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FDP Forum / The Lefty Forum / 3-Way Lefty Review: 2010 Larrivee D-03, 2012 Martin D-18, 2016 Gibson J-45

reverend mikey
Contributing Member

Moved to Mint Soda

The real Rev of the FDP
Nov 2nd, 2016 01:20 PM   Edit   Profile  

Up front info: I'm the original owner of the Larrivee and the Gibson. Just purchased the Martin from the original owner; it is in *mint* (and I do mean MINT) condition.

Obviously, all three are hog-bodied guitars, all are more or less "dreadnaught" (or dreadnoughts, you pick). But they're all different sizes; slope-shouldered Gibson, yes - but the Larrivee's body is about 1/2"wider than the Martin's - it is noticeably larger both when looking at it and holding it (and the Larrivee won't fit into the Martin case). All three guitars are very light; only the Gibson currently has electronics.

The Larrivee has an Italian Spruce top, the other two are Sitka Spruce. The Gibson is 24.75" scale length, the L and M are 25.4" (more or less). The Martin has a 1.75" nut; both the J-45 and D-03 are 1 11/16".

All are very nicely, cleanly constructed, but the Gibson and Martin feel and look richer because of their gloss finish...the Larrivee 03 Series have a satin finish.

I paid the most for the J-45 (@ $2,100 this summer), then the used D-18 ($1,400 last week), then the Larrivee ($950 or so back in 2010).

I lowered the action on the Martin some last night (both shaving the saddle and adjusting the truss rod; I will be shaving the saddle bit more soon, but it's much better).


There is a definite winner (to my ears) in this department... The Martin has a clear, balanced, controlled woody tone. The high B and E string are full and rich, not twangy or raspy. When you strum the guitar, you hear every individual string, and it's not "blurry" sounding. This guitar just sounds mature and well voiced; I could play it all night, and when playing one of the others after this one, I find myself drawn back to it...it's really that good.

I know some folks say this D-18 doesn't sound as good as some of the other high end D-18's - maybe so, but it's one of the three best sounding acoustics I own right now - the others are my 24 year old Larrivee OM-05 (an all gloss mahogany model) and my 2015 Martin D-35. The OM-05 has many of the same mature, balanced tones of the D-18, but it's not as loud or bassy; to be expected.

The J-45 sounds very good, but not as woody as the Martin. It's also not as controlled, but it's not bad. I do wonder if the sound would improve if the undersaddle piezo pickup was removed, so that it was just bone saddle against wood...(?) as the Martin is. I think the J-45 will continue to mature over the next few years, and I plan to hold onto it - it's a different beast than the Martins - especially with it's shorter scale and different shape. A strong contender that should get stronger.

The Larrivee D-03 is a nice guitar and sounds good - lots of volume and shimmer - kind of like some Taylor's but with more bass and woodiness than I've heard in many Taylors. But it's not as controlled, clean and woody as the D-18 - I think part of this may be the larger body - more air moving around may not be a better thing in this case. I've always loved this guitar, and it has gotten better over the years, but it's not in the same league as the Martin, and it will be for sale soon (full disclosure; I've come close to selling it a few other times).

Hope this review is helpful. If you have specific questions (like neck shapes, etc.), I'll try to answer them. Thanks for reading.

reverend mikey
Contributing Member

Moved to Mint Soda

The real Rev of the FDP
Nov 2nd, 2016 02:38 PM   Edit   Profile  

Another "full disclosure" note: I've been a Larrivee fan and Larrivee owner and player since purchasing that first one (my 24 year old OM-05) back in '92. I've owned around 8 different Larrivee acoustics and 4 Larrivee electrics; still have three of the acoustics and one of the electrics...two of the current acoustics will be for sale soon; I will look seriously at what Larrivee offers for their 50th Anniversary model/s in 2017.

So this "should be* seen as a very unbiased review, since the Larrivee came last out of these three guitars. Nothing wrong with it, but I personally like the tone of the other two better. Hope this helps.

FDP Forum / The Lefty Forum / 3-Way Lefty Review: 2010 Larrivee D-03, 2012 Martin D-18, 2016 Gibson J-45

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