The most finely crafted acoustic guitars

Jeff Scott

Member
Messages
1,954
I have a very nicely crafted Sexauer guitar that I am especially fond of.It's made of pernambucco back and sides with a German master grade top.
I had the opportunity to play a couple of guitars that Bruce made for Eric Schoenberg last year, very nice guitars. And, by chance, Bruce happened to be at Eric's shop so we had a very interesting conversation about guitar building and concepts. :cool:
 

davess23

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
6,660
If it gets better than a good Santa Cruz or Collings, I've never seen an example. There are great makers out there who make superb guitars-- one I haven't noticed anyone mention so far is Julius Borges, who's up there with the best of the best, but there are many others, too. However, what you should know if you're thinking of buying a guitar from one of these great luthiers is that you're paying for intangibles as well as for the instrument.


A person like Borges, Millard or Traugott can only make so many instruments, and that's a big part of what you pay for. In practical terms, I don't think you're getting a guitar that's automatically "better" than a fine Cruz or Collings. I'm saying this after 20 years of playing my custom Cruz OM and my Collings guitars side by side, over many nights, with my friends' high-end stuff by Traugott, Olson, Tippen, Bown, and Sobell (of all of them, I liked the Sobells the most.) My ears and my hands tell me that my instruments give up nothing to those luthier-made guitars. Sure, they're fine, and they have their own distinctive tones, but once you're talking about high-end materials and craftsmanship, it's really more about personal preference than superiority of one make over another. And Richard Hoover and Bill Collings know as much about making fine instruments as anyone else in the world.
 

mrpinter

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
9,419
Don Musser's guitars need to be on this list. Very nice instruments - kind of hard to find though, as he doesn't make very many. I had a beautiful Musser classical six string. I sold it to Normans Rare Guitars (Norman says Mussers are his favorite acoustics) and bought a John David Scott custom OM model. I like it at least as much as the Musser, and they are less costly than Musser or the other blue chip makes mentioned earlier in the thread. I had mine re-fretted with jumbo frets (unconventional? sacrilegious?) and now it plays as well as it sounds: a complex, very woody mid rangy mahogany tone that also has surprising volume. JDS guitars are even harder to find than Mussers though. They come from British Columbia, and I think David Amirault the builder is currently sidelined with health issues. IF I had the unallocated money right now I'd definitely find and buy several of them.

Here's a picture of my JDS - nothing fancy, all function and beautiful tone:
JDS%20acoustic%20in%20frnt%20of%20piano.jpg
 
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s2y

Member
Messages
20,426
I have a Chris Applegate who studied from Olsen. Quite similar & more cost effective. Only my vintage D28 beats it. The side sound hole option is excellent.

His prices are definitely a lot more reasonable. I suppose I could splurge on an Olson if I were a one guitar guy. I tend to like dang near everything under the sun, which is a lot more expensive.
 

NeuroLogic

Member
Messages
1,508
Also my vintage D28 is only slightly better than the Applegate. However the later was made with very old planks of Brazilian rosewood & German spruce. Very old (50+ years) of air dried wood planks is the key ingrediant to the very best acoustics. The wood in vintage Martins was air dried for 75 years & that is the main reason they sound so great (assuming no structural issues).
 

royd

Member
Messages
2,040
If it gets better than a good Santa Cruz or Collings, I've never seen an example. There are great makers out there who make superb guitars-- one I haven't noticed anyone mention so far is Julius Borges, who's up there with the best of the best, but there are many others, too. However, what you should know if you're thinking of buying a guitar from one of these great luthiers is that you're paying for intangibles as well as for the instrument.

A person like Borges, Millard or Traugott can only make so many instruments, and that's a big part of what you pay for. In practical terms, I don't think you're getting a guitar that's automatically "better" than a fine Cruz or Collings. I'm saying this after 20 years of playing my custom Cruz OM and my Collings guitars side by side, over many nights, with my friends' high-end stuff by Traugott, Olson, Tippen, Bown, and Sobell (of all of them, I liked the Sobells the most.) My ears and my hands tell me that my instruments give up nothing to those luthier-made guitars. Sure, they're fine, and they have their own distinctive tones, but once you're talking about high-end materials and craftsmanship, it's really more about personal preference than superiority of one make over another. And Richard Hoover and Bill Collings know as much about making fine instruments as anyone else in the world.

I agree with this post wholeheartedly... (although I expect that my particular taste and davess23 differs)

Those "intangibles" are a central part of the difference between the individual luthier builds vs. the small shop. Those pieces may be important to the OP or not... I don't know. And the observation that at this level of build you really are talking about preference of the signature sound of one company vs. another. There isn't a lot of difference in quality of work or materials. So, the hard part is finding out which of the various companies have a signature sound that fits your ear. The different companies do vary significantly. Lowdens sound nothing like a Collings and even Collings and Santa Cruz, which build similarly styled guitars, sound pretty different. The OP may find that he/she loves a Collings and just appreciates a Santa Cruz or visa versa. Or maybe loves Lowdens and finds the more "American" style sound less than inspiring...

So play as many different companies as you can and listen to lots of different artists and find out what is being played by artists whose sound you appreciate...
 

great-case.com

a.k.a. "Mitch"
Messages
5,730
If it gets better than a good Santa Cruz or Collings, I've never seen an example. There are great makers out there who make superb guitars-- one I haven't noticed anyone mention so far is Julius Borges, who's up there with the best of the best, but there are many others, too. However, what you should know if you're thinking of buying a guitar from one of these great luthiers is that you're paying for intangibles as well as for the instrument.


A person like Borges, Millard or Traugott can only make so many instruments, and that's a big part of what you pay for. In practical terms, I don't think you're getting a guitar that's automatically "better" than a fine Cruz or Collings. I'm saying this after 20 years of playing my custom Cruz OM and my Collings guitars side by side, over many nights, with my friends' high-end stuff by Traugott, Olson, Tippen, Bown, and Sobell (of all of them, I liked the Sobells the most.) My ears and my hands tell me that my instruments give up nothing to those luthier-made guitars. Sure, they're fine, and they have their own distinctive tones, but once you're talking about high-end materials and craftsmanship, it's really more about personal preference than superiority of one make over another. And Richard Hoover and Bill Collings know as much about making fine instruments as anyone else in the world.

Bull's Eye, sir... except for some narrow points, you and I agree. After playing my client's Taylor 914CE & his McPherson, I have to wonder why the McPherson was twice the price. I will admit it felt better than the Taylor, and the floated neck is quite sexy.. but twice the price?

Collings and Sante Cruz are just two who deserve such praise. Semi Factory, but very high quality. How about Huss and Dalton?

As for boutiques, you have to give it up to get stuff like you get from Tony Vines. Check out this African Blackwood cutaway... amazing to play.
tonyvines074.jpg.w180h207.jpg


Then there's a gent in New Zealand (http://www.lwilliamsguitars.com) who build guitars from the ultimate figured wood of all time: Ancient Kauri... if I could wiggle the back of the acoustic you see below, you'd see curl that is 4 inches deep. This Kauri is over 35,00 years old, making this the most vintage guitar of all time!
kaurijb004.jpg.w300h172.jpg
 

doc

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
7,726
Hard to beat the old Martins, Gibsons, Washburns and the Larson built instruments no matter how much you pay. For newer stuff, I'm a fan of Paul McGill in Nashville. Having said all that, I've also decided that there is a quickly diminishing ROI for how good an acoustic guitar sounds in relationship to price - I've played lots of fairly inexpensive guitars that are very satisfying, and a number of pricey and pretty guitars that are sonically pretty unimpressive.
 

pedalcr8z

Member
Messages
3,456
Been playing acoustics for over 50 years and have had the priviledge to own many great guitars ie., Martins, Taylors, Breedlove. Then there are the exceptions, the standouts, the ones where each and every string have exact volume, ring and sustain on each and every fret with perfect intonation as well. The ones that have sustaining piano like basses and sustaining ringing highs at the same time without bloating and blurring ........ in my experience those guitars are my Collings 000-2H Sunburst and a Lowden 0-23. I will add that the Huss & Dalton 00-SP I owned a couple years ago was easily the equal and the only reason it still isn't in my stable was I learned that a 00 just wasn't full enough for me. We are lucky to live in a period of the most talented and gifted luthiers that have ever built guitars as well as the greatest number of them!
 
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mannish

Member
Messages
9,505
I tried a friend's Lowden and did not like it at all, not my type apparently. The best new guitar I have played is Collings
 

NoCalTF

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
69
In a luthier built acoustic, my Blazer & Henkes D-28. In a factory built acoustic, my Collings D1A Traditional. Two awesome Dreads. I read that Willi and Rudi of B&H will be retiring at the end of 2023. Can't say enough great things about them - they build great guitars, and have been an invaluable resource for me on a variety of issues. And I feel just as strongly about Collings. I've played Collings guitars since 2006, and the quality of their builds is right up their with their top shelf customer service. RIP Bill.
 

Serious Poo

Finding beauty in the dissonance
Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
7,736
Put Yamamoto on your shortlist, too.
I have one of his Baritone acoustics. It's nothing short of spectacular and is the single nicest instrument I own. I understand that he retired recently, but if you can pick up one of his guitars on the used market by all means do.
 
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Jeff Scott

Member
Messages
1,954
I have one of his Baritone acoustics. It's nothing short of spectacular and is the single nicest instrument I own. I understand that he retired recently, but if you can pick up one of his guitars on the used market by all means do.
I think Tony's timing was perfect as to his retiring, just before Covid hit.

I have a MS-12 which has the same body as your baritone. Such an amazing tone from a 12-string guitar. :)

A year after buying it used I bought a brand new Talus VS-12 from Tony. Both are amazing instruments. :aok
 

JPF

Member
Messages
8,941
Great list, to which I’d add John Mayes. I don’t know if he’s still building, though.
 

andrekp

Member
Messages
7,089
I think you need to put your preconceived ideas of what is important to you in an acoustic, like hidden fret ends, and just go play a bunch. Acoustics are not at all like electrics. You simply cannot just list a bunch of features ahead of time, then go find the guitar that ticks those boxes. They don’t work that way at all. Two D-28s can sound appreciably different from each other, and if they are separated by a little bit of time, have a very different feel. Additionally, as I noted in another thread, a D-28 can sound less impressive off the shelf than a D-13, but you give that D-28 a month or so, ridden hard, and it will be a completely different guitar than the one you test drove in the store.

So with respect, and with the idea that you don’t know a lot about acoustics by your own admission, you just need to get out there and play a bunch. If you are willing to spend $6k and up for a really great small luthier build, then I think your money is better spent now on a really nice guitar in the $2k-3.5k range, like a good Martin standard, for example, so that you can learn about good acoustics, how they play, how they sound, what matters, how they mature, etc. You can always start at the top, but you won’t understand any of it really. You’ll just be going around telling people how expensive it is and how pretty the wood is. Or worse, become a player with a guitar he feels is too expensive to play anywhere. Happens all the time.
 

bayAreaDude

Member
Messages
3,370
If it gets better than a good Santa Cruz or Collings, I've never seen an example. There are great makers out there who make superb guitars-- one I haven't noticed anyone mention so far is Julius Borges, who's up there with the best of the best, but there are many others, too. However, what you should know if you're thinking of buying a guitar from one of these great luthiers is that you're paying for intangibles as well as for the instrument.


A person like Borges, Millard or Traugott can only make so many instruments, and that's a big part of what you pay for. In practical terms, I don't think you're getting a guitar that's automatically "better" than a fine Cruz or Collings. I'm saying this after 20 years of playing my custom Cruz OM and my Collings guitars side by side, over many nights, with my friends' high-end stuff by Traugott, Olson, Tippen, Bown, and Sobell (of all of them, I liked the Sobells the most.) My ears and my hands tell me that my instruments give up nothing to those luthier-made guitars. Sure, they're fine, and they have their own distinctive tones, but once you're talking about high-end materials and craftsmanship, it's really more about personal preference than superiority of one make over another. And Richard Hoover and Bill Collings know as much about making fine instruments as anyone else in the world.
Totally agree. Collings is always my go-to. Not ruling anything else out, but I'm yet to find anything else that I feel justifies the additional price.
 

FibsonGender

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
77
Many good suggestions here. I'll reiterate Bourgeois though..
I have a 25 year old JOM that is on par with the best Santa Cruz' I've ever played or heard. Sure wouldn't mind having a Collings or Huss and Dalton hanging next to it though.
 




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