A great all-mahogany 12-fret with vintage specs.
by Teja Gerken
December 31, 2018
The popularity of Martin’s small-body 12-fret guitars has increased in recent years. In particular, many players have been smitten by the 00 size and its combination of playing comfort, big sound, and vintage vibe. A couple of years ago, Martin offered a 00-18 in its high-end Authentic line (check out our demo), and now the company has recreated an all-mahogany 00-17 based on a guitar built in 1931. We recently had a chance to check out the new 00-17 Authentic 1931 in the Peghead Nation video studio.
Martin’s Authentic series represents the company’s most accurate level of vintage reissues. Taking great care to copy specific vintage instruments, the series is built in a dedicated section of the Martin factory by some of its most experienced craftspeople using top-quality materials, hide-glue construction, and details not found in other Martin lines. On the 00-17 Authentic 1931 that Martin sent us for our demo, the mahogany used for the top, back, and sides had a deep, rich hue and attractive grain, while the Brazilian rosewood fingerboard, bridge, and peghead overlay added an unexpected touch of vintage accuracy (Brazilian rosewood is rarely used on new guitars), and Martin’s extra-thin Vintage Gloss finish looked just right on a new version of an old guitar. Like all style-17 instruments, the guitar’s appointments are minimal, with no binding, small dot position markers in the fingerboard, and a simple multi-stripe rosette. The guitar also has Martin’s glued-in long saddle and open-gear Golden Age Relic tuning machines.
Playing the 00-17 Authentic 1931, I was reminded how well-suited this kind of instrument can be for contemporary guitarists. For starters, the instrument’s wide string-spacing at both the nut and saddle may be a revelation to fingerstyle players who have only played more modern instruments. Combined with the small body and 12-fret neck, the guitar feels a lot like a classical guitar, and the vintage-accurate neck profile with pronounced V-shape felt very comfortable. Tonally, the guitar has beautiful dynamics and excellent response, and while it doesn’t have the deepest bass or brightest treble, it has a wonderfully balanced overall range, which was in evidence when I was playing it fingerstyle as well as when Peghead Nation’s Scott Nygaard played it with a flatpick.
The 00-17 Authentic 1931 is a great addition to Martin’s line of Authentic guitars. At a time when original instruments are becoming harder to find and commanding increased prices, you would be well advised to check this guitar out if you’re looking for a 12-fret 00.
SPECS: 12-fret 00 body. Solid genuine mahogany top, back, and sides (top with Vintage Tone System treatment). Scalloped authentic 1931 X-bracing. Genuine mahogany neck with dovetail joint. Brazilian rosewood fretboard, bridge, and peghead overlay. Hide glue construction. 24.9-inch scale. 1⅞-inch nut width. 2⅜-inch string spacing at the saddle. Golden Age Relic tuning machines. Made in the USA. $5,999 (list). Martinguitar.com
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