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Martin DC-16GTE vs Larrivee DV-03

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  • Martin DC-16GTE vs Larrivee DV-03

    Hey everyone, as a newbie...forgive this obvious Pandoras box type question... lol I am interested to hear folks feedback regarding my current decision process. Please be kind

    I play alot of styles on the acoustic...rock/blues/jazzy stuff, either fingerpick, or flatpick....I don't really do much fingerstyle, although I love it.

    I am currently shopping for a cutaway acoustic. I want to be under $1500. I am open to used. I have narrowed down to a couple of models... A used 2003 Martin DC-16GTE (not the better elec w/the mic-pickup blend)...expert setup and excellent condition.... OR a NEW(never owned) 2011 Larrivee DV-03 (they now only do cutaway in the L body) Special Edition Italian Spruce top (black tuner pegs) and signed by Jean Larrivee w/no electronics. I had a luthier plead with me to NOT buy a guitar w/electronics built it...he wants to put a LR Baggs Lyric in and not have a guitar w/holes cut in it. That concept is appealing to me....

    To answer the most likely response... unfortunately, I cannot PLAY both guitars BEFORE making this choice...they are not local. I have played a Martin...but not a cutaway..and not the D-16.... I like the Martin feel and sound... sounds punchy and almost 'tubey'. I have NOT been able to play a Larrivee as my closest dealer is 4 hours away. ( I probably will make a trip to check em out).

    I have listened to some stuff on YouTube...the guitars definitely have diff sounds...almost to me the Larrivee sound prettier and fuller when played softly, where the Martin might have more 'edge' ? Opinions are like ******...everyones got em! I am interested in hearing everyones take on these....hopefully getting intelligent personal opinions

    Thanks a bunch !


  • #2

    My first question is: Do you need and want a dreadnaught?  There are other body shapes that would be more comfortable especially if you are going to amplify. 

    Of those two you mentioned, I'd pick the Larrivee.  Larrivees are consistently well made and great sounding guitars.  I like Martins, and I own a few.  But all of mine are in the standard series.  The 16 series can be pretty nice, but the Larrivee will be better constructed. JMO

    As far as acoustic / electric, I really really like my Epiphone Masterbilt AJ-500M.

    <div class="signaturecontainer">I am not stupid, I just don't type very well.<br />
    <br />
    God created everything, including evolution.</div>


    • DaveKubler
      DaveKubler commented
      Editing a comment

      23miles, thanks for the reply.  Here is some backstory as to why I want a Dread....   I am the original owner of a 1988 Ovation Thunderbolt...and acoustic/electric cutaway with a shallow body. (obv the curved Ovation composite).   As you are probably aware...that guitar had/has miserable 'live' acoustic presence.  I was primarily using it on stage or plugged in, and really liked the electronics and the 'rock and roll' asthetics of that model. Times change...I grew up.  I don't play in a 'rock band' anymore. I want a 'traditional' acoustic (for lack of a better word) that is the polar opposite of the tinny weak Ovation.  I even contemplated a Jumbo......(not for long though). I WILL plug this in and record, but I am really looking for the fullest UNplugged sound I can get.... Not to mention, I live around a ton of bluegrass players...and I need to stomp out those damn banjos... 

    • DaveKubler
      DaveKubler commented
      Editing a comment

      what you say about build quality is consistent to things I have heard...at that price point, the Larrivees ARE better made... wood body binding vs plastic is one thing that comes to mind.... 

      Again..thanks so much for your input !    Every little thing I hear about this goes into my mental processor.....and it's all about consistancies of opinions that seem to sway me when I am on the fence. 

      I am not one to swap out guitars often.  I have had my 1976 Telecaster since 1978.   I have had my Ovation since new in 1988.  Thats all I played....all I needed.  When I get this acoustic....it will be with me for quite some time I believe.

    • Freeman Keller
      Freeman Keller commented
      Editing a comment

      Dave, unfortunately one person who could really help you is in the process of leaving the forum.   His moniker was "D03nut" - does that tell you anything about his preferences.   Possibly he'll see this thread and comment, but I'm pretty sure I know what he would recommend.

      I'm a Martin sort of guy and always felt that the 16 series was a good bang for the buck guitar, but I've also been very impressed with every Larrivee that I've ever played (all smaller bodies).   One significant thing for me would be that the used Martin will not have a warranty - ten years old is not ready for any significant work but you will have to pay for it when it comes.    With the Larry that would be covered for you.  Jean Larrivee does use a slightly unconventional bracing pattern which is probably why the difference in sound - instead of angled tone bars they are straight across.    Seems to work - there are many ways to skin that cat.

      Another guitar to throw into the mix is the new Martin performing artist series - I haven't actually priced them but I have played and heard a couple and they sound good both plugged and un.

      What ever you do, keep us posted and welcome to the forum,

  • #3

    I was in a similar conundrum a few years ago and went with a Martin D-16GT over a Larrivee D-03. I already owned a Larrivee OM-03R and the D-03 sounded very similar albeit with more bass so the Martin won out. In my case budget was about $1000 and I couldn't wait so I pulled the trigger prematurely. I like the D-16GT fine but many there's a time when I wish I'd stuck it out and scraped together another $300 or so and bought a used D-35 or even a GC MMV.

    I'm not knocking Larrivee by any stretch. My OM-03R still gets the reach over the Martin but I'm mostly a fingerpicker and the Martin is a better strummer. Still, I'd suggest looking around and trying as many different models of each that you can get your hands on. Don't buy based on price without actually trying a similar guitar. Also, try out as many guitars that are in the same general specs, such as:

    - Eastman E10D (made in China so they're affordable but with an Adirondack spruce top and mahogany back & sides they're a great bang for the buck.)

    - Epiphone Masterbilt DR-500M (also available with cutaway AND electronics)

    - Martin D-15M (mahogany top but surprisingly versatile)

    - Martin Guitar Center Custom D (basically a D-15 with a spruce top)

    - Larrivee SD-03 (a satin version of Larrivee's SD-50 which is a 12 fret dread with elongated body and wider 1-13/16" nut width these are reputed to be lap cannons)

    - used Martin D-18 (you can find them not far above your price range and they are the benchmark against which all other mahogany dreads are judged, though they were not consistent during the years just prior to the 2012 redesign )

    Cornelius Clodhopper


    • DeepEnd
      DeepEnd commented
      Editing a comment

      Of the two, chalk up another vote for the Larriv

  • #4
    Cool....hearing kinda stuff i wanted to. KWAK....really want the fullback/body d body but i HAVE to have the cutaway. Its going to b a Martin or Larrivee for me...i have made that decision. I think i am sensing that IF it was a higher end Martin it would get more "votes".... back i think to the high build quality of Larrivee.
    Kwak When you said you reach for the Larrivee over Martin that meant a lot to me... I hear you about fingerpicking vs strumming though... See the thing is is I probably do an equal amount of both but I would rather sacrifice a little on the strum than the beauty that I think I would get from the Larravee on finger picking and lighter touch. Thats actually the impression i got just listening to samples of them on YouTube . Having electronics built in is actually a negative for me. Seems Martin has decided that all cutaway players want thier electronics...
    you guys are awesome.....love bouncing these thoughts around. Very helpful


    • kwakatak
      kwakatak commented
      Editing a comment

      It's hard finding ANY make that doesn't drill a barn door in their guitars and put in the implant du jour. As for the cutaway, I've never needed it. I prefer a Strat with a clean tone and a dash of reverb and/or overdrive for that which believe it or not can still be done at low volumes. I learned fingerstyle because playing lead on an acoustic sounded too thin and there was nobody else to play with anyway. 

      The only acoustic that ever impressed me for playing all the way up the neck was a Larrivee LV-03RE. I could actually play bar chords all the way up to the 15th fret and the intonation was still spot on as well. You might do well to try and find a LV-03 (if they even make them without electronics) or a used LV-05. I always said that if I get another Larrivee that'd be the model. I do love the neck profile.

      The difference between the the LV vs. the DV is a smaller upper bout and slightly shallower body on the LV. Other than that they're more akin to a grand auditorium so there's still ample bass response but the draw with Larrivee is that the mids are just as present as the trebles. On Martins the D and G strings seem to be a little more subdued.


    • Freeman Keller
      Freeman Keller commented
      Editing a comment

      DaveKubler wrote:
      . Having electronics built in is actually a negative for me. Seems Martin has decided that all cutaway players want thier electronics...

      That isn't just Martin - many companies like Taylor and even some of the really high end stuff combine cutaways with electronics.   The simple reason is that most of us who play unplugged never go above the 12th fret - either because we don't know how or because our guitars don't play well up there.    Remember that as you go shopping - first with the neck body joint at 14 the relief stops there - on many acoustics the fretboard drops off from 14 to the soundhole - you can get some buzzy spots if you like low action.    Secondly, most acoustics intonate pretty badly above 12 - their saddles just aren't wide enough to do a proper job farther up the neck.   And unfortunately, even if they have a cut often there is a funky little bump in the side where it meets the neck - not a smooth transition like your Tele.    (and even tho this is the acoustic forum, I'm pretty impressed that you have an original '76 - sweet!).

      So, in my humble, if you really want to play up there it might behoove you to actually try out the guitars - check the intonation and playability - can you reach the positions you want and do you like what you hear?   Last comment about electronics - it is pretty easy to add something to a guitar that doesn't have them.

      Neil, maybe you can answer a question - every Larry that I've played has a wide nut and compound radius fretboard - is that true of the D03?   If so, for Dave, that would be one more thing to factor in.   The compound radius starts at something like 12 inches at the nut and flattens out to 16 at the 12th fret - that is supposed to make barre cording more easy and it will feel more "electric".   Martins are usually a little narrower at the nut and unform 16 inch radius.  

      Lots to consider - hope we're not confusing you too badly. 

  • #5
    Kwak...the DV-03...is the cutaway without electronics. D body cutaway..stopped making cutaways in the D and OM and now only do cutaway on L body. (I believe). I would assume the higher fret playability of the LV was shared by the DV...only i would get the slightly bigger D body....NO electronics... I play alot of lead .... my Tele is awesome...but its nota an acoustic...i played a ton of lead on my Ovation and i would and will want to play at least at the 12 fret....i like having the room for my pentatonic blues in E up there ANYTIME I play a non cutaway acoustic...i always find myself bumping into the damn body during some instinctive little fill i am going for...lol

    FREEMAN ...not confusing at all....i am absorbing. Statement about neck radius/barre chords very interesting. Another point for Larrivee.... my decision is about made

    Glad you admire the 70s Teles. Some folks dont. I wouldnt part with it for the world. I am probably one of the few people that put a Tele thru what this one experienced. 10+ years as main/only electric guitar (used the Ovation as well) in an all original rock (hard/metal/progressive) band. If that wasnt a strange enough guitar choice for that music....I strung it with 8's. That guitar partied at CBGBs more than a few times

    Saw DeepEnds post as i was typing this..... great recommdation.... but i decided Martin or Larrivee due to specific but different reasons. Martin history/lineage/badge/reputation and Larrivee due to what i have seen about his personal passion and quality. I like his story.


    • #6
      I'm going to have to make a video of me playing whatever new cutaway acoustic I wind up with. This way KWAK will see i am not a quack and DO make use of cutaway

      Again..ty to all for the feedback!


      • #7
        Lol. Water off a duck's back, Dave, though a video would be nice. I heard you were going with the Larrivee over at AGF. That's a good choice. We just like stoking others' GAS, that's all. ;0)
        Cornelius Clodhopper