Martin GC MMV Acoustic 6-string & D12X-1 Acoustic
Last Update 12-23-2023
The hunt for good
acoustic guitars is HARD...
harder than cherry picking electric guitars. I had wanted a good
6-string and a good 12-string. My brother has a Sigma 12-string
that just rings (Sigma was the 1970s student import brand for Martin),
nice dark sounding Guild mahogany 6-string. His Sigma was the
sonority I wanted in a 12-string; I desired something... special... for
a 6 string.
My definition of a "good" acoustic is two things: 1) plays well all
over the neck, 2) even sound over the neck THREE things (cue Spanish
Inquisition quote) 1) plays well all over the neck, 2) even sound over
the neck and 3) natural acoustic organic sonority (many acoustic sound
more like an electric). Finding an acoustic that had all those
features was HARD.
On-board electronics was not desired (other than a bridge saddle piezo
pickup for later retrofit). Since I'm a rhythm player a cutaway
not necessary. I didn't desire abalone inlays or other fancy
decorations; I wanted something functional, hopefully without spending
a lot of money.
It didn't take long to land a 12-string that rings like my brother's
Sigma. The D12X-1 is an plain jane economy series with multi-ply
neck and back. I got lucky with that one.
Finding a 6-string took much much longer; I think that hunt was
Brand was not important but I wanted a well-respected brand - Martin,
Taylor, Guild, etc. At the time, Gibson production was very
inconsistent and poor quality so I didn't waste time trying them
out. During my personal and business travel, I would scour music
stores to audition acoustics. I'd start by strumming over the
soundhole while the guitar was hanging on the wall; that was a quick
audition of tone, from there I would play it for the features I was
looking for. Most were good with one or two features but not all
three. Good but not exceptional. I even tried the expensive
Martins like the herringbone series or the top-of-the-line D-35 and its
less ornate variants. The Taylors were well built but lacking the
organic sonority; good Guilds were few and far between, and not found
at every store or in decent quantity. So I found myself leaning
towards Martins. They offered 6-strings in the economy series
like the 12-string but they were far from adequate. The
"backpacker" model - yuck. After trying the OO/OOO and other
non-dreadnought models I decided they weren't full sounding enough for
my taste. Jumbos were too big. Narrowing it down, the
dreadnought was closest tone-wise to what I was looking for.
Over 18 months I went to many
guitar stores auditioning acoustic guitars. I didn't rule out the
cheaper plainer Martin dreadnoughts like the D-15; I think I tried at
least one fancy D-41. Saw at least one D-45 but too much money,
didn't bother to strum it. I even auditioned some at Martin's
booth at the 2005 NAMM show. If there was anything that was true
of new acoustic guitars, it is that price tag does NOT equate to a
great guitar. I wasn't even going to try a vintage Martin as they
had too many zeroes in the price.
Finally at a Guitar Center store in Syracuse NY, they had a pair of
Martin guitars under the model name "MMV". What the heck is an
"MMV" model? They are a model made exclusively for Guitar Center
stores, they had just started making them. Syracuse had two of
them, and one was strikingly good. All the features I was looking
for. It played really well, the sound was even all over the neck, and
it projected a really organic sonority - you really heard wood
resonating. Indeed, my usual acid test of wood resonance in the
body and the neck succeeded on this specimen - and it was LOUD.
The price was very reasonable and I took that guitar home.
The "MMV" is Roman numerals for "2005", the year the model was
introduced. It is basically a plain jane D-16 with no binding on
the headstock or mahogany neck, ebony fingerboard (!), dot inlays (no
pearl or abalone), nothing fancy on the headstock other than Gotoh
gold-plated tuners (the headstock lettering is gold foil - nice
touch). Traditional Sitka spruce top and solid East Indian
rosewood sides and two-piece back (although I am unable to find any
seam on the back). The neck joins to the body at the 14th
fret. Satin finish so the neck plays smoooooth.
Finger picking on this guitar produces a wonderful transient wooden
punch, something I seldom heard from all my auditions. It is a
loud guitar that projects really well. One of my friends who
tried it was amazed how well he could play leads on it, and he set off
to find one like it (I'm a bad influence). I later had piezo
pickups installed under the saddles of both guitars, at a store that
specializes in acoustic guitars. Later I learned of the Fishman
Aura "modeling" boxes, and they literally sound like they were made for
Martin guitars. I never liked the constipated tinny sound of
piezo pickups alone (one of my major pet peeves of acoustic guitars at
a concert or club), they need some sort of processing. The
Fishman boxes can transform the tinny sound of a piezo pickup into a
variety of full-bodied natural sounding acoustic guitars - perfect for
recording. I might gig the 12-string, but not the 6-string.
One tip - acoustic guitars are REALLY sensitive to string brand and
alloys. The first new strings I put on the 6-string really
changed the sound, so after some substitution I settled on Martin
Phospher Bronze strings that got "that sound" back. The 12-string
isn't as sensitive, but it sounds best with 009 or lighter string
gauges for that chimey sound.