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Jinder

The ye olde hoary topic of the differences between Gibson and Martin...

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Hi all,

           I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Gibson man, but have recently picked up a Martin which I'm truly smitten with. It's a 1997 D18 which was custom built to the specs which later became the GE (Adi top, forward shifted vintage spec scalloped bracing...the only difference between mine and the GE is that mine has an Ebony board and bridge) and is light, super responsive and immensely direct and projective. Totally unlike any of my Gibsons which are all either warm and thrummy or bright and expansive. The Martin almost barks when played hard with a flatpick. 

 

The best bit for me is that the modified V neck doesn't trigger my CTS whatsoever...I can play it all day and no carpal tunnel issues at all. I've put a Sunrise in it and am really enjoying playing live with no CTS symptoms.

 

It isn't a guitar that usurps or replaces any of my Gibsons, it's just...different. It fills a sonic spot that has been vacant for a while. I owned a rather ordinary 2007 D18 a while ago which didn't do much for me, but this one is a different beast entirely. 

 

I'd love to hear the thoughts of fellow players who own and enjoy both Martins and Gibsons in equal measure...especially your thoughts on what makes them both relevant arrows in the same quiver.

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Don’t want to derail this thread,but recently bought a Martin acoustic to replace a Simon and Patrick acoustic,the difference between these two guitars is significant,I’ve never owned a Gibson acoustic,i want a Gibson acoustic,but don’t know what type of Gibson acoustic to buy as just an all rounder acoustic guitar,the Simon and Patrick was a bright sounding guitar which i enjoyed,the Martin acoustic is totally different in sound being darker,if that’s a thing,the Martin is nice and pleasant,but the Simon and Patrick was vibrant and bright,i think i prefer the more bright sounding acoustic,seemed more vibrant and alive,so what Gibson acoustic would fit the bill.

thanks 

Edited by derek R

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3 minutes ago, derek R said:

Don’t want to derail this thread,but recently bought a Martin acoustic to replace a Simon and Patrick acoustic,the difference between these two guitars is significant,I’ve never owned a Gibson acoustic,i want a Gibson acoustic,but don’t know what type of Gibson acoustic to buy as just an all rounder acoustic guitar,the Simon and Patrick was a bright sounding guitar which i enjoyed,the Martin acoustic is totally different in sound being darker,if that’s a thing,the Martin is nice and pleasant,but the Simon and Patrick was vibrant and bright,i think i prefer the more bright sounding acoustic,seemed more vibrant and alive,so what Gibson acoustic would fit the bill.

thanks 

If you're looking for bright and vibrant, I would definitely go down the Maple route. A J185 or Dove would give you the bright, vibrant tone you're after. Gibson do Maple VERY well.

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I own both Gibsons and Martins. My heart is with Gibson, but that's more of a sentimental thing. It has nothing to do with the quality of the instruments from these two makers. 

I love the Neil Young style, palm muted, thumping rythm from the bass strings. A Martin dread can do that much, much better than a Gibson, which on the other hand, is a better straight up strummer. Apart from that, for my humble needs, I find nothing lacking in either brand. Just two sides of heaven.

Lars

By the way Jinder, I had a D-18 GE some years back and it had ebony bridge and board, and I'm pretty sure they all do.

 

Edited by Lars68

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I love them both as brands.. out of perhaps thirty guitars I have owned I would say three Martins and three Gibsons really were incredible.

D18, 000-28, and D15

Bird Vintage, J50, and Country Western Square

the D18s are so incredibly balanced and they do everything well...flatpick, fingerpick, and strum. They have substantially more sustain than a J45, which decays quicker. And where a Martin rosewood dread has the sustain, and more bass, and more overtones, I think the D18 strikes a better balance for a dread. 

now, my “reimagined” 000-28 is rosewood, but more balanced And also woody. I didn’t think a rosewood Guitar could sound this way. It does.

my D15 does everything. It strums. It decays quick like a Gibby slope when I want it too. Just a great guitar. Golf analogy... the D15 is like a 5 iron. Adjusting how you play it could be the only club you use.

on the Gibson side I currently have a Country Western square from 2014 . It is pretty much a Sheryl Crow. Probably the best strumming guitar I have ever played. 

I wont bore you with tales of my Hummingbird Vintage ; it was great.

and if one is looking at Gibson and rosewood, they must look at the AJ. To me they are  loud, proud, and don’t have as much MUD as many Martin rosewood dreads.

 

i am still trying to sell my J50 and an AJ, but despite their condition, and in my opinion fair pricing, thy are not moving. I think the US economy is weird now. Numbers say strong. And yet..... there are things that make you go Hmmmmmm.

 

Edited by ThemisSal

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33 minutes ago, ThemisSal said:

i am still trying to sell my J50 and an AJ, but despite their condition, and in my opinion fair pricing, thy are not moving. I think the US economy is weird now. Numbers say strong. And yet..... there are things that make you go Hmmmmmm.

 

9 mo into middle retirement, this 'good economy' makes me go hmmm...  good for some, BRUTAL for others.

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I'm a life long Gibson guy, still own the 1961 double cut / twin pickup  Melody Maker that I learned on. I tend to keep the keepers and would still own the '72 Les Paul Recording I gigged for 15 years had I not hit a rough patch and over-reacted. I did gig a Strat and a Tele some in my prime.

There are less players as a percentage of the population now, then there were in 1975/1980 and there is less guitar music in the mainstream. Kids don't grow up wanting to play like we did, they now stare into a black hole in their hand. I think the market is saturated with guitars and amps and they are a dime a dozen for Asian instruments that are "good enough" for most of these "sometimers".

Social Media / Black Hole companies have a rocking economy. Gibson and Martin are now battling to stay alive with $ 1000.00 dollar guitars.

I've never spent much time with Martins, but people seem to love 'em.

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While I am flexible as to feel there is only so far I can bend..  A  1 3/4" nut and soft V neck carve ae for me about as good as it gets.   I generally like guitars bearing both monikers but decades ago discovered Gibsons, in particular old Gibsons, just worked better for me.   I truly would love though to get my hands on  one of those Bromberg  Matrin M-42s  though for a test spin.

Edited by zombywoof

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many gits that arnt gibsons are great guitars,   guitars are fab  not the makers...

  • Upvote 1

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A life, and home full of Gibsons here.  But I have two Martin guitars I keep and play regularly, D-41 and a D18 first year of the  redo.  The D18 is mighty close to the top of the list for me.  Everything is just right on it.   I haven't used a pick on an acoustic  guitar in years, so all my playing is based on finger picking sound and feel.   The D18 is as pure and simple as playing can be.  The projection is remarkable.  My Gibson sq.  Crow CW and the D18 are in an eternal dead heat  here for use.    The D41, when I am at home and feel like soft singing and playing is just right.  I like Gibson guitars best and always have felt so since my Melody Maker of 1960 and lessons at Dodd's in Cov. Ky.  The two Martins are out numbered, but will be staying with me.             * Martin necks did not please me until the D18 redo.

Edited by Hall
sp. -5 and Martin necks

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I own four acoustics...two Gibsons (J45, AJ) and tea Martins (D-18, D-45)

My first love was Gibson acoustics, but I am also smitten with my Martins. They all have their own voice and each has it's "thing" it does better than the others. My J45 is growly and sweet at the same time. My AJ is a bluegrass/flatpicking monster and is LOUD. The D45 has this three-dimensional presence, almost like ti has it's own built in reverb, and is killer for both finger picking and singer songwriter stuff. The D-18 is probably the best "all-arounder" of the bunch. I can do everything with this guitar and be happy...flatpicking, fingerpicking, bluegrass, singer-songwriter. It does it all. Very woody and "old school" sounding, if that makes any sense. Old school country, bluegrass and fiddle tunes just beg to be played in the D-18.

Yo see a lot of people wanting to compare and agonizing over deciding between J45's and D-18's. To me they're not even close in comparison. Different body shapes,, different scale length, ever so slightly nut width on the Martins (mine are 1 3/4"). I sort of think of the J45 as a small-body guitar in a larger guitar's body and string mine with 12's. D-18's are a flat pickers dream, are monsters with 13's. has a larger body, longer scale neck, overall bigger voice.

I've always thought the D-18 is pretty much the Swiss Army knife of acoustic guitars. If you could only have one guitar and play Bluegrass and fiddle tunes in your repertoire it's hard to beat a D-18. The "newer" (post 2012) D-18 Standards when they went to the 1 3/4" nut with, and back to scalloped and forward shifted bracing are pretty darn sweet., If you don't play any Bluegrass or fiddle tunes the J45 is tough to beat. Of course, neither of these are hard, fast rules. 

Edited by sbpark

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The impression I've developed is the J45 and D18 are the foundational models for a collection and  you build from there... then everything gets compared to those 2 as you add on.  

Then building the collection on the Gibson side I'd be thinking of adding on an SJ200, Hummingbird, Jumbo Reissue, and LG something or other.  Then build the equivalent Martin based collection, and then add a Collings and Froggy Bottom for comparison.  And I'd like a 12 string.

Edited by billroy

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For the fingerpicking style I play 99% of the time, I typically want a punchy & percussive tone, with even string to string balance and fairly quick decay.  Gibson & Guild maple bodies are at the top of my list in delivering this, and Gibson's short-scale fingerboards are the cherry on top.

I've owned quite a few Martins & still have two.  They're nice guitars, but in particular I do not care for the 16" radius fingerboard (which Gibson is unfortunately adopting on a number of newer models), and their darker tones generally do not work well for me.

All of that said, I do have a soft spot for the 000 body in mahogany, having played a 1970 00-18 for twenty years - and now it's replacement, a 2000 000-16.  Quite crisp tonally, and the body size is very comfy.

Bottom line:  There's more than one way to skin a cat, or find a good guitar.

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2 hours ago, billroy said:

The impression I've developed is the J45 and D18 are the foundational models for a collection and  you build from there... then everything gets compared to those 2 as you add on.  

Then building the collection on the Gibson side I'd be thinking of adding on an SJ200, Hummingbird, Jumbo Reissue, and LG something or other.  Then build the equivalent Martin based collection, and then add a Collings and Froggy Bottom for comparison.  And I'd like a 12 string.

 

You should also consider tossing in a nice Advanced Jumbo in there!

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1 hour ago, bobouz said:

For the fingerpicking style I play 99% of the time, I typically want a punchy & percussive tone, with even string to string balance and fairly quick decay.  Gibson & Guild maple bodies are at the top of my list in delivering this, and Gibson's short-scale fingerboards are the cherry on top.

I've owned quite a few Martins & still have two.  They're nice guitars, but in particular I do not care for the 16" radius fingerboard (which Gibson is unfortunately adopting on a number of newer models), and their darker tones generally do not work well for me.

All of that said, I do have a soft spot for the 000 body in mahogany, having played a 1970 00-18 for twenty years - and now it's replacement, a 2000 000-16.  Quite crisp tonally, and the body size is very comfy.

Bottom line:  There's more than one way to skin a cat, or find a good guitar.

 

You should check out the 000-15M. All mahogany, and if you want a wider fretboard, LA Guitar Sales does a Custom Shop model with a 1 3/4" nut. Seriously awesome fingerpicking guitars and very affordable. 

Edited by sbpark

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Thanks for the reply to my query earlier,the Martin i bought was the 000-15m streetmaster which as i said is a dark sounding acoustic.

 I think a dove is outwith my price range,but am possibly going to look at a j45 later that my partner seen,how she knows I’m interested in a Gibson acoustic I don’t know,I’ve never mentioned I’d like a Gibson acoustic to her and after posting here I’d like one she phones me earlier and says she’s seen this Gibson in a pawn shop and would i come down and look at it.so how is a j45 as an all rounder,it’s a spruce top the same as my Simon and Patrick was,so should i be looking in that direction.

thanks again 

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7 hours ago, billroy said:

The impression I've developed is the J45 and D18 are the foundational models for a collection and  you build from there... then everything gets compared to those 2 as you add on.  

Then building the collection on the Gibson side I'd be thinking of adding on an SJ200, Hummingbird, Jumbo Reissue, and LG something or other.  Then build the equivalent Martin based collection, and then add a Collings and Froggy Bottom for comparison.  And I'd like a 12 string.

 

Great post! I would have to add a Kopp and/or Fairbanks.

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My first US built acoustic was a gibson hp415w ( same as the j45 avant garde and the j45 studio cutaway now, I think. Anyways) and while it was a pretty good sounding guitar, the acoustic volume wasnt loud enough for me ( probably because of the shallower body) and the element pickup was always giving me issues. After a few months I decided to sell it and try for a Martin this time since I decided Im no Gibson guy. Well I got my first Martin, a custom DC Aura style guitar, and immediately fell in love with it. Sounds awesome for flatpicking, and the Aura f1+ is one of the best piezos Ive heard. Well about four weeks ago I found an awesome deal on a dove, so I decided I’d but it and flip it for a profit. Never happening. I LOVE my dove, its a ‘92 model, no fullerplast finish, and no double truss rod(is that what it was called?). The sound is very different from my martin, the dove has very quick attack, kind of grand piano like, makes me want to fingerpick or just flat out strum it. I bought a j45 two weeks ago (truss rod is being replaced so I dont know how its sounds yet) too so Im kind of thinking I may not be a martin or a gibson guy, but a Martin AND a Gibson guy.

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10 hours ago, sbpark said:

 

You should check out the 000-15M. All mahogany, and if you want a wider fretboard, LA Guitar Sales does a Custom Shop model with a 1 3/4" nut. Seriously awesome fingerpicking guitars and very affordable. 

Well of course, we're all drawn to different things.  I've played many all mahogany Martins (Ds & 000s), and never heard one that worked for me.  And 1-3/4" necks are totally out, which means that a lot of recent Martins are an automatic no go.  In 2009, I bought an OM-1 with a truly wonderful tone & thought I could learn to live with the neck - didn't happen.  Sold the OM-1 after finding the older 000-16 with 1-11/16."

Yes, the narrower neck seems backwards for fingerpicking - but when it comes to guitars, generalizations are made to be broken!

Edited by bobouz

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8 hours ago, derek R said:

... she phones me earlier and says she’s seen this Gibson in a pawn shop and would i come down and look at it.so how is a j45 as an all rounder,it’s a spruce top the same as my Simon and Patrick was,so should i be looking in that direction. 

The signature tone of a J-45 is one that appeals to many players.

It's worth checking out, but assess carefully.  Pawn shops are not where one typically finds a quality instrument.

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10 hours ago, TheLeadFlatpick said:

. . . about four weeks ago I found an awesome deal on a dove, so I decided I’d but it and flip it for a profit. Never happening. I LOVE my dove, its a ‘92 model, no fullerplast finish, and no double truss rod(is that what it was called?). The sound is very different from my martin, the dove has very quick attack, kind of grand piano like, makes me want to fingerpick or just flat out strum it. I bought a j45 two weeks ago (truss rod is being replaced so I dont know how its sounds yet) too so Im kind of thinking I may not be a martin or a gibson guy, but a Martin AND a Gibson guy.

Either (or both) of these guitars, the Dove, or the J-45, would make an interesting read in their own separate thread, hopefully with photos included. Did you mean to say that the Dove has no dual-action truss rod? What then does it have? Your recent J-45 sounds like an interesting situation, as well- a roll of the dice to get into an acoustic with a broken rod- especially if it's not known whether the rod was broken from being seized, or the neck's twist/bow was serious enough to be outside the limits of t.r. adjustment.

To the OP: Got Gibsons. Got Martins. The Martins don't see much light of day, though. Just something about the Gibson's short scale (and when on the J-45's) and round shoulders that yields comfort, in more ways than one- and maybe lets an honest sound get made. Martin's D-18 short scale SS model would be interesting to come across, but is 24.9" down from 25.4" discernible?

EDIT: meant to ask: is the J-45's truss rod repair being done with fretboard removal, or with the StewMac t.r. rescue kit, https://www.stewmac.com/Luthier_Tools/Tools_by_Job/Tools_for_Truss_Rods/StewMac_Truss_Rod_Rescue_Tool_Sets.html ?

Edited by 62burst

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1 hour ago, 62burst said:

 

EDIT: meant to ask: is the J-45's truss rod repair being done with fretboard removal, or with the StewMac t.r. rescue kit, https://www.stewmac.com/Luthier_Tools/Tools_by_Job/Tools_for_Truss_Rods/StewMac_Truss_Rod_Rescue_Tool_Sets.html ?

I thought his luthier told him he was going to remove the neck and that would allow access to the rod for removal and replacement. I'm anxious to see how that works out.

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15 hours ago, derek R said:

Thanks for the reply to my query earlier,the Martin i bought was the 000-15m streetmaster which as i said is a dark sounding acoustic.

 I think a dove is outwith my price range,but am possibly going to look at a j45 later that my partner seen,how she knows I’m interested in a Gibson acoustic I don’t know,I’ve never mentioned I’d like a Gibson acoustic to her and after posting here I’d like one she phones me earlier and says she’s seen this Gibson in a pawn shop and would i come down and look at it.so how is a j45 as an all rounder,it’s a spruce top the same as my Simon and Patrick was,so should i be looking in that direction.

thanks again 

I've said many times that a J45 is the best all-rounder in Gibson's lineup...a good one will strum, flatpick and fingerpick immaculately well. I wouldn't describe the J45 tone as bright exactly, but very full and rich with a pronounced upper midrange growl and a chiming treble. Very, very good guitars. I have a '67 J45 which is tremendous in every regard. Enjoy the test drive!

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1 hour ago, Dave F said:

I thought his luthier told him he was going to remove the neck and that would allow access to the rod for removal and replacement. I'm anxious to see how that works out.

Thanks, Dave. I don't get around much on the forum(s).

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6 hours ago, 62burst said:

Either (or both) of these guitars, the Dove, or the J-45, would make an interesting read in their own separate thread, hopefully with photos included. Did you mean to say that the Dove has no dual-action truss rod? What then does it have? Your recent J-45 sounds like an interesting situation, as well- a roll of the dice to get into an acoustic with a broken rod- especially if it's not known whether the rod was broken from being seized, or the neck's twist/bow was serious enough to be outside the limits of t.r. adjustment.

I have been thinking about starting a thread on the dove, since it doesn’t have a fullerplast finish or a dual action truss rod (at least it looks normal to me, but I couldn’t find a pick of the dual action truss rod nut).  As Dave said, I do have a thread going on the J45, its titled “J-45 Standard with broken Truss Rod”, if you’d like to see it. Anyways, sorry about the thread-jacking😁

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