The Acoustic Guitar Forum

Go Back   The Acoustic Guitar Forum > General Acoustic Guitar and Amplification Discussion > General Acoustic Guitar Discussion

Reply
 
Thread Tools
  #1  
Old 02-06-2019, 12:02 PM
asilker asilker is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Jan 2019
Location: Chicago IL
Posts: 15
Default Good Martins & Gibsons VS boutique luthiers: are they comparable?

Background
In December I purchased my first high quality acoustic guitar. After over a decade of playing, I nabbed a Martin 000-18 2018. I had read a bit about the updates to the Martin standard line and got to play through the whole series at CME. The 000-18 was the one that connected for me.

When I was shopping, I purposely did not compare Martin to boutique (not sure if this is the correct term)guitar brands like Collings and Santa Cruz. In terms of cost, the Martin was an enormous reach up for me and I am in no way able to afford a guitar in a price class above that. That's not a complaint, I feel very fortunate and I think it's great that people can afford the next models up.

My question is this
My understanding is that companies like Gibson and Martin did quite a bit to establish what a flat top, steel string acoustic guitar is and how it's made. Vintage examples, especially pre-war, seem to be regarded as a sort of pinnacle.

Does anyone have examples of nicely made Martin or Gibson guitars competing with smaller, more detail oriented manufacturers? Perhaps it is a case where more cost does usually represent a better final product. Has anyone transitioned from a highly regarded small builder back "down" to a Martin or Gibson? Are any of these guitars comparable?

I am comfortable with the fact that there are finer guitars out there than mine. It's good that they exist, and I am not trying to justify my purchase as the wisest. Just interested to gather information. Thanks folks
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 02-06-2019, 12:13 PM
gr81dorn gr81dorn is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2016
Posts: 723
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by asilker View Post
Background
In December I purchased my first high quality acoustic guitar. After over a decade of playing, I nabbed a Martin 000-18 2018. I had read a bit about the updates to the Martin standard line and got to play through the whole series at CME. The 000-18 was the one that connected for me.

When I was shopping, I purposely did not compare Martin to boutique (not sure if this is the correct term)guitar brands like Collings and Santa Cruz. In terms of cost, the Martin was an enormous reach up for me and I am in no way able to afford a guitar in a price class above that. That's not a complaint, I feel very fortunate and I think it's great that people can afford the next models up.

My question is this
My understanding is that companies like Gibson and Martin did quite a bit to establish what a flat top, steel string acoustic guitar is and how it's made. Vintage examples, especially pre-war, seem to be regarded as a sort of pinnacle.

Does anyone have examples of nicely made Martin or Gibson guitars competing with smaller, more detail oriented manufacturers? Perhaps it is a case where more cost does usually represent a better final product. Has anyone transitioned from a highly regarded small builder back "down" to a Martin or Gibson? Are any of these guitars comparable?

I am comfortable with the fact that there are finer guitars out there than mine. It's good that they exist, and I am not trying to justify my purchase as the wisest. Just interested to gather information. Thanks folks
The most noteworthy difference in why Martin and Gibson's prices are less is just scale/volume. They have a lot larger capacity, a lot larger investment, but also buying power for lumber/hardware, etc so their cost to manufacture is greatly in their favor over the smaller guys, even with a bigger overhead. They simply have a different model.

That being said, I've had incredible stuff from most of the bigger names in the boutique space (Collings, Bourgeous, Huss and Dalton, Lowden, etc). Martin's standard series stands right there.

Probably the biggest difference is just approach. Martin is trying to make a 1000 of something that those other guys are trying to make 10, so they can be slower and take some more attention to certain elements. That, in my experience, really just means that more of those guitars from the smaller brands are consistently winners, whereas Martins may take some more review to find the best of a bunch.

There's a lot more to all of this, but I'll just say that I don't see anything far-and-away better with anyone than what Martin does with their standard series on up.

Some of the higher end Gibsons I've played the past few years have been as nice as anything I've seen from anyone.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 02-06-2019, 12:30 PM
asilker asilker is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Jan 2019
Location: Chicago IL
Posts: 15
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by gr81dorn View Post
The most noteworthy difference in why Martin and Gibson's prices are less is just scale/volume. They have a lot larger capacity, a lot larger investment, but also buying power for lumber/hardware, etc so their cost to manufacture is greatly in their favor over the smaller guys, even with a bigger overhead. They simply have a different model.

That being said, I've had incredible stuff from most of the bigger names in the boutique space (Collings, Bourgeous, Huss and Dalton, Lowden, etc). Martin's standard series stands right there.

Probably the biggest difference is just approach. Martin is trying to make a 1000 of something that those other guys are trying to make 10, so they can be slower and take some more attention to certain elements. That, in my experience, really just means that more of those guitars from the smaller brands are consistently winners, whereas Martins may take some more review to find the best of a bunch.

There's a lot more to all of this, but I'll just say that I don't see anything far-and-away better with anyone than what Martin does with their standard series on up.

Some of the higher end Gibsons I've played the past few years have been as nice as anything I've seen from anyone.
This is certainly encouraging. I spent an hour this week talking to a salesman here in Chicago about what was in his showroom. He communicated that while it was still not by any stretch a bad guitar, the particular D18 that they had in their showroom was not one of the better ones he had played. This makes sense to me.

I would love to hear from some of the guitar manufacturers in this forum on how they view their lines fitting with larger manufacturers. My assumption is that small builders would have an enormous respect for companies like Martin - enough respect to do intensely thorough jobs maximizing those production models
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 02-06-2019, 12:49 PM
DesertTwang DesertTwang is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Tucson, Arizona
Posts: 4,963
Default

I think so much of this comes down to personal preference. I'm in a similar position in that I could not afford a Collings or Santa Cruz any time soon (or rather, I'd rather spend that money on things like my child's education, or family vacations and the like).

Back when I shopped around for a 12-fret slot-head guitar, I went to a high end acoustic store where they had a bunch of boutique guitars. I played a few, such as Santa Cruz, Bourgeois, Collings and others. Santa Cruz left me "meh," Bourgeois' sound didn't live up even close to the price tag in my opinion, and I ended up buying a Martin 000-15sm at a fraction of the others' price. A few months ago, I discovered a dreadnaught with a name on the headstock I didn't recognize that looked really cool. Intrigued by the fact that the luthier was unknown to me, yet the guitar had a $3,500 price tag, I tried it out, bracing myself for immediate buyer's remorse, since I had just bought a Martin America 1 Model a few months earlier. That boutique guitar was a total dud, nowhere near my Martin America 1, which cost $1,000 less.

Collings is a different story. I am very much drawn to them and might even prefer them over Martin, but not at their prices.
__________________
"And that's why I've always thought of bluegrass players as the Marines of the music world" (Rock guitar guy I jammed with the other night)

Martin America 1
Martin SWDGT
Martin 000-15sm
Recording King Dirty 30s RPS-9 TS
Taylor GS Mini
Baton Rouge 12-string guitar
Martin Backpacker
1933 Epiphone Olympic
1971 Dobro
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 02-06-2019, 12:49 PM
musicman1951 musicman1951 is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2014
Location: Albany, NY
Posts: 1,871
Default

Martin has quite a range and they make some very expensive guitars. I think you can take an excellent Martin and compare it to anything near it's price range.

As you go down the price scale you no doubt have to search a lot longer - or get very lucky - but there are amazing examples of every model. You're not going to find the same quality control as a boutique maker, but amazing instruments none the less.

It's hard to imagine a salesman saying a Lowden was not a good example of the model. Having said that, my 000-42 Marquise can stand next to any guitar in the $5,000-$6,000 range.
__________________
Keith
Martin 000-42 Marquis
Lowden S 50
Taylor Classical
Alvarez 12 String
Gibson ES345
Fender P-Bass
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 02-06-2019, 01:17 PM
1Charlie 1Charlie is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Nov 2013
Location: Charlottesville, VA
Posts: 915
Default

I own a vintage Gibson J-50 (1949) and a modern boutique slope-shouldered spruce/mahogany dreadnought (Rockbridge) built to similar specifications.

They are as different as spaghetti and donuts. The J-50 is warm, fundamental, with a wonderfully sweet note decay, a terrific finger-picker and strummer. The Rockbridge is more in-your-face, louder, a better flat-picker, with tons of sustain.

Whether the same differences would exist between the Rockbridge and a modern J-45 or J-50 might come down to individual instruments. I have played a number of modern J-45's, and have yet to play two that sounded alike.
__________________
Neal

A few nice ones, a few beaters, and a few I should probably sell...
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 02-06-2019, 01:19 PM
hairpuller hairpuller is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Oct 2017
Location: Sonoma County, CA
Posts: 929
Default

I think you made a fine choice in that 000-18! See my sig! I have had many boutique guitars in the past and my 000 has beaten everything it has gone up against so far (Goodall, SCGC, Collings).

However, I have a Bourgeois country boy OM coming in the spring, and my 000 appears to be getting a little nervous. I think it's gonna be quite a shoot out!

Stay tuned...

scott
__________________
'07 Martin 000-18 GE 1937
'09 SCGC 1929 00
'89 Alvarez Yairi DY53
'80's Yamaha SJ-400S
'64 Gibson Melody Maker


Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 02-06-2019, 01:29 PM
Tnfiddler Tnfiddler is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Feb 2011
Location: Middle Tn
Posts: 1,193
Default

I haven't had Martin and Gibsons, but I've had some high-end Taylors that are as nice as my Bourgeois in fit/finish, but won't run with it volume or tone-wise.
__________________
Education is important! Guitar is importanter!!

1995 Taylor 810
2016 Taylor GS Mini Koa ES2
2014 Bourgeois Adi/Hog SS Dread #6681
2006 Charles J. Horner Fiddle
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 02-06-2019, 01:32 PM
stringjunky2 stringjunky2 is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Feb 2016
Posts: 847
Default

I think the principal difference is that many/most boutique builders will modifiy the properties of the wood they have in hand to suit there own tone goal whereas Gibson, Martin et al build each model to a particular dimensional spec.

The consequence of this is a much wider spectrum of tonal voices within a model range. What it means is that you are more likely to need to play several guitars within a model range to find the one that suits you. Gibson and Martin rely on each guitar they make, although different, will be some purchaser's idea of a nice sound. They have the scale of numbers to do this. It wouldn't work for small outfit because they would have some guitars sitting doing nothing because they can't match it to the right customer. Their scale is too small. It is in their interest to make a more tonally consistent product i.e a more signature sound.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 02-06-2019, 01:32 PM
Mycroft Mycroft is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Seattle
Posts: 4,350
Default

No. Next question...
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 02-06-2019, 01:44 PM
zmf zmf is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: Wyoming
Posts: 5,055
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by asilker View Post
[B]

I am comfortable with the fact that there are finer guitars out there than mine.
Not trying to be argumentative, but I don't think this is the way to approach the idea of large guitar companies vs the boutique builders. It's very subjective as to what a "finer guitar" actually is.

As you said, even within the same model, there are "fine" and "less fine" examples.

I prefer to think of the range of brands as offering alternatives in tone and feel. If you happened to be in a great guitar shop with a huge inventory, and A/B'ed guitars from large and small companies, it's certainly not a sure thing that you'd walk out with a boutique guitar.
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 02-06-2019, 02:03 PM
charles Tauber charles Tauber is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Feb 2011
Posts: 5,971
Default

Without reading the other replies, it depends upon the "boutique" and the individual instrument. Not all "boutiques" put out the same quality and even within one boutique, some instruments are better than others.

My suggestion is to evaluate individual instruments, not brands, not models, not "boutiques". Gross generalities are just that, gross generalities. Lots of exceptions all around.
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 02-06-2019, 02:04 PM
Dwight Dwight is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Northeast
Posts: 2,318
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by asilker View Post
I am comfortable with the fact that there are finer guitars out there than mine. It's good that they exist, and I am not trying to justify my purchase as the wisest. Just interested to gather information. Thanks folks
Their will always be finer guitars and MUCH finer guitar players. I'm pretty sure your Martin is fine, don't worry about it.
__________________
Bourgeois 00 Custom
Collings 02HG, OM2HGss
Huss & Dalton Tom-R
R Taylor Style 2, Taylor 914ce
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 02-06-2019, 02:12 PM
SlopeD SlopeD is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: Ottawa Ontario
Posts: 790
Default

Absolutely they are comparable, as good or better than boutique.

Martin are building killer guitars. I've owned most all major boutique brands over the years and went full circle back to Martin. If you like that signature Martin tone, then look no further.
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 02-06-2019, 02:34 PM
Glennwillow Glennwillow is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Coastal Washington State
Posts: 32,166
Default

Hi Asilker,

First, welcome to the AGF! Glad you are here!

Also, congratulations on your Martin 000-18! That's a very nice guitar!

Regarding your question, are good Martins & Gibsons comparable to guitars made by boutique luthiers? I think when one considers Martins and Gibsons that cost about the same as the boutique guitars of similar design, that they can be just as good.

Martin Authentic guitars, for example, can sound just as good as equivalent models from Collings or Santa Cruz. I have a Gibson Advanced Jumbo Luthier's Choice (Adirondack top, Brazilian Rosewood back and sides) that sounds very good. I have a Martin 000-28VS, an old 1967 D-35, and a 2018 D-45, and these guitars compare favorably to my Santa Cruz and Collings guitars. I also own an Olson SJ and a handmade Sheppard GA, both purchased used so the prices were lower than new, and while I appreciate these guitars greatly, they are not the only ones I play. I like my D-45 just as much as the two handmade guitars. They all sound terrific.

In the end, it depends on what you like.

- Glenn
__________________
My You Tube Channel
Reply With Quote
Reply

  The Acoustic Guitar Forum > General Acoustic Guitar and Amplification Discussion > General Acoustic Guitar Discussion

Thread Tools



All times are GMT -6. The time now is 11:13 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, The Acoustic Guitar Forum
vB Ad Management by =RedTyger=