Musicians are a loyal group. Generally, once you’ve found your favorite brand of instrument, you’re unlikely to change unless something superior comes along. Some musicians swear by their Seagull guitars, while others won’t stray from a Martin.
While both the Seagull and Martin are acoustic guitars, they have several differences. Seagulls are a budget brand of guitars, ideal for beginners and more casual players. Martin guitars are a well-known brand and a status symbol for many. While there are cheaper Martin guitars, the quality is not known to be as high as a Seagull at the same price point.
If you’re thinking of buying a new guitar or switching to something different, read on to find out if the wallet-friendly Seagull is for you, or whether it’s worth investing in a more expensive Martin.
While Seagull is not the largest or most status-conscious of guitar brands, it is known for two essential characteristics: quality and affordability (source).
Robert Godin created the Seagull guitar brand in 1982 and, to this day, they continue to dominate the market for affordable guitars.
The Canadian company, Godin Guitars, produces Seagulls, and their history and quality set them apart from other budget brands.
Godin Guitars use Canadian wood and labor in their production, allowing them to build inexpensive but quality guitars that withstand the test of time.
Seagull guitars are handmade in Canada, and an immense amount of precision and care goes into their creation. The result is a beautiful guitar that is admired by many, including singer-songwriter James Blunt.
The guitar comes in two shapes: the classic acoustic and the cutout shape. Recently, initiatives have been launched for the guitar to be made with a range of reclaimed woods, making it environmentally friendly, too.
While most budget guitars use cheap laminate to create their guitars, Seagulls are made out of tonewood. Tonewood refers to woods that are known for their ability to carry and produce quality tonal sounds.
A mix of woods can be used in Seagull guitars, including cedar, cherry, and mahogany. Softwoods, like cedar and spruce, are used for the body, while hardwoods, like mahogany and rosewood, are used for the neck of the guitar.
The guitar usually uses one of two electrical systems: the Godin Quantum I or the Godin Quantum II. Both feature an under-saddle transducer, but the Quantum II includes a small microphone that blends with the transducer.
The Seagull brand is very affordable. The S6, one of the brand’s most recognizable models, starts at $400. In contrast, the most expensive guitars of the brand cap off at approximately $1400.
Seagull is known for its quality. Godin Guitars use both high-quality tonewood and tonewood laminates, ensuring a range of tonal varieties and a guitar suited for all genres.
The quality is equivalent to an expensive Martin guitar, including the tonal warmth. Tonal warmth refers to frequencies below 800 Hz, which translates into rich and deep sounds that are pleasing to the ear.
The guitar is also great for fingerstyle playing. The cedar top, in particular, delivers rich, warm sounds.
While the quality of the guitar is undoubted, the cedar top used in many Seagull guitars is more likely to become damaged or scarred through usage.
Seagull guitars are generally not varnished in the front and are therefore prone to scratches and scrapes, even from fingerstyle playing. Using a guitar pick will likely cause a lot of wear and tear to the front as well.
Seagull guitars also generally have wide necks. While this is not a disadvantage for everyone, younger users may not benefit. Some musicians, especially those with smaller hands, find the wider necks unwieldy.
Compared to the Seagull, the Martin guitar brand is the great-grandfather of the guitar world. It was established in 1833 and has continued to thrive since (source). Martin guitars are string-steel acoustics, and their admirable history speaks for itself.
This guitar brand began as a rebellion against the Violin Makers’ Guild in the 1800s when C.F Martin insisted on his right to make guitars, which were a relatively new instrument at that time.
After many years and a few false starts, the 1959 plant, opened in Nazareth, PA, is still in use today. When C.F Martin died in 1873, he left behind a legacy of quality handmade guitars that still continues today.
C.F Martin is also widely credited for the widespread usage of the X-bracing system. This refers to the X-shaped brace within the body of the guitar that creates more vibrant sounds.
Martin was also the first to create a 14-fret guitar, which eventually became industry standard.
The guitar company still uses a lot of the traditional techniques passed down from one generation to the next, but they also seek innovative improvements to their lines.
There have been approximately 170 models made by Martin and Co. since 1833.
The guitar holds its own status in the music world, and many musicians are enamored by its quality, history, and tradition. Used by Eric Clapton and Cody Simpson, the guitar is one that spans both generations and genres.
If you’re not sure that you’re ready to take the plunge, gain some in-depth knowledge about Martin guitars by reading “Are Martin Guitars Worth the Money?”
Martin guitars are considered to be one of the best brands due to their solid, wooden tops. This unique design produces a louder and richer sound compared to cheaper laminate wood (source).
The bulk of Martin guitars are built with Sitka spruce, though they are also available in mahogany and cedar. The Sitka spruce is used for its strength and longevity.
The back and sides of the guitars are made from mahogany, maple, and rosewood.
Rosewood creates unmatched deep and high sounds, making it an attractive quality added to every piece. The bulk of these pieces are imported from all over the world, including Africa (source).
Martin guitars are also known for their creation of the “Dreadnought” shape. The guitars have a very large pear-shaped body with a 14-fret neck. Introduced in 1931, this became an industry standard due to its success.
Martin guitars have a long and distinguished history. Because they are known for their high-quality wood and expert creation, these guitars have become a status symbol in the music world.
As many musicians have used Martin guitars through the years, they are equated with good musical knowledge and superior taste.
Martin guitars are also versatile. They can be used with a range of strings and tensions and can be played with fingers or with a pick.
Martin guitars have a limited lifetime warranty for the original, registered owner if purchased from an authorized dealer. It is a worthwhile investment in the long term.
Because of their renowned history, Martin guitars also have a good resale value, especially vintage models.
Since a lot of the woods used in Martin guitars are non-indigenous to the United States, they usually need to be imported. This increases the price of the guitar, a cost that ends up being passed on to the musician (source).
Cheaper Martin guitars do not provide the same quality as their more expensive counterparts. This makes them a poor choice for novice and casual musicians who do not have the funds to spend on a quality guitar.
Martin guitars are generally quite large, too, which makes it difficult for smaller statured musicians to play.
Comparing and Contrasting Seagulls and Martins
Both Martin and Seagull make excellent, high-quality guitars. The biggest difference between the two is their price points. Seagull guitars are far more affordable than Martins, but they do not have the same history of excellence.
Martin guitars have a deep and rich quality sound with a lot of bass, which may not be suitable for all genres. Seagulls also have a similar tone, but they are a little brighter by comparison.
An interesting note to consider when contrasting the two brands is that Seagull guitars are actually better suited to colder climates.
Since the Canadian wood is locally sourced, Seagull guitars withstand colder temperatures well, while Martin guitars can actually split due to foreign wood that typically comes from warmer climes.
While Martin guitars have the status that Seagull hasn’t yet achieved, you’ll need to determine the guitar that best suits you — both brands having distinct advantages and disadvantages to consider.
Martin and Seagull guitars are the equivalent to comparing a great-grandfather to his grandson. One has a long, rich history of experience and excellence, while the younger lacks the experience, but makes up for it with innovation and a strong work ethic.
When it comes to whether a Martin is a better guitar when compared to the Seagull for you, the decision is ultimately a matter of personal preference and budget.
Both are quality guitar brands that have served many musicians incredibly well, and will likely continue to do so for years to come.