Acoustic Noob Asks, 'Do I Need A Better [i.e. More Expensive] Acoustic Guitar?'

Discussion in 'Acoustic Instruments' started by ColorBlindJames, Nov 1, 2019.

  1. ColorBlindJames

    ColorBlindJames Silver Supporting Member

    Nov 17, 2014
    Eastern Tennessee
    Ever since I started playing guitar, I've focused mostly on electric and I've gone through dozens of guitars and amps and hundreds of pedals. I've never really been that interested in acoustic guitars, though I have always had one, mainly just to noodle on while watching TV and the like.

    A few years ago, I bought a Taylor 322, primarily because I had racked up a bunch of store credit with a local guitar shop. They are a Taylor dealer and the 322 was the size and cost that met my very basic requirements, so I ordered one. I've been perfectly happy with it since I got it and haven't really bothered to think about or look for a different acoustic guitar.

    I recently bought a Collings I-35 LC, which is the first semi-hollow electric guitar I've ever owned and I've been kind of floored by just how articulate and responsive it is. I mostly play Teles and while I like my current one a lot, it does not have anything close to the nuance that the Collings has. Everything I do on the Collings is reflected in the tone that is produced and even the lightest picked notes have a clarity and presence about them that is unlike anything produced by any other electric guitar I've ever owned.

    So now I am wondering if this is just a normal thing for 335-type semi-hollow guitars or if this is due to the high quality of Collings guitars in particular. And I am also wondering if a Collings or similarly high-end acoustic guitar will give me the same sort of responsiveness that I am getting from the I-35? I certainly cannot get that type of response from my Taylor and I find myself increasingly playing my I-35 when I am noodling before the TV because of it.

    Like I said, I've never really been all that interested in acoustic guitars before, but now I am starting to think that may be because I have never actually played a really high-quality acoustic. The prospect of getting an acoustic with a responsiveness similar to what I am getting from the Collings is really appealing to me, so any advice anyone here might have would be greatly appreciated.
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2019
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  2. Tony Done

    Tony Done Member

    Oct 20, 2017
    Toowoomba, Australia
    I would be trusting my ears, not price to judge performance, and trying as many as I could in a wide range of prices. It might be that you prefer a Chinese cheapo to an expensive US model, it comes down to personal preference. For example, while I am a great fan of the way Taylors are built (bolt-on neck), I'm mostly not so keen on their tone, and I've consistently preferred the inexpensive 100 and 200 series to the more expensive ones. I have two #1 fingerpicking guitars, and one of them, an old Maton, is all-laminate in which the notes just jump out
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2019
    derekd likes this.
  3. Daytona57

    Daytona57 Member

    Sep 26, 2017
    Funny, I dug out my 1993 Takemine EN10-C, this morning, after not playing it for a long time. Then I read this thread and decided to comment.

    The Tak has a nice playable neck and it is set up like my electric guitars. I had fun playing with it this morning, unplugged.

    I tried an $8,000.00 Taylor and loved it but it was way overpriced for me. I will stick to my Tak, I found it easier to play.

  4. clarkram

    clarkram Member

    Jan 5, 2002
    Woodstock GA
    It sounds like we have similar sonic tastes.
    For the last 5 years or so I split playing time for gigs between a Michael Tuttle Tuned T and an I 35LC.
    I’ll be playing the recently Pleked I35 LC tonite.

    Re: acoustics, about 3 months ago I decided to look for a mid higher end acoustic to enjoy at home.
    After many demos I ended up with a Boucher OM hybrid cutaway.

    What I ended up with is irrelevant, but I wanted to say that the tonal experience of the Boucher is in many ways similar to your experience with the Collings, every time I pick it up I’m just enthralled by the tone.

    So, as Tony Done said, use your ears and you will likely be happy.
  5. Swami Asango

    Swami Asango Member

    May 2, 2019
    you want a high end acoustic guitar, there is nothing wrong with that, there is no substitute.

    good size for couch playing is a 00, pretty sweet tone with 12 frets to the body.

    I'd visit a nice shop and play some Santa Cruz guitars, 1929-00, the style 1, the H13,
    there are so many fanstastic guitars out there.

    and don't get me started on the wood combinations, and string possibilities.

    I had an OM with Cedar top and hog body, that was one sweet guitar.

    all the best with your acoustic adventure!
    please post pics and excitement, once you have your desired instrument.

  6. lamenlovinit

    lamenlovinit Member

    Jun 10, 2006
    No. You don't need a better guitar than a 300 series Taylor. However you may very well need a different style of guitar than your Taylor 322.

    Play some different body styles. If something really just pops to your ears, or fits your hands or body in a way you never imagined possible, that is worth pursuing.

    For instance turns out that the perfect guitar shape/size for me is a OOO style body. Narrow-ish waisted, but an otherwise full sized body. I love my gibson AJ too, but the way the OOO sits in my lap and the relationship between my arm and shoulder to the neck of the guitar just means that I play it better. Seriously. I play better on the OOO.
    kludge and Swami Asango like this.
  7. Swami Asango

    Swami Asango Member

    May 2, 2019
    my thoughts, exactly. :aok

    take notice, if you like hog or rosewood guitars, they are kinda different.
  8. Mr Fingers

    Mr Fingers Member

    May 14, 2017
    It's best to learn what you like -- what sounds, what uses, what kind of physical playability -- and then get into levels of quality and price. For a long time, Martin dreadnoughts were sort of the reference for acoustic guitar tone, with their booming bass, bright trebles, and abundant harmonics. But now that most acoustics are either recorded or amplified via various pickups (decreasingly, microphones) and with music having changed a lot in terms of both electric and acoustic guitar sounds, instruments that can cut through a bluegrass ensemble are hardly best for many of us. I could write 50 pages describing different makes and models, but that's pointless. From the Beatles recording with essentially "dead" acoustics (that worked wonderfully for them) to Michael Hedges playing the most hi-fi sounds imaginable, there is just too broad a musical swath to say anything helpful until you know what sounds you like best. Ditto for action, size, feel, neck shape. For what it's worth, I have 3 acoustics: my old handmade dreadnought "cannon" for flatpicking, my 0002HCE Collings for all-around complex-sounding tones in music of all kinds, and my favorite (and by fr cheapest), a trainwreck, old, relatively cheap '36 Gibson L-00 that surprisingly combines great volume (it is loud!) with a clear, clean tone with clear fundamentals and nice overtones that are not nearly as emphasized and zingy as a Taylor or Martin. So go figure. What I love best is the supposed "worst" of the lot. 25 years ago, the wisdom (which is not wisdom) would be "just buy a D28." Not anymore. And I like D28s.
    Jon C, derekd and andy474x like this.
  9. TCMx3

    TCMx3 Member

    Nov 1, 2015
    you need the guitar that makes you want to play it every day; the sort of thing that when you get out of your car on a friday beaten down by the week calls out to you to pick it up.

    go play a bunch. ignore the price tags. buy the one that does that. will it be expensive? maybe, probably even.

    just start looking, and look at everything, and one will find you eventually.
    andy474x likes this.
  10. andy474x

    andy474x Member

    Sep 6, 2012
    Over years of gear whoring, I can say with certainty that tone and quality generally increases with price, but not always.

    Now, that being said, there are many factors that go into the sound of an acoustic guitar. Some are good for accompaniment in a band mix, some are good for solo fingerstyle, and so on. My advice, determine what your Taylor is good at, if you want another, look for something that will fill a different niche.
    Crowder likes this.
  11. guitararmy

    guitararmy Member

    Jun 13, 2007
    The Mountain State
    I'm a Taylor fan, and also own a Collings D3 dreadnought. I would suggest you look for a larger body size, either a Taylor Grand Pacific or Grand Orchestra. Even the Grand Symphony size would be a louder instrument than your smaller Taylor.

    A Collings dreadnought would also be worth checking out--very responsive and articulate.
  12. OM Flyer

    OM Flyer Supporting Member

    Jan 16, 2008
    Austin, Texas
    I don’t think it’s wise for an “acoustic noob” to drop $3000 - $4000 on a new guitar, no matter what it is. That Taylor will serve your purposes just fine until you’ve put in enough hours and effort to bring out the best from it. Then upgrade in light of what you’ve learned along the way.
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2019
  13. Frozen Rat

    Frozen Rat Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 31, 2015
    A Taylor 322 is already pretty high up on the food chain. There is a level or two above that owned by Collings, Froggy Bottom, Santa Cruz, Thompson, Olson, Goodall, et al., where you get a guitar that makes you wonder why they all aren't this good. These top-tier craftsmen do indeed create acoustic guitars that are simply in another league. So, sure, the Taylor 322 is a great guitar, but if you want something truly magical, there's another level or two you can explore. I did and I don't regret it for a second. I own a Goodall and now I simply won't consider buying another acoustic. Once you hit your high-water mark, you lose interest in everything else (at least I did).
    Jabberwocky and derekd like this.
  14. zombywoof

    zombywoof Member

    Jun 22, 2006
    One of the odd things here is I have finally reached the point where I can lay out a pretty good chunk of change on a guitar and not think twice about it. Always figured when I reached that point it would be guitar a go go around here. Never happened. My wife says it is because it is just too easy now and as such has taken all the fun of the hunt out of it. I am of a different mind. The one thing I have learned in some 55 years of playing is that no matter what I am holding in my hands I just sound like me. Thinking back though, there were two new guitars which have haunted me through the years. One was a Collings 12 string I ran across at Mass St. Music and the other a Huss & Dalton something or the other I played in the Loft as at Lays Guitar Repair . I do not know what it was about these two which set them apart but I should have bought them when I had the chance.
  15. derekd

    derekd Supporting Member

    Sep 10, 2007
    In a van down by the river
    The law of diminishing returns starts kicking in somewhere so we get just a bit more improvement for more $. Not sure where exactly, but the good news is, there are so many wonderful guitars made today at all sorts of price points.

    I had an Eastman OM cutaway (rosewood/spruce) that was a beast for the little I paid for it. I recently gave it to a buddy of mine who needed it and I wasn't playing it. It was half or less of a US guitar with similar specs.

    I like Taylor and what Bob has done with his instruments and how his brand has reshaped the acoustic market and recording industry. However, they aren't for me. Necks are too thin and every model I've played was a bit bright for my ears other than his 8 string bari. I'm not playing acoustic these days. If I ever get back to it, another Santa Cruz or a Goodall, Collins, Lowden, or perhaps a custom build will be what I look for.

    Happy hunting.
  16. hunter

    hunter Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2002
    I used to say you got more sonic return for spending more in the acoustic world that you ever get in the electric world. While I still basically find truth in that, it is a lot less so these days. Aside from specialized builder instruments like, say, something braced and voiced purely for fingerstyle solo type work? Plenty of good guitars that will more than get the job done if you can play em. Better and more expensive are not always linked.

    If you are new to acoustic shopping, just remember that guitar shop acoustic rooms often are such that the sound of an instrument will be enhanced. Playing one in the guitar room with solid walls and all of those resonant bodies in the room echoing back vibrations will be considerably different from playing in your wall to wall carpeted draped living room. If you go out to try some, see if you can take your guitar along to compare in the same environment. When I have been able to do this and taken the trouble to bring one, it has usually been an eye opener. That guitar I brought from home suddenly sounds better than that guitar I thought was the best thing yesterday.

    You may find you already have a better guitar. And think about this. Lasting inspiration to play comes from inside. Not from the guitar.

  17. Swami Asango

    Swami Asango Member

    May 2, 2019
    he does not already have a better guitar, he has a Taylor 322.


    sure, magic is in the own playing, inspiration comes from deep within, but nevertheless,
    everybody out there deserves the most magical and spiritual guitar that they can find.

  18. kludge

    kludge The droid you're looking for Silver Supporting Member

    May 15, 2007
    If you can afford it, a really good acoustic guitar is a delight, and can be an endless well of revelations. But the range of quality between basic and high-end acoustics is far wider than the range of quality between basic and high-end electrics. (imho.)

    Be warned, though, that they can accumulate! At this point, I have two really fantastic vintage acoustics and a custom-built acoustic. And I imagine I'll wind up with a few more eventually. Each of these guitars is unique as a fingerprint, each has repertoire unique to that particular instrument. Some guitars just have songs sitting there waiting in them.

    Maybe, without investing anything right now, you could start by just visiting some high-end guitar shops, places that carry boutique brands and/or a large stock of good vintage guitars. Just play a few, and learn what it is you like. Don't fall in love with the first one you play! Keep trying them! If you have friends who own high-end acoustics, especially something outside the Martin/Gibson/Taylor world, see if you can play theirs for a while some afternoon. You can learn your own tastes better, too.

    And high-end guitars don't have to be expensive, if you look for off-brand used/vintage. My Giannini Craviola 12-string has about $600 total in it, getting it from a basket case to a stage-worthy instrument that plays like a dream. But that was also a lot of work and some risk, doing salvage work on an unplayable guitar. You can't buy that sound anymore, except vintage - the current production Korean ones aren't nearly as good, and nothing sounds like a Craviola but a Craviola. And if you look around, you can find beautifully crafted handmade guitars from excellent wood for under $2000 used - they may not say "Martin" on them, tho. If you have the $$, I think really good examples of vintage Martins are the standard against which other acoustic guitars should be judged.

    If you want to own a really good acoustic guitar, start looking. Start studying, introducing yourself to some new instruments, and seeing if you spark a real friendship with them, something more to you than just a tool. Heck, guitars don't even need to be "good" to get that sort of bond. That's the mojo. That's what makes special guitars special, and why ordinary guitars are just ordinary.

    BEACHBUM Member

    Oct 1, 2010
    Been there, done that and for me the question became just the opposite. Should I get rid of these expensive guitars in favor of less expensive ones that sound and play just as good? So I sold off these two.....

    Taylor 810 LTD (Cocobolo)

    Martin DC Aura

    in favor of these two

    80 MIJ Sigma D10 Anniversary

    Guild MIC D140CE

    I don't know if you need a better guitar or not but I'm certain that you don't need a more expensive one. Taylor, Martin and Gibson all fine guitars that are never the less disgracefully over priced for what they actually are.
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2019
  20. Swami Asango

    Swami Asango Member

    May 2, 2019
    ^^ that's it.

    sell the Taylor 322 for something cheaper. Maybe a Blueridge.

    Same with the Collings, try an Eastman, that will open your eyes.

    or ears.


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