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MJG
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« on: February 23, 2005, 03:04:33 AM »

I wrote the Martin Guitar company for an official response to..."what exactly is Micarta".  Here is thier reply...

Thank you so much for taking the time to contact us.  

We have decided to use the micarta fingerboard and bridge on some of

our series due to the qualities of micarta. I have listed some of

those qualities below:

Color permanent-does not bleed

Greater dimensional stability than solid wood

Stronger and more durable than solid wood

Equally expensive compared to black ebony

Doesn't wear as easily as ebony

Denser than ebony therefore more resonant

66% wood fiber/34 % resin

Renewable resource

Refrets as easily as ebony

We have been using micarta saddles on our instruments for several

years.   We do value your opinion on the quality of our guitars. We

would hope that you would continue to support  our new products

and the quality of our guitars.

Again, thank you for your time and your interest in C. F. Martin & Co., Inc


I really like a couple of the 16 series guitars, i.e. the 000-16RC and the JC-16WE but for some reason I can't stop dwelling on the "Micarta thing".

How about you?  When it came time to buy and you liked everything else about the guitar...would you?  Could you?



 
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« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2005, 03:20:33 AM »

As long as it performs,sounds and feels the way I want,I go for it.I like the bluegrass modal from CA,does everything I like.Only problem no money.I gave pastour Jesse some for my shop/studio,and I really really want the 49 ES300 in the shop and it looks like it will be mine.I can always save for that Tascam 2488 recorder shouldn't take more then a 6 months or a year.
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« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2005, 06:23:02 AM »

OK, I am going to take the anti-micarta side.  I hope that you will become more familiar with the material yourself - IOW I am NOT trying to purposefully direct you away from it.

Guitars have to be very efficient to make the sounds they do and play the way they do.  Every major part is working toward that end and is important.  While every trait that Martin lists would seem to point to micarta as superior to ebony (forgt the 'mediocre" rosewood), I think they dont go all the way to a proper complete comparison.

Micarta does PLAY great.  The dimensional stability and impervious nature of the stuff is very duable and practical.

But, moving on to the SOUND..   I find it to be inferior to ebony for reasons that probably cant easily be quantified if at all.

If you listen down near your fretting hand while you are playing, you can hear what I consider the fretboards contribution to the sound, seperate from what is going on down at the body.  The ebony to me just sounds more pure, smoother, thicker, richer down there at the fretboard.  I further think that this is a fairly important contribution to the whole of a guitars tone.  I find micarta falls short.

If another synthetic product were to be developed for fretboard/bridge use (or any other use on guitars, for that matter) I could support it if it matched or exceeded the natural traits of ebony.  I think that we need to save any renewable tree resources we can and would love to see a responsible long term strategy of woods use or an acceptabe wood replacement.

But I just cant get to micarta as an acceptable replacement.

 
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« Reply #3 on: February 23, 2005, 11:20:34 AM »

Some 16 Series do have ebony fingerboards and bridge. I have a D16R with the ebony. They tend to be a little more expensive than the rest of the 16 series though. May be because they are full gloss all over not just the top.
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« Reply #4 on: February 23, 2005, 11:56:26 AM »

I think Micarta is good for several reasons. One is the feel, another is the density and uniformity, another is the saving of other woods, and the durability.

I can't claim to have an ear precious enough to hear a difference in fingerboards, so maybe I'm missing something.

Had a guitar with Micarta fretboard and bridge, and it was fine. Now I don't like that HPL stuff they use for some bodies. Sounds "tubby" to me. Great for camping, though.
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« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2005, 12:59:02 PM »

I don't know...34% resin = 34% plastic. I like the quote, I think it may have been from the guy who make Froggy Bottom guitars, or Dave Webber, that all the materials used in a guitar should be wood or natural (excepting the strings and such). That is one primary reason in my for Larrivee making such a great guitar. Instead of plastic bindings and such, you get flamed maple. How cool is that?

If the price point is the same, as Martin seems to indicate...why are they not using ebony? To be conscious of the renewable resource? Give me a break. It's a money thing pure and simple. Either it's easier to work with so less labor charges, they get more fretboards per linear foot, or it's just a lot cheaper. Somewhere the cost of the material came into the picture and drove the decision process.

Andy
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« Reply #6 on: February 23, 2005, 02:29:19 PM »

I prefer ebony, no doubt. All I'm saying is that Micarta works fine. If it gets a decent guitrar into someone's hands at a more affordable price, great. But I'll take my 03 over a Martin 16 any day! (And in the same price range - a real no-brainer!)
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« Reply #7 on: February 23, 2005, 02:38:46 PM »

when i was venturing into the all-solid wood guitar territory a few years back, i was seriously interested in a martin d16gt. i really liked that guitar and i still do. my other option was a taylor 310---i still like that guitar as well. then there was the larrivee dreads. larrivee slayed all of them in price/features, so the choice was easy once i started playing them in stores.

the micarta thing bothered me with the martin---mainly for ego reasons. maybe its dumb, but it just didn't seem like a "real martin" back then. now days, i don't really care what my guitar is made of, so long as it sounds good TO ME. but back then i was making the leap from electric and really wanted to jump into acoustic guitar playing as a purist.

bottom line: the martin guitar company hasn't made it this far by being dummies. their guitars are incredible and are still pretty much the standard for an american acoustic instrument. im sure micarta is a fine material to build some parts of a guitar with, otherwise they wouldn't be doing it. they are making some serious strides with alternate materials....check out their DMX model sometime. that guitar has some serious tone for mystery material.
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Big Martin
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« Reply #8 on: February 23, 2005, 03:57:15 PM »

Quote
I can't claim to have an ear precious enough to hear a difference in fingerboards, so maybe I'm missing something.
 
Have you ever carefully listened to what is happening at the fretboard?

I used to think the same, but there is no doubt I have heard the difference.  Once I listened close to the fretboard, I feel I can identify the micarta in regular playing.  Its a thinness, brittleness, and a twanginess.  Being a small part of the total sound formula its subtle, but IMO, unmistakable.  

If you think micarta makes no difference in a guitar, do you suppose that there is any difference between ebony and rosewood for the same purpose?  How about Katalox they are using on their "smartwood" series?  Do you suppose electric players detect any difference between rosewood and maple fretboards?  On acoustics it should be even more noticeable.  Of course there is a detectable difference, no matter how 'precious' your ears are - or aren't...   ;)

I have even wondered about this and believe that I could identify a micarta fretboard in a blindfolded test..   Folly or 'precious ears (?)', I'm not sure.  I believe I know what micarta sounds like however...
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« Reply #9 on: February 23, 2005, 04:01:23 PM »

Haven't tried that. I'll give it a listen. The micarta board i was most familiar with was attached to an HPL guitar, so that certainly colors what I heard. I'll check a 16 next time I go to the store.
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Big Martin
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« Reply #10 on: February 23, 2005, 04:12:12 PM »

Quote
Haven't tried that. I'll give it a listen. The micarta board i was most familiar with was attached to an HPL guitar, so that certainly colors what I heard. I'll check a 16 next time I go to the store.
Speaking of artificial materials, Martins HPL is an interesting product.

I anm really glad that Martin is advancing in these directions.  I think that eventually these can be made into a superior product.  It will likely take a long time though, since no company is really putting a significant amount of R&D, which is what it will take.

Someday, these guitar components can be engineered to be nearly perfect.  Rainsong and now Martin and CA guitars are leading the way.  The CA's are critically acclaimed now - and all they are doing is using pre-existing aerospace material that is originally designed for structural strength only.  Someday these materials will be designed to build ever advancing iterations of each generatons version of the "perfect" guitar.

I only hope they use the advancements to make them LESS EXPENSIVE and affordable to all.  THAT would be perfect IMO...

 ;)  
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« Reply #11 on: February 23, 2005, 04:52:58 PM »

The Micarta I can handle.  Although I have heard people state that they have had an alergic reaction to it.

What I can't deal with is the decal rosettes.  I know I have said this a dozen times but I just can't get over the fact that they put a sticker on any Martin.  
-josh
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« Reply #12 on: February 23, 2005, 05:07:00 PM »

Quote
What I can't deal with is the decal rosettes.
that is pretty lame. angry  
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« Reply #13 on: February 23, 2005, 05:11:45 PM »

I've played a number of DM series Martins with the HPL back and sides and the spruce top. I think they sound better for the most part than other companies' laminate b/s guitars. The lead singer in the band I just left had one that sounded really good amplified.

One thing Martin deserves credit for on these lower end guitars is that in my hands at least, they still feel like Martins. All of the DMs I've handled were very well put together. I think Martin has made a very smart move in building these guitars. Now players with limited funds can seriously look at getting a Martin. When the time comes to upgrade, I bet the first guitar any DM owner looks at is another Martin. My guess is that the majority of them walk out of the store with another Martin.

BTW, I HATE the D-15 decals too. I think they make a pretty decent guitar look cheap. I hear they're pretty easy to remove...

Mark
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« Reply #14 on: February 23, 2005, 06:30:24 PM »

I still stand by that it all comes down to the money aspect. Decals, fake wood, crummy cases, whatever people will buy they will produce at the greatest cost advantage.

Andy
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« Reply #15 on: February 23, 2005, 09:29:24 PM »

I like the way it feels and I can't tell any difference in sound. That said, the "idea" of Micarta doesn't thrill me though.
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« Reply #16 on: February 23, 2005, 10:19:39 PM »

Simple. No thanks. I can buy a Larrivée with ebony. I mean, I pick up something called a D1 or something like that. It does have CFMartin on the headstock. The guitar is okay. Plywood. Possibly micarta. So how much? $350.00 - $400.00? Huh! $1100.00???? A Seagull sends it home to mama crying. Are you kidding me? I can get a solid wood Larrivée D03 for that. No brainer, ain't it? Seems some folks want to own something with that decal on it, awfully bad.    afro    
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« Reply #17 on: February 24, 2005, 01:04:29 PM »

Here, Here! I second the last post, well said!

Andy
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« Reply #18 on: February 24, 2005, 10:52:53 PM »

I believe it all comes down to "Tone & Playability".  Doesn't make any difference what the guitar is made of or not, if it does not have the tone and playability, it just doesn't cut it.  

With that said, the micarta fretboards are on what are the sub-standard, given martin classes all 18 series and above as their standard series.  These 16 series and below guitars are geared toward the entry or middle level player that either does not have, or is not willing to spend the $ for the more expensive standard series martins.  I had a 16 series martin drednought that was a cannon and tone monster.  Had to get rid of it due to shoulder problems and downsize to an OM.  but the micarta to me was not noticable.  Sounded good, and played easy.

It all comes down to individual preferences, and what we are looking for and will accept.
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« Reply #19 on: February 26, 2005, 04:33:58 AM »

Micarta is for Buck knife handles. I don't want it on my guitars until it's necessary.
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