Generally speaking, it’s always a good day when a Martin acoustics land on our doorstep, but this is particularly interesting for a couple of reasons.
For a start, this limited-edition model has been specially made in Martin’s Custom Shop for the UK market via distributors Westside in Glasgow, but even more intriguing, it features mahogany that has been submerged in water for a few centuries as their primary tonewoods.
This particular model is triple-0, almost identical to the OM save for the slight difference in scale length. As you can see, it has an all-mahogany build; the top is dark chocolate in colour, the grain pattern slightly wilder than you might be used to - something we’ve seen before on guitars from boutique makers such as Santa Cruz. That wildness transfers to the back and sides, too. On the back and sides, the wood has black speckles and less patterning than the recently-reviewed sitka model.
The neck is sinker mahogany, too, the matt finish Martin has given it - a hallmark of the brand - contrasting with the gloss of the body. The neck also benefits from Martin’s Modified Low Oval profile here, the width of the neck expanding from 45.45mm at the nut to 52.38mm at the 12th fret. The exact shape of the neck is about as close to being a hemisphere as you can get, when looked at in cross-section. No hint of a ‘V’ hereabouts.
Back to the plot and the butterbean tuning button that adorns the headstock belongs to open-geared Gotoh nickel machinehead, nut and saddle are bone, fingerboard and bridge ebony, and a faux tortoiseshell scratchplate is affixed.
As a further refinement, the label inside the soundhole has been signed by Chris Martin IV, which is bound to set the collector market a-twitching. The build quality is exquisite inside and out and the ingredients present here add up to something spectacular in terms of tone. We’re fascinated to hear what difference the sinker mahogany has made to the overall picture...
Martin claims that the presence of sinker mahogany in this guitar produces a “huge voice” and that it “thrives on being played hard and is extremely responsive to picking”. Releasing this guitar from the confines of its case confirms that the triple-0 shape is one of the most comfortable to sit or stand with. Many players find dreadnoughts a little cumbersome and unwieldy, but OMs and triple-0s feel tailor-made, to this writer at least.
Mahogany has a reputation for adding warmth and richness and that theory is certainly borne out with a few initial exploratory strums on our all-mahogany model here. Does it respond to being picked hard, as Martin claims? Heck, yes. The wood sings and, once we’re over the ‘settling-in-with-a- new-guitar’ time zone, we find ourselves gravitating towards blues fingerstyle - the guitar seems to want that in a weird way. We’ve found before that all-mahogany builds have this ‘take me to the Delta’ vibe to them and it has to be said that this guitar would make a bluesman weep with joy. There’s gravel in the tone, with considerable heft in the dynamic range. Played gently it responds with a sweet, demure voice, but turn up the wick a little and you’re rewarded with a wide, expansive sound. There isn’t a hint of harshness here; it’s full-bodied and surprisingly loud. It’s amazing what 300 years submerged in a river can do for you.
Martin’s Custom Shop has managed to surprise us once again with this triple-0 instrument. You can imagine how hard it must be to rework an established model, but the inclusion of sinker mahogany in the build of this example really has made a considerable difference. Factor in the Custom Shop’s renowned skill at creating fabulous beasts and you have a cherry on top.