C.F. Martin guitar models have always included tradition, craftsmanship
and cutting edge technologies
“I’ve played Martins for over forty years. Your article is one of the best written on a Martin product.”
– Peter Lazazzera, guitar lover
(Links to our Martin guitar reviews are found at the bottom of this page.)
The guitars of C.F. Martin became sought after across the country, almost the moment he started making them in New York City, in 1833. He moved to Nazareth, PA before the Civil War, where today the Martin guitar company remains one of the oldest family businesses in America and the oldest musical instrument maker.
[NOTE: This page is still under construction. Last updated on 09/09/2015]
Martin’s designs revolutionized the acoustic guitar, first with the invention of X bracing in the nineteenth century, and later with the development of the Orchestra Model and Dreadnought body sizes, which became the standard shapes for most steel-string guitars seen today.
Under the leadership of C.F. Martin IV, the twenty-first century has found the company investing in both cutting edge technologies, and old-school craftsmanship. They continue to produce their tried and true designs, while introducing new lines of progressive guitars, and several pricing tiers of instruments with varying degrees of vintage features.
As time goes on, One Man’s Guitar will review various Martins available for sale today, as well as some custom orders worthy of sharing with other guitar aficionados.
Representative Martin Guitars
Professional-level guitars, including many of their flagship models, Martin’s Standard Series guitars are made from solid tonewoods (mahogany for Style 18, Indian rosewood for Style 21 and above, and occasionally Hawaiian koa), and solid Sitka spruce tops, and fingerboards and bridges of solid ebony.
Performing Artist Series
In 2010, Martin launched a new series of instruments aimed at contemporary artists who wanted sleeker necks, bolder looks, and plug-and-play on board state-of-the-art electronics. PA Series guitars are now being made at all price points.
To read an in-depth article on the PA Series and its many models, go HERE
The Retro Series guitars are acoustic-electric instruments that typically sport vintage Martin appointments similar to the Vintage Series instruments, matched to the modern High Performance Neck that has a modified low oval profile and the Performing Artist taper to the fingerboard width.
The term Retro refers to the fact the on-board Fishman Aura F1+ pickup system contains microphone images taken from actual vintage Martins from the 1930s and 40s, etc. captured by the world’s best microphones.
While they may not make a D-18E Retro sound exactly like a prewar D-18, the system does a very good job of making a guitar coming through an undersaddle pickup sound much more like an acoustic guitar coming through a microphone.
A list of the microphones used to create the Aura images on all the Retro Series models can be found HERE
In addition to their modern instruments, C.F. Martin & Co. offers guitars reminiscent of Martins from the 1930s and 40s, which set the gold standard for acoustic, steel-string guitars.
Over the past quarter-century, the Vintage Series, Marquis Series, Golden Era Series, and Authentic Series each offered guitarists varying amounts of vintage specs, cosmetics and luthiery techniques. Today, these guitars are gathered under the Marquis Collection, where guitarists may find an instrument with just the right amount of vintage vibe within their budget.
Guitars in the Vintage Series have the same basic build and materials of the Standard Series Martins, but with modified V necks, scalloped bracing in all cases, and retro cosmetics for the binding and fingerboard inlays, etc.
The Marquis/Golden Era Series
The next step up in vintage specs, these guitars are made with Adirondack spruce soundboards, a lighter, more flexible scalloped bracing and period-correct neck widths and string spacing, as well as wood fiber inlays, rather than plastic, etc.
Note: Such guitars were originally named Golden Era, as in D-18GE. When the availability of Brazilian rosewood became unstable, Martin discontinued its use for back and sides on rosewood models in Style 28 and 45, as well as trim on Style 18 guitars, and began using the title “Marquis” to differentiate between those guitars with Brazilian rosewood and those without. Otherwise, the construction specs are identical between a GE and Marquis, but some changes in the brand of tuners, etc. has been known to occur.
The Authentic Series
In 2005 Martin introduced the D-18 Authentic 1937, and it was a whole new ballgame.
A team of some seven employees endeavored to create the most accurate reproduction of a prewar Martin made at the Martin factory since World War II, based on mahogany dreadnought built in 1937. In doing so, they re-introduced some traditional building techniques, including the size and shape of the bracing inside the guitar, and the size and shape of the neck and support rod, thickness of the fingerboard and so on.
They also returned to the use of hot animal hide glue, for the first time since 1965, which requires considerably more time, effort and overhead compared to synthetic glues. But many guitarists and luthiers are convinced hide glue makes a noticeable difference in the sound that ultimately is created by an acoustic guitar.
Most of that original Authentic team has since retired from factory work, but they trained other employees, who trained further employees. In the convening years since 2005 the D-18A 1937 was joined by the 000-18 Authentic 1937, the D-28 Authentic 1937, and more recently the D-45 Authentic 1942, which was offered for the handsome list price of $59,999, or about one-quarter the price of a real prewar D-45.
These guitars were all made in relatively small quantities. The D-45A 1942 is the last of the original Authentics and it was retired as of 2014. The D-18A 1937 had the longest run and by far the largest production numbers. But it was retired with the introduction of the new Authentics, in January 2013.
These new Authentic Series guitars are the result of painstaking investigation into the smallest details of Martins made between 1930 and 1942, and involved the use of cutting edge imaging technology, including the CAT scan machine at the Smithsonian Institute. After much trial and experimentation, Martin is now ready to start producing a whole line of vintage replicas to rival the best made anywhere in the world. They are made in the Martin Custom Shop with a new team and production system in place. As a result, prices for Authentics are coming down, meaning more guitarists will be able to afford a high-end vintage repro Martin than ever before.
For more information on specific instruments in the Authentic Series, go HERE
And that is one man’s word on…
C.F. Martin & Co.
Reviews of Martin Guitars at One Man’s Guitar
Authentic Series – in-depth reviews of all of them