Slightly smaller but perfectly formed, Martin's Dreadnought Junior has 'electro-acoustic of the year' written all over it. Can it really be that good?
Today's acoustic guitar market is flooded with a few body shapes at lots of different price points. It makes choosing your fit more difficult than ever - is that dreadnought really better than that one, or that one?
These similarities are no doubt why more and more brands are offering something a little different: for example, smaller guitars for 'travel', or even bigger guitars, like baritones. In a crowded market, you have to be different.
Martin's entry-level ranges, like the X Series, are made in Mexico. And to keep prices low, those X Series guitars, for example, use high pressure laminate (HPL) back and sides, multi-piece necks and Richlite synthetic fingerboards. Now, that might suit you, but if you hanker for a 'proper' Martin-style solid-wood dreadnought, you'll be looking at a DRS2 and a sizeable wad of cash at £799. Enter the Dread Junior. Like Taylor's Big Baby, the Dreadnought Junior is 15/16ths of the size of that DRS2 or any other contemporary Martin dreadnought. In reality, it's not much of a down-size: 360mm (14.2 inches) wide and 112mm (4.41 inches) deep as opposed to the full-size model being 397mm (15.6 inches) and 124mm (4.88 inches) deep. Factor in the scale length, which is reduced from Martin's long scale of 645mm (25.4 inches) down to 610mm (24 inches), and the Junior looks like a perfectly proportioned, slightly diminished Martin. Unlike Martin's own X Series, or indeed, the minimalist cool of Taylor's Big Baby, the Dread Junior might be downsized, but it's very grown-up in build, with all-solid wood construction, proper mortise and tenon neck joint, a bound top edge and simple soundhole rings. Internally, the X bracing and struts are finely done in classic style. Then there's that headstock, again slightly downsized with regular small-button tuners and the all- important, and full-size, logo. The only nod to modernism, or indeed cost, in terms of the materials are the synthetic ebony Richlite fingerboard and bridge, which you'll find on the more costly DRS2, and the generic 'select hardwood' specification for the neck, which looks like one-piece mahogany. But we have a full-size nut width and string spacing, also at the bridge, and a subtly V'd C shape to the profile, along with vintage-style small frets.