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The Wow Factor - Evolution of an Enthusiast - Confessional

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I thought I understood the wow-factor guitar paradigm. I understood nice playing guitars and top notch tone and all, but I really did not have a clue to what you gents were talking about. Getting a guitar that really speaks to you, or trying out dozens and not having any float your boat. There's a difference between nice guitars, wicked nice guitars and wow factor guitars.

I've done some very involved setup work on my two Gibsons, my Taylor 614CE and the Martin D-41. The D-41 was already a real gem. The Hummingbird was close to it, but went up that final notch to join the D-41 without any doubts. The SJ-200 climbed up to a level I didn't know existed. I totally get that guitar now. All three of these are wow-factor guitars.

And then there's the 2015 Taylor 614CE. Same attention to detail and set up fantastically well. It really did come out nice. BUT, it does not have that same depth and pretty tone that the others have. In my wife's words, as she finally let on, "it sounds like it wants to be loud just to be loud, while the other ones want to be loud and have pretty tone". Sigh!!!  She was right.  The little missus had hinted (suggested) I trade it in.

Long story short for a change, it's as if I am finally hearing something I was not hearing before. A depth of tone that I cannot live without. As dynamic as that 614 is, it still missed something even after a very fine setup job. Almost a dozen guitars I test drove yesterday were in the same boat. The same guitars I was touting as recently as last week on this very forum. This is not easy to confess.

My 614 is up for sale locally. Someone who likes the bright Taylor tone with a little bit of substance is going to love it. It beat out most of what I played yesterday, tonally, and everything I played as far as setup goes. Even got a "you did this yourself?" out of the new guitar guy at what used to be my favorite guitar store and source of all my acoustics. I think I just got taken to tone-town central school. I mean, even the online demos changed this week.

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Congrats on hearing that thing!  I haven’t been able to personally name it myself, but it’s like a vibe or a mojo that certain guitars have and that a lot of Gibsons have, but I have yet to really find in a Taylor, which too often seem to be too sterile sounding or something.  Or, missing that vibe or mojo.  Or, soul.  I can’t pinpoint it, but it seems like they are too technician oriented and not player oriented.  Or, something.   Years back I went to a few Taylor sales sessions.   The guitarists conducting the sessions were all great guitarists, but all they did was endlessly describe a bunch of technical things they had that Gibsons and Martins did not have.   Then there was Doyle Dykes as one of the session people,  He flat out told those in attendance that Taylor wants him to keep stressing how Taylor’s are better than Gibsons, but he is flat out refusing to do so, even if he is (or was at the time) an employee of Taylor as a spokesperson.  He said he really likes Gibson guitars, likes the way they play and sound, etc.
 

That to me said a lot.  Yes, Taylors have all kinds of technical things that Taylor spokespersons can talk about.  But, bottom line it’s how does a guitar play and sound that matters.    And, Doyle Dykes one of the best guitarists around kinda conveyed that.  (And, if you notice he seems to be playing  Gibsons and Martins these days, not really Taylors.

Seems like you get what Doyle Dykes was conveying.  Quite cool!

 

QM aka “Jazzman” Jeff

 

 

 

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Good post. To me a guitar is more than just tone and playability. I care about heritage, aesthetics, and mojo as a complete package. I think this is what your are addressing too, right? Gibsons and Martins are hard to beat when all adpects are taken into account. I have never been interested in Taylor, Collings, etc, but I could consider a Guild... 😀

Lars

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I would agree there are certain "wow-factor"  guitars.  I have been a Taylor fan for many years having bought my first one in 2003 (a 614CE).  And while technically it was a good guitar it didn't have much punch when played unplugged.  A really expert set-up might have changed that?  In 2007 I traded it toward a Taylor Grand Symphony and the larger rosewood body gave it a deeper richer tone than the maple 614.  

I spent the next 12 years mostly playing electric guitar in bands, but held on to the GS and it served me well when called upon.  Then I drank a little too much of the Taylor Kool-Aid and figured a guitar with V class bracing had to be better.  Traded the GS for a 814CE with the V braces.  They did all they were advertised to do, better intonation, nice volume and sustain but I had the guitar for a year and rarely pulled it out to play it.  Traded that one for a SJ-200 and thought I had found the holy grail.  Beautiful rich tone, but alas it was one of the "quiet giants" and could not be heard unless plugged in, and the bulky body and chunky neck it had did not make it very comfortable to play.

Meanwhile Taylor came out with their new GS body with V bracing and an extra sound port in the cutaway - surely this would be the one, so a call to Sweetwater and a couple days later it was at my house.  Much louder than the SJ-200, but not the deep rich tone.  Adequate tone, but not "wow-factor".  Having been used to Les Pauls since 1970, the low action, short scale, thin neck and light gauge strings gave the Taylor a lot of appeal but somehow I knew I wasn't there yet.

So I took a little four hour drive up to a bluegrass shop in North Carolina and (don't shoot me) traded the SJ-200 for a Collings D2HG.  I went up there to try a couple guitars with Adirondack tops.  One had a mahogany body and was nice but kind of dry sounding.  The other was rosewood/adi and was almost too wet sounding.  After listening to me play for about 10 minutes the shop owner suggested I try one with a German spruce top and that one fit right between the other two and that is the one I bought.  It definitely has the "wow-factor".  Plenty loud, deep rich tone with clear defined mids and chiming high frequency response.  I still have the Taylor and it sounds pretty good, but compared to the Collings it sounds like a dime store toy.     

If I had known more about setting up an acoustic over the years I might have been able to make some of my past guitars sound better (especially the SJ-200), but the Collings is set up really well from the factory and has some critical things that I think are important, like bone nut and saddle, ebony pins, bridge and fingerboard.  So for now I have found my "wow" guitar and am not looking for anything else, I am just playing and enjoying it. 

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Their ES2 system is the cat's arse for many types of playing. My 614 had a nice window for some slower, but more dynamic flat pick style of playing.

QM, I think I remember some of that little feud from back then. I saw a different guy do the trade show right when the V-Series came out. He had a little speel at the beginning stating how he likes all kinds of guitars and would not talk bad about any of them, adding that it was his job was to show us how the Taylors might fit into our collections - and that was that. He did put on a good program as I recall.

Lars, I'd be fibbing if I was to suggest that I was above all of that. I wish I was, but I ain't. It is also a large part of being what I want to hear, though, as music trains us all to some extent. That said, and to contradict some of that I just typed, I'm not a huge fan of J-45s. I do not dis-like them. I do like them. There's just the part where I like the sound coming from that body style when it's got the advanced bracing going on. Given the other half of my music hobby, it would probably be the best choice for me to go with a J-45 to replace the Taylor. Alas, the casual playing time will win again. In a way, it sort of relates to

Zombiewoof, I wonder sometimes if I am not far from getting to that point. Then again, maybe not. Sometimes I think it's like a gold swing. I might think I'm doing an Arnold Palmer imitation, but I still look like me. I actually tested the theory with a VHS recorder thing back in the day. Ugly stuff. 

Twang Gang, is that your natural SJ on the L - Vintage site in B-NC? I did not expect to end up where I ended up on the SJ, though I have difficulty describing exactly how.

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I enjoy having a wide variety of guitars & tones to choose from.  But as a Travis-style fingerpicker for 99% of what I do,  it took me a long time to figure out that superior volume is not part of my holy grail.

The realization finally occurred while taking a particular guitar for a test drive, that superior volume can cross over into a realm of harshness that simply doesn’t match what my ears want to hear.  The guitar happened to be a 000-28 Martin, and although the volume coming out of that little box was astounding & tonally it had a lot going for it, the pleasure of playing it faded rather quickly as it seemed almost impossible to play in a subtle manner.  In the end, it’s remarkable level of response had actually become an irritant!  Ten to one, the next person picking up that guitar would instead find their own little slice of heaven.

So there’s an unending number of possibilities when it comes to the holy grail tone - About as many variations as there are people playing guitars!

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I almost bought the Taylor 614ce at the local shop.  Wanted a Maple, bonus money burning a hole in my pocket but something was holding me back, as nice as the guitar was.  Then saw the Nick Lucas L 100 Maple on sale over at AGF and couldn't plunk my money down fast enough enough, don't regret the choice at all, but the Taylor was just "nice", I'm still learning the Lucas- it has a really unusual depth and tone

Edited by generaldreedle

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On 6/23/2020 at 3:50 PM, PatriotsBiker said:

Twang Gang, is that your natural SJ on the L - Vintage site in B-NC? I did not expect to end up where I ended up on the SJ, though I have difficulty describing exactly how.

No, my SJ-200 was a Standard with a vintage sunburst finish.  I might have kept it, but the guy I got the Collings from offered such a good trade value I couldn't pass up the deal.

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2 hours ago, Twang Gang said:

No, my SJ-200 was a Standard with a vintage sunburst finish.  I might have kept it, but the guy I got the Collings from offered such a good trade value I couldn't pass up the deal.

There's a (mostly)used shop about an hour away in Burlington, NC called Lowe Vintage that had a blonde SJ listed. They also have a Collings Brazilian RW with a 90 second video demo. Nice, but out of my reach. Well, should be, if I knew what was good for me.

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On 6/23/2020 at 11:08 PM, generaldreedle said:

I almost bought the Taylor 614ce at the local shop.  Wanted a Maple, bonus money burning a hole in my pocket but something was holding me back, as nice as the guitar was.  Then saw the Nick Lucas L 100 Maple on sale over at AGF and couldn't plunk my money down fast enough enough, don't regret the choice at all, but the Taylor was just "nice", I'm still learning the Lucas- it has a really unusual depth and tone

I would say that you did rather well based on the demos I see online. 

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On 6/23/2020 at 4:05 PM, bobouz said:

I enjoy having a wide variety of guitars & tones to choose from.  But as a Travis-style fingerpicker for 99% of what I do,  it took me a long time to figure out that superior volume is not part of my holy grail.

The realization finally occurred while taking a particular guitar for a test drive, that superior volume can cross over into a realm of harshness that simply doesn’t match what my ears want to hear.  The guitar happened to be a 000-28 Martin, and although the volume coming out of that little box was astounding & tonally it had a lot going for it, the pleasure of playing it faded rather quickly as it seemed almost impossible to play in a subtle manner.  In the end, it’s remarkable level of response had actually become an irritant!  Ten to one, the next person picking up that guitar would instead find their own little slice of heaven.

So there’s an unending number of possibilities when it comes to the holy grail tone - About as many variations as there are people playing guitars!

I was a little disappointed in the 000-14 I was able to test drive.It was good, but not "wow" good. It might have been better had it been set up well. It wasn't.  I think I realized right then that if I was going to switch, I wanted to do it with a big tone and to feel it in a big way when I play it. That may be why the Historic collection trickling out is calling my name.

I may accept an offer on my 614 that puts me over the top, when combined with some other smaller sales, of where I want to be to cover a large percentage of the pre-war SJ-200 Rosewood. That, of course, means pick of the lot of that whole series. Need more videos. 

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The plot sickens.  I have talked with one of our Brothers here abut a newish Gibson.   And then today my wife, whom I have told of my scheme , asked me to call over to the purveyor  high dollar musical goodies.  The last time we were in there was about two years ago.  She played a couple of Martin D41s, a Gibson CS J45, a scattering of offerings from Santa Crius and Bourgeois and so on.  All drew a shrug of her shoulders save one - a certain Huss & Dalton.   I think she has hopes that guitar is still hanging there.  Problem is with the pandemic you need an appointment to enter both the repair shop downstairs (which I will also be doing) and the store upstairs.  And there is to be "no hanging around."  You get 10 minutes to talk with the repair guy and 30 minutes to go up and see what is for sale.

Edited by zombywoof

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The pandemic really has the guitar stores looking depressing around here in the Northern KY/ Greater Cincinnati area.  I visited both local GC 's and their walls are almost empty with little selection.

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24 minutes ago, Dave F said:

The pandemic really has the guitar stores looking depressing around here in the Northern KY/ Greater Cincinnati area.  I visited both local GC 's and their walls are almost empty with little selection.

 

My daughter is looking at attending University  of Cincinnati..

I guess my point though was in all the years we have been married my wife has only really grokked over two guitars other than the 1960 J200 she owns.  One was a Collings 12 string she played at Mass Street Music about ten years ago but has never forgotten.  The other was that H & D she played here about two years ago.  I told her at the time to just buy it. But she did not want to pay the $5K plus price tag.. The store, however, is not even taking calls.  You have to leave a message and I guess they will call you back.  

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On 6/23/2020 at 6:53 AM, Lars68 said:

Good post. To me a guitar is more than just tone and playability. I care about heritage, aesthetics, and mojo as a complete package. I think this is what your are addressing too, right? Gibsons and Martins are hard to beat when all adpects are taken into account. I have never been interested in Taylor, Collings, etc, but I could consider a Guild... 😀

Lars

Perfectly expressed, as always, Lars.

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53 minutes ago, zombywoof said:

 

My daughter is looking at attending University  of Cincinnati..

My Alma Mater

 

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My next course of action on this front is starting to come alive. A bunch of old stuff from studio closet and my 614CE is on sale on Craigslist. The thought is to finance a large portion of the next guitar with the proceeds. I accepted an offer for the Taylor, but the guy fell off the face of the planet. Typical Craigslist. That sale would have put me over my minimum amount that I wanted in order to proceed. It almost became an interesting weekend, guitar shopping wise.

My original thought was to add a 5th nice acoustic to augment. It was clear that it would be a Dove. My adjusted line of thinking has me shifted towards getting one really nice guitar to augment the other 3, keeping the count "down" to 4. I have the HB, SJ-200 and D-41. An obvious choice given my studio hobby would be a standard issue J45. As fine as those are and as much as that makes sense, I don't want to do that. I want a guitar that is somewhat irrational in terms of studio use.

I've always had an ear for those big sounding guitars, but dripping with a full and pretty tone. By full, I mean it's got to have enough low end to be very well balanced. By pretty, it's really got to sing with sweet and bright sounding mids. We've seen this in recent examples. Think of the 2013 Sheryl Crow Southern Jumbo video that JCV found and posted, or the Acoustic Letter (Tony-P) videos. I would jump this very minute at used one with a  fair price. Too bad they don't make them. The 1939 J-55, 1936 Advanced Jumbo, Pre-War SJ-200 seem to attack it from three different sides. One's heavier tone, one's pretty and bright and one's pretty and smooth. I do like them all, and can see myself behind one.

The second tier, for now, are the Love Dove(baked top), 1952 J-185 Vintage and the 1942 Southern Jumbo to some extent. I also had the newer Sheryl Crow C/W on the short list at one point, but I think the brighter, bolder thing of other guitars is outweighing the C/W in my mind quite a bit these days. Still, it does sound awesome in it's own way. 

The last one on my list was actually one I've liked for some time, but was afraid of the richlite thing and the negative air around it. A NOS Hummingbird Regal with the Rose/Maple 3-piece back. It sounds terrific online.

 

Edited by PatriotsBiker

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36 minutes ago, PatriotsBiker said:

My next course of action on this front is starting to come alive. A bunch of old stuff from studio closet and my 614CE is on sale on Craigslist. The thought is to finance a large portion of the next guitar with the proceeds. I accepted an offer for the Taylor, but the guy fell off the face of the planet. Typical Craigslist. That sale would have put me over my minimum amount that I wanted in order to proceed. It almost became an interesting weekend, guitar shopping wise.

My original thought was to add a 5th nice acoustic to augment. It was clear that it would be a Dove. My adjusted line of thinking has me shifted towards getting one really nice guitar to augment the other 3, keeping the count "down" to 4. I have the HB, SJ-200 and D-41. An obvious choice given my studio hobby would be a standard issue J45. As fine as those are and as much as that makes sense, I don't want to do that. I want a guitar that is somewhat irrational in terms of studio use.

I've always had an ear for those big sounding guitars, but dripping with a full and pretty tone. By full, I mean it's got to have enough low end to be very well balanced. By pretty, it's really got to sing with sweet and bright sounding mids. We've seen this in recent examples. Think of the 2013 Sheryl Crow Southern Jumbo video that JCV found and posted, or the Acoustic Letter (Tony-P) videos. I would jump this very minute at used one with a  fair price. Too bad they don't make them. The 1939 J-55, 1936 Advanced Jumbo, Pre-War SJ-200 seem to attack it from three different sides. One's heavier tone, one's pretty and bright and one's pretty and smooth. I do like them all, and can see myself behind one.

The second tier, for now, are the Love Dove(baked top), 1952 J-185 Vintage and the 1942 Southern Jumbo to some extent. I also had the newer Sheryl Crow C/W on the short list at one point, but I think the brighter, bolder thing of other guitars is outweighing the C/W in my mind quite a bit these days. Still, it does sound awesome in it's own way. 

The last one on my list was actually one I've liked for some time, but was afraid of the richlite thing and the negative air around it. A NOS Hummingbird Regal with the Rose/Maple 3-piece back. It sounds terrific online.

 

Our list are somewhat close.The Dove was never on my wish list but one popped up locally and I worked out a trade for a DIF. I'm really like it. I think it will stay. I love my D41's, one has the baked top. I have a J185 Modern Vintage all hide glue. A very nice guitar but I don't find myself reaching for it very often so it's going on the block. I've had two HB's, they never stuck to me. Recently sold my Taylor 814CE. I have a '42 SJ on order. Like a parallel universe.

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7 minutes ago, Dave F said:

Our list are somewhat close.The Dove was never on my wish list but one popped up locally and I worked out a trade for a DIF. I'm really like it. I think it will stay. I love my D41's, one has the baked top. I have a J185 Modern Vintage all hide glue. A very nice guitar but I don't find myself reaching for it very often so it's going on the block. I've had two HB's, they never stuck to me. Recently sold my Taylor 814CE. I have a '42 SJ on order. Like a parallel universe.

Indeed. I've inquired on the DIF before I got my D41, but have since been wigged about the pick-guard issues and the Richlite. Now I'm glad I didn't as I am pretty sure I like the baked top better. Is the J185 Modern Vintage thermally aged?

It's out of my league $$-wise, but the Froggy Bottom K Deluxe that was on Wildwood a couple years back has resurfaced on Reverb. It left a lasting impression on me.  

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47 minutes ago, PatriotsBiker said:Is the J185 Modern Vintage thermally aged?

No. A Wildwood exclusive from a few years ago. 

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2 hours ago, Dave F said:

I have a J185 Modern Vintage all hide glue. A very nice guitar but I don't find myself reaching for it very often so it's going on the block. 

Can I ask what about the 185 suffers in comparison to your other guitars?

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Nothing. It sounds, looks and plays great. I guess I just have too many to chose from. 

Edited by Dave F

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1 hour ago, PatriotsBiker said:

Perhaps that circles back to what Lars and QM were saying. The feel and the mojo doesn't always match, too.

I get that. Many a nice guitar I’ve sold because it didn’t do anything for me and the buyers were elated. I’ve had friends play my guitars and they sound great but I could not get that sound. And then you have players that can make anything sound good e.g. Greg Koch. 

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