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

D’Angelico New Guitars and Aged Mahogany Finish for 2021

New High End and Entry Level D’Angelico Acoustics

Retro Looks Awesome on Modern D’Angelico

Two new solid-wood models have been released by D’Angelico, each has mahogany back and sides, a Sitka spruce top with scalloped bracing and an abalone rosette, and a bound pau ferro fingerboard. They also feature the Scroll-style Excel headstock, seen for the first time on D’Angelico acoustics, and a Fishman INK-4 pickup system with controls in the treble side of the guitar, as well as an onboard tuner. Finish options include Vintage Sunburst, Walnut Stain, and Vintage Natural.

Click on Photo to Enlarge

Excel Tammany XT

The OM sized Excel Tammany XT is here seen in Vintage Sunburst.
 D‘Angelico EOXT onemanz

Excel Gramercy XT

An upgraded, all-solid version of D’Angelico’s top-selling single-cutaway grand auditorium instrument, the Excel Gramercy XT is seen here in Walnut Stain.

D‘Angelico EG200XT onmanz

Aged Mahogany Finish

D’Angelico’s Premiere Series offers affordable acoustic-electric models in various sizes and shapes made with laminated mahogany back, sides, and top, and an artistically distressed finish, equipped with an onboard preamp and tuner.

Visit D’Angelico Guitars to learn more

dangelico-premier-acoustic-aged-mahogany finish onemanz

 

dangelico-premier-series looks onemanz

Martin DSS-17 Review

DSS-17 Whiskey Sunset / Black Smoke

First long-scale large body Martin in the affordable 17 Series impresses mightily

Specs include: Slope-Shoulder Dreadnought size; all-sold wood construction; mahogany back and sides; Sitka spruce top with scalloped-braces; mahogany neck with Modified Low Oval Profile, Simple Dovetail neck joint; rosewood fretboard with High Performance taper, 1-3/4″ at the bone nut, 2-18″ at 12th fret; straight rosewood bridge with compensated bone saddle and 2-5/32″ string spacing; Antique White binding; ebony headstock faceplate with Authentic 1933 script logo; satin finish throughout; open-back Golden Age relic tuners with cream buttons.

Available in Whiskey Sunset burst finish with tortoise pickguard or Black Smoke motif with Antique White pickguard.

Light in the hand yet large in the ears, the DSS-17 Whiskey Sunset I played at the Martin factory was very impressive indeed, with distinctly defined fundamental notes that have an expansive depth behind them, reflecting the dry, woody mahogany tone, and amplifying the well-rounded bass notes that are weighty enough to reach down into the generous body cavity and inject some richness beneath the entire voice.”

Full Review with Video Here

Martin DSS-17 Whiskey Sunset review with video pic

Martin DSS-15M StreetMaster Review

Martin’s DSS-15M with Sloped Shoulders and StreetMaster Styling

Mahogany mystique hits the streets as an affordable slope-shoulder dreadnought

Specs include: Slope-Shoulder Dreadnought size; solid mahogany back, sides, and top; satin finish with StreetMaster® distressed toner; solid mahogany neck with Modified Low Oval Profile; solid katalox fretboard with 1-11/16″ width at the bone nut; solid katalox belly bridge with compensated drop-in bone saddle, 2-1/8″ string spacing; scalloped A-Frame X bracing; Simple Dovetail neck joint; Old Style gold headstock logo; Golden Age relic tuners with cream buttons; short pattern Diamonds and Squares fretboard markers

“…as the thicker mids and barrel-chested bass notes are humming away, the trebles ring with a musicality that just puts a smile on my face, and effortless in how they are heard clearly from atop that warm, woody undertone, until their own sustain dips down into the massive cellar to meld with the lower registers.”

Martin D-15M StreetMaster Glam front

Read the Full DSS-15M StreetMaster Review Here

Martin DSS-17 Whiskey Sunset / DSS-17 Black Smoke Review

A long-anticipated Slope-Shoulder Dreadnought, the DSS-17 doesn’t disappoint

Long live the new King of 17 Series, in either Whiskey Sunset burst or Black Smoke motif

This is the companion video for the Martin DSS-17 written review – COMING SOON!

Martin 00-17 Authentic 1931 – REVIEW

Torrefied mahogany debuts on the Martin 00-17 Authentic 1931

The most affordable Authentic model yet, and perhaps ever

“This 12-fret 00 generates tone that expands in all directions, filling the room with clearly defined notes and woody sympathetics, while creating a soundscape of inner depth that seems far greater in size than the physical dimensions of the instrument should allow.”

Read the full review HERE

Read the full review HERE

Martin 00-17 Authentic 1931

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