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View Full Version : What am I missing...? Martin 3 vs Martin O



richardmartin
10-08-2013, 05:53 AM
Hello

I have been investigating purchasing a martin 3 ukulele. I love Cliff Edwards and know he played them and I have heard them on other recordings and they sound wonderful.

But two times I have investigated and given a test drive to Martin 3s and brought along my Martin O for comparison. the first 3 I tried seemed to be comparable in sound to my model O and not enough distinguished to make the big purchase. Yesterday I tried another model 3 (1950's) and the Model O sounded so much louder and richer and alive. The model 3 probably could have used new strings I am sure. But again, even though I was ready to be convinced and enamored with the 3, and to make the big purchase, I passed and felt even more delighted with the sound, feel, weight and playablility of my model O.

What avenue of aesthetic appreciation am I missing while test driving the model 3s? I know volume isn't the only characteristic one should compare these two instruments.

Part of me was expecting the model 3 to make my model O expendable. I was thinking I would sell the O after purchase the 3 to make up the expense. But I left with a renewed love of my model O.

What am I missing?

Thanks,

Richard

HBolte
10-08-2013, 06:02 AM
Try some more of them. Look at pre war if you can find one. If you prefer the sound of your O, that's all that matters!

mm stan
10-08-2013, 06:44 AM
Aloha Richard,
If you budget permits get one...but all ukes have a different voice....maybe 1-2 out 10 will sound outstanding...martins however are pretty consistant, but do slightly vary in sound..keep on searching for your martin holy grail or gibson. :)
If you are asking the big price difference justifies a big sound difference .....the answer will be no.... you are more actually paying for asthetics, bling and rareness, even now with most ukes brands and
even if you have upgrade in wood choice. Keep on the search and try the koa style 3 too...it may be brighter too for you...all depends what you and your ears like, not the brand or how much it costs...remember that... HEY YOU RELATED TO MARTIN.... :) :) :)

RichM
10-08-2013, 06:53 AM
If you have a vintage Style 0, you have a wonderful instrument, one of the best ever made. I'm not surprised you're having a hard time improving on it. The Style 0 was not a budget instrument, just a quality ukulele with almost no decoration to drive the price up. As Stan observers, every wooden instrument is unique, but I wouldn't expect a Style 3 to sound better than a Style 0 on the face of it. I would expect both to sound great, and probably pretty similar.

Also, if you've been playing your Style 0 for a while now, you've learned a lot about how she likes to be played, so you probably find it easier to coax the best tone out of her than some random uke hanging in a shop. That, too, might account for the difference. But what probably accounts for most of the issue is what I call "Magical Uke Syndrome," where we expect our holy grail ukes to automatically sound way better than anything we've ever played. You are probably disappointed with the Style 3s you've tried because you expect too much for them.

If tone is the only thing that matters, stick with your Style 0-- they are great ukes, and you're obviously very happy with yours. With that being said, I think the Style 3 is one of the most attractive uke designs ever created-- so much so that I'm having a custom Style 3K concert built for me (coz good luck finding that on the vintage market!). For a lot of players, looks *do* matter-- so if it matters to you, keep the search up for the Style 3 that suits you. Until then, you're lucky enough to have a Style 0 that you love-- keep loving it!

richardmartin
10-08-2013, 07:15 AM
Hello

Thanks for the useful feedback and wisdom. It is true a model 3 is a thing of beauty. I would not have turned one I tried yesterday down as a gift and I know I would have enjoyed it and grown to appreciate it's nature and personality. So partially it is a budget issue. I will keep looking.

My name isn't Martin, I just used that for my tag here. Not very original..... If I was a Martin I would have my lawyers contacting THE Martins and asking where my model 3 is!

Thanks

David Newton
10-08-2013, 07:32 AM
Speaking as a builder, there is every reason to expect a style-3 NOT to sound as good as a style-0.
More plastic on the top can deaden the sound.
The fact that a style-3 CAN sound as good as an unadorned style-0 is put down to the fact that there isn't one tone that is necessarily better or worse than another, just different, and preferences abound.

My take on the Style-3 in Cuban Mahogany:

http://images.yuku.com/image/jpg/fa426518c3fb48088b7704a76f5369ce63039654_r.jpg

fernandogardinali
10-08-2013, 07:53 AM
I always thought that the Style 3 used higher quality wood and sounded good for a reason. I guess I heard it from people who own exceptional 3Ms.

I've always aimed for a style 3 for that reason. Since I don't have a lot of money laying around, I got the style 0 and I guess I'm as happy as I would be having the style 3.

David Newton
10-08-2013, 08:30 AM
Sure, a Martin Style-3 gets more highly figured wood.
But higher figured wood does not "sound better" than less figured wood. It does "look better" and is worth more because of that. That is why it is chosen for the more expensive instruments.

HBolte
10-08-2013, 08:33 AM
If you have a vintage Style 0, you have a wonderful instrument, one of the best ever made. I'm not surprised you're having a hard time improving on it. The Style 0 was not a budget instrument, just a quality ukulele with almost no decoration to drive the price up. As Stan observers, every wooden instrument is unique, but I wouldn't expect a Style 3 to sound better than a Style 0 on the face of it. I would expect both to sound great, and probably pretty similar.

Also, if you've been playing your Style 0 for a while now, you've learned a lot about how she likes to be played, so you probably find it easier to coax the best tone out of her than some random uke hanging in a shop. That, too, might account for the difference. But what probably accounts for most of the issue is what I call "Magical Uke Syndrome," where we expect our holy grail ukes to automatically sound way better than anything we've ever played. You are probably disappointed with the Style 3s you've tried because you expect too much for them.

If tone is the only thing that matters, stick with your Style 0-- they are great ukes, and you're obviously very happy with yours. With that being said, I think the Style 3 is one of the most attractive uke designs ever created-- so much so that I'm having a custom Style 3K concert built for me (coz good luck finding that on the vintage market!). For a lot of players, looks *do* matter-- so if it matters to you, keep the search up for the Style 3 that suits you. Until then, you're lucky enough to have a Style 0 that you love-- keep loving it!

Very well said Rich!

RyanMFT
10-08-2013, 08:45 AM
I always thought that the Style 3 used higher quality wood and sounded good for a reason. I guess I heard it from people who own exceptional 3Ms.

I've always aimed for a style 3 for that reason. Since I don't have a lot of money laying around, I got the style 0 and I guess I'm as happy as I would be having the style 3.

My understanding is that Martin liked to use the highly figured wood for style 3 and of course style 5, but I don't think highly figured wood has any advantage tonally, so the difference is in the "bling", but not in the sound/playability. Also, as David says, the additional binding and inlay can impact sound as well.

richardmartin
10-08-2013, 09:04 AM
My model O is so light it is hardly there. The mahogany is very thin (and no cracks), and yes there is no ornamental plastic to interrupt the vibrations on the O. The model 3 I tried did seem to have more wood to it, in that the mahogany seemed thicker than what the O is made with.The 3 felt like there was more mass! The model 3 was from the 50s and there was no parend.

I do have a Gibson 3 from around 1928. I love playing it. The neck and frets, and everything about the uke feel so precise and expertly crafted. When I play it by myself it has wonderful sound and character. But if I compare it to the sound of the Martin O the Gibson sounds a bit anemic, compared to the presence and depth of the Martin O.

David Newton
10-08-2013, 09:30 AM
You are right Richard, the Style-3 has to be thicker wood, at least on top, to carry so many lines of plastic, and the parend.

richardmartin
10-08-2013, 09:34 AM
My model O is so light it is hardly there. The mahogany is very thin (and no cracks), and yes there is no ornamental plastic to interrupt the vibrations on the O. The model 3 I tried did seem to have more wood to it, in that the mahogany seemed thicker than what the O is made with.The 3 felt like there was more mass! The model 3 was from the 50s and there was no parend.

I do have a Gibson 3 from around 1928. I love playing it. The neck and frets, and everything about the uke feel so precise and expertly crafted. When I play it by myself it has wonderful sound and character. But if I compare it to the sound of the Martin O the Gibson sounds a bit anemic, compared to the presence and depth of the Martin O.

Hippie Dribble
10-08-2013, 11:09 AM
There is no reason for a style 3 to sound any better than a style O, and, as David says, if anything, more likely to sound less appealing. From my own experience, I know a number of members who own style 0's and simply rave about the tone.

Interestingly, I own three high end sopranos myself, all built by luthiers who have based their features and design on the style O, and they are all amazing ukes. If you have a hankering for a style 3 that's great, get one! But you're not paying for an improvement in aural quality, only aesthetics, collectability.

RyanMFT
10-08-2013, 12:51 PM
This may be blasphemy to some, but I had the unique opportunity to play three Martin 5K ukuleles, which belong to a friend. Beautiful instruments all, but I was left with the feeling that my humble style 0 sounded as good or better...

sugengshi
10-08-2013, 06:08 PM
Interesting and educational discussion at the same time. Just wondering if the vintage and the new Martin are comparable. Can anyone share your opinion and observation?