HELP: acousic/electric guitar buying guide

Discussion in 'Acoustic Instruments' started by sleejay80, Oct 11, 2008.

  1. sleejay80

    sleejay80 Member

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    Heya:)

    Okay, I'm trying to find a new acoustic/electric guitar.

    Here's the story:

    For the last 10 years I've been playing my first-ever guitar: Yamaha FG-300A, and that's like a very cheap, lowest-end model.

    I've been playing mostly electric guitar stuff, so I've never cared much about acoustic guitars other than a few acoustic gig here and there. I've thrown in a Markely Tahoe pickup and used L.R. Baggs Para DI, and have been pretty happy with the tone, plugged or unplugged.

    But recently my band's getting a chance to record a new CD which will be more acoustic guitar oriented, so I thought this is a good chance to get a higher-quality higher-end acoustic/electric to be used plugged live, or unplugged in the studio. I do both pick strokes and finger picking, but I'm a singer/guitarist, so not much single-note lead stuff. I really like/am influenced by Jason Mraz and John Mayer as acoustic guitarists/vocalists.

    So basically what I wanna know is this:

    1. What are the most top-brand names in the acoustic guitar market? For electric, it's gotta be Fender/Gibson, but what is it for acoustic? I know Yamaha, Gibson, Taylor, Martin, any other "good, reliable" brands? I know big-name brands aren't always the best, but they're a good place to start for a noob like me.

    2. And what would the characteristic of each brand be? For example, we can say...
    Fender - twangy, spanky tone commonly associated with country, and blues
    Gibson - mellow, fatter tone for hard/heavier rock, jazz
    and that's for electric. But it would be great if you guys could give me a criteria for acoustic guitars.

    With these basic info in my head, I can go out to the store and try a few out, and I'll know what to look for, and what character to listen to.

    Thanks in advance!!
     
  2. Lawn Jockey

    Lawn Jockey Member

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    What kind of budget are you working with?

    Will it mainly be used for strumming or strumming and fingerstyle?

    Look at Larrivee. Every model they make are solid woods (including bindings), the D's have an 1 11/16" nut, the OM, L, and P have an 1 3/4" nut width. The L is probably their most versatile body, able to handle heavy strumming.....and do fingerstyle just as good. The recent price increase(s) have made them almost the same money as the others.......but some are still available at pre-price increase levels. They make a great guitar, no matter the series or body style.

    The 03 series are made in Vancouver, BC (where the original Larrivee factory is), and the 05 and up series are made in Oxnard, CA.

    There are many, many others to check out too. Santa Cruz, Collings, Huss & Dalton, Goodall, Webber, Bourgeois, etc., etc.

    Good luck and WELCOME TO THE GEAR PAGE!!!!
     
  3. coldfingaz

    coldfingaz Member

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    Without knowing your price range or desired style/specs. (dread vs. jumbo vs. OM, mahogany back/sides vs. rosewood, maple etc.), this is really tough to answer.

    But, play as many guitars in your price range that you can get your hands on. Some brands I'd suggest looking into:

    Guild, Martin, Larrivee, Gibson, Taylor, Blueridge, Seagull & Breedlove.

    Consider smaller bodied guitars, such as an OM (000). They record very well (are easier to reel in than larger bodies) and typically don't compromise too much volume.
     
  4. doc

    doc Member

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    There are lots of current "top name" boutique builders - check other threads for in depth discussion. Some names: Olson, Goodall, Bourgeois, Collings, the list goes on. If you want a current high dollar great sounding guitar, look there.
    The "big names" in acoustic currently are Martin, Taylor, and Gibson. Also making good quality guitars in large numbers are Washburn, Breedlove, Santa Cruz, Larrivee and Seagull. Eastman is a Chinese brand making shockingly high quality guitars.
    Generally Martins are balanced with a good ringing top end and some bass authority. Taylors tend to have a lighter bass and more pronounced treble, and the action is usually a bit lower and caters more to electric players making the transition. Gibsons tend to be thicker sounding, almost muddy at times.
    I would suggest going to a high quality store dealing with current and vintage gear (Gruhns, Elderly, etc.) and talk with the staff and play a number of guitars. I personally think there are some great deals on vintage guitars, although you frequently have to take into account they often need costly repair (neck sets, fret jobs, etc.) to be at their best. The great advantages with vintage guitars are the quality of the wood and craftsmanship. I currently tend to buy "off brand" but high quality vintage acoustics - Lyon and Healey, Washburn, etc. and have them repaired. For your application I'd look mostly at the smaller bodied guitars with the idea of putting a pickup in for stage use - you don't need lots of acoustic power and resonance.
     
  5. jimmybcool

    jimmybcool Supporting Member

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    Like the line in Mad Max - "Speed is just a question of how much you can spend"

    Tone is the same thing :dude

    Give us a price point and maybe some idea what you play.
     
  6. sleejay80

    sleejay80 Member

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    Thanks for your info guys, really helps alot!!

    I didn't mention, but I live in Japan, in an area with not so many boutique/high-end acoustic choices.

    Brands that came up on this thread that I'll know to find for sure are the following.

    If any of you can add any extra TONAL info about these brands, it would really help. I'll type in what's already provided by you guys.

    BTW I'm thinking of $2000 max for price.

    - - - - -

    Guild -

    Martin - balanced with a good ringing top end and some bass authority

    Larrivee -

    Gibson - tend to be thicker sounding, almost muddy at times

    Taylor - tend to have a lighter bass and more pronounced treble, and the action is usually a bit lower and caters more to electric players making the transition

    - - - - -

    Again, thank u!!
     
  7. coldfingaz

    coldfingaz Member

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    Guild - The poor (and highly intelligent) man's Martin!

    Seriously, they are great guitars. If you can find any made from the 70's - late 90's, give 'em a try. They are most similar to Martins, but have their own distinctive tones. Best description I can offer based on the seven Guilds I own from that era is resonant, balanced and sweet.

    Enjoy your search!
     
  8. FPicker

    FPicker Member

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    IMO, vintage Martin and Gibson guitars from the 1930s are the "top-brand names in the acoustic guitar market".

    Following these, there are a decent number of individual luthiers whose guitars are highly esteemed, these are way out of your budget. If you're curious about them, there is a shop someplace in Japan called "Blue-G" that has a lot of great guitars.

    Next in the pecking order are guitars of the small, "boutique" guitar factories. These shops would include: Collings, Goodall, Bourgeois, Santa Cruz, Huss & Dalton, a couple others. And the current "premium line" guitars of Martin, and I guess Taylor. And used guitars from maybe 1950-1964 or so.

    Then there are the "regular line" guitars of: Martin, Taylor and Gibson. I guess you could put Larrivee in to this group as well.

    I don't really know what's just South of those.

    Note that a given individual example of any of the above instruments may sound better than particular individual examples of some of the others, to a specific evaluator; wood is a highly variable medium, and tone is to a degree a matter of personal preference.

    Given your budget, you might be looking at the Martin, Taylor, Gibson level. Maybe some used examples from the small factories, as well.

    Taylors tend to be brighter sounding, Martins tend to have more bass-emphasis, Gibsons sound, well, different. Of the three, in the standard line I frequently prefer some Gibsons. As to which you prefer, you'll just have to play them and see, there are no shortcuts that would not be highly misleading to you.
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2008

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