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Thread: Vintage Martins

  1. #1
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    Default Vintage Martins

    Iím sure these questions must have been asked and pondered a few times before, but Iím trying to decide on a uke, and having to make my choice based on Youtube videos!

    I think Iím coming around to the fact that I like the sound of vintage mahogany Martins. Perhaps some of that is due to the players and tunes Iíve heard.

    Am I right in thinking that the vintage Martins often have a unique sound?

    Assuming my ears arenít imagining things, why donít modern mahogany ukes sound the same? Iíve read that Kiwayas, for example, do a good impersonation, but from what I can tell theyíre quite different. I was able to play a new Style 2, but it didnít strike me as being ultra-special for the money.

    Do any uke makers produce ukes which sound indistinguishable from a vintage Martin? A few names Iíve come across include DaSilva, Laughlin and Timms.

    Are the Martins better suited to a certain style of music or playing technique Ė or, to put it another way, are there times when they aren't the best choice?

  2. #2
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    I think the mahogany Collings ukes sound a lot like vintage martins of the same size - only they play better, i.e., have better action, frets, and radiused fingerboards.

    If they made a baritone I'd be tempted to buy one. I love their tenors.

    Indistinguishable? I think you'd have a hard time finding any two instruments that are indistinguishable from one another - by the same or different makers.



    Duk
    (2) Tenor Ukes, (2) Guitars, (1) 5 string Banjo, (1) Urhu, (1) Mandolin, (2) Fiddles, (2) bass harmonicas, and a whole bunch of chromatic harmonicas. Never bored.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by deejayen View Post
    Do any uke makers produce ukes which sound indistinguishable from a vintage Martin? A few names I’ve come across include DaSilva, Laughlin and Timms.
    I owned a DaSilva that I requested to be built to sound as vintage-Martin-like as possible. When I got it, I compared it to a couple of friends' vintage Martins and it was right in the ballpark. As wendellfiddler noted, it's pretty impossible to find two instruments that are indistinguishable from each other, but the sound of my DaSilva was, to my ear, as close to a vintage 'hog as can be without actually being vintage.

    I've heard good things about Timms and Laughlin as well but have no personal experience.

  4. #4
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    Besides the build quality, it's the wood...you can't buy quality old-growth mahogany anymore!
    That and many playing miles and years of vibration are what makes the magic on many old Martins!

  5. #5
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    Not all vintage Martins have the mojo. I've tried about a dozen and only two stood out. I was too inexperienced to jump on the first one, but did not let the second, a 1920's Style 2, get away.

    I also had a Ken Timms Style O that I sold and that was a fabulous instrument. I didn't appreciate what I had at the time. UU member Coolkayaker1 has a large vintage Martin collection and recently had everything for sale. He would be a great person to contact.

    Pete Howlett in Wales has a curly Koa soprano uke for sale now if you want something top of the line.
    Last edited by NewKid; 02-16-2015 at 03:19 PM.
    2013 LFDM Tenor


  6. #6
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    I agree with Lakeside; it's the wood. I own a '62 Martin Baritone. The only instrument that came close to it's unique sound was a Favilla I owned. Also, I have yet to find a neck as thin and as fast as my Martin. Like any instrument, they are all different. Just because it has a Martin name on it, doesn't mean it's good. If you are serious about a vintage Martin there's a great book out on them. I can't think of the name of it but I trust others will post what it is.

    What size were you thinking of buying?

  7. #7
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    The Martin Ukulele by Tom Walsh is the book Patrick is recommending.
    2013 LFDM Tenor


  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Patrick Madsen View Post
    I agree with Lakeside; it's the wood. I own a '62 Martin Baritone. The only instrument that came close to it's unique sound was a Favilla I owned. Also, I have yet to find a neck as thin and as fast as my Martin. Like any instrument, they are all different. Just because it has a Martin name on it, doesn't mean it's good. If you are serious about a vintage Martin there's a great book out on them. I can't think of the name of it but I trust others will post what it is.

    What size were you thinking of buying?
    The book is The Martin Ukulele by Walsh & King


    maxwellsmart_missed_it_by_that_much.jpg
    Last edited by aquadan; 02-16-2015 at 03:27 PM.

  9. #9
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    The OP's question - vintage vs new - is source of much debate. No consensus, however. Some of us strongly prefer vintage ukes, some of us favor new ones. Of course, some of us like all ukes, old and new. What's 'best' is really personal preference.

    I agree that some vintage Martins play better than others. Perhaps the difference is caused by quality control issues at the time of production. More likely, some instruments have suffered from humidity damage or other forms of abuse over the years, and that's why some sound better than others. The best advice is to play a bunch of old Martin's to find a particularly good one.

    I have two vintage Martin sopranos, and a Kiwaya concert that was built to look like a vintage Martin. I like all three of these ukes. Kiwayas have their own distinctive sound - clear, crisp, and sweet sounding. The Martins perhaps have more character (they certainly have more scratches) but I can't say they are superior to the Kiwaya. I also have a Wm King soprano that was designed to resemble a vintage Nunes. I haven't played an old Nunes, but I would not expect the King to sound or play like one. It sounds like a William King...

    In response to your question, I would not expect a copy of a vintage instrument to sound identical to the uke it was designed to replicate. However, a well made replica is likely to sound and play great, in its own way. If its a Martin you want, your best bet is to play a bunch of Martins, and pick one you like. Happy hunting!
    Last edited by brimmer; 02-16-2015 at 04:55 PM.

  10. #10
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    there's a Timms for sale on the marketplace in the UK, if I were you I'd check it out! There's also a Martin S1.
    Just Play

    Sopranos: 1st uke, Lanikai soprano LU-11 - Aquilas | 30's Martin style 0 - Martins
    Concerts: Kanile'a K-2 CP - Living Water | Islander AC-4 - Living Water | Waverly Street banjolele - Worth Browns
    Tenor: Epiphone Hummingbird - Living Water low G
    UBass: Kala FS2 - Pahoehoe

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