The Private Reserve proudly introduces a series of VTS-equipped Martin guitars inspired by - and designed to emulate - a group of small-bodied Martin Museum guitars built in the early 1900s. As they p... Click To Read More About This Product
The Private Reserve proudly introduces a series of VTS-equipped Martin guitars inspired by - and designed to emulate - a group of small-bodied Martin Museum guitars built in the early 1900s. As they played and examined these guitars (thank you, Martin team), they were struck by the sheer volume, projection and overall character of these instruments. There's nothing like a small-bodied guitar for recording and for songwriting and their diminutive size makes them especially comfortable to play (they make the perfect couch guitar). Immediately they imagined a series of instruments built today (with a couple modern updates) yet possessing the accurate effect of time on the guitars' tops.
The Martin VTS works in conjunction with Martin's skilled luthiers almost like a time machine. Martin's team can target a decade in time and closely mimic key tonal properties for the top and braces of that era based on the observed changes a wood's cellular structure will experience over time. This focused method helps Martin to re-create not only the pleasing aesthetics of an old guitar, but more importantly to reproduce the amazing tones previously reserved only for prized vintage instruments.
The Back Story
As you walk into the Martin Guitar Museum in Nazareth, PA, one quickly gets a sense of the history and the reverence those vintage instruments deserve. The first thing you want to do is play one and you quickly realize how precious they really are. Why are they so special? Well there are many opinions, but several terms start to rise to the top of the list as you ask more and more people the same question. "Look," "Feel," and "Tone" are the consistent responses from the players in the group and œhistory and tradition from those who appreciate the contributions Martin guitars have played throughout the acoustic guitar development history.
With such a great array of original vintage Martin guitars at their disposal, they began to discuss ways that they could more closely capture that vintage tone in a new guitar without actually having customers needing to sell their homes to purchase an old vintage Martin. "Capturing that sweet vintage tone" is guaranteed to happen if you simply purchase a new Martin and allow it to age naturally. This method is always the no risk/sure-fire way to own a piece of American guitar history and the tone will continually sweeten throughout its life. But in today's world, waiting is a trait most could use a bit more of.
This desire to own a vintage Martin without having to take out a 2nd mortgage compelled Martin to focus on ways to improve stability and tone. In the case of tone, you never really find it as much as you are always searching for something better. Sound is subjective and every musician tends to favor things a bit differently than others. However, it's fairly agreeable amongst players that a 1937 D-28 has a special tone they all like. That two-year search led Martin down an interesting and enlightening path.
Martin VTS (Vintage Tone System) is a process developed in-house which has its foundations in the very old torrefaction process. Torrefaction is a thermochemical treatment of wood at very high temperatures. It is carried out under atmospheric pressure and in the absence of oxygen. During the process, water contained in the wood is released, and the biopolymers (cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin) decompose, leaving behind the remaining solid, dry, and much more stable material wood. While natural aging is different, there are many similarities between the two and the end results are similar as well.
They have used the industry standard torrefaction process in several guitars during the past few years and those programs yielded very positive results in enhanced tone and stability. If you look closely at wood under a microscope which has been through a torrefaction process and compare it to wood that has only been conventionally dried, you see differences in the cell structure. They took a "previously destroyed" vintage Martin guitar top from their 1937 archives and began to compare its cell structure to wood that had been through the standard torrefaction process. There were significant differences, but they had more work to do in order to "mimic" cell structure from that particular time period.
These revelations led Martin to closely inspect a guitar top from a 107-year-old Martin and compare it to the torrefied tops they had run under the standard process. To their surprise, the similarities were astonishing. As they looked closer, they realized they had stumbled upon a way to reproduce some of the key properties that contribute to how an old guitar sounds vs. when it' compared to a brand new guitar.
Looking to fully exploit the potential of this process, they focused their efforts on modifying the industry-wide torrefaction process so that they could not only change the color hue impact of torrefaction, but also capture several key properties that impact tone to better home in on the properties of the 107-year top they used to benchmark. They found that they could get results consistently matching 200-plus-year-old guitar tops with the standard torrefaction method. While this made Martin very happy and the guitars sounded great, they really wanted to see just how far they could push the advantages of torrefaction to an earlier time period.
The VTS process for soundboards and bracing came from analyzing tops from key decades throughout Martin's history and developing a new torrefaction process to more closely match the time periods and properties of the samples. These developments gradually progressed during a two-year period until they hit upon the perfect combination of tone, stability, color, and cell structure. They began to test and verify until the process allowed Martin to closely replicate the cellular structure of tops and braces to within a selected time period. In other words, they could closely replicate key properties of a top, for example, from the 1930's-1940's or from the mid-1800s. They could do this in incremental time periods from 50 to as much as 200 years. Being able to target a historical era and infuse key properties of an actual vintage top led Martin to focus this project initially on their Authentic program, as well as some other special instruments you'll find only at Musician's Friend Private Reserve. These instruments target the instruments from years that were groundbreaking at that time or have since been adopted by musicians as œholy grail instruments.
These innovations will allow Martin to select guitars from their very exclusive collection at the Martin Museum and reproduce those models and their respective characteristics that make them sound so great. They do not believe that one-size-fits-all. Each guitar deserves to be reproduced accurately, not only in specifications and materials, but in tone as well. Being able to purchase a new Martin that embodies that vintage tone for the respective time period can instantly give Martin players a tone normally reserved for those rare, unobtainable vintage guitars.