Martin GC MMV Acoustic 6-string & D12X-1 Acoustic 12-String guitars

both guitars

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), and a nice dark sounding Guild mahogany 6-string.  His Sigma was the model 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 was 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 18 months.

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.

contact info