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Author Topic: Quality Acoustic/Electric Guitars  (Read 15983 times)
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teej813
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« on: February 09, 2006, 09:09:45 AM »

I've owned a Martin D16-GTE for a few years now.  It's my first acoustic, and i've been happy with it except for one thing: it's hard to play.

Maybe it's just my fat fingers, but the neck is SO narrow, i struggle to get even some basic chords seated correctly.  So i've been visiting music stores and playing other brands & models.  What i've learned is that this Martin neck is not only narrow, but it's difficult to play as well.  It takes more finger pressure to press and hold a string tight to a fret than many other makes.

String height has already been lowered about as much as possible on my D16.  I've confirmed this with a few folks who know a whole lot more about guitars than i do.

So, is this yet another one of those 'Duh, TJ.. everybody knows that' thing?  I've read that Martins have a reputation for being a bit harder to play than other makes.  Can anyone confirm this?

Anyway, i've been impressed with a few brands and would appreciate your input.

- Alvarez Yairi:  I've only been able to play a few of these (kinda hard to find in Indiana), but the few that i've played have sounded very nice and were much easier to play than my D16.  I'm especially interested in the WY1

- Taylor:  I've looked at the 314CE and really like it.  Their new Expression System (electronics) at first listen really blew me away.  Who owns a Taylor with the ES?  Does it blend well with a band?

- Larrivee:  Again, i've only played a few, but they played like a dream.


Other brands i should consider?  I'm planning a trip to Elderly Instruments (Lansing, MI) in a week or so.  They have a good selection of used and new acoustics.



tj
« Last Edit: February 09, 2006, 11:48:08 AM by teej813 » Logged

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Mac
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« Reply #1 on: February 09, 2006, 10:29:36 AM »

Find the guitar that speaks to you in all reasonable aspects, and buy it.  


That said, I've seen some Alvarez-Yairi guits that were simply marvelous in all respects.  They record divinely.  Rich Mullins had an A-Y that was to die for, don't know where it went upon his demise, but somebody got a great guitar, one that even sounds great when recorded with a boom box.  

That doesn't mean that ALL A-Ys will be the same as Rich's famous box any more than all Martin D-45s sound like Steven Stills', duh.  

Ya gotta keep that money in the pocket and ya gotta seek until you find.  

Almost every one of the guys I know who have that "perfect" acoustic tell pretty much the same tale:  They owned quite a few guitars along the way to finding the one they have now, they didn't seem to hold onto that which didn't for very long at all.  Sentimental attachment is the kiss of death in the search for the holy grail of guitars.   If it don't do the job and earn its keep, sell it off, get another, bye-bye.  



--Mac
« Last Edit: February 09, 2006, 10:32:42 AM by Mac » Logged
learjeff
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« Reply #2 on: February 09, 2006, 10:42:29 AM »

First, it's not true that your Martin action is as low as can be.  I've played Martins that were set up to play almost like electrics (not that I would want one that way myself).  You could take it to a good luthier in your area and find out what it would take to get improved action.  It may take a neck reset.

I find that the Martins built today (last 5 years or so) have much nicer actions than earlier models, from the factory.  But they still tend to have higher action than some other guitars -- this is important if you're really going to dig into them.

Regardless, if you don't like the neck width, you'll want a different guitar.  Martin makes a few models with wider necks.  I really like my Martin HD-28, but I'd be happier if the neck were just a bit wider.  But it's a standard width, 1 11/16", same as my other guitars except the classical and my Fender Jazzmaster, which has a Strat neck that's narrower: 1 5/8".  Frankly, I'd love a HD-28LSV, which has a 1 3/4" neck.  Unfortunately, I don't have $2200 burning a hole in my pocket.  (Note: this model does not have a rep as an easy player, being set up for serious bluegrass pros & modeled after Tony Rice's vintage Martin.)

I've really liked the Alvarez Yairi's I've played, though not as much as Martins.

Taylor makes great guitars, no question about that.  One of the few brands where I'd buy one sight-unseen: all guitars of the same model seem identical to me.  (Martin has been getting better in this respect.)  Can't say how they sit in the mix, though.

Sure wish I could join you visiting Elderly.  It's been over a decade since I've been there, and now living in NC it's unlikely I'll get back.  What a great shop!  One of the best in the country -- probably the world.
 
« Last Edit: February 09, 2006, 10:44:06 AM by learjeff » Logged

Bubbagump
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« Reply #3 on: February 09, 2006, 11:25:07 AM »

Martin, Taylor, Yairi, Takamine  and Seagull all make a respectable guitar. As for Takamine, make sure you get a solid top as even some of their high dollar are laminate. I love the Takamine cedar top acoustics. Laravee makes a great acoustic, but I have never heard one with electronics. I perosnally like Ovation, but folks seem to either love or hate them. The absolute best sounding steel string acoustic I have ever heard (unplugged that is) was an Ovation. You could always get a great acoustic and have it modded by a good luthier with an IBeam system. I am personally not so hot on Guild or Gibson. I could never get into them as I found them sorta bland and thuddy.  
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teej813
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« Reply #4 on: February 09, 2006, 11:39:18 AM »

Thanks, guys.  I've liked the feel of every Taylor i've played.  You're right, Bubba, every neck feels the same.

Not that i'm any kind of expert.  That's part of the problem, really.  I'm just now starting to know when a guitar feels right in my hands.

Anyway, my initial reaction to Taylor's ES system was very positive.  Seems to be the most natural pickup system i've ever heard.  But i've read a few reviews cautioning about their upper end being hard to tame in a mix.  I'd just feel better if i could speak with someone who's run sound and tried to blend one into a band.

The Yairi has an under saddle piezo and preamp mounted in the side (built by Fishman?) very similar to my D16.  Can't say i've been totally happy with it.

Anyway, i'll keep reading in prep for my trip to Lansing next week.

Elderly Instruments.  Truly a guitar player's dream (or nightmare, if you have GAS and little money).  Happy


I've played some Seagulls that were pretty nice.  They certainly have a wider neck.  Apparently, Seagulls are built by Godin.  They have another brand as well.  Can't remember the name right off, but they all seemed to be a cut under Martin, Taylor, and Yairi.  Same with Gibson & Guild, in my (very uneducated) opinion.


Oh!  Help me understand how neck width is measured, please.  Do you measure the distance between the 2 E strings, or the neck width at the nut?



tj
« Last Edit: February 09, 2006, 11:58:47 AM by teej813 » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: February 09, 2006, 11:45:42 AM »

Quote
Sentimental attachment is the kiss of death in the search for the holy grail of guitars. If it don't do the job and earn its keep, sell it off, get another, bye-bye.
Quite so.   I used to own a very beautiful and distinctive John Bailey acoustic.  It sounded very much like a Martin, with that nape-charging treble and haunting open-string sound.  Truth was though that I really wanted a big warm Gibson.  Still do.   I was secretly relieved when my John Bailey got stolen.  ( circa 1978 , Paris.  Reward for information leading to its recovery   :grin:   )  
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« Reply #6 on: February 09, 2006, 11:57:22 AM »

I'll add a vote for Taylor as their guitars seem to be very well made a very good quality control. They are a bright guitar so you need to be sure you want that. I have a soft spot in my heart for Tacoma guitars. They have good quality control and solid designs, including some unique designs like the Chief (if that is your cup of tea). I have one of their lower end dreadnaughts and for the money it has great tone and is very easy to play.
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Bubbagump
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« Reply #7 on: February 09, 2006, 12:03:48 PM »

Quote



I've played some Seagulls that were pretty nice.  They certainly have a wider neck.  Apparently, Seagulls are built by Godin.  They have another brand as well.  Can't remember the name right off, but they all seemed to be a cut under Martin, Taylor, and Yairi.  Same with Gibson & Guild, in my (very uneducated) opinion.
The other brand is Simon and Patrick. I think Seagull is an excellent value, absolutely excellent, but I would not be surprised if you prefer another guitar. They are not top of the line, just great solid guitars with Baggs pickups in them. I know Ovation can be a dirty word to some folks, but if you like a C style neck, the Ovation Balladeers have baseball bat like necks on them. Too bad they are all piezo unles they have changed something recently. Can you tell I sold guitars for 6 years?
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gtr4Him
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« Reply #8 on: February 09, 2006, 12:09:01 PM »

Teej,

I know you have a Carvin bass right? Have you considered one of their acoustic guitars? I have heard and/or played two different models the C780 and the C980 (I think?) and they both were guitars worth much more than the catalog price IMO. One guy at church has a Martin D38 and another has a Gibson J100 those Carvins played better and sounded comparable (amplified) to those multi-thousand dollar guitars. It's true you can't try before you buy... but Carvin does have an excellent return policy. When I pop for another acoustic, that's the route I am going.

BTW, they ARE made overseas... The setup and inspection are done in the Carvin factory in California though. They are true "unknown" bargains in the acoustic world if you ask me. Mega-buck sound and playability for little cash.

TG
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« Reply #9 on: February 09, 2006, 12:54:24 PM »

Carvins are okay, but they ain't got the class.  

Alvarez-Yairi, you can find a damn good sounding and playing instrument but ya gotta look, sometimes long and hard for the right one and don't expect the class factor there either.  

Taylor seems to have it all put together, you get the sound, you get the playability, you get the class plus if you get the right Taylor you get added wow factor.  


I still have my Gibson Anniversary model Hummingbird, maple, it is a one of a kind I think for I've played others that don't have its sound.  Wanted if for the difference in sound actually, for at the time I was often tasked with playing along with others in sessions and they typically had the Martin dreadnaught sound.  Moving to Gibby sound gave me a different tonality that often ended up with my track fader gettin' advanced, dontcha know.  All this just to point out that there can be different reasons for making different choices at different times.  

Ovations, especially the topline, sound absolutely great -- but way out in front of 'em, like at the six to twelv foot mark.  Up close the sound isn't there and certainly the player doesn't realize all the output from behind the guitar, which many try to compensate for by hittin' the thing too hard.  I used to play my Adamas while facing a hard wall for that reason, I could hear the thing coming back off of the wall.  Out in the open spaces I found it hard to control the constant feedback of listening while playing unless there was good monitoring.  Great sounding studio guitar for solo work, though, and a frighteningly easy to record guitar that worked with many different mics.  If it wasn't for that round back and the middle-aged potgut, I'd prolly still have the thing.  (grin).  

On the other hand, I've got an "old" Yamaha flattop that has, among other "bad" things, a plywood top.  Damn thing has the nerve to record like a Martin D-45, though, go figure.  


--Mac  
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Bubbagump
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« Reply #10 on: February 09, 2006, 01:05:55 PM »

Quote
Ovations, especially the topline, sound absolutely great -- but way out in front of 'em, like at the six to twelv foot mark. Up close the sound isn't there and certainly the player doesn't realize all the output from behind the guitar, which many try to compensate for by hittin' the thing too hard. I used to play my Adamas while facing a hard wall for that reason, I could hear the thing coming back off of the wall. Out in the open spaces I found it hard to control the constant feedback of listening while playing unless there was good monitoring. Great sounding studio guitar for solo work, though, and a frighteningly easy to record guitar that worked with many different mics. If it wasn't for that round back and the middle-aged potgut, I'd prolly still have the thing. (grin).

Exactly... they are an audience's guitar, not one to hear yourself. The one I heard that absolutely knocked me over was a trio... cello, guitar, and violin and in the mix (no amplification) this guitar sounded awesome.

And Mac, you had an Adamas? That's my "someday when I am old and rich" guitar. *drool*
« Last Edit: February 09, 2006, 01:07:27 PM by bubbagump » Logged

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« Reply #11 on: February 09, 2006, 01:07:21 PM »

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And Mac, you had an Adamas? *drool*


Like I said, ya keep turnin' 'em over, all the while looking for THAT guitar...




--Mac
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soul&folk
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« Reply #12 on: February 09, 2006, 03:29:37 PM »

Here's a crazy idea.... how about looking into a classical guitar? I know you weren't asking about that, but they DO have wider necks, and they can record really nicely. Nice soft sound to them. A used Yamaha won't cost that much to give it a try. Just a thought...
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« Reply #13 on: February 09, 2006, 05:18:33 PM »

It's a bit out of date now, but I think some general lessons still hold: check out this site: Acoustic Guitar Pickup Test.

IMHO, none of the single-element contact pickups sound very good.  There's one dual piezo system that sounds better than any of the single-element contact units (PUTW, IIRC).  But by far, all the best systems are dual-element, with internal mike plus contact pickup.  There's a really big gap between the contact-only rigs and the dual-element rigs with mikes.

Happy listening.  Sure would be nice to get someone to do this with the latest models.

Frankly, the test mostly makes me want a TLM103s (the mike they used as the standard of comparison).
« Last Edit: February 09, 2006, 05:21:34 PM by learjeff » Logged

Mac
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« Reply #14 on: February 09, 2006, 05:32:40 PM »



You don't think the I-Bridge sounds good?



--Mac
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« Reply #15 on: February 09, 2006, 08:46:25 PM »

http://www.ninevehguitars.com/servlet/StoreFront a buddy of mine sells guitars on the internethe stated on E-Bay and now is building his own website as well, but he carries a lot more than is listed on the site. One line he sells is Blue Ridge, i have played a few and they sound very good, very martinesque. A while bck he had a couple in stock and they were going for around $369 for that one could afford to add a great pickup system and still get a nice setup for a good price. He is a great guy, an avid guitar player, and fellow recording nut. Maybe drop him an e-mail and see if he can find something you like Some of his lines are as mentioned Blue Ridge, Art and Lutherie, Walden, Washburn, Cort. to mention a few.
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« Reply #16 on: February 09, 2006, 08:49:30 PM »

Oh on the subject of Ovation, I have a 1980ish Legend 12 string that i might sell soon if anyone is interested, a great playing guitar, but I never liked the sound, unless plugged in. the unplugged tone is not my bag. for the right offer i might sell, then sometimes i think eh maybe not, it does record well.
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learjeff
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« Reply #17 on: February 09, 2006, 09:16:28 PM »

Mac, I was talking about the ones covered on the page I posted.  I'm not familiar with the I-Bridge.  A friend of mine has a D16 she uses on stage and I know it's a single-element pickup that sounds better than any other I'd heard.  But I don't remember which model it is, just that I was really impressed at the sound -- perhaps that's the I-Bridge.  It definitely didn't quack like a piezo.

I was hoping the Sherfler would sound better than it does in the comparison -- since it's not piezo, it doesn't quack.  But it seems to be lacking definition.  I suspect that combining the Scherfler with a good contact piezo would give a great tone, keeping the piezo down and in a place where it won't get overstimulated.

I'm seriously considering getting a pup for my HD-28, so maybe I should carefully consider the I-Bridge if you think it's a good one.  Thanks for the tip!
 
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« Reply #18 on: February 09, 2006, 09:41:27 PM »

Jeff, check out HERE.

It's the shizzle IMO.

TG
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« Reply #19 on: February 09, 2006, 10:35:39 PM »

Jeff, by all means check out the I-Bridge.  

Especially if your guit already has an undersaddle piezo, you can just buy the I-Beam itself and hook its output cable to the input of the existing piezo preamp.  

20 minute install.  


The thing sounds great in live work, not too bad for recording but for recording I still prefer a couple of mics, of course.  


--Mac
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