If you have the cash and dig the snazz factor, the 000-42 MD looks as fabulous as it plays. If you’re a dedicated fingerpicker or simply want a parlor-sized, old-world Martin with the contemporary functionality and above-Standard aesthetics that Modern Deluxe has to offer, then the 0012-28 MD has all the right moves. Both earn Editors’ Pick Awards.
0012-28 is delightful for fingerpicking.
And it's lightweight, lively and loud.
000-42 has stunning looks, fabulously versatile playability.
Red and white bridge pins stick out on the 0012-28.
Fancy is pricey.
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Martin’s introduction of the Modern Deluxe Series in 2019 was a major move, replacing the Vintage Series with this forward/retro series just above the Standard line, and this year the company has filled out the range with six new acoustic guitars.
MDs have progressive features, including torrified tops, titanium truss rods, Liquidmetal bridge pins and carbon-fiber-composite bridge plates, as well as upscale appointments and a distinctive Vintage Deluxe neck. The whole concept is not to reinvent the wheel but rather to update it by judiciously applying modern technology to classic platforms.
Martin started with its most popular platforms: a pair of dreadnoughts, a triple 0 and an OM. All were in style 28, except the mahogany D-18. The new models essentially offer fancier appointments or smaller bodies. We picked one of each for review: the elegant 000-42 MD and the parlor-sized 0012-28 MD.
The 42 is a favorite Martin style because it’s upscale, yet not as extravagant or expensive as the top-tier 45. It has oodles of luxurious appeal but isn’t quite as blinged out with abalone all around. This 000-42 is stunning in classic fashion, featuring plenty of Golden Era abalone and mother-of-pearl inlays.
I love the snowflake inlays on either end of the bridge, and on this MD the Liquidmetal bridge pins are golden, with top inlays that bring them in line with the rest of the design. The headstock logo tree is a thing of beauty as well.
The 0012-28 has the same Modern Deluxe appointments as its predecessors, including a script logo of inlaid abalone on the headstock, abalone side dots and small diamond fretboard inlays, and European flamed-maple body bindings unique to the MD line. Its Liquidmetal bridge pins are white with red dots, and in the case of this very throwback-style parlor guitar, they definitely stick out a bit.
Another difference with this model is the side-mounted gold tuners, which are absolutely on point. Interestingly, the top on this 0012 had a few spots where the Sitka spruce grain wasn’t exactly straight.
Martin VP Fred Greene explains: “We’re trying to be more environmentally conscious with our woods. If it’s structurally sound, there’s no good reason to waste it, and there is beauty to be found in those slight distinctions – like Cindy Crawford’s birthmark.”
This 000-42 MD is one of the most easily playable and stylistically flexible Martins I’ve ever come across. Like all Modern Deluxes, the neck is modeled after the 1930 OM-45 Deluxe hanging in the Martin Museum, but this one feels a little less asymmetrical and more C-shaped.
It’s awesome for playing anything from country blues to classic rock, using varied approaches from a pick to fingerstyle or hybrid picking. The sound is right in the sweet spot as well: not too booming, not too bright – a real Goldilocks zone. Compared to the OM-28 Modern Deluxe, the tone is a bit more mellow and less articulate, due to the slightly shorter length.
The 0012-28 represents the move into smaller sizes. Unlike the “regular” 00-28 MD, which is essentially a smaller version of the triple 0, this 0012 has 12 frets to the body, and the body has that very classic, more slender look of a pre-1930 Martin parlor guitar. It’s wonderfully compact, yet very loud and super resonant, with sustain for days.
Compared to the 000-42 MD, the 0012-28 MD delivers a totally different playing experience. The neck is slightly wider and almost demands to be played fingerstyle. It has the same 24.9-inch scale length as the triple 0, but on its compact body, with 12 frets to the neck attachment, it feels much snappier and more akin to an OM, yet the flexible string bendability is similar to the triple 0. The 0012-28 MD is its own animal, and a fingerpicker’s dream guitar.
With such a significant expansion of the Modern Deluxe line, there’s now one available in all of the main Martin body styles from the past 120 years, with the most popular – dreadnought and triple 0 – offered at different style levels. Collectors will appreciate having a few style 45 and 42 models available.
Everyone else can appreciate more body options, including the mahogany 000-18 MD. For those who want a smaller guitar that still has 14 frets to the body, there’s the 00-28 MD, and for those that want to take it all the way back to the original 0, there’s the 0-28 MD.
Regarding these two review units, if you have the cash and dig the snazz factor, the 000-42 MD looks as fabulous as it plays. If you’re a dedicated fingerpicker or simply want a parlor-sized, old-world Martin with the contemporary functionality and above-Standard aesthetics that Modern Deluxe has to offer, then the 0012-28 MD has all the right moves. Both earn Editors’ Pick Awards.
- PRICES: 00-12: $4,399 street; 000-42: $7,199
- NUT WIDTH: 00-12: 1 13/16”; 000-42: 1 ¾”; bone
- NECK: Genuine mahogany
- FRETBOARD: Ebony, 24.9” scale
- FRETS: 20
- TUNERS: 00-12: gold side-mount; 000-42: gold open
- BODY: East Indian rosewood back and sides with European flamed maple binding, VTS Sitka spruce top
- BRIDGE: Ebony with compensated bone saddle
- ELECTRONICS: Optional, but not included as tested
- FACTORY STRINGS: Martin Authentic Acoustic Lifespan 2.0 MA540T Light 92/8 Phosphor Bronze
- WEIGHT: 00-28: 3.8 lbs, as tested; 000-42:
4 lbs, as tested
- BUILT: USA
- CONTACT: Martin
Jimmy Leslie has been Frets editor since 2016. See many Guitar Player- and Frets-related videos on his YouTube channel, and learn about his acoustic/electric rock group at spirithustler.com.