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Old 10-07-2019, 06:21 AM
Kenny202 Kenny202 is offline
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Default Acoustic guitar with a low action?

Just wondering if anyone can point me in the right direction. Never been much of an acoustic player as I like the low action of an electric. Now I have come to understand that acoustic guitars are meant to have a higher action to get the sound quality. I am after a compromise here. Most playing will be at home and amplified if gigging.

When I say low action I mean between 1 - 2 mm off the 12th fret. Am I right in assuming Taylors, Guilds, Martins etc will generally have a higher action with little chance of getting down to what I require?

The only thing I have had come close to what I wanted was an early Japanese Takamine. I had a Japanese made APX also which was good. The neck was so precise the action was silky smooth, fast and low and sounded great. Later Takamines I have played have not been the same. As you can tell I am no purist. Can anyone suggest a brand of guitar, decent but not ridiculously expensive that may be made well enough (neck straight) that will allow me to get the action I want?
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Old 10-07-2019, 06:48 AM
canyongargon canyongargon is offline
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Most new guitars from the big factories (and some smaller builders too) go through a Plek machine, which uses very high-precision measurements to mechanically level the frets, and should be trustworthy for lower action. Any guitar with solid fret work, either Plek or hand-leveled by a good luthier, should sound clean notes with low just reasonable action.

Of course the most precisely set up guitar in the world will buzz when picking even moderately hard when the action reaches a certain “lowness” just because of the physics of a vibrating string. If you’re prepared to accept that, I would imagine you could take most quality modern guitars down pretty low, assuming the other elements of the guitar (neck angle, neck relief, etc) are set correctly.
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Old 10-07-2019, 06:53 AM
rmp rmp is offline
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I don't measure by mm,

but I can tell say you can certainly get (for an acoustic) the action low enough to be played comfortably.

you may want to use lighter gauge strings at first, maybe 11s?

Thing is, it's a bit more involved than just take the saddle down. The nut would need to be regulated as well. and for that, you need a bit more know how that one does for just adjusting the bridge.

a comfortable ball park action set for me with an acoustic is around 5/64s Low E 4/64s high E. I use 12 gauge strings.

the MIC taks are respectable guitars if you like takamines guitars. Guild, Washburn, all offer pretty good acoustics in a reachable price as well.
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Old 10-07-2019, 06:54 AM
Kenny202 Kenny202 is offline
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Hmmmm I don't know. I have had countless Acoustic guitars that I couldn't get even close to a low action. Quality guitars too. I mean the bridge is solid, no belly or obvious problems. Saddle taken down as far as possible and neck straight as I can get it. I use pretty light gauge strings too, usually 10's.
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Old 10-07-2019, 07:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Kenny202 View Post
Saddle taken down as far as possible and neck straight as I can get it.
As stated above, the basis for the ability to set up an instrument with low action (5/64 bass and 4/64 treble is about as low as you are going to get it) is perfect fret work - without this, there is going to be trouble somewhere on the fingerboard.

I see you are in Thailand - I'm assuming you struggle to keep your guitars in moderate humdity? This is not friendly to having frets maintain their level state.

Also, your comment "neck as straight as I can get it" - you need to have some relief in the neck to get the action lower - dead flat is going to cause problems.

I recommend you spend some time in Frank Ford's site Frets.com and familiarize yourself with the basics of setups and troubleshooting. It's a great resource.
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Old 10-07-2019, 07:18 AM
rpguitar rpguitar is offline
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You absolutely can get a low action on an acoustic guitar, but not entirely like an electric. The string has to vibrate more freely on an acoustic guitar; there is no two ways about it. Electric guitar strings can tolerate more fret slap and buzz because the pickup is amplifying the sound, and some of those potentially disruptive effects get covered up by the amplification.

The standard for acoustic steel string guitar low action on the E (sixth) string is 3/32" above the 12 fret, which translates to 2.38 mm. An aggressive low action, still doable with really even frets, is 5/64" or 1.98 mm. That's the "I wouldn't make it any lower" setting. This setting will also be too low for most people, and if you sell the guitar, will likely be problematic for prospective buyers.

Obviously some will disagree, but this is my experience and it's backed up by most internet anecdotes I've read. Nut slots are also crucial and occasionally overlooked by the amateur.

Here's a great article on acoustic guitar action:
http://www.bryankimsey.com/setup/actions.htm

Your best bet, though, is to embrace the acoustic guitar for what it is and learn to play with an action that's appropriate for the instrument.
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Old 10-07-2019, 07:26 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kenny202 View Post

When I say low action I mean between 1 - 2 mm off the 12th fret. Am I right in assuming Taylors, Guilds, Martins etc will generally have a higher action with little chance of getting down to what I require?

1mm will be close to impossible on the low E string of an acoustic guitar but 2mm is totally doable. Taylor, Martin and Guild etc.. will often come with higher action than this but a good tech will be able to dial it in for you.
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Old 10-07-2019, 07:27 AM
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Originally Posted by rpguitar View Post
Nut slots are also crucial and occasionally overlooked by the amateur.
.
Yes - forgot to mention the nut slots - makes a huge difference, especially for those that tend to linger on the first few frets!
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Old 10-07-2019, 07:27 AM
vintage40s vintage40s is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kenny202 View Post
... I have come to understand that acoustic guitars are meant to have a higher action to get the sound quality... When I say low action I mean between 1 - 2 mm off the 12th fret. Am I right in assuming Taylors, Guilds, Martins etc will generally have a higher action with little chance of getting down to what I require?.... Can anyone suggest a brand of guitar... that will allow me to get the action I want?
I like the action at 12th fret as low as possible without buzzing when played hard. The normal E string height there is 1.5 to 3.0 mm. Most new guitars come 3/32" or 2.4 mm. I like it to be 2.0 mm and have paid a luthier to get my Martin D-35, Yamaha CF3M compact folk, Eastman E20OM orchestra and Eastman E20P parlor all set up to that height by lowering the saddles. The E20P had an additional issue with the frets needing "dressing" to avoid buzzing under hard playing at that height.

Manual dressing, or computerized "plek-ing", lowers the frets as much as possible. It costs about $200, so only high-end guitars come factory plek-ed.

Any guitar can be set up with 2.0 mm., though some individual examples like my E20P may need fret dressing or plek-ing. Going down to 1.5 mm increases the chance of buzzing with even gentle playing, and I think 1.0 mm is unrealistic.
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Old 10-07-2019, 07:31 AM
Kenny202 Kenny202 is offline
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Yes I am in Thailand and I swear I will never buy an acoustic guitar here sight unseen and take the sellers word for it. A mixture of humidity, air conditioning and rough treatment order of the day here. Many many guitars have warping, bridge belly, broken bracing. 5/64 bass is about 2mm and for me that is just about ok, but not really as low as I like. Most of my electrics would be about 1.5mm and I see no reason why an acoustic with light strings shouldn't be able to get near to that. I mean its fine playing open chords etc up near the nut but bar chords further up the neck doable but you're working hard. I understand to acoustic players the action you are talking about is quite low and most play a lot higher action than that. As far as relief needed to get a low action hmmmm sometimes, in my experience mostly not. If it's a well built guitar a straight neck should get the lowest action you can. But not always of course. If the relief appears right in the middle of the neck you can get a better action sometimes further up the neck. I find lately the last few acoustic guitars I have had relief appeared in different places, not a perfect curve where the highest relief is in the middle of the neck. On modern Yamahas I find the relief often appears near the neck? I don't know why? I have gauges and straight edges and have done quite a few set ups.

I wish I kept that Takamine I had. It must have been older, had the older Takamine logo. Was a light surf green colour from memory and had the 2 or 3 knobs on for the preamp. Sounded amazing amplified too.
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Old 10-07-2019, 07:36 AM
Kenny202 Kenny202 is offline
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What is the take on Crafter guitars? They seem quite well built and see a lot of them here, not exactly cheap either. I have seen some nice Taylor's but never played one. Is it possible to get a decent action on those?
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Old 10-07-2019, 07:41 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kenny202 View Post
5/64 bass is about 2mm and for me that is just about ok, but not really as low as I like..
I would tell you to stick the electrics, then. You'll save yourself a lot of frustration in your "unkind" weather. Guitars are living things and they "move" as their environment changes.

You would CONSTANTLY be tweaking the instrument and it still wouldn't be right.
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Old 10-07-2019, 07:53 AM
Silly Moustache Silly Moustache is offline
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Kenny,
it isn't about the brand, or even he design of the acoustic guitar
1 m/m = 3/64" = .039" - that is totally impractical for an acoustic guitar.
2 m/m ~ 5/64" = .079"

A reasonable action for an acoustic guitar is more like 1/16" = 1.6 m/m treble, and 3/32" = 2.38 m/m bass. (relief at app. 005").

I play mostly Collings guitars which are VERY accurate, but I prefer a higher action and relief to the above.

Also the strings on an acoustic are usually much thicker than on electrics.

I suggest that you reconsider this matter - an acoustic guitar is a very different beast to an electric.
They aren't really played in the same way.
Trying to find an acoustic that plays/feels like an electric is not going to be practical.
Learn to love the acoustic guitar for what it is. You hands will adapt when you play it like an acoustic - i.e. not like an electric.

That's probably not what you wanted to read, but I'm really trying to help.
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Old 10-07-2019, 07:56 AM
Arthur Slowhand Arthur Slowhand is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Osage View Post
1mm will be close to impossible on the low E string of an acoustic guitar but 2mm is totally doable.
This ^^^^^ . 1mm at the 12th fret is probably a mechanical impossibility.
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Old 10-07-2019, 08:22 AM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kenny202 View Post
...I use pretty light gauge strings too, usually 10's.
Here's a little secret all the '50s bop/rockabilly players knew:

If you want to get the action really low - in the range of 1.5-2.0mm (I wouldn't go any lower on a flattop acoustic) - think in terms of heavier strings than what you're used to. A set of 12's or 13's will not only have a smaller envelope of vibration (the amount of "swing" when plucked) but the added mass will impart more energy to the top (with the added benefits of more volume/tone), both of which will allow you to set the bridge saddle lower than with lighter-gauge strings (speaking from personal experience here - until very recently most of my electrics were set up with 12's, my flattop acoustics and electric jazzboxes with 13's, and my acoustic archtops with 14's); FYI those jazz guys were ripping off blazing solos with 13- and 14-gauge sets, a 12-gauge set (such as would have been fitted as OEM to period solid and thin-body instruments) was considered "light," and other than the late Tal Farlow none of them possessed particularly large hands. FWIW I'd find myself a first-rate tech and get a good pro setup job - you'd be surprised at just how easy a well-made guitar can play, and if seasonal humidity is a constant problem you might think about interchangeable "summer" and "winter" saddles (FYI many orchestral string players do this)...

Of course, you could always buy a carbon-fiber Rainsong/Emerald/CA/etc. - totally impervious to temperature/humidity (within reason), and you can never have too many guitars...
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