Martin vs Gibson Acoustic Guitars: Which Should You Buy?


Martin and Gibson are two of the most popular acoustic guitar brands on the market, but which is the best? In this article, I’ll be comparing Martin and Gibson in terms of their tone, playability, value for money, options and more so you can decide which is the best option for you.

The Quick Answer

Gibson acoustic guitars often sound fuller than Martin’s which usually sound more delicate. Martin offers guitars for all price ranges whilst Gibson only make high end guitars. Gibson mainly make dreadnought and jumbo guitars whereas Martin mainly make dreadnoughts, mid-sized and smaller shapes.

Contents

  • Brand Overviews
  • Comparable Shapes
  • Tone Comparisons
  • Comfort and Playability
  • Look and Finish
  • Where are they Made?
  • Comparing the Ranges
  • Which Should You Choose?

Brand Overview

Before we jump into the comparisons, I wanted to take a quick look at how both brands organise their ranges so you can get to grips with which models are comparable.

Gibson

Gibson are well known for their dreadnought and jumbo/ super jumbo models. They start at around $1500 but can range up to well over $5000 for very high-end guitars.

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.

Martin

Martin divide their range into several “series” which are grouped according to the price. Here is the list from the most affordable to most expensive options:

  • Junior Series
  • X-Series
  • Road Series
  • 15-Series
  • 17-Series
  • Standard Series
  • Modern Deluxe Series
  • Authentic Series
  • Custom Series

Within each series you can find several different shapes. Here is the list starting with the smallest guitar shape.

  • 0
  • 00
  • 000 (Auditorium)
  • OM (Orchestra)
  • GP (Grand Performance)
  • M (Grand Auditorium)
  • D (Dreadnought)
  • J (Jumbo)

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

Dreadnought

GP

0

00

000

Comparable Shapes

Martin and Gibson both specialise in dreadnoughts but call them different things. Martin keep it simple and call all models in this category “dreadnought” but Gibson have many variants called: Hummingbird, The Dove, J-45, J-35, J-15 and Songwriter.

Other Models:

  • Gibson also have a super jumbo (SJ-200) and a jumbo shape (J-185) and Martin have a J model (jumbo shape).
  • Gibson’s smaller body guitars (parlour) are called L-00. Martin’s are called 0 and 00.
  • Martin also have many mid-sized models called: 000 (Auditorium), OM (orchestra), GP (Grand Performance) and M (Grand Auditorium).

Check out my in-depth comparison between the Gibson J-45 and Martin D-28 and my comparison between the J-45 and D-18.

Tone Comparisons

It’s quite difficult to make comparisons between the tones of two entire ranges, particularly when those ranges are as large as Gibson and Martin. However, in this section I’ll make some generalisations and provide some specific examples so you can hear the differences.

  • Gibson guitars tend to sound louder and fuller than Martin guitars
  • Martin guitars sound more “scooped” in the midrange

It’s important to consider specific models though as things can vary massively depending on the shape and tone wood used, and even identical models in the same range can sound different.

My best recommendation is to narrow down which models you are interested in and try them in the store back to back so you can figure out what you like the tone of. More on how to narrow down your choice later later in this article!

Example #1 Gibson Hummingbird vs Martin D-18

  • The Gibson sounded much fuller with more sustain than the Martin
  • The Martin sounded more scooped than the Gibson

Example #2 Gibson J-45 vs Martin D-35

  • The Martin sounded more scooped and brighter than the Gibson
  • The Gibson sounded fuller and the Martin sounded more delicate

Check out my in-depth comparison between the Gibson J-45 and Martin D-28 and my comparison between the J-45 and D-18.

Comfort and Playability

Playability is very subjective so there isn’t really a winner here, just personal preferences. It also varies massively between guitars, so you might find one Gibson a dream to play and another a nightmare. Here are some points to consider:

  • The very popular Gibson J-45 has a short scale length which reduces string tension making it easier to bend strings and often easier to play for a lot of guitarists. Martin guitars tend to have standard scale lengths.
  • The Gibson J-45 model usually has a SlimTaper neck which feels comfortable for most hand sizes, but may be too slim for players with larger hands. The Hummingbird has a ’50s rounded neck which feels much thicker. Martin produce a wide range of neck shapes from tapered oval to V-shape.

It’s really best to try the guitars in the store and figure out which is the most comfortable to you.

Look and Finish

Gibson guitars tend to have more ornate and bold finishes looks than Martin guitars which look a lot simpler. Many Gibson guitars are quite dark in colour and have fancy pickguards whereas Martin guitars tend to look a bit lighter and opt for more traditional detailing.

This is all personal preference, some prefer the bold Gibson look and others want a more understated Martin model. There are of course exceptions as well!

Where are they Made?

All Gibson acoustic guitars are made in the USA. Martin guitars are made in the USA and Mexico. Martin make most models under $1300 in Mexico and produce their high-end lines in America (over $1300), so when comparing models of the same price, they are very likely to both be made in America.

Still not sure which brand to go for? Check out my comparison of Taylor and Martin acoustic guitars so you can weigh up your options.

The Ranges

In this section I wanted to take an in-depth look at the ranges. I’ve made some tables to compare pretty much every currently available Gibson and Martin acoustic guitar on the market. The prices are all from Guitar Center at the time of writing but are subject to change. The tables are ordered from the lowest to the highest price within each category.

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. 

Categories:

  • Dreadnought (under $2000)
  • Dreadnought ($2000-$4000)
  • Dreadnought (over $4000)
  • Jumbo and Super Jumbo
  • Smaller body/ parlour
  • Mid-Sized Guitars (Martin-only)

Don’t feel like you need to look at everything here! The tables are huge so just use them to identify which models are in your price range and sound appealing to you to help you narrow down the selection. Keep scrolling as well because there’s more to this article after all the tables!

Dreadnought (under $2000)

GuitarAcoustic-ElectricOriginTop WoodBack and SidesPrice
Martin D-X1E HPLYesMexicoMahogany/ Spruce/ KoaMahogany/ Koa$500
Martin DJr-10 SitkaNoMexicoSpruceSapele$500
Martin Custom X1AEYesMexicoSpruceRosewood$600
Martin D-X2EYesMexicoSpruce/ SapeleRosewood/ Mahogany/ Ebony$600
Martin DC-X2EYesMexicoSpruceMahogany/ Ebony$700
Martin D10E-01 Road SeriesYesMexicoSapeleSapele$800
Martin D-10E Road SeriesYesMexicoSpruceSapele$850
Martin Special 11E Road SeriesYesMexicoSpruceMahogany$1000
Martin Special DNoMexicoSpruceSapele$1000
Martin D-15MNoUSAMahoganyMahogany$1300
Martin D-12EYesMexicoSpruceSapele$1300
Martin D-13E Road SeriesYesMexicoSpruceSiris$1300
Martin D-13E ZiricoteYesMexicoSpruceZiricote$1350
Martin DC-13E Road SeriesYesMexicoSpruceMutenye$1400
Martin D-15M StreetMasterNoUSAMahoganyMahogany$1400
Martin DSS-15M StreetMasterNoUSAMahoganyMahogany$1400
Gibson J-45 StudioYesUSASpruceWalnut$1499
Martin DSS-17NoUSASpruceMahogany$1600
Martin Special D/ DC OvangkolYesUSASpruceOvangkol$1600
Martin Special 16 StyleYesUSASpruceRosewood$1700
Martin D-16EYesUSASpruceMahogany/ Rosewood$1750
Gibson J-15YesUSASpruceWalnut$1799
Martin Special CarpathianYesUSASpruceBlackwood$1900
Gibson Hummingbird StudioNoUSASpruceWalnut$1999
Martin vs Gibson Dreadnought Acoustic Guitars Under $2000

Dreadnought ($2000-$4000)

GuitarAcoustic-ElectricOriginTop WoodBack and SidesPrice
Gibson J-45 StudioYesUSASpruceRosewood$2149
Gibson Hummingbird StudioYesUSASpruceWalnut$2149
Gibson ‘60s J-45 OriginalNoUSASpruceMahogany$2499
Gibson Songwriter Modern ECYesUSASpruceMahogany$2499
Martin D-18NoUSASpruceMahogany$2500
Gibson Songwriter Modern ECYesUSASpruceRosewood$2699
Gibson ‘50s J-45 OriginalYesUSASpruceMahogany$2699
Gibson J-45 StandardYesUSASpruceMahogany$2749
Gibson Hummingbird StudioYesUSASpruceRosewood$2799
Martin Special 18 Style VTSNoUSASpruceMahogany$2800
Gibson Southern JumboYesUSASpruceMahogany$2999
Martin D-28NoUSASpruceRosewood$3000
Gibson Songwriter StandardYesUSASpruceRosewood$3049
Gibson Songwriter Standard ECYesUSASpruceRosewood$3149
Martin HD-28NoUSASpruceRosewood$3200
Martin D-35 StandardNoUSASpruceRosewood$3200
Martin Special 28 Style AdirondackNoUSASpruceRosewood$3300
Gibson 1960’s J45 Red SpruceNoUSASpruceMahogany$3499
Gibson J-45 DeluxeYesUSASpruceRosewood$3499
Martin Custom DreadnoughtNoUSASpruceDreadnought$3500
Martin HD-28E-Z StandardYesUSASpruceRosewood$3600
Gibson Hummingbird StandardYesUSASpruceMahogany$3849
Gibson Hummingbird OriginalNoUSASpruceMahogany$3845
Martin D-18E Modern DeluxeYesUSASpruceMahogany$4000
Martin D-18 Modern DeluxeYesUSASpruceRosewood$4000
Martin vs Gibson Dreadnought Acoustic Guitars Between $2000-$4000

Dreadnought (over $4000)

GuitarAcoustic-ElectricOriginTop WoodBack and SidesPrice
Martin Special 28 Style BearclawNoUSASpruceRosewood$4095
Gibson Dove OriginalNoUSASpruceMaple$4299
Martin Special 35 Style BearclawNoUSASpruceRosewood$4435
Gibson Hummingbird DeluxeYesUSASpruceRosewood$4499
Martin D-28E Modern DeluxeYesUSASpruceMahogany$4700
Gibson 1942 Vanner J-45NoUSASpruceMahogany$4799
Gibson 1936 J-35NoUSASpruceMahogany$4799
Gibson 1960 HummingbirdNoUSASpruceMahogany$4999
Martin D-41NoUSASpruceRosewood$5000
Gibson Firebird MastershopNoUSASpruceMaple$5299
Gibson FirebirdYesUSASpruceMaple$5299
Martin D-42NoUSASpruceRosewood$6200
Martin D-18 Authentic 1939 AgedNoUSASpruceMahogany$6800
Martin D-28 Authentic 1937 AgedNoUSASpruceRosewood$6900
Gibson Hummingbird Custom KoaYesUSASpruceKoa$7499
Gibson Doves in FlightNoUSASpruceMaple$7499
Martin D-28 Authentic 1937 VTS AgedNoUSASpruceRosewood$8000
Martin D-45 StandardNoUSASpruceRosewood$9500
Martin vs Gibson Dreadnought Acoustic Guitars Over $4000

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
Gibson SJ-200 StudioYesUSASpruceRosewood$3649
Gibson J-185 OriginalYesUSASpruceMaple$3649
Martin J-40 JumboNoUSASpruceRosewood$4200
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
Martin vs Gibson Jumbo and Super Jumbo Acoustic Guitars

Smaller Body/ Parlour

GuitarAcoustic-ElectricOriginTop WoodBack and SidesPrice
Martin 0-X1E HPLYesMexicoMahoganyMahogany$500
Martin 00X1AEYesMexicoSpruceMahogany$600
Martin 00-15MNoUSAMahoganyMahogany$1300
Gibson L-00 StudioYesUSASpruceWalnut$1649
Gibson L-00 StudioYesUSASpruceRosewood$2149
Gibson L-00 SustainableYesUSASpruceWalnut$2299
Gibson ‘50s LG-2YesUSASpruceMahogany$2499
Martin 00-18 StandardNoUSASpruceMahogany$2500
Martin 0-18 StandardNoUSASpruceMahogany$2500
Gibson L-00YesUSASpruceMahogany$2699
Martin CEO-7 00NoUSASpruceMahogany$2700
Martin 00-28 StandardNoUSASpruceRosewood$3200
Martin 00L Fly Fishing ParlorNoUSASpruceAlves$3400
Gibson L-00 DeluxeYesUSASpruceRosewood$3499
Gibson 1942 BannerNoUSASpruceMahogany$4299
Martin 00-17 Authentic 1931NoUSAMahoganyMahogany$4800
Martin vs Gibson Small Body Acoustic Guitars

Mid-Sized (Martin Only)

GuitarAcoustic-ElectricOriginTop WoodBack and SidesPrice
Martin 000 Jr-10NoMexicoSpruceSapele$500
Martin Special 000 X SeriesYesMexicoRosewoodRosewood$500
Martin Special C Series Style 000YesMexicoHPLHPL$550
Martin OMC-X1E HPLYesMexicoHPLHPL$550
Martin GPC Special Koa X SeriesYesMexicoKoaKoa$600
Martin Custom 000-X1AEYesMexicoSpruceRosewood$600
Martin 000-X2EYesMexicoSpruceMahogany$600
Martin Special 000 X1AE StyleYesMexicoSpruceMahogany$600
Martin 000 Jr-10EYesMexicoSpruceSapele$650
Martin GPC-X2EYesMexicoSpruceRosewood/ Ebony/ Mahogany$700
Martin Special 000 Cutaway X StyleYesMexicoHPLHPL$750
Martin 000-10EL Road SeriesYesMexicoSapeleSapele$760
Martin Special GPC 10 Road SeriesYesMexicoSapeleSapele$800
Martin Special 000 All-SolidNoMexicoSpruceSapele$1000
Martin GPC-11E Road SeriesYesMexicoSpruceSapele$1000
Martin Special GPC All-SolidYesMexicoSpruceSapele$1000
Martin 000-12E Road SeriesYesMexicoSpruceKoa$1300
Martin 000-13E Road SeriesYesMexicoSpruceSiris$1300
Martin 000-15MNoUSAMahoganyMahogany$1300
Martin GPC-13E Road SeriesYesMexicoSpruceMutenye$1400
Martin GPC-13E ZiricoteYesMexicoSpruceZiricote$1400
Martin StreetMaster 000-15MNoUSAMahoganyMahogany$1400
Martin Special OMC USA Performing ArtistYesUSASpruceOvangkol$1500
Martin OMC-15MEYesUSAMahoganyMahogany$1600
Martin 000-17NoUSASpruceMahogany$1600
Martin 000-15SMNoUSAMahoganyMahogany$1600
Martin Special GPC 15MEYesUSAMahoganyMahogany$1600
Martin Special GPC Performing Artist OvangkolYesUSAOvangkolOvangkol$1600
Martin GPC-16EYesUSASpruceRosewood$1800
Martin 000-16EYesUSASpruceGranadillo$1800
Martin 000-17EYesUSASpruceMahogany$1800
Martin OME-Cherry OrchestraYesUSASpruceCherry$2000
Martin OMC-16E OvangkolYesUSAOvangkolOvangkol$2000
Martin 000-18NoUSASpruceMahogany$2500
Martin OM-21 StandardNoUSASpruceRosewood$2800
Martin 000-28 StandardNoUSASpruceRosewood$2850
Martin 000-28 StandardNoUSASpruceRosewood$3200
Martin OM-28 StandardNoUSASpruceRosewood$3200
Martin OM-28E StandardYesUSASpruceRosewood$3600
Martin OM-28 Modern DeluxeNoUSASpruceRosewood$4000
Martin 000-28 Modern DeluxeNoUSASpruceRosewood$4000
Martin 000-28E Modern DeluxeYesUSASpruceRosewood$4700
Martin OM-42 StandardNoUSASpruceRosewood$6200
Martin 000-42 StandardNoUSASpruceRosewood$6200
Martin Authentic Series 1919 000-30NoUSASpruceRosewood$6900
Martin Authentic Series 1919 000-30NoUSASpruceRosewood$11700
Martin Mid-Sized Acoustic Guitars

Which Are the Best?

This brings us to the ultimate question, should you go with a Gibson or a Martin? I’ve mentioned it quite a few times but I do think it’s really important to try the guitars in the store to really figure out which is the best for you. However, I understand that’s not possible for some players, so here are a few points I wanted to round off this article with:

  • Gibson guitars tend to sound more full and be louder, making them very popular for strummers.
  • Martin guitars sound more delicate and scooped, lending themselves well to many styles of music, particularly things like Bluegrass.
  • Gibson guitars often have bolder finishes and use darker colour than Martin guitars which are often lighter and more understated.
  • Martin offer options for those looking at low-mid range options, whereas Gibson only make high-end models.
  • Gibson focus on dreadnought and jumbo/ super jumbo models and whilst Martin also offer an extensive range of dreadnought models, they have fewer jumbo/ super jumbo guitars and offer a larger choice of mid-sized and small body guitars.

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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