Higher end 12 string acoustic guitar recommendation please

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Ecki, Sep 13, 2018.

  1. Ecki

    Ecki Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    For a few months now i'm looking for a 12 string acoustic guitar. Decision process is as complicated as choosing another hifi component (and also as rare). Much worse, my ears have become equally sensitive here (do not pretend to have "good" ears though...)

    Anyway, my favourite (and currently only acoustic) guitar is a Guild Orpheum Jumbo NT (out of production now) which i love for both sound quality and playability (?). So the 12 string should not be too far away here. Played at home, both strumming and fingerpicking.

    I hoped a cheaper instrument would make it, but even the range of ~1.000 € [Martin D12X1, Taylor 150e] was disappointing compared to the 2.000+ € range, esp. Taylor 356CE NT (currently my favourite, favouring even over the 456/556 models). The Taylors have coated Elixir strings - for my 6 string Guild i do prefer D'Addario EXP by far...

    Unfortunately, i could not test Guild F1512 (affordable) or F512 (mentally felt too expensive for a rather rarely played instrument), yet.

    So, what guitar/string combination do you recommend?
  2. riknbkr330

    riknbkr330 Forum Resident

    Guild does make quality 12 string guitars, and as a Guild D30 6 string owner, I would purchase one of their 12 strings in a heartbeat.

    But, in my case, fate intervened and a rare Rickenbacker 12 string acoustic came up on Ebay. This was being sold by the luthier who made them under license for Rickenbacker, so I jumped at the chance. Unfortunately, I've had problems with the guitar and thankfully the luthier has been very accommodating in dealing with the issues, but it has not been a time effective situation.

    But I digress.....I would go with a Guild as they have a solid reputation with their 12 strings.

    Good luck in the hunt!
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2018
    Strat-Mangler likes this.
  3. Newton John

    Newton John Searching for the Lost Chord

    Tynedale, UK
    It's hard to find the perfect guitar. I found the Taylor jumbos 12 strings sounded good but were too big for me. I got a 12 string made by Nigel Forster with a small body. It was an expensive option, but I got exactly what I wanted and good intonation. Nigel was confident the 12 string would work with a small body and he was proved correct.

    I even got to pick the wood - we used a substitute for expensive and potentially delicate Brazilian rosewood. I forget what it was called. A visit to Nigel's flat always involved being shown some new woods which he'd tap and listen to how they responded.

    Nigel puts a zero fret on his guitars which I like. He set mine up for heavy strings which are tuned down low in open D, open G or drop D tunings (actually B or E in pitch). That gives a very deep rich sound which I prefer. Nigel's guitars have become much more expensive since I got mine.

    Normally, I don't use coated strings, but for 12 string I use Elixir's heavy set so I don't have to change the strings so often. I mainly play finger picked blues which seems to benefit from the unison and octave pairs. I have the pairs separated slightly more than usual so I can pick at the octave strings individually with my thumb to give a harp-like melodic effect.

    Your post has just inspired me to get it out of the case and play a few tunes. I am going to leave it out on the stand for the time being.
    kw21925, All Down The Line and trd like this.
  4. townsend

    townsend Forum Resident

    Montrose, CO
    12-string acoustics can be a beast to play, probably because of slightly wider fretboard to accommodate the extra strings. In general, I am a fan of Larrivee guitars. Many years ago, I was stuck on Taylor, but my guitar tech got me interested in Larrivee, and I am glad he did. I have a 6-string, DV-5 (dreadnought, venetian cutaway), in mahogany (rosewood would have been sweet, but it was 200.00 more, and I was already at my limit).

    This is the best guitar I have ever purchased. Maybe five years, I looked at Larrivees in that price range, and I was appalled at the drop in quality. Of course, I ignored inflation in making that judgment. The thing I fear in all guitar making is when a brand becomes popular, to meet demand they change the production process. This is why one says "they don't make them like they used to", which is actually true, and not fiction.
    McLover and trd like this.
  5. Socalguy

    Socalguy Forum Resident

    Guild F-512 is the standard. Gibson makes a Hummingbird 12 string that uses the 6 string Hummingbird body. The Guild F-212 is also nice and I believe a little smaller than the F-512. Those would be my choices, in that order.
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2018
    trd likes this.
  6. Tim Irvine

    Tim Irvine Forum Resident

    Austin, Texas
    It has long ago slipped away but I once had a Martín D12-35. It was mid-60s, towards the end of when they were Brazilian. It was a lovely guitar. The sloped shoulder body put out a huge sound, and the action was actually better than a same era D-28. It had a very elegant but simple look. The tuners were much lighter than what they slap on the D12-28. For some reason as Brazilian guitars go, the 35s command pretty reasonable prices. I do not recall how i had it strung, but I’d guess used Martín phosphor lights. It didn’t need anything heavier to project. FWIW I love Guilds.
    bluemooze likes this.
  7. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Forum Resident

    I love the Eagles, Boston, and Supertramp classic 12-string guitar songs. To me, the choice is simple. You want that sound? Buy a Guild.
    Shak Cohen and bhazen like this.
  8. wwaldmanfan

    wwaldmanfan Born in the '50's

    NJ, USA
    The Taylor 12-string models I have played had a nice, comfortable neck action, but don't have the cache of a Guild or Martin. Best to stretch your budget a bit when buying a guitar. You'll probably keep it a long time, and if not, it will hold its value at least as well as a lesser model. Whatever you end up choosing, you have to play it in person. Buying a guitar sight unseen is like a mail-order bride. Each one has its own personality.
    I dislike coated strings. Although I don't own a 12-string, I strongly prefer John Pearse phosphor bronze strings on my Martin. They have several gauge 12-string sets in both phosphor bronze and 80/20.
  9. harby

    harby Forum Resident

    Portland, OR, USA
    I've had and tried a few 12 strings. And they were a fat-necked hard to play gimmick for the most part for anything but open chords. While a Seagull was way to earthy and dull, a Fender cutaway had by far the clear ringing distemper you expect from a 12 string.

    Kind of like asking about the best dobro or ukulele - there's just more musical instruments.
  10. searing75

    searing75 Forum Resident

    Western NY
    Tim Irvine and Pickoid like this.
  11. Guth

    Guth Music Lover

    My recommendation:

    When you go to shop for a new guitar, be sure to take your current Guild guitar along with you. The various rooms where you might be trying out guitars will tend to vary quite a bit. This can be especially important if you're buying at store that is more acoustic-minded. Those stores will typically have the acoustics located in a separate room. But even then they might have a smaller, more quiet room for you to play in, often a room that they'll use for music lessons. By having your Guild along you'll at least have a "known quantity" along as a sonic reference. You'll be able to experience what kind of effect the room is having on the sound of the guitars as you'll already be plenty familiar with the sound of the Guild. In a small practice room the Guild might sound better than ever, but that's the point as many people check out new guitars under such conditions only to be somewhat disappointed when arriving at home with their new guitar.

    Other than that, I'd recommend that you pay close attention to the playability in terms of the comfort of the neck shape in particular when it comes to 12 string guitars. Try to stay as open minded as possible. I'm of firm belief that it all comes down to the individual guitar and it's best not to get too hung up on particular brands and tone woods if possible when you're in the early stages of just trying them out. Best of luck to you — I hope that you find a guitar within your budget that stands out amongst the rest.
    musicfan37 and harby like this.
  12. Pickoid

    Pickoid Forum Resident

    Little Rock, AR
    I would argue that any Taylor 12-string, from the 150E on up, is a “higher-end” 12-string. The playability is second to none, they hold up well, and they are extremely easily adjusted if needed. The tone ranges from thin to slightly less thin depending on the model and the individual example. But at best, most 12-strings sound sort of harpsichord-like anyway. A friend of mine, probably the best acoustic guitar player I have ever personally known, always describes a 12-string as a “stupid, infernal instrument.” He’s right, but there is an itch only a 12-string can scratch. I just have to have one, it can’t be helped.

    I’ve had a bunch of them over the last 30 years. Takamine, Yamaha, Guild, Larrivee, and Taylor. The Taylor trumps them all for playability. Mine is a 555, which is a spruce and mahogany jumbo model that is no longer made. But I really like the wood combination. As much as I lust after rosewood models like the Guild F-512 (one of the most beautiful guitar designs ever, IMO), there’s just too many overtones going on there. For that reason, I tend to like 12-strings with plywood back and sides, and Yamaha and Takamine are good options. You almost can’t go wrong with a Yamaha at any price point they make, they are a tremendous value.

    So help me, another one I like is the cheapest one Martin makes, in the X series. That one has a solid top with back and sides made out of Formica with a picture of wood on it, and they tend to sound great to me. They also have a neck made of many laminations, which the engineer in me tells me would be strong and stable. They are very heavy, though.

    In summary, some of the qualities that make a great 6-string guitar, like your Orpheum (light, resonant, overtones), may not necessarily translate into a great 12-string. Good luck in your search.
  13. tables_turning

    tables_turning In The Groove

    Mid Atlantic, USA
    Guild, absolutely -- followed by Martin, Gibson and Taylor. If your budget allows for a bit of stretching, I might recommend a used Fylde if you can find one.
  14. Ecki

    Ecki Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Many thanks for your help so far. For the Germans here, i live quite close to Session Music, Walldorf (session.de), and Musikhaus Thomann is not too far away with even more 12 strings to test and several exemplars of the same model to check individual strengths … and also have/will have Guilds. Should be the ideal location for a serious comparison (range of products, special rooms, staff).

    I still cannot judge the build quality of a guitar and have no special interest in design, build details/wood/etc. just love to play the guitar. If the sound really thrills and it does keep tuning consistent, that one is it. Hopefully i can afford…

    My experience at Session Music:
    2 Lakewood models - interesting, should try again
    Martin D12X1 - sound was disappointing to me, sorry
    Taylor 150e - probably a great guitar for that price
    Taylor 356CE NT - wow, instantly significant difference to 150e, much finer sound, lowE and A strings with a lot of power, very consistent sound from string to string and fret to fret (sorry for poor my English); this one struck me
    Taylor 360... - reduced shop model, very nicely priced, quality may suit list price; sonically far too unspectacular and therefore still too expensive
    Taylor 456/556 - from memory, they sounded too soft, reduced in my ears; did not catch me

    Looking forward to testing the Guilds. In a few weeks, hopefully.
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2018
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  15. tumbleweed

    tumbleweed Trying to feed the good wolf

    Colorado foothills
    No love for Rickenbacker?

    (Yes, I know, they're mostly electric - but they do or did make acoustic 12 strings.)
    Rickchick likes this.
  16. riknbkr330

    riknbkr330 Forum Resident

    Rickenbacker doesn't currently produce 12 string acoustics. They had a very limited run in the 2006-2013 era. The builder whom they hired to make the acoustics, was licensed to build them for a few years outside the factory, but the license ran out. He's currently making his own line: Madeline guitars.

    Direct page to the Ric acoustic builds: Rickenbacker Acoustic Guitars
  17. All Down The Line

    All Down The Line Forum Resident

    Anything where the Octave G string does not easily snap is an essential starting point.
    Mister Charlie likes this.
  18. captwillard

    captwillard Forum Resident

    It doesn’t get much higher end than a vintage Zemaitis 12 string.
    All Down The Line likes this.
  19. Ecki

    Ecki Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Ecki's latest adventures in 12 string (errr, still do not own one)...

    Big disappointment at biggest (i guess) music store in Germany, Thomann. No Guild F-512. They are really hard to get here. At least they had a Guild F-1512. No Takamine Pro Series available. All in all few show room models. No cabins (besides an exclusive one for Gibson acoustics). Huge show room with a gallery for acoustic guitars … didn't help falling in love with the sound. Even the preferred Taylor 356 was disappointing here (and it got a new set of strings). At least not worth 2.000+ bucks to me...
    But they had a Furch S-23-CR-12. The model will be replaced soon (priced at 1.700€ now), but it sounded spectacular compared to any other 12 string present. The reasons not to buy: neck width and profile are too big (also at bar 12 string height from fretboard), very hard to play for me.

    Also tried Faith Venus Trembesi (FV12TR) in a shop. Eye catcher! Like any Faith built with solid woods only and moderately priced. Well, good guitar for sure, but … (i wish i had the Guild Orpheum with me)

    Unfortunately the all solid guitars of Takamine and Yamaha had been sold out, but should be able to test Yamaha LL16-12 and Takamine P3DC-12/EF381SC soon.

    Finally i have to say, the rather expensive models i could test did not satisfy me. I really tend to buy an entry level instrument like Takamine GD30/72 or Yamaha apx/cpx. Of course there will be a downside in some aspects of sound quality, but they clearly highlight the 12 string effect … and after practising some time i might be able to handle a promising Furch 12 string...
  20. emkay

    emkay Forum Resident

    New Jersey, USA
    Guild. Period. Wanted one for years and finally got a Waverly-built 80s model a few years back - it is a cannon.

    My first "real" guitar (purchased new way back in about 1983 or '84) was a 12-string OVATION custom balladeer. Damn, that thing was loud and sounded pretty good for a guitar made of plastic. I still have it today, although I did have a factory-repair ( under warranty) for a crack along the grain from about the middle of the bridge to the middle of the lower bout. Aside from that - hunky dory. They fixed it free back in about 1990 or so.
    musicfan37 likes this.
  21. kevywevy

    kevywevy Forum Resident

    Here's what I did but it wasn't really a quality guitar to start. I'm a lefty and bought one of the only two lefty 12 strings I've ever seen in person. It was a Goya, Martin's Korean manufacturer. It had been discounted once because nobody was buying and I got them to drop the price a lot further because I told them I knew it had been sitting there for at least a year. I paid $200 (in 1992 dollars, it was originally $450) and then paid a Luthier another $200 to replace the plastic bridge and nut and make the intonation and action a whole lot better. I love it and it now feels like a much more expensive guitar to me. So nodding a cheaper guitar is always an option.
  22. Carter DeVries

    Carter DeVries Forum Resident

    Not a huge 6-string Taylor fan....but....12-strings are, imho, what they do best. Bolt-on construction is also a big plus when you have the added tension at the neck pocket of 12 strings. Far easier and less expensive to reset in 6-8 years.
    I prefer non-coated, D’Addario phosphor bronze. Less bright....which works well with Taylor guitars.
  23. The FRiNgE

    The FRiNgE Forum Resident

    I think you'd be very happy with the Guild F-1512. Every guitar should be set up for player comfort, and always ask the tech about the truss rod tightness. The truss rod should have plenty of reserve adjustment. (never the need for extreme truss rod tightness to obtain proper neck relief) Coated strings blow, hate them! I suggest lighter gauge for ease of play -or- tune that magical 12 string 1 step lower to D. Acoustics sound wonderful in lowered tuning, then use a capo to change key. Fresh strings are important. Old strings require higher tension to pitch, (bad for the neck and top) they feel stiff and sound awful. When storing your acoustic for extended periods, detune slightly (never slacken the strings) and in a hard case with humidity control.
  24. Michael

    Michael I LOVE WIDE S-T-E-R-E-O!

    get what you can afford and have it see up with perfect action...It'll be worth a million smiles when you find yourself enjoying the instrument. most important as well; is the neck comfortable? along with the action?
    dalem5467 and The FRiNgE like this.
  25. The FRiNgE

    The FRiNgE Forum Resident

    Yep! Even a cheap guitar can be set up to play comfortably. This is not to suggest a cheap guitar would sound better... but if we level crown and polish the frets like a custom shop model, change out the nut for Corian, and cut the slots for great action at the 1st fret and better intonation, the neck set for low action with very slight relief... the setup makes all the difference in the world, plus a good tech. In the hands of a talented tech, a Fender Squier can produce tone and playability close to high end models.
    slowhand1964 and Michael like this.

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