April 10, 2020 8 min read
Between 1930 and 1944 C.F. Martin Guitars, having been in business since 1833 and recognized as the leading manufacturer of acoustic instruments in the world, set the gold-standard when it came to quality craftsmanship in the production of steel-string guitars. Throughout the Depression and World War II Eras Martin produced a line of steel string guitars renown for their light build and larger than life sound. This time period for Martin Guitars has come to be known as The Golden Era and is what most collectors are referring to when they speak of the Gold Standard in guitar making.
These Golden Era Martin models are now highly coveted collector’s instruments, many of them enshrined in museums. A Dreadnought, 000 or OM model from the Depression era can easily command tens of thousands of dollars, some reaching well into the six figure price range. In fact, you could say that the only guitar more valuable than a new Martin is a used Martin!
For instance, the Reverb price guide sets the asking price for a1937 Martin D-28 at between $100,000 and $150,000 dollars, which is not surprising when you consider thatBob Dylan’s much newer 1963 D-28 recently sold for $396,000 at auction! However, whether they have been played by a celebrity or not, Golden Era Martin’s are highly prized among collectors and players alike for their legendary build quality and incredible sound which seems to mature and become more and more refined as the years go on.
It is difficult to imagine, but at the turn of the 20th century most of the acoustic guitar shapes and sizes that we take for granted today did not yet exist. But as musical styles changed, calling for louder and more percussive instruments, C.F. Martin and Co. met the call of the times with a variety of innovations that literary changed music forever.
Ballad of the Dreadnought
The question of how to build new Martin guitars that authentically sound, look and feel like Golden Era Martins was solved when the Martin R&D Department applied the most modern and progressive technologies available to the problem. Since the guitars they were replicating were priceless museum pieces, the R&D team at Martin had to figure out how to learn every detail possible about them without taking them apart or damaging them in any way.
To do this, the Martin research and development team used the same digital imaging technology that art historians and scientists use to look inside priceless historical objects without doing them any damage. In other words, Martin brought the guitars in their museum to the Smithsonian to use their CAT scan machine to look inside and learn every detail of the guitars they were planning to replicate. The results have been nothing short of amazing!
The CAT scans brought to light a series of discoveries that were genuine surprises, and research into the science of acoustics and the effects of building methods and materials on sound production allowed Martin’s R&D team to test new ways to go beyond the vintage specs and building methods discovered in their detailed scans, to methods for authentically aging the tonewoods to replicate the sound and appearance of these Golden Era guitars to the tiniest detail.
Martin VTS System
The Martin VTS - Vintage Tone System - employs a unique recipe that is based on the historic torrefaction system. Martin’s VTS system speeds up the effects of time, acting like a time machine, allowing the R&D team at Martin to reproduce tonewood tops and braces from a specific era, giving them period authentic tone and appearance.
The fruit of this process is now available as the Martin Authentic Series - a series of authentic Martin recreations of the most sought-after Golden Era Martin guitars. For most of us, owning a Martin Authentic Series guitar is the closest we will ever get to owning a rare Martin Golden Era acoustic. Introduced in 2013, the Martin Authentic Series gives collectors and players the chance to own a handcrafted replica of a Golden Era Martin, an exact copy down to the tiniest detail, at a fraction of the price.
The accuracy of each Martin Authentic Series replica means that when you buy a Martin Authentic Series guitar you will be getting the closest thing possible to an actual Golden Era Martin, including the exact design features, tonewoods (except in the case of Brazillian Rosewood) and even the aging of the timbers. Martin’s unique Torrefaction (VTS) process ages the tonewoods used to build these incredible replicas giving them the distinct feel and sound of a 70-80 year old guitar, but with the warranty you get with a brand new Martin.
Martin Introducing the Authentic Series
Summer of 2019, the Martin Authentic models offered include (click links to visit product pages with complete spec lists):
Few of us will ever be lucky enough to play a Depression Era Martin, let alone own one, but the Martin 00-17 Authentic Series 1931 gives us the next best thing -- a meticulously accurate replica of a 1931 Martin reproduced with authentic period accurate touches like hide glue construction, a vintage dovetail neck joint, genuine Mahogany top, back and sides and a Brazilian Rosewood fingerboard.
The Martin D-18 Authentic 1939 acoustic guitar represents an iconic piece of Martin guitar history, with a focused tone that suits a wide variety of musical styles and instrumental pairings. Featuring a solid Adirondack Spruce top with solid mahogany back and sides, the Martin D-18 Authentic 1939 delivers amazing projection and great note definition with a well-balanced tonal range and a focused low frequency response that is tight and never boomy.
The Martin OM-28 Authentic 1931 was based on the rare Martin OM-28 owned by folk legend Mike Seeger. Featuring a genuine Adirondack Spruce top enhanced with Martin’s Vintage Tone System (VTS) for authentic aged appearance and vintage tone, and Madagascar Rosewood back and sides, this Martin Authentic Series OM-28 1931 Aged Acoustic delivers the tonality and appearance of the legendary original.
The OM Orchestra Model size was one of Martin’s most significant innovations in the history of acoustic guitars. The OM-28 is one of Martin’s most celebrated 14-fret models, and its comfortable size and 25.4“ scale length along with the prized tonewood combination of a Spruce top with Rosewood back and sides, and its dovetail neck joint with hide glue construction, gives this authentic OM-28 a crisp and rich tone with mellow overtones, just like the original.
The Martin D-28 Authentic 1937 acoustic guitar is a meticulously crafted replica of a vintage Depression Era D-28 dreadnought. Featuring such period correct appointments as hide glue construction, bold Herringbone inlay, 1937 Forward-Shifted X-Bracing, authentic 1937 neck shape with standard taper, 1937 diamond and square pattern abalone inlays, bone nut and saddle, and authentic zig-zag purfling, the result is an instrument so authentic that it will transport you all the way back to the 1930s.
The Martin Size 1 De Goni Authentic 1843 acoustic guitar celebrates history’s first X-braced guitar, made by C.F. Martin for Madame Delores N. de Goñi in 1843. Madame de Goñi was perhaps the finest guitarist of her time, and became widely popular throughout the United States after a series of performances between 1841-42. In 1943, C.F. Martin gave her his innovative Size 1 guitar which she pronounced to be "...superior to any instruments of the kind [she had] ever seen in this country or Europe for tone, workmanship, and facility of execution!"
The Martin Size 1 De Goni Authentic 1843 Acoustic Guitar is a stunningly accurate replica of this legendary guitar. Featuring an Adirondack Spruce top treated with Martin’s VTS (vintage tone system) and Guatemalan Rosewood back and sides, with Authentic 1843 X Bracing inside, giving this historically accurate replica of the 1843 Size 1 original its rich tone and appearance.
With the Martin 000-42 Authentic Series 1939 acoustic guitar, Martin has remained true to their origins with a meticulously handcrafted auditorium acoustic with period authentic appointments including hide glue construction, dovetail neck joint, solid Adirondack spruce top and solid Madagascar Rosewood back and sides, giving this auditorium acoustic the rich sustain and crisp tone that made the original legendary.
Based on the large-body D-45 in the Martin Museum, this Martin Authentic D-45S 1936 features an extra-wide 14-fret dreadnought body with a solid Adirondack Spruce top and authentic 1936 forward-shifted X-bracing treated with Martin’s VTS system, along with Brazilian Rosewood back and sides. Martin’s commitment to accuracy is so great that they have been true to every detail of one of the most sought-after Dreadnoughts in history!
The painstaking attention to detail has resulted in a Martin Dreadnought with all of the volume and richness that you would expect along with a special shimmer or sparkle that you won’t find in other dreadnoughts. Though the body size is technically larger than other dreadnoughts, people who have played and reviewed this amazing D-45S have reported that you can’t really tell the difference in terms of comfort, but you certainly can in terms of volume!
Even the most experienced guitar players do double-takes and collectors drool when you just mention the ‘Holy Grail’ of Martin acoustic guitars, and this Martin D-45S Authentic 1936 delivers in every way. Whether you are talking about the legendary tone, incredible volume, gorgeous appointments and legendary collector’s value, this faithful replica of a Martin D-45S from 1936 much more than an expensive antique.All Martin Authentic Series models are available in right and left handed versions. Visit our website and contact us for more information on availability and build times!
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