I am pretty much a beginner when it comes to playing or buying a guitar. I was looking for something to learn on that had a good sound and would last me for years. I looked at Takamine's, a low end Martin and a host of unrecognizable cheap guitars.
With a budget of between $200 - $400 I obviously wasn't going to get a Martin of any quality, but I wanted to use the sound and playability of a Martin as a benchmark. Boy was I surprised when I found a guitar that compared favorably to a Martin for $300.
Norman guitars are manufactured by Godin Guitar company in La Patrie, Quebec, Canada. The Norman B-18 model is handmade with a spruce top and a laminated cherry body and sides. The neck is mahogany with a rosewood fingerboard and a painted rosette (to cut costs). This model has no electronic pickup and is finished in a light lacquer that gives it an almost raw wood feel.
The only negative part of this guitar is the finish. The light lacquer finish doesn't protect the guitar from nicks and scratches very well, even the slightest bump can leave a permanent mark. On the other hand, I feel that the light finish is what enables the rich, bright sound to come out of such a reasonably priced guitar.
The salesman that I spoke to was proud to tell me that the Norman (and other products from Godin) was the only guitar handmade in North America for under $1000. He assured me that the quality of the workmanship would show as soon as I strummed the guitar and boy did it.
In my search for a guitar I must have fiddled around with 20 different guitars before I picked up a Martin and the moment I heard it I wanted to own it. Since I was searching at Christmas (and my budget was tight) I managed to walk away from it the first time and the second time I played it. I just couldn't get the sound of this guitar out of my mind and I had to go back and get it.
I have now had the guitar for 4 months and it sounds better every day. I have had no problems with the guitar whatsoever and my next guitar will undoubtedly be another Norman.