By Barry Cleveland
As abundantly illustrated in Dick Boak’s new book Martin Guitar Masterpieces: A Showcase of Artist’s Editions, Limited Editions, and Custom Guitars, C.F. Martin has produced scores of special guitars for artists throughout the company’s long history. From creating custom instruments as far back as the early 19th Century, to the founding of its official Custom Shop in 1979, Martin has reached out to players who wanted something that either wasn’t available in stock models, or who had advanced sufficiently in their artistic endeavors to warrant a Signature guitar.
The OM-28 John Mayer Signature Model ($4,499 retail/$3,599 MAP) is based largely on the Vintage Series OM-28V and shares that instrument’s long 25.4"-scale, low-profile solid-mahogany 14-fret neck, 000 body size, and scalloped top bracing. A thoroughly modern addition is the Fishman/ Martin Gold+Plus Natural I under-saddle active pickup system.
The Mayer sports an Englemann spruce top with “bold herringbone” wood inlay,
a rosette with an abalone shell pearl center ring, and a gorgeous vintage toner finish. The sides and back are constructed of East Indian rosewood, with an HD-28-style zig-zag purfling strip, black/white inlay, and a polished gloss nitrocellulose lacquer finish. The top, sides, and back are bound with grained ivoroid, which is also used for the heel cap and end piece. Additional decorative touches include inset aluminum border inlays on the African black ebony belly bridge and East Indian rosewood head plate, a large “old-style” logo decal with special silver infill, abalone-inlaid bridge and endpin caps, and mother-of-pearl position dots. Unique to this guitar are a “triangle and dots figure” (the international pilot’s symbol for high noon, replicated from Mayer’s wristwatch) inlaied in abalone, bordered with mother-of-pearl at the 12th fret, and Mayer’s signature inlaid in mother-of-pearl at the 20th fret.
With the exception of a tiny under-lacquer finish flaw, the review guitar—one of four signed production prototypes—is practically perfect, embodying the combination of skilled craftsmanship and artistic expression that one expects from an instrument of this caliber. The two-piece top and back are both almost seamlessly book-matched, all joints are solid, and the inlay work and binding are impeccable. The frets are precisely installed and finished— and the genuine bone nut and saddle combination adds clarity and sustain. Inside, the bracing is cleanly cut and glued. The pickup’s preamp is mounted by the strap pin, the 9-volt battery holder is attached to the neck block, and there are no controls—a detail that allows the top and body to vibrate freely. Intonation is remarkably consistent on every note, except for a nearly negligible sharpness on the F# and G notes on the low E string, second and third frets.
The Mayer Signature plays like a dream. The neck is extremely fast and easy to negotiate, which, combined with the guitar’s relatively low action, will make it particularly inviting to those accustomed to electrics. The acoustic sound is rich, vibrant, and beautifully balanced (if just a tad thin on the bottom), with a pleasing complexity and resonance, and the active co-polymer piezo material pickup does a very good job of rendering that tone fairly naturally. All told, the Martin OM-28 John Mayer Signature Model is an extraordinary instrument with lots of personality, and if you can handle the hefty price tag, you should handle one for yourself—I assure you you’ll have a hard time putting it down!