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Martin’s Standard Series Has Been Standardized

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C. F. Martin & Co. unveils a “reimagined Standard Series” for Winter NAMM 2018

The D-45 gets new binding and Style 28 returns to its roots while embracing Martin’s vision of its future.

More New Old Martins

The entire Standard Series that defines Martin guitars to the world has been uniformly converted to vintage guitar aesthetics achieved by applying Aging Toner to the Sitka spruce tops. While the Standard Style 18 and 21 models retain the faux tortoise binding of their predecessors, those made in Style 28, 35, 36, 40, 41, 42, and 45 all sport the Antique White binding introduced on select models in recent years.

Martin Standard Style 28 (2018) Martin Standard 000-28 (2018) Martin Standard Style 28 tuners

Photos: The 000-28 (2018) replaces the last hold-out of the old Standard Series (click to enlarge)

Gone are the stark white bindings and the last of the black pick guards. Gone too are the tops with the natural French vanilla color slowly yellowing across the years as sunlight tans them toward butterscotch and onto pumpkin orange as the decades roll by. The appearance of the Aging Toner has been formulated to fall somewhere between Martin’s previous offerings of vintage-esque hues, and lands more in the butterscotch spectrum than not. Many of the new Standard Series models can be ordered with a Sunburst top or an Ambertone top.

Diamonds in the Black

Similar to the makeover given to Standard Style 18 a few years back, which combined Martin’s modern High Performance Neck with the scalloped forward-shifted bracing, tonewoods, and open-back tuners of the old Vintage Series 18s, the domino dots and black and white line inlay of last year’s 28s have been retired in favor of the bold herringbone trim around the top, and the diamond position markers gleaming from the black ebony fretboards of the (soon to be) extinct Vintage Series 28s. And the entire Standard Series will likewise be getting the High Performance Neck. Their marketing data suggests it is the best way to guarantee Martin’s cash flow remains very much in the black.

The High Performance Neck combines a Modified Low Oval shaping to the neck itself with a fretboard that has the High Performance Taper, measuring 1-3/4” wide at the nut, and 2-1/8” at the 12th fret – specs that have become the industry standard among popular guitarmakers. It does appear that Martin has made its last 1-11/16” Low Profile neck, other than on possible future special or limited editions.

That the HD-28 was being remade with the HP Neck in the image of the HD-28V has been known to me for some time now. But whether they would be uniformly remaking all the 28s was an open question until quite recently.

As the man with his name on the headstock, CEO Chris Martin remains intimately involved with many of the decisions that lead to just which Martin guitars end up for sale and when they will appear before the public. For example, it was his fourth quarter decision to withhold certain models from last year’s Winter NAMM until the Summer show. And even then, the revamped Standard D-28 (2017) didn’t get the go light until the last minute.

I was among those holding my breath as to just what exactly would be the final specs of the new Standard Series Martins when they were displayed at the Winter NAMM trade show on January 25, 2018.

One interesting tidbit, the 00-28 and 000-28 are keeping the Style 28 back strip, while the others are moving to the vintagesque zig-zag back strip used on 28s in the pre-WWII years. I had to wait until today’s executive luncheon ended to confirm this is indeed the way things will be at NAMM.

According one of those well-fed execs, “If an H appears in the model name (i.e. HD-28,) then it will have a zig-zag back strip…if no H, it will get a checkerboard pattern,” which appeared on contemporary Style 28 models since the late 1940s.

 

Martin Standard 28 back strips (2018)

Photos: A tale of two 28 back strips (click to enlarge)

The H designation once signified herringbone trim and scalloped bracing. In the new Style 28, some guitars with both of those features do not get the H. And yes this does mean the OM-28 (2018) has surrendered its 1930s zig-zag for the 1950s checkerboard. But it and most of the Standard Series instruments with (2018) in the name get an upgrade in tuners, to Schaller GrandTune™ machines. Style 35 guitars retain the chrome enclosed Grover Rotomatics associated with Style 35 throughout its lifetime.

It Is What It Is

Change often comes slowly at Martin Guitars, while some of their biggest fans have a hard time accepting any change at all.

The loss of grained ivoroid bindings from the OM-42 or the additions of Antique White binding and Aging Toner to the top-of-the-line D-45 may seem like sacrilege to some (who had no intention of ever buying a D-45 anyway,) but it is the change to forward-shifted bracing on the HD-28, D-35, D-41, and D-45 that may prove much more controversial in practical terms, just as it has been for the D-28 2017 model that appeared at Summer NAMM.

The term forward-shifted bracing refers to where Martin placed the X brace in relation to the bridge plate on Dreadnought models made in the 1930s. It is often said to be one inch from the sound hole, but it is all about the flexibility of the spruce soundboard around bridge plate, father down the top from the X, which matters. That is where the majority of the sound-producing energy is transferred from the guitar strings to the musical instrument.

The bracing was moved nearer the bridge plate sometime in 1938, to a position now called “rear-shifted bracing.” And then it was brought forward a little bit at a time until the late ’50s, when it reached the position that was considered the “standard position.” That is, until now.

Moving the center of the main X brace that little bit farther away from the bridge plate on a Dreadnought-size guitar increases bass response noticeably, while adding more echoy resonance to the voice in general.

Martin going all-in on forward-shifted bracing (not including 12-string models) will bring further uniformity to the Standard Series, while also severing ties with the Martins made in the final 40 years of the twentieth century, at least when it comes to the brace position. There is no doubt it changes the voice of a guitar. But it will be left to the individual guitarist as to whether that is a good thing or not.

Likewise, the Company is all in on the take-it-or-leave-it stance concerning the High Performance Neck.

While the playability and feel of the HP Neck allows their ship-of-the-line Martins to enter into direct competition with makers like Collings, Huss & Dalton, and Taylor Guitars, not all guitarists are happy with the new Martin neck. They will have to look to Martins outside of the Standard Series when seeking a vintage style V neck, or they must look to the Custom Shop if they want a new Martin with the Low Profile neck from the old Standard Series.

Martin D-45 (2018) detail Martin D-45 (2018) Martin D-45 (2018) head

Photos: The new D-45 (2018) has vintage looks and modern construction (click to enlarge)

C. F. Martin IV’s Legacy

It can be argued that this reimagined Standard Series may be the most important event in the continued success of the Chris Martin’s family business, since his great-grandfather, Frank Henry Martin, brought the Company into the twentieth-century and piloted it through the Great Depression. It took many years of trial and error to bring all these specs into one unified collection of reasonably-priced, professional-level guitars.

Now in his 60s, today’s Mr. Martin is gearing up to follow his long-time friend Dick Boak into retirement. He will be remembered for leading his Company out of one economic slump and through several others, by embracing and respecting Martin tradition while also introducing and championing modern technologies, and alternate and environmentally responsible materials, often combining the traditional with the futuristic to break new ground that will prove to be sound bedrock for his business to build upon for many years to come.

For guitarists who long for Martin guitars made more like the old timers, he has provided the excellent Authentic Series of meticulous vintage Martin recreations. And for those who want Martin to boldly step outside of their tried and true designs, there are the many special editions and Chris’ own CEO Series.

And now, his transformation of the Standard Series that began with the D-18 makeover in 2012 has come to fruition. By infusing many aesthetic features of old Frank Henry’s pre-war Martins with the modern technology like the High Performance neck, made possible in part by Martin’s exclusive two-way adjustable steel truss rod, the effort to return Martin’s Standard Series to its rightful place as the industry standard for top flight acoustic guitars is fully realized. It may very well be among the wisest moves Chris Martin could make as he prepares for the on-coming century of Martin guitars.

Check back soon, as we will be writing about other new Martins as soon as I am given the permission to start blabbing!

In the mean time…

Check out the new Standard Series Martins and their public spec sheets below

Martin Modes in Review OM-21 Ambertone (2018

All guitars listed have new specs, or are wholly new to the Martin catalog for 2018.

D-45 (2018)

D-42 (2018)

D-41 (2018)

D-35 (2018)

D-35E (2018)

HD-35 (2018)

HD-28 (2018)

HD-28E (2018)

HDC-28E (2018)

HD12-28 (2018)

GP-28E (2018)

GPC-28E (2018)

GPC-35E (2018)

J-40 (2018)

M-36 (2018)

OM-42 (2018)

OM-35E (2018)

OM-28 (2018)

OM-28E (2018)

OMC-28E (2018)

OM-21 (2018)

000-42 (2018)

000–28 (2018)

00-28 (2018)

 

 

 

 

Martin D-45 John Mayer model announced for Winter NAMM 2018

A magnificent crown jewel in the guitarist’s series of Martin signature models, the D-45 John Mayer glitters gloriously

Intelligent combination of features produces 45 very special guitars

Limited to just 45 instruments, John Mayer designed this special edition for Martin’s 2018 offerings of new models that is also a special addition to his own series of Martin signature models, with some features that tie it into some the previous editions and others that make it wholly unique.

After two OMs and two 12-fret 00s, this is the first Mayer model made in the Dreadnought body size. And it continues the precedent set by the two 12-fretters by having the multi-ring abalone soundhole rosette continue across the black ebony fretboard, to complete the circle.

It is also the first Mayer model to feature Guatemalan rosewood for the back and sides. This is not the only special run of Martin guitars about to go on sale with that particular tonewood, but it is the largest.

The top is high-grade Engelmann spruce, with tonal properties that should meld and marry with those of the Guatemalan rosewood to produce an exceptionally lush and complex voice. And adding to that musical mojo are scalloped, 1/4″ Adirondack spruce top braces, forward-shifted like those found on vintage Martins. That should all make for one seriously resonant, rumbling, and roaring voice.

Other vintage-esque Martin features include the grained ivoroid bindings, open back tuners, and Aging Toner, which help give the appearance of a pre-war D-45, while a 1-11/16″ Full Thickness neck like that found on the resurrected D-45s of the late 1960s should provide a faster, less fist-filling fretting experience than the original old-timers.

D-45 John Mayer front view D-45 John Mayer back

Check out the other photos and specifications at the D-45 John Mayer official listing at Martin Guitars.

And check back here in three weeks for our exclusive review with video of this and other new Martins for 2018!

Martin Model America 1 Review

Domestic tonewoods shine in the Model America 1

America’s premiere guitarmaker makes a premiere guitar from woods all made in America

Specs Include: Solid tonewoods with high gloss nitrocellulose finish, including sycamore back and sides, Adirondack spruce top, 5/16” forward-shifted scalloped Adirondack spruce braces; satin finished cherry High Performance neck with Modified Low Oval profile, and black walnut fingerboard with 1-3/4” width at the bone nut, 2-1/8” at the 12th fret; black walnut bridge with 2-5/32” string spacing at the compensated bone saddle; Corian dot fret position markers, Style 18 top trim and soundhole rosette; open-back tuners with butterbean buttons, faux tortoise shell binding and pick guard

“There is a firmness to the sycamore trebles and a fullness to the bass notes, and a chiseled definition to the center of the voice, thanks to the Adirondack spruce top. The Adirondack effect makes the center of the voice quite straightforward, leaving lots of space behind it, in that almost “vintage openness” sort of way.”

Read the Full Review with Video

a Martin Model America 1 shoulders

Update on D-28 Brazilian and D-45 Brazilian Pricing

List prices on the limited edition Brazilian Rosewood D-28B and D-45B are considerably less than originally reported

$15,999 and $36,000 respectively

When having lunch with the three main instrument designers for C. F. Martin & Co. they could not remember what pricing was ultimately set for these special guitars. There estimate of $20K and $45K turned out to be rather high.

The actual prices will make each guitar more obtainable – except for the fact there are only fifteen 45s being built, and at most fifty 28s.

Please enjoy the following daydream:

Martin D-28 B D-45 B specs 90dpi

Martin D-28B and D-45B Brazilian Rosewood Edition

Martin is making a small edition of Brazilian rosewood dreadnoughts, called the D-28B and D-45B.

They were offered for sale at Summer NAMM in Nashville (currently happening this weekend.)

I remembered to ask about this while having lunch with a group of folks from Martin executives and senior management, just before I returned to NYC. They could not remember off hand exactly how many D-28B and D-45 guitars are being made. But it is an equal number, and Martin dealers are required to buy one of each if they want any at all.

So, to be able to sell the $20K list price D-28B, a dealer must also purchase for sale the $45K list price D-45B. Prices are approximate, as they were speaking off hand in a restaurant out of town, so the specifics where not readily available.

UPDATE: As promised here is more information about these models.

* They are making 15 D-45B instruments. They are making the same amount of the D-28B.

* Both instruments are made with hide glue construction throughout.

* Both instruments have Grade 8 Adirondack spruce tops.

* Both instruments get bracing pattern DOMLE #3A, which I believe translates to “forward shifted.” (DOM means 14-fret dreadnought, LE means limited edition, i.e. not standard.)

* The 45 gets GE scalloped bracing.

* The 28 gets Standard scalloped bracing. (i.e. Vintage Series, D-45, 42, 41, HD-28)

* Both instruments have the traditional fingerboard taper.

* The 45 gets a 1-3/4″ Modified V neck

* The 28 gets a 1-3/4″ Low Profile neck

* Both instruments get the drop-in long saddle with 2-5/16″ spacing.

* The 45 gets grained ivoroid binding

* The 28 gets Antique White boltaron binding.

* The 28 gets the fine herringbone purfling, long-pattern diamonds and squares fret markers, zig-zag back strip of the Marquis/GEs.

* The 45 gets the snowflakes fingerboard, mitered corners on the purfling, and wood fiber trim of the Marquis/GEs.

* Both instruments get Aging toner, but the 45 does not get it on the purfling or rosette. (Same toner currently used on the Standard OM-28 and new D-28.)

If you are interested, I would write Martin and ask for a list of dealer who bought them.

 

Martin D-28 2017 vs. 2016

Sneak Preview of My Summer NAMM Martin Reviews

This supplemental video was shot just after I recorded the new D-28 for One Man’s Guitar’s exclusive review – which will be the first one published

The following audio was mixed quickly and synched to video on a tablet at the hotel last night, and the video was put together on the bus back to NYC this afternoon.

The mix and synch of the actual video will likely be somewhat different.

While at the Martin Guitar Factory, it was my hope to not just test drive the newly made-over D-28, but to do do a direct comparison with the previous version, which remained virtually unchanged for 30+ years. And that did come to pass.

The two guitars were recorded back and forth in one continuous session. I just picked up one and played the first thing that came off my fingertips and then tried to repeat it on the other one, after placing the first on the same guitar stand. That is why the guitars are sometimes shifted toward the large diaphragm mic, as I kept turning that way to switch the D-28s.

In addition to some cosmetic upgrades, the real game changer is the top bracing, which has been moved to the “Forward Shifted” position, while retaining its non-scalloped shaping. This is the first time forward-shifted non-scalloped bracing as appeared on a cataloged Martin guitar, let alone a D-28.

The full review should be out in two or three days.

The thumbnail for the video was supposed to be of the 2017 model. I expect Youtube will change it eventually.

 

Martin D-28 John Prine Review

An American Original Honored by America’s Premiere Guitarmaker with the D-28 John Prine

The composer of Angel from Montgomery has earned his wings from C. F. Martin & Co. along with an angelic signature model

Specs include: All solid tonewoods including Madagascar back and sides, Engelmann spruce top with Antique toner, ebony fingerboard and bridge, scalloped 5/16” Adirondack spruce braces; high gloss nitrocellulose finish; long-scale, satin finished genuine mahogany neck with Modified V profile, 1-11/16” width at nut, 2-1/8” string spacing; bone nut, compensated saddle, and bridge pins; Vintage Style 45 abalone snow flake fret markers; ‘50s style rounded headstock corners, enclosed chrome tuners with large buttons, pearl angel wings inlay; Antique White binding; custom cream tweed case with red interior; signed and numbered interior label

“With twinkling trebles, warm clear-cut mids, and a succulent bass, its distinctive fundamental notes front a subtly complex harmonic array, filled with delightfully sweet overtones and a roomy translucent undertone awash with whispery, ethereal hues. In other words, the John Prine signature model is an absolute charmer.”

Full Review with Video

Martin D-28 John Prine in concert