Style 16 Guitars of the 1980s and Early 1990s?

A reader asks about the Style 16 guitars from the 1980s…

“Where does the 16 Series fit in? I have a 1989 D-16M that is indistinguishable in every way, including spec wise, from a traditional D-18.” — Aden in South Africa

Spoon replies:

Congratulations on your D-16M. It is one of the lesser-known but wonderful Martin models. So too are the 000-16 and 000C-16 from the same era.

But the D-16M at that time was anything but exactly like a traditional D-18, of that era anyway. It is closer to the D-18V from the Vintage Series, minus the V neck.

The D-18 in those days had a black pickguard and black binding, and white domino dots for fret position markers – and non-scalloped bracing. The 1989 D-16M had the tortoise trim and pickguard, Style 17 dots  – and scalloped braces with a smaller maple bridge plate, at a time when most Martins did not get those very excellent construction features.

1989 Martin D-16M onemanz.com

The D-16M also had the Low Profile neck shape years before the standard D-18 got it. But 1989 might have been the first year of that neck shape moving to the D-18. They had been making the D-18P (P for the new neck profile) for three years by that time and 1989 is the first year they did not. But they did make the D-28P, HD-28P and D-35P that year, so the official change from the Full Thickness profile to the Low Profile on what we now call Standard Series instruments may have taken place in 1990.

What makes them desirable to me is the scalloped bracing at a time when the D-18 had non-scalloped bracing. The same goes for the 000-16 and 000C-16. Not only that, the 000s have 1/4″ scalloped bracing, and they have a long-scale neck. So they are really more like an OM-18 than the 000-18 of the day, except for the 1-11/16″ nut width. And the version with the oval cutaway has a 22 fret neck! Clearly meant for electric guitarists. Mine is from 1991.

Martin 000C-16 T Spoon Phillips onemanz.com

But Style 16 was always changing. Some 1980s 16s were made with black binding, others have tortoise; with satin finish or with full gloss; with vintage toner on the top or not; and some were made with the light stain normally used for maple guitars.

When Style 16 first appeared in 1961, it was limited to 12-fret guitars in size 0 that were lightly built to be used with nylon or extra light steel strings, and given the suffix NY in homage to the Martins from the 1800s that were sold with a label reading New York, NY, because that was where Martin’s lone distributor did business. A 00-21NY was made at the same time. In 1962 a size 5 guitar was offered in Style 16 as well.

When Style 16 returned in the mid-1980s as a collection of 14-fret guitars, it was sort of the mahogany version of Style 21 vis-a-vis Style 28. It got slightly lower-grade wood than the 18 (even if the woods are better than what you see on an 18 today.) And they had smaller dots previously used on Style 17 instruments in the 1950s, as well as no inlay around the top or back.

But otherwise, they have the full dovetail neck joint and solid American mahogany neck block, and with all the same construction of what we now call the Standard Series, which make them ridiculously great guitars to have now, after seasoning all those years. This is especially true for mahogany lovers, since there were no mahogany Martins made with scalloped bracing at that time. And of course, it is all tropical American Big Leaf mahogany, not the stuff from Africa used on the 16 Series today.

The 16s did not appear in the Martin catalog at first. They were built for export and sold mainly in Canada. But they were also sold as NAMM Show Specials for American dealers who made the effort to attend the trade shows. They proved so popular that they were eventually added to the official price lists.

They made 660 D-16M guitars in 1989. (A total of 2,120 were made in years 1986, 1987, 1989, and 1990.) They also made the D-16A (ash back and sides, 818 total, 1987, 1988, 1990) D-16W (walnut, 100 total, 1987) and D-16K (koa, 390 total in 1986.)

D-16A ash back and sides onemanz.com

D-16A with ash back and sides

In addition, the D-16 was replaced by the D-16H which had slightly different trim each year (1,692 made between 1991 -1994.) But all have had a herringbone back strip and rosette, like Vintage Style 21. Those features would eventually become the hallmarks of Style 16 of the 1990s and the modern 16 Series instruments that followed.

Although production numbers for the 000-16  and 000C-16 (the M was not always included in the stamp) were not much less than the D models, the non-cutaway 000-16M is far more rare on the used market. I guess that speaks to how much their owners love them.

When they do show up for sale they are still priced between $1K – 1.5K. The Ds go for around the same amount. These are ridiculously good bargains for such excellent guitars.

The chief reason these gems are undervalued is because in late 1995 a certain bean counter did away with these great guitars and replaced them with the Mortise and Tenon neck joint version that had the A-Frame bracing necessary for that design. The change was all about maximizing profits on a relatively more-affordable Martin guitar. Many people assume the 16s always were that way.

For those in the know, the 16s made from 1986 until the switch sometime in 1995 are awesome and ahead of their time when it came to styling and scalloped bracing. There are various time periods when Martin was trying things out on their way to codifying this or that, and sometimes they accidentally invented an excellent if short-lived model. The D-16 built between 1986 to 1994 is definitely one of them, no matter which exact version it is.

In my opinion, today’s 16 Series guitars are greatly improved from the ones made in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and are aimed at electrified performance. They all have built-in pickup systems and the larger bodies have the reduced depth of a 000 for anti-feedback purposes. They are immensely popular with good reason. But I always tell people that if they find a pre-1995 16 in good shape, buy it!

And that is one man’s word on…

Martin Style 16 from the 1980s and early 1990s

Bourgeois Guitars Winter NAMM Collection

Dana Bourgeois and His Stunning Guitars

A Sampling of What 2021 Has to Offer

Keeping busy the best way he knows how, Dana Bourgeois and his small company of dedicated craftspeople are putting out some stunning one of a kind instruments. Here is a small sampling.

Click on Photos to Enlarge

Bourgeois Nova

Made with “Panama Red” rosewood and aged Adirondack spruce

Bourgeois D Nova full onemanz

 

Bourgeois D Nova side onemanzBourgeois D Nova Panama Rosewood b and s onemanz

Bourgeois OMS Style 42

Slothead 12-fretter in master grade koa

Bourgeois OMS koa full omemanz

 

Bourgeois OMS koa side omemanzBourgeois OMS koa head onemanz

Visit Bourgeois Guitars to See Many More

*** Update on Bourgeois – Eastman Joint Venture***

It has been over a year ago that Eastman announced a joint venture partnership with luthier Dana Bourgeois, (link to jan 2020 post) to create a line of guitars more affordable than the high-end boutique guitars made by Bourgeois in Lewiston, Maine. The global pandemic has disrupted the timing of that new business arrangement, just like everything else. But I do look forward to seeing one of those instruments eventually.

The arrangement will create guitars similar to Martin’s old Shenandoah Series, which had the guitar parts made in Asia, before being assembled and finished in Nazareth, PA. In this case, much of the woodworking is done in Maine, before the guitars are assembled and finished in China, and then given their final setup in the USA.

This isn’t the first time Bourgeois partnered with outsiders to make a play for wider market presence. But it resulted in him being unable to market guitars under his own name for some years.

This time, he retains greater control over the quality of the final product, while gaining a serious overseas presence, and offering a line of guitars considerably more affordable than the $4K – $10K guitars currently available from Bourgeois Guitars.

Dana Bourgeois Voicing Top onemanz

Dana Bourgeois “voicing” a new guitar



Taylor Guitars at Winter NAMM

Optimistic Travel Guitars from Taylor for 2021

Two new Taylor models made in their recently-invented Grand Theater size

Taylor’s Grand Theater size sounds gigantic and yet it designed to create a more compact instrument with a 24.5” string scale and a 1-23/32” nut width, and body shape similar to their largest models, only smaller. These “travel guitars” come with a lightweight but protective Aerocase, and their asymmetrical C Class bracing, which is designed to increase bass response in guitar designs that need it.

Both instruments are larger than ukulele size guitars out there, while still satisfying those who want a petite instrument that is easily portable and and easy to play.

The GT K21e features all-koa construction, while the GT 811e features solid Indian rosewood back and sides and solid Sitka spruce top. Each model has the C Class bracing, ES2 pickup system, and an ebony fretboard and bridge, with wood from environmentally-friendly sustainable forests in Africa.

Taylor-GTK21e-frl-2020 onemanz

Taylor-GTK21e-bkl-2020 onemanz

The rosewood 811e has 800 Series appointments that include an abalone rosette, and the GT811e has burst edge finish to the koa top, a maple rosette and decorative vine fretboard art.Taylor-GT811e-frl-2020 onemanz

Taylor-GT811e-bkl-2020 onemanz

Visit Taylor Guitars

Other 2021 Acoustic Guitar News to Come…

Martin Guitars 2021 Offerings for Winter NAMM




Martin Offers New Models at Most Pricing Tiers for Winter NAMM 2021

UPDATED Monday 10:00 AM after a talk with Fred Greene at Martin and with guitarist Craig Thatcher providing some demo playing.

From the modest OXK Concert Uke to the Magnificent D-35 David Gilmour signature models,  there is much to admire

In a scaled-down offering for a scaled-down NAMM Show, the 2021 Martin guitars still offer plenty of excitement. And none are more thrilling for me than the long-awaited David Gilmour signature models.

Designed by Martin’s Fred Greene and David Gilmour in a close collaboration, the D-35 David Gilmour its companion D-35 David Gilmour 12 String are inspired by some iconic Martins that the guitarist has played and loved since he first skyrocketed to superstardom with Pink Floyd. These include a pre-war Martin D-18, and the two instruments he used to record the immortal classic, Wish You Were Here – a 1969 D-35 and 1971 D12-28. And I wish both where here with me right this very minute! But you can click below to read about why I feel that way, in my twin reviews.

Click on Photos to Enlarge

Martin D-35 David GilmourMartin D-35 David Gilmour onemanz clear back

Martin D-35 David Gilmour 12 String

Martin D-35 David Gilmour 12 String Guitar onemanz clear

For the forward-thinking 16 Series, Martin has released the new Grand J-16E 12 String made with all solid tonewoods including East Indian back and sides and a Sitka spruce top with scalloped bracing, It is unusual for Martin to put scalloped bracing on a twelve-string guitar, not to mention giving it a long-scale neck. And these are not typical Martin braces.  Having Martin’s largest soundboard, they are progressively scalloped, so they taper shallower as they expand toward the sides, and it has an additional tone bar below the bridge. But then this guitar is unique even for a Grand J, as it is the first one made with 000 depth to side, considerably shallower than other Grand J guitars  like the Pete Seeger baritone models and the CEO-8. Despite having less depth, which makes it more comfortable for the player, it still has a full and complex voice that reminded me of a harpsichord, and brought to mind Leo Kottke’s early albums.

Martin had great success with using the 000 depth on their Dreadnought and Grand Performance sizes in the 16 Series of acoustic electric performance instruments and the more affordable Road Series as well. So I am looking forward to giving this one a test drive as soon as possible. The Grand J-16E 12 string comes standard with Fishman’s Matrix VT Enhance NT2, fine-tuned for guitars with shallow sound chambers.

Grand J-16E 12 StringMartin Grand J-16E 12 String onemanz

Martin Grand J-16E 12 String back onemanz

As for the Road Series, two gorgeous debutantes are the D-13E Ziricote and the GPC-13E Ziricote. Both have the 000 depth and Fishman MX-T electronics that offer a volume and tone wheel inside the sound hole on the bass side, as well as an on-board tuner hidden on the treble side.

D-13E ZiricoteMartin D-13E Ziricote front onemanz

Martin D-13E Ziricote back onemanz

Ziricote is a dense hard wood from tropical America, and when used as a solid tonewood it has great thickness to the tone and pronounced bass response. But here, it is being used as a cosmetic veneer, laid down over top a core of solid khaya, also called African mahogany, which does most of the heavy lifting when it comes to enhancing the tone of the spruce soundboard. But there is also a layer of ziricote on the inside, which does add its influence. Having now heard one of these guitars, they do sound darker and fuller in the low mids than the Style 13 Martins with koa veneer, which also use a kyaya core. And they offer a very different look, as ziricote has dramatic grain patterns often resembling Rorschach drawings, and rich, dark colors that rival the wildest rosewoods. As with the SC-13E (see my article in the new issue of Martin – The Journal of American Guitars) these new ziricote Martins have the kind of hypnotic beauty that can lead a guitarist to sit for long periods of time just admiring the amazing back and sides.

GPC-13E ZiricoteMartin GPC-13E Ziricote front onemanz

Martin GPC-13E Ziricote back onemanz

The Journal of American Guitars issue for 2021 is dedicated primarily to environmental sustainability of precious natural resources like wood. And Martin has released a model dedicated to exactly that proposition. The 00L Earth is a short-scale, slope shoulder Grand Concert guitar made entirely from wood certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council, including quartersawn sapele with perfect copper banding, and Sitka spruce from a sustainable timber forest. And it contains no plastic. But it also contains a stunning piece of artwork of Mother Earth printed on the top, created by artist Robert F. Goetzl. There is also a high-end FSC Ukulele, a Concert size instrument with all FSC Certified woods, including Big Leaf mahogany for the back, sides, and top, just like the professional level ukes from the 1920s, and ebony for the fingerboard and bridge. It has a lovely and surprisingly warm tone for the size, but also has the comfortable Concert size string scale with plenty of room for the fretting hand.

00L EarthMartin 00L Earth full One Man's Guitar onemanz

Concert Uke FSC Martin concer uke fsc_front onemanz

Rounding out this winter’s Martin lineup is a new Junior Series guitar with a dreadnought shape and the fabulous Streetmaster styling from the 15 Series, and a matching T1 Uke Streetmaster, made from mahogany (sapele) with the same sort of styling. The mahogany top imparts a terrific bottom end on the DJr. that makes it sound like a much larger guitar. And it has a USB port, to go direct from the Fishman pickup to your PC recording software! The Tenor size uke has a pretty, woody tone.

DJR-10EMartin djr-10e-streetmaster front onemanz

T1 Uke StreetmasterMartin T1 uke-streetmaster_front onemanzThere is an even more-affordable ukulele in the X Series, the OXK Concert Uke with a glorious koa pattern. But being made from Martin’s High Pressure Laminate, it looks way more expensive than it is while being the ideal travel instrument, virtually impervious to weather, spills, or the heat from a campfire.

OXK Concert UkeMartin 0XK uke_front onemanz

A pretty great showing for an officially scaled-down release!

I am not allowed to comment on what didn’t come out. But I will say I must now look forward to 2022 with even greater anticipation. And I am hoping we might see something from the postponed releases in July for Summer NAMM.

Visit Martin Guitars and check out their redesigned website!

Fall Martin Models Announced – Woodstock D-45




D-45 Woodstock 50th Anniversary Model Among New Martin Line Up

Hawaiian Koa Showcased in Road Series and X Series

Whatever the reason, C. F. Martin & Co. decided to announce their autumn additions early this year, to coincide with the release of the third and final Woodstock 50th Anniversary guitar.

click on photos to enlarge

Extra Fancy D-45

The Martin D-45 Woodstock 50th model is built from top-grade Indian rosewood and Sitka spruce, European flamed maple binding on the body, the Genuine Mahogany neck with its High Performance ebony fretboard, and around the front of the headstock. It also has the forward-shifted scalloped braces and Modified Low Oval neck profile of the  Standard Series D-45.

The headstock features an inlay of the iconic Woodstock dove, sitting atop Martin’s ornate Alternate Torch inlay, made of high color abalone pearl, as are the 1930s style Snowflake fretboard markers, and of course the purfling inlaid around the sound hole, and every edge of the top, sides, and back, including the edge where the neck meets the body.

This completes a set of Woodstock 50th models that includes a DX and D-35 released at Winter NAMM 2019.

Koa, Koa, Koa

Martin’s affordable Road Series has gained two new models, the short-scale 000-12E Koa and the full-size dreadnought D-12E Koa. Each is made from African Mahogany ( Khaya ivoresnsis) for the back and sides, which has a fine veneer of great-looking koa bonded to the outside. Although these  guitars are designated as Style 12, they have the mother-of-pearl pattern rosette used on all the modernized Road Series guitars, except for the normal D-12, which has a rosette that looks more like a traditional Martin from the Standard Series. Go figure.

And speaking of figure, the koa does look very nice indeed. The use of veneer over less visually attractive wood is as old as the C. F. Martin business itself. But today it is a new technique, designed to make these acoustic-electric models more environmentally friendly, just like use of Forest Stewardship Council certified Richlite for their fretboards and bridges.

Martin-D-12E_GLAM 20 new Martin-000-12E_GLAM 20 new

In the X Series there are now two dreadnought models, the D-X1E and D-X2E that have been upgraded by the use of real wood for the neck, and truly gorgeous looking koa was used to create the photographic image that makes the High Pressure Laminate look like top-shelf tonewood.

The D-X1E has a fretboard and bridge made of Richlite, while the D-X2E gets a wooden board and bridge made from katalox to go along with its solid Sitka spruce top.

The X and Road Series guitars come with Fishman MX electronics, with the Road Series guitars also having an onboard tuner included, placed just inside the sound hole.

You can learn more about these new Martin models HERE.

And coming soon! The new X Series Johnny Cash model!!

Martin CS-OM True North-16 Review

The Compass to a Koa Wonderland is Found in Martin’s 2016 CS-OM

Elegant marquetry graces a classic Martin Orchestra Model from the Custom Shop

CS-OM True North-16 specs include: Top Shelf all-solid wood construction, including exceptionally-figured koa back and sides, a master grade Adirondack spruce top with 1/4” Adirondack spruce braces and high color paua shell purfling; unique True North motif with marquetry of a compass rose on the back in flamed Claro Walnut, flamed jarrah and waterfall bubinga with paua pearl accents; genuine mahogany High Performance neck with high gloss finish, Modified Low Oval profile, High Performance taper to the ebony fingerboard with four-point star outline fret markers; ebony bridge with 2-5/32” string spacing; ebony binding on body, neck, headstock; waterfall bubinga rosette with outline star inlay; high color paua pearl top and rosette purfling; ebony headstock face plate with figured koa “parchment” and compass rose, C.F. Martin script logo in paua pearl.

“I love how the True North’s crystalline lens of Adirondack spruce etches such fine detail into the warm koa undertone and shimmery high harmonics, as they sustain, fluctuate, and slowly fade, with each undulating glimmer as languid as lamplight on a tropical lagoon.”

CS-OM True North-16 vid cap

Read the Full Review with Video HERE

Martin 000-28K Authentic 1921 is Stellar

Aesthetic beauty, effortless playability, and charming tonality
make the 000-28K Authentic 1921 a big success

“When Martin unveiled their revamped Authentic Series this time last year, each of the new models were an immediate sensation. These ‘as close as we can make ‘em to the old days’ Martins are meticulous recreations of specific guitars residing in Martin’s own museum, and they are everything people hoped they would be. So there was considerable speculation and anticipation regarding what additions might be made to the series in 2014. The Martin 000-28K Authentic 1921 was a most pleasant surprise.

An all-koa 12-fret 000 from the twenties was not atop anyone’s list. That is, until they actually get their hands on an example of the new 000-28K Authentic 1921, when they marvel at the majestic and melodious music it makes. With its stunning good looks and its warm, plump bass notes, strong mid-range, and pure and ringing trebles, it was declared again and again the most impressive of the impressive crop of 2014 Martins by those who had a chance to play them all.”

Read the Full Review of the Martin 000-28K A 1921

(2/6/14 – now with updated video!)

Martin 000-28K Authentic 1921

Juber’s Juber – the Martin OMC-44K LJ

Our latest guitar review, the Martin OMC-44K LJ

No ordinary guitar…this OMC-44K LJ has an Orchestra Model body size, with a Cutaway and it is made in a modern version of Martin’s Style 44, with back and sides of Hawaiian Koa wood, known for its unique combination of clear trebles, warm harmonics, but with a more open mid-range compared to other rich tonewoods like rosewood. Just the way Laurence Juber likes it.

Read the Full Review of the OMC-44K LJ

OMC-44K LJ
(photos: Wildwood Guitars)
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