheap guitar that doesn't even have solid back and sides. I wouldn't generalize based on that. Not all guitars made in the Far East are of the same quality. But if it's more about them not being the real thing, then yeah, I mean, that's a valid point and something I can definately relate to.
But maybe you should avoid trying the D-18 then.
Back in the 80's and early 90's, Martin owned Sigma and had them made in Japan as a lower cost option than their US made instruments and these are pretty good guitars. It looks like they may be under a different ownership now (AMI) and the quality is probably not the same, so I would only recommend the older ones unless you can try it first hand and approve of the particular instrument.
The Sigma I tried was a used one - I have no idea how old it was. If I had to guess, it was all solid though.
Probably an older one, then.
I think the older Sigmas had laminate back/sides too.
And Martin D-15 wasn't introduced until 1997, so it's probably not from before that.
An update for anyone who would be interested: After months of noodling with guitars in stores and just not finding anything else that gets me quite as excited to pick up, I ordered the D-15M. I've been going back to the shop to try things (and for other non-acoustic reasons) and kept coming back to the Streetmaster model they had on the shelf, which is in theory the same but with some relic'ing. Since Martin apparently doesn't ship anything here in the winter because of the humidity difference, they're shipping me one that they had in stock in Toronto. Nooooow I just wait...
Let us know your thoughts once you have it in hand.
When you palm mute the low E on an acoustic guitar, you are cutting out most the harmonics which leaves you with more of the fundamental pitch. That is the low end. The “bloom” occurs when you lift your palm off the string. This allows the harmonics that we’re cut to begin to resonate and gradually build up, hence the “bloom” description.
I encourage you to take this one step further. At the 6th fret, fret a Perfect 4th on the low A and E strings. With your right hand, palm the bridge, pluck the 2 strings using a quick downstroke until you find the “sweet spot.” You will know the sweet spot when you find it. The pitch produced is called a “resultant tone” and in this instance should be an Eb slightly below 40Hz (E). It should be in the high 30’s. (37, 38, 39) Slowly, remove your palm and the harmonics will start “blooming.” It takes experimentation. It is also difficult to explain over the internet. Pipe Organs use resultant tones to compensate for the lack 64’ and 32’ pipes but the effect is so refined you would not be able to hear the difference. The guitar is less refined in this regard.
On my 7 string classical, I do what I just described but on the low E and B strings. My tuner registers a resultant tone of Bb at 29.7Hz. If you want to know more, Google or Wiki resultant tones, sum/difference tones, and pipe organs.
I'm sure that's a thing, but it's not quite what I was referring to when I posted that comment.
What I meant to say by bloom when muting was more that the body of the instrument seemed willing to resonate along with the lower leftover content from a mute once the harmonics had been killed off - as opposed to most guitars that either kill off that low end leaving you with just a stiff "chunk" and some pick noise, or projecting it forward and away from the player who doesn't otherwise "feel" the low end of the mute anymore.
Pick up a Taylor and mute on it and you get.... a quick "k'junk" and that's it. Done. Mute on a Martin and you get more "k'JUuuu...." that sustains for a bit, but it's still mostly projected forward. This particular one I'm looking at (and hopefully the one I ordered does the same thing and it wasn't a fluke) goes a step farther and the whole body resonates with the note. It could be the material it's made from, or the bracing, or something about the finish, but the whole body resonates in a way that most acoustics don't.