Instruments & Gear: New Gear

Martin OM-28 Authentic 1931

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Martin releases its most accurate vintage-reissue OM to date.

by Teja Gerken
May 04, 2015

Martin’s OM (Orchestra Model) is one of the most significant instruments in the company’s line. Introduced in 1929, it was the first Martin with a 14-fret neck joint, a feature that would be the new standard on almost all Martins by 1934. However, as other Martin models were switched over from the older 12-fret designs (which involved shortening each existing body shape to make room for the two additional frets), the OM was replaced by the new 000, which used the same body as the OM, but with a shorter scale and narrower neck. As a result, the few hundred original OMs built between 1929 and 1933 are among the most sought-after vintage Martins. The original OMs' rarity alone makes them highly collectible, but with their powerful sound (the longer scale tends to make OMs louder and punchier than short-scale 000s) and fingerstyle-friendly neck dimensions, the guitars are also favorites with many players.

Martin first began offering small runs of OM reissues in the 1970s, but for the most part, the company stuck to using the body style for its 000s, effectively leaving the market of accurate re-creations of its glorious vintage designs to other, typically smaller, makers, such as Franklin and Santa Cruz. This changed in the 1990s, when Martin began offering OMs, partially as a result of working with guitarist Eric Schoenberg and luthier Dana Bourgeois on a project that was essentially a run of custom Martin OMs built under the Schoenberg Guitars brand.

In the last couple of decades, Martin has released many great OM models: re-creations of the original as well as modern adaptations of the design. But earlier this year, Martin raised the bar by introducing the OM-28 Authentic 1931, using a vintage 1931 OM that belonged to Mike Seeger as a blueprint. Martin’s designs for its Authentic series are known for their extremely high degree of attention to detail. As with the original, the guitar has an Adirondack spruce top, a genuine mahogany neck, and an ebony fingerboard and bridge. While a 1930s style-28 guitar would have had Brazilian rosewood back and sides, Martin decided to sidestep the considerable expense, potential environmental impact, and even legal considerations of using this wood, choosing Madagascar rosewood instead. All the woods on the guitar are of the highest quality.

Several details set the OM-28 Authentic 1931 apart from other OM-28 reissues. One of the most significant aspects is that the guitar is built using traditional hide glue, which, many experts feel, provides a more direct transmission of vibrations due to its ultra-hard drying properties, resulting in less damping than most modern glues. Martin also uses its Vintage Tone System (VTS) as part of the wood-curing process. Similar to torrefaction, the VTS uses a special heat treatment to accelerate aging properties in the wood, resulting in tone that is broken in from the start. The guitar also features Martin’s new Vintage Gloss finish, which is thinner and slightly less shiny than the company’s standard finish.

Naturally, the guitar features the appointments you would expect on an OM-28 reissue, including herringbone purfling, short-pattern diamond-and-squares fingerboard inlay, and the small teardrop pickguard. Vintage specs also extend to the guitar’s dimensions, which include a slightly V-shaped neck, a nut-width of 1¾ inches, and generous 2⁵/₁₆-inch string spacing at the saddle.

Playing the OM-28 Authentic 1931, it is immediately apparent that this is a high-end guitar that compares favorably with vintage originals and similar designs made by boutique manufacturers. Even though our demo guitar was brand new, it already had a warmth, tonal complexity, and dynamic character that most guitars only dream of, regardless of age. I own a great-sounding 2004 Martin Custom Shop OM with an Adirondack spruce top and Indian rosewood back and sides, and despite having been played hard for a decade, the two instruments shared an overall tonal character, with the brand-new OM-28 Authentic 1931 already sounding a touch more dynamic and complex. Remarkable before it's even broken in, I have no doubt that this instrument will only improve further as it matures.

Anyone in the market for a high-end OM should not miss an opportunity to check out the new OM-28 Authentic 1931, a wonderfully versatile guitar that captures a high degree of vintage vibe. In this video, I demonstrate the guitar playing fingerstyle in D A D G A D tuning, and I’m joined by Peghead Nation Co-Founder/Editor Scott Nygaard, who gives the guitar a workout using a flatpick in standard tuning.

SPECS: 000-size body with 14-fret neck. Solid Adirondack spruce top. Solid Madagascar rosewood back and sides. Mahogany neck. Ebony fingerboard and bridge. 25.4-inch scale. 1¾-inch nut width. 2⁵/₁₆-inch string spacing at the saddle. Waverly tuning machines. Made in USA. $8,499 list/$6,700 street.

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