Martin OM-21, OM-18 and CEO-7 Differences

A reader asks, is the rosewood Martin OM-21 different enough from the mahogany CEO-7 to justify owning both?

I recently acquired a CEO-7 as well as an OM-18 Custom in ambertone from Maury’s Music. I feel like I’d like to balance the OM18 with a guitar made of rosewood such as the Martin OM-21.

I want a resonant guitar with warmth but focused clarity that is as good for finger style as for melody. My favorite guitar so far is my 000-15M but I like the crisp piano like resonance, clarity and “warm brightness” the OM18 custom has.

Would I be foolish to let go of a CEO-7 in favor of an OM21? Is the sound sufficiently different between OM-21 and CEO-7 (or an OM18 for that matter) to warrant the return and replacement?

Is it worth holding onto the CEO-7 just because it is a limited edition model?

Jason L, USA

Spoon writes,


First of all, the CEO-7 is not a limited edition. It is an open edition, and an extremely popular one. So Martin will continue to make them as long as brisk orders from that model rolls in from the dealers. I expect them the to be around for a long while, even if few show up on Ebay.

A custom OM-18 with an amberburst top is likely to be less common.

Otherwise, I assume an OM-18 custom would be more like an OM-21 than a CEO-7, if the 18 has Sitka spruce for the top.

If what you want is a guitar with the same feel, dynamics and balance of the OM-18, but with the extra warmth and complex overtones of rosewood, the OM-21 or the new OM-28 may very well be your answer.

If you want additional “clarity”, then the OM-28 Marquis with its Adirondack spruce top may be the answer, but a more expensive one to be sure.

I would think the CEO-7 would be more different from an OM-21 than your OM-18.

The OM-21 and CEO-7 do have some things in common, since they are both non-dread 14-fret Martins. But they also have differences, since Adirondack and Mahogany is different in tone and character than Sitka and Indian rosewood.

The body sizes also add their own twist on things, with the CEO’s slope shoulders but also having a smaller width than an OM.

If someone liked guitars in that size range and wanted to stay in the Martin universe, there should be ample differences between the two guitars to provide a worthwhile playing experience greater than that offered by only one of these guitars.

But I also understand why someone would want to branch out to some other size, like a dreadnought, M, or Grand Performance to get even more difference in the voices. And many people love the rosewood 12-fret guitars, like 000-28V and 00-28V, and the 000-28GE, which can still be found in the used marketplace.

We and our readers would very much like to hear what YOU think.

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