Martin's first electro equipped with Fishman's Onboard Aura system was the high-end Special Edition OMC-Aura. With The 000C-16RGTE is offers a less expensive Aura-equipped electro.
Construction and features
The 000C-16RGTE's intrinsic construction is exactly the same as models higher in the 16 series. Inside the finishing is a bit rough, but the woodwork itself is, as ever, precisely executed. Being a 16 Series model, we find Martin's cunningly economical scalloped 'hybrid A-frame' soundboard bracing.
The top is a bit streaky, but its bold herringbone rosette and perimeter purfiing are typically clean cut. Back and sides are plain, and there's white binding all round.
All Martin 16s have a mortise and tenon jointed neck, with an L-shape neck block and upper-bout A-frame for support. All 'GT' 16s have Black micarta (resin composite) rather than wood fingerboards. It is clean as a whistle, topped by an equally shipshape nut. Tuners are not the smoothest around, but they're functional enough.
The bridge may be a plastic ebony substitute, but it's as tidy as it is convincingly wood-like.
Sustaining a facade of pristine, traditional nitro-cellulose lacquer (enough to benefit the tone too), this otherwise matt-satin finish allows Martin to deliver a lower price point. It's all very neatly applied, anyhow.
The 000C-16RGTE Aura's neck has a depth that tapers from 21mm (first fret) to 23mm (10th fret). Optimal string spacing keeps everything feeling free and easy. As we expect from Martin, it's hard to fault this guitar on playability. The fret crowns need an extra once-over, but that really is it.
The Onboard Aura control panel is familiar, intelligible and feels positive, and the system essentially operates much like the Fishman's Prefix Premium Blend pickup system. However, instead of the under-saddle pickup blended with a real microphone, the Aura blends digital Acoustic Sound Images with pickup tones to create realistic studio mic'd sounds. It also offers more sophisticated digital EQ and phase options (including memory function) with 'seek and destroy' anti-feedback.
Like the similarly constructed OMC-Aura, the 000C-16RGTE Aura has its tonal quirks. While there's healthily resonant bass, with a reverberant clunk to every pluck of the bottom strings, and a soft well-balanced wash of mid-range colour, there's not much sparkling attack or sustaining chime when you hit the top strings. While there's no unpleasant scratchy presence, the treble sounds a bit damped, lacking the crisp sensitive touch when you're fingerpicking. As a result, it actually sounds better driven harder with a plectrum.
Monitoring through the new Fishman Loudbox Performer amp, the onboard Aura's Sound Images deliver astoundingly realistic mic'd-up sounds. However, it's generally a more scooped version of the acoustic tone, with more bass and all that missing sparkle restored. The digital processing produces a slightly brittle acoustic image, but with the right blend and EQ settings, the plugged-in tone is - arguably - far more satisfying than the natural sound.