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  #1  
Old 09-09-2019, 01:54 PM
J-Doug J-Doug is online now
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Default would you recommend all koa Martins if I don't like all mahogany Martins?

Hi guys,

I've never once seen an all koa Martin (top, back and sides) here in town EVER and I highly doubt I ever will so the chance of me playing one locally is probably zero. I prefer to try before I buy. I've played a lot of all mahogany Martins (and other brands) and sadly I do not like their tone.

Keeping this in mind would you recommend an all koa topped Martin to me? Assume it's beautifully flamey koa too.

What are the similarities and differences? This is all academic right now because I just blew the guitar budget big time but I've always been intrigued by all koa Martins. Especially a 12 fret 00-28K.

EDIT: I should note that I am a bare fingered fingerpicker who plays ragtime, blues and gospel. I almost never use any sort of pick.
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Last edited by J-Doug; 09-09-2019 at 03:53 PM.
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Old 09-09-2019, 02:00 PM
Quake17 Quake17 is offline
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Doug,

I bought my D-42K2 (all koa) new in '02. I'd had a D-25K2 in the mid '80's so I had a pretty good idea on the sound. I found it to be very quiet for the first nine months or so and then it started to open up. I think koa tops can develop a "sweetness" to the sound that you don't get from all mahogany and more sustain. Not particularly loud compared to a softwood top, but a different thing. I played a 00-28K from the late '20's from a local store owners private collection and it had that sweetness too.

I have all koa guitars from Goodall and Taylor as well for comparison and I'd say it's generally similar. I think all koa can be tricky and a lot of people fall for the visuals but give up on the sound.
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Old 09-09-2019, 02:04 PM
L20A L20A is offline
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I have hears a few all Koa guitars and never bonded with the tone.
If you don't like all Mahogany, like me, you may also not like all Koa guitars.
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Old 09-09-2019, 02:19 PM
Malcolm Kindnes Malcolm Kindnes is offline
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I have a 00028 K 1921 authentic and it is a superb instrument, nothing like an all mahogany guitar. It was also very expensive so one would expect it to be very good.
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Old 09-09-2019, 02:25 PM
bufflehead bufflehead is offline
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I'm not sure I understand the question. How can someone not like all-mahogany Martins?
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Old 09-09-2019, 02:27 PM
Earl49 Earl49 is offline
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To be fair, I no longer own ANY Martin guitars. All four were sold years ago for a variety of reasons. I have played a few koa Martin guitars and a number of Martin koa ukulele over the years, but never pulled the trigger on any.

I currently have both all-koa (2007 424-LTD) and koa/spruce topped (2006 K-16) guitars, but they are Taylor. IMO Taylor does a really good job building with koa wood. You said that none are available to you locally, but you really have to judge the individual guitar, not the whole genre.

Koa is a hardwood and takes quite a while -- on the order of 18-24 months -- to open up and develop its sweetness. Most people bail on new koa guitars too soon. As for tone, koa has a brightness and focus that mahogany generally lacks. Mahogany is quite warm in tone from the get-go, but koa will usually get there eventually. And as always, YMMV depending on what you envision is the ideal guitar tone and how your hear. You could try googling for the Taylor tone chart that compares the spectrum of various woods. I've found that to be fairly accurate for the inherent EQ curve of various woods.

FWIW I have played (and bought) koa guitars because I truly loved the sound. I have also played koa guitars at twice the price I spent that were little more than pretty artwork. There was a time when I was enamored of the idea of a Goodall Royal Hawaiian model in koa. But playing a particular $5K example at Buffalo Brothers cured me of that desire. Maybe others were better, but you don't see many of them in the wild. I'm happy where I am.

Last edited by Earl49; 09-09-2019 at 06:31 PM. Reason: added content
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Old 09-09-2019, 02:53 PM
jaymarsch jaymarsch is offline
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I find koa and mahogany to be different depending on whose making the guitar. Mahogany to my ears is warm sounding with a bit of punch and Koa can have a bit of a brittle tone with a sharper bite to the trebles that mellows over time. I think that you would just have to try it (with full knowledge of their return policy) and if you didn't like it, ship it back.

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Old 09-09-2019, 03:00 PM
gr81dorn gr81dorn is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bufflehead View Post
I'm not sure I understand the question. How can someone not like all-mahogany Martins?
I was thinking the same thing. I literally judge every guitar against my all Mahogany guitars and nothing ever sounds as good.

Just proves we all have different ears.
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Old 09-09-2019, 03:04 PM
gr81dorn gr81dorn is offline
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I'll just say this and with full disclosure that I think all mahogany guitars are the best sounding guitars for my ears. All Koa (and other acacies, blackwood, etc) guitars always seem like the deader, more imbalanced versions of all mahogany - in other words, quieter, not as sweet versions. They do seem way more similar to me than anything with a softwood top. For your specific reason, I would just say any all hardwood guitar probably isn't gonna suit you.
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Old 09-09-2019, 03:17 PM
J-Doug J-Doug is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bufflehead View Post
How can someone not like all-mahogany Martins?
It's not for lack of trying. Trust me I've wanted to. I did play a 000-15SM once that I thought was pretty good.
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2003 Martin 000-18MC ✩ 2008 Martin 000-28VS ✩ 2012 Gibson J-45 Standard ✩ 2015 Gibson 1928 L-1 Blues Tribute ✩ 2015 Gibson 1932 L-00 Vintage ✩ Fender Acoustic SFX ✩ Baggs ParaDI

My recordings


Last edited by J-Doug; 09-09-2019 at 03:25 PM.
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Old 09-09-2019, 03:25 PM
bufflehead bufflehead is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J-Doug View Post
It's not for lack of trying. Trust me I've wanted to.
I believe you. I'm feeling the same about rosewood. I have a hard time understanding why anyone would play a D-28 rather than a D-18.
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Old 09-09-2019, 03:32 PM
musicman1951 musicman1951 is offline
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I have very limited experience: the only all koa martin I played was an Authentic. I was a very sweet guitar with way more sustain than most hogs I've played. I generally find mahogany lovers are not finger style players (generally) and this was a most excellent finger style guitar.

If I hadn't purchased a D-28 Authentic a few months before it would be in my house now.
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Old 09-09-2019, 03:37 PM
Tnfiddler Tnfiddler is offline
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I have one experience with Koa that I'll tell you about. I've had 2 Taylor Koa guitars. One was a 210ce DLX(didn't stay a month) and a 2008 Fall Ltd. Koa GS that, unplugged, was hands down the best sounding Taylor guitar I've ever heard! It was stunning to look at and had just about every fancy appt. you can get on a Taylor. I priced a BTO with the exact specs and it was over $8k. HOWEVER, it was an absolute tinny, trebly mess when plugged in. It had the ES1.2 system in it and I fought the tone for months. Picks, strings, cables, different settings, switching off sensors, called Taylor and followed their advice and NOTHING would get the bright trebles out of it when I was plugged in. As much as I loved it unplugged, I had to move it on because I buy my guitars to play plugged-in every Sunday and Wednesday. I'd make sure that I played one, as much as possible before I bought one.
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Old 09-09-2019, 05:49 PM
cliff_the_stiff cliff_the_stiff is offline
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I have an all Mahogany 12 string Taylor- and I have played the V-class Taylor Koa Builders edition with a torrefied spruce top- Koa back and sides-
I had a strong visceral negative reaction to playing that guitar. It did not have any noticeable character to its voice. Just a really pretty piece of artwork.
I think I would steer clear of a Koa soundboard.
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  #15  
Old 09-09-2019, 06:07 PM
zoopeda zoopeda is offline
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Figure out what you DO like, and buy that. No, you probably won’t like Koa tops. But that’s not real helpful until you figure out what kind of top you DO like. Play a bunch or buy used (and resell when you decide against), and then decide. My ears like most tone wood tops. I have spruce dreadnoughts and a hog top 000. I’ve only played a handful of koa tops (one being the very expensive all koa Martin authentic), and none of them ever did it for me. (And I do love a good hog top.). But those koas DO reportedly take a long time to break in.
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