Review: Martin OM18 Authentic 1933 Acoustic Guitar

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The C.F. Martin Company, maybe more than any other guitar maker, has wisely embraced the digital technology that is changing the world, most notably in its use of Fishman’s revolutionary electronics in its Retro series of guitars. Now the company has utilized what is normally thought of as medical technology to help recreate one of its most legendary guitars with the OM18 Authentic 1933. The company went to the Smithsonian Institute to use a CAT scan machine to detail an original Martin 1933 OM-18, a guitar that the company only made a couple hundred of that year. Now a 21st century replica of the guitar, one that is as true to the original as it can possibly be, is available.

I didn’t have one of the originals lying around to compare this guitar to, so I played this new one as I would any new guitar, looking for the things that affect me as a player, and might be of importance to others. The first thing I noticed right off the bat was the authentic “barrel and heel” shaped neck, which is kind of thick at its rear apex, almost angular, almost hard to wrap an average-sized hand around at first. But after I got used to it, no problem. It was a lot of fun to play this axe with its Orchestra Model body, great for Leon Redbone-y type picking or even something like “Dust in the Wind,” which is what a guitar like this almost inspires a player to go for.

Not that it isn’t a strumming guitar, because it’s fine for that too. This one didn’t have particularly super long-lasting sustain or a loud presence because of its size, but it sounded great. The intonation, action, and pretty much everything else was of the usual Martin quality, which is at the top of the spectrum. The back, sides and neck are mahogany and the top is Adirondack spruce, and it features old style “18” abalone fingerboard inlays and a head plate, back purfling and endpiece of Madagascar rosewood. The fingerboard, nut and heelcap are ebony, and Waverly nickel tuning machines with butterbean knobs lend to the air of authenticity. And for the southpaws, a left-handed model is available at no extra charge.

The guitar I played sounded great, played great and did everything it should have. The question here is how many of these will find a home with everyday players as opposed to collectors, with a list price of $6,499 and a street price of just under $5k. But then, considering what one of the originals is worth today (somewhere in the neighborhood of $30k depending on condition), it may not be a bad deal. I suggest you try one out for yourself at your local Martin dealer if for no other reason to see what it feels like to play the closest thing to a great sounding 80-year-old guitar that you’re likely to find.

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