Vintage style and modern playability merge to create the Martin Retro series. Within the Retro series, you'll find a who's who of Martins past, with new incarnations of the legendary HD-28, D-35, D-45, D-18, 000-18, and OM-28. Each proves to be historically accurate aesthetically, but tweaked to meet today's gigging guitarist's needs.
Everything Old Is New Again!
A quick, casual glance at any member of the Retro series, and you'd think you were looking at an extremely well-preserved vintage Martin, not unlike some of the guitars that fill the Martin Guitar Museum: the tops are finished with aged toner, the appointments echo the classic stylings of 1930s- and 1940s-era Martins, and the body styles are among the most revered in all the guitar world. Even on the inside, these Martins exude vintage, boasting forward-shifted scalloped braces just like they used to.
But Martin wasn't content to simply reissue these legendary instruments, equipping the Retro series with Fishman F1 Aura for incredibly authentic onstage amplification and a reshaped neck to give players a fluid, comfortable playing experience.
Martin D-18E Retro
For their Retro series, Martin selected a handful of prime specimens from the Martin Museum and analyzed them, looking for ways they could be improved while retaining the essence of their vintage goodness. The result is a distinctly vintage-looking D-18 with a smooth-playing high-performance neck and superb Fishman F1 Aura Plus electronics. A dreadnought that plays like butter, projects like a cannon, and records beautifully — the ultimate D-18? For many of us Martin fanciers here at Sweetwater, the D-18E Retro is just that.
To the D-18's classic Sitka spruce top and mahogany back and sides, Martin added a new, sleeker-profile neck with a Modified Low Oval profile and Performing Artist taper. Martin also tapped the talent of Larry Fishman — the legendary acoustic guitar pickup designer — to capture the sonic essence of the classic instruments using vintage mics, essentially "bottling" the sound. So when you plug in your D-18E Retro, you get the unmistakable sonics of a golden-era D-18.
Vintage Tones, Unplugged
The sound of an acoustic guitar is the sum of a number of factors, each significant in their own way. The wood used for the top, back, and sides all impact the tone, as do the neck wood and fingerboard. Martin chose to faithfully mimic the tonewoods used on the original models, though they did opt for more ecologically sound choices than the vintage guitars used (substituting East Indian rosewood for Brazilian rosewood, for example).
The physics of acoustic guitars tell us that the style and positioning of the internal braces play a large part in the overall sound. To make sure these Retro series guitars sound just like their vintage brethren, Martin resorted to the same forward-shifted scalloped X-bracing used in their vintage counterparts. By scalloping the bracing, the top is allowed to vibrate more freely, providing a warmer bass response. Scalloped bracing along with forward-shifted bracing also creates more volume than standard scalloped bracing.
Rounding out the vintage vibe is the lack of a cutaway, despite these guitars all being equipped with Fishman pickup systems for awesome onstage sound. Purists will love the look, and the neck is so comfortable, you won't miss the cutaway at all — but more on the neck in a minute.
Vintage Tones, Plugged
That's a rundown of the "retro" side of the Retro series, so let's take a look at what Martin tweaked to meet the demands of today's player. The first time you pick up a Retro series guitar, you'll notice the neck. It's slimmer, more comfortable, and built for incredible playability. Martin equipped these beauties with the Modified Low Oval profile with a Performing Artist neck taper, giving you a comfy feel that is equally suited for rhythm playing or higher-fret runs. Whether you're onstage or in your living room, you'll love the way you can effortlessly cruise up and down the neck. Acoustic players will find it familiar, but electric players will be right at home on it, as well.
But the neck isn't the only thing drawing from modern inspirations. The Fishman F1 Aura system is both unobtrusive and incredible. The F1 Aura Plus gives you the option of using the under-saddle pickup, a variety of modeled acoustic sounds, or a blend of both, on top of onboard EQ, feedback suppression, and compression.
Modeled, you say? It's not what you think! These models aren't conjured in a lab; they're sonic re-creations of real vintage Martin guitars from the hallowed halls of the Martin Guitar Museum. A vintage version of each model was meticulously miked up using only the finest studio gear, and then reproduced inside the F1 Aura Plus system.
The Aura system defaults to Easy Mode, which gives you the choice of three image presets and a built-in tuner (the tuner can also be used when the guitar isn't plugged in, super handy for strumming around the house!). When you enter Performance Mode, you have access to six more images, along with the aforementioned EQ, feedback suppression, and compression. This may seem like a lot of extras for a purist, but we put these through their paces here at Sweetwater, and believe us, they meet our excruciatingly high standards.
Martin-standard Dovetail Neck Joint
Like the originals, the Retro series guitars come standard with the classic dovetail neck joint. Lightweight and sturdy, the dovetail joint is the go-to construction methodology for Martin guitars, as the area of direct wood-to-wood contact is increased. The thinking is that the increased contact provides better tonal transfer between the neck and body. Martin has done it like this forever, and there's no reason to fix what's not broke.
The mechanics of the standard dovetail neck joint dictate that merely fitting the neck to the body and stringing up the guitar should provide more than enough strength to hold the neck to the body. But to make sure every Retro series Martin (or any other Martin for that matter) is built to last a lifetime, the neck joints are thoroughly glued for maximum structural integrity.