If you’re trying to choose between a Martin or Taylor guitar, this post post is for you!
Taylor and Martin are some of the most popular guitar brands in the world.
Given each brand’s popularity and similar pricing, there is a lot of comparison between the two and a heated debate as to which is best.
Although Martin and Taylor have a reputation for making higher-end guitars, they both carry some less expensively priced instruments for entry and mid-level players.
So if you’re budget is less than $1,000+ for a guitar, don’t write off either of them just yet.
To better understand Taylor and Martin guitars, let’s take a look at each brand’s history.
A Brief History Of Martin Guitars
Martin has been around since the year 1833.
German immigrant, C. F. Martin, Sr, founded this brand using his last name to market these guitars.
Today C. F. Martin IV runs Martin Guitars out of Nazareth, Pennsylvania.
That’s right: the company has remained family-owned for several generations now.
Martin continues its reputation as one of the best guitar manufacturers in the world by maintaining superior quality standards.
Also, they strive to remain on the leading edge of guitar design.
Classic Martin designs like the D-18, D-28, and D-35 Dreadnaught guitars were huge technological breakthroughs at the time of their development in the early 20th century.
They gave guitar players more volume and projection than what they were using then.
And Martin still produces those classic models today (which you can read more about here).
Of course, Martin offers many more contemporary models today.
These address the needs of modern players and performers without sacrificing the unique sound that has always been their signature.
A Brief History Of Taylor Guitars
Taylor is the new kid on the block compared to Martin.
Bob Taylor and Kurt Listug founded Taylor Guitars in 1974 and have headquartered their brand in El Cajon, California.
Taylor Guitars became famous by combining top-notch methods of manufacturing with strong attention to detail.
They became a leader in the industry by making use of computer mills, lasers, and other high-tech procedures to change the way guitars are made.
Today, many recognize Bob Taylor as one of the leading visionaries of the acoustic guitar world.
Some of Taylor’s contributions to the world of guitar include the patented Taylor Neck scheme, the T5 (one of the world’s first true hybrid acoustic/electric guitars), and the Expression System 2 pickup.
Martin Guitars’ Sound
Obviously, many aspects of guitar sound are subjective.
But, because of the long history of Martin, guitarists tend to think of Martins’ sound as the iconic, traditional acoustic guitar sound.
This brand’s long history contributes to this reputation with most classic albums of the 60s or 70s making use of a Martin.
Greats like Elvis, Neil Young, Paul McCartney, and Willie Nelson have all used a Martin Guitar.
Thus, many consider Martin the benchmark of sound in the acoustic guitar world.
Taylor, on the other hand, has a more modern sound.
Their sounds differ in part because they have different body shapes and are made with different combinations of wood.
Taylor Guitars’ Sound
Like I said earlier, Taylor has a more modern sound associated with modern genres and is known for being balanced, crisp, and articulate.
Taylor Guitars has grown to be one of the biggest and most popular acoustic guitar brands in the world largely thanks to this quality sound.
Many say that Taylors are a bit richer in the upper mids while Martins are richer in the lower mids.
Contemporary guitarists like Taylor Swift, Damon Albarn, Chelsea Wolfe, Mateus Asato, Orianthi, and others are just some of the names of stars often seen playing a Taylor guitar.
Taylor Vs Martin: Pickups
Both Taylor and Martin have amazing pickup systems.
Most Taylor Guitars have a second-generation Expression System (ES2).
This system captures string movement behind the saddle, instead of underneath the saddle.
This helps better recreate the natural acoustic tone of the guitar through an amp.
On the other hand, Martin collaborates with Fishman so they get cutting-edge pickup designs to capture that traditional acoustic tone.
The Fishman pickups on many of the new Martins give you the sound of a studio-quality mic in front of your guitar, again so you get that natural, acoustic tone.
Taylor Vs Martin: Build
These two companies have significantly different approaches to building their instruments.
Like I mentioned previously, Taylor makes use of more modern manufacturing techniques most of which are unique to Taylor Guitars while Martin uses more traditional manufacturing methods.
Taylor designs one perfectly crafted instrument and then mass produces it with outstanding quality control minimizing room for even the slightest error.
Martin, on the other hand, builds each of its guitars individually as if each is a unique piece of art, carefully hand-crafted by several guitar artisans.
For instance, at Martin’s production facility, one artisan makes the fretboard, another artisan makes the neck, and so on.
For both brands, the result is nearly always an extremely well-crafted guitar.
One amazing example of Taylor Guitar’s modern building techniques is how they attach the neck to the body of the guitar.
Their New Technology (NT) neck sits in a precisely fitted pocket and supports the fretboard all the way up to the nineteenth fret.
This technique helps keep it stable and straight for longer.
However, this example doesn’t necessarily mean that Taylor Guitars are better crafted than Martin Guitars.
You can find an old Martin D-28 from the 1940s (or earlier) that sounds just as awesome as a modern Taylor Guitar thanks to Martin’s extremely high-quality manufacturing methods.
Martin Vs. Taylor Guitars: Price
It’s challenging to compare the price of Taylor and Martin guitars because there isn’t really an opportunity for equal comparison.
All of their guitars are different enough that it’s challenging to compare them directly.
That said, they typically have similar pricing with most of their guitars in the $1,000+ range with a handful of less expensive models for entry and mid-level guitarists.
On the upper end, these two brands have some limited editions that go for as much as $140,000 USD.
The bottom line is that, if you can afford a Martin, then you probably can afford a Taylor of similar quality and vice versa.
Martin Vs. Taylor Guitars: Which is Best For You?
Martin’s primary aim is to make guitars that bring out the classic acoustic guitar tone.
Taylor has a more modern approach; attempting to create a sound with their guitars that’s perfect for most modern musical genres.
That said, you will still find modern guitar players using Martin guitars like Ed Sheeran and Jake Bugg.
However, if you prefer playing folksy, older tunes on your guitar (like Bob Dylan), a Martin may better suit your needs.
On the other hand, if you prefer playing contemporary pop or rock, you may prefer a Taylor guitar.
Most importantly, try playing instruments from each brand to see which you prefer.
I don’t own either of these instruments.
But I know I prefer Martins!
I’ve played several Martins and Taylors.
I have friends who own both, and I have tried out several Martins and Taylors at Guitar Center.
I’m not surprised that I prefer Martins because I like learning folksy tunes on the guitar from artists like Bob Dylan and The Tallest Man on Earth.
Ultimately, only you can figure out which brand you prefer, and the best way to do that is to try playing each one!
So head to your local guitar shop and try playing several Martins and Taylors (if you can) to get a feel for which brand you prefer!
Or if both guitars are outside of your budget, take a look at my guitar recommendations in this article.
I hope this post has helped you get a sense for how these brands differ and which might be best for you!
Although I don’t own either instrument, I hope to at least get a Martin some day!
And I ‘ve played several guitars from each brand, so I may be able to answer some questions you may have about these instruments.
Let me know in the comments!
Nice article. Very clear and balanced. I have both – a 1968 Martin D-18 and a 2020 Taylor 224ce koa deluxe. Both are great and serve different needs. The Taylor plugs in, while the Martin does not. Waiting for the Taylor to open up in the bass after some more playing.
Thanks for writing in! You’ve got some great instruments. I’ve never played a Martin D series quite that old, but I do love the sound of older Martins!
I have often found that to my ear Taylors always sound good, but they also tend to sound very similar.
Martins show much more sonic variation, which requires more patience when selecting one.
Could this be the result of the very different manufacturing methods?
I recently decided on a 1973 Martin D-18 and could not be happier.
That’s interesting, Anthony!
I also like the sound of Taylors (even though Martins are my preference). And a similar sound from Taylors certainly seems in keeping with their manufacturing methods.
Furthermore, I really appreciate the look of Martins.
And I bet a ’73 D-18 sounds great.