According to Martin's catalogue, its brand-new models are reflective of the company's desire to "address the challenges facing musicians by introducing austerely appointed models, devoid of fanciness, but certainly not lacking in craftsmanship or excellent tone".
As we all know, Martin's numbering system gives a clue to an individual model's level of luxury with the super cheap and ecologically sound 16 Series, right up to the heady heights of the 45s. So, with these spanking new 17s, at least we are prepared for a no-frills ride, but the expectation is that we're still going to discover some stunning tone lurking within these 'austerity' Martins.
So, what exactly do we have here? The 000-17 boasts a Sitka spruce top with mahogany back and sides with ivoroid binding to the top.
The Whiskey Sunset finish brings a vintage vibe to the proceedings, not only because of its old-time-y faded sunburst appearance, but also with the feel of it in the hand. Each of the models here is finished matt, which has that 'used, but not abused' sensation that you find in many true vintage models. We like it.
Moving on, the neck on this 000 is mahogany, despite the "select hardwood" designation you might read on the company's website. The tuners are particularly worthy of mention, in that they're open-backed with vintage-style mellow cream buttons, but the nickel has been cunningly aged so that it takes on the appearance of pewter.
Around this point, it must be said, we began checking out the price point of this guitar with a sort of 'how do they do it?' muse going on. But, returning to the plot, a bone nut sits atop a rosewood fingerboard, which, according to Martin, has inlays that correspond to the 1955 Style 18 format, just to confuse things slightly.
Back at the body end, the straight and no-nonsense bridge is rosewood with a compensated bone saddle, with plain black – and, we suppose, 'austere' – bridge pins. Taking a few paces back, the 000-17 is a very good-looking beast.
The 000-17 is subject to Martin's "playability enhanced" system, whereby each guitar's frets undergo computer-aided fine tuning before being dispatched to the player. The guitar neck sits well in the hand, with none of the clubbiness associated with some genuinely vintage models.
It's slim without being thin, but chunky enough to feel workmanlike, if you see what we mean. The sound, as you might expect from a Sitka/mahogany combo, is bright and very well defined with a good proportion of both treble and bass in the mix.
It's loud, too, and full of youthful vitality that will age down into mellow fruitfulness in years to come. The 44.45mm (1.75-inch) nut width is a very welcome feature across all three of these models, as it definitely aids fingerstyle playing immensely.