You can’t re-invent the wheel, but you can rethink it to deliver a smoother, more satisfying ride. That’s what Martin endeavored to do in 2018 with the reimagined Standard Series, something the guitar maker calls “the most significant update to our flagship line in our 186-year history.” The Standard Series includes icons such as the D-35 and 000-28, the M-36 that earned an Editors’ Pick in our February 2019 issue, and the OMC-28E reviewed here. In Martin nomenclature, that means an orchestra model (same size and depth as a 000), 14 frets to the body, a cutaway for upper access, style 28 appointments and wood combination — a solid Sitka spruce top with East Indian rosewood back and sides — and onboard electronics. Global updates to the Standard Series include a high-performance neck taper, scalloped bracing, and throwback features and appointments that include open-gear Schaller tuners, bold herringbone binding, vintage fingerboard inlays, a script headstock logo and tinted top toner.
So has Martin truly set a new Standard? The short answer is a resounding yes! The M-36 was our first evidence, and we just toured the Martin factory where we were able to compare the very first of the reimagined D-28s to the very last of the former Standard D-28s, created in 2017. It was immediately obvious that the reimagined Standard D-28 is simply easier to play than its predecessor. The M-36 and this OMC-28E have similar stories in that they played perfectly right out of the box, which, as many Martin owners will attest, has not always been the case. It has been generally accepted that a spankin’-new Martin might need a pro setup job upon arrival, and that a break-in period was often in order.
That’s clearly a thing of the past. These new Standards are a breeze to play, and none more so than the OMC-28E. Compared to some older Martins, playing a new Standard neck, with its performance taper, can feel akin to walking or biking down a hill. Having a cutaway on an already comfy OM-style body helps facilitate fancy flights of the fingers high up the neck, where few Martins have previously ventured.
The new Standards have tonal benefits as well. There is a more open quality to that classic Martin tone than we’ve heard in quite a while, as well as plenty of volume and projection, even from the rather diminutive OMC-28E. It doesn’t deliver as much low end as larger models, of course, but it does have the same 25.4-inch scale length and therefore the same snap that makes finger plucking and percussive playing near the bridge truly pop. The OMC-28E has the added advantage of being an acoustic-electric.
Available options include the L.R. Baggs Anthem system or the Fishman Aura VT Enhance included on this test model. On a solo gig, I played it through a system that included an L.R. Baggs Align Series pedals, an AER Compact 30 TE amp and a Baggs Synapse Personal P.A. The unobtrusive, in-soundhole Aura delivered a clear representation of this Martin’s even tone with more bottom available than one might expect.
Martin has clearly managed to honor its heritage while taking a significant step forward with the reimagined Standard Series. I should note that both of the Standards I’ve reviewed underwent a change in playability that made them more difficult almost immediately upon arrival. That was attributed to differences between Martin’s heated and humidity-controlled warehouse in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, and the wintertime weather in Northern California, and it was a cinch to resolve with a few turns of the truss rod. New Martin owners should refer to the free Care and Feeding Guide, available on the Martin website, and consider buying a Martin-approved truss-rod adjuster and appropriate humidifier accessories from the site’s 1833 Shop, or at your favorite acoustic outlet.
The bottom line is that it’s high time to reconsider what owning a new Standard Martin means, even for the most traditional-minded folks. For more adventurous Martin enthusiasts, the Modern Deluxe Series, with oodles of forward-minded features, is brand new for 2019. Watch for a review in an upcoming issue.
PRICE $3,159 street
NUT WIDTH 1.75”, bone
NECK Select hardwood (African mahogany or Spanish cedar), modified low oval with high-performance taper
FRETBOARD Ebony, 25.4” scale
FRETS 20, medium-fine
TUNERS Schaller nickel open-gear “butterbean”
BODY Solid East Indian rosewood back and sides, solid Sitka spruce top
ELECTRONICS Fishman Aura VT Enhance
FACTORY STRINGS Martin MA540T Lifespan 2.0 Phosphor Bronze Light Authentic Acoustic .012–.054
WEIGHT 4.4 lbs
KUDOS Impeccable playability, appearance, and craftsmanship. Fantastically even acoustic tone. Cutaway and electronics make it ultimately stageworthy