Torrefaction perfected, the Martin VTS or Vintage Tone System has taken the torrefication of acoustic guitar tops into new territory.
A proprietary version of an ancient craft, Martin has partnered with a veteran wood treatment company to develop a new approach to torrefaction designed expressly to take new spruce used for soundboards and bracing, and alter it on the molecular level though natural forces to, in a sense, accelerate the aging process.
Torrefication treatments remove moisture from wood, permanently changing its cell structure. It evolved centuries ago as a way of preserving grain stores and to weatherproof construction timber. Some 200 years ago, French violins had their tops torrefied. Now many years on, it has become more common in guitar making. But the Martin Vintage Tone System is unique.
Learn more about torrefaction in detail HERE.
Under the microscope, typical examples of torrefied wood are nearly indistinguishable from wood 300 years old. But Martin has perfected the process to the point they can control the results almost down to the exact decade, and are releasing new models with brand new spruce tops that possess many of the properties found in Martin guitars made in the early twentieth century – known as Martin’s Golden Era.
Martin has also released a new video, explaining a lot about this new Vintage Tone System and how they are putting it to use across a wide range of instruments.
I have been privy to much of this for some time, and I feel they have done a great job in explaining the details of the Martin VTS and why it matters, without getting too technical, and keeping a few trade secrets well up their sleeve.
As I had hinted in some previous reviews, torrefied tops appearing on recent Martins was but the tip of the iceberg. They have been quietly excited about this zeroing-in process for quite a while.
The first test model I played was handed to me with out any explanation. It appeared to be a typical Martin vintage reissue sort of guitar. But it sounded noticeably alive with big 3D depth and loads of charm and character, and there was nothing to look at that might have clued me into it being torrefied in any way.
It had the top and braces “cooked,” and yet it did not have the usual darkened coloring associated with torrefied wood.
Previous Martins made with torrefied spruce tops have all been very successful in the tone department. But they were all cooked until they were more like 200 year old wood, or older. Next week two new members of the Authentic series of exacting vintage Martin replicas are making their debut, with torrefied tops.
These are the first guitars to feature this zeroed-in version of the Martin VTS top and braces, tweaked to get the spruce as close in accelerated aging to a 1930s Martin as possible.
I have been awaiting them almost as long as the folks at Martin, and this informative video only piques my appetite all the more.
Other models are appearing with torrefied tops as well, but were treated to different levels of torrefaction. For now, if you want the new-prewar top, you will have to buy an Authentic.
Further Reading Related to Martin VTS