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Old 02-09-2018, 11:19 AM
wxfloyd wxfloyd is online now
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Default New guitar search (or how I learned to stop worrying and love the D-18)

Ok, couldn't resist with the silly (and slightly misleading) title reference to Dr. Strangelove.

I've been on quite a search looking for my next guitar (THE guitar, TBH), which will be my only guitar, at least for quite a while. I've been all over the place. In the last 2 months, I've gone through a Larrivee OM-02, an Eastman hog OM, and currently a Martin OM-15 (LA Guitars custom model). Alongside these has been my Larrivee D-03 that I've owned for about 10 years. All great guitars, with their own unique voices, but none that really had that "it" tone I've been searching for. I've been wanting to really like OM's, mostly for their more mid-range presence and comfortable body style, but my ears keep gravitating towards bigger body styles that provide that little extra "oomph" in the low-end. I also do like my Larrivee, but I'm now finding that a 1 3/4 nut width is much more comfortable than the 1 11/16 on my D-03. I also find the Martin necks/fretboard radius more comfortable than my Larrivee. My tastes in music have changed as well since I bought my Larrivee in 2009. Then I mostly played just rock, but now my playing styles lean to more folk/bluegrass, with some occasional rock/classic rock songs thrown in. I also play mandolin and want something that will go nicely with that when I do the occasional home recording.

Last week I took a trip to Wildwood Guitars in Louisville, CO. I tried out two D-18's and a Taylor 324e, as it has been in my sights as well. The D-18's were nice guitars, played nice and sounded good, but didn't really wow me over my D-03. Even one of the salespeople said he was surprised at how they sounded a little muted and not as lively as he expected. The Taylor was pretty nice too, but again just didn't quite do it for me.
The problem I'm having is that nearly every sound clip and youtube video I hear of a D-18 sounds great: open, loud yet subtle and responsive when lightly strummed or fingerpicked, and has that classic Martin tone that I keep gravitating to.

Would it be plausible that what I heard at Wildwood is just a new guitar that hasn't been "played in" yet and just needs some playing time to get to that point? Perhaps it had dull strings that needed changing (as the salesperson suggested). Or, have I just had bad luck at playing a couple of duds?
I've also been considering a Taylor 314. I played one a while back at Denver Folklore Center that seemed pretty good, but as I mentioned, my ears seem to lean toward the Martin tone over the more modern Taylor tone. The one complaint I had when playing the 324 was the very apparent high-end shimmer, which I wondered if could be fixed with strings other than Elixirs.

I also have been eyeing the Martin OM-21, as I really enjoyed playing one at Denver Folklore as well. Again, though, I was missing that lower end from the larger-body guitars. I may have to go back and try that one again, but it seems no matter which path I take, I keep coming back to guitars with more low-end than an OM can provide.

VERY long story short, I'm trying to figure out if my experience at Wildwood is what I should expect from about every D-18, or if I should take a chance with buying one online from an AGF sponser like My Favorite Guitars or Maury's, where I won't have a chance to try it out in person. If I do go that route, I'll definitely call them first to get their thoughts on the specific guitar they have in stock. On paper, the D-18 has just about everything I'm looking for in a guitar, both for tone and aesthetics.

Sorry for the long rambling. This will be the most I've ever spent on a guitar, by a long shot, and I want to make sure I'm making the right decision.
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Last edited by wxfloyd; 02-10-2018 at 10:35 AM.
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Old 02-09-2018, 11:34 AM
Jaden Jaden is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wxfloyd View Post
Ok, couldn't resist with the silly title.

I've been on quite a search looking for my next guitar (THE guitar, TBH), which will be my only guitar, at least for quite a while. I've been all over the place. In the last 2 months, I've gone through a Larrivee OM-02, an Eastman hog OM, and currently a Martin OM-15 (LA Guitars custom model). Alongside these has been my Larrivee D-03 that I've owned for about 10 years. All great guitars, with their own unique voices, but none that really had that "it" tone I've been searching for. I've been wanting to really like OM's, mostly for their more mid-range presence and comfortable body style, but my ears keep gravitating towards bigger body styles that provide that little extra "oomph" in the low-end. I also do like my Larrivee, but I'm now finding that a 1 3/4 nut width is much more comfortable than the 1 11/16 on my D-03. I also find the Martin necks/fretboard radius more comfortable than my Larrivee. My tastes in music have changed as well since I bought my Larrivee in 2009. Then I mostly played just rock, but now my playing styles lean to more folk/bluegrass, with some occasional rock/classic rock songs thrown in. I also play mandolin and want something that will go nicely with that when I do the occasional home recording.

Last week I took a trip to Wildwood Guitars in Louisville, CO. I tried out two D-18's and a Taylor 324e, as it has been in my sights as well. The D-18's were nice guitars, played nice and sounded good, but didn't really wow me over my D-03. Even one of the salespeople said he was surprised at how they sounded a little muted and not as lively as he expected. The Taylor was pretty nice too, but again just didn't quite do it for me.
The problem I'm having is that nearly every sound clip and youtube video I hear of a D-18 sounds great: open, loud yet subtle and responsive when lightly strummed or fingerpicked, and has that classic Martin tone that I keep gravitating to.

Would it be plausible that what I heard at Wildwood is just a new guitar that hasn't been "played in" yet and just needs some playing time to get to that point? Perhaps it had dull strings that needed changing (as the salesperson suggested). Or, have I just had bad luck at playing a couple of duds?
I've also been considering a Taylor 314. I played one a while back at Denver Folklore Center that seemed pretty good, but as I mentioned, my ears seem to lean toward the Martin tone over the more modern Taylor tone. The one complaint I had when playing the 324 was the very apparent high-end shimmer, which I wondered if could be fixed with strings other than Elixirs.

I also have been eyeing the Martin OM-21, as I really enjoyed playing one at Denver Folklore as well. Again, though, I was missing that lower end from the larger-body guitars. I may have to go back and try that one again, but it seems no matter which path I take, I keep coming back to guitars with more low-end than an OM can provide.

VERY long story short, I'm trying to figure out if my experience at Wildwood is what I should expect from about every D-18, or if I should take a chance with buying one online from an AGF sponser like My Favorite Guitars or Maury's, where I won't have a chance to try it out in person. If I do go that route, I'll definitely call them first to get their thoughts on the specific guitar they have in stock. On paper, the D-18 has just about everything I'm looking for in a guitar, both for tone and aesthetics.

Sorry for the long rambling. This will be the most I've ever spent on a guitar, by a long shot, and I want to make sure I'm making the right decision.
I wouldn’t worry - just go ahead with the D-18. Your 10 year old Larrivee is well aged and will be tough competition for any new/green guitar, even the Martin.
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Old 02-09-2018, 11:38 AM
sid45 sid45 is offline
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stop worrying and grab a d 18. Also, I would try finding a used one in your area, Id add that some 70s examples can be inexpensive and great gits
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Old 02-09-2018, 11:40 AM
cmd612 cmd612 is offline
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I'm surprised the salesperson told you it didn't sound good because of old strings but didn't offer to change them?

If you've played more than one D-18, and none of them did it for you, I can't see why you'd order a D-18 from somewhere else and hope you'd like it better. You could go try to play some more D-18s before deciding, but unless you play one and think "yes, this is IT," I wouldn't recommend buying one - unless maybe you find a great deal on a used one that'd make it worth buying and taking home for a long-term audition.

FWIW, I gave up dreads for ergonomic reasons and tried to be happy with just an OM for THE guitar. Bought one that, on paper, had everything I wanted. It didn't work; I missed that low end, too. I did quite a bit of buying and selling before discovering that small jumbos are my sweet spot. It sounds like you just need to keep shopping for a while. If you settle for something just because you think it's what you should like, there's a good chance you're not going to be happy with it.
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Old 02-09-2018, 11:55 AM
wxfloyd wxfloyd is online now
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Originally Posted by cmd612 View Post
I'm surprised the salesperson told you it didn't sound good because of old strings but didn't offer to change them?

If you've played more than one D-18, and none of them did it for you, I can't see why you'd order a D-18 from somewhere else and hope you'd like it better. You could go try to play some more D-18s before deciding, but unless you play one and think "yes, this is IT," I wouldn't recommend buying one - unless maybe you find a great deal on a used one that'd make it worth buying and taking home for a long-term audition.

FWIW, I gave up dreads for ergonomic reasons and tried to be happy with just an OM for THE guitar. Bought one that, on paper, had everything I wanted. It didn't work; I missed that low end, too. I did quite a bit of buying and selling before discovering that small jumbos are my sweet spot. It sounds like you just need to keep shopping for a while. If you settle for something just because you think it's what you should like, there's a good chance you're not going to be happy with it.
I guess what I was getting at with my ramblings was if I can expect a D-18 to open up noticeably from the time of purchase (assuming new guitar). It's not that I didn't like the D-18, its just at the time I wasn't sure if it was worth spending the money on it when my D-03 was "good enough". As far as buying used, it seems that used prices go for about the same as what I could get a new one from a reputable AGF sponser with the unofficial AGF discount.
You mention a small jumbo, and that's kind of where I've seen the Taylor 314 sit. Something in-between an OM and dread. Just curious, what was the small jumbo that you ended up with?

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Originally Posted by Jaden View Post
I wouldn’t worry - just go ahead with the D-18. Your 10 year old Larrivee is well aged and will be tough competition for any new/green guitar, even the Martin.
Its actually closer to 15 years old, and that's exactly what the salesperson at Wildwood mentioned too. That Larrivee has had 15 years to break in where as the Martins were brand new.
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Old 02-09-2018, 12:14 PM
cmd612 cmd612 is offline
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I guess what I was getting at with my ramblings was if I can expect a D-18 to open up noticeably from the time of purchase (assuming new guitar).
Gotcha. I've definitely experienced guitars "opening up" when I've bought new. The thing is, though, it's never made a guitar that I was just "eh. . . OK" about into a guitar I loved. Opening up has taken guitars that were OK and made them sound a lot better than they did, and opening up has taken a guitar I already loved from the first strum and made it sound even better, but I've never had a guitar that I wasn't crazy about turn into one I was crazy about.

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Originally Posted by wxfloyd View Post
Just curious, what was the small jumbo that you ended up with?
Now I have a custom small jumbo, but the one that got me hooked on that body size is a Gibson WM-180, which is essentially a J-185 without bling. I find it more comfortable and more balanced than most dreads, but with more bass than an OM. To my ears, at any rate.

Good luck!
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Old 02-09-2018, 12:27 PM
wxfloyd wxfloyd is online now
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Originally Posted by cmd612 View Post
Gotcha. I've definitely experienced guitars "opening up" when I've bought new. The thing is, though, it's never made a guitar that I was just "eh. . . OK" about into a guitar I loved. Opening up has taken guitars that were OK and made them sound a lot better than they did, and opening up has taken a guitar I already loved from the first strum and made it sound even better, but I've never had a guitar that I wasn't crazy about turn into one I was crazy about.



Now I have a custom small jumbo, but the one that got me hooked on that body size is a Gibson WM-180, which is essentially a J-185 without bling. I find it more comfortable and more balanced than most dreads, but with more bass than an OM. To my ears, at any rate.

Good luck!
I guess my biggest hesitation was the price tag. Like I said earlier, I've never spent this much on a guitar before, so maybe I'm expecting more than I should, unless I'm getting up into Collings or Santa Cruz territory. The D-18's I played were nice, I'd love to have one, I guess I'm just hesitant because of the hefty price tag that comes with a Martin. But I know that if what I'm wanting is the Martin-esque tone, then not much is going to do it other than a Martin.
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Old 02-09-2018, 12:50 PM
L20A L20A is offline
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I have wanted to like the sound of a new D-18 for several years.
So many people love them.
There has only been one locally for me to try out.
It was not what I expected.
It lacked volume, sustain and depth.
I have heard some nice D-18's and I'm sure that this one was just not up to par.

Don't settle for a guitar that you are not impressed with, in hopes that it will get better over time.
Continue your search and the right D-18 will come your way.
If not, you may not be a D-18 kind of player.
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Old 02-09-2018, 01:10 PM
kcnbys kcnbys is offline
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I've only played one of the new D-18's that was "sub-par", and I bet a string change would have made a difference. I recently, finally purchased one, and it's outstanding. Call and talk to Ted (LA Guitar Sales), John (My Favorite Guitars), and/or Maury (Maury's Music). I'm certain none of those guys will sell you a "dud". If they happen to have more than one in stock, I'm sure they would help you get the best of the lot, and I would trust any of their assessments. Oh yeah - each of them will give you a rock bottom price to boot!
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Old 02-09-2018, 01:13 PM
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Ed-in-Ohio Ed-in-Ohio is offline
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I'll offer two pieces of free advice (so they will be worth exactly what you pay for them ):
  • ALWAYS trust what you hear in person over on-line audio.
  • ALWAYS trust your initial gut feel regarding a guitar and whether it will be a good fit for YOU. Though I have tried (and tried hard), I've never warmed-up to a guitar (even a great guitar) that I didn't like the moment I started playing it.
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Old 02-09-2018, 01:59 PM
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Rev Roy Rev Roy is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ed-in-Ohio View Post
I'll offer two pieces of free advice (so they will be worth exactly what you pay for them ):
  • ALWAYS trust what you hear in person over on-line audio.
  • ALWAYS trust your initial gut feel regarding a guitar and whether it will be a good fit for YOU. Though I have tried (and tried hard), I've never warmed-up to a guitar (even a great guitar) that I didn't like the moment I started playing it.
Good advice...to which I would add: Buy a guitar because of the way it sounds now, not for a sound you hope it may have some day in the future.
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Old 02-09-2018, 02:08 PM
rokdog49 rokdog49 is offline
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My new D18 fits the description of your expectations.
Having said that, it isn't what I have experienced in a loud guitar, it isn't.
Sounds like you might not be a candidate for a D18. They are pretty consistent although I think a got a special one.
They are what they are. Don't spend almost $2000 on a guitar that doesn't meet your expectations...don't.
To be truthful, I played mine in person and bought it on the spot. I had played a few others.
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Old 02-09-2018, 02:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ed-in-Ohio View Post
I'll offer two pieces of free advice (so they will be worth exactly what you pay for them ):
  • ALWAYS trust what you hear in person over on-line audio.
  • ALWAYS trust your initial gut feel regarding a guitar and whether it will be a good fit for YOU. Though I have tried (and tried hard), I've never warmed-up to a guitar (even a great guitar) that I didn't like the moment I started playing it.
Preach on brother Ed!

I would add that sometimes our expectations lead us to disappointment. The Larrivee you have is a fine all solid wood guitar made by hand. It may not be voiced like a Martin, but it isn't junk. So, if you were expecting miracles, I am not surprised you were disappointed. That said, there are some D-18s that might be a step above your well played in Larrivee. The D-18 GE, for instance. Or, maybe you should think about a D-28 to compliment your Larrivee.
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Old 02-09-2018, 02:22 PM
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You are not alone. This forum gave me D-18 GAS for the past two years. In that time I have played close to 10 of them and always walked away wondering why people like these so much. Just not MY thang...

Larrivee is one of the best bang for your buck Guitar out there and spending 3x more for Collings won’t get you 3x the tone but I’m sure you know that.

Keep trying various guitars. You will definitely run in to one that will “wow” you and put simile on your face evertime you grab it.
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Old 02-09-2018, 02:29 PM
DebbieE DebbieE is offline
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I bought a new D-18 when the 2012 redo first came out and it was a great guitar but along came a Huss and Dalton TDM that I just had to have. So once I got the Huss and Dalton and loved it I sold the D-18 (I do miss that guitar it was great but so is the Huss and Dalton). Anyhow, I went to Guitar Center probably a year after I sold the D-18 and checked out the new D-18 they had and it just didn't have as good of a tone as the one I sold. Perhaps it was because they had some old strings on it at least that's what I think was a big part of it.

I did get myself a new 2017 D-28 back in October and it is fantastic! That guitar I will not get rid of and I'm not buying another rosewood dreadnaught, I'm going to stick with my D-28. My point is that this re-imagined series of Martins so far to me have really been great. Did I luck out just getting two guitars from online dealers site unseen and have them both be terrific, I don't think so I just think they're making some nice guitars.

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