Both Dreadnought vs Grand Auditorium guitars are massively popular choices for guitarists worldwide. At first glance, they look the same, but there are good reasons to distinguish one from another.
After reading this post, not only will you be able to tell the two apart immediately, but you’ll also be well-equipped to make an educated choice on which one to get yourself or recommend to a fellow player. Let’s get into it!
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There are a few differences between Dreadnoughts and Grand Auditorium guitars, the main ones being the size, the shape, and the sound. Compared to a Dreadnought Guitars, a Grand Auditorium guitar is slimmer in waist and depth, and its sound is more evenly balanced with slightly brighter highs.
You see cutaway access more often in Grand Auditorium guitars, which, paired with their shape, makes them feel more comfortable than a Dreadnought. The price you pay is in the guitar’s projection and volume.
Main Differences Between Dreadnought vs Grand Auditorium Guitars
The main differences between Dreadnought vs Grand Auditorium Guitars are:
- Dreadnought acoustic guitars have a deep and more bass-heavy tone, whereas Grand Auditoriums sound brighter and more treble-heavy
- Grand Auditorium guitars are more suited to fingerstyle and fingerpicking, whereas Dreadnoughts are better suited for strumming
- Dreadnought guitars can be strummed loudly, whereas Grand Auditoriums are much quieter
- Grand Auditorium acoustic guitars are tight around the waist providing a rounder shape, whereas Dreadnoughts are much broader
- Dreadnought guitars are more common and have more budget options, whereas Grand Auditorium guitars are generally more expensive
Dreadnoughts and Grand Auditorium guitars
A dreadnought guitar is an absolute classic and a predecessor of many guitar designs created in the XX century. When you think “acoustic guitar,” it’s a dreadnought image that comes to your mind.
The first dreadnoughts made in 1916 weren’t an immediate success. Only after the design was refined in the 30s and produced on a larger scale by the Martin company did they start to gain popularity among bluegrass, blues, country musicians, and rock and jazz artists later on.
Dreadnoughts’ strong and focused sound has become a standard for vocal accompaniment roles as well as punchy, chord-based arrangements that can go neck in neck with a full band. For these reasons, you’ll find Dreadnought models in the offerings of the vast majority of guitar manufacturers.
Grand auditorium guitars are quite similar to Dreadnoughts, with a few differences that we’ll discuss further in the next sections. Generally speaking, it’s a tad younger design, introduced by Martin a couple of years after the Dreadnought. The concept for the guitar could be described as a mid-size combination of a classic dreadnought and a concert guitar in an attempt to bring the best characteristics of both designs together.
Let’s take a closer look at the differences between the two.
What’s the difference?
Just by looking at the two guitars in question, you’ll see some obvious differences right away, but that’s nearly not enough to form an opinion. Read on as we uncover all there is to the topic.
A difference that stands out the most when comparing these two guitars is the shape. A Grand Auditorium guitar has a much rounder shape than a Dreadnought with a significantly slimmer waist, giving it an overall more curvy look. They also tend to have cutaway access more often than a Dreadnought.
Both of these characteristics give Grand Auditorium guitars the reputation of being a very comfortable instrument to play. The extra curvature and easy way down beyond the 14th fret both make this design fun and rewarding during even the longest jam sessions.
When it comes to the size, both guitars are in the same ballpark, but with some exceptions. Body and scale length will most often be the same and the body depth is a little more shallow in a Grand Auditorium (no more than 0.2″).
Where you can see the difference is in the bouts’ width and aforementioned waist. See the average measurements below (they might vary depending on the model)
|Lower Bout Width||15 ⅝”||15″|
|Upper Bout Width||11 ½”||11 ¼”|
|Waist||10 ⅞”||9 ½”|
Not a big difference, but for smaller-bodied players, Grand Auditorium may have an advantage here – narrower bouts and waist, as well as more shallow body depth, make it more universally comfortable to hold and play.
It seems like so far, the Grand Auditorium guitar is taking the lead in the competition with its more player-friendly shape and size. Let’s see if the playing ground gets more even when talking about the sound!
Sound-wise, there is a significant difference between these two guitar models (as you might have already anticipated based on the previous two sections). Each one shines the brightest in different applications, so this is most likely when the decision will be made between the two, based on your playing style and preferred genres.
Dreadnought’s rise to fame was primarily due to its loud and deep tone, heavily favoring low and low-mid frequencies. It’s that boomy, full-bodied sound that can shake the room on its own when strummed vigorously that has won over countless guitarists’ hearts for almost a century. It’s perfectly fine to play it with all sorts of fingerstyle techniques as well, but it will require more effort to bring out all of the harmonic characters of individually plucked strings.
Dreadnoughts are phenomenal all-rounders that work in a wide variety of genres and arrangements. From softer jazz, folk, and blues accompaniment with a singer, to a full rock or bluegrass band where presence and volume are required, Dreadnought has no problem standing its ground and proving its well-deserved reputation.
On the other hand, we have a Grand Auditorium guitar which may not be as versatile as a Dreadnought, but it blows it out of the water when we’re talking all fingerstyle and plucked arrangements. Due to the smaller lower bout, thinner body, and slim waist, Grand Auditorium guitars have significantly less bass and volume – instead, the sound is more balanced throughout the frequency range with pleasant, harmonically rich highs. You’ll find that in comparison to a Dreadnought, it takes much less effort to achieve clear, transparent sound when running through arpeggios or performing a laid-back solo.
With all this new knowledge, we’re now well-equipped to advise on which guitar type will best match your needs. Let’s decide!
Which to choose?
As we’ve mentioned already, if it’s the versatility that you’re after, a classic Dreadnought is a way to go. If you haven’t found your preferred playing style yet and like to dabble in different ones depending on the repertoire, a Grand Auditorium might fall flat when strong strumming and loud projection are needed. Dreadnought’s big body and more “boxy” shape allow it to go neck in neck with a full band and not get buried under the sound of louder instruments.
On the other hand, if you find yourself navigating towards more relaxed accompaniments, utilizing different fingerstyle techniques and with more focus on transparency and clarity rather than raw power, then a Grand Auditorium guitar is an ideal choice. It’s a perfect guitar for any small room scenario like a cafe or a bookstore, and we see it most often picked by soloists who use it to compliment their vocal performance in these kinds of settings.
If the above is not enough for you to commit to one of these, it’s always the best solution to visit a nearby guitar store to give both guitar types a shot. You might find that the comfort of holding and playing a Grand Auditorium guitar outweighs its shortcomings in terms of the versatility of sound. After all, if you buy a guitar that sounds like a dream but is not fun to play, what’s the point?
If you have an opportunity, always try playing the guitar you’re interested in before you purchase it – it might sound like obvious advice, but with the newfound convenience of buying stuff online, we know the results of impulsive shopping are not always satisfactory. Speaking of shopping, let’s take a look at some actual guitars of these two types that will not let you down!
Dreadnoughts and Grand Auditorium guitars recommendations
Just in case you’ve made up your mind by now, here are some of the best Dreadnought and Grand Auditorium guitars available out there. Depending on your wallet size, we picked one budget and one top-shelf suggestion for each guitar type.
1. Taylor 110e
Starting with a beloved Taylor 110e – a very capable and versatile Dreadnought guitar that punches way above its weight for the price that it costs. For around $800 you get an instrument that can compete with listings that cost up to twice as much!
Even though it looks a bit unassuming (dare to say “basic”), the quality of this guitar’s build deserves utmost praise. Solid Sitka spruce top and excellent X bracing provide a bright and resonant sound that fills up the room without any problems.
Worth pointing out that while it packs a solid punch and can deliver that boomy, hard-hitting Dreadnought sound, it’s also surprisingly well-balanced in higher frequency ranges giving it more subtlety and versatility.
Taylor 110e is an electro-acoustic guitar (that’s what “e” in the name stands for”). It comes equipped with Taylor’s Expression System 2 pickup and preamp system with classic EQ controls. In this price range, we’d still usually expect the sound quality to be altered noticeably when amplified, but this guitar is an exception – it retains clarity and richness of sound with higher volume perfectly fine.
If you’re looking for a classic, solid, electro-acoustic Dreadnought guitar in a low-medium price range, the Taylor 110e is a great choice!
Read also: Best Taylor Guitar Options You Need to Know Of.
- High-quality build for an affordable price
- Sounds great amplified
- No built-in tuner
2. Martin HD 28
Knowing the history behind the guitar type, our high-end pick for a Dreadnought simply has to come from Martin. This guitar means business, and so should you when considering buying it as the cost is around $3500.
The HD 28 model is an updated version of the company’s classic, a D 28, but with Herringbone binding (hence the “H” in the name) and improved bracing. Of course, at this price, we get solid wood all around the body with Sitka spruce on top and rosewood back and sides. The finish is tasteful, not too glossy, and brings out wood’s best visual qualities.
The overall design is as classy and refined as it gets, and bringing back the long abandoned Herringbone binding gives it a nice finishing touch as it looks simply stunning! Forward scalloped bracing used in HD 28 is a departure from D 28’s X bracing – this change results in even more presence and focuses in the lower range.
Speaking of the sound, Martin HD 28 delivers on all fronts, from the precise and round bottom end to harmonically rich mids and crystal clear highs. This guitar is an absolute pleasure to listen to, and its tonal balance works perfectly well with vocal accompaniment as well as solo. It also performs equally well with chord action and any fingerstyle play – the amazing long sustain and overall vibrant sound bring life to even the most simple material!
If you have an eye set for a classic, refined Dreadnought and money is not a problem, then consider Martin HD 28 a strong contender for your choice.
- Highest quality construction
- Solid wood all around
- Excellent sound with improved bracing
- Classic, refined look
- Other than the price, we can’t find any
Moving on to the Grand Auditorium category, let’s kick it off with a moderately priced, electro-acoustic Martin GPC-X2E Macassar. This guitar is a treat for an eye and has some tricks up its sleeve in terms of sound as well.
Let’s start with the wood and construction – for this model, Martin used HPL (High-Pressure Laminate) for the back and sides and Sapele wood for the top. We know the word “laminate” may not sound very enticing, but this specific material’s durability and resistance to temperature and humidity are outstanding, and the Sapele top provides more than enough projection and sustain.
Martin’s GPC-X2E Macassar feels and looks great – the Macassar pattern is beautifully made, and you can get it in three variants: ebony, mahogany, and rosewood. The comfort of playing is great as well – pleasant string action, cutaway access, and Martin’s Performing Artist Neck
make it a highly enjoyable guitar to play in all sorts of genres.
The versatility of this Grand Auditorium guitar doesn’t end there. The most important factor that has won GPC-X2E’s spot here is its sound which we’ve found more than impressive, both unplugged and amplified. It turns out that with Scalloped X-bracing, a big lower bout, and some more of Martin’s construction magic, this guitar sounds just amazing when strummed hard.
At the same time, it has everything you’d expect from a Grand Auditorium guitar – a well-balanced sound with round but not too boomy low-end and pristine, harmonically rich mid-high frequencies, ideal for fingerstyle.
If you’re drawn into Grand Auditorium guitars and are looking for an offer where you get a bang for your buck, give this Martin offering serious consideration.
- Incredibly comfortable to play
- Sounds great, both strummed and fingerpicked
- 3 types of Macassar finish to choose from
- Not everyone likes the sound hole controls
4. Taylor 614ce
Last but not least is another Taylor pick – a mighty 614ce that attracts an eye like nothing else on this list. Just like our top-shelf pick for a Dreadnought, this stunning Grand Auditorium guitar costs around $3500, and it sure looks like it!
Taylor 614ce immediately impresses with its exquisite craftsmanship and solid wood all around. The treated Sitka spruce top pairs perfectly with beautifully stained maple back, sides, and ebony pickguard. We love the ivoroid fretboard inlays and rosette that give the guitar just enough flare. As far as the looks go, Taylor 614ce pulls off a nearly impossible combination – modern but classy.
The quality of the construction is superb, to say the least. First of all, Taylor’s redesigned, angled bracing was designed specifically to match the maple and brings satisfying results (more on that later)! The entire feel of the design is very relaxed, and the same is reflected in practice. The body is very comfortable, and the neck is just to die for – expertly crafted, slim, and with pleasant, low action at its entire length. Once you start playing, it’s really hard to let go of it.
With all of the above, rest assured that the sound of Taylor 614ce is of the highest quality. The torrefied spruce top and the improved V-class bracing bring out the most satisfyingly mellow yet bright and natural sound. The mid-range has a unique and warm harmonic richness that’s complemented by crisp and shimmery highs. To tie it all up, the bottom end is round and resonant, giving the sound a wonderful tonal balance.
There’s no need to sugarcoat it – we simply love this guitar! Some might complain about no built-in tuner, but we don’t want any excessive electronics sticking out of a guitar as gorgeous as this one. When Grand Auditorium guitars are discussed, we say – Taylor 614ce is the way to go!
- Expertly designed and constructed
- Torrefied top and improved bracing bring the sound to the next level
- High-quality active pickup
- Stunning look and great comfort of play
- No built-in tuner
Got any additional questions about these two? Let’s hope that it’s what we’ve thought of in the FAQ below! Here are some final answers to the burning question often asked when discussing Dreadnoughts and Grand Auditorium guitars.
Question: I’m a small-bodied player – will that be a problem?
Answer: Our first piece of advice is to casually visit the nearest guitar store and try just holding both types. While it’s most likely that a Grand Auditorium will have a shape and size advantage, none of these two may feel comfortable. In that case, no worries! There are smaller-sized guitar types, like Parlor or Concert guitars, that you will find ideal for your stature.
Question: Can I get a Grand Auditorium as loud as a Dreadnought?
Answer: While some Grand Auditorium guitars will have more projection than others (with body size, bracing, and wood being the main factors), even the loudest Grand Auditorium guitars won’t quite get to the volume level of a Dreadnought. If you want to be better heard in a busy environment rather than strumming harder, explore the possible amplification methods for your guitar.
Question: Which one is generally more expensive?
Answer: Well, it’s not easy to give a definitive answer as it would require running countless comparisons of the two between different brands with varying quality-price ratios, etc. However, judging only based on sheer popularity on the market, it’s our instinct that you’ll have a much higher chance of finding a striking deal on a Dreadnought rather than a Grand Auditorium guitar.
Question: It’s my first guitar – anything else I need?
Answer: Just a couple of things for starters. Naturally, if you’re getting an electro-acoustic guitar and want to use it to its full extent, you’ll need a cable and an acoustic amp. Other than that, a few items are almost mandatory: grab a couple of different picks, a strap, a tuner (if not built-in), and a capo, and you should be good to go!
It’s now clear that these two seemingly very similar acoustic guitars have distinct personalities and will serve different players’ types in their own ways. Usually, we would pick our preferred style, but not this time – both are excellent choices, and many players might eventually own one of each one.
Whether it’s the powerhouse Dreadnought or a dignified, classic Grand Auditorium guitar, hopefully, you’re now well prepared to get one for yourself and rock any stage! Keep in mind all of the characteristics and things to look for when making a choice or simply just go with one of our picks – we vouch for each one of those beautiful guitars. Good luck!