We’ve picked out two of our favorites from each brand for a comparison (or rather, first we’ll introduce the 4 guitars then we’ll compare them). If you’ve always wondered who’ll win in a battle of Taylor vs Martin, you just may find your answer in the reviews below.
- Martin 15 Series 000-15SM Mahogany Auditorium Acoustic Guitar Mahogany
- Price as of 08/13/2020 00:32 PDT(more info)
Let’s start off with a Martin—specifically the Martin 000-15SM, which is an all-mahogany solid wood guitar in the classic Martin tradition. The 000-15 has been a recurring player in the Martin catalog since the first half of the twentieth century, and their most recent iteration of the design lives up to this history, while still bringing modern touches and technology to the table.
In terms of sound, the all-mahogany construction (see full specs) brings a ton of warmth to the sound. The sustain is deeper and richer than what you’ll get from most acoustic instruments, with an impressive projection that might make you forget you’re playing without amplification. The looks of this model are equally distinctive. The simplicity of the overall design only makes the rich natural finish and slotted headstock stand out more. If you’re looking for an acoustic showstopper, this one fits the bill.
Martin LX1E Acoustic Guitar
- Martin LX1E Little Martin Solid Sitka Spruce/Mahogany HPL Acoustic/Electric w/Gig Bag
- Price: $449.00
- Price as of 08/13/2020 00:32 PDT(more info)
On the other side of the Martin spectrum is the LX1E, also called the Little Martin. It’s the smallest guitar in the Martin line, and also one of the most affordable, making it perfect as either a starting instrument for a beginner or a back-up travel guitar for a pro.
The LX1E uses solid Sitka spruce for the soundboard, where the tonewood matters most. The company saves a bit of money by using a mahogany laminate on the back and sides, giving you a touch of the warmth mahogany imbues to the sound without the high price tag of a solid-wood construction. When it comes to the hardware and electronics, the LX1E uses the same quality components and reliable craftsmanship you’d expect from any Martin.
Taylor 314ce Grand Auditorium
- Taylor 314ce - Sapele Back and Sides with V-Class Bracing
- Price: $1,999.00
- Price as of 08/13/2020 20:05 PDT(more info)
Moving on to Taylor, the 314ce is one of the most versatile offerings in the company’s catalog. It uses the Grand Auditorium body shape, with a Venetian cutaway that makes it easier to reach the frets. It’s also slightly smaller than the traditional Dreadnought body, making it an overall more playable option—especially for players with smaller hands.
The 314ce uses an all-solid wood build, with Sitka spruce for the soundboard and Sapele for the back and sides, which brings the same expressive warmth to your tone that you’d get from the traditional mahogany. One other advantage of this model is that it’s an electro-acoustic design, with an Expression System 2 pickup built in behind the saddle so it’s fully integrated into your guitar’s tone.
- Taylor 100 Series 2017 114e Grand Auditorium Acoustic-Electric Guitar Natural
- Price as of 08/13/2020 11:05 PDT(more info)
Unfortunately, when it comes to Taylor vs Martin, you won’t find much in either catalogue that could really be called “budget friendly.” Taylor’s 114e, however, is certainly a more affordable option. It uses a lot of the same design elements, too, including the Grand Auditorium body and the Expression System 2 built-in pickups, both things that make this a very playable instrument.
The 114e uses slightly different tonewoods than the 314ce. The soundboard is the standard solid Sitka spruce, but they’ve opted for layered walnut on the back and sides. These combine for a tone that’s balanced, crisp, and focused. There is also a difference in the width of the nut, which is slightly narrower than the fretboard found on instruments in the 300 Series. This could actually be preferable for beginners, making it easier to play especially for those with smaller hands.
Taylor vs. Martin: Which Is Better?
There is a reason both of these brands consistently rank among the top guitar models. Taylor is the comparatively newer company, but only because Martin was founded in the 1830s and Taylor didn’t get its start until 1974. Both have had plenty of time to build a reputation for excellence based on their consistently expert craftsmanship and innovative design. When it comes to Martin vs. Taylor, the question isn’t which one is better, but how each achieves its high quality standards.
The most significant difference between Taylor and Martin guitars is in the design of the neck. While both of them are adjustable to a certain extent, Martins use a set neck design. This means you aren’t able to adjust the angle of the neck, but also solidifies the connection between the body and neck, giving you a slightly fuller tone.
Taylor guitars, on the other hand, do generally let you adjust the neck angle to get your ideal action and positioning, but this comfort does come at the expense of some resonance. There is also a slight difference in the average fretboard radius.
Taylors tend to be a bit smaller and rounder, while Martins are slightly larger and flatter. This tends to make chords easier to fret on a Taylor and fast solo lines easier on a Martin, although there are exceptions to this rule.
Overall, these slight variances in neck designs points to the deeper, more conceptual difference between the two companies: Martin guitars are all about tradition, while Taylor tends to utilize more unique and novel techniques. For a long time, Martin was the only game in town when it came to high-end acoustic guitars, to the point they became the standard by which all other guitars were judged, and the Martin sound remains, for most people, what they think of when they think of an acoustic guitar.
Taylor, though, is all about pushing the envelope of what the acoustic guitar can be. You can see this in the Grand Auditorium (see full specs) body shape used on both guitars reviewed above, which has subtle differences from the traditional Dreadnought body shape that make a big difference in its playability. The same could be said of Taylor’s New Technology neck, designed to keep the neck straighter longer, even through heavy play.
Whether you buy a Taylor or a Martin, you’ll be getting one of the best acoustic guitars you can get your hands on. The question, ultimately, comes down to whether you’re looking for the tried and true or the cutting edge. If you’re not sure, listen to the guitars above, and play a few if you can get your hands on them. You’ll be able to hear and feel the difference a lot more easily than it can be described to you. Good luck!
Micah Johnson started playing music in high school, when he taught himself the bass to join his friend’s band. He added guitar and drums during his twenties playing in local clubs, and along the way, he picked up unique, hands-on experience from hand drums to studio mixers. On Song Simian, he aims to share this knowledge from 20+ years playing and recording music. When not in gearhead mode, he enjoys photography and travel. Email him