C.F. Martin & Co. is just full of surprises these days. This sweet little OM is a case in point. From sustainable woods to alternative materials to clever electronic wizardry, Martin is combining tradition with high-tech functionality in some very appealing ways.
Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice
The three-piece back has wings of ovangkol, which is a species of Guibourtia
that comes from tropical West Africa, with an Indian rosewood wedge. The sides are also ovangkol. The top is solid Sitka spruce with a bold herringbone rosette—and I am a sucker for herringbone. The specs online say the neck is “select hardwood” and this looks like a nice piece of mahogany, which is a solid choice.
The fretboard and bridge, however, are not at all traditional, and not even wood. They’re something called Richlite, which is a “paper-based fiber composite used for a variety of architectural, food service, recreational and industrial applications,” including musical instruments, according to the company. I have to confess, I’m a bit of an ebony snob when it comes to fingerboards and bridges, but this stuff really took me by surprise. It feels amazingly like ebony, and I would be willing to bet it’s more stable and durable (whether or not ebony adds to the tone of a guitar is not a debate I’m willing to go into here). This Richlite stuff, which contains phenolic resin, feels great and the guitar plays like buttah, so I like it. We have a 1-3/4" nut and a 2-1/4" saddle, which is ideal for fingerstyle playing, and even though the fretboard has inlays, the Richlite was more consistent-feeling with the shell than ebony, and they didn’t bug the crap out of me like inlays sometimes do.
The bindings and endpiece are a material called Boltaron
, which is a laminated plastic used in everything from aircraft components to credit cards. The nut and saddle are Corian, another new-fangled material that’s proven to be tone-worthy in both acoustic and electric guitars. Now, contrast all this high-tech, alternative material with the classic, quintessential Martin look; this guitar looks like something my grandfather would have played on his front porch in southern Iowa. The shape has a vintage vibe about it, and the simple b/w/b perfling and herringbone rosette make it look completely charming. The mortise-and-tenon neck joint is another nod to tradition, and feels as rock-solid as it gets. The glossy top and satin back and sides are pleasing as well, and the satin neck is fast and completely comfortable.
All Shook Up
The pickup and onboard digital preamp are from Roland, and I have to say, they’re seriously cool. The pre is called the COSM, for Composite Object Sound Modeling. We’ve seen quite a bit of this technology in the acoustic guitar world recently, and while some of it is very intriguing, I’m not sure there’s not a fair way to go before they really
get what they’re after. The Roland preamp has a lot of truly useful features, but is so intuitive that I was able to figure out most of it before finding the manual (although I’m not a novice when it comes to acoustic technologies).