Martin OMC-LJ Pro Review

AG 211 July 2010 Cover

by Doug Young

Fingerstyle guitarist Laurence Juber’s relationship with C.F. Martin and Co. has yielded several variations of his signature model, all of which are based on the cutaway OM body style. While previous Juber models used mahogany or various rosewoods for their backs and sides (as is traditional for Martin OMs), the use of flamed maple back and sides was a new choice for Juber, and one he made specifically to create an amplification-friendly guitar with great clarity in a variety of stage situations. Accordingly, the guitar comes with a D-Tar Wave-Length pickup system, which Juber uses in his own stage guitars (he adds a custom internal microphone to his personal guitars).

The OMC-LJ Pro is sparingly appointed, with just herringbone purfling and a 28 style three-ring rosette on the top (there’s no fretboard inlay and even the ebony bridge pins are plain) and a zigzag back strip. But our review guitar showed its class with beautifully flamed back and sides, wide-grained Adirondack top, ebony head plate, and Waverly tuners. The OMC-LJ Pro clearly resides at the upper end of Martin’s line, and it didn’t disappoint in terms of fit, finish, and overall craftsmanship.

The D-Tar Wave-Length electronics consist of a flat, braided, undersaddle pickup and endpin-mounted preamp. There are no onboard controls for EQ, volume, etc., but the preamp does have a pair of trim controls for tweaking bass and treble response, which provides a way to match the system to an individual guitar. The D-Tar’s most unusual feature is that it operates on 18 volts (provided by two AA batteries run through a voltage-multiplier circuit), which the company feels provides more headroom than nine-volt systems.

Players familiar with Martin OM’s won’t be too surprised by the feel of the OMC-LJ Pro, except that its string spacing at the saddle is narrower than on some other OM’s. The neck’s fairly strong V shape is a matter of taste—it tends to work better for players who wrap their thumb around the neck than for those who play with a more classical left-hand position. Our review guitar arrived with comfortable and low action that works well for both standard and dropped tunings.

Acoustically, the OMC-LJ Pro’s voice is slightly brighter and dryer than most OMs, which is a quality often associated with maple guitars. It held its own playing solo fingerstyle at an unamplified café gig, but it could have used a tad more richness and bottom end at times, especially with low tunings. Plugged in however, the guitar’s linear tonality and somewhat narrowed frequency spectrum helped it perform remarkably well. Played through a Fishman Loudbox 100, the guitar sounded direct and reasonably natural, although there was a slight persistent midrange peak in the initial string attack. But on the Freight and Salvage stage, the guitar sounded spectacular. Played through the full-range system, the guitar sounded amazingly natural straight into the board and needed no further processing.

SPECS: Solid Adirondack spruce top. Solid big leaf flamed maple back and sides. Maple neck with dovetail joint. Ebony fretboard and bridge. 25.4-inch scale. 1 3/4-inch nut width. 2 1/4-inch string spacing at saddle. D-Tar Wave-Length pickup system. Made in USA.
PRICE: $5,499 list/$4,550 street.
CONTACT: C.F. Martin and Co.: (610) 759-2837;martinguitar.com.

Excerpted from Acoustic Guitar July 2010

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