Facts

  • Facts

Spruce

The vast majority of Martin guitars have spruce tops. Spruce is widely considered the ultimate tone wood for guitar tops and piano sound boards. Spruce is also used for bracings and other structural parts inside the guitar.

The most widespread kind of spruce, named after a region in Alaska but to be found elsewhere too.
Spruce from the Adirondack mountains in the north east of New York. It is widely considered to be one of the best top woods on the market.
Due to its fast growth, the wood of this species, native to the North west of the USA and west-Canada, is very light. For instrument making, only trees from high altitude can be used because trees from lower altitude grow too quickly, resulting in insufficient density. This makes wood that can be used for guitar tops very scarce but if you get it, it’s the best possible combination of strength and flexibility and priced accordingly.

Sapele

A more affordable, African alternative for mahogany. To the layman the two are very difficult to tell apart.

Rosewood

Arguably the best tonewood for back and sides. Especially with Martin guitars rosewood with a spruce top is THE classic combination. Brazilian rosewood is said to be the best tonewood by far and it is also particularly beautiful. Due to heavy restrictions to trade and a total ban on cutting, Brazilian rosewood can only be legally used if it is from old stock and can be proven to have been felled before the ban became effective and even then it takes complex paperwork to get the wood certified. Therefore this wood is only used on the most precious instruments. Today’s standard is east Indian rosewood, which is also a great tonewood and has a somewhat more regular grain. Another magnificent timber is Madagascarrosewood.

Mahogany

One of the best tonewoods for back and sides and, on high end instruments for necks. Mahogany is also an interesting wood for tops, delivering a rougher and tighter sound.

Granadillo

Since the new CITES regulation became effective, this member of the „dalbergia“-family (which includes all rosewood species) became increasingly popular. It is visually striking and has a very pleasant sound.

Ovangkol

A very beautiful timber from Africa. The colour is lighter than mahogany and it features a pronounced, striped grain. Sonically it lies between rosewood and maple.

KOA

Koa is a subspecies of acacia, native only to Hawaii, with a stunning colour and grain. It can be used for the entire body or just the back and sides in combination with a spruce or cedar top. Sonically it is particularly present in the mid and upper mid frequencies while less boomy in the bass frequencies than other woods. Since this beautiful wood is scarce (especially in the quality needed for building musical instruments), it is also somewhat more expensive.

Mango

This wood is relatively new to the lutherie. It is not only very pretty but also produces a sweet, focused sound.

Technical Terms

A decorative inlay stripe along the outline of the top and/or soundhole, made of symmetrically angled, black and white pieces of wood, resulting in a herring bone effect. Very traditional, very classic.
The technical term for the connection of two wooden parts, consisting a V-shaped pin being inserted into a V-shaped slot. This results in a firm connection, fixed to front, back, left and right. In guitar making this is the traditional connection of neck and body.
The inside of the shell of this sea snail shimmers in beautiful green, blue, purple and black like a dark mother of pearl. Real abalone is relatively rare and expensive because it is an endangered species.
Martin’s Vintage Tone System is based on torrefication – the rest of the process is kept secret. It is used to artificially age the spruce tops and bracings of guitars in order to re-create the sound and feel of a well-played-in guitar. Martin’s craftsmen are able to determine the age of the guitar to the exact year.
Liquidmetal is a trademark for an amorphe metal alloy that was developed by Liquidmetal Technologies. It is more resistant and flexible than titanium or aluminium alloys and extremely light weight.
Basically simply means that a piece of wood consists of several glued, thin layers. This is not as noble as solid wood, but if done correctly, can lead to a huge increase in stability.

Pickups

The Matrix pickup is the classic Fishman under saddle transducer. VT is the current preamp system and the enhance pickup is an additional pickup that processes the sound of the guitars top. The two pickups can be blended for an ideal mix between the natural sound of the top and the feedback resistance of the under saddle transducer.
The Infinity preamp system features a unique scoop control, which reduces the mids while increasing the bass and treble frequencies. The easy to reach voicing switch adjusts the frequencies to different performance settings.
An under saddle transducer with controls and a tuner in the soundhole.
The Presys + is a compact preamp system, featuring a 3 band equalizer, phase switch, notch filter and brilliance control plus a built in tuner.
This under saddle transducer is made of a special material to create the most natural sound from small bodied guitars.
The Ellipse Matrix Blend Preamp system is mounted inside the soundhole and blends the classic Matrix pickup with a built in condenser microphone. This mix enables the guitarist to tune in the perfect blend between the ease of use of an under saddle transducer and the natural sound of a microphone
The Fishman Aura system digitally adds a pre-produced studio image of the guitar to the transducers signal. In order to achieve the best result, the system has to be “taught” the unaltered signal of the transducer, so it can then calculate the difference between the studio signal and the pickups signal. The technology is similar but not identical to profiling. VT is a pickup that is mounted to the bride plate (see Matrix VT), resulting in an even more natural sound.
The Anthem is a hybrid pickup consisting of the Baggs elements under saddle transducer and a bridge plate mounted condenser microphone. It is one of the best, most natural sounding pickups on the market.