Gear Review: Martin Expands Modern Deluxe Acoustics Series

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Videos by American Songwriter

Martin Guitars has made a major expansion this year with their popular Modern Deluxe series by adding seven new instruments to the collection. The Modern Deluxe guitars are designed for performance with added custom features and embracing technology to push the boundaries of Martin Vintage instruments.  Each of these new models has several shared features and some differences, too.  

All the guitars feature Martin’s Vintage Tone System (VTS) which uses a blend of torrefaction to age the top and braces of the wood to match a particular era in time. Although we don’t know the exact magic method Martin utilizes, we do know that torrefaction requires removing moisture out of the wood then adding back in a smaller controlled percentage of moisture to give the wood an aged sound. The new Modern Deluxe also features Sitka spruce tops, dovetail neck joints, and protein glue to secure the necks. They all utilize Martin’s new Liquidmetal bridge pins to secure the strings and to increase volume and a composite carbon fiber bridge plate under the bridge. Each of the moderns also features a redesigned asymmetrical neck shape for more comfortable and faster playing.   

The 000-18 Modern Deluxe sells for $3,599 and has East Indian rosewood binding and the 1930s script logo on the headstock. The 00-28 Modern Deluxe has European flamed maple binding and the vintage script logo as well—it sells for $4,199. The 000-42 Modern Deluxe Martin Acoustic has the European flamed maple binding on the head plate, body, and fingerboard and retails for $7,199. On the D-45 Modern Deluxe (always a head-turner guitar) Martin went all out with the classic torch logo inlaid in pearl in the headstock and it sells for $10,499.  The D-42 Modern Deluxe has many of the features of the D-45 and is priced at $7,199.  

My two personal favorites in this collection are the 0012-28 Modern Deluxe and 012-28 Modern Deluxe, both of which are parlor-shaped guitars. Twelve-fret guitars in this configuration tend to be more forgiving with the string tension and playability. I predict these guitars will be very popular this year for Martin since many musicians are seeking smaller-bodied guitars for a change in sound and songwriting. Both models are priced at $4,399.

Build Quality: Martin has high-quality control standards, and they are reflected in these new models. The craftsman and women that create these instruments invest the time and skills to make great guitars.

Sound and Tone: All these models sound great although they are also very different due to their varied body shapes, dimensions, and the VTS treatment on the tops and braces. The updated Modern Deluxe features such as the bridge pins and carbon fiber bridge plate provide more volume than the standard models.

Hardware: The new Modern Deluxe models all feature gold tuners, some are closed back and some are open-gear depending on the model.  Liquidmetal bridge pins help increase the volume with the strings and carbon fiber bridge plate.  Some of the updates like the 1930s script logo or torch logo are purely for cosmetics.

Pros: Like other Martin guitars these new Modern Deluxe models are built to last a lifetime if taken care of. The upgraded features make them more appealing for players, performers, songwriters, and younger musicians while retaining their icon shapes and Martin style. American-made and crafted guitars that will sound better the more you play them.

Cons: They are a bit on the pricey side. If you are looking for a daily player for songwriter rounds or jam sessions a guitar from the Modern Deluxe series might not be the best choice. These are not beater instruments that you keep in your trunk or back seat, they are professional guitars.   

Verdict:  Many of us are fans of Martin acoustic guitars but also want them to push the envelope sonically and playability-wise more than the vintage icon instruments they are most known for. The Modern Deluxe series represents Martin in shape, but the upgrades have been added to make them more appealing to today’s players. It’s like a melding of the past and the future and there you have the Modern Deluxe guitars. Traditionalists won’t be fans of these instruments, but that’s okay because there are plenty of guitars for them to play and choose from. I’m a fan of the Vintage Tone System where you can make a new guitar sound like an old one at a fraction of the cost of a historic guitar. Plus, the Modern Deluxe guitars provide more stable tuning, they’re louder and the asymmetrical neck plays much easier.  

This is a great expansion by Martin to attract new and young players to the table and some professionals who want more from their guitars. Martin isn’t resting on their laurels by only turning out the same iconic acoustics they are known for.  These new Modern Deluxe acoustics push the envelope, which is good.

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