Not the time or the budget to look for that one Golden Era guitar? Or would you prefer to use something else on stage than a collector’s item? Fortunately, there are some great alternatives!
Let’s be honest: nothing sounds like a real vintage guitar. That dry, aged, full sound of old wood is truly unique. So if you want that particular vintage sound: buy a vintage guitar.
But it is good to realize that there are some disadvantages to vintage guitars, like a hefty price tag, they are fragile, playability sometimes requires some extra work, they are not always stable and above all: irreplaceable. That unique sound makes up for a lot, of course, but not everything.
That's why we're seeing more and more demand for good alternatives to the most popular vintage guitars, and fortunately there are a lot of them.
Alternatives to a vintage Martin guitar
We can't write enough good things about a pre-war Martin D18 and D28. According to many the mother-of-all dreadnoughts and YouTube guitarist Paul Davids totally agrees:
We are always looking for these types of guitars, sometimes we manage to find one and those guitars always quickly find their way to happy new owners.
As you can see in the video, the most obvious alternative is simply a new Martin D28. They're fantastic! You can have a lot of fun with that for decades and if you take good care of it, such a guitar will automatically become vintage. That's the beauty of good guitars: they can easily become collector’s items within a generation and the more you play them, the better they will sound.
Don't wanna wait for a guitar to open up? Then there are all kinds of clever ways to age the wood faster. Sometimes it only looks old, thanks to a special lacquer or the deliberate infliction of scratches and cracks, the so called 'relicing'.
Besides the outdated looks, there are ways to make wood sound old. This technique has different names, such as torrefied, baked, aged, vintage tone system (VTS) and even cooked. Despite the wide array of names, the principle is always the same: the wood is 'baked' in special ovens without oxygen, to prevent burning.
After this process, the wood weighs less, looks darker and sounds better. Because every piece of wood is different, it can be difficult to control this process properly. It does not lend itself to mass production, if you do it too short, it does not have the desired effect. If you do it too long, wood can become too brittle. Torrefaction requires craftsmanship and some luthiers have become very good at it, like Alister Atkin who doesn't stop at drying. He also freezes the wood, with great alternatives to a vintage D28. as a result.
For OM and 000 models pre-war is also known as 'Golden Era' and especially Martin guitars are highly sought after. Very renowned guitar makers from the United States such as Santa Cruz, Boucher and Collings have all made orchestra models that are clearly inspired by and can compete with the vintage originals for a fraction of the price.
Great guitars, but there's also a hefty price tag on them. Looking for something cheaper? Blueridge offers an OM with prewar bracing and Adirondack top for less than a thousand euro’s. That's a lot of near vintage for not a lot of money.
Alternatives for an acoustic vintage Gibson guitar
Gibson's J45 guitars from before the Second World War are legendary. They look great thanks to that sunburst. And then that sound: full, woody and with a rough edge like the voice of Rod Stewart. Here, too, Atkin has put an impressive twist on these originals. Well worth checking out!
Gibson has also turned more and more to its own legacy over the past few years. From their custom shop in Bozeman, Montana we see beautiful things, and they've revived several old models like the J35. Made with the classic combo of (aged) Adirondack, spruce top, old-fashioned glue and lots of original details, this new instrument has the bark and bite of an oldy.
In doing so, Gibson follows the path that other builders had already taken. Collings, for example, has been making a very successful tribute to Gibson's old models with the entire Waterloo line for many years. These new vintage guitars are almost as popular as the originals!
Are you also looking for a vintage guitar? Or a suitable alternative? We find, buy, sell, trade and repair guitars from and for all ages every day.
Feel free to contact us: we are happy to help you finding a great new or vintage guitar!