Most guitarists probably don’t associate the name Gibson with acoustic guitars, while Martin is a name that makes most of us immediately think of acoustics.
Martin is to acoustic guitars what Gibson is to electric guitars. To most, the Martin name means high-quality, excellent-sounding acoustic guitars.
And even though we don’t think of acoustic guitars when we think of Gibson, they do make some of the highest quality acoustic guitars around.
But how do their acoustic guitars compare and is one brand better than the other?
Although Gibson might be more well-known for their electric guitars, their acoustic guitars are made with the same care and high standards as Martin guitars. Both companies make acoustic guitars that appeal to a wide variety of players, regardless of skill level or budget.
Just like their electric counterparts, Gibson doesn’t offer any of their acoustic guitars at a budget level. Instead, Gibson’s sister company, Epiphone, builds budget versions of Gibson acoustics.
For beginners or those just looking for an inexpensive acoustic, there is the DR-100 series. If you’re looking for something more gig-ready, the EJ-200SCE is a great acoustic-electric with a very comfortable cutaway to reach those high notes.
Epiphone guitars shouldn’t be considered inferior to Gibson guitars. Gibson ensures that guitars made under the Epiphone name live up to the same high standard as their own guitars.
Martin does make their own budget-level guitars. Their Little Martin series is the perfect guitar for kids or anyone looking for something travel size. There is also the Backpacker which is made specifically for traveling, but doesn’t have the full sound of the Little Martin.
If you’re a gigging musician looking for an acoustic, the OMC-X1E is a great acoustic-electric with a cutaway. Or if you feel like showing off a bit, there is also a budget version of the Johnny Cash signature with the DX.
Moving up to the intermediate guitars, Martin’s selection is still as diverse with guitars made with higher quality woods and more attention to detail.
The Martin D-15M is an all-mahogany guitar to give it one of the warmest, most rounded sounds of any guitar. Its dreadnought body shape also makes it more resonant for a truly big sound.
For gigging or if you’re looking for something brighter, the D-12E is an incredible acoustic-electric with a very bright, open, and huge sound. There’s also the SC-13E with its unique cutaway that lets you reach those higher notes with ease.
The intermediate level is where Gibson acoustics also start to make an appearance. The Gibson G-45 is labeled as a no-frills acoustic guitar, designed to be a straightforward, great acoustic guitar that certainly does sound as great as promised.
The G-45 does have one frill, though - it's “Player Port” on the side of the guitar. A second soundhole that acts as a sort of monitor allowing you to clearly hear what you’re playing.
Gibson acoustics do make a bit of a price jump, starting with the L-00 and the J-45 Studio. Both are excellent acoustic guitars and true blues workhorses. Both guitars are made with a mix of high-quality tonewoods to provide a well-rounded tone.
For professional players looking for the true Martin or Gibson acoustic sound, both companies have exhaustive ranges of high-end guitars to choose from.
The Martin D-28 is the classic dreadnought, but with all the modern trimmings to bring the legendary guitar into the present day. The D-28 provides the tone and volume to make it the perfect acoustic guitar for both stage and studio.
The D-28 isn’t the most impressive-looking guitar, but that unassuming look holds a lot of music history. The D-28 was played by the likes of Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash.
The D-28 was favored and is still favored, not for its looks but for its sound and playability. The D-28 sounds basically perfect, not too bassy, not too bright, and is super comfortable to play. It is the goldilocks of guitars.
Then there is the D-18, the younger brother of the D-28. The D-18 has been the choice of session musicians for decades due to its “just right” Martin tone.
On the Gibson side, there is the J-45 Standard Vintage. The Les Paul of Gibson’s acoustic guitars. The J-45 combines a warm and rounded tone with outstanding projection, putting it right up there with other classic acoustic guitars.
Strumming a chord on a J-45 is something that has to be experienced. Every note is clear and audible. The notes don’t mix together and you really get to experience each chord in full.
Playing individual notes is just as incredible as there is consistency across the fretboard. No note is louder or more defined than another. The J-45 has an evenly spread, almost flat frequency range, giving it a truly well-rounded sound.
Then there's the Gibson Acoustic Songwriter, a modern live performance dream. The Acoustic Songwriter is a testament to Gibson’s world-class craftsmanship, a guitar that looks just as beautiful as it sounds.
Some Famous Guitarists
Gibson and Martin have attracted some of the best players in the world with their amazing instruments. All of these musicians have given these companies their stamps of approval.
The Man in Black himself, Johnny Cash was one of the greatest country musicians to ever perform. Cash played a Martin D-35 for almost 20 years. The D-35 was Cash and Martin’s first all-black guitar and fitting for someone with his nickname.
Seven-time Grammy winner, John Mayer is not only one of the most talented, but also one of the most accomplished modern guitarists of all time. Mayer has been a Martin signature artist since 2003, with his current signature model being the OMJM.
Slash already had a number of Gibson Les Paul signature models, so it only made sense for the legendary Guns ‘N Roses guitarist to have a signature acoustic as well. His J-45 is the ultimate guitar for an acoustic cover of any Slash tune.
One of the most successful female musicians of all time, Sheryl Crow is also an accomplished guitarist. Gibson recognized her talent as a player and collaborated with her for her Country Western Supreme signature acoustic guitar.
Which Brand is Better?
There is no real way of comparing acoustic guitars. Acoustic guitars can’t really be compared based on what type of genre they’re better suited for.
It really depends on what you prefer and what is more comfortable for you. The biggest deciding factor in the choice between Gibson and Martin will likely be the price. Gibson’s are a bit more expensive which will make Martin a more appealing option for most.
But if you have the budget for it, personal preference is going to determine which brand you go for at the end of the day.