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I'm tired of recording crappy acoustics and have decided to take the plunge and get a decent guitar for the studio. I've been impressed with Collings C10 deluxe and Dreadnoughts (thanks Ted!) Santa Cruz D/PW, and Huss and Dalton MJC.

What do you own? What do I have to hear before I buy? What specific characteristics should I be looking for? Be model specific please!
Thanks in advance.


Mike Simmons Mon, 03/18/2002 - 15:57

Thanks for the reply Chris. Don't worry, I won't buy something I haven't played and loved. Guitar to guitar differences within a make and model are part of the fun in the search for the "perfect" guitar. I'm a patient sort and have plenty of time to find the right one. That said, lot's of folks have opinions on this and that's all I'm asking for. So if you have a favorite Martin or Taylor or Collings or Walker... whatever, let me hear it! And let me know why you think it is a good choice for a studio-resident guitar, you know, what makes it a good recording guitar.

anonymous Mon, 03/18/2002 - 17:09

While you're shopping, don't forget that the brand/type/gauge of strings will make a difference in the sound also. You may have to get someone else to go on the hunt with you so they can play and you can listen from the front (where you will most likely be placing the mics - THAT'S the sound you're looking for!).

Have fun!

Sir Bob Mon, 03/18/2002 - 20:20

Boy what a can of worms! Darn right you gotta know about the player. But let me generalize a bit. I recently bought an acoustic after months of playing them in various guitar stores. Here's my scoop:

There are two types of acoustic guitars in my opinion. Those best for strumming/flatpicking and those best for fingerpicking. There are a few that cross over but let me explain.

As a strummer, I was drawn to the Martin D-28, the classic big and punchy sounding dreadnought with beefy mids which require rolling off of the bottom when recording. The D-28 has a rosewood body and the Martin D-18 is made of mahogany which is a little brighter and was very popular in Nashville. The D-35 is also rosewood but has three pieces on the back so the body vibrates more. The other's such as D-42's are just more expensive versions of the rosewood D-28. I actually got an HD-28, the "H" standing for the herring bone trim around the body. The main feature, however, is the scalloped bracing under the top of the guitar making it project louder.

The Martin dreadnought is the classic bluegrass pickin guitar for playing open chords and runs down by the nut a la bluegrass. It also works well with a capo but sucks for playing runs up the neck.

The smaller body Martin's such as the 000's are much better for finger-style pickin and runs up the neck.

The Gibsons are also stummers for the most part. Their sound is like what you hear on the Beatle's records (both John and George owned J160E's). It is a percussive sound that does not ring out like a Martin. The Gibson J200 is the jumbo sized and is usually made with a maple body. The classic Gibson is the J45, a sort of salt of the earth/Woody Gutherie sound. The are also Hummmingbird's and Dove's and others basically suited for flatpickin.

Tayor is a big up and commer. They make all kinds of sizes and body woods so they cover lots of different bases. Their main feature is a bolt on neck which makes for a brighter sound with less bottom. They seem to record well.

There are lots of boutique guitars. The Collings is great without a doubt.

Many guitars come with electrics in the bridge or body. I think this is only of value for live playing but I am sure that many of you will post here saying you do a great job with plug-in acoustics.

The best way to recording an acoustic guitar is to put expensive mics up in front of it.

anonymous Wed, 03/20/2002 - 10:05

I've played the Santa Cruz D/PW. A bit pricey for a studio-use guitar methinks, but it's an amazing guitar. It's patterned after prewar Martin 14-fret dreadnoughts, and has a powerful flatpicked sound. However, it is also quite responsive to fingerstyle playing, making it a very versatile guitar. Such a sweet box.

It's not cheap, though. Have a look at Taylor x14-size guitars (Grand Auditorium) - they do the dual-purpose flatpick/fingerstyle thing rather well. I have a 314ce I enjoy.

Happy pickin',


MadGuitrst Wed, 03/20/2002 - 17:11

I basically agree with Ghoost's opinion's........

But, you asked for opinions and so here's mine.

I like guitars with very little finish on them. I think the sound is more lively and blooms more.

I happen to like the lower end Martins like the DM series. Of course, you have to wade through a few to find one that is setup right, etc., etc., etc. I think these guitars are very well balanced and sound very alive. Of course, you might like a guitar that sounds dead, I don't know.

What I do know is that you don't have to spend $2000 to get a great sounding guitar. You can if it makes you feel better and inspires you (or clients) to perform better, but it's not a prerequisite for good guitar sounds.

Getting a good sound recorded really comes down to ability, work ethic, and instinct. A good sound coming from your hands/brain/guitar is first (of course), working hard with the guitar's placement in the room and the mic placement is next, being instinctive may come with practice....then again, it may not.

Don't be affraid to try different things. Listen to where the guitar sounds best in the room and place a mic there (like over your head, etc). Put one in front of your guitar and move around a little bit and listen to the differences ....sometimes an inch here or there makes all the difference in the world. Just keep trying different things. You never know, you may make the most creative mistake and come up with the perfect or most unique sound that inspires a great performance - which is what it really is all about.

anonymous Wed, 03/20/2002 - 17:36

Taylor 814-CE

I love it! I tryed Martin and thought it was too boomy and not bright enough. I was looking for a guitar great for live (good electronics) and great for recording (great acoustic sound). I have been thrilled with my Taylor. It plays very consistent. I have used it live but mostly for recording in the studio. It is the easiest acoustic guitar, that I have recorded, to get a good sound with the least effort.


Sir Bob Fri, 03/22/2002 - 05:49

Originally posted by Curious G:
Thanks to everyone here who's chiming in. It's really appreciated. Keep the comments coming! Tomorrow I'm going out to hear some Taylors/Martins/Seagulls/Larrivees and Gibsons.


Once you zero in on the type of guitar you want, then you should play a few of that brand/model.

No two guitars are the same. While the Martin Dreadnoughts can be boomy, I have had recording success with a large diaphram condensor pulled back a touch and also rolling off the bottom.

If strumming is your acoustic guitar goal, then consider the Martins, Gibson's J200 and Hummingbirds, and Taylor makes a wonderful maple jumbo body, I think its a 515. I would not get the electronics/pickups because you will do better with your mics.

Have some fun trying out all the guitars. Unlike buying some equipment, you can actually get an idea of what your purchase will sound like before laying down your money.

anonymous Sat, 03/23/2002 - 19:58

Save yourself some money and time and go out and get yourself a Taylor Big Baby. It is the best $350 guitar you will ever buy, and it records like an instrument in the thousand range. I know, I own both, and more than half the time I choose the Taylor. It's small body size gives it a bright present character that sits incredibly well in a mix. Bottom line though, you can record a $5,000 instrument, but if your mic, placement, font end, converters, and ultimately room are not right, the sound will suffer. It's a tough instrument. Part of the reason for this is that we are most often making it do unnatural things. An acoustic guitar is not meant to be heard over a drum set, but in a mix, it has to be. If recording is your main concern, I reccommend buying the Taylor and investing the money you save on the other variables.

anonymous Sun, 03/24/2002 - 16:19

I've recently scored a "68 Gibson Hummingbird. Man I love that thing. I haven't put any mics up in front of it yet, as the project I'm on now is mixing, but man, the thing plays so smoothly, and the tone is so even across the neck. I have found that the comfort of playing it, and the smooth tones (not as bright on top, and not too boomy on the bottom)make me play several clicks better, everytime. I'm sure this will lead to a better recrded tone and track in the end, as the overall level of inspiration is higher.

anonymous Tue, 03/26/2002 - 18:40

I LOVE my 1991 Martin 000C-16 [with the oval soundhole] They made this oval hole 000C-16 for a couple of years before they went back to the regular shaped soundhole. That was a huge mistake for Martin in my own opinion.

My own example weighs next to nothing [say around 1 kilo] and it is a totally feisty little brute! When I first placed a good condenser in front of it--that was IT! You wouldn't believe how great this particular instrument records! Both for strumming or fingerpicking passages it does it all very well.

Mad John Thu, 03/28/2002 - 08:02

I have a Taylor and have hated it all of its days since I purchased it in 1992!

I believe if you like the sound that Jewal produces , the Talor is your choice!

I find it not only to be more suited (Tonaly as well as phisicaly) for "Rockers" and "Electric" players , but they seem to miss that "Vibe" of a guitar that has real personality , where you can extend your own souls voice apoun it!

Very stare-ral (goes great with a Mackie board)

My 2 bits.


Mad John
Zythum Studios

"The present day Composer refuses to die!" - Edgar Varese - 1921

Ted Nightshade Thu, 03/28/2002 - 13:58

That's pretty vicious on the Taylor.
It is apparently designed to make electric players feel at home, which will always be at the expense of tone.
I tried but did not buy.

I told the guitar shop owner (way way to cool to call a salesman), after playing the Taylors, that I wanted something with some thump to it, so he handed me a Larivee.
It thumped alright, but in a way that seemed to have nothing to do with the pitch you were playing. The same thump for everything.
So I ended up with a Collings, but you knew that.

Seagulls are awfully nice for the money, and the lack of volume would not likely be an issue in the studio.
I came real close to buying one of those old Gibson Hummingbirds. It had a classic sound that I wish I could pull out here and again.

I was real particular about having each note on the entire fingerboard sound fully. Many of the old Martins I played had such sweet spots that I don't think I ever would have ventured outside a couple small areas on the neck.
I found some handmade small bodied guitars that had a nice even sound almost everywhere, and I bet they record nice. Can't remember the brand, these were in Portland Oregon. Bob from Guitar Crazy would know.

Of course if you aren't all over the neck, this part may not matter. Maybe if it sounds like you like in open position you're in like Flynn.
Best of luck, and don't believe the hype!

Richard Kuschel Tue, 04/02/2002 - 05:58

No matter what guitar you buy make sure that the damn thing plays in tune up and down the entire neck.

Check it with new strings of the gauge that you prefer as this may make a lot of difference on acoustic guitars.

I have an old Gibson that works well only with the heaviest strings that I can find. .013-.056 is about it around here, but it would sound and play better with .014-.058 which was the normal string when the guitar was built. It just won't play in tune with anything lighter.

Now in a previous post there was a comment about Ovations.

One of the best sounding guitars that I ever heard was an Ovation Adamas (Carbon fibre top) WITHOUT pickups installed. Absolutely even tone and loud as Hell. (Asbestos suit on) :) Played great, looked funny. Was about $3000 in 1980

Pickups in general detract from the sound of any guitar and while I understand the need for them on stage instruments, I would tend to avoid them for studio instruments. :w:

landseal Thu, 04/04/2002 - 19:24

I have a Santa Cruz VA which I'm particularly fond of. Seems to have a big sweet spot. It's roughly the equivalent of the Tony Rice model but with mahogany back and sides. One of my favorite guitars to date was a Tony Rice with cocobola back and sides- a bit more than I had at the time though (and I didn't have a chance to record it).

Sir Bob Thu, 05/23/2002 - 21:15

Okay, here's my Cliff Notes version:

1) For mostly strumming check out the Gibsons. They worked for the Beatles didn't they? Even something as simple as a J45 has an authentic tone or better yet, texture.

2) For fingerpicking, head to the small bodied Martins.

I personally like the big, boomy and most importantly punchy Martin D-28 but as you can see from the posts here they can be problematical for recording. Isn't the Martin Dreadnought what you hear all over Led Zepplin and C,S, N and Y?

anonymous Fri, 05/24/2002 - 13:24

I get what I want outta my wife's Taylor (Don't tell her I've been playing it again!) altho' fer big strummin' parts it's a little thin. Besides, my little stubby drummer fingers can just about fret the thing. Crucial to pick a good sounding spot in the room!! That can make all the difference.

We had a baby Taylor come in once and if you closed yer eyes......... well I fell over, but the baby sounded great on tape.

sdevino Tue, 06/04/2002 - 10:27

I have a beat up 1973 Gibson Hummingbird. I searched for this guitar for 20 years. I played one back in 1975 when I worked in a music store and thought it was the most amazing sound I had ever heard. I literally played dozens during my search, many were just kind of dead.

Anyway I found this one about 5 years ago. Every guitar player who has come through my studio in the last year chose to use the humingbird over many martins, taylors and guilds. (There was one exception with another older Gibson).

As I said though you may have to lay many hummingbirds before you find one of these.

Jim Chapdelaine Sat, 06/08/2002 - 19:34

My take - (I've got about 50 of these addictive things)
strumming -older Gibsons -I've been offered children for my '61 J-50 but the B series sounds great too.
(I confess to having an endorsement from Gibson but only a free LP which sounds great)

fingerstyle - For big bodied tricky stuff my Lowden
Cutaway with a cedar top works great

all out amazing acoustic - after ditching my dog of a Santa Cruz, I stumbled upon an odd guitar.
A beautiful Goodall with a tiger striped maple body, cedar top and it's parlor sized. It kills on flatpicking, strumming and really stands out as a balanced voice when using lower tunings and fingerpicking ( add Schertler Bluestick to any of these)
for live without hassles - Rick Turner has created
the most believable and playable electric/acoustic

anonymous Mon, 06/10/2002 - 07:21

I recommend a Taylor Grand Auditorium body style like the 714 or 814. Very nice volume, even bass/treble response, lack of boominess but still with good body. A nice guitar for flat-picking or finger style. I have a brazilian rosewood 814 that records very nicely. Also a Collings OM series is wonderful.

MadMax Tue, 06/11/2002 - 19:03

The Martin DM is one I really enjoy tracking in almost any situation. I also own a Washburn that's a great picking/lead/slide guitar. It's bright, light and now that I had a master guitar player rework the action, it's even in tune all the way up to the cutout. (Although it's a bit tricky to get mic'd just right.)

Strings are such a huge factor though... as I'm finding out. Depending upon the calibre of player, I've heard the same guitar/string setup sound like shit with one player and glorious with another player. (I did a tracking session over Christmas with about 20 different musicians and was I suprised at the differences in sound qualities!)

What I'm now doing is keeping a couple of different types of string sets in inventory. Also, if your musicians have a string endorsement, have them bring a couple of sets to try out.

Room acoustics will also obviously make real differences too. Bronze Martins' on the DM in a tiled bathroom and in a dead iso booth are two really different sounds.

Even with the same player, the acoustics can make a cheap $300 Washburn sound like a priceless J-50 or D45. Amazing stuff this acoustics thing, huh?


anonymous Tue, 06/11/2002 - 19:08

Doyle Dykes manages to squeeze a few decent notes out of a maple Taylor DDSM. There are other guys who make other guitars sound great. Don't be surprised when you see Leo Kottke with a RainSong graphite 12 string. (You read it here first.)

I have one guitar that has saved me a ton of money. This guitar is like a vaccine against buying another (and another and another) in a vain search for some elusive sound, some holy grail. some shining star of an instrument full of new tunes, tones and magic.

I have only to tear myself away from any new one long enough to come home and play this one for a few minutes, and I know the search is pointless -- there is no place like home:

Spend one full day with a James Goodall Rosewood Jumbo.

You will be immunized for life. The $3-4k it will cost is a bargain.

The new Olson Cedartop Rosewood SJs will probably start around $10k. They could be a little better. Don't know, never played one, probably never will. But with a Goodall in the house I won't miss it either.


Stephen Paul Wed, 06/12/2002 - 16:53

But I just gotta say, if you get a great anything it's a miracle, and whatever the hell it is, if it records great, that's whatcha use.

I got this little $50 Chinese toy accordion that sounds as good on my records as any $1600 Cajun box...

And I feel like my 45, 35, my Jumbo Guild 12, are all outstanding special examples...

good mikes help too... hehe...

anonymous Fri, 06/21/2002 - 01:28

Hi all,

This is my first posting here but I just need to say...

Don't part with any money until you have at least tried a Lowden. My Lowden is the G7 model which they don't make any more although it is basically the same as the jumbo-bodied accoustics ("O" series) they make today - very lightweight, superb tone woods, huge sound and a neck that virtually plays itself.

I have also spent a lot of time with the small-bodied Lowdens, which although they are a completely different kind of guitar (a very thick sound board) they ooze the same quality.

I know that everyone likes to get evangelical about their own methods and choices of toys, but seriously, try them. It will put a smile on your face.