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Martin OM vs. Collings OM

mathiassiv

Member
Messages
284
Are there any characteristics that differ between these manufacturers? Some say that Collings' is brighter (or more balanced), others say they lack "life" and bass.

What do you think? To specify, OM-28 / OM2h, OM-42 / OM3 etc.

Which one would you recommend?
 

davess23

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
6,570
Generally the Collings will have superb fit and finish, while Martins will be a bit less "perfect" in their craftsmanship. (Please note: I feel that's true as a general statement, but I'm aware that individual Martins may match up to the uniformly superb Collings standards.)

The Collings OMs have a characteristic tone that I really like, nothing lifeless about it and sufficiently bass-y, but they sound somewhat different from vintage Martins. So...buy the Martin? Nope, because most of the new Martins sound good in their own way, but not like vintage Martins, which is my ideal for OM sound. Ironically, the best approximation of the old Martin OM sound is, in my opinion, Santa Cruz. I've got two great Collings acoustics, and SJ and a 0002H, but sold my OM2H when I found my perfect OM, a German/Braz SC.

Of course, you need to play them all and make your own conclusions. All are good guitars. I'd go with a Santa Cruz OM, maybe the PW, but that's just what I like.
 

bayAreaDude

Member
Messages
3,231
I have an Martin OM-21 and a Collings OM-1ASB. My particular Martin is on par with the Collings for fit and finish, though I think Martin is less consistent overall. It's hard to compare these 2 against each other being rosewood and mahogany and one having an Adi top. I love them both. Nothing at all lacking in the Collings, plenty of bass, perfectly balanced. They both record so well compared to a dred - no boomy bass to contend with. I can mike either with just one mic at the soundhole and they sound so killer.

I'd recommend playing individual guitars from either shop to see which speaks to you - can't go wrong. If anything, you're more likely to get a bargain on a Martin where that's unlikely with a Collings.
 

Barefoot

Senior Member
Messages
3,521
Bought a couple year old Collings OM2HBSB. Took it to my repair guy to look over. He had a custom shop Martin OM cutaway on his bench getting some sort of work done to it.

He played them both and we both agreed the Martin wasn't even close.
The Collings sounded alive, the Martin muffled by comparision.
In fairness it was one particular Collings vs one particular Martin.
 
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rowdyyates

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
5,395
If you play enough OM28's you'll eventually find one that sounds as good as an OM2H, maybe even better. This could take playing 50 guitars or more. Just get a Collings.
 

H. Mac

Member
Messages
2,206
I've been a Martin fan for about 50 years, and while some can identify differences in the craftsmanship between Martin and Collings, I see them as insignificant. A rough brace, a sloppy glue drop, or other minor blemish is not the kind of thing I'd consider.

For me, the real difference between two excellent guitars based on the identical design is almost always in their tops, and bracing.

An Adirondack topped OM sounds better than one with a Sitka top. Yes, there are great Sitka topped OMs out there, but for me, adi has a punch and a clarity that I've never heard from Sitka. Collings offers adi as an option for its OMs, and Martin offers it on their high end Marquis line..

So IMO, the brand and craftsmanship are less important than the top wood. So if it's adi v. Sitka, I'd go for adi.

My guess is that if you compare adi and Sitka, there's a good chance that you'll agree.
 
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mudster

High Prairie Wrangler
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
3,663
I live about 200 yards from a Martin and Collings dealer. If I didn't buy so many guitars, they'd probably kick me out since I drop in there to play things all the time.
I don't want to offend the Martin lovers, but at this point in time, current production models, price ranges being equivalent, there is no comparison at all. The Collings guitars are much more consistent, have better fit and finish, and are simply a better instrument.
This includes the authentic series, which is the only series Martin builds that is even a contender. Those authentics are great instruments btw, but even those can be hit and miss, particularly in careful attention to detail.
Notice I didn't say one sounded better than the other - that is inherently a matter of opinion. In my opinion, in the last 3 to 5 years, Collings have been voiced to be a little less stiff than they used to be. They also do something all guitars don't do - they mature over time. My 20+ year old taylor sounds essentially the same today as it did when I bought it. It really hasn't changed (in fact, I like that about the guitar). On the other hand, my Adirondack topped Collings has matured a great deal in 3 years. The top had some stridency (which one can expect with new adirondack instruments) and was bit harsh with a plectrum. Now that is gone and replaced with a warmth and roundness to the note that is sweet to hear. It took some time to play in, and I play that guitar a lot. I cannot comment on Martin's in this regard, I've not owned one for a long period of time.
Of all the Martin styles, their OM is my favorite and so you are not going to end up with a poor guitar either way, but Collings also builds an exceptional OM. If you are playing fingerstyle, I think you'll find the Collings hard to beat.
The shop luthiers will testify (privately, they do sell Martins) that the Collings are the better instrument at this point in time.

Good luck finding the right guitar for you.
 

H. Mac

Member
Messages
2,206
I'm a Martin lover, but Mudster's observations ^ are spot on correct. The current production Martins aren't too impressive, and in my post above, I was referring to Martins that are at least a few years old.

But Mudster, I've got to hand it to you: If I lived "200 yards from a Martin and Collings dealer," I'd have no time to post!
 

K.E.P.

Member
Messages
544
Even though people hate on it on this forum and others, I had a martin omjm that was absolutely fantastic.

I also have a good friend that owns several vintage martins for the 40-60s.

I agree with two people on here:

For the most vintage sounding guitars brand new: Santa Cruz wins in my book. Some Bourgeois are close. I have played a lot of slope shoulder dreads and have not found anything new that compares to my Santa Cruz. Can't wait to hear it in 10-20 years.

I do agree that Collings are the best martin style guitars for the money at this time. While I love my Santa Cruz, I do believe Collings are built heavier and would be a better if you are a touring musician or deal with a lot of humidity changes.

In my experience, Collings are a little tighter and brighter when brand new, but open up or season considerably.

I will eventually get an OM to replace the martin I sold, but it will be a Collings of some sort.
 

riffmeister

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
16,729
I've played a few Collings OM's and owned two and still own one (OM1A). I've played a few higher end Martin OM's, too. Generally speaking, I find the Collings guitars to be more mid forward. For me, personally, this works very well in the little acoustic trio I play in, the OM1A can really be heard when I want it to be heard.
 

derekd

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
45,487
I owned a 1971 D28, which I loved.

Martins today seem like a completely different brand to me. Nice, but not what they were. I've played a ton of them the past few years and have yet to be tempted by one. Instead, I've bought SCGC, Eastman, and Larrivee.

Collings are a step above, imo. In fairness, how many more instruments does Martin turn out per year compared to Collings? Anytime you ramp up production, quality control is a challenge.
 

Sir EL84

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
118
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe Collings attaches their necks using bolts rather than a traditional dovetail. I'm a traditionalist....
 

derekd

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
45,487
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe Collings attaches their necks using bolts rather than a traditional dovetail. I'm a traditionalist....

Does that mean only cat gut strings? Bummer.

Do you have a tough time finding tortoise shell picks now that they banned? I guess only finger style, right? ;)
 

Lo Blues

Member
Messages
2,911
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe Collings attaches their necks using bolts rather than a traditional dovetail. I'm a traditionalist....

I just did a quick search and I think you're correct. It looks like Collings uses a hybrid dovetail/bolt-on neck joint. Along with other many other revered luthiers like Bourgeois, Goodall, Taylor, Mossman, and more apparently. Again I just did a very rough google search so don't quote me.

Of course I came across lots of fun "bolt-on vs dovetail" forum debates as well!
 

DamianL

Member
Messages
1,688
Bolts and Dovetails?

Don't go down that rabbit hole man...we may never see you again...

And I have owned a few Martin's and now play a Collings and I don't think I am ever going back! (But I wouldn't mind a pre-war dread!)




D
 

Yossi

Member
Messages
3,503
I've been a Martin fan for about 50 years, and while some can identify differences in the craftsmanship between Martin and Collings, I see them as insignificant. A rough brace, a sloppy glue drop, or other minor blemish is not the kind of thing I'd consider.

For me, the real difference between two excellent guitars based on the identical design is almost always in their tops, and bracing.

An Adirondack topped OM sounds better than one with a Sitka top. Yes, there are great Sitka topped OMs out there, but for me, adi has a punch and a clarity that I've never heard from Sitka. Collings offers adi as an option for its OMs, and Martin offers it on their high end Marquis line..

So IMO, the brand and craftsmanship are less important than the top wood. So if it's adi v. Sitka, I'd go for adi.

My guess is that if you compare adi and Sitka, there's a good chance that you'll agree.


My Collings OMI-A with the Adirondack top has a wonderful sound and great construction. While it lacks the fancy trimmings it's complete in the tone department. It sounds like an old Martin to me.

collings-om1a-used1.jpg
 

Lo Blues

Member
Messages
2,911
Bolts and Dovetails?

Don't go down that rabbit hole man...we may never see you again...

And I have owned a few Martin's and now play a Collings and I don't think I am ever going back! (But I wouldn't mind a pre-war dread!)




D

ha, yeah I agree. I definitely wouldn't discount an entire family of expert boutique luthiers for using a different technique than Martin. I've played some great guitars built by Collings and Mossman in particular.
 

Sir EL84

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
118
Ha! I'm actually coming out of that rabbit hole after years lost debating the minutia of hide glue, dovetail joints, Adirondack vs Sitka- it IS a horrible place to be. Great guitars are great guitars- and they can be built using a number of techniques!
 




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