Help, I know NOTHING about acoustics!

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Hi all,

Just realized I know next to nothing about acoustics. But when work picks back up I'd quite like to get me a nice one. A proper nice one.

My folks got me a used 80s Fender MIK solid top when I was 12 which sounds great and has served me well over the years and while it plays ok and sounds great on all the recordings I've done, surely there's more to acoustic life?

I had a nice 90s Takamine EF-460(?) which was pretty good. Sold on here.

I had a Korean Epiphone J200 which I picked out from 5 or 6 others in the shop. That was a peach!

And just recently I got a deal on an solid top Epiphone AJ which I am enjoying the volume and sound of, despite it being cheap.

I've also just discovered Rick Beatto's Gibson Country Western. I was only listening on my phone but already I think that may be the best sounding acoustic I've ever heard!

I've looked at Gibson Southern Jumbos, a few Guilds (I like Supertramp and Rog had his big Guild 12 string). I think I like jumbos or AJs with rounded shoulders. I'm not into dreadnoughts and I don't want anything small so I think 00s and all that are out of the question.

I think I'd like to buy used. I don't want something so expensive I won't take it to gigs (though honestly some of the pub gigs I do my £200 Fender is almost too good for!!).

Maybe around £1500? Is that realistic? Can anyone offer any opinions or recommendations? What should I be looking out for as pitfalls for someone who's never entered the serious acoustic market?

I think in truth I'd like a 50s Gibson Country Western but at 6-7k...!
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  • BingManBingMan Frets: 29
    Think for £1,500 you might get something pretty decent. If you’re after a sloped shoulder Gibson style guitar Eastman do very nice ones and are pretty affordable compared to gibsons offerings.
     
    If you stretch your budget a bit you might get a 60s Gibson J50 or J45 for around £2k depending on condition and what year etc. 
    I’d stay clear of anything from the 70s when they changed them to heavily braced square shouldered dreadnaughts. They can sound alright sometimes but they don’t sound like the classic slope shoulder ones.

    I owned a late 60s J50 a couple of years back that sounded really good and looked the part... but I couldn’t get on with the skinny pencil neck. Think between ‘65-69 Gibson made all their necks really scrawny... but if that doesn’t bother you then you can pick them up a lot cheaper than 50’s and early 60s models 

    Collings also do some very fine sloped shouldered ones too but they don’t come cheap.

    I don’t know enough about the Country Western to say definitively  but I think they are so expensive because of their scarcity compared to J50s and J54s...
    sonically I think they are pretty similar though as I imagine the bracing and woods are going to be the same... it’ll just be the fretboard inlays and details that are fancier. Someone correct me if I’m wrong here


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  • simonhpiemansimonhpieman Frets: 461
    Thanks, that's really good information for a start point. I must say I quite like the binding and inlays which is why I've sort of mentally discounted the J45s et al initially... Probably wise to try and get over that if I can as I'll no doubt be counting out some great instruments!

    Pencil necks are probably a bit of a no-no, sadly, as I'm 6"2 with hands to match.
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  • CMW335CMW335 Frets: 1344
    £1500 should get you a modern Gibson J-45 or a Martin D-28 second hand no problem. 
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  • TanninTannin Frets: 370

    I've looked at Gibson Southern Jumbos ..... I'm not into dreadnoughts
    You like the Gibson dreadnoughts but you are not into dreadnoughts. I'm confused.

    (And yes, the fact that Gibson call their dreadnoughts "jumbos" when everyone else in the known universe calls guitars that size and shape "dreadnoughts" really doesn't help. Gibson people have a rationalisation for sticking to it which I can't remember just at the moment, but was probably something to do with OS/2 or Betamax.)

    Back on-topic, one general rule is worth mentioning. For any given budget, you will almost always be able to buy a better guitar if you start by looking at the locally produced ones. By "local" in your case I mean "somewhere in Europe". I suspect that the sort of thing you're after is a bit of an American specialty. Just the same, always look local first.
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  • simonhpiemansimonhpieman Frets: 461
    Ha, there I am doing a great job of demonstrating how little I know! I thought the round shoulder ones were jumbos (eg. 50s southern jumbos) and the square shouldered ones were dreadnoughts (the Sheryl Crow signature, for example)? Are they both dreadnoughts? I'm guessing from your post they are!
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  • TanninTannin Frets: 370
    Gibson do their best to muddy the waters, so don't blame yourself! Jumbos are the same shape (more or less) as classical guitars but much bigger. (Think Everly Brothers.) Dreadnoughts have a narrow waist. They are big guitars too, but not as big as jumbos.



    Left to right: 808 with cutaway, dreadnought with cutaway, grand auditorium, jumbo with cutaway, 12-string dreadnought without cutaway.  An 808 is broadly similar to an auditorium, grand auditorium, concert, OM or 000. There are many, many names for these in-between shapes (somewhere between a dreadnought and a parlour) and the names don't really mean much except within the confines of a given manufacturer's range. The Cole Cark "Grand Auditorium" (above centre) is much smaller than Taylor's GAs. Taylor might call it a "concert" and Martin an "OM" or "000". God only knows what Gibson would call it!

    Gibson, for reasons best known to themselves, call dreadnoughts "jumbos" (hardly anybody else does) which is why their flagship dreadnought is called a "J-45" - the "J" stands for "jumbo". This means they are a bit stuck when it comes to naming actual jumbos. So they call them "super jumbos", which is where the model number of the SJ-200 comes from. 

    So yes, they are both dreadnoughts. The round-shouldered ones (of any brand) are often called "slope-shouldered dreadnoughts" to distinguish them from the square-shoulder ones. The theory is that the round-shoulders help to produce a more balanced tone, less boomy than the square-shouldered dreds. In practice, there are so many other factors at work (timbers, bracing, construction method, scale length) that you can pretty much ignore the difference.

    PS: there is a long historical explanation for Gibson's intransigence which makes some kind of logical sense ... but I can't remember it. OS/2 and Betamax made sense at the time too. :)

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  • DavidRDavidR Frets: 123
    There's more to acoustics than just the US makes. Much more. In another month you can go and try them out! From where you are, Guitar Village Farnham? Trip into Yamaha London on Wardour St? Peach Guitars, Colchester or Coda Guitars, Stevenage a bit further afield?

    You're right not to spend megabucks first off. Your budget is mid range and there's a wonderful choice now.

    First step - answer yourself some questions. First one you've got - £1500. Then do you really want a jumbo or would a dreadnought do? Marginally smaller but still boomy and certainly more choice. Then electrics or no electrics? If you're not going to use electrics don't buy them. Then bling or no bling? Ornamentation adds considerably to cost but not tone or quality.

    Would strongly suggest trying e.g. Eastman or Yamaha at this price range. Best value. US brands good too but more pricey.

    The weird thing about buying acoustics is it's a bit like looking at ten different houses. They're all houses but there's always one you fall in love with! And that doesn't always equate with cost. Going to look increases the chance of finding a good match. The good shops know this and will be really helpful.

    Have fun and good luck.


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  • simonhpiemansimonhpieman Frets: 461
    DavidR said:
    There's more to acoustics than just the US makes. Much more. In another month you can go and try them out! From where you are, Guitar Village Farnham? Trip into Yamaha London on Wardour St? Peach Guitars, Colchester or Coda Guitars, Stevenage a bit further afield?

    You're right not to spend megabucks first off. Your budget is mid range and there's a wonderful choice now.

    First step - answer yourself some questions. First one you've got - £1500. Then do you really want a jumbo or would a dreadnought do? Marginally smaller but still boomy and certainly more choice. Then electrics or no electrics? If you're not going to use electrics don't buy them. Then bling or no bling? Ornamentation adds considerably to cost but not tone or quality.

    Would strongly suggest trying e.g. Eastman or Yamaha at this price range. Best value. US brands good too but more pricey.

    The weird thing about buying acoustics is it's a bit like looking at ten different houses. They're all houses but there's always one you fall in love with! And that doesn't always equate with cost. Going to look increases the chance of finding a good match. The good shops know this and will be really helpful.

    Have fun and good luck.


    Thanks David (and @Tannin for the above). I'll definitely go and check some out, though it'll almost certainly be used. I am near Guitar Village but the last time I had a wander round there I was almost totally priced out, acoustic wise! I miss the £5 Strat days!
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  • GrampaGrampa Frets: 309
    Like you, I know very little about acoustics but having recently been introduced to the dark world of finger picking I wanted one to practice on. The only thing I can offer is....Just because you have a budget of £1500 you don't have to spend it all to get something a bit special. I recently picked up a 25yr+ old Fender AG-10 for under £100 that had been extremely well set up, plays with a nice light low action, and sounds pretty bloody amazing for such a small outlay. But this comes from a man who thinks his highly modified SE sounds better than his core Modern Eagle Quatro.
    Good luck with your quest.
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  • simonhpiemansimonhpieman Frets: 461
    Absolutely agree, my brother's old £50 Stagg acoustic sounded great for certain stuff and my Danelectro Convertible sounded crap in the most wonderful way.

    But I've never even looked above the £300 range before and given music is/was/hopefully will be again my job I figured it was about time I considered taking acoustics a little more seriously than before.
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  • Gerz6558Gerz6558 Frets: 448
    edited March 12
    I think they have been already mentioned a few times, but definitely consider Eastman. Just phenomenal value, when you compare what you get from the better known US brands.

    Like you I'm no expert with acoustics. After a little bit of reading I kept it simple, and wanted something with all solid woods and that was ideally a nitro finish. I thought this would push me into one of the usual suspects, but went with an Eastman based on a growing reputation (at the time) and seemingly great value. Still no regrets, and much nicer than the Martin I had before it.

    But I'm sure you will have a great selection of preowned US brands with that budget anyway. Good luck!
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  • HeartfeltdawnHeartfeltdawn Frets: 18633
    Another vote for Eastman. I bought a PCH1-OM last year on a whim after years without one and it's a lovely little player. The setup out of the box is absolutely superb. 

    I'm now contemplating whether I am good enough to justify the E6-OM TC in the future. 
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  • earwighoneyearwighoney Frets: 2805
    Another vote for Eastman. I bought a PCH1-OM last year on a whim after years without one and it's a lovely little player. The setup out of the box is absolutely superb. 

    I'm now contemplating whether I am good enough to justify the E6-OM TC in the future. 
    @Heartfeltdawn I'd recommend going for the E1OM, all solid wood, it has an ebony fretboard, half the price of the E6-OM TC, a few other differences but for £500, I'd struggle to advocate spending much more for marginal gains if you like the specs of the Eastman OM.

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  • HeartfeltdawnHeartfeltdawn Frets: 18633
    edited March 19
    @earwighoney you were on my list of people to seek advice from on this! So a jump in sound between the PCH1-OM and the E1OM but then successively smaller gains above that? Really not fussed about pretty inlays and trim. Something plainish and sounding good is right up my street. Not cedar either, had an S&P in the past that was a bit soft sounding. 
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  • ESBlondeESBlonde Frets: 3328
    Two excellent value but wonderful sounding makes are Atkin (kent) & Furch (Czech) to my ear. If you can try a selection it would point you at models with your sound/specs. As ever with guitars only you can tell when it's in your hands.
    Good luck.
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  • munckeemunckee Frets: 7630
    @Fuengi what is your Eastman, that’s a seriously lovely acoustic? I seem to remember that was between £1000 to £1500 and is a slope shouldered Gibson j45 type?
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  • Winny_PoohWinny_Pooh Frets: 5337
    Deffo find a good shop to try a bunch, especially if you are not familiar  with what makes some acoustics sound the way they do.

    https://guitarvillage.co.uk/
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  • FuengiFuengi Frets: 2482
    munckee said:
    @Fuengi what is your Eastman, that’s a seriously lovely acoustic? I seem to remember that was between £1000 to £1500 and is a slope shouldered Gibson j45 type?
    It's an E10ss the SS stands for Slope Shoulder rather than anything to do with the Nazis. It's basically a J45 copy but don't for God sake tell Gibson. 

    I actually blew the dust off it today, it plays beautifully, lovely thing. 

    The E10 is Adirondack Spruce with Mahogany b&s. The E20 I believe is Adirondack Spruce with Rosewood b&s. 

    Aside from the wonky nut it came with and a couple of very minor finishing issues I cannot fault it. 


    New they are around £1,300 I think but I've seen them go for as low as £800 used which is stonking value. 
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