History of Martin Acoustic Guitar & Series Review

Martin Acoustic Guitar has a reputation for making some of the best acoustic guitars available on the market today, and their attention to detail has set them apart from the competition. While people speak of the “Martin sound” when it comes to a Martin, the true attention to detail is revealed in the differences between their various series.

The Martin Acoustic Guitar Series Roll Call

Standard Series

The Martin Standard Series includes more than 25 models. The Dreadnought for example, a guitar first built by Martin in 1916, was designed in such a way as to enhance a guitar’s sound, making it bigger, richer, and with a tone able to carry in settings such as auditoriums in a time when there was no such thing as amplification. In fact, all of the guitars in the Martin Standard Series are now seen as the historic ‘core’ of the Martin line. Each Martin Guitar (both in the Standard Series and other Martin series) is based off of these original instruments, reflecting various adaptations and improvements for specific situations or tastes, but always keeping true to the Martin standards of quality and craftsmanship.

I Series

The Martin “One Series” is a line of affordable solid wood guitars made with the Martin attention to detail but priced for those who cannot afford their higher line models but do not want to sacrifice on quality. The guitars on which this line are based are the Martin Style 15 and Style 17, both of which were introduced to the public during the Great Depression as affordable solid-wood alternatives to Martin’s higher priced instruments. Each of these guitars has a full-bodied tone that can be attributed to its solid wood craftsmanship, though a tendency towards ‘tinniness’ has been a problem if the right guitar strings are not used on these models. While this series was discontinued after WWII due to a lack of interest in guitar playing (a phase that interestingly enough went hand-in-hand with the introduction of the television) the “One Series” was resurrected on April 1, 2009 as a response to the downturn in the economy, and has been hailed as a great success.

16-Series

The Martin Style 16 guitars were first introduced in 1961. These guitars were later the first to use sustainable native woods (like ash or walnut), responding to an increased interest in ecology and other global issues that were taking the world by storm. The Style 16 guitars were also the first to implement “X” bracing, a technique which gave the Style 16 guitars a firmer, more robust flavor that had an instant appeal to guitar players of the day. Today’s 16 Series guitars are made out of solid woods like koa, maple, sapele and East Indian rosewood which gives them an even richer, more rounded tone that many guitarists, both amateur and professional find to be a personal favorite for both practice and performance.

15 Series

The Martin Acoustic Guitar Style 15 Guitars are constructed of solid all solid mahogany woods and are finished with a herringbone rosette that is breathtaking in its attention to detail. Each comes with a matte finish which does not impede the tone of the guitar, or its improvement in flavor the more it is played. Each Style 15 guitar also comes with the standard Martin “X” bracing. The solid mahogany these guitars are made of gives them a deep, rich flavor that lends itself well to fingerstyle playing (but which can ‘mush’ with flatpicking). This makes the guitars of the 15 series the preferred choice of those guitarists who prefer to play classical, blues or jazz style due to the guitar’s ability to handle an intricate complexity of tone.

Authentic Series

Martin Acoustic Guitar’s Authentic Series is virtually hand built and each is unique; one of a kind. While these guitars are crafted to replicate specific models of Martins made before World War II (using the same materials and construction methods that were used then), each being made by hand means that no two guitars are going to look or sound exactly the same due to minor fluctuations in the construction process. For someone wanting an exact replica of the kind of guitar used then, this is a fantastic opportunity to own a piece of history. On the downside, however, because of the adherence to pre-war construction methods there is no way to guarantee what sort of guitar you are going to receive.

Certified Wood Series

The Martin Acoustic Guitar Certified Wood Series is a line of guitars made from solid ‘certified’ woods from a variety of exotic locations. While there are many guitars that claim to be made of certain ‘exotic’ woods, there is no way to ensure that they are what they claim to be. With the Martin Certified Wood Series, the authenticity and location of each wood used in construction is certified authentic by the company. While an adherence to Martin quality is used in the construction of each of these guitars, the models in the Certified Wood Series will each sound different from the other models depending on the type of wood used in construction for each type of wood has a different resonance and tonal quality.

Custom Artist Series

The Martin Custom Artist Series of guitars are models that are replicas of models Martin has custom made for specific artists over the years, so you too can own a guitar exactly like the one made for your favorite Martin Acoustic Guitar artist. While these models are fun to play and have as a collector, the custom craftsmanship of a guitar constructed specifically for a certain artist does not mean that it will perform well for you, so these should not necessarily be used as personal playing guitars, but more as something “nice to have.”

Golden Era Marquis Series

The Martin Acoustic Guitar Golden Era Marquis are recreations of guitars made during the ‘golden era’ of guitar building. During the “golden era” guitars were made by hand; each one crafted of solid exotic woods and embellished with any number of attractive features. The Martin Golden Era Marquis Series guitars feature ‘golden era’ appointments making them quite spectacular when it comes to visual appeal and are a favorite with those who are into guitar history but are more affordable than the original Martin Golden Era guitars ever dreamt of being thanks to modern construction methods. While the Martin Golden Era Marquis guitars are subjected to the same standards of Martin quality as its other guitars, these instruments are all about vintage-style reproductions, and while many of the guitars were very good, some were more about aesthetics than tone meaning that they are playable, but may not be up to contemporary Martin guitars’ standards for tone and playability.

Little Martin

Martin’s Little Martin series guitars are created with modified O-14 fret bodies and a smaller, 23” scale length. Most Little Martins are constructed with HPL (High Pressure Laminate) top, back and sides and recent models use a great amount of synthetic material in attempt to make them more durable.

Performing Artist Series

The Martin Performing Artist Series features affordable acoustic/electric guitars for performance musicians in all variety of settings. From stage musicians to those in recording studios, these guitars are crafted to provide the very best in quality and sound at a price that won’t break the bank. For the most part, these guitars are not necessarily high in added aesthetics (like rosettes and inlays), but their sound is outstanding.

Sustainable Wood Series

The Martin Sustainable Woods series guitars feature guitars constructed of environmentally-friendly sustainable tonewoods in order to ensure that more guitars will be able to be constructed for new users for decades to come. Emphasis is given to locally grown woods (to cut down on shipping) and in using woods that are being re-forested in order to sustain growth. While these models do not use some of the exotic woods that some players have come to expect in guitars, the sound of these models is fairly rich and rounded regardless, proving that sometimes breaking with tradition can actually be a good thing.

X-Series

The Martin X-Series all have a solid Sitka spruce or High Pressure Laminate top as well as backs and sides made from compressed wood fibers. This construction is marketed as being more environmentally friendly, but can tend to make the models in the X-series sound a bit ‘boxy’ in their tone though this can be avoided by testing out different types of strings until you find the kind that will go with your style of playing in such a way as to counter the ‘boxiness.’  

Backpacker

The Martin Backpacker is a very small guitar with a body shaped like an elongated triangle. This shape and style was designed to produce a high-quality, inexpensive guitar that can be taken traveling and camping and can fit comfortably into an airline’s over-head compartment. Made to be extremely durable, the Backpacker has a surprisingly loud sound, but a tone that may sound a bit ‘flat’ compared to other, larger Martin’s, and it’s base notes tend to fade into the background unless they are aggressively picked out. Thankfully, however, due to its rugged construction, the Martin Backpacker is an excellent choice for flatpicking, and will lend an awesome flavor to campfires and impromptu jam sessions wherever you go.

Martin Acoustic Guitar Reviews

The C.F. Martin Acoustic Guitar Company has been owned and operated by the Martin family since 1833. Largely renowned for extremely high-quality instruments, Martin has a reputation for high-end prices as well. They do, however, have a level of guitars at under $400 for the beginner. Their backpacker series is outstanding in design and sound quality. Martin Acoustic Guitar is famous for their bracing technique which produces a signature tone in every guitar. Elvis Presley used Martin acoustic guitars almost exclusively, and he played a D28 in his last live performance.

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