Instruments & Gear: New Gear

Martin DE Black Walnut Amberburst

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A great new acoustic-electric dreadnought with walnut back and sides.

by Teja Gerken
October 29, 2018

At last July’s Summer NAMM show in Nashville, Tennessee, Martin Guitars introduced a pair of new guitars featuring black walnut backs and sides. We already featured the grand performance-size GPCE Black Walnut Amberburst in an earlier demo (check it out HERE), and we recently had the chance to put the dreadnought-size DE Black Walnut Amberburst through its paces in the Peghead Nation video studio.

The DE Black Walnut Amberburst has Martin’s standard dreadnought body and general dimensions. Although walnut has never been used as widely as some of the more common back and side woods, it has a balanced sound that is sometimes described as a combination of some of the qualities of the more popular mahogany and rosewood. Walnut can also have a very attractive appearance, and because it is domestically sourced, it isn’t subject to the environmental and legal issues that accompany the harvesting and processing tropical woods (the CITES regulations for rosewoods, for example). The black walnut used on our demo guitar did indeed look great, with medium-brown coloring and very even grain. Martin chose a Sitka spruce top for the guitar, and as the guitar’s model name indicates, it is finished in an “amber burst,” a lighter variation of a sunburst finish. The DE Black Walnut Amberburst has a Richlite fingerboard and bridge. A resin-impregnated paper product, Richlite has some of the same structural qualities as ebony, and with its pitch-black appearance, it is nearly impossible to visually distinguish it from ebony.

The DE Black Walnut Amberburst has a big dreadnought voice, with a particularly nice high end. The guitar sounded great when I played it fingerstyle, but really came to life when Peghead Nation’s Scott Nygaard tried it with a flatpick. Martin’s high-performance neck taper and slightly wider 1¾-inch nut width gives it a more contemporary feel than you may be used to on a traditional dreadnought.

The guitar includes Fishman’s Matrix VT Enhance NT2 electronics, which we checked out plugged into a Fishman Loudbox Mini Charge amp. With a combination of two pickups (an Acoustic Matrix under the saddle and a separate transducer mounted to the bridge plate), we had no problem dialing in very satisfying tones.

Overall, the DE Black Walnut Amberburst is a very cool guitar for anyone looking for a contemporary dreadnought that includes sustainably harvested woods. The Fishman electronics package adds stage-ready functionality, and the result is a guitar that has the potential to sound great in just about any setting.

SPECS: 14-fret dreadnought body. Solid Sitka spruce top with forward-shifted, scalloped X-bracing. Solid black walnut back and sides. Hardwood neck with simple dovetail joint. Richlite fingerboard and bridge. 25.4-inch scale. 1¾-inch nut width. 2⁵/₃₂-inch string spacing at the saddle. Enclosed chrome tuning machines. Fishman Matrix VT Enhance NT2 electronic. Made in the USA. $2,649 (list).


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