View Full Version : Martin S-O

07-05-2010, 04:21 PM
I was fortunate to find a Martin S-O for sale at a music store here in Toronto for only $200. It was lightly used, and looked brand new. I bought it :cool:

It came standard with Martin strings. My guess is that these strings are responsible for all of the mediocre reviews out there on the Interweb, 'cause after restringing it with Aquila Nylgut this baby SINGS!!! IMHO it sounds better than my wife's (very nice sounding) Kala Thinline, and (somewhat frustratingly) definitely sounds better than my Cordoba 25TK-CE (which doesn't sound bad - just not as good as the Martin).

It lacks the expected scalloped edge internal bracing, but I have read that with modern adhesives this should not be an issue. Plus, the S-O is solid mahogany and flawlessly constructed. This uke is a great little soprano, once you put the right strings on it.

07-05-2010, 04:44 PM
Cool to read a postive review! Congrats!!!

Chris Tarman
07-05-2010, 05:08 PM
I have an S-O, and I think it is a perfectly good uke. My only complaint would be the price. But if you got it for basically 1/3 off of retail price, that's pretty good! I never tried mine with Aquilas, but instead I strung it with a Fremont Black Fluorocarbon Low G set, just for something different. I'm not sure I like the low G. I might try out some Worths on it someday. I still like it, but since I got my '30s Martin about a month and a half later, the poor S-O mostly sits in its case. Still, it was my first-ever Martin, and I was pretty jazzed to get it!

mm stan
07-05-2010, 11:24 PM
Aloha Allen,
I changed the strings for my neighbors Martin SO and
it really improved the sound too!! Those factory strings
give it a bad reputation....they should know better...
MM Stan...

07-06-2010, 01:02 AM
I am always impressed when I play my friend's SO with Aquilas. It sounds really good even beside some much more expensive ukes. Some people don't like the finish Martin put on it - or should I say almost put on it lol. My friend improved the looks 1000 percent by simply applying few decent coats of BriWax, after letting it warm up good in a hot car (the wax not the uke). Briwax is a blend of carnuba and bees wax in a solvent, by the way. After the Briwax, it really looks finished, compared to some raw ones I have played in the Sam Ash store. I think for the price you got a great uke.

mm stan
07-06-2010, 01:14 AM
Aloha SweetwaterBlue,
Yup, Martin SO comes with that satin flat finish....I'd recomend to use polish rather than
wax, bacause if you'd want to refinish or repair your uke it is hard to with the wax in the
grains.(you'd get and uneven finish with the clear and stain) . Rather than that I use
polish..Guitar polish or auto polish..(For me it's Nu finish)and it will improve the
the looks asthetically and protect your ukulele too. Polish too with many applications
(rub hard) will give it a mirror finish too. jus a suggestion...Take Care and Keep
strumming them strings!!! Ukuleles are forever!!! Uke On!!! MM Stan....

07-06-2010, 03:05 AM
Looks like it was made in Mexico??

07-06-2010, 03:47 AM
Congratulations on the purchase. Great price! Keep it humidified. There have been some problems reported with cracking. So far mine hav been okay.
I just visited the Martin Guitar Factory in Nazareth, PA last week. Our tour guide had recently been to the factory in Navojoa, Mexico and attested to the fact that the same standard of excellence occurs there. The facilities in PA are amazingly clean and efficient. What an outstanding example of what a company can be when run properly. C. F Martin, IV wouldn't have it any other way. Seeing the many fine artisans at work was truly awe inspiring. I feel in love with one of the Performing Artist series grand concert acoustic/electrics. Saw it in many stages of progress throughout the factory and they had one in the picking parlor. Too bad the srtings were shot. $2999. That's going to take quite a few private lessons and group classes to save enough, but I think it's ineviteable.

I own a Martin SO (purchased last June) and keep it tuned up to D for when I need it. It doesn't get a lot of playing time, but when I pick it up it needs just a tweak to be in tune. I still have the factory strings on it. Haven't felt the need to change them. One of my sopranos is destined for low G. Ohta-San is a great inspiration for me. Maybe I should try low G on the Martin. Time to take out all the sopranos and make a decision. Several summer ukulele projects in the works. 100+ degrees, think I'll stay inside.

07-06-2010, 04:53 AM
I haven't seen the Martin in person, but I think I prefer the flat satin finish -- if it's what I think it is. Not a fan of the gloopy gloss finish on acoustic instruments, though it can definetly work well enough on some.

07-06-2010, 05:52 AM
I ditched the gig bag that came with it in favor of a hard case. In the hard case I keep a home-made humidifier. ...And anyone who watches the vintage Martins come and go on Ebay will know that cracking is not unique to new Martins! I've seed some pretty rough looking vintage Martins fetch high prices.

I do worry about the effect of the climate here on my ukuleles though. We have very hot, humid summers, and very cold, dry winters - with frequent sudden changes in temperature and humidity. (Toronto, ON)

07-06-2010, 06:57 AM
I am the proud owner of a Martin s-o which I bought from Alan (ukisociety). The first thing I did was change the strings when it arrived. I put my favorites on it, Freemont Blackline strings with high G and to my horror it sounded dull and lifeless. For some reason, the Freemonts sound great on my concert but on the Martin it was a terrible match. I just changed them to Aquila's and have been very happy since.

07-07-2010, 03:46 PM
I bought a New Martin SO about 4 years ago now. It had been hanging in a guitar store, the only lonely soprano uke they had for like two years. I had been eyeing it but the original price of 300 dollars put me off. Then one day I came in the store and they had it for only a couple dollars more than what they purchased it for (owners quote). I knew that was a good deal. So, I haggled with the wife (she got a second cat) and I got the uke. I took it to the Chicago Uke fest and let the pros play it there. It had to stand up to the new 5K Martin, as well as vintage 3K and 3 M Martin ukes (I hope I got the names right). And it impressed everyone for playing so well against them, though no one would mistake if for one of 'em in a blind test, I'm sure. But while I've read the many complaints about them (no linings, for instance, and the rough finish job) I've been very heppy with it. I live in Iowa, and do keep it humidified and I play it out whenever I can, and it is holding up very well. The finish is tough. And, by the way, it has outlived the cat (it had a the latent cat luekemia when we got it, but no one knew)....so, I think you will enjoy your uke very much!


Pukulele Pete
07-08-2010, 09:39 AM
I've owned my SO for a couple years now but never really liked it until I put markers on the neck and the fretboard. For me it made it easier to play and it looks better too. I think it has a great sound, I use Martin Fluorocarbon ( did I spell that right?) strings.

07-25-2010, 03:01 PM
Hey Pete,

How did you put the markers on? Are they inlay or stick-on?

I'm also having an issue with the Aqila strings now - only the "C". Because it is a heavier guage than the original Martin strings, I get a little bit of buzz when I depress the string at the second fret. The C string buzzes a wee bit on the 3rd fret. The buzz is barely noticable, but it's one of those things that once you start to notice it, you can't get it out of your head. The S-O would probably benefit from a professional set-up.

Pukulele Pete
07-26-2010, 12:24 AM
What I did was drill small holes and fil them with a plastic rod I bought on Ebay. Stewart Macdonald also sells them. I have stickers on another uke I own and they look great. Bought those on Ebay too. I think the Martin Fluorocarbon strings sound great.

08-05-2010, 01:51 AM
I have a Martin S-O, made in Mexico. I paid 275 for her. We are in UK and its difficult to find any good ukes here and she was the best I could find in my price bracket. She was a bit dull and flat sounding when first got her and had a buzzy E string. I changed her strings to Aquila Nylegut and now she sounds sweet and has great volume. My man put a tiny piece of the same E string into the nut to lift the string up and it worked! Yes I know its a bit of a bodge and when I get round to taking her to a luthier to get the fret markers done I will get that sorted too. She is far too precious to me to allow anyone other than a professional loose on her.

I now have a serious hankering for a tenor uke. Either a Kanile'a K1 (can't afford he extra 150 for the K2), or a KoAloah. In the UK that is a tall order. I have scoured the Internet and there are only 2 gloss K1's and 1 KoAloah in the whole of the UK!

10-09-2010, 04:51 PM
Since posting my review I have:
- Replaced the Aquila strings with Fremont clear fluorocarbons (they have smaller diameter strings)
- Replaced the stock tuners with banjo style Planetary 4-1 tuners (had to bore the peghead to 10mm)
- Replaced the Planetary tuners with Grover minis (the banjo tuners weighed a ton!)
- Put Aquila strings on it again

Net Result:
- The uke survived my foolhardy adventure in luthier woodworking. No, I won't be doing that again!
- The Grovers are still noticeably heavier than the original friction tuners, but much lighter than the planetaries
- Tuning the S-O is now like a dream. Easy to tune, stays in tune
- The C string buzz is gone, the little uke sounds absolutely great!

Would I recommend changing the tuners to Grover geared for other S-O owners?
...that depends. There is a definite trade-off of balance for ease of use, and of course with tuner holes drilled bigger, whatever collector value a S-O might have one day is now gone forever. On the other hand, the small added weight in the head area actually feels better to me now that I am used to it, and geared tuners are easy and accurate for newer players (like me). I'm happy with results now, and love playing this uke. I think if I were starting again though, I would invest in a set of pegheads and have a qualified luthier install them for me.

But, like I said, I enjoyed the journey and still love the uke, so for me... I'm glad I did it.

11-11-2010, 05:44 AM
Thanks for the review... I saw a good deal for one on Craigslist and i didnt know whether to pursue it or not. (It was such a suprisingly low price for a martin it made me wonder)

11-27-2010, 11:31 PM
looks like it was made in mexico??

yes it is made in mexico all their "low grade" stuff is but i still think the solid wood made in mex uke sounds good n i agree with some of the others that the price is a little high