Martin’s new Modern Deluxe line offers a tantalizing idea – a traditional-looking/playing premium acoustic, but with high-tech innovations under the hood. Being a revised take on an iconic dreadnought, it brings high expectations.
As a dread, the acid-test for the D-42 is relatively easy; just give it a big strum and listen for the cannon-powered roar (with balanced treble) that many acoustics promise, but few deliver. Key ingredients here include a solid Sitka spruce top that has been roasted using Martin’s Vintage Tone System (VTS) torrefaction treatment. It has East Indian back and sides, and a mahogany neck with ebony fretboard that meets the body at the 14th fret (20 frets total).
Another critical trick is the use of natural protein glue, which lets the tonewoods vibrate for best tonal benefit. Also look for “forward shifted” X bracing, as found in the best Martin flat-tops from the ’30s. For some reason, X braces of this era were closer to the soundhole than the bridge, resulting in that fabled tone.
The “modern” part of the equation includes Liquidmetal bridge pins and a composite carbon-fiber bridge plate that increase volume and projection, assisting the D-42’s naturally loud demeanor. The result is a beautifully bold tone, with bass rivaled by few other body shapes. Specifically, it delivers that enormous low-end, but with midrange thats warm and uncluttered, and sweet high-end.
In hand, the asymmetrical neck profile (Martin calls it “high-performance taper”) offers a comfortable, fast grip for fingerpicking, strumming, or old-school flatpickin’. Being a D-42, you also get sumptuous inlay on the fretboard, flamed-maple body binding, and more. The headstock “torch” inlay is a particularly impressive piece of artisanry.
The Modern Deluxe D-42 isn’t cheap by any stretch, but it’s a once-in-a-lifetime Martin tone machine that will provide decades of joy.
This article originally appeared in VG’s July 2022 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.