Martin CS-Bluegrass-16 Review

Martin makes a humdinger dreadnought in their CS-Bluegrass-16


Modern Martin playability meets classic herringbone tone

CS Bluegrass 2016 specs include: All-solid woods with hide glue construction throughout; Guatemalan rosewood back and sides; Adirondack spruce top with Vintage Tone System torrefaction, antique toner and fine herringbone purfling, large sound hole, forward-shifted scalloped 5/16” VTS bracing; mahogany High Performance Neck with Modified Low Oval profile, ebony fingerboard with 1-3/4” width at nut and 2-1/8” at 12th fret, white dot position markers; ebony bridge with 2-5/32” string spacing; chrome open back butter bean tuners

“There is something charming to the chime ringing off the unwound treble strings, supported by a palpable cushion of rosewood undertone welling up from the bottom end, where the bassiest string is plump and succulent. Overall, this is a guitar of power and personality.”

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Martin CS Bluegrass 08 shoulder

7 thoughts on “Martin CS-Bluegrass-16 Review

  1. One man: For a serious Strummer, singer/Songwriter (like me). What would you take: The Authentic 1941 or the Bluegrass 16?

    Greets Pat

    1. Would I had that dilemma to consider for myself.

      My answer would be, which neck suits the player most. They will be close in terms of what they sound like.

      I LOVED the D-28A 1941 prototype and would have bought one if I did not already have a dreadnought quite similar to it.

      But I really love the sound of the Guatemalan rosewood Martin has been building with, and which they do not have a lot of. It sounds a little darker and fuller under the mids and trebles, compared to typical Madagascar rosewood.

      My finicky fretting hand has different issues with each of these necks. One has a V neck and the other the Modified Low Oval. The string spacing and width of the fingerboard is quite similar, except that the Bluegrass cheats out in the first few fret positions to 1-3/4″ by the time you get to the nut. But it is a shallower carve. And having not seen the Authentic in a while I do not remember now just how full or not it feels in the hand down by the headstock. I do know it is not a super fat vintage type neck.

      And then there is the mystique of “very close to a pre-war D-28 build” of the Authentic vs. the mystique of the Custom Shop small edition that isn’t quite like any other guitar ever built of the Bluegrass.

      Maybe I am only going through the same shopping list you and others have already gone through. But I would want to track down and play the Authentic at least, to remind myself, if not find both of them to try. But sound aside I would probably chose the Authentic, because the High Performance neck and I do not get along that well in terms of my age and injury issues with my fretting hand.

  2. Martin is following the business model of Fender by offering for sale the guitars that people want to buy, at all price points, so that customers don’t buy elsewhere.

  3. How many great guitars Can Martin make? Between 1945 and 1968 they Made a D28 and D18 and that was it . Also small bodies. The point is Martin has so many different D28s & D18s that it is very confusing. So what if you have a Marquis or golden era or authentic or vintage. It’s all about money. If you can, buy a old 28 or 18 go for it! and cut the BS.

    1. Actually, they also made the D-21 from 1955 to 1969, and the D-35 from 1965 onward.

      But they changed the D-18, D-28, and D-35 over the years. Some people like them one way, some another. Some wanted the trim they used before they changed them in the mid-1945s, some wanted them to be much more like the 1930s Martins.

      And some didn’t want dreadnoughts at all, but OMs and 12-fret 000s and 00s.

      It is not all about money. It is about what people want to spend their money on.

      Why should Martin expect everyone to buy a D-18 or D-28, or go buy something else, when that something else could be some other kind of Martin?

      1. My point is, how many different kinds of 18’s or 28’s do you need ? I realized its all about choice but do they sound that much different? Like I said, in the later forties and fifties also most of the sixties, plain janes were it and there reputation was flawless. Maybe if Martin made there standard 18’s and 28’s just like the authentics including small bodies, they would not have to make so many different kinds. Marketing and MONEY.

        1. It is called business.

          What you call plain jane in the 1960s was the cutting edge in 1934, as the Art Deco black and white purfling and white dots were borrowed from Martin’s new archtop models and replaced the quaint, behind the times herringbone and diamonds and squares on the D-28.

          Martin’s reputation was not flawless in the 50s and 60s. Martin has lived with claims that their guitar ain’t want they used to be since the original Mr. Martin died in 1873, until the current Mr. Martin started making them more like what they used to be, while keeping their contemporary models evolving for those who want something new.

          Have you played the latest D-28, D-28 Retro, D-28 Marquis, D-28 Authentic 1941, and D-28 Authentic 1937?

          They certainly do have a different sound, dynamics, feel, playability from each other. And many guitarists cannot afford any of them.

          Martin wisely makes some guitars they can afford, knowing people become attached to a brand early on and are more likely to move to a higher-priced Martin from a less-expensive one, than they might if their first guitar is from some different brand.

          It is called business.

          Martin is very careful about what they keep active in their catalog. They make what people buy and they discontinue what people do not buy.

          The catalog from 1929 and 1939 is dramatically different. They have never stopped evolving their products or adding and subtracting models from their catalog based on what sells. They had less than 40 employees then. They had less than 10 thirty years before that.

          But if they had frozen in time and only made the models available in, say, 1937, and managed to survive, the lowest priced Martin would be so expensive I would not have ever afforded one. And since they were YEARS behind on their orders in the mid-1950s, I and others like me would probably not ever see one for sale.

          That is not even considering how many times they came close to going out of business entirely, and had to adjust what they made and how, to keep that from happening.

          Not everyone likes the same neck and string spacing. And the reality is, other guitar makers have caught up to them in popularity, and in the under age 35 market, surpassed them. Martin has wisely made efforts to offer instruments that have similar features, including the modern deck and string spacing specs that put them in direct competition with Taylor, Huss & Dalton, Collings, et al, while continuing to offer more-traditional models with neck and spacing options introduced in the 1980s, and even the 1930s for those who can afford them.

          Yes, I suppose they could limit what they make to a one version of the D-18, D-28, D-35, 000-18, 000-28, and offer nothing for the millions of guitar players who prefer different necks, or woods, or styling.

          That is not good business.

          Offering a variety of instruments at different price points, in conservative and traditional styles and construction methods, alongside options expressly made outside of those traditional styles and methods, is.

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