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  • Might be a stupid question

    So I mainly play electric guitar, and I know a good electric guitar tone when I hear it, but when I went looking for my first acoustic I couldn't tell that much of a difference between a $300 ibanez and a much more expensive taylor. So, this may sound silly, but could someone describe to me what makes a good acoustic guitar sound?

    For example I like this guy's sound http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FopSMy1nmJM

    But this guy also has a "high end" guitar and I think it sounds buzzy and terrible http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vsTOz_iEfI4


    Could someone help me out?

  • #2

    It's not something based on price it's whatever sounds good to you that is right. 

    Your taste will probably evolve or change as you go so just go with that ...

    "Plunk your Magic Twanger, Froggy". Andy Devine


    • #3
      There's a lot more that goes into getting a great sound out of an acoustic. If you play them like an electric they'll all pretty much sound the same and meh. A great acoustic player gets the whole guitar going and exposes the difference between moderate and master grade.


      • DeepEnd
        DeepEnd commented
        Editing a comment

        Sungha Jung's playing style is different from Dallas Green's. Plus, I do hear a fair amount of buzzing on Jung's playing, which isn't necessarily a reflection on the guitar itself. I actually like both. As for "what makes a good acoustic guitar sound?" I'd agree with EdBega. It's a matter of taste. A "better" guitar will have better sustain and a more balanced tone across the sonic spectrum but these things are largely subjective. Stings make a huge difference, as does technique. A good setup will make a world of difference in how well a guitar plays, although little in how it sounds. Pick (pun unintended) the guitar that sounds and plays right for you and don't worry about it. And FWIW, some lower end guitars sound pretty good. My $350 Ibanez sounds quite nice to me.

    • #4

      myhero34 wrote:

      . . . . . .  but when I went looking for my first acoustic I couldn't tell that much of a difference between a $300 ibanez and a much more expensive taylor. So, this may sound silly, but could someone describe to me what makes a good acoustic guitar sound?


      Like Deepend says, it's whatever sound you personally prefer. 

      I have several guitars and none of them are what one would describe as "top end". But I bought them because I liked the way they sounded, played and looked. The name on the headstock is irrelevant.

      Besides, I have always struggled with the idea that some people will pay several thousand $$$$ for a single guitar when, for the same price, you can buy half a dozen that are equally good in terms of sound and quality of materials and workmanship. Odd.



      • #5

        I would look at things like:

        solid v. laminate - most people, who care deeply, prefer solid top acoustics. There is probably less consensus on the need for solid sides and backs. 

        finish - less consensus here, but the majority probably prefer a lighter finish for tone, like solid v. laminate though, you sacrifice future wear and tear - the thinner finish of course shows dings and scratches more. generally speaking. 

        quality components - non-sticky (appropriately cut) but, compensated saddle, good ratioed tuners. You will tend to have better quality of these on a higher end guitar. 


        But as helpful as that might sound. It is not as helpful given that, following from your example, Ibanez makes $350 guitars with solid tops, good finish, bone nut and saddles. Artwood In the same price range, they make laminates with enough finish to drown a cat. ExoticWood (granted they have nice pickups)

        I think, but I'm not sure, but I think all of the Taylor models are solid wood tops. So you get people that don't investigate the specifications thinking - 'oh taylor's sound great.' Well they do, that is true. But if you understand the technical reasons, can find a yamaha, ibanez, or a recording king with similar specs, and they sound as good to you, you could save some $ for the same quality. 


        The best advice, consider some of these factors and get somewhere where you can compare a bunch of guitars in the same room. Mostly, the good brands have good reputations for a reason, but you also can pay for what is on the headstock, which I've never been able to hear, despite my best efforts. 

        Also with acoustics, the sound comes from the wood, which comes from a tree, which grew somewhere unique. I've played different acoustic guitars of the exact same make and model, that sounded different. Not as much of an issue with electrics. Metals, the wires that are in your magnetic pickups, have clearer standard specifications. (Perfect quality control, fret inlay, neck straightness, etc. are another issue of course)



        • #6

          Tone has and price both have a lot to do with materials. A guitar may be more expensive because of the woods used, and to you those woods might not produce the right sound. Where as some basic woods might be cheaper, and give a tone that you like more.

          If you like the sound of the cheaper one more, and it's a well put together guitar, go for it!


          • #7

            Thanks for being so helpful guys! Will post NGD when I find one I like!


            • Freeman Keller
              Freeman Keller commented
              Editing a comment

              myhero34 wrote:

              Thanks for being so helpful guys! Will post NGD when I find one I like!

              As much as I hate generalities, I'm going to throw out a few more thoughts.    First, price and tone are not necessarily synonymous - increasing price should bring you you increasing quality in at least some respects - better materials, better worksmanship, maybe more bling or better finish.   Remember that comparing Asian built guitars to domestic is probably a 2:1 ratio of bang for the buck - there are some $1K imports that compare favorably to $2K guitars made in the US of A, and certainly in some of the lower price ranges there simply very few domestic guitars.   

              Also, remember that within a price range most manufacturers offer the same level of build and quality - up to say $400 you'll probably get solid top but laminated b&s, from 400 to 7 all solid but satin finish, 7 to 1K gloss finish and better appointments, 1K to 1.5 some pretty good quality wood and details, above that are the cream of the cream.   At 2 or 3K you should be getting some really fine guitars - but you may still like the sound of the $500 one bettter.

              Second, unlike an electric where the primary contributor to sound is the pup's and signal chain, with an acoustic it is first the body size (air box volume), secondly the construction methods (bracing, plate thickness), third the materials (mostly top wood but small influence from back and sides).   Tone is influenced by things like strings and to a great extent, by the player (style and techique).   I can play a Leo Kottke song on a LK signature guitar but I sure as hell don't sound like him LOL.

              Lastly, while most of us who have been playing acoustic guitars for a few years think we can hear differences and think that we know what we like, it is very hard to put into words (as an electric player try describing the sound of a vintage PAF in the bridge position on an old Les Paul - I'm sure you know the sound but try telling me what it is).   We talk about guitars being "mellow" or "bright" or "dark" or "complex" or (insert term) but really the best way to learn is to listen to lots of guitars side by side, preferably played by the same person.

              In the end it is what appeals to your ears (and fingers - the feel of the guitar is just as important).    Forget the name on the headstock - close your eyes, let the guitar speak to you, lets us know what you hear.   

              Good luck

          • #8

            Great advice here--all rings true to me. One more thing to consider is that particular guitars can be great for certain types of playing, and maybe not as great for other types of playing. And by "types of playing" I include playing method (flatpicking, fingerstyle w/ and w/o nails or fingerpicks, strummed rhythm, etc.) but also the circumstances of playing. I like a thinner profile guitar for playing while standing, for example. There are many trade-offs across all the variables; for example, a thinner-profile guitar has a less-full sound unplugged.

            And then there's the matter of amplification, if applicable. If you play your guitar "out" or even just record stuff at home, then you might be amplifying it somehow, which gets you into the world of differences among PUs, mikes, amps, pre-amps, etc. etc. etc.

            She's the lady of the light
            Yellow incandescent night
            Tiger eyes burning bright
            In the understory
            I can't see the forest
            For the branches and the leaves
            But I believe
            I do believe
            by me:


            "Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom. If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn."
            Charlie Parker