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FDP Forum / FDP Unplugged - Acoustic Instruments / So what's the deal with Martin?


USA - Kentucky

Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
Jan 2nd, 2003 10:41 PM   Edit   Profile  

I'm looking through the Martin website and I happen upon this nice looking guitar 000-17S. It lists for $1899 with case. So I figure it sells realistically in the $1200 range. But I look at the features and I'm scratching my head.

The nut is Corian. I'd prefer bone, but isnt' Corian is the stuff they make countertops out of? What kind of sound is that going to make?

Next I look and see the neck is Micarta. What the heck kind of wood is Micarta? So I do a search and Micarta is an epoxy resin that is used in manufacturing. They make bullet proof airplane cockpit doors out of it. Do I need a bullet proof guitar fingerboard? I'd prefer something in WOOD please. My Mickey Mouse guitar had a micarta neck and it didn't work out that great.

I also assume the guitar is mahogany. Now I like mahogany guitars. But it could be mahogany or sapelle. I don't know much about sapelle other than it's an African wood with a brown texture that is of medium strength.

Guitars should be made of wood unless we're talking Ovation. Especially in this price range. Just my oppinion.



No rain of fiery

wool? No 1000 decibel bleat?
Jan 2nd, 2003 10:44 PM   Edit   Profile  

They've been on the forefront of experimenting with alternate materials in recent years. Sure, Ovations are made from fiberglass and resins, but their design is decades old now.

Chris Martin has made no secret of the fact that they're actively preparing for the day that wood shortages make traditional guitars cost prohibitive, and they've introduced some interesting models. I've been impressed with some of the things they've done, disappointed with some of the others. Try a few and then tell us how you feel.

If you want the traditional Martin models made the old fashioned way, you can still get them.

Contributing Member

New York, NY

Jan 3rd, 2003 01:29 AM   Edit   Profile  

I paid $1000 for my 00017s.

I think it is worth it. I definitely think there is a 1000$ worth of sound in there, and at least $300 more tone than the 00015s, which I also looked at and tried.



continental american

werewolf? there, wolf.....
Jan 3rd, 2003 05:12 AM   Edit   Profile  

oh come on, we all know about the legendary tonal characteristics of plastic, right?

however, even plastic may suit the needs of some, I guess....not tonally, but otherwise.

(This message was last edited by pepler at 06:23 AM, Jan 3rd, 2003)

Northern Rocker

Scotland / Germany

Jan 3rd, 2003 06:08 AM   Edit   Profile  

MarcO, Chris Martin explains his intentions very clearly in the interview I posted below from USAToday.
The 16 series has always been testing ground for new ideas, the 17 inherited the Micarta fingerboard from the 16 series.
I would probably have problems buying a Micarta fingerboarded guitar, although Ive played them and they sound very good.
Although if that should bother me I also wouldnt buy an A frame hybrid braced guitar or with a Mortise/Tenon neck joint.
Martin builds many models, theres something for everyone. They build guitars with graphite tops, with aluminium tops, and with Adirondack tops, its up to you to choose.

Interview with Chris Martin

Contributing Member

New York, NY

Jan 3rd, 2003 06:14 AM   Edit   Profile  

I wouldn't say I bought it because it is a martin, I bought it because I was looking for a 12 fret 000 size guitar that sounded good. I definitely know it sounds good. The solid genuine mahogany top, back and sides have an effect on the tone of the guitar as well. I was comparing the guitar to the 00015s which many people call a "great deal" at $769. I chose the 17s because I thought the extra cost was worth it.

It probably doesn't make sense to defend a purchase like this. If you've got one acoustic you've probably got enough, and now I have two. And $1000 is a lot of money. Boy, I really like this thing, though... It definitely makes me smile.

One thing is funny, though. The 00017s I have came with ebony tuner knobs and bridge pins. I sure wish they used that ebony on the fingerboard and bridge!

You can generally distinguish Sapele from Mahogany by looking at the grain. Sapele has a kind of "ribbon" figure to it, and is often a little bit lighter in color.


Contributing Member

Atlanta Ga USA

Jan 3rd, 2003 06:55 AM   Edit   Profile  

The 16/17 series are basically Martin's "experimental" stuff.OK so the fretboard and bridge is Micarta..hi tech plastic..Its super smooth,fast,very hard & wears like iron.So the down side is that it's not wood,in function that really doesnt matter.I have played a few 16/17 series guitars with micarta boards and they are fine..
If you "gotta have" wood Martin makes guitars for you.The 15 series stuff is structurally identical to the 17 series stuff and has a rosewood board & bridge but dont discount the 17 stuff just because it's micarta,go with your ears


Chicago burbs

So many guitars, so little time.
Jan 3rd, 2003 02:38 PM   Edit   Profile  

Though both my Martins are "micarta free" I wouldn't let it stop me from buying one. In fact I didn't know if my OM-16GT was micarta or not until I checked out the serial number dating on the UMGF.

Buy and play what you like but if its built well and sounds good why care if its made of silly putty?

Rainsong guitars get lots of praise and they don't have any wood. I may get one someday and stop worrying about humidification.


USA - Kentucky

Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
Jan 5th, 2003 12:03 AM   Edit   Profile  

Northern Rocker, I read the link and I have read other articles concerning Chris Martin's concern about the "dwindling" supply of wood sources. I admire his concern and his ingenuity at coming up with alternatives. But from a business standpoint, I think some of this is merely good public relations.

If you look at all US guitar company's histories at some point each has come to the realisation that they cannot compete on a worldwide basis with foriegn manufacturers that are offering similar products at a much cheaper price, due to lower labor costs. Every guitar company began offering Pacific Rim made instruments under their auspices. Some of these companies that were considered also rans early on are now prominent manufacturers. ie Yamaha, Ibanez, Washburn.

What Chris Martin did was make an inexpensive USA made alternative that was priced inline with Pacific Rim guitars, by using laminate backs and sides on some models. This was totally unheard of in Martin history. He then took it a step further by using pressed wood to create a guitar that probably cost very little to produce and sold for less than $500 and still had a Martin label on it's headstock.

With all that said, I cannot see paying $1000 for a guitar with a fingerboard that is not made of ebony or rosewood. Eventually the frets are going to wear out. What about changing frets on a Micarta neck, is that going to present problems?

Farmer Roy

Palouse wheatgrower

Jan 5th, 2003 01:47 AM   Edit   Profile  

I'm not sure how you want us to answer your question MarcO. What's your point? It's obvious that you would never buy one of the Martin guitars you describe, so why do you care? Are you flaming away at Martin?

Martin is in the business of guitars. They offer more guitar models, design and material options, and pricepoints then any other guitar manufacturer that I can think of (maybe that's the deal at Martin). If you can't find one that suits you, then you just aren't a Martin person and should move on. There are some great all-wood guitars being manufactured by the likes of Taylor, Larrivee and Tacoma to name just a few. Plus there are used Martins that are still reasonably priced that have the all wood construction (although plastic nuts, saddles and pins) that you want.

The market will decide if Martin is right or wrong in using the materials and designs that they offer the consumer. If everyone feels like you, then I guess Martin's days are numbered. I think the better question to ask would be if Martin were inflexible and unwilling to bring new ideas and concepts to the marketplace, would they have made it into the year 2003? Which by my calculations is their 170th year in the guitar business with a Martin family member at the helm.

(This message was last edited by Farmer Roy at 02:03 AM, Jan 5th, 2003)

Contributing Member

New York, NY

Jan 5th, 2003 03:26 AM   Edit   Profile  

The Micarta neck in a re-fret situation is an issue for me as well. I was speaking to my luthier about this and he mentioned that he has not done a re-fret on a micarta board yet. He doesn't know what it will be like. Martin has been using micarta for their nuts for a long time, and they seem to cut, glue and shape well. I guess we'll find out in a couple of decades when the guitar needs a complete re-fret.

Does anyone on the FDP have a micarta board that needed a re-fret? This might be question for a fresh post.


continental american

werewolf? there, wolf.....
Jan 5th, 2003 09:53 AM   Edit   Profile  

'He then took it a step further by using pressed wood to create a guitar that probably cost very little to produce and sold for less than $500 and still had a Martin label on it's headstock.'

oh no...that pressed wood is actually 'hi-pressure laminate'....;-). it is what it is---plywood.

(This message was last edited by pepler at 10:59 AM, Jan 5th, 2003)

Terry C.
Contributing Member

I'm from Georgia...

..what's YOUR excuse?
Jan 5th, 2003 03:09 PM   Edit   Profile  

HPL as used in the X-Series is not really plywood. It's a wood fiber/resin composite created under high pressure. It has been jokingly called 'Formica', but that's not an accurate description either.

Martin does use traditional all-wood laminates in the Road Series guitars. This is a very high quality 'plywood' and bears only superficial resemblance to HPL.

Micarta has been used as a saddle material for almost all Martin guitars for some time now, and nuts are made from Corian (a very few come with factory bone saddle/nut). These are small concessions to the modern age and are easily replaced. My own Micarta saddle has been switched to natural bone, but the Corian nut suits me just fine and will probably outlive me.

HPL bodies are limited to the X-Series, and and Micarta bridges and fretboards are (so far) limited to the X-/16/17 Series and the occasional Limited Edition model. Mortise & tenon neck joints and A-frame/Hybrid bracing are used in all of the newer models (X-, Road, 1-, 15, 16, & 17 Series).

If you want traditional materials and construction methods, these are still (and hopefully always will be) available in the Standard and Vintage Series guitars.

Buy what you like and want, and leave the other models to their niche markets. They will stay or go according to the sales they generate.

Tc (proud owner of a D-18 Standard)

[edited, once again, for my shoddy proofreading]

My D-18

(This message was last edited by Terry C. at 06:38 AM, Jan 6th, 2003)


USA - Kentucky

Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
Jan 6th, 2003 01:55 AM   Edit   Profile  

Farmer Roy, I am not intentionally flaming Martin.
I have owned a Martin guitar and it was a beauty. I wish I still had it, but was young and needed to trade it for some cash at the time. It was a Martin of similar size and shape as the 000-17 12 fret, but was a 1970's model. I happen to like that size of guitar.

I was stating that Chris Martin found a way to make an American made product that is competitive with Pacific Rim imports such as Epiphone, Yamaha and Ibanez. Good for him. He's keeping his company in business and that's wonderful as far as I'm concerned. Especially since he's been a much better manager of this business than his father. From what I've read Martin was not doing at all well when Chris took the helm.

As a geezer, I am a little leary of using some modern technology on traditional instruments. I was not aware that Martin had been using Micarta for nuts. I suppose you just need a solid substance that will withstand cutting. You can look at it as another form of plastic I suppose. It is probably better than the PVC that some manufacturers are using as nut material.

You are right Roy in that I wouldn't purchase a guitar with a Micarta fingerboard. 'been there, done that. I have an Ovation Classical Electric in pristine condition from 1974. It sounds just like it did in 1974. I think I paid around $700 back then for it. Today it's worth about $500 with the OHSC. Part of owning a great guitar like Martin is the fact that these guitars appreciate in value over the years. They also appreciate in sound quality. Perhaps a guitar with a Corian or Micarta nut might not be too much of a factor in determining the value of a guitar years down the road. But I am afraid that a man-made fingerboard will ruin the guitars value in 10 or 15 years. The Lyrachord bowl certainly didn't help raise the value of my Ovation, regardless of the fact that the tuners are gold plated and the fingerboard is solid ebony.

My only point was just to discuss what others thought that the implications of using man-made materials had on high-end Martin guitars would be. It's obvious that someone has purchased one and likes what they have.

BTW has anyone checked the price of Rainsong guitars? They are very expensive.



all we are is dust in the wind...dude
Jan 6th, 2003 11:37 AM   Edit   Profile  

I played a rainsong at a new guitar store that just opened around here. I was not impressed with it at all. Had a very bright tone and did not have the warmth of an all wood guitar. but it did seem indestructable. But they can keep it.



Jan 9th, 2003 08:54 AM   Edit   Profile  

The Martin D28 all wood guitar can be had for about $1500. So Martin is not forcing anyone to to get $2000 macata guitars. Buy what you want and be happy. There are cheaper all wood alternatives from Martin.


San Ramon, CA USA

Jan 9th, 2003 03:16 PM   Edit   Profile  

And for smaller bodied players, an OM21 can be bought for around $1600. I agree with most here that Martin is doing what is required to survive and grow. I do feel that some of the laminate models are quite expensive compared to other solid wood models but the Martin still makes Standards in every size and wood combination one could want. Buy what you like.

FDP Forum / FDP Unplugged - Acoustic Instruments / So what's the deal with Martin?

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