Designed by C.F. Martin IV, the CEO-7 offers a unique variety of vintage guitar specs
A print version of this review appeared in the September 2014 issue of The Tone Quest Report.
CEO-7 Specs Include: Grand concert body size with sloped shoulders; all solid wood construction with mahogany* back and sides, ebony fingerboard and bridge, Adirondack spruce top with Autumn Sunset burst finish; 1-3/4″ Golden Era style modified V mahogany neck; 1/4″ scalloped braces; bone nut and short saddle; white binding and matching tuner buttons; hand-fitted dovetail neck joint.
“… the CEO-7 is the Golden Era Series reissue of a pre-war Martin that never existed.”
* This model is now made with cipo mahogany from West Africa. According to sources inside Martin, the switch occurred during a recent shortage of South American mahogany, and the change is likely to be permanent. That being said, the cipo example I played in mid-October 2015 is arguably the best sounding CEO-7 I have found thus far.
A Martin from an Alternate Universe
The CEO-7 is a lovely little guitar with a comfortable short-scale neck, yet with ample volume and projection. It has the versatility found in 14 frets free from the body, but with round shoulders similar to a classical design, offering some of that deep and resonant bottom end typically heard in traditional 12-fret guitars.
That sloped-shoulder shape to the upper bout results in the extra sonic depth under the bass and lower mid-range. The actual dimensions are 14.764″ width at the lower bout, 8.635″ at the waist, and 10.589″ at the upper bout. With a body length of 19.428″ the overall size of the CEO-7 is somewhere between Martin’s 14-fret 000 and their 12-fret 00. It has the 4-1/8″ depth shared by the 14-fret 00 and 000.
Plump and Juicy
The voice has a plump boom to it that is not exactly the same sound that comes from the standard 12-fret Martins. It is not the same voice heard from the deep body 00 design used on the Women in Music models, nor is it the same type of sound heard from the Norman Blake models, which had a 14-fret 000 body shape matched to a 12-fret neck. For that matter, it is not exactly like any Martin I have heard before. In fact, the CEO-7 actually has a shape and cosmetics that suggest a Gibson L00, and yet, it still sounds like a Martin, and an impressive one at that.
When it came down to it, the whole time I was playing the guitar I kept feeling like the CEO-7 is the Golden Era Series reissue of a pre-war Martin that never existed. One might say it seems like it came from an alternate universe where Martin had been copying Gibson designs from the 1930s, rather than the other way around. But just as Gibson’s square-shoulder dreadnoughts like the Dove, Hummingbird, and Gospel sound little like a Martin D-18, the CEO-7 may have a certain trebley ring thing that reminds me of an L-00, but it also has a resonance and sustain unlike any Gibson I have heard.
Old Time Sensibilities
The vintage vibe can be seen in the narrow straight bridge and open back tuners. It can be felt in the cheeky V neck and 2-5/16″ string spacing. And it can be heard in the precise fundamentals, clear chime, and open undertone that come from Adirondack spruce backed by scalloped braces, amplifying and reflecting dry, woody mahogany tone. But while it has that open “wooden box” sound typical of small, mahogany Martins, it is like someone turned up the bass. It has a certain throb that swells out from the wound strings, which isn’t usually heard from a 14-fret 00-18 or 000-18.
According to Chris Martin, this new model “is a tribute to a time when flat top steel string acoustic guitar design was evolving very quickly…the market was very competitive as demand for fourteen fret neck instruments was rapidly growing. At that time the Dreadnought was not yet the dominant shape and the smaller tight-waisted models influenced by the parlor guitars of the prior century were still quite popular.”
In 1900 the 00 was the largest of Martin guitar sizes. In 30 years it went from top dog to being the choice for petite ladies and traveling troubadours who needed something small enough to stow on a train rack, or on their own back. It has remained popular with touring bluesmen and female singer-songwriters ever since.
Gibson’s L-size guitars first appeared in 1926. The Gibson naming convention here is the opposite of Martin’s. The letter L refers to the physical dimensions (which evolved over time,) while the numbers 00, 0, 1, 2 refer to the cosmetic trim and price point. The L00 itself has an overall shape and size that comes in between Martin’s 14-fret 00 and 000.
And while smaller guitars have never seen modern sales numbers enjoyed by the dreadnoughts and jumbos, Mr. Martin felt it was time for a smaller model in the CEO series. And it was further decided to include a most-traditional Martin feature on a CEO for the very first time, a hand-fitted dovetail neck joint.
Martin’s dovetail neck joint has a wide V-shape tenon compared to other modern neck joints, which sets tightly into the matching mortise, carved out of a solid mahogany block. The fit requires precision craftsmanship that can only be achieved by hand tools and keen expert eyes. It is so exact that a dovetail Martin can be strung up and played in perfect intonation without any glue in the joint. But most important, the wide V connection allows for considerable transference of resonant energy between the neck, neck block and the body of the guitar. You just do not have a vintage-style Martin or Gibson without it.
Every time someone claims they can’t discern the difference that comes with a dovetail neck joint, I think to myself they need to have their hearing tested. In any event, just as the ratio of balance to boom in the CEO-7 is unique among Martins, its overall voice has that fine violin purity in the trebles, along with the wavering, marrying sympathetics, and a presence glowing out around the fundamental notes that all add up to classic Martin tone.
Otherwise, it shares many other features with guitars in Martin’s Vintage Series and the Golden Era series. It has 1/4″ scalloped top braces identical to the 00-18V, but made from Adirondack spruce like those on the GEs. Other Golden Era specs include the cloth reinforcement strips on the mahogany sides, and a short-scale neck with 1-3/4″ width at the nut, and a modified V profile carved a bit rounder, or cheekier, so it has the shape and feel of the 000-18GE and 000-42 Marquis. Overall, it is a collection of specs found on tried and tested examples of Martin’s vintage reissue fleet, but never seen in this exact combination before now.
The CEO Designs
Every so often Chris Martin designs a new limited edition. Named CEO and numbered in order of their release, these guitars combined traditional Martin elements with non-traditional features, as a way of showcasing new trends and materiel. Examples include a 12-fret dreadnought made out of solid African sapele, and a 14-fret dreadnought made from laminated Macassar ebony. Mr. Martin’s most recent ideas have reversed that trend, to offer traditional materials in designs that step outside the Martin box, or at least round off its edges.
The CEO-6 paid homage to the classic designs of Martin’s number one rival, Gibson, with a 14-fret mahogany sloped shoulder dreadnought that greatly resembled Gibson’s J-45, complete with a Gibson-esque sunburst top and slanted headstock logo. But aside from looks, the guitar had little to resemble a Gibson when it came to tone. Martin continued this slope-shouldered theme in a smaller body, with the release of the CEO-7.
Evolution of the Species from Divergent Ancestors
I spent a good half an hour with an early prototype of the CEO-7, several months before its debut. At the time it looked like they were making a Martin clone of the Gibson L00. If I closed my eyes and traced the outline with my hand, I could swear it was a Gibson. However, on closer inspection, it had the shallower 4-1/8″ depth of a 14-fret Martin 00, and the silhouette was slightly more symmetrical than an actual prewar L00. But it did have a Gibsonish sunburst finish, like the CEO-6.
When I strummed a G chord, the voice said “Martin,” even more than the CEO-6 that came before it. So I was not surprised when the model appeared at the Summer NAMM show with some cosmetic makeover, combining Gibson and Martin looks into one guitar, but with all the important structural features still in place that made that early prototype so memorable.
The latest version retained the black faceplate on the front of the headstock, but gone was the slanted logo. In its stead is a vintage Martin script logo used on guitars in the Authentic Series. While it still has white, Gibsony tuner buttons and pale ivoroid binding, and no purfling on the back, it has a transparent Martin toner, so the lovely mahogany grain is seen clearly. And the jet black ebony fingerboard has the descending “long pattern” dots of a vintage Martin 00-18. But for all its interesting looks, what makes the guitar such a success is how it feels and how it sounds, thanks to the dimensions of the neck, the combination of tonewoods, the dovetail neck joint, and that new slope shoulder body shape.
A New Voice in the Martin Choir
While the looks may be too different for some Martin fans, others may be attracted to the CEO-7 for just that reason. And while the voice may have the extra umph in the bottom end some folks always wished a small mahogany Martin could possess, others may find the voice a bit too boxy or boomy for their tastes. It is surely a different kind of Martin, but it remains more Martin than anything else.
One of the most curious aspects of this guitar is how pronounced that boom is under the three mid-range strings to the ear of the player, but how different that sounds to someone in front of the guitar. Not unlike how a dreadnought tends to sound more ferociously bassy to the player than to his audience, this CEO-7 made me question the wisdom of this new body size, at first.
When I play the guitar, the D string, and to a lesser extent the G and A strings sound quite wolfy. Basically, they are perceived as unfocused and boomy, and downright distorted in my ears if I strike them too hard. But when I hear someone else playing the same instrument, viola! The mid-range sounds full yet defined. The fundamental note from the string is clear, even as it nestles in a buoyant cushion of undertone, like a dumpling in rich broth. And the lowest strings were right there with the mids. It has impressive balance, even as those low notes swell, not unlike a 12-fret dreadnought only in a smaller package. And boy, does it like open tunings! A dropped D bass string has the strong and meaty guts of a middleweight prizefighter.
It is often said that a Martin OM sounds more impressive to the listener than the player. I think that holds true for this new slope-shoulder 00 as well. It loses nothing in the punchy mids found in typical 14-fret Martin 00s. If anything, they are given a booster shot and a bassy escort, and the clear trebles are only improved by that warm, full presence humming just below them.
Tempting the Martin Faithful
After I had completed my day reviewing the new Martins slated for Summer NAMM, I enjoyed a leisurely hour sitting in the lobby of the Martin factory, playing the new CEO-7 prototype. And I must say that extra dimension under the lows really grew on me, and I relished how it was set off by those thin, pure fundamentals in the treble, with that open mahogany tone bubble spreading out around them.
What made it so new and interesting, to my ear, was the unique relationship between the fundamental notes, the high harmonics over them, and the woody undertone below, with that pregnant low spot under the center of the wound strings. What made it so Martin was how each of those elements sustained after a chord, or rolled over – and over and over – during picking patterns.
It just goes to show that Martin can make a guitar that looks like a Gibson, but it will never have that abrupt, reflective thunk of a low E string, or those flick-a-flick Bob Dylan/Cat Stevens fundamental strums, or that drop off a cliff decay below the trebles. And being more of a Martin man in my aural druthers, I do not see this as a bad thing.
The voice kept making me want to strum cowboy campfire songs, or move into open tunings to cry out some old timey fingerstyle blues. Seeing that I am a traditionalist, I really didn’t expect to like this guitar nearly as much as I do. Then again, there is something so traditional about the CEO-7, despite its unusual newness.
But perhaps the most surprising thing about this special edition Martin remains the price. At a list price of $2,999, Martins newest mahogany 00 with the slope shoulders has more Golden Era Series features than the 00-18V, including an Adirondack spruce top, for $600 less than the 18V. And it is $1,750 less than the list price of the 000-18GE. Talk to your dealer about the real price. You may find it too good to pass up.
The model has proved so successful that dealers have a hard time keeping them in stock. But don’t worry, there is no termination date. Martin will make CEO-7s as long as people keep buying them.
Not that this means you will like the CEO-7. I am sure it is not for everyone. I must confess, I have never been a sunburst kind of guy, and this Autumn Sunset burst is quite similar to many seen on 1930s Gibsons and Kalamazoos – and that is just not my cup of spruce. But if Martin ever wants to offer this exact same guitar with a plain top and a cutaway, I may be the first person in line to buy it.
Then again, shaded tops have started to grow on me. And this is such a successful guitar design, I could learn to love that deep, dark fingerprint magnet called Autumn Sunset.
And that is one man’s word on…
Extra Extra!! Read All About It!!! Martin released the CEO-7 to the Custom Shop as a baseline model in August 2014, and now they are starting to show up around the country.
Here is our exclusive video of the amazing cocobolo Custom CEO-7, courtesy of Mandolin Brothers in New York City.
Wonderfully sensitive dynamics, rich and complex; vibrant, open, expansive tone; spectacular woods and I just LOVE the retro yet totally new look.
Read more about C.F. Martin & Co. HERE
Read our primer about Martin Model Designations and Naming Conventions HERE
You may also be interested in these other small-bodied fingerstyle Martins:
CS-00041-15 – Cocobolo and Torrefied Adirondack spruce
OM-28 Authentic 1931 – Madagascar rosewood and Torrefied Adirondack Spruce
Other Martins reviewed at One Man’s Guitar include:
CEO-9 – like the CEO-7 but with curly mango back, sides, and top!
CEO-8.2 and 8.2E – mahogany and VTS European spruce Grand J
CEO-8 – CFM4’s homage to the Gibson SJ-200
Authentic Series – in-depth reviews of all of them
The official spec sheet can be found HERE.
76 thoughts on “Martin CEO-7”
Thanks for that review! I am being a bit late to the party, but I was wondering how (dis)similar is the ceo-7 sound compared to the 000-15sm. I have the latter, and I was considering buying the ceo-7 to complement my 000-15sm but was unsure if they where too similar given the hog B/S on the ceo and the fact that it is bassy – the 000-15sm is quite bassy too and shaped a bit similarily on a 12 fret design.
Well they are not as dissimilar as a Dreadnought would be, or a rosewood guitar. But a mahogany top vs. an Adirondack top would be very complimentary, I should think, much more than too alike.
I just bought a CEO7 (Oct last year, as my D15 was in at the luthier getting long overdue work. The D15 as you know is hog all over and its a totally different guitar to this, obviously your 000 is a tad smaller, but I imagine its in the same wheelhouse as the D15, so the CEO7 would be tonally and physically very different.
Going from a dreadnought to a smaller guitar has taken a little while to appreciate the subtle ways they both shine, when I got my D15 back it made me regret the CEO7 for a while as the bass and the resonance of my 20 year old dread was so superior, but then I play a certain chord on the CEO7 that sings in a way the D15 never has in 20 years… and all that regret vanishes, I love it more each day and it although it definitely takes a while to get going… I think the wood will keep maturing for its life.
Go ahead, order one ! Initially, I had some reservations about buying a guitar I`d never seen, let alone never played! When I received the guitar I had some anxiety when I opened the case……there it was, Beautiful!! I picked it up to play the first chord, all my doubts & anxiety disappeared. Tonally gorgeous, a comfortable neck & a high standard of craftsmanship.
I own 5 other high end guitars, all dreads, the CEO 7 is my “go to” guitar!
I am in Vancouver, Canada and I have one for sale. excellent condition with some minor wear scratches around the pick guard. The guitar is everything described here. I am selling because I have too much money tied up in guitars 🙂
It’d be nice to actually find a couple of these laying around Toronto’s local music stores, without having to order one in yourself with a 10% ($200) non-refundable deposit!
Have you asked if anyone is interested in ordering one? They do sell very well.
I like the look of the tuners on the CEO-7 but I did NOT like to actually use them when I restrung the guitar. The knobs are too shallow and small. And the pegs are a hair too tiny for my tastes. It took me three times as long to restrung my guitar because of the tuners.
I’m planning on putting open geared butter bean tuners on the CEO-7. Do you have a recommendation? I.E. Waverly, Grover, Gotoh or a different brand?
I can sympathies, as little buttons like the ones on the CEO-7 hurt my fingers when I have to use them a lot. And since I play in alternate tunings often it is an issue.
Waverly tuners are by far the favorite. They feel very solid and well made, even though I have encountered some loose or uneven ones from time to time.
But they are also heavy and add noticeable weight to the headstock of a guitar.
The custom Martin I play most was based on the 000-18GE and had small concave buttons, which really bit into my fingers. I had them changed out for Gotohs in weathered pewter color, which I guess is called “brushed nickel.” They have butterbean buttons, which have three humps to the crest, rather than being a single oval.
I have to ask. What changes did you make for your custom 000-18GE?
I have the redesigned Standard 000-18 and my only complaint (and its’ a big one) is it’s lack of headroom. I often alternate between fingerpicking and finger strumming. It’s perfectly responsive to fingerpicking, but the more aggressive I get, the more it loses its focus across the entire tonal spectrum. It seems like its lightly braced Sitka top is too easily over-driven under may hand. I know it’s not designed for aggressive strumming, but I’ve heard some Adi top 000/OM’s that maintain focus quite. I’d like to opt for an Adi top 000-18 like the GE, but I really prefer the thicker, warmer trebles produced by a Sitka top. So I’ve got a bit of a conundrum in my hands. It seems my only choices would be to stick with what I have adapt myself to the constraints of the instrument, or move to an even more lightly braced GE with an Adi top and adapt to a more piercing high end. I’ve been investigating various design elements for a potential CS model. One I’m very curious about, but haven’t heard an example of, is 5/16″ scalloped bracing under Sitka on a 000 body. Have your ever heard such an example? What does your experience otherwise recommend I investigate?
Thanks in advance,
Sorry for the delayed reply. It has been that kind of summer.
I am a big fan of 1/4″ bracing on short-scale Martins, but I agree the new 000-18 does not hold up as well under a big attack as I hoped it might. I guess it is a Sitka thing and Adirondack bracing might have helped there. The 000-18GE does not have this issue.
The Woody Guthrie model has the 5/16″ scalloped Sitka braces. It is basically a Style 18 version of the Eric Clapton model.
About the only alternative I know of at the moment is a custom OM-18, like the one for sale at Maury’s Music. It is the new OM-28 in Style 18.
The long scale makes a big difference in the tolerances while still giving you Sitka, my favored spruce for mahogany, and 1/4″ bracing for that extra resonance.
Or you could try medium strings of some sort on your 000-18. If they are too much for you, try some mediums with flexible cores, or a mixed set, like the GHS True Mediums, which have a medium for the unwound strings and the low E string, and mediums for the A, D, and G string, which helps reduce some of the overall tension on the neck and is also ideal for DADGAD tuning, because the three de-tuned strings do not get so flabby.
As for my Madgascar rosewood custom, I wanted what was basically a short-scale version of the Laurence Juber model with some other changes. I had owned a Juber and found the neck shape and string spacing did not work well for my finicky wrist, etc. I wanted the 000-18GE’s rounder V neck shape, 2-5/16″ string spacing, and short-scale to ease my hands, and the 1/4″ bracing too because I prefer the resonant sound of OMs, but with the short saddle for an undersaddle pickup. And I got maple binding as well.
I would have been content with the Style 18 looks, but they cut me a break on the upgrades to make it look more like the herringbone Juber models.
Afterwards I changed the Waverly tuners out for Gotohs because the 18GE tuners are concave and hurt my fingers.
My hands and elbows are a lot better these days and I actually own a Brazilian Juber now, which has become my main gigging guitar.
Really, the only thing that needs changing on the CEO 7 are the tuners. The Golden Age tuners are inferior to the build quality of the rest of the guitar. I have owned my CEO 7 for close to a year and Martin “hit it out of the park” on this model. I love it!!
I was never a fan of the Gibson style white buttons in general. Given how easy it is to change out tuners on a guitar, it is hard to argue about much being wrong with the CEO-7 given its amazingly affordable price.
Thank you. You made some interesting points, especially about the drop in saddle feature. I have all three major ivories in Martin drop in saddle style, FWI, FMI and PBE, so I plan on trying all three out.
Would you say that the actual elephant ivory would be the best of the bunch? (Better than standard bone as well?)
And do you have an opinion on bridge pins made from bone, PBE, FWI or FMI. I have purchased many of these from Maury’s Music and want to get the best combination for my tone woods. (I’m actually awaiting delivery of an OM18 custom amber tone and look forward to mix and matching it as well to achieve optimal resonance, clarity, sustain and warmth.)
I would not say anything is the best. That is such a personal choice. Rather, elephant ivory is what was used on most guitars from the mid 1800s up into the 1900s. To my ear bone is closer in sound to elephant ivory than the calcified ivory from ancient walrus or mammoth tusks.
The same goes for pins, not everyone likes the same thing.
Instead of thinking in terms of “better” or “best”, a player might be better off if the thought in terms of what the specific goal is in terms of sound. Do they want the guitar to sound brighter, or less bright, warmer or fuller, or clearer and less muddy, or to increase sustain, overtones? That sort of thing. And then research what pins or saddle or nut has a track record of providing the desired attributes.
If my goal is “warm clarity with great sustain” what would your recommendation be please?
I would describe the CEO-7 as warm with clarity and great sustain” as it is. Is there something you do not like about the sound of your CEO-7? Or do you just want to experiment to see what you might be able to do with it?
But I pretty much never make such changes in hardware, so I am not the best source for recommending such things. Are you a member of the Unofficial Martin Guitar Forum? If not, I recommend joining. You will get many opinions about such things there, by people who spend a lot of time tweaking such things as saddles and bridge pins.
Lately it is said there is a backlog of processing membership applications but I am told that is being attended to. And you can read everything on the forum without being a member. I would check in sections like the Technical Info section. And if you join you can post your own thread specifically about modifications to the CEO-7.
I bought a CEO-7 From Maury’s Music and received it in July. I played it for about 30 minutes and found it to be great. However I broke my left wrist immediately after that an I am still in a brace/cast. It was operated on and I have a titanium plate and six screws in the bone now and forever, so I can’t review it further.
As to having a new saddle put in, I don’t know why the stock saddle would need replacing; it is bone and of the highest quality.
When I am able to play it again, [it may take 2 years for my wrist to heal all the way???], I will give it a review. Maury’s gave me a wonderful deal on it and I am looking forward, obviously, to the days when I can play it. It is an amazing guitar for the money, I do know that.
Gosh, Rod! I am very sorry to hear that. At least you have something to look forward to and playing will help regain strength and dexterity, it is hoped.
It is not a matter of needing to replace a saddle. Many players love to experiment in ways that will tweak the sound or playability of a guitar. Saddles and bridge pins are a good choice, since the change can be reversed or changed to yet another option.
I went through a phase where I did a lot of that. These days my guitars have the pins they came with, most of them plastic. And I am very happy with bone saddles. My D-18E Retro has Tusq, which Martin feels is the safest bet for under saddle pickups, since it does not contain the same kind of air pockets that naturally occur in bone and other natural materials. But I have not had any issues with uneven volume when using bone saddles with pickups and I think they do sound a bit better than Tusq when played unplugged.
But that guitar still sounds great, Tusq and all.
I loved your review of this guitar and I just got one tonight! #483 in this run! It sounds amazing! The sheer power and volume as well as the vibrations coming off this guitar were breathtaking! I couldn’t believe a 00 body could produce this level of sound!
Here’s my question for you: I want to upgrade the saddle. I have FWI and FMI. Which would you recommend more for this particular guitar please and why?
Hello Jason, and thanks.
Congratulations on your CEO-7! Its popularity has exceeded expectations and many Martin dealers have waiting customers waiting for deliveries of this new and unique guitar.
FWI and FMI are similar. But good old cow bone sounds closer to traditional elephant ivory to my ear than either of the fossilized ivories available. Bone can sound a bit shrill at first, but it plays in very nicely and in a year or less it starts to give off notes of great purity and transparent clarity, just like the old elephant ivory saddles.
The fossilized ivory colors the voice of the guitar a lot more, which can warm up and fatten up the sound of a guitar with a brand new Adirondack spruce top, but it is a matter of taste as to whether it is actually an upgrade and an improvement, since some of the high end sparkle heard with a bone saddle is lost when using the FI saddles.
I know Martin typically used FMI for their Adirondack topped guitars. But they ceased this practice, due to environmental protection concerns. There was a time when the occasional mammoth would be uncovered by natural processes and the tusks would find their way into the world market, where one tusk could make countless saddle blanks. But things have evolved until there is now an unregulated rush of mammoth prospectors who feed the lust for ivory in places like China. These modern prospectors are causing serious damage to natural landscapes, as they tear up the land to remove the mammoths that have become exposed due to global warming. So Martin has stopped buying fossilized ivory of any kind.
When it comes to alternative choices for saddles, there may be some good comparison recordings out there from people who tried out various materials in the same guitar. And one nice feature to the modern drop-in saddles, when you make a change you can always change it back if you don’t like the results!
I read your write up on Martin wood grading. Do you have any info to offer on how they Adi tops are graded for the CEO-7? Thanks, Jd
Yes, I do. The CEO-7 and similar guitars receive what is called “Sunburst Grade” and can actually be taken from stacks that would have been given a variety of grades, but is chosen based on grain line spacing per inch and grain evenness, that they think will look good with a sunburst, without noticeable anomalies like bearclaw marks, but it may contain color differential in the unstained spruce that will not be seen under the sunburst.
But it is my understanding that this does not apply to the OM-18 Authentic, which is spec’d for Grade 3 – 4 spruce just like other Style 18 Martins. But it would make sense that they would use 3 – 4 Adirondack that would work best with a sunburst, for the reasons mentioned above.
I thoroughly enjoyed your review of this guitar and look forward to reading more of them as I familiarize myself with your website. I’m considering this guitar and a Martin 000-18. Have you reviewed the ’18? And how would you compare and contrast the two?
I’m looking for a lifetime friend/traveling companion spruce topped guitar (I’m also trying to find the ideal solid mahogany Martin as well; I’m considering going custom to get the wider neck but the look, feel, style of the 00/000-15M) and have narrowed it to these two.
My fretting hand has some nerve damage and is clumsy so I figured the wider neck on these models might help. Should the neck on the CEO-7 give me any concern with regard to fretting? (The specs mentioned a modified V neck.) I’m currently using a 1 11/16″ neck guitar so I thought the 1 3/4″ neck might give me a little relief in that area. Thanks for any input you can provide.
Hi Jason, sorry for the delay, was away at Martinfest and then catching up on work and sleep ever since.
A tough choice. I like both guitars a lot, but the CEO-7 is a better per-dollar value if you like Adirondack spruce and sunburst tops.
The newly revamped 000-18 is a very good guitar. The CEO-7 has a bigger voice with a deeper bass. Really we are not talking a LOT of difference here, not compared to something like a dreadnought or even an OM.
The CEO-7 has a fatter neck, particularly in the upper frets, compared to the neck on the new 000-18, which is a short-scale version of the “high performance neck” Martin has started putting on their revamped Standard Series guitars.
Both necks have 1-3/4″ width at the nut, but the high performance neck tapers at tighter angles so that it is only 2-1/8th at the 12th fret (just like a Martin with the 1-11/16″ neck,) while the CEO-7 is 2-1/4″ up there.
As important, the wood is carved shallower on the high performance neck, and is notably shallower in the upper-most frets, while the CEO-7 with its “30s style heel” and modified V neck has a thicker, more traditional feel. I do not know if it helps at all, but the CEO-7 has the exact same neck as the 000-18GE (in case there is one in your area to try.)
When it comes to sound, with its Adirondack spruce top and extra room in the upper bout, the CEO-7 is naturally louder, more open and expansive than any Martin near its size in its price range. But due to the body design it is also a little tubbier in the mids and bass, so it sounds different from other Martins.
Also, many people prefer the thicker, warmer sound that Sitka spruce brings to mahogany, particularly when it comes to the treble strings. They were smart to put 1/4″ braces on this new 000, as the 5/16″ braces used on the previous version deadened the top too much.
I have not done a review or video of the 000-18, but there is some video of the 000-18E Retro, which is identical in all respects other than having a saddle made of Tusq, to go along with the on-board electronics, a bone saddle will add a bit more definition and ring. You can view it here and compare to the CEO-7 video. These were not done on the same day, but they are recorded with the same mics. Please note that the volume is lower on the 000-18E Retro video.
Hey Spoon (if this is Spoon)-
The CEO-7 vs. OOO-18 comparison was really helpful. Wondering if you can also speak to how the CEO-7 compares to the Tweedy OO-DB, and maybe also the OM-21. I know some of the woods are different and will have different sounds, but these models all seem somewhat similar in terms of smaller body, nut width, and price.
I currently have an OM-1GT which I bought from Maury’s last spring (and I told Angelo to give you and your videos full credit for the sale 😉
I’ve been learning fingerstyle on it, but already have my sights set on upgrading to one of the models listed above for:
– Richer sound…not sure that’s the right word for what I mean. Fuller?
– Better at handling full strumming on the rare occasions I need it to
– Chunkier neck would be nice for my big hands
– Happy with the string spacing on the OM-1GT…I suspect more would be good…I pick with my flesh fingertips
– I prefer the dark sunbursts
Thx buddy! Really appreciate the guidance.
I have not much experience with the Tweedy model, having seen only one and briefly.
Compared to the OM-1GT you are taking a major step up in guitardom with any of those you mentioned. The CEO-7 has the most most massive neck in terms of the shape of the mahogany. But it has a short-scale neck, so the frets are closer together compared to the OMs. It is not that noticable, until you get up over the 7th fret. Stretches are easier, but chords requiring four fingers stacked on top of each other area little more crowded.
The OM-21 is a darker, fuller sounding guitar, in terms of that 3D space, or “smokier” as I like to call it. The same amount of sound scape is thicker and rosewood presence. One either likes that more than the mahogany open space sort of sound, or not. And many like having both. But Indian rosewood and Sitka is particularly lush sounding.
Even though the CEO-7 may be closer to your OM-1GT when it comes to tone wood properties, it is still going to have a larger, deeper more complex voice. But with Adirondack spruce for the top the chime and clarity will be greatly increased. Not lush like the 21, but what is there will all stand out clearly with a lot of detail, even with that usual thick throb off the D and A string unique to the CEO-7 design.
I hope that helps some, rather than make things worse. 🙂
Thanks for your time and professional opinion. The CEO7 would be a perfect small body for travel and it is such a high quality selection of woods that I am really after.
Thanks again and Martin owes you a huge debt of gratitude as I have bought a few new ones thanks to your excellent reviews.
Jim in Maryland
I call em like I see em.
And I am always happy to help someone buy a new guitar.
The CEO-7 is a fantastic instrument, great sounds, especially the mids and the bass, and the look is so classic. Had mine for about four months now and it’s the nicest, best sounding guitar I have ever owned…. And UNDER $2,000. You cannot go wrong. Don’t hesitate to order one of these even if you can’t play it beforehand…. you won’t be disappointed. My best guitar bud and I both bought them at the same time, and he’s gigging with his after putting a pickup in it, and he’s totally in love with this guitar.
That is so nice to hear, Richard. Thanks.
With Martinfest on the horizon, I am looking forward to seeing multiple examples and I will not be surprised if some of those owners inspire others to take the plunge.
Here’s what the dealer had to say, from Martin: “I’ve placed a rush on the next delivery to you for (2) CEO7s. Yes, you’re correct the projected delivery is NOW but the guitar is definitely oversold although we’ve increased capacity. That still doesn’t bring the model up to date with orders already entered. I believe your delivery will go out next week. With that said, I’m preparing for more calls like yours. I hate to be late with deliveries for everyone’s sake.”
So, two more weeks!
Well that is very good news. As I keep saying, it is a good thing Martin had no clue the CEO-7 would be so popular and sell so well so fast. If they had, they would have charged more!
Yes, I agree totally….. Mandolin Bros in New York had them for $1959, and had Martin known how popular these would be, I daresay they would have been $2500! Will let you know when mine arrives and how fast I fall in love with it….
Well, Mandolin Brothers is considered my “local dealer.” And they get nothing but praise from ME.
But I am happy to have helped someone find a home for the CEO-7 at a dealer “in town” too. If I didn’t already have a guitar too close to the model, I might have one myself!
Well, one day my CEO-7 will arrive, ordered in early march, but no one knows when….. just a long wait ahead…
It will be there before you know it, Richard. But yes, something like the CEO-7 will take several weeks to build, acclimate, and then ship.
For most of the twenty-first century new Martin guitars didn’t start shipping out to shops and customers for about a year after they debuted at the NAMM show. More recently, Martin has gotten much better about filling orders sooner. But they also ran into delays when they upgraded their antiquated computer system. Things are back on track now, and the waits are much less than the 4 years a dealer waited for a D-28 back in the 1950s.
I read your article and was so impressed, that I ordered a CEO-7 in early March and it will be here in June. Maury’s first quote beat the other three that I got estimates from, and they were very friendly and professional in every way.
I started my quest for a good acoustic, thinking I wanted a new Guild… Nope!!!! I got talked out of it… New Gibson???….. Nope!!!,.. Same!…. and after joining the Unofficial Martin Guitar Forum, and asking a lot of questions, I found your review.
That is what sold me. The Official Martin Web-site’s specifications for the CEO-7 were very impressive. My quest took only 3 days until I ordered…
I am sure I will be amazed! First Martin I have ever owned. I come from a Seagull S-6 Spruce, which is nice, but a “Martin”???
I will be back with my review when it arrives. Thanks, one man’s guitar.
You are very welcome, Rod. The Seagull S-6 is indeed a nice guitar, which has a good number of fans out there.
But I am afraid yours may gather a lot of dust, or else be handed out to guests, once you get your CEO-7 in your hands.
I shall look forward to your review!
Great review and I love the respectful and intelligent comments. I just bought a new CEO7 from Rufus Guitars in Vancouver Canada. I read your article the night before I bought the guitar and I’m glad I did. I’m thrilled with the CEO7 and find your description to be right on. It’s the perfect “sit around the living room” guitar — easy to play and a sustaining full tone. LOVE IT.
Hello Shaw and thank you for the kind words.
Welcome to One Man’s Guitar and congratulations on the purchase of your new CEO-7!
It is truly unique even as it offers the classic resonance and sustain that made Martins so popular in the first place.
Great review….and the Sam Ash CEO-7 #27 is on its way to NJ! Andy from Sam Ash made it happen today! Went in a few times looking at the Martin OMJM and Performance series, but a few minutes with the CEO-7 and that was it….
Thanks Scott, and congratulations!
And welcome to One Man’s Guitar. Are you familiar with the Unofficial Martin Guitar Forum? Found at umgf.org, they have someone in the D-28 Lounge there who is keeping tabs on which UMGF member bought which CEO-7. So, if you are not already a member, I think you will find it worth your while, and you can add your (forum) name to list!
Thanks for the umfg.org idea….I’ve registered and am waiting for approval to reply and add my CEO-7 story!
Thank you for the review, and the video demo; what a beautiful instrument, visually and aurally! I have played a Martin Eric Clapton, and loved the 1-3/4″ neck (“shallow” design, I think?). Can you comment on the playability of the necks on the EC vs this CEO 7? To my ear’s memory, the two guitars sound similar….would you say that’s a fair comparison? The price point on the CEO 7 puts it in my reach more easily than an EC model. Your thoughts would be appreciated.
Hello Hank, and thank you for your question. I was able to sample the CEO-7 side by side with the 000-28EC and the 000-18GE, at Sam Ash, on 34th Street in NYC.
The CEO-7 and 000-18GE have identical necks, which means the CEO model has the modified V with a “30’s style heal” This makes the neck a bit thicker and tubbier, but it makes the V a bit less of a V. But the Clapton neck, which I happen to love, is a modified V that is a good deal shallower than most Martin modified V necks. So there is less mass, and your palm is closer to the fingerboard. But really all three guitars were quite comfortable to play. The 30’s style version is just a bit deeper and puts the hand into more of a C shape.
Loved this review. Shopping for a new guitar and found out about this one. This review helped a lot. Unfortunately none of my dealers have it here (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) so I’ll probably need to order it and then try it at the store before deciding. I own a D-15 so I’m looking to buy a bit of a smaller guitar. This one definitely have my attention!
I ordered my CEO 7 last July from Jon @MFG. I received the guitar in mid-November. I had never bought a guitar online before nor for that matter, had I ever bought a guitar sight unseen/unplayed This CEO 7 has superb craftsmanship, beautiful lush tones(I play a lot of chord melody) & is truly a joy to play. I own several other high end guitars & the CEO 7 stands up with the best of them.
I would not hesitate to buy the Martin CEO 7.
Great review….was wondering, how does it compare (if at all) to Gibson’s Nick Lucas Special of the 1930s?
Hello Mike. Welcome to One Man’s Guitar, and thanks for the question.
The Lucas Specials varied in depth, but the bodies are all notably deeper than the CEO-7, as are the L-00 Blues Kings. This guitar has the same depth as a typical Martin 00 or 000. It looks more like a Gibson from the front than it sounds like a Gibson. The CEO-7 has much longer sustain, particularly in the wound strings, than the small body Gibsons and the trebles are not as glassy as the typical Gibson, they are denser and result in more sympathetic resonance off the the lower strings. So, even though the CEO-7 does have more of that “hollow wooden box” thing going on, the box isn’t as dry or as hollow as something like a Nick Lucas or the recent Keb Mo Gibson models.
I am hoping to find one for $2,000.00 but whatever the price, I’m taking one of these babies home with me.
A great review!
I have had my CEO 7(#75) for a little more than 3 weeks now & I`m having a wonderful “love affair” with this guitar. Such a different voice than my dreads(Martin, Gallagher, Collings)but a delight. The one surprise was how responsive the Adi top was right out of the box. I love the Gibsonesque burst…..Martin has nailed this model visually & tonaly.
Thank you Rich, and congratulations on your CEO-7, and what sounds like a wonderful and growing collection!
And welcome to One Man’s Guitar. Please stop back, and feel free to provide any feedback, suggestions and opinion as you see fit.
You really nailed this review. I’ve had my new CEO 7 for a week now and it sounds pretty much just as you’ve described. In particular, you mentioned the almost boomy/bassy sound the player hears when striking the mid-range strings, in particular the D string…..that is a dead on description and it seems to be become more pronounced when the D is fretted from about F on up the neck…..yet the notes come across to the listener as warm and full.
Well thank you Steve, for the kind words.
I call em like I hear em. But it is also nice to hear that my descriptions are “dead on” from someone who has acquired a guitar I reviewed.
Welcome to One Man’s Guitar!
I hope you and your CEO-7 will make warm and full music happily ever after. And I hope you will continue to visit the site as it grows and will feel free to leave comments and opinions when thus inspired.
could you give the bout depth at the lower bout ? I’m hoping for it to be less than 4 1/4″
found it……4 1/8!
Yes, it has the same depth as the Martin 00 and 000/OM guitars.
wow, what a beautiful song you are playing starting at 2.22min. What’s the name of that tune? I’d really like to learn that one.
Welcome Barry, and thanks. It is the verse of a tune I call Riding Back From Boston, which I never play the exact same way twice. One of these days I will get around to recording the whole thing.
I pre-ordered mine from Maury’s Music in PA this summer. They got 2 last week from the factory. I said yes and it is to arrive today.
The review here confirmed my hopes and was a factor in my decision. So, thank you.
I was offered to complete my order yesterday as it was done being set up, played and approved.
I am seeing dates between end of Nov to after the first of the year on other sites. Maury’s price is worth getting in line for and their service and set up are terrific!
Just to put this purchase in perspective, I own a Martin HD28, Martin SWOMGT, Martin 000-15SM, Martin DCPA 4R and a Martin OM 35 (my baby).
I am probably going to put my mint condition DCPA 4 up for sale to keep my wife from deciding I have totally lost my mind. I play it the least and now will likely play it less when my CEO-7 arrives as I am more and more liking fingerstyle and have the HD 28 for dread needs.
That is very good news, Michael.
My congratulations to you, Sir, and my condolences to your wife. 🙂
We will be happy to receive any and all blame for your acquiring such a unique and interesting guitar. But seriously, I am pleased to know we may have played some small part in your decision.
Please do let us know what you think of your new CEO-7 once you two get to know one another.
I had yet to look into the CEO-7 shipping dates, as we have been very busy off-line, and also focusing on One Man’s Malt. We shall resume or regular “programming” on One Man’s Guitar starting next week!
Where in the world are you writing (playing) from? The world has turned here in NYC and the heat came on today for the first time. Time to refresh all those humidifiers!
Thanks, One Man. I am near Hershey PA, so a jaunt to the Martin factory is a couple of hours.
I got my CEO-7 and can give a quick first impression. WOW.
What a great feel, look and sound. Ease of playing finger style is impressive. The extra wide string spacing is even more comfortable than my several 2 1/4 inch models. The sound is rich, mellow, crisp and, surprisingly louder than I expected. Granted, is does not boom like the HD28, but I did not expect it to. I am just a parlor playing amateur but finger strums and simple Travis picking brought some sweet tones. The risk is this will be the go to. This is my first modified V neck. It feels very different from the modified low ovals and the PA, but it is not so pronounced as to be uncomfortable. Actually feels like it helps secure a strong thumb position. We’ll see in time. My signed template is 49, by the way, so I really am among the first to receive theirs.
As a point of interest, I grilled the Martin folks and the CR staff said they were surprised at the price point. They said the common expectation of the staff was a price about a thousand dollars higher given the materials and some of the extra labor costs. If so, this has potential for strong investment value.
For Mick, the nice thing about Maury’s, in addition to their prices, they are tied with Nazarth Music Store, is Maury’s has a really good mail order business and takes PayPal, so very convenient for 6 months interest free.
Thanks for the report, Michael. Can’t wait to lay my hands on mine – just a waiting game now.
And, I’m in NYC too and was awoken last night to the clanging of radiators kicking on for the start of the cold season – where’s my dampit kit?
Congrats on the delivery. Your endorsement of Maury’s is duly noted. I am totally new to buying instruments online and it’s always welcome to hear informed opinions. Since I’m still on hold with this model (my first Martin) I’ll certainly be looking forward to your impressions of the CEO-7.
Hmmm, think I’ll spend some time at One Man’s Malt while I wait for my guitar to be delivered.
In one of my comments below I mentioned the Gibson LG-2 Golden Eagle, but I’ve just been made aware of Gibson’s newest LG-2 guitar called the Americana. What makes this so interesting is that it seems very close in specs and look to the CEO-7 (Adi top, Hog b/s, burst on top, plain wood b/s). It’s like they’re copying the Martin CEO-7! (yes, that’s irony).
The street price for the Gibson is about $400 more than the Martin. Like the LG-2 GE (which is more expensive than the excellent J-35) it seems quite overpriced.
Anyway, I’d love to hear an A/B of these two guitars (which is not likely anytime soon). But if you ever get a chance to check out the LG-2 Americana I’d like to hear your thoughts. In case you haven’t heard of this guitar yet, you can check it out on Sweetwater’s site:
How very cool. I shall keep my eye out. Unfortunately, some of my local dealers no longer carry new Gibsons, due to Gibson’s strong arm tactics about not advertising out of your own neck of the woods and all that. I do not really know the details, but it seems a shame to me. The more guitars the better!
Like a lot of folks, I felt comfortable putting a deposit on a CEO-7 because of your wonderfully thorough review and excellent video clip. Very excited. But the big question these days is, of course, ETA. Dealers aren’t sayin’ and Martin is playin’ it very close to the vest… so do you have any inside scoop for those of us who follow One Man’s Word? : )
My crystal ball has been in the shop for repairs. Fortunately I didn’t have to send it to the Martin repairs department, so I already got it back. (buh-dunt cha!)
As you may know, Martin had a major snafu when their computer system upgrade didn’t go as smoothly as expected. The worst of that is over, but it caused major delays across their entire business, but shipping was hit the hardest.
If I can find out any specifics about this model, I will let you know!
Thanks for the very thorough and ultra informative review. I’m hunting for a Gibson-esque small body guitar with the kind of “umph” you describe. I’ve briefly tested the new Gibson LG-2 American Eagle. Lovely guitar, great size, but the one I tried lacked a kind of sustain that is attractive to me. It was a big store so it could have been old strings, who knows. Have you played the new Gibson LG-2? If so, how do you feel it compares with the CEO-7.
Thanks again for doing such great reviews.
Thank you, Mick.
I have not seen the latest LG-2. But I hope to soon. Maybe even later today, as I will be dropping by a shop with a good size Gibson harem.
For many Gibson players, the lack of sustain isn’t a detriment but a feature, which attracts them to Gibsons in the first place. They want sustain, just not too much of it. The ratio of initial resonance caused by the fundamental note to the decay of that resonance and fundamental note, and the harmonics they cause, allows those fundamentals to take center stage, but exit before too many other fundamentals are sounded.
That is a different tone recipe to the long sustain variety that has a log of build up and overlap from one cycle of to sustain to the next, basically the typical Martin sound.
I knew one L2 player who glued bits of felt onto the headstock of his non-Gibson guitars. It was to deaden high harmonics (which he said he could hear) emanating from the taught strings between the nut and tuning pegs, and he wanted as fundamental a voice as possible. Now that’s hardcore. He probably wouldn’t find the CEO-7 to his liking. At least not as much as a guitar with a more-traditional Gibson voice.
What qualifies as Goldie Locks’ “Just Right” combination of resonance, fundamentals, harmonics, and sustain is a personal thing. Some of us are not as picky as others when it comes to such things. And some of us just know what we like. I believe the more Martin-ish levels of harmonics and sustain in the CEO-7 will cause some people to find it to their liking, and for the exact same reason others like it not so much.
If I spot any American Eagles soon, I shall let you know what I thought of them.
Unfortunately, the Guitar Center on 14th Street had only Jumbos and dreadnoughts. Their only small body was a 12-fret Keb Mo, which was very small and although it had some decent sustain in terms of string notes, it was dead as a doornail when it came to resonance, or lack thereof.
Thanks for the follow up. I’ve been playing the LG-2 AE at local stores and although I’m not a great guitarist, I’ve simply not been able to coax the range on sounds that I’m hearing from the CEO-7. For me it’s not a matter of quick decay, solid fundamentals, and percussive base (Gibson) vs. sustain, brilliance, and lush base (Martin), it’s a matter of variety of tones that one can get out of an instrument.
I totally appreciate the Gibson sound – so much history comes flooding back with just a few measures. In fact if I was in the market for a dreadnaught at this moment I’d very likely get the new Gibson J-35. But in small body guitars, I think the CEO-7 is much more versatile than the LG-2 AE or the L-00 Pro (special to GC only but still hard to find).
Very good, balanced review. I have ordered a CEO 7 from MFG so excited about the new addition to my stable of guitars. I`ve been a Martin guy for almost 50 years & this sunburst is beautiful…..can`t wait to play some jazzy chords on this one!
Very nice review Todd, as always. Your words are elegant and musical. The CEO-7 sounds wonderful.
Thanks for an insightful and detailed review of what should become a good seller for Martin. I can’t personally play this guitar because the 1-3/4″ nut is too wide for me. But you make me wish I could. Thanks.
Thank you, Mark.
You know, given the fact this guitar will actually sell on the street for under $1,900, a fella might be able to afford the extra $200 or so to have the Custom Shop make him one with a 1-11/16″ neck.
Just sayin’ ;o)