A contemporary acoustic-electric OM built out of ovangkol.
by Teja Gerken
March 24, 2020
Martin’s OM model dates back to 1929, and because it introduced the 14-fret neck, it’s generally considered to be the first “modern” Martin guitar. In the last 20 years or so, the OM has seen a surge in popularity, with versions ranging from accurate vintage reproductions to instruments that merely use the original dimensions as a jumping-off point. Martin recently introduced the OMC-16E Burst, which fits squarely into the latter category, and we had a chance to check out the guitar in the Peghead Nation video studio.
OMs are typically defined as guitars with a 14-fret neck, 000-size body, long scale, and neck width of about 1¾ inches at the nut. The OMC-16E Burst checks all of these boxes, but with its cutaway and built-in Fishman electronics, the guitar is clearly meant for contemporary players. What sets the instrument apart is the choice of ovangkol for the body’s top, back, and sides. While not uncommon as a wood for back and sides, ovangkol (an African wood that is sometimes compared to Indian rosewood), its use as a top material is unusual, especially on OMs, which are rarely built with hardwood tops. The guitar’s most distinctive visual feature is its shaded top, which Martin calls “mahogany burst.” Appointments include style-28 fingerboard dots, a herringbone rosette, and red faux-tortoise binding. The guitar’s electronics consist of the familiar Fishman Matrix VT Enhance system, which combines an Acoustic Matrix undersaddle pickup with a bridge-plate–mounted body sensor and controls for volume, tone, and blend in the soundhole.
Players who are already fans of OMs will feel right at home when picking up the OMC-16E Burst. The guitar’s High Performance Taper neck feels more contemporary than a vintage neck, but with its authentic width (though combined with narrower string-spacing at the saddle), it still offers fingerstyle-friendly dimensions. Tonally, the guitar has the flexibility that OMs are famous for, but with a distinctive, slightly darker, and more-compressed quality than a typical spruce-top version would tend to offer. The guitar sounds great for traditional fingerpicking, and it had a lovely focused quality when strummed. Played through our Fishman Loudbox Mini Charge amp, the guitar offered the performance we’ve come to expect from the Fishman Matrix VT Enhance system, producing a natural, hassle-free amplified sound with enough flexibility to make it adaptable to different playing situations.
Overall, the OMC-16E Burst is a winner for anyone looking for an OM that varies from the norm. The fact that the guitar is offered in the relatively affordable 16 series is a bonus, as it puts this distinctive instrument within reach of players for whom a custom guitar might be out of the question.
SPECS: 000 body. Ovangkol top, back, and sides. Select hardwood neck. Ebony fretboard and bridge. 25.4-inch scale. 1¾-inch nut width. 2⁵/₃₂-inch string spacing at the saddle. “Mahogany burst” gloss finish on top, satin finish on back and sides. Nickel open-gear tuning machines. Fishman Matrix VT Enhance electronics. Made in USA. $2,399 (list). Martinguitar.com
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