The first dreadnought size in the popular series, the D-45 John Mayer is a beauty
Also the first with the artist as the chief instrument designer
I am putting out the videos of many of the new Martins from Winter NAMM 2018 as soon as possible. The written review of this model will follow as soon as time allows.
I am befouled!
It is years beyond count since I found myself in a smoky bar. And everyone but me was smoking a cigarette or was briefly between their previous cigarette and their next. I left reeking of ash like an orphan boy sweeping out a foundry furnace.
When I entered said tavern the barmaid looked almost guilty, as if I might rat them out for allowing smoking in a public establishment. But then I remembered I was not in New York City and perhaps this was all perfectly legal.
In fact, it was the drinking that was shameful, since this was a dry county until not that long ago and the very premises, but a block from the old Moravian church in Nazareth, PA, was singularly frowned upon by the town elders and ultimately closed, at least for a time. It might as well have slid down the hill to the state route, since it has sunken so from its former dive bar charm.
Their only beer choices on tap were Bud, Bud Light, and Old Town Light. Their only scotch was Dewar’s and Johnny Walker Red, which filled an Old Fashion glass for $7, not to be outdone by the $2.50 bottle of Yuengling.
‘Twas sufficient to ease the pains of this very long day, which had me playing and squawking my way through my eleventh guitar demonstration video at 1:30 AM at Maury’s Music, in Coaldale, followed by my fingertips oooing and ouching their way through my first video session with a new 2018 Martin guitar model at the Martin factory in Nazareth a few hours later.
The final session ended a little before 5 PM and after a wonderful sushi dinner with Maury, he went back to Coaldale and I found myself in the farthest corner of the nearest smoker.
But things are much improved, now that I have aired out a bit from the smoking lounge, and I walked back through the icy air to the Classic Victorian Estate Inn, where I had been upgraded to the best bedroom, the occupant of my original room having extended their stay.
After a very hot shower, I now sit in a comfortable chair in a wonderfully weighty terrycloth robe and silk pajamas, with a lusciously flavorful glass of complementary sherry. All that is missing is some Persian slippers.
After I make sure I do not need to re-shoot any video from today, I shall paint my hands in Penetrex, the best Arnica Montana delivery device I have yet found, and retire.
The newly redesigned Martin D-45 2018 is awaiting me at Martin, next to my microphones still set in place, the guitar’s case still wrapped in a clear plastic bag after its release from Final Inspection.
But I can still smell oily tobacco smoke sending its free radicals my way from the bag across the room. Alas that it is far too cold to open a window. First world problems indeed.
Martin D-45 models and a new Authentic make the cut among the 2018 Martins
Doesn’t look like anything from the lists I saw were put off til Summer. So there’s LOTS of new Martin videos soon!
Check back to see and hear these and all the new Martins starting next week!
In the meantime, there is a sneak preview of this soon to be released …
Martin 000C-21 TSP T Spoon Phillips Custom Artist-Dealer collaboration, which will be officially announced on January 25.
A 12-fret dreadnought with the High Performance neck! Ultralight build with Adirondack spruce over Big Leaf mahogany with hide glue construction, light-weight carbon fiber used for the pickguard, and in composite with torrefied Adirondack spruce for the bridge plate! As well as lightweight tuners and fabulous Liquidmetal® bridge pins that for the first time have lost their chrome appearance and look like bone.
OK the previous two were done in similar Style 41. This one has the Style 42 pearl around the fretboard extension. Gorgeous inlays grace this stunning guitar made from highly figured katalox from the American tropics, which is harder than ebony, and heavily-bear clawed Engelmann spruce for the top!
Figured Engelmann spruce over Madagascar rosewood, with outrageous inlays by the one and only Harvey Leach that have an ice dragon on the headstock and a phoenix rising up the fretboard
Martin’s new cosmetic aging process is applied to the second edition of a D-45 Authentic that appeared the first year of the Authentic Series, which has an wider-than normal body and a honking huge neck, now with aged Adirondack spruce thanks to Martin’s Vintage Tone System, which wasn’t yet developed the first time around.
Like the 45 above, this D-18 Authentic with its classic mahogany and Adirondack build has the new cosmetic aging and will be “aged” one guitar at a time.
My mouth has watered for this model since I saw it on a list at Martin some time ago. And now I understand the wait, as it introduces torrefied Vintage Tone System mahogany to the Authentic Series!
Made entirely from woods certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council promoting responsible management of our precious natural resources, this Orchestra Model with on-board Electronics combines American cherry back and sides with a Sitka spruce top and European spruce bracing.
These are in addition to the D-45 John Mayer model and the forest of newly revised Standard Series Martins, see the links below!
C. F. Martin & Co. unveils a “reimagined Standard Series” for Winter NAMM 2018
The D-45 gets new binding and Style 28 returns to its roots while embracing Martin’s vision of its future.
More New Old Martins
The entire Standard Series that defines Martin guitars to the world has been uniformly converted to vintage guitar aesthetics achieved by applying Aging Toner to the Sitka spruce tops. While the Standard Style 18 and 21 models retain the faux tortoise binding of their predecessors, those made in Style 28, 35, 36, 40, 41, 42, and 45 all sport the Antique White binding introduced on select models in recent years.
Photos: The 000-28 (2018) replaces the last hold-out of the old Standard Series (click to enlarge)
Gone are the stark white bindings and the last of the black pick guards. Gone too are the tops with the natural French vanilla color slowly yellowing across the years as sunlight tans them toward butterscotch and onto pumpkin orange as the decades roll by. The appearance of the Aging Toner has been formulated to fall somewhere between Martin’s previous offerings of vintage-esque hues, and lands more in the butterscotch spectrum than not. Many of the new Standard Series models can be ordered with a Sunburst top or an Ambertone top.
Diamonds in the Black
Similar to the makeover given to Standard Style 18 a few years back, which combined Martin’s modern High Performance Neck with the scalloped forward-shifted bracing, tonewoods, and open-back tuners of the old Vintage Series 18s, the domino dots and black and white line inlay of last year’s 28s have been retired in favor of the bold herringbone trim around the top, and the diamond position markers gleaming from the black ebony fretboards of the (soon to be) extinct Vintage Series 28s. And the entire Standard Series will likewise be getting the High Performance Neck. Their marketing data suggests it is the best way to guarantee Martin’s cash flow remains very much in the black.
The High Performance Neck combines a Modified Low Oval shaping to the neck itself with a fretboard that has the High Performance Taper, measuring 1-3/4” wide at the nut, and 2-1/8” at the 12th fret – specs that have become the industry standard among popular guitarmakers. It does appear that Martin has made its last 1-11/16” Low Profile neck, other than on possible future special or limited editions.
That the HD-28 was being remade with the HP Neck in the image of the HD-28V has been known to me for some time now. But whether they would be uniformly remaking all the 28s was an open question until quite recently.
As the man with his name on the headstock, CEO Chris Martin remains intimately involved with many of the decisions that lead to just which Martin guitars end up for sale and when they will appear before the public. For example, it was his fourth quarter decision to withhold certain models from last year’s Winter NAMM until the Summer show. And even then, the revamped Standard D-28 (2017) didn’t get the go light until the last minute.
I was among those holding my breath as to just what exactly would be the final specs of the new Standard Series Martins when they were displayed at the Winter NAMM trade show on January 25, 2018.
One interesting tidbit, the 00-28 and 000-28 are keeping the Style 28 back strip, while the others are moving to the vintagesque zig-zag back strip used on 28s in the pre-WWII years. I had to wait until today’s executive luncheon ended to confirm this is indeed the way things will be at NAMM.
According one of those well-fed execs, “If an H appears in the model name (i.e. HD-28,) then it will have a zig-zag back strip…if no H, it will get a checkerboard pattern,” which appeared on contemporary Style 28 models since the late 1940s.
Photos: A tale of two 28 back strips (click to enlarge)
The H designation once signified herringbone trim and scalloped bracing. In the new Style 28, some guitars with both of those features do not get the H. And yes this does mean the OM-28 (2018) has surrendered its 1930s zig-zag for the 1950s checkerboard. But it and most of the Standard Series instruments with (2018) in the name get an upgrade in tuners, to Schaller GrandTune™ machines. Style 35 guitars retain the chrome enclosed Grover Rotomatics associated with Style 35 throughout its lifetime.
It Is What It Is
Change often comes slowly at Martin Guitars, while some of their biggest fans have a hard time accepting any change at all.
The loss of grained ivoroid bindings from the OM-42 or the additions of Antique White binding and Aging Toner to the top-of-the-line D-45 may seem like sacrilege to some (who had no intention of ever buying a D-45 anyway,) but it is the change to forward-shifted bracing on the HD-28, D-35, D-41, and D-45 that may prove much more controversial in practical terms, just as it has been for the D-28 2017 model that appeared at Summer NAMM.
The term forward-shifted bracing refers to where Martin placed the X brace in relation to the bridge plate on Dreadnought models made in the 1930s. It is often said to be one inch from the sound hole, but it is all about the flexibility of the spruce soundboard around bridge plate, father down the top from the X, which matters. That is where the majority of the sound-producing energy is transferred from the guitar strings to the musical instrument.
The bracing was moved nearer the bridge plate sometime in 1938, to a position now called “rear-shifted bracing.” And then it was brought forward a little bit at a time until the late ’50s, when it reached the position that was considered the “standard position.” That is, until now.
Moving the center of the main X brace that little bit farther away from the bridge plate on a Dreadnought-size guitar increases bass response noticeably, while adding more echoy resonance to the voice in general.
Martin going all-in on forward-shifted bracing (not including 12-string models) will bring further uniformity to the Standard Series, while also severing ties with the Martins made in the final 40 years of the twentieth century, at least when it comes to the brace position. There is no doubt it changes the voice of a guitar. But it will be left to the individual guitarist as to whether that is a good thing or not.
Likewise, the Company is all in on the take-it-or-leave-it stance concerning the High Performance Neck.
While the playability and feel of the HP Neck allows their ship-of-the-line Martins to enter into direct competition with makers like Collings, Huss & Dalton, and Taylor Guitars, not all guitarists are happy with the new Martin neck. They will have to look to Martins outside of the Standard Series when seeking a vintage style V neck, or they must look to the Custom Shop if they want a new Martin with the Low Profile neck from the old Standard Series.
Photos: The new D-45 (2018) has vintage looks and modern construction (click to enlarge)
C. F. Martin IV’s Legacy
It can be argued that this reimagined Standard Series may be the most important event in the continued success of the Chris Martin’s family business, since his great-grandfather, Frank Henry Martin, brought the Company into the twentieth-century and piloted it through the Great Depression. It took many years of trial and error to bring all these specs into one unified collection of reasonably-priced, professional-level guitars.
Now in his 60s, today’s Mr. Martin is gearing up to follow his long-time friend Dick Boak into retirement. He will be remembered for leading his Company out of one economic slump and through several others, by embracing and respecting Martin tradition while also introducing and championing modern technologies, and alternate and environmentally responsible materials, often combining the traditional with the futuristic to break new ground that will prove to be sound bedrock for his business to build upon for many years to come.
For guitarists who long for Martin guitars made more like the old timers, he has provided the excellent Authentic Series of meticulous vintage Martin recreations. And for those who want Martin to boldly step outside of their tried and true designs, there are the many special editions and Chris’ own CEO Series.
And now, his transformation of the Standard Series that began with the D-18 makeover in 2012 has come to fruition. By infusing many aesthetic features of old Frank Henry’s pre-war Martins with the modern technology like the High Performance neck, made possible in part by Martin’s exclusive two-way adjustable steel truss rod, the effort to return Martin’s Standard Series to its rightful place as the industry standard for top flight acoustic guitars is fully realized. It may very well be among the wisest moves Chris Martin could make as he prepares for the on-coming century of Martin guitars.
Check back soon, as we will be writing about other new Martins as soon as I am given the permission to start blabbing!
In the mean time…
Check out the new Standard Series Martins and their public spec sheets below
All guitars listed have new specs, or are wholly new to the Martin catalog for 2018.
A magnificent crown jewel in the guitarist’s series of Martin signature models, the D-45 John Mayer glitters gloriously
Intelligent combination of features produces 45 very special guitars
Limited to just 45 instruments, John Mayer designed this special edition for Martin’s 2018 offerings of new models that is also a special addition to his own series of Martin signature models, with some features that tie it into some the previous editions and others that make it wholly unique.
After two OMs and two 12-fret 00s, this is the first Mayer model made in the Dreadnought body size. And it continues the precedent set by the two 12-fretters by having the multi-ring abalone soundhole rosette continue across the black ebony fretboard, to complete the circle.
It is also the first Mayer model to feature Guatemalan rosewood for the back and sides. This is not the only special run of Martin guitars about to go on sale with that particular tonewood, but it is the largest.
The top is high-grade Engelmann spruce, with tonal properties that should meld and marry with those of the Guatemalan rosewood to produce an exceptionally lush and complex voice. And adding to that musical mojo are scalloped, 1/4″ Adirondack spruce top braces, forward-shifted like those found on vintage Martins. That should all make for one seriously resonant, rumbling, and roaring voice.
Other vintage-esque Martin features include the grained ivoroid bindings, open back tuners, and Aging Toner, which help give the appearance of a pre-war D-45, while a 1-11/16″ Full Thickness neck like that found on the resurrected D-45s of the late 1960s should provide a faster, less fist-filling fretting experience than the original old-timers.
Check out the other photos and specifications at the D-45 John Mayer official listing at Martin Guitars.
And check back here in three weeks for our exclusive review with video of this and other new Martins for 2018!
List prices on the limited edition Brazilian Rosewood D-28B and D-45B are considerably less than originally reported
$15,999 and $36,000 respectively
When having lunch with the three main instrument designers for C. F. Martin & Co. they could not remember what pricing was ultimately set for these special guitars. There estimate of $20K and $45K turned out to be rather high.
The actual prices will make each guitar more obtainable – except for the fact there are only fifteen 45s being built, and at most fifty 28s.
Please enjoy the following daydream: