Despite the fact that we know John Mayer as a guitar player who rocks a Strat, he uses a number of different guitars during his performance. One of them is Martin OM-28.
As most of us know, Martin is regarded as one of the best brands in the business right now. Along with names such as Taylor, they form the cutting edge of high end acoustic tone. What makes OM-28 even more special is the fact that it was designed with Mayer’s input. In other words, this is his signature model. Today we are going to check it out closer and see if this Martin lives up to the expectations.
Building a good guitar requires so many things to fall into place. For starters, you have to have good materials, good hardware and a decent plan. More importantly, it all comes down to the skillful hands of the luthier. All of these factors become even more imperative when we shift the focus of the discussion onto acoustic guitars. With them, there are no pickups to mask imperfections and no solid wood to resist the wear of everyday use. Instead, every single component requires maximum attention if the goal is a good tone. Martin is one of the few brands which can actually guarantee this type of package. They have been in the business long enough, while also spearheading the modern age of acoustic guitars in their own way. After all, they are responsible for the Dreadnought design which has become so popular today. All that said, we are jumping into this review with a fairly made up mind.
Martin’s designs aren’t something that gets scrutinized all that often. Some of their entry level models maybe get hit from time to time, but once you step into the higher level gear, it’s all set. OM-28 is easy to figure out just judging by its name. It is an orchestra model which makes it a great choice for anyone who wants a bit more oomph. Compared to a standard dreadnought, you get much more bass in there and a bit more accuracy in the mids region. More on that later.
The overall design is pretty classic, even conservative to a point. Martin has used a combination of a solid sitka spruce top and East Indian rosewood back and sides. While it is not unheard of, using rosewood is an interesting choice. Such a hard and stiff wood generally tends to sound sharp. Maybe even too sharp. However, as we are going to find out soon, that doesn’t sound as bad or clinical as it may seem at first. Those who are familiar with higher end Martins will know that they don’t generally go overboard with details. The whole guitar features a satin finish and the only real aesthetic detail you can count on is the binding. Overall, it is fair to say that Martin OM-28 has that classical vibe going on. On the other hand, you don’t get a guitar like this because it’s pretty.
As usual, the whole point about Martin’s guitars is the level of detail put into the craftsmanship and overall build quality. We got that awesome Martin X bracing combined with a rather sturdy set of hardware. Before we go on, lets touch a bit more upon the bracing. They have used scalloped sitka spruce and done it really well. Bridge is an ebony piece with a drop in saddle. Speaking of which, saddle material is bone. This is also what you will find if you look at the nut. The only place where they didn’t go with an exotic material are the pins. Martin is known for slinging plastic bridge pins in their guitars. Aside from not being exotic, there isn’t really anything bad we can say about these pins. On the other hand, we also have to consider what John Mayer had to say about the selection of components. At the end of the day, this is still one of the higher end Martins.
Now for the important part. Lets talk about what Martin OM-28 sounds like. Short answer? Awesome. But that’s not good enough. To truly appreciate what is going here, you really need to get on the saddle and take her for a spin. Right off the bat, if you are looking for extended lows and really well articulated mids, OM-28 will give you that. Trebles are sparkly and warm at the same time. However, the clarity and precision is definitely there. What adds to the whole experience is that sitka spruce/East Indian rosewood tonewood combo. Spruce gives it a somewhat civilized flavor while that rosewood acts like a hard plate behind a soft top layer. The awesome result is a bunch of volume and great projection all around. The first implication of this is that your finger style will sound awesome. On the other hand, pick playing has a certain edge to it without sounding too brash.
We can spend a whole lot of time discussing Martin OM-28, but at the end of the day we won’t really do it justice. In order to really experience what this thing is all about, you definitely have to give it a shot in person. On one hand, when you are swimming in these waters, there is a certain level of guaranteed quality you can count on. Especially if Martin or Taylor are the brand names in the mix. The fact that John Mayer chose OM-28 for his main setup speaks volumes about the true performance and quality of this guitar. If you are an intermediate or advanced player who needs a workhorse that packs some finesse, OM-28 is easily something you can count on. This is one of the those guitars which are really worth the price tag, even though it is not exactly attainable for an average guitar player.