Martin 000-15M Burst

How do I love thee, mahogany? Let me count the ways: I love thee on old Les Pauls. I love thee on Fender-style “parts” guitars. (Try it and see!) But I most truly love the crap out of thee on small-bodied steel-string acoustics.

So no surprise that I adore this pretty new Martin. It’s a simple but elegant 000 brimming with gorgeous, studio-ready tones at a sensible street price of $1,399.

Simple, Not Plain
There’s no purfling or binding here—only a minimal rosette and understated pearlescent position markers. Instead, Martin invested in what counts: great-sounding materials and stellar workmanship. But despite its simplicity, this guitar is a looker, with an eye-catching burst top beneath a simple satin finish.

This guitar boasts stunning dynamic range. I swear, it makes you play with increased drama and contrast.

The 000-15M felt and sounded great right out the case. The frets are comfy, and the build is flawless. Yeah, there was some new-guitar tightness, but after an hour or so of playing, things seemed to open up, though maybe that’s because I was learning how to exploit the guitar’s expressive nature.

How expressive? Incredibly! This instrument boasts stunning dynamic range. I swear, it makes you play with increased drama and contrast. The same goes for its tonal range: Shifting your picking hand in small increments yields big color shifts. I especially love the response when you pluck toward the fretboard—the warm, fat tones can sound almost like a nylon-string classical. (Thank you, mahogany. Did I mention that I love thee?)

Getting Picky
But before you run out to buy one of these, be aware of what small-bodied mahogany guitars can and can’t do. This isn’t a very loud instrument. Nor is it zingy: Notes have clear, decisive fundamentals, but you don’t get the high-end sizzle typical of many modern acoustics.

Ratings

Pros:
Great build. Good looks. Ravishing tones.

Cons:
Easily overpowered by aggressive strumming.

Tones:

Playability:

Build/Design:

Value:

Street:
$1,499

Martin 000-15M Burst
martinguitar.com

(Fine by me—I prefer these burnished, vintage-flavored tones.) All registers are beautifully balanced. There’s no shortage of lows while recording, but the 000-15M tends not to project them strongly across the room.

 

Also, the guitar’s hair-trigger response may simply be a little too volatile for some players. I don’t want sound like a jerk by saying this is an instrument for advanced guitarists, but those with solid picking-hand technique will probably feel most at home here. And while I loathe the cliché that big-bodied guitars are for strumming and small bodied-ones are for fingerstyle, it’s kind of true in this case. Pickstyle strumming can sound great at moderate levels, but aggressive strumming easily overpowers the guitar, and bearing down harder can paradoxically make tones seem smaller. The 000-15M probably isn’t the right axe for heavy-handed open-G strummers.

But dang, does it record well! Savvy session players often prefer small-bodied acoustics because they realize that the lows and mids those models lack are precisely the frequencies that tend to get deliberately filtered out come mix time. Here, the pre-EQ sound is fabulous (though engineers are likely to boost the highs in many cases).

The Verdict
I love this pretty guitar and its warm, supremely expressive tones. The 000-15M doesn’t respond particularly well to aggressive strumming or inconsistent technique, so this may not be a great choice if you’re Woody Guthrie bashing away at a rowdy union rally, or just someone trying to project unamplified acoustic tone to the back pew in church. (Note, though, that this model is also available with built-in electronics, and it would probably sound great in big rooms when properly amplified.) But the 000-15M is most sublime in the studio, close-miked to capture all its gorgeous tonal detail. Provided you know what you’re getting into with this body style and these materials, I can’t recommend this guitar more highly. —Joe Gore

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