The first thing I noticed about the Martin CEO-7 was that, somehow, it didn’t really seem like a Martin. I tuned it up and played it for a minute before I stopped and realized that it almost looked like a 1930s Gibson, even though the headstock did indeed say “Martin.” In what almost seems like a nod to Gibson’s L-00 model of old, the CEO-7 is the latest in a series of guitars designed by the man carrying on the company name, Martin CEO Chris Martin IV.
The one I checked out had the typically outstanding Martin sound, with great balance and sustain, and was pretty loud despite its size. This was true for playing both with and without a pick, though it seemed to almost feel more natural to play it fingerstyle, and it worked wonderfully for this type of playing. The Modified V neck was a little tough to adjust to at first, but once I did I discovered the strings to be as perfectly spaced as they could be, with 1¾” fingerboard width at the nut graduating to 2¼” at the 12th fret.
The guitar has an Adirondack spruce top and mahogany back and sides, and the neck is “select hardwood,” which generally means mahogany or maybe Spanish cedar, but other woods have been creeping in as well. Given that it’s Martin, though, one can generally assume that it’s a high-grade wood or it wouldn’t even be considered. The nut and saddle are bone, and the fingerboard and bridge are ebony.
Another nice thing about this guitar is how light it is. When it’s in the case it’s not a struggle to carry, and out of the case it weighs only a few pounds. Somewhere between Martin’s 00 and 000 models, the CEO-7 should work well for just about anyone of any size. If you’re not real familiar with what this guitar might look like, think Gibson’s Keb’ Mo’ Bluesmaster.
Dreads and jumbos still are enjoying the bulk of the sales these days, mostly for the volume factor. But this sloped-shoulder smaller guitar is just plain cool, and it certainly grew on me after I played it for a few minutes. The CEO-7 had a sound that was hard to beat, especially when it came to playing with skin and nails. Chris Martin IV comes away as a guy who has hit another home run with one of his CEO designs, and as a guy who really knows and loves guitars, period.