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50 Year Old Martin Guitar vs Brand New Martin Guitar

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Yes I know they aren't Gibsons 🙂 but I thought you guys may find this interesting

 

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I had a 44 year old D-28 and sold it for a profit because (I thought) it sounded like crap. My "new" D-35 and D-18 walked all over the "vintage" Martin. 

For the record, I'm not poo-poo'ing vintage guitars, but I'm trying to make a point that just because it's old, and I don't care who made it, doesn't automatically mean it's going to sound great. I also don't subscribe to the belief that guitars made during "this" or "that" period are all great, or are all junk. There are duds and gems from every year. And obviously the inverse can also be true where there are vintage instruments that will walk all over new, out of the box guitars. The myriad of factors that have to align to get a really exceptionally sounding guitar are so many that it's really just a roll of the dice. There isn't one thing that will automatically get you "that" sound. And while we're at it, a guitar that might sound like junk to one person might be the next person's holy grail, and that was in fact the case with my old Martin. I couldn't wait to sell it, and the buyer couldn't wait to call it his own. 

You just have to judge each guitar individually on it's own merits regardless of year.

Also, theyr're comparing a D-35 with an HD-35. The D-35 has straight 1/4" braces, the HD-35 has scalloped 1/4" braces. The HD-35 is going to have a bigger low end and thinner/brighter high end, with more of a stopped sound compared to the '72 D-35, which is arguably from an era where Martin dreads were the most heavily braced than ever, larger bridge plates, etc. The HD-35 also has forward shifted bracing, the '72 D-35 is a standard bracing pattern, not forward shifted. Nut widths are also different with the D-35 being 1 11/16 and the Reimagined HD-35 is 1 3/4". 

Edited by sbpark

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I think there is something about the age and dryness of the wood that gives them a different voice. Better? not always but usually. In my opinion my '64 Bird takes a bird poop on a new one. much louder and better definition.

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Yup. Interesting demo. The bit from 12:30 to 13:00 was a bit of an eye opener. Much more of a difference than I was expecting.

As to which sounds 'better'? I don't know. There's something about each that I prefer over the other.  Perhaps hearing them in person would make the choice a tad easier and the feel of the neck and 'board profiles would come into the equation. The scary thing was how much work needed to be done to fix the old one just to get it back in fine fettle......

Pip.

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Nothing “scary” about it at all. It’s a 40+ year old guitar. The service he had done are basically routine maintenance and par for the course for a guitar that age. A neck reset, refret and gluing loose braces is expected. Like buying an old amp, an old car, etc., expect to put some additional money into it to get it up and running/playable/back to it's former glory. 

 

My ‘75 D-28 needed a neck reset, full refret, new pickguard (which was more involved than I thought because the original pickguards were placed over bare wood then the finish applied over it, so they carefully removed what was left of the old, lifting and shrinking guard, filled in the bare spot with lacquer and made it totally flush with the existing surrounding lacquer then applied the new guard) and glued a couple loose back braces. They also “relocated” the saddle about 1/16” because of intonation issues that many from the 70’s Martins have because of the bridges being placed incorrectly. They filled in the old saddle slot and routed a new slot and you could hardly tell after. I was lucky. Many had the bridge a little more out of place and needed the entire bridge scooted. Then a new bone but and saddle all to the tune of $1,200.

 

What is kind of shocking  (and scary) about this is Martin didn’t charge him for any of the work, and he's not the original owner,, but if you search there are many “new” Martin owners who are reporting their guitars needing neck resets as soon as a a year to a couple years after purchase! This started happening several years ago and Martins response was to change their warranty to a “Limited” lifetime warranty, specifically stating in the warranty literature that they will no longer cover neck resets.  So they’ll reset a neck for free for someone who isnt the original owner on a 40+ year old guitar just because he’s an internet celebrity and owner of a shop that is a Martin dealer, but won’t warranty a guitar that needs a neck reset and had a poor neck angle set from the factory after a year or two to the original owner who shelled out good money.  That’s not cool.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I love my Martins but it seems like they have some gross inconsistencies with setting neck angles from the factory these days and it’s been going on for many years now and they still haven’t seemed to correct the issue. There was a several page thread about this recently on the AGF where they discussed this exact issue with new Martins.

Edited by sbpark

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1975 beatup martins arnt vintage and I would take any 50s martin over any new guitar

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How would a guitar need a neck reset in a matter of a couple of years ?

I get that it may  not be set very well from the factory , but then it would be dodgy when lifted off the peg in the shop right ?

Do they 'slip' out of shape suddenly or what ?

 

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29 minutes ago, blindboygrunt said:

How would a guitar need a neck reset in a matter of a couple of years ?

I get that it may  not be set very well from the factory , but then it would be dodgy when lifted off the peg in the shop right ?

Do they 'slip' out of shape suddenly or what ?

 

 

Who knows, and if they knew, I'd would think they would have corrected the issue by now. Maybe Martin doesn't see it as an issue.

Their neck angles are literally all over the place out of the factory. I had a 2014 000-15M that I bought brand new and after a couple years (like 2.5 years to be exact) the action was so high I ran out of saddle and had nowhere left to go with sanding it down. Took it to an Authorized Martin repair shop and they along with Martin (I was there when the repair person at the shop called Martin and had them on speakerphone so I could hear because he had been dealing with this issue for a while and wanted me other it direct from Martin because he had some very unhappy customers when they refused to warranty a neck reset) acknowledged the issue but would not authorize a neck reset. They instead offered two options, to have Martin send the shop a lower bridge to replace the stock bridge, or have the shop shave down the existing bridge. I opted for the latter (the shop owner also builds gorgeous acoustics so I had no question about his skill and ability) and the guitar came out looking perfect. My only worry was the neck angle would keep settling/moving,  so I sold the guitar.  

I will say this...every "newer" Gibson I've owned (from 2012 to present) have all had basically the same/identical and perfect neck angles from the factory. 

 

 

Edited by sbpark

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1 hour ago, jvi said:

1975 beatup martins arnt vintage and I would take any 50s martin over any new guitar

 

By definition "vintage" usually denotes a guitar greater than 25-30 years old. 

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It s impossible to slap labels on any particular old guitar. They were in a constant state of change as builders attempted to solve engineering problems..  Bracing changes alone would fill an encyclopedia.  If you take a Martin D-18,  they moved from a scalloped bracing to an un-scalloped slight taper bracing in 1944 and then sometime in 1947 went with a more radically tapered bracing.    Each change gave the guitar a different heartbeat.   In some instances it is not even possible to build guitars like they did in the good old days (using traditional methods) unless you want them coming back for warranty repairs.  There is a reason Gibson chose a 1937 L-00 to copy their Legend version rather than one which saw the light of day in 1932.

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These two sound different, both very good in their own right. No picker would kick either out of bed for eating crisps!

I hold fast to the theory that some old guitars are just that-old guitars. A "vintage" guitar, to me, is an instrument that quite probably sounded very good off the peg and has been played a great deal and kept well, therefore improving with age.

'70s Martins were generally as ropey as '70s Gibsons. The gigantic RW bridgeplates, the intonation issues with misplaced bridges, etc etc. The Braz was all gone by this point and QC had gone south for various reasons. I recently turned down a beautiful looking '73 D35 (for considerably less money than a new one would have cost me) because it was just an old guitar that didn't sound particularly good. 

Contrast that with my 1997 D18GE prototype, which has zero issues, sounds terrific and was even less money. The same is the case with my 1994 Blues King. 

I think there is a lot to be said for seeking out guitars that are 20-30yrs old, as they tend to be in good playable shape with any early onset problems taken care of, and well played in. I don't buy into the idea of ponying up £15k for a '40s D28 in the hope that it has some magic element. I always remember that when Dylan was recording with his magnificent '50s J50, it was around 8-11yrs old. Hank Williams' Southern Jumbo and D28 were both bought new. Donovan's J45 and Townes' D35, both off the peg guitars. 

Don't get me wrong, a great vintage guitar is a wonderful thing, but they're a luxury item not a necessity for a player, in my opinion. 

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On the neck angle issue, Gibson went through a really poor period with neck sets, from 2002 through to around 2014/15. Neck angles, especially on SJ200s, were atrociously arbitrary. When I bought my 2015 SJ200, I picked it from a batch of five, all of which had different neck sets. Mine was the best of them in terms of build, tone, playability and neck angle. Two flat-out needed a neck reset there and then, barely 2mm of saddle showing and you could deliver a fridge under the strings. A bandmate owned a 2004 J45 RW which had a horribly underset neck and my 2003 SJ200 needed a reset by 2008.

 

I've played very few Hummingbirds and Doves with poor neck angles mind you, and no L-00s. The first wave of Bozeman guitars were, in my experience, all very well built in terms of neck geometry. I wonder whether it was an issue with worn tooling that later led to the angle issues. Possibly the same for Martin. I've seen some of the CEO series Martins with very poor neck sets.

Latter-day Gibsons (ie 2015 on) seem to have VERY well set necks, with tall saddles for plentiful adjustment over time. That's something of a criterion for me as a buyer and player, so I'm very glad to see that they've got on top of the issue, I'm sure it was the source of quite a bit of warranty arseache.

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1 hour ago, Jinder said:

On the neck angle issue, Gibson went through a really poor period with neck sets, from 2002 through to around 2014/15. Neck angles, especially on SJ200s, were atrociously arbitrary. When I bought my 2015 SJ200, I picked it from a batch of five, all of which had different neck sets. Mine was the best of them in terms of build, tone, playability and neck angle. Two flat-out needed a neck reset there and then, barely 2mm of saddle showing and you could deliver a fridge under the strings. A bandmate owned a 2004 J45 RW which had a horribly underset neck and my 2003 SJ200 needed a reset by 2008.

 

I've played very few Hummingbirds and Doves with poor neck angles mind you, and no L-00s. The first wave of Bozeman guitars were, in my experience, all very well built in terms of neck geometry. I wonder whether it was an issue with worn tooling that later led to the angle issues. Possibly the same for Martin. I've seen some of the CEO series Martins with very poor neck sets.

Latter-day Gibsons (ie 2015 on) seem to have VERY well set necks, with tall saddles for plentiful adjustment over time. That's something of a criterion for me as a buyer and player, so I'm very glad to see that they've got on top of the issue, I'm sure it was the source of quite a bit of warranty arseache.

 

Looks like Gibson actually acknowledged the issue and remedied it, while Martin, for whatever reason apparently hasn't done a thing about it. 

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About 2002 or so, I desperately wanted the new Martin OM-15 (all mahogany) but there were none for sale anywhere here. There were dozens of the 000-15 and I bought one with a cutaway and a pickup system - 000c-15e.....but the OM had 1 3/4 nut while the 000 had 1 11/16"....cramped for fingerstyle. I played it a lot as it had a beautiful tone, cramped or not. In 2015 or abouts, I bought a 1944 Martin 0-17 all  mahogany, also 1 11/16' cramped nut, dripping with mahogany tone. The neck had been reset and it was so bad previously that they had to put a wedge under the end of the neck. The 15th fret on the first string just goes 'plink' and it is amazing how often I play that note since I know I can't!

But the tone just seeps out of the old thing, 75 odd years old, so the 000 though larger of body, is long gone to a happy player somewhere. While there was some family resemblance - sorry - no contest!😏

 

BluesKing777.

 

 

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28 minutes ago, BluesKing777 said:

About 2002 or so, I desperately wanted the new Martin OM-15 (all mahogany) but there were none for sale anywhere here. There were dozens of the 000-15 and I bought one with a cutaway and a pickup system - 000c-15e.....but the OM had 1 3/4 nut while the 000 had 1 11/16"....cramped for fingerstyle. I played it a lot as it had a beautiful tone, cramped or not. In 2015 or abouts, I bought a 1944 Martin 0-17 all  mahogany, also 1 11/16' cramped nut, dripping with mahogany tone. The neck had been reset and it was so bad previously that they had to put a wedge under the end of the neck. The 15th fret on the first string just goes 'plink' and it is amazing how often I play that note since I know I can't!

But the tone just seeps out of the old thing, 75 odd years old, so the 000 though larger of body, is long gone to a happy player somewhere. While there was some family resemblance - sorry - no contest!😏

 

BluesKing777.

 

 

 

Again, as many have already stated, you can't make blanket conclusions on an entire era/decade/period of guitars based on one example from that time. There will be amazing ones, great ones, good ones and awful ones from every period, new and old, vintage and modern, etc. You're also comparing a 0 size Martin to a 000 size Martin. Only thing in common is the name on the headstock. Would be like comparing a J45 and a LG0 and saying you prefer one over the other thinking it's apples and apples. 

And jsut because these two guitars in the video look the same/very similar on the outside and both have the "35" in the model name doesn't mean they are even remotely the same or similar under the hood, because they are not. 

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15 hours ago, pippy said:

Yup. Interesting demo. The bit from 12:30 to 13:00 was a bit of an eye opener. Much more of a difference than I was expecting.

As to which sounds 'better'? I don't know. There's something about each that I prefer over the other.  Perhaps hearing them in person would make the choice a tad easier and the feel of the neck and 'board profiles would come into the equation. The scary thing was how much work needed to be done to fix the old one just to get it back in fine fettle......

Pip.

Whoa......my new 00-28 has some of that boom, fullness too!

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I have a few examples and agree that you must judge each guitar on it's own merits and your personal preferences. Even though these are all very nice guitars, I do prefer some over others. Here's a few of mine  -

1942-43 J45 vs 2010 J45 Legend >>>>>>>>>> The newer Legend wins

1942 LG1 vs 2013 LG2 (RI of the LG1) >>>>>>>>>  The older LG1 wins

1982 BRW HD28 vs  2011 D41 Special >>>>>>>>>>> The D41 Special

Edited by Dave F
Typo
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22 hours ago, sbpark said:

 

By definition "vintage" usually denotes a guitar greater than 25-30 years old. 

just wrong sparky, vintage means more than age...

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10 hours ago, jvi said:

just wrong sparky, vintage means more than age...

 

There are many definitions used to determine if a guitar is "vintage", so neither of us is wrong, only a difference of opinion.

I'll put it you you this way...just because a guitar meets criteria as "vintage" (use whatever criteria or definition you'd like), doesn't automatically mean it's anything special, desirable or valuable. It can still be defined as vintage and be a worthless p.o.s., and just because you aren't keen to certain guitars made during a certain era doesn't automatically discount them from being defined as vintage. You may not like it, but that doesn't discount it from being something. 

Edited by sbpark

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15 hours ago, sbpark said:

 

There are many definitions used to determine if a guitar is "vintage", so neither of us is wrong, only a difference of opinion.

I'll put it you you this way...just because a guitar meets criteria as "vintage" (use whatever criteria or definition you'd like), doesn't automatically mean it's anything special, desirable or valuable. It can still be defined as vintage and be a worthless p.o.s., and just because you aren't keen to certain guitars made during a certain era doesn't automatically discount them from being defined as vintage. You may not like it, but that doesn't discount it from being something. 

the dictionary has vintage in it...

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