The first thing that catches your eye as you open the case of Martin’s D-18 1937 Authentic is the guitar’s unmistakable vintage vibe.
Whether you’re drawn to the nickel-finished open-back Gotoh tuners, the tinted Adirondack red spruce top, or the cellulose tortoiseshell pickguard, you kind of feel like you just discovered a guitar that had been hidden in a closet.
The key to the 1937 Authentic’s “authentic” pre-war vibe is in those details and others, like ebony bridge pins and the lack of an interior label. But it’s also in the more overt structural elements, like the neck shape, 5/16″ bracing, bracing patterns, nonadjustable T-bar truss rod, and the hide glue used to hold it all together.
The 1937 Authentic shares most other features with Martin’s D-18 Golden Era, including solid mahogany back and sides, fossilized ivory nut, vintage-style bridge (with long saddle) and 14 frets clear of the body.
In terms of playability and tone, it takes exactly one strum (we played an open E chord) on the D-18 to realize it’s a flatpicker’s dream, with big, clear, well-defined bass, snappy highs, and balanced mids. The entire guitar resonates noticeably; the low E and A strings have a clear punch, while the high E and B strings have a sizzling bite that really rings. Even when we upped our picking attack, note clarity never suffered, whether we were playing open or barred chords.
We invited a few accomplished local flatpickers to take the D-18 for a test run, and in the hands of one true bluegrass junkie, the tones never faltered. And even when we put some distance between ourselves and the guitar, it proffered excellent, balanced sound with clear bass and very good projection.
Also fresh from Martin is the OMC-1 Fingerstyle guitar, which features a 000-14 body with hybrid bracing, a Venetian cutaway, solid Adirondack red spruce top, solid Spanish cedar sides, back, and neck, as well as an ebony fretboard and nut.
The OMC also employs Martin’s new two-way adjustable truss rod, herringbone and pearl trim, gold Gotoh SGL510 tuners, 16″-radius compensated Tusq saddle, and Fishman’s Ellipse Blend electronics, which uses a combination of under-saddle transducer and internal condenser mic that’s controlled at the rim of the soundhole. The unit features Volume, Blend, and Phase controls, as well as a trim pot for the mic.
The design of the OMC-1 is aimed at the fingerstyle player, with an emphasis on clarity. The smaller body of the OMC aids in its being very lightweight and resonant, while the Spanish cedar back and sides, in combination with the 000 body and spruce top, create strong midrange tones and articulation without sacrificing low-end. We got flatpick-type clarity and definition using only our fingertips! And, as we’d previously experienced with the Fishman Ellipse, the one aboard the OMC-1 performed very nicely. With the mic blended about one-third and the transducer at two-thirds, we achieved accurate acoustic tones with good clarity and a round, full sound. The condenser mic really adds the roundness you typically lose with an under-saddle system alone. Feedback wasn’t a major problem, given the smaller body and quality of the condenser element, and the ability to trim back the mic and rely on the saddle pickup for the bulk of the output. Of course, the electronics can only reproduce what is produced, and Martins choice of Spanish cedar for the OMC provides the key to balancing the sound, especially for fingerstyle playing.
The Martin D-18 1937 Authentic and OMC-1 Fingerstyle boast flawless fit, finish, and craftsmanship, as well as excellent playability. Every detail is addressed in fabulous fashion, including inlay, seam and joint work, and the high-gloss finishes. To most players, either one represents a significant investment, but given their sound, playability, and all-around vibe, both rate very high in the “get what you pay for” category.
Martin D-18 1937 Authentic
Martin OMC-1 Fingerstyle
Contact Martin & Company, 510 Sycamore St., Nazareth, PA 18064; phone (513) 451-1071; martinguitar.com.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s December 2005 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.