14 fret

A mid-priced take on a slotted-headstock, 12-fret dreadnought with big bass and a lot of class.

Solid build. Big bass response. Great finish. Easy-to-play neck.

Fourteen-fret dread fans may miss some sustain and high-end resonance.

$999

Alvarez Masterworks MDR70ESB
alvarezguitars.com

4
4.5
4
4

Mid-priced acoustic guitars are a tricky proposition. The maker has the unenviable task of building a guitar that's affordable but upmarket enough in sound and playability to justify spending what's still a considerable chunk of change. That design directive generally means compromise at every turn. So, when I received the Alvarez Masterworks MDR70ESB, I thought a lot about what concessions Alvarez might have made. But sitting there in the case, everything about this guitar's looks belie its $999 street price. From its 12-fret neck, cool vintage sunburst, all-solid spruce and rosewood construction, slotted headstock, and hip 12th-fret inlay, the Alvarez sets up big expectations.

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Recording King’s new Adirondack-spruce-and-mahogany RO-310 is almost a greatest-hits fusion of popular OM and 000 features.

Fingerstylists might be the type of guitarist most commonly associated with 000 and OM body styles, but countless players, producers, and engineers in just about every other style also consider the compact, full tones of an OM or 000 to be the ideal acoustic guitar sound. Country blues players love their concise tonality and playability. Rock producers and engineers love their harmonic balance. And folk players love how rich they can sound without dominating a vocal or ensemble blend. That adaptability has made the 000 one of the most enduring guitar designs in history.

Martin introduced the 000 in 1902, and it has followed a fascinating evolutionary path ever since—from 12 frets to 14, from a 1 11/16" nut to a 1 3/4", from mahogany to rosewood versions, and morphing into the now-legendary OM along the way.

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The Martin OM isn’t your usual 6-string success story. As Martin’s first 14-fret guitar, it’s an instrument that helped birth what’s now an industry standard. But just six years after its 1929 introduction, the OM was gone—supplanted by the subtly, but significantly, different 14-fret 000. Fast forward more than three quarters of a century though, and the OM is one of the flagship Martins—an instrument popularly regarded as the template for a great, fingerstyle acoustic. Given that status, it’s not at all surprising to see the OM as one of the pillars of Martin’s new Retro Series—a line that aims to bridge the most timeless, treasured, and unassailable merits of Martin’s classics with Fishman’s fascinating and effective Aura imaging technology.

In short, the results are impressive. The OM-28 reviewed here is an upscale Martin in every sense—luxuriously and exactingly built and, at times, a revelatory experience under the fingers. But the potential of this latest evolution and application of Fishman’s Aura technology can be equally striking. And though the union of the OM-28 and the Aura will almost certainly be enough to make some hardcore-Martin purists wince (they are nothing if not an intensely devoted sect), there’s no denying that Martin and Fishman have created a formidable stage and studio instrument that bristles with pure Martin beauty and vintage glow.

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