When Martin unveiled their Martin Authentic range of guitars at the winter NAMM show in January, I imagine that there were plenty of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ at their stand. These instruments are the closest recreations of the original instruments you can find, modelled on the exact specifications of the originals, down to accurate copies of the bracing patterns and the type of adhesive used.
As you could imagine, making an instrument like this requires spending a lot of time studying an original vintage guitar. Unfortunately, Martin didn’t put an example of each model aside for posterity in the early days, all of the instruments that were made were sold. Martin has since been tracking down and buying original examples of their own guitars for study and exhibition in the Martin guitar museum. This wasn’t a cheap undertaking, with Martin spending $50,000 on a 000-30 from 1919 and the not-insignificant sum of $270,000 on a D45 from 1942.
Obviously, removing the top of the guitar to look at the bracing position wasn’t a plan that was really going to fly, so Martin took a selection of their favourites from the Martin museum to the Smithsonian Institution and looked at them by CAT scan. With their Smithsonian partner having now retired, Martin has now taken the opportunity to work with a local community college. and give some radiography students a rather different challenge: X-raying guitars instead of patients.
Of course, one problem with making super-accurate replicas of vintage guitars is that access to the original species of hardwoods from the period-correct region, may be highly restricted, if indeed it is possible to obtain them at all. Does this reduce the value of the instrument? Well, the Martin Authentic guitars are still supreme-quality acoustic guitars, certainly the closest you will find to a vintage instrument, as well as being significantly cheaper, although not cheap!
The Martin Authentic series may still be out of reach for all but some of the deepest pockets, but all this expertise and understanding of what makes these vintage guitars sound great will no doubt keep Martin at the top of the acoustic tree and continue to provide skills and knowledge in the company, which can only benefit the rest of their acoustic lines, from the solid woods of the D-18VS, to Martin’s pioneering use of alternative materials in guitars such as the OM-1GT. If you don’t believe us, pop in and give one a pluck or a strum…
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