What’s The Difference Between A Seagull And A Martin?
If you were to ask a group of 20 guitarists which guitar is best, you’ll likely get 20 different opinions. Likewise if you were to ask that same 20 guitarists on whether a Seagull or a Martin was the best choice, you’d get conflicting answers, why? Because as individuals we all have different preferences. In this article we’ll compare Martins and Seagulls and see what makes them different.
We know that most guitarists after having tried a particular brand remain loyal to that brand unless something better comes along. All we would say here is, keep an open mind and try to think back to the time when you bought your first guitar, you probably tried more than one before deciding on the one. So just imagine going back to that day and starting over, as if you’re looking for your first serious acoustic guitar.
Seagull guitars are made in Canada by Robert Godin who created the Seagull brand back in 1982. Seagull guitars are affordable, made from sustainably sourced materials and are a force to be reckoned with in the affordable guitar market.
Seagull guitars are handmade in Canada with precision and care using all Canadian materials and a Canadian work force. This keeps production costs down without having to stint on quality. Seagulls are available worldwide and are appreciated by many talented artists including;
- Peppino D’Agostino
- James Blunt
- Michelle Lambert
- Kim Deal
- Emm Gryner
- Michalis Hatzigiannis
- DeAnne Carroll
- And many more
Design Of Seagull Guitars
Seagull guitars come in two shapes, the standard acoustic guitar shape and the single cutaway. They are made using tonewood, as opposed to other similarly priced guitars which are made using a cheaper laminated wood process. Tonewoods are well known for their ability to carry great tonal quality which is evident in the sound produced by Seagull guitars.
They use a mixture of different woods including; cherry, cedar, mahogany and spruce which all make for a more tonal quality and a better sounding guitar. The electrics on Seagulls are both made by Godin, either the Godin Quantum I or the Godin Quantum II. Both have an under saddle transducer but the Quantum II also includes a small microphone that works with the transducer.
The headstock on Seagull guitars is designed in such a way as to ensure all six strings run through the nut straight. This minimises loss of tuning due to string slippage and is a great feature especially if you are inclined to string bend.
What Are The Advantages Of The Seagull Acoustic Guitar?
As a brand, Seagull are very affordable guitars with a starting price of around $400 (£320) rising to a top price of around $1400 (£1200). Even the top of the range Seagull is still relatively cheap compared to other brands. Seagull guitars are all made from high quality woods which gives similar tonal qualities to Martin guitars of more than twice the price.
The wider necks are easier for some styles of play and allow easy access for those guitarists with larger fingers.
What Are The Disadvantages Of The Seagull Acoustic Guitar?
The majority of Seagull guitars are not varnished on the front which often leads to scratches and scars especially if using a pick to strum the strings. The wider necks can be seen as a disadvantage to players with smaller fingers and new guitarists. From an investment point of view, Seagulls tend to not increase in value too much over time.
Martin guitars were first made in 1833 and have continued to grow into what is one of, if not the, best known acoustic guitar in the world. They were the first guitar manufacturer to employ the “X” bracing system on a large scale and some even claim Martin invented this system. They were also the first company to introduce 14 fret acoustic guitars with many of their early models now selling for high prices on the collectors market.
Martin was also the first company to introduce the Dreadnought style guitar which was named after the warship because of its size. Today’s Martin company still uses many of the traditional skills and techniques that were responsible for making them so popular through the ages, while still seeking out new innovations and improvements.
Since their inception in 1833 Martin have made around 170 models and their name has its own following throughout the guitar industry with top artists included among affectionados. Artists including;
- Chris Cornell
- Elvis Presley
- Marc Mumford (Mumford & Sons)
- Johnny Cash
- Willie Nelson
- Ed Sheeran
- Eric Clapton
- Kurt Cobain
- Joan Baez
- Hank Williams
- And many more
Design Of Martin Guitars
Martins use a solid wooden top which is considered to produce a richer sound compared to laminate tops used by other brands. They use tone woods like spruce, cedar, maple, rosewood and mahogany. As we heard earlier tonewoods create better sounding guitars and Martin are masters at their craft. With that said they use woods imported from many different places including Africa.
What Are The Advantages Of The Martin Acoustic Guitar?
Martin guitars come with a lifetime limited warranty for the original, registered owner as long as the guitar was purchased from an authorised dealer. They use top quality materials and are handmade by extremely skilled craftsmen. All of which means their resale value is incredibly high when compared to similar guitars by other brands. Because of this they make great long term investments.
What Are The Disadvantages Of The Martin Acoustic Guitar?
As much of the wood used to make a Martin guitar is imported, it increases costs which are passed on to the customer and explains some of the reasons for Martins costing so much more than Seagulls. As the wood is imported it cannot be said to be environmentally friendly which is a big issue in this modern world.
From a playability point of view, Martin guitars tend to be quite large which can make them difficult for some people to play.
Comparing Martins & Seagulls
Both companies make excellent guitars, they both look great and sound great too, one of the main differences is the price. Martin guitars cost far more than Seagulls and for some, this is enough to sway their decision making. Martin guitars have a far longer pedigree than Seagulls too, having nearly 150 years more history.
Martins have a deeper, richer sound quality with plenty of bass tones which some people find too much. Seagulls have a similar sound quality but it has been described as slightly brighter in comparison to the Martin equivalent.
Seagulls are more suited to colder climates than Martins as the Canadian wood used to make them is more acclimated to colder conditions. In contrast, under similar conditions, the wood on a Martin is more likely to split because the wood used to make Martins comes from warmer conditions.
Which Guitar Will Be Best For You?
Both Martins and Seagulls have plenty of good points to offer the guitarist, the only real way to tell which is best for you is to actually play both. If possible do a side by side comparison, play a Seagull and a Martin during the same session so you can accurately see the similarities and the differences.
Martins have almost 200 years of experience in making quality guitars whereas Seagulls have around 40 years. With that said, Seagulls are produced locally, using locally produced woods and due to this cost far less to purchase compared to Martins. But Martin guitars are seen as a long term investment and have a history of quality that is second to none.
The decision to buy one against the other should not be decided on an investment or price measurement. Whilst most of us don’t have a limitless money pot to draw from, buying a guitar shouldn’t be a decision made lightly. If you get it right, the guitar you choose should last you a lifetime and there’s no shortage of models to choose from.
Taking Price Into Account
If price is an issue then we would suggest going for a Seagull or one of the lower priced Martin guitars but ideally price won’t be your deciding factor. Guitar buying should be approached in the same way as car buying, you don’t buy the first car you see, and you certainly don’t get influenced by the price.
When buying a guitar, as when buying a car, you should test drive as many models as possible to see which one suits your style best. Never be swayed by special offers or sales talk, go by feel and how the instrument fits in with your way of playing.
If you stick to these directions, we’re confident you’ll make the best purchase for you and your style of playing. Above all enjoy the buying process as much as the actual guitar playing. Let us know in the comments which guitar you decide on and why.
Frequently Asked Questions
For a relatively new guitar manufacturer, Seagull’s guitar maker Robert Godin makes exceptionally good guitars.
Seagull guitars are handmade in Quebec, Canada.
Some Seagull models use laminates for the side and back (namely the Seagull S6) they are made from laminates of cherry wood glued together with the wood grains going in different ways. This makes them far stronger than high pressure wooden laminates used in other guitars.
As with every all-wood guitar, Seagulls will sound better the more they’re played and age.
Martin guitars sound so good because of the quality of the build and the attention to detail. For instance, although a Martin guitar is lacquered, they use just enough lacquer to protect without dampening the tonal quality of the instrument.
The Seagull S6 is a dreadnought guitar and so is considered to be a big guitar. It has 21 frets and a scale length of 25 ½ inches.
Ed Sheeran uses a Martin LX1/LX1E which is actually a budget model, and as such is easily within the price range of many guitarists, not just famous ones.