Acoustic Guitar Showdown: Martin GPC vs. Takamine EF341

We worked on two nice acoustic guitars this month; a Takamine EF341SC and a Martin GPC PA1. This pair of well-played, ten-year-old guitars needed TLC and a setup. Rocco and I completed both jobs and then we played “Amazing Grace” as a sound test. 

 I recorded some variations on “Amazing Grace” with both guitars, using the built-in piezo pickups in each. I was pleasantly surprised by the electronics in both guitars. The under-saddle piezo pickups found on most acoustic-electrics usually sound thin. But both of these guitars sounded surprisingly good plugged directly into the soundboard. 
The same minimal EQ/compression was used on both instruments. The only differences besides the instruments are the mix levels (the Tak signal was a little louder than the Martin) and the song arrangements. 

Hear the difference for yourself!
“Amazing Grace” on a Takamine EF341
“Amazing Grace” on a Martin GPC
What’s the IYG verdict? 
Both guitars were solid performers. The Takamine EF341 was lively and brighter sounding than the Martin. It’s natural volume was rich and full. Overall, the Takamine was easier to play than the Martin. At the owner’s request, I set the action on the Tak quite low. Low string action combined with a slim C-shaped neck made hopping around the Takamine’s fretboard a breeze. 

The Martin sounded like a Martin, which, in our opinion, is the quintessential acoustic guitar tone. Martin acoustic guitars sound fantastic. They’re not the loudest acoustic guitars, nor the easiest to play; Martin necks are traditionally chunky and they’re set up at the factory with higher-than-average string height. But every Martin guitar I’ve played (not a bunch, but several) all produced a perfectly balanced tone. Nothing is overly warm, bright, or mid-toney. Like Goldilocks’ favorite porridge, everything is just right, every note on the fretboard rich and musical. 

So the Martin sounded better than the Takamine?

Kinda, but not really. The Takamine was a more versatile and smoother playing instrument. The Martin makes you work harder, but you’re rewarded with an iconic and timeless acoustic guitar tone. 
Price is also a factor. Both instruments tested were about 10 years old. New, the Japanese-made Takamine sells for around $1000. The American-made Martin sells for about $2500. 

For comparison, I’ll record Amazing Grace on my $300 Seagull Entourage Rustic Mini jumbo.

This was a fine Canadian-made instrument, with a cedar top, back, and sides, but it has seen a few tough moments over the last 15 years. The soundboard has a not-insignificant crack and the neck heel started to pull away from the body until I glued it back into place.  The ‘Gull still gets the job done…until my budget allows for a Takamine and/or a Martin. Also, I installed the piezo pickup in the Seagull myself, and it’s a pretty low-budge set-up, as your ears will testify. 
“Amazing Grace” on a Seagull Entourage Rustic Mini Jumbo
“Amazing Grace in the Round” — Seagull (left), Martin (mid), Takamine (right)

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