Researching and purchasing an acoustic guitar should not be rushed. Once you own high quality guitars, odds are you will own it for the rest of your life, so take your time.
When thinking of the well known and superior makers of guitars, there is a small but elite group of craftsman and companies. Two of these makers that offer instruments of top notch quality are Martin and Taylor acoustic guitar brands.
Together, these two brands have been creating quality instruments for more than two centuries combined. As you eliminate other options that don’t meet the bar, you will usually find yourself facing the Taylor vs Martin dilemma. While either choice would be sound, there are differences in each maker’s guitars. Learning about and comparing these differences can help you find the instrument that best suits you – physically and musically.
Structural Differences Between Taylor And Martin
Both makers approach guitar craftsmanship differently, but both roads lead to a finely crafted guitar.
Martin guitars have been around for many years, since 1833 to be exact. For Martin, crafting guitars has been an art form that has consistently stuck to the more traditional forms and concepts. Perhaps their approach could be labeled as a “why mess with perfection” approach. Taylor, on the other hand is a much younger company, having been established in the early 1970s. This is not to say their product is inferior or has less to offer. Taylor is open to continual innovations and adjustment ideas to create individualized instruments. Their innovations are a series of constant adjustments and shifts and can range from a change in the neck bolt design to an adjusted body shape.
Over many years, an acoustic guitar will naturally shift and may call for what is called a neck reset, in which the neck of the guitar is literally reset on the body to compensate for these shifts. A neck reset can be a costly but unavoidable expense for a guitar owner. Taylor has kept this in mind, and has designed a neck whose angle can be adjusted more easily, adapting to these minute but eventually noticeable shifts. As Martin stands by older more traditional methods, it does not have necks that can accommodate shifts as easily. A plus side to this lack of flexibility lies in the tone of a Martin, deeper and with more resonance than a Taylor acoustic guitar.
Quality and Tone Of Martin and Taylor
It would be a mistake for a person to assume a Taylor lacks the quality because its production rate is much higher than a Martin’s. Despite the higher rate of production, every Taylor guitar is carefully crafted with precision by skilled craftsman. For example, Taylor’s NT neck (new technology) is cut with lasers, down to thousandths of inches, so the neck will fit into a precisely matched pocket. This precision helps keep the fretboard straight and gives it the support it needs. Martin guitars use a different approach. Relatively small groups of people specialize in making specific parts for their guitars. It is essential that their work is perfect and precise because eventually, the different groups will pool their efforts and put their pieces together to create a guitar.
Considering the difference is designing and building acoustic guitars, it should not come as a surprise that each guitar has its own special tone.
Many musicians believe the acoustic tone of a Martin is more traditionally classic. Its acoustic guitar sound is rich even with notes in the lower range and it produces the tonal bloom. In other word, when strummed in a quiet room, the sound of the tone produced will actually get louder in one or two seconds. As for a guitar that offers good value, a Martin DRS2 is recommended. The tone remains steady for a longer time, which makes it a favored choice for many artists recording and releasing albums. Artists who stand by the name of Martin include Paul McCartney, Elvis, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Neil Young, The Eagles, and more.
Taylor guitars, for example the Taylor 114CE produces a sound that many call modern. Each guitar is built for quality sound, the goal being to maintain and perfect with flexibility in design. The pickup system of a guitar is what produces a pure and natural sound. Taylor’s systems are designed in house while Martin uses Fishman pickups. Both approaches create a high quality sound.
Taylor uses the dreadnought shape, actually created by Martin. It is slightly smaller than the traditional dreadnought but still produces a deep and loud sound. This is a good choice for many- a bit easier to hold and a sound meant to impress. Only the most experienced musician would be able to differentiate between this and a full size dreadnought. What’s more, it is a beautiful guitar, whether you opt for the walnut body with the spruce top of the BT1, or choose the mahogany top of the BT2. Chrome plated tuning pegs and the familiar logo for Taylor finish the look.
Playing These Acoustic Guitars
Both guitars from these companies are a pleasure to play and listen to once they have been set up to accommodate the musician. With some rudimentary knowledge and basic accessories they can adapt to the player’s wants and needs. If the musician does not have the necessary skills or training to make adjustments, it is wise to rely on a professional at a music store or guitar center.
The fretboard’s radius is an important factor in helping a guitar fit the player. Both guitars offer a range of Radii with Martin’s standard radius equaling sixteen inches and Taylor’s equaling fifteen. For someone with smaller hands, perhaps the better choice would be a smaller radius, which will make barre chords easier to perform.
In the long run, both makes of guitar can be a pleasure to play, providing they are set up properly for the player. The superior quality materials used in construction, their exacting specifications for detail, and the expert knowledge and skill required for building a perfect instrument create an instrument that other guitar makers will be hard pressed to emulate.
There will probably never be a resolution regarding which maker produces the best acoustics. It has been a highly debated topic for years, and will most likely continue to be a highly debated topic. Every musician must follow his or her heart, and brand loyalty for a particular instrument runs deep. Perhaps the best message to carry away regarding Martin vs Taylor is that both makers create masterpieces to help bring a little more music onto the world.