If you’re an environmental enthusiast, wielding this instrument is a stellar way to show support for the global cause.
Dazzling top art
Slightly dry tone
A little pricey
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The 00L Earth guitar is a major arrival for Martin, representing the historic company’s first acoustic guitar that is both FSC certified and plastic-free. Even the gig bag is made of hemp. Forestry Stewardship Council certification ensures products come from responsibly sourced woods and deliver environmental, social and economic benefits for the forest and its local inhabitants. This special slope-shouldered 00L is welcome news to eco-minded players, and from first glance it demands a deeper gaze.
The 00L Earth guitar’s most striking feature is a cosmic top design created by artist Robert Goetzl, who painted a watercolor of the planet with the sun radiating behind into a sky full of stars. Martin used a special ink-jet printing process to render it onto the top and protected it with a fine satin finish. This unit had one slight blemish, but altogether it’s easily one of the most dazzling designs we’ve laid eyes on and, to the casual onlooker, could probably pass as a custom paint job.
The instrument is otherwise engineered along the lines of Martin’s 16 and 17 series, built in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. It’s like its more upscale cousins but with less fancy appointments and more affordable tonewoods. The Earth guitar earned a Custom/Special Edition designation for its signature top graphic and unique combination of certified woods. The top is solid Sitka spruce, while the back and sides are solid sapele, a West African species often compared to mahogany. The binding is European flame maple; the fretboard, bridge and head plate are ebony; and the neck is sipo, which is another wood closely related to mahogany.
The guitar has a standard 1¾-inch nut and neck profile that Martin describes as a “modified low oval with a high-performance taper.” It felt naturally full, like a neck might on a larger Martin. The factory action was slightly on the high side, and the top two strings were marginally higher than the others, due to a shallow slot depth in the nut. There is a dual-action truss rod for adjustments, and it requires a hex wrench (not included).
The Earth guitar’s 00 body size is sometimes referred to as a grand concert, so think of it as a little larger than a concert and smaller than a triple 0, with the same scale length of 24.9 inches. That means the frets are slightly closer together than on, say, an OM, creating tighter chord clusters and making strings easier to bend. The stock strings are Martin’s new Retro, made of a nickel/copper alloy that lets more of the wood sound come through.
The guitar’s overall tone is fittingly natural, raw, organic and rather unrefined compared to some of Martin’s more sophisticated models. The core sound is fundamental and open, with good resonance that’s slightly muted, due to the top ink. We were struck by the depth and volume, which was considerable for the body size. The Earth guitar has a midrange focus and airy high end. The somewhat dry tone is a bit more present in the high mids and hollow in the low mids, perhaps due to the use of sapele rather than mahogany. The dynamic range is good, and the tone stays true without compressing when the guitar is played aggressively. There are no electronics for amplification, but the Earth guitar is capable of creating quite a ruckus on its own.
The Martin 00L Earth is a call to action on global climate change. If you’re an environmental enthusiast, wielding this instrument is a stellar way to show support for the global cause. And while it’s a bit pricey, that’s due to the lengths Martin has gone to make it certifiably sustainable. Jimmy Buffet told GP that his ideal desert island/boat guitar would be a Martin 00-18 because it’s relatively small and made of mahogany, which doesn’t warp as easily as other woods. Sapele is actually harder than mahogany, so the Martin 00L Earth should be a wonderful companion for a troubadour, allowing one to freely wander the planet and pass worry-free over its borders.
- NUT WIDTH 1¾”, bone
- NECK Sipo
- FRETBOARD Ebony, 24.9” scale, 1955 style 18 sapele dot inlays and aluminum side dots
- FRETS 20
- TUNERS Grover nickel open-gear with butterbean knobs
- BODY Solid Sitka spruce top, solid sapele back and sides, scalloped Sitka spruce X-bracing
- BRIDGE Ebony with compensated bone saddle and bone bridge pins
- ELECTRONICS None
- FACTORY STRINGS Martin Retro Light MM12
- WEIGHT 3.8 lbs (as tested)
- BUILT USA
Jimmy Leslie has been Frets editor since 2016. See many Guitar Player- and Frets-related videos on his YouTube channel (opens in new tab), and learn about his acoustic/electric rock group at spirithustler.com (opens in new tab).