A great OM that blends vintage design with state-of-the-art technology.
by Teja Gerken
May 11, 2020
C. F. Martin and Co. had already been around for a century when it introduced its most iconic models in the 1930s, so it’s no surprise that the company continues to have a strong commitment to its legacy. But Martin’s forward-thinking nature also provides a constant pull toward innovation, creating a formidable challenge to fuse the old and the new. Martin has frequently excelled at this balancing act, and the company’s new Modern Deluxe line of guitars is perhaps the best example yet. Having already checked out the D-28 and the 000-28E, I was thrilled to spend time with the OM-28E Modern Deluxe in the Peghead Nation studio.
The OM-28E Modern Deluxe checks off all the boxes that make an OM. It has a 000-size body with a 14-fret neck, a long scale, a nut-width of 1¾ inches, scalloped X-bracing, etc. And true to its Style-28 designation, it’s built with rosewood back and sides and a spruce top. The guitar has the typical herringbone purfling, multi-ring rosette, and diamonds-and-squares fingerboard, but the appointments are also dressed up with upgrades that include maple binding, abalone position markers on the side of the fingerboard, and an abalone Martin logo in the peghead. But as with all Martin Modern Deluxes, the highly original elements are hidden from the eye: the guitar is built with an ultralight, yet very strong, carbon-fiber bridge plate and titanium truss rod. In addition, it features protein glue construction and Martin’s new “Liquidmetal” bridge pins.
I found that playing the OM-28E Modern Deluxe was particularly interesting after having just spent time with the 000-28E Deluxe. OM’s and 14-fret 000’s are, of course, very similar, the most significant difference being that the 000 has a shorter scale. But, because of other variations within different lines, the era a guitar was built in, etc., it’s not always easy to determine which factors contribute to the tonal differences between guitars. Ultimately, I found myself surprised by the subtlety of the differences, concluding that both guitars are extraordinary instruments that fill a similar niche. The OM-28E Modern Deluxe has the response, dynamic range, and rich tone that OM’s are famous for, and I appreciated the long scale’s string tension for dropped tunings, as well as its slightly punchier character when pushed with a strong attack. The guitar is among the brighter-sounding rosewood OM’s I’ve played, giving it great clarity and assertiveness. This would be an excellent mid-size guitar for playing in an ensemble.
As with our previous experiences with Fishman Aura VT Blend electronics, I found the system to be highly capable of reproducing the OM-28E Modern Deluxe’s voice in the amplified realm. Dialing in Fishman’s advanced Aura “image,” custom-created specifically for this model, yielded one of the more accurate amplified sounds I’ve come across.
All in all, the OM-28E Modern Deluxe does exactly what Martin set out to do. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it carefully considers every aspect of a classic design, making modifications where it makes sense. For any player looking for an OM with a little something extra, this is definitely a guitar worth considering.
SPECS: 14-fret 000 body. Sitka spruce top with Vintage Tone System treatment. Scalloped, Adirondack spruce X-bracing. Solid Indian rosewood back and sides. Genuine mahogany neck. Ebony fretboard and bridge. Titanium truss rod. Carbon-fiber bridge plate. 25.4-inch scale. 1¾-inch nut width. 2⁵/₃₂-inch string spacing at the saddle. Gold Waverly tuning machines. Fishman Aura VT Blend electronics. Made in USA. $5,799 ($5,199 without electronics). Martinguitar.com
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