Gibson vs Taylor Acoustic Guitars: Which are Best for You?


Gibson and Taylor are two leading names in the acoustic guitar industry, both specialising in the highest quality models. In this article, I’ll compare the two brands in terms of their tone, playability and options, so you can decide which to go for when you purchase your next acoustic guitar.

The Quick Answer

Gibson mainly specialise in dreadnought and jumbo/ super jumbo acoustic guitars, whereas Taylor offer a broader selection of shapes. Gibson acoustic guitars usually sound a bit darker whilst Taylor guitars often sound brighter. Gibson guitars start at roughly $1500 and Taylor models at $400.

Brand Overview

Before we dive into the comparisons, I wanted to briefly run through the ranges so that all the names make more sense if you’re less familiar with how each brand organises their line-up.

Gibson

Gibson are best known for their dreadnought and jumbo/ super jumbo acoustic guitar models and their range is pretty expansive. All their models are at least in the mid-high end bracket, starting at around $1500 and some models can get very expensive (over $5000). If you’re after something more affordable, then looking at the Epiphone range is your best bet.

Here is a list of the different Gibson acoustic guitar shapes on offer:

  • Hummingbird: dreadnought shape with square shoulders, usually with a spruce top and mahogany back and sides.
  • The Dove: dreadnought with square shoulders, usually with a spruce top and maple back and size. Longer scale length than the Hummingbird.
  • J-45: dreadnought shape with rounded shoulders, usually with a spruce top and mahogany back and sides.
  • J-35: dreadnought shape with rounded shoulders, with a rounder neck than the J-45.
  • J-15: dreadnought shape with rounded shoulders, usually with a spruce top and walnut back and sides.
  • Songwriter: dreadnought shape with rounded shoulders, usually with a spruce top and rosewood back and sides.
  • SJ-200: super jumbo shape, usually with a spruce top and either maple or rosewood back and sides.
  • J-185: jumbo shape.
  • L-00: parlour shape, smallest acoustic guitar available.

With each shape, you’ll find different models at different price points. The Studio series tends to be the cheapest, followed by the Original and Standard series and finally the Deluxe is the most expensive excluding the Custom shop models.

Taylor

Taylor mostly make high-end acoustic guitars, but do offer some mini and travel size versions which are more affordable. Taylor use a numbering system to distinguish between each model.

  • The first digit is used to identify the series. Models in the same series have the same back and side woods.
  • The second digit indicates the string number and top wood hardness. 1 = 6 string with soft top wood e.g. spruce, 2 = 6 string with hard top wood, 5 = 12 string with soft top wood, 6 = 12 string with hard top wood.
  • The third digit is used to identify the body shape. 0 = dreadnought, 2 = grand concert, 4 = grand auditorium, 6 = grand symphony, 7 = grand pacific, 8 = grand orchestra.
  • If a “c” comes after the name, it has a cutaway, and if an “e” comes after the name, it will be an acoustic-electric model. Some guitars will have both letters “ce”.

Here are some images (all link to Amazon) to show the different shapes.

Grand Concert

Grand Auditorium

Grand Symphony

Grand Pacific

Dreadnought

Grand Orchestra

Comparing the Tone

So now we know a bit about the Taylor and Gibson acoustic ranges, let’s dive into the first comparison. Of course, it’s hard to compare the tone of an entire guitar range with another because there are all sorts of variables such as the woods, shapes and sizes to consider. I’ll be making some generalisations and providing specific examples to help give you an idea of the differences.

Gibson guitars usually sound a bit darker than Taylor guitars which sound a bit more shimmery and bright. It is more common to find a Taylor acoustic with either maple or rosewood back and sides than Gibson which usually uses mahogany back and sides, contributing to the darker tone and flatter EQ.

  • Taylor’s are best known for their pronounced treble frequencies, contributing to the sparkly and bright tone.
  • Gibson acoustics usually have a flatter EQ and as a result sound a bit more balanced.

There are of course many exceptions to this, and unless you’re comparing the same shape and tone wood, it’s not really a fair comparison to make.

To put things into context, here are some videos demonstrating the same shapes back-to-back from both brands so you can listen to the differences.

Example 1: Dreadnought (Taylor 310 vs Gibson J-45)

Example 3 Jumbo (Taylor 618e vs Gibson J-200)

Example 3 (Taylor 814ce vs Gibson J-185)

Comfort and Playability

It’s really important not to ignore comfort, as a factor when choosing which acoustic guitar to buy. Tone is super important, but you won’t be able to get the more out of the guitar if you find it difficult to play.

Now I won’t go into body shapes in this section (more on this later in the article), and instead I just want to talk about similar specification guitars, to keep things even.

Taylor guitars tend to have a specific neck design which suits a low action, making it easier to hold barre chords and even individual notes when played quickly. Although you can lower the action on a Gibson, it tends to work best when higher, which some players with weaker hands may find more difficult.

In terms of the neck, the Gibson J-45 model usually has a SlimTaper neck which feels comfortable for most hand sizes, but maybe a little too slim for players with larger hands. The Hummingbird has a ’50s rounded neck which feels much thicker. Most Taylors have a C-shape neck or V-shape neck, and they tend to be on the slim side and comfortable for most players.

When it comes to comfort, the best thing is to try out the models in your price range. Of course, you can set up the guitar to your taste when you’ve purchased it, but things like neck profile can’t be changed easily.

Where are they Made?

All Gibson acoustic guitars are made in the USA. Taylor guitars are made in the USA and Mexico.

The more affordable versions (under $1500) are often made in Mexico, whilst the more expensive versions are made in the USA. However, the Gibson range starts at around $1500, so when comparing similarly priced models from both brands they’re pretty much always made in the USA.

Does it really matter?

Seen a Mexican Taylor guitar in your price range that you like, but aren’t sure if it’ll be as good as the USA-made Gibson? As always, the best advice is to try them out, and if it sounds and feels the best, then that’s the right guitar for you, no matter where it was made.

There’s a lot of people who will only buy American guitars because they see the rest of the world’s offerings as inferior, but it’s a bit too simplistic and narrow-minded in my opinion. So my advice is to get the guitar that looks, sounds and feels best to you, and that’s how to make sure you’ll be happy with your purchase.

Check out my comparison of Taylor and Martin acoustic guitars next!

The Ranges

So now we’ve been through some comparisons, I wanted to take a look at the options available in each brands’ range. I’ve collated some info about almost every model (excluding signature/ limited edition guitars) from both brands available on Guitar Center into the tables below. There’s a table for each guitar shape, and they are all ordered from te lowest to the highest price (at the time of writing).

I don’t expect you to look at every guitar in the table! Hopefully it’s helpful for you to identify the models in your price range and the key features to help you narrow down your selection and pick some to try in the store.

Both brands specialise in different areas, and I’d say that Gibson has the largest dreadnought and jumbo/ super jumbo selection, whilst Taylor offers some more interesting shapes to get the best of some different designs.

Guitar Center are always the first place I look at when I’m interested in a new acoustic guitar because have a huge range of models for sale and always have some excellent deals on. Here’s a link to take you directly to Guitar Center’s acoustic guitar range so you can see all the offers available at the moment. 

The categories are:

  • Dreadnought
  • Jumbo and Super Jumbo
  • Smaller body/ Parlour
  • Taylor Specific Shapes
  • Mini and Travel (Taylor-only)

Dreadnought

GuitarAcoustic-ElectricOriginTop WoodBack and SidesPrice
Taylor Big BabyNoMexicoSpruceLayered Walnut$499
Taylor Academy 10NoMexicoSpruceLayered Sapele$549
Taylor Big BabyYesMexicoSpruceLayered Walnut$599
Taylor 210ceYesMexicoSpruceLayered Rosewood$999
Taylor 210ce PlusYesMexicoSpruceLayered Rosewood$1199
Taylor AD27 Grand PacificNoUSAMahoganySapele$1399
Taylor AD17 Grand PacificNoUSASpruceOvangkol$1399
Gibson J-45 StudioYesUSASpruceWalnut$1499
Taylor AD27e Grand PacificYesUSAMahoganySapele$1599
Taylor AD17e Grand PacificYesUSASpruceOvangkol$1699
Taylor 317 Grand PacificNoUSASpruceSapele$1799
Gibson J-15YesUSASpruceWalnut$1799
Gibson Hummingbird StudioNoUSASpruceWalnut$1999
Gibson J-45 StudioYesUSASpruceRosewood$2149
Gibson Hummingbird StudioYesUSASpruceWalnut$2149
Taylor 327e Grand PacificYesUSAMahoganyBlackwood$2199
Gibson ‘60s J-45 OriginalNoUSASpruceMahogany$2499
Gibson Songwriter Modern ECYesUSASpruceMahogany$2499
Taylor Builder’s Edition 517NoUSASpruceMahogany$2699
Gibson Songwriter Modern ECYesUSASpruceRosewood$2699
Gibson ‘50s J-45 OriginalYesUSASpruceMahogany$2699
Gibson J-45 StandardYesUSASpruceMahogany$2749
Gibson Hummingbird StudioYesUSASpruceRosewood$2799
Gibson Southern JumboYesUSASpruceMahogany$2999
Taylor Builder’s Edition 717NoUSASpruceRosewood$2899
Gibson Songwriter StandardYesUSASpruceRosewood$3049
Gibson Songwriter Standard ECYesUSASpruceRosewood$3149
Gibson 1960’s J45 Red SpruceNoUSASpruceMahogany$3499
Gibson J-45 DeluxeYesUSASpruceRosewood$3499
Gibson Hummingbird StandardYesUSASpruceMahogany$3849
Gibson Hummingbird OriginalNoUSASpruceMahogany$3845
Gibson Dove OriginalNoUSASpruceMaple$4299
Gibson Hummingbird DeluxeYesUSASpruceRosewood$4499
Gibson 1942 Vanner J-45NoUSASpruceMahogany$4799
Gibson 1936 J-35NoUSASpruceMahogany$4799
Gibson 1960 HummingbirdNoUSASpruceMahogany$4999
Gibson Firebird MastershopNoUSASpruceMaple$5299
Gibson FirebirdYesUSASpruceMaple$5299
Gibson Hummingbird Custom KoaYesUSASpruceKoa$7499
Gibson Doves in FlightNoUSASpruceMaple$7499
Taylor vs Gibson Dreadnought Acoustic Guitars

Jumbo and Super Jumbo

GuitarAcoustic-ElectricOriginTop WoodBack and SidesPrice
Gibson J-185 EC ModernYesUSASpruceWalnut$2449
Gibson J-185ECYesUSASpruceBhilwara/ Mahogany$2699
Gibson J-185 ECYesUSASpruceRosewood$2849
Gibson SJ-200 StudioYesUSASpruceWalnut$3149
Taylor 818eYesUSASpruceRosewood$3499
Taylor 618eYesUSASpruceMaple$3499
Taylor 618eYesUSASpruceMaple$3499
Gibson SJ-200 StudioYesUSASpruceRosewood$3649
Gibson J-185 OriginalYesUSASpruceMaple$3649
Gibson SJ-200 StandardYesUSASpruceMaple$4649
Gibson SJ-200 OriginalYesUSASpruceMaple$4649
Gibson 1934 JumboNoUSASpruceMahogany$4799
Gibson 1939 J-55NoUSASpruceMahogany$4899
Gibson 1936 Advanced JumboNoUSASpruceRosewood$4999
Gibson 1952 J-185NoUSASpruceMaple$4999
Gibson 1942 Southern BannerNoUSASpruceRosewood$4999
Gibson 1957 SJ-200NoUSASpruceMaple$5999
Gibson SJ-200 DeluxeYesUSASpruceRosewood$5999
Gibson SJ-200 Western ClassicNoUSASpruceRosewood$6499
Gibson Pre-War SJ-200NoUSASpruceRosewood$6499
Taylor vs Gibson Jumbo and Super Jumbo Acoustic Guitars

Small Body

GuitarAcoustic-ElectricOriginTop WoodBack and SidesPrice
Taylor Academy 12NoMexicoSpruceLayered Sapele$499
Taylor AD22eYesUSAMahoganySapele$1599
Gibson L-00 StudioYeaUSASpruceWalnut$1649
Taylor 312 V-ClassNoUSASpruceSapele$1799
Taylor 322 V-ClassNoUSAMahoganyBlackwood$1899
Taylor AD12eYesUSASpruceEbony$1999
Gibson L-00 StudioYesUSASpruceRosewood$2149
Gibson L-00 SustainableYesUSASpruceWalnut$2299
Taylor 412ce V-ClassYesUSASpruceOvangkol$2399
Taylor 412e-R V-ClassicYesUSASpruceRosewood$2499
Gibson ‘50s LG-2YesUSASpruceMahogany$2499
Taylor 412ce-R V-ClassYesUSASpruceRosewood$2599
Gibson L-00YesUSASpruceMahogany$2699
Taylor 712ce V-ClassYesUSASpruceRosewood$2999
Taylor 712ce V-ClassYesUSASpruceRosewood$2999
Taylor 612ce V-ClassYesUSASpruceMaple$3499
Gison L-00 DeluxeYesUSASpruceRosewood$3499
Taylor 612e V-ClassYesUSASpruceMaple$3549
Taylor 812ce V-ClassYesUSASpruceRosewood$3699
Taylor 812c V-ClassYesUSASpruceRosewood$3699
Taylor 812ce V-ClassYesUSASpruceRosewood$3699
Taylor 812e DeluxeYesUSASpruceRosewood$4049
Gibson 1942 BannerNoUSASpruceMahogany$4299
Taylor K22ce V-ClassYesUSAKoaKoa$5199
Taylor 912ce V-ClassYesUSASpruceRosewood$5199
Taylor K22ce V-ClassYesUSAKoaKoa$5199
Taylor 912ce V-ClassYesUSASpruceRosewood$5199
Taylor Builder’s Edition 912ce V-ClassYesUSASpruceRosewood$5499
Taylor vs Small Body Acoustic Guitars

Other Taylor Shapes

GuitarShapeAcoustic-ElectricOriginTop WoodBack and SidesPrice
Taylor 114eGrand AuditoriumYesMexicoSpruceLayered Walnut$799
Taylor 214ceGrand AuditoriumYesMexicoSpruceLayered Rosewood$999
Taylor 214ce-KGrand AuditoriumYesMexicoSpruceLayered Koa$1099
Taylor 214ce PlusGrand AuditoriumYesMexicoSpruceLayered Rosewood$1199
Taylor GT Urban AshGrand TheatreNoUSASpruceAsh$1399
Taylor 214ce DLXGrand AuditoriumYesMexicoSpruceLayered Rosewood$1399
Taylor 214ce DLXGrand AuditoriumYesMexicoSpruceLayered Maple$1499
Taylor 214ce DeluxeGrand AuditoriumYesMexicoSpruceLayered Ovangkol$1499
Taylor GTe Urban AshGrand TheatreYesUSASpruceAsh$1599
Taylor 214ce-K DLXGrand AuditoriumYesMexicoSpruceLayered Koa$1599
Taylor 224ce-K DLXGrand AuditoriumYesMexicoKoaLayered Koa$1699
Taylor 326ce Urban AshGrand SymphonyYesUSAMahoganyAsh$2499
Taylor Builder’s Edition 324ceGrand AuditoriumYesUSAMahoganyAsh$2999
Taylor 814ce V-ClassGrand AuditoriumYesUSASpruceRosewood$3699
Taylor Builder’s Edition 614ceGrand AuditoriumYesUSASpruceMaple$3999
Taylor Builder’s Edition 816ceGrand SymphonyYesUSASpruceRosewood$3999
Taylor GT K21eGrand TheatreYesUSAKoaKoa$4699
Taylor Custom SassafrasGrand AuditoriumYesUSASpruceSassafras$4999
Taylor Custom Euro MapleGrand AuditoriumYesUSASpruceMaple$4999
Taylor Custom Macassar EbonyGrand AuditoriumYesUSARedwoodEbony$4999
Taylor K26ceGrand SymphonyYesUSAKoaKoa$5199
Taylor Builder’s Edition K14ce V-ClassGrand AuditoriumYesUSASpruceKoa$5199
Taylor 914ce V-ClassGrand AuditoriumYesUSASpruceRosewood$5199
Taylor Builder’s Edition K24ce V-ClassGrand AuditoriumYesUSAKoaKoa$5499
Taylor Custom No.12Grand AuditoriumYesUSABlackwoodBlackwood$5799
Taylor Custom No.20Grand AuditoriumYesUSAKoaKoa$9999
Other Taylor acoustic guitar body shapes

Mini and Travel (Taylor-only)

GuitarAcoustic-ElectricOriginTop WoodBack and SidesPrice
Taylor Baby TaylorNoMexicoMahoganyLayered Sapele$379
Taylor Baby TaylorYesMexicoSpruceLayered Walnut$479
Taylor GS MiniNoMexicoMahoganyLayered Sapele$549
Taylor GS MiniNoMexicoMahoganyLayered Rosewood$599
Taylor GS Mini-EYesMexicoSpruceLayered Rosewood$699
Taylor GS Mini-E KoaYesMexicoKoaKoa$999
Taylor Mini and Travel Acoustic Guitars

Which Acoustic Guitars are the Best?

This brings us to the ultimate question, and it’s a tough one to answer. Here are the main points I think it comes down to:

  • If you’re not happy with the traditional parlour, dreadnought and jumbo shapes, a Taylor will probably suit you best and give you more options.
  • Gibson guitars usually sound a bit darker and have a flatter EQ compared to Taylor guitars which sound brighter and crisp.
  • Taylor is a better option if you’re looking for something under $1500, or Epiphone. Gibson focus on the high-end market, leaving those on a budget with a very limited selection.
  • Gibson acoustics tend to come in more bold colours compared to Taylor guitars which look quite classic.

My best advice is to use the tables above to choose a few models which appeal to you and are in your price bracket, and then go to your local guitar store and try them out, or something very similar if they don’t have the exact model. This will give you a feel for the guitars and help you decide which tone you prefer.

At the end of the day, you’re buying a guitar, not a brand’s entire selection, so try to focus on the model as much as possible, rather than what it says on the headstock.

Here are some more articles you might find useful:

Heather

Hey, I'm Heather. I started playing an electric guitar when I was given a Squier Strat for my birthday around 15 years ago. I now own an acoustic guitar and several electric guitars including my personal favourite, a PRS SE Custom 24.

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