Review: Martin OM-28E Retro Acoustic-Electric Guitar


Martin’s OM-28E Retro is one cool little guitar. The “OM” stands for “orchestra model,” and it has the smaller 000 body size that should be pretty comfortable for most people, certainly more comfortable than if you’re a small person trying to work your way around a dreadnought body. Fine for playing rhythm and lead, it’s an especially fine axe for fingerstyle playing ala Robert Johnson or Leon Redbone.

Well-balanced with great uniform action and playability all the way up the neck, the OM-28E Retro is part of Martin’s Retro Series line, which also includes the D-18E, D-45E and HD-28E, all four of which incorporate the Fishman F1 Aura Plus electronics system, which offers settings based on the modeled sounds of vintage mics and guitars. The F1 Aura Plus’ revolutionary imaging technology allows a player to get a variety of vintage sounds or just the straight sound of the pickup alone, or some combination thereof. This is a great feature for someone who is playing in public through a PA or amp and either finds a specific sound within the F1 Aura Plus that suits his or her tastes, or needs a better sound if a particular mic in a venue isn’t delivering.

As far as just playing acoustically, this guitar is sweet. The neck has Martin’s “performing artist” taper with the modified low oval profile, and it’s really noticeable, so smooth and playable that it’s a mystery why this neck construction isn’t on all their guitars, or why more guitar makers aren’t using whatever the formula is. It may just be my left hand, but it’s that good in my opinion. With a satin-finish neck of “select hardwood” (a nebulous term I hate, but which often means Spanish cedar, or maybe mahogany), the fretboard is ebony, as is the bridge, a 1930s-style belly  bridge with white Tusq drop-in saddle.

The guitar has East Indian rosewood back and sides, a Sitka spruce top and bold herringbone for the top inlay, with the cool HD (herringbone dreadnought) zig-zag design for the back purfling. With 14 frets clear and 20 total, it has the classic Martin headstock, nickel open-geared tuning machines with butterbean knobs, ivoroid binding, a Delmar tortoise-color pickguard, diamond-and-square fingerboard inlays and a plain rosette.

The guitar comes with a Martin 433 hardshell case. The list price may seem a little steep at $4,499, but it can be had for a street price of $3,399. Try one out and see if you don’t agree that it’s an excellent guitar for a variety of applications.