Head or Heart

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DaiCappDaiCapp Frets: 132
I'm going to be in a very fortunate position soon of being able to buy my first serious acoustic - I've been an electric player for 40 years but I hung up the gigging hat a short while ago and now I find I almost exclusively play my little Faith Parlour...

Now, I very much like the Martins I've played - I'm especially fond of the OOO sizes but also the CEO-7, but I've been reading about Atkin guitars with interest and they do their version of both...

So the head says stick with Martin but the heart says support a small British builder... 

Does anyone have experience of both, or had a similar dilemma and made their choice or even any other suggestions I should look to try out. This will be a once only purchase, so I want to make sure I've as much info as possible...

A few things that might help - I don't need electronics, I don't like big guitars and I play a bit of a mix of finger style and pick (think Lloyd Cole now he no longer makes a commotion)...

Any thoughts will be hugely appreciated - thank you
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  • BahHumbugBahHumbug Frets: 123
    I don't know much about the Martin operation, ive never played one that I liked.  But they are a mass producer, whether they claim to hand craft their instruments or not.  A small producer like Atkin does hand craft, on a small scale, so I'd argue that in terms of the personal attention that has gone into an instrument, you'll get better value for money from Atkin.
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  • Jimbro66Jimbro66 Frets: 624
    edited March 10

    I've owned Martin, Kinkade, Santa Cruz and Atkin. All really good sounding acoustic guitars. My favourite is my Atkin - an OM28H Retrospective. It has gorgeous tone and its great setup and comfortable neck profile make it a joy to play. As far as acoustics are concerned it's my guitar for life.

    A Martin will be easier to sell used and for a good price. Selling an Atkin, or any other small luthier brand, means targeting a smaller market and will not necessarily fetch the best price. It's not a consideration if it really is a "guitar for life".

    Alister is a great guy. A visit to his workshop down near Canterbury would certainly be time well spent.


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  • richardhomerrichardhomer Frets: 17948
    If you want to try the two side by side, it’s worth a trip to Forsythes in Manchester. They also stock Lowden and Moon.
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  • stickyfiddlestickyfiddle Frets: 8868
    Heart. Ive learned that the long way around. 

    Bought a Dove because it was the best guitar in the shop even though there was a voice in my head screamingly “D28! D28!” at me, but knowing that a great Gibson acoustic is a rare thing, and that I wanted something special for a big birthday, I went with head and was very happy at the time. But the heart wants what the heart wants...

    I have since sold the Dove and have an HD28 that I play every day...
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 30907
    Play both, buy the one you like.

    Forget everything about how or where the guitars are made, it doesn't matter.

    For what it's worth I'm the *exact* opposite of stickyfiddle - I've always thought a good Martin D-28 is the absolute best acoustic guitar there is, because you only have to listen to a lot of classic recordings to know that... but I've never played one that really did it for me.

    I now own a Dove and not a D-28 because it did the instant I played it for the first time. It's the best acoustic guitar I've ever played - the only one that whenever I pick it up, I can play anything at all on it and it sounds exactly like the sound in my head, without having to adjust my technique in any way.

    And I've never played one 'hand made' guitar that sounds as good as my 'mass produced' Gibson.
    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone."
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  • CarpeDiemCarpeDiem Frets: 103
    I would try both, and also some different models/wood combinations. Personally, I'd go for the Atkin, but I would want to try one of the same specification you think you would like just to see if you bond with it.
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  • DaiCappDaiCapp Frets: 132
    Thanks for all the input - I've a week off at the end of March so I'll take a trip over to Forsyths and have a play on a few...
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  • BigLicks67BigLicks67 Frets: 425
    I think when people talk about mass production there is always a negative implied, but obviously there are different levels of scale for "mass production". I think when you are looking at standard series Martin's they generally are quality guitars irrespective of the fact they are not made by a sole luthier. 
    Atkin's current Martin type guitars look very good though but I've not tried them myself. The advantage of Martin is they are ubiquitous and can be found used all over the place.
    If I was you I'd start with a recent Martin 000-18 or OM21 and go from there. Also, check out Bourgeois, Collings and maybe a nice Gibson L00.
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 30907

    If I was you I'd start with a recent Martin 000-18 or OM21 and go from there.
    The OM-21 is the best-sounding non-dreadnought I’ve played. I had one for a while but I couldn’t really get on with the wide neck and string spacing.
    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone."
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  • stickyfiddlestickyfiddle Frets: 8868
    ICBM said:
    Play both, buy the one you like.

    Forget everything about how or where the guitars are made, it doesn't matter.

    For what it's worth I'm the *exact* opposite of stickyfiddle - I've always thought a good Martin D-28 is the absolute best acoustic guitar there is, because you only have to listen to a lot of classic recordings to know that... but I've never played one that really did it for me.

    I now own a Dove and not a D-28 because it did the instant I played it for the first time. It's the best acoustic guitar I've ever played - the only one that whenever I pick it up, I can play anything at all on it and it sounds exactly like the sound in my head, without having to adjust my technique in any way.

    And I've never played one 'hand made' guitar that sounds as good as my 'mass produced' Gibson.
    It's funny. My Dove was an exceptional guitar. It just wasn't quite "the sound in my head". 

    It also had a slightly wider and flatter neck than I'd like, which was something I thought I'd learn to be ok with, but never clicked with. I'm quite sure I'll have another Dove one day. Maybe a black one...
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  • maltingsaudiomaltingsaudio Frets: 876
    Go to a well stocked store’sand play everything they have, the guitar you want will jump out at you . Promenade in Morecombe is worth a visit as they have some very good less well known brands.

    If you gather from the comments it’s all about the guitar not the brand when it comes to acoustics. I’ve played some astonishing and really crap versions of all the guitars mentioned here and the only truth I’ve found is the really great ones are never for sale no matter how much you offer the owner!
    For the record my Fylde Alchemist is my won’t ever be sold does it all acoustic although you may not be a fan of the zero fret
    www.maltingsaudio.co.uk
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  • Moe_ZambeekMoe_Zambeek Frets: 2192
    edited March 11
    I bought the guitar that spoke to me most in the shop and I do love it, but it’s the wrong Guitar for the music I want to make these days. I don’t want to have a collection so it has to be one in, one out...

    (Having said that, I bought a Martin 00-16 for house playing a year ago in addition...and ended up liking it more than ‘the keeper’).


    FWIW I feel Atkin are about to do what Lowden have done over the past ten years and break into the mainstream, with increased volumes available. If you look around there are actually lots of Atkin’s around. That may mean that resale firms up a bit...or the opposite.
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  • BigLicks67BigLicks67 Frets: 425
    ICBM said:

    If I was you I'd start with a recent Martin 000-18 or OM21 and go from there.
    The OM-21 is the best-sounding non-dreadnought I’ve played. I had one for a while but I couldn’t really get on with the wide neck and string spacing.
    I suppose that's where the current Atkin line has an advantage as they are all 43mm nut width.
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  • jellyrolljellyroll Frets: 2090
    1. I think the hand built vs production line thing is a red herring. I have a Martin (OM21) as well as a Santa Cruz and a Collings. There is nowt wrong with the way the Martin is put together or its sonic properties. 

    2. We all set out thinking that THIS one is going to be for life. But it doesn’t have to be. Don’t tie yourself in knots - just buy one that you think you like. My view is that you need to live with a guitar a while before you can really assess it. All you can do in the shop is make a bit of a guess that you might end up liking it.  Buy it and if you change your mind in 6 months or 6 years then so be it. “Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.” Don’t paralyse yourself with the idea that you MUST get the decision right first time. 






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  • Jimbro66Jimbro66 Frets: 624
    DaiCapp said:
    Thanks for all the input - I've a week off at the end of March so I'll take a trip over to Forsyths and have a play on a few...
    It certainly pays to try several. When you have narrowed it down to two or three that you enjoy playing ask one of the shop staff to play them while you listen from in front.
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  • McSwaggertyMcSwaggerty Frets: 109
    Jimbro66 said:
    DaiCapp said:
    Thanks for all the input - I've a week off at the end of March so I'll take a trip over to Forsyths and have a play on a few...
    It certainly pays to try several. When you have narrowed it down to two or three that you enjoy playing ask one of the shop staff to play them while you listen from in front.
    3 years ago l wanted to buy my first serious acoustic. After playing a Martin D28,  D18 and a Gibson J45 for about an hour or so,  l couldn't make up my mind so got one of the shop staff to play them both. I still couldn't decide and while l was giving it some thought l picked up a Eastman Parlour.  After 5 mins, totally different from a dreadnought,  but there was no contest, l bought the Eastman and 3 years later l still love it.  
    So, as said above, forget big names and play as many guitars of all shapes and sizes as you can.
    You might be pleasantly surprised.... Good luck. 
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  • DaiCappDaiCapp Frets: 132
    Thanks for all the advice - I trawled around over the last weekend - tried some Martin's and was very impressed with a Taylor 712 but didn't like the finish and there were no 'natural' ones with 14 frets to the body to be had, plus I don't need electronics.

    Also tried a L'Arrivee which was nice and a Waterloo which whilst I understand the history etc, I couldn't get with the glue splodges inside on a £2.5k guitar.

    All told though I went with an Atkin OM37 - it sounded very similar to the Martin OM28 I tried but it just felt a little more played in, which I like.So, there it is, my first grown up acoustic and it's a beautifully made Atkin OM37 Retrospective... 
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  • Chris_JChris_J Frets: 72
    Nice work!

    I've heard nothing but praise for Atkin. Would love to try one some day!
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