The world of acoustic guitars is relatively volatile going from year to year. You’ll see new models enter the market, new brands – it’s definitely exciting. Even so, there are still some constants you can count on. Brands which have established their dominance a long time ago and managed to maintain it to this day. One such name that comes to mind is C.F Martin. However, as old and respectable as they might be, their direct competition comes in form of a relatively young company named Taylor Guitars.
Both of these brands are known for their superior quality, hand-crafted instruments and master luthiers. Today we’re going to put them head to head in a comparison of sorts, although the main goal is going to be presenting these two legendary brands to you, the user. We’ll take a look at their history, and then check out some of the best models they have to offer. Without further ado, let’s get started.
For a brand that was started all the way back in 1833, C.F Martin has miraculously survived for all these years. Not only that, but they also became one of the top 5 acoustic guitar brands in the world, constantly battling for the first place. A lot of people are wondering just how they achieved this. The story of C.F Martin isn’t all that exciting, but neither is success every time. One thing that defines C.F Martin is their attention to detail, reluctance to compromise when it comes to quality, and overall sense of innovation.
If you have any experience with acoustic guitars, you have probably heard of a Dreadnought style acoustic guitar. Well, C.F Martin is the brand that invented this design. They’ve taken the existing body shapes and sizes, deconstructed them, and tried to find a way to merge their good sides while leaving the flaws out. Even though it’s not a perfect guitar, Dreadnought has become the most popular body shape in the last 60 years and more.
C.F Martin wasn’t always as big as they are now. It all started with a small show in New York City, where several luthiers worked feverishly to create solid instruments. As a matter of fact, their production in early 1900 didn’t exceed some 200 instruments per year. Compare that to today’s 56,000 average per year, and you get the picture. It’s fair to say that C.F Martin earned their impeccable reputation by refusing to compromise quality over quantity, only scaling the production when they could comfortably do so. That’s the type of mindset C.F Martin is known for, traces of which can be found in any of their current vintage acoustic guitars.
In contrast to C.F Martin, Taylor Guitars started their journey not so long ago in 1974. That’s not really a lot of time, at least in the context of musical instruments brands. It all started with three employees who weren’t happy with their job, just like so many other successful enterprises did. Taylor, Listug, and Schemmer wanted to do more, explore the limits of their skill, and keep applying their ideas as they see fit. Fortunately for them, the employer they worked for at the time building guitars, has decided to sell the business. The three didn’t wait long before submitting their offer, and the company was theirs.
Each of these three co-owners had a certain set of skills. Listug knew little about building guitars, but was a proficient businessman. Taylor had a genius for innovative designs, and Schemmer was simply a luthier whose skill surpassed 90% luthiers around the world. This dynamic trio had everything that was necessary to form a legendary company which Taylor Guitars is today.
However, the road wasn’t all that smooth. The company faced some bumps in the road, even coming close to being swallowed by debt, however they pulled through. Taylor Guitars shares one very important attribute with C.F Martin – their willingness to go as far as it takes to retain the top-level quality of their instruments. As you can conclude on your own, it didn’t take long for Taylor Guitars to establish a very respectable reputation. Once they’ve reached a certain point, they opted to follow brands such as Fender or Gibson, and open a plant that would produce more affordable instruments with their logo on them.
While these guitars weren’t really comparable to Taylor’s high-end stuff, their everlasting search for perfection became evident even in the newly released affordable lineup. Many people talk about that ‘Taylor tone’ which gives Taylor’s guitars a specific flavor. Well, a good portion of their affordable models bring this tone despite costing a fraction of their standard models.
If there’s one thing we’ve all learned about Taylor, it’s that they carefully pick and choose which guitars will-will bear their logo on the headstock. Chances of you finding a defective Taylor acoustic guitar are minuscule. Even if it happens, Taylor’s customer support is there to solve any issues as fast as possible. Honestly, one has to wonder just how bored their support is.
Head To Head Comparison
Deciding which of these two brands is better is extremely hard. You fill find very defined fan bases for both. At the end of the day, you can put it like this. Taylor is always in search of innovation, which is made evident by their new neck joint designs, and other unique features they offer. On the other hand, C.F Martin is a bit more conservative in their approach, and are sticking to what works. That isn’t to say that this brand is a stranger to innovation, but they are much more cautious when it comes to changing things.
Notable Models From Each Brand
Martin DRS2 Dreadnought Acoustic-Electric Guitar
It wouldn’t be right if didn’t mention a dreadnought model from Martin. They have a whole assortment of concert, jumbo and other guitar sizes in their offer, but dreadnought is what this brand is known for. DRS2 brings a great value at a reasonable price. On top of that, this is an acoustic-electric guitar, which makes it that much more versatile. Let’s take a closer look and see what it has to offer.
The shape of this guitar needs no introduction. As we’ve said before, it’s one of the most popular body shapes in this day and age. Martin’s choice of materials is far more interesting. They went with a solid Sitka spruce top paired with solid Sapele back and sides. This combination alone ensures a very rich color of tone and great resonance, but more on that later.
Another interesting thing when it comes to the build quality of this model is the bracing they have used. We are looking at their A-Frame X-1 bracing, which is pretty innovative and more efficient than the traditional bracing found in older models. The neck is a standard 25.4-inch piece made of select hardwood, featuring a black Richlite fretboard. Using Richlite over standard rosewood or ebony is definitely an interesting move by Martin. In the field, you don’t really feel the difference all that much. On the contrary, the neck feels that much smoother thanks to this fretboard.
With that said, everything on DRS2 Dreadnought is fitted and manufactured impeccably. This is not the best Martin can do, but they definitely didn’t cut any corners even if this is considered affordable by their standard.
When it comes to electronics, Martin took the safe route. Instead of experimenting with various pre-amps, they’ve chosen to go with a Fishman Sonitone system, which as proven to deliver great performance. The pre-amp itself offers more than enough versatility in terms of tone shaping, but also renders the tone of the guitar very accurately.
The most important thing about any acoustic guitar is its tone. You don’t need to be a master luthier to understand that. The tone is the result of two things – materials used and the way the guitar was put together. In the case of DRS2 Dreadnought, you are looking at a very warm tone which delivers an abundance of range. The projection is pretty high up there while the instrument’s dreadnought shape ensures more than sufficient volume.
The Martin DRS2 Dreadnought Acoustic-Electric Guitar is a perfect choice for a working musician who needs something classic but yet a bit different. The quality of the instrument itself inspires confidence, which makes DRS2 a great stage performer.
Taylor 210e Deluxe
Taylor’s equivalent to the DRS2 comes in form of a Taylor 210e Deluxe. Just like it is the case wit the Martin guitar we’ve just talked about, this Taylor is not the best that brand has to offer. It is, however, among the most balanced models and a great value for the money. Let’s check it out closer.
The shape of 210e Deluxe also belongs to the dreadnought family. Choosing this specific body shape for our Taylor pick is only fair considering that we tried to find two guitars which are somewhat close to each other. Taylor took a different route when it comes to tonewood, though. They’ve chosen a solid Sitka spruce for the top, but their back and sides are made of layered rosewood. Rosewood itself is a pretty hard type of wood, which means that you will get a more punchy and aggressive tone out of the instrument. The neck is a Sapele piece with a genuine African ebony fretboard. Again, the build quality is impressive with an impressive amount of details present wherever you look.
One thing many love about Talyor is the fact that they leave nothing to chance if they can help it. That is exactly why they have decided to design their own line of electronics for their acoustic-electric guitars. After all, this component dictates a large portion of what the guitar is going to sound like through the speakers. The one they’ve installed in 210e Deluxe is what they call Expression System 2. In a lot of ways, this preamp feels like it’s custom tailored for this specific guitar. It simply works so well with the nature of the 210e that we doubt any other set of electronics could do the same.
A bit aggressive in the higher range, Taylor 210e Deluxe brings a mixture of warmth, strength and deliberate low-end response. Projection and volume are present in abundance. IT almost feels like you’re playing a bigger guitar and not a standard dreadnought. While it is perfect for strumming, the amount of pure definition you get with Taylor 210e Deluxe makes it a perfect choice for those who prefer the finger style.
Just like the Martin we’ve mentioned before, Taylor 210e Deluxe is a perfect fit for a performing artist. There is one difference, though. This Taylor is a bit punchier, while the Martin is a bit softer. With that said, it’s an awesome instrument that will keep up with you no matter where you decide to go.
Trying to figure out which one of these two brands is ‘better’ than the other is futile. They both have their strength and drawbacks, but they are still very much on the same level. What it comes down to is personal preference. One thing you will learn rather quickly is that there is no best Taylor nor best Martin out there. You will want to own each model they have, and you will find every one of these to be amazing in their own way.
The sheer number of professionals and celebrities who use instruments from both of these brands is a good enough insurance policy that you can trust just about any model they have to offer. As long as you know what you need, chances are you will find a perfectly matching Taylor or Martin out there. After all, both of these companies have been in this business long enough to ensure that.