A skilled guitarist can identify the (sonic) difference between Taylor and Gibson guitars blindfolded. The build quality, designs, looks, and tonal qualities make this an apple and oranges thing. Simply put, they look completely different and sound worlds apart.
But some musicians don’t have any first-hand experience or foreknowledge to decide which guitar brand is better. A/B tests and trust-thy-ear advice doesn’t help if there is no dealer near you. So, we created this guide for players buying their first mid-level or premium acoustic.
Taylor vs. Gibson: Which Is Best?
All things equal, Taylor has a wider choice of guitars in terms of body shapes and designs. They sound lively, have better playability, and are more durable. Gibson is the better brand if you want parlor, dreadnought, jumbo, and super jumbo guitars, which is their specialty.
Below, we pick apart Taylor and Gibson guitars to help you find which brand is better for you.
Taylor vs. Gibson: Comparison Chart
Dreadnought with squared shoulders or sloped shoulders, Parlor, Jumbo, Super Jumbo
Grand Concert, Grand Auditorium, Grand Pacific, Grand Symphony, Dreadnought, Parlor, and Grand Orchestra
Commonly Used Tonewoods
Rosewood, Sitka Spruce, Mahogany, Walnut, and Maple
From a teenager's curiosity of guitar making to the most innovative and forward-thinking guitar manufacturer, Taylor Guitars has its sights on both the ultimate playing experience throughout the entire collection and the future of the timbers it uses from all over the globe.
Gibson guitars are customarily made in the USA, and they favor traditional tonewoods over exotic or new-age substitutes. The guitars are made of Rosewood, Sitka Spruce, Mahogany, Walnut, and Maple bodies. Most models have Sitka/Mahogany or an all-mahogany construction.
Taylors are made in the US and Mexico. Mexican-made guitars are considered inferior, although that’s an insular way to look at it. Either way, Taylor guitars have modern, uncluttered designs with clean-cut corners, elegant binding, dot inlays, and a clear/sunburst finish.
Most Gibson guitars feature a nitro finish, vastly different from the polyester finish found on Taylor acoustic guitars. Nitro finish is porous and helps a guitar breathe (read: “open” sound), but it wears early and easily. Polyester is cheaper, less refined, and more hard-wearing.
Lastly, Gibson guitars come with a traditional X-bracing, developed by Martin in the 19th century. X-bracing provided exceptional structural support. X-bracing results in great sustain and even tonal distribution, preventing guitars from over-flexing or bellying.
Taylors use a patented V-class bracing that yields high-register clarity and increases the projection and sustain of a guitar. Watch this video to learn more about the V-class bracing:
USA-made Gibson acoustic guitars have a slight edge, although it’s hard to generalize. Both brands have top-notch build quality, and Taylor has a better reputation for QA.
Gibson guitars have a bold and vintage aesthetic that embodies the brand’s storied history. They stand out because of the sloped shoulders, pickguard décor, Moustache bridges, crown inlays with brass borders, and other charming ornamentations of old-school pedigree.
Taylors lean towards modern and minimal aesthetics. They look elegant with clear polish, clean-cut edges, and traditional pickguards or rosettes. Frankly, it’s hard to distinguish most of the entry and mid-level Taylor acoustics from other guitars without looking at the headstock.
Gibsons are instantly recognizable, but that’s only an upside if you love the look.
The Gibson has three acoustic shapes: slope–Ds, jumbos, and parlor guitars. Slope-Ds are dreadnought guitars with squared-off or rounded shoulders. The Gibson Dove, Hummingbird, J Series (J-15, 35, 45), and Songwriter have varying degrees of sloping on the body frame.
As for the parlors, Gibson currently sells the L-00, G-00, and LG-2 parlor-sized guitars.
Taylor guitars are available in a wide range of body shapes with or without cutaways. They name their guitars differently, but their line includes Grand Concert, Grand Auditorium, Grand Pacific, Grand Symphony, Dreadnought, Parlour, and Grand Orchestra Models.
Gibson is the better brand to buy a parlor, jumbo, or super jumbo acoustic. They offer the Gibson J-185 and SJ-200, two of the bestselling big-bodied acoustic guitars of all time. Taylor is a shoo-in for other shapes, and both brands have top-notch dreadnoughts.
Great tones are irrelevant if the guitar doesn’t feel right in your hands. So, playability is a deciding factor in the Taylor vs. Gibson guitars debate. We address the common differentiators because it would be unfair to generalize, given the varying body shapes and sizes in both brands.
Gibson acoustics tend to have substantial body thickness, moderately high string action, and two neck profiles – SlimTaper and ’50s round neck profile. The former is a lightning-fast neck that works for everyone, and the latter may feel chunky if you have small hands.
You can lower the string action on a Gibson and set it up to suit your playing style.
Taylor guitars are available in a wide range of body shapes with low string action and a V-shape or C-shape neck profile. Both are slim and playable neck profiles, but people with large hands may find them too skinny. Lower string action is more beginner-friendly and playable.
Taylor acoustics have models with and without cutaways. On the other hand, the Gibson Songwriter is the only cutaway model, which means it’s easier to access higher registers on Taylors. Taylor is the clear winner if this factor is integral to your playing style.
Taylors will appeal to a wider audience, particularly beginners or those with small hands. Gibsons are playable too, but some models have more body thickness, chunky necks, and relatively high string-action, which makes them a better choice if you have large hands.
Gibson guitars sound full-bodied with a slightly bass-heavy response. Secondly, every big-body model has sloped shoulders and a shorter scale length (than the norm). These two design elements add a unique flavor to their dreadnought tone – something you can’t find elsewhere.
It’s hard to generalize the sound of Taylor acoustic guitars as they vary in body shapes and tone woods. It’s fair to say their tonal palette is wider and more versatile. However, they have a reputation for sounding bright with sparkly highs, scooped mids, and a skinny low-end.
So, What Exactly is the Gibson Acoustic Guitar Sound?
Generally speaking, the deep/warm Gibson acoustic tone is very mid-present without top-end sizzle or low-end rumble. Guitar players use adjectives to describe how a Gibson acoustic guitar sounds – punchy, mid-rich, focused, warm, woody, and dry (quick decay).
Gibson guitars are great for chord work and rhythm, particularly in blues, country, bluegrass, and acoustic-rock settings. Moreover, their jumbo and super jumbos have excellent projection and sustain. The dreads sit well in the mix and are great for vocal accompaniment or rock bands.
What Does a Taylor Acoustic Guitar Sound Like?
Taylors have a rich, treble-tilted sound with sparkling overtones and loads of sustain, which can either be good or too much of a good thing. Guitarists use the following adjectives to describe the “Taylor Sound” – Bright, airy, crispy, clear, rich, sparkly, mid-scooped, and shimmering.
Lastly, Taylor guitars have exceptional mid-range and top-end clarity. Some guitarists opine that Taylor’s lack “warmth,” and their sparkly top-end is a hit-or-miss affair. No one disputes the bell-like chime, but there are many debates regarding their sterile mids and skinny low-end.
Electronics (Pickup System)
*insert IMAGE of Taylor ES 2 closeup vs. Gibson LR Baggs VTC Active Pickup System*
Taylor acoustic electrics have to-die-for pickups paired with an onboard preamp with volume and tone control knobs. Taylor used the ES-T system until 2016 and upgrade to the Expression System 2, which is good to know if you are buying used guitars.
The Expression System 2 has a proprietary (patented) behind-the-saddle pickup with individually calibrated sensors. It also has a top-notch preamp with volume and tone controls. The ES2 system is exclusive to Taylors, and it’s flipping good to boot.
Gibson acoustic-electric guitars are paired with an unobtrusive LR Baggs VTC Active pickup system. It features a sound hole mounted under-saddle pickup (LR Baggs Element) and a class A endpin preamp with controls for EQ, Tone, and Phase Inversion.
The plugged-in performance of Taylor acoustic-electric guitars is better and more consistent. Although, that does not imply anything wrong with the LR Baggs system.
Note: Gibson guitars are available without pickups, and there are aftermarket pickup systems that can rival the ES 2. So, there are workarounds to even the playing field.
Price and Value
Taylor Guitars can cost between $399 to $9,999 (USD), with the Baby Taylor being the cheapest and the PS series models being the most expensive. The cost of Gibson guitars ranges from $999 to $7,999 (USD). The G Series guitars are the cheapest, and custom models are the most expensive.
Both guitar brands have an excellent price-to-performance ratio if you buy dreadnought acoustic guitars. The value of a purchase largely depends on your needs, skill level, and whether or not you’re a professional musician.
Taylor has more options for beginners, hobbyists, or semi-pro guitarists. It’s the better brand if you want a travel guitar because Gibson doesn’t offer anything comparable to the Taylor GS Mini Series. Gibson has the same edge in jumbo, super jumbo, and parlors.
We advise buying a Taylor if you like modern-looking and sounding acoustic or acoustic-electric guitars with bright sparkly sound. On the other hand, you don’t merely buy a Gibson guitar; you also buy its storied history, iconic looks, and one-of-its-kind sound.
Note: The Gibson G Series guitars are made in Montana, USA. They are considerably cheaper but have a ported sound hole, which makes it hard to compare them to the flagship models.
Gibson vs Taylor: Famous Guitar Players Who Use Them
Both brands have an impressive roster of musicians who use their guitars. Some of these musicians officially endorse the guitar brands; others are listed because they play shows and/or record with them fairly exclusively.
Gibson acoustic guitar players include Buddy Holly, Sheryl Crow, Vince Gill, Bruce Springsteen, Dave Grohl, Neil Young, and Joe Bonamassa, among others. They’ve also been used by bands like The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Oasis, The Who, and Green Day.
Gibson has signature acoustics made to the specifications of Dave Mustaine (Megadeth), Cat Stevens, Bob Dylan, Jerry Cantrell (Alice in Chains), and Slash (Guns ‘n’ Roses).
Taylor guitars are used by contemporary artists like Shawn Mendes, Jason Mraz, Katy Perry, Ben Harper, and Zac Brown, among others. Taylor doesn’t sell too many signature acoustic guitars, but their catalog has a BT Taylor Swift edition.
What is the best Taylor guitar for strumming?
Taylor Guitars with a Grand Orchestra or Grand Pacific body shape is an excellent choice for strumming. We recommend the Taylor 618e and Taylor 317 for strumming as they have a vibrant tone with excellent projection and sustain. The 110E and Academy 12e acoustic guitars are excellent for beginners or budget-conscious players.
Are Taylor guitars good for fingerpicking?
Taylor acoustic guitars are an excellent choice for fingerstyle and fingerpicking, particularly the Grand Concert and Grand Auditorium models. They sound bright, are very responsive to touch, and boast top-notch individual note definitions.
Do Taylor Guitars hold their value?
Taylor guitars are in high demand in the used market and they hold their value very well. Taylor is one of the big-name brands among acoustic guitar makers, meaning they have great resalve value. However, they don’t appreciate in value like vintage Gibsons or Martins.