(Ed: 5/2012 – We’ve enjoyed having folks check out our ‘shootout’ and wanted to let you know we’ve got an update on the way! In the meantime, check out the original shootout. The most currently available Eastmans are here (some now with sound files recorded by our own Boss Flynn), all our Martins are here and all our Taylors are here. )
We rounded up a couple of great contenders from several of the lines we carry for our first ‘Acoustic Guitars Under $1000 Shootout’ – the Martin D-1 ($899), the Taylor 210 ($699) and the Eastman AC420B ($949). Our great sales guys Matthew, Eric and Jason as well as co-owner/GM John Flynn and shop manager Mike went a round with each guitar. The winner? Depends on who you ask. Let the games begin.
First up: Martin D-1
$899 – Solid Sitka Spruce top, solid Sapele back and sides, Stratabond neck, all satin finish, with hard case
Matthew: This fits the stereotype of what I think Martin is known for – boomy low-end and scooped mids. This wasn’t as loud. The high and low ends are really clean. Mids are quieter. The tone is great and I like the satin finish, minimalist body – it feels nice and woody, like a real chunk of wood.
Jason: This is a solid guitar. Has a good sound and surprisingly bright for a dread. This would be good for a fingerstylist looking for a little more body. It sounds really good. I’m glad they’re making the One Series. Solid construction and good aesthetics.
Eric: I was surprised at just how good this sounds. This has really nice lows with a lot of sparkle to the top, and the volume is good. When you’re really digging in with a pick, it tends to overdrive a bit.
John: Definitely has a smooth, even deep low end. Overall this is a surprisingly good sounding guitar considering the minimalist approach.
Mike: The has a darker tone, a darker sound. Martin fans will appreciate the darker, warmer tone.
$699 – Solid Sitka Spruce top, Ovangkol laminate back and sides, all satin finish, Sapele neck, with hard case.
Matthew: The midrange is really boosted. The low isn’t overly loud and midrange really comes out. Sort of seems the inverse of the Martin to me.
Jason: Great value – this is a good price with a hard case. Has a really full sound, with more low end than you’d expect from a Taylor a lot of times. Obviously well made – a dreadnought’s dreadnought.
Eric: This is really great for fingerstyle, it’s brighter and cuts well with a light touch. Excellent build quality. It’s the brightest of the three I think. It has that tell-tale comfortable Taylor neck that I’ve always liked with the 1¾ spacing. It is more trebly, less round.
John: This is brighter for sure. Surprising for a solid top/laminated back and sides guitar. This is a really nice, even bold sounding instrument. I played fingerstyle, strummed, played some rock, it’s great for all of it – really versatile. Great for live as it could really cut through easily.
Mike: I’m pleasantly surprised by the volume – it has really good volume. Its high end – the high E and B had a real pleasant thick tone – less tinny than I would have expected. This has the strongest midrange of the three.
$949 – Solid Adirondack Spruce top, solid Indian Rosewood back and sides, all gloss finish, Mahogany neck, with hard case. (See the new Eastman E10D here (Mahogany b/s) and Eastman AC420 here (Rosewood b/s), both of which have replaced the original 420B – Ed. 8/2011).
Matthew: This definitely has the warmest sounding low end, not muddy. The highs are there, the midrange is there. This would be great for fingerpicking. The construction is incredible – Ebony bridge, fingerboard, it looks sweet. And it comes with a hard case.
Jason: As I suspected, this is the all around best value on paper (it’s all solid, with an Adirondack top!) and it’s great – has a really good sound. It lives up to the paper. Good note articulation/note definition, very nuanced with a lot of body as you’d expect from the materials. And it’s well priced.
Eric: Easily the most aesthetically pleasing with the Ad top, full gloss finish, and square headstock. I thought it would blow the others away due to the materials and finishing – the upgrades that cost more on others. I thought it might be an unfair comparison. It’s loud and has a lot of headroom – you can really dig in without any of that overdriving the soundboard. The styling, the headstock, the tuners, the Collings-ified approach- this guitar is a ridiculous amount of guitar for the price.
John: This really has the best sound – the widest dynamic range. It has a nice low end with good clarity and a more silky top end that you’d expect out of a more expensive guitar. And it has cool machine heads.
Mike: Aesthetically this has higher appointments – it’s all gloss, the Adirondack top. This is a steal. It has the most balanced tone of all three, in my opinion. You can play it louder or harder without the tone breaking up, probably due to the great wood.
Everyone had their own opinion on which was the best. Here’s the lowdown:
Matthew: To me, the clear winner was the Eastman. Tonally this is a tier above – it’s a different class of guitar. The Taylor and Martin are pretty similar. The Eastman sounds really warm and fuller than the other two.
Jason: Overall I was surprised . Before playing them I thought the Eastman because it’s got the Ad top, but I really enjoyed all of them. They all sounded good – the Martin One Series and the Taylor are great deals and the Eastman..seems that should be priced higher.
Eric: Tonally they’re all different, it was surprisingly close considering the materials. I was expecting the Eastman to blow away the Martin and Taylor, but it didn’t. I’d still pick the Eastman because of the Adirondack top though. Really, they’re all awesome values. Martin needed to bridge the gap between the X Series and the Road Series and this One Series does that really well.
John: Overall, they’re all great bargains, but the Eastman…how much is it? $949. That’s excellent this guitar. For tone, the Eastman. For a fast player, the Taylor. For a guitar needing less maintenance that still sounds great, the Martin.
Mike: All three are good buys for under $1,000. I wouldn’t mind playing any of these at a gig. There’s enough strengths in each that there’s no clear winner to me, maybe the Eastman, but I enjoyed the Taylor quite a bit too.