Martin OXK Full Review17
July 6, 2010 by Tim
I never thought that within my first year of the site that I would have the opportunity to review a Martin ukulele. Mainly most of them (actually all until now) were out of my price range of below $300. Also it is Martin, they are huge and sell some of the finest instruments in the world.
Enough kissing butt.
I have never been impressed with a new Martin ukulele. I own a Martin DC16-GTE guitar that I love (For sale for the right price since ukuleles have taken over my life). Many love the really old Martins from the 20’s, they are awesome and sound great. The new ones, such as the Martin S-O are just not worth the money since there are so many ukes in the same price range that sound better. That is the current sentiment for most people, and Martin is working changing that, hence the OXK.
Martin has been making the X-series guitars for a while. Some have an aluminum top or special graphics such as Felix or Martin’s History. Very durable and stable guitars. You can take them anywhere since they are less susceptible to humidity and heat issues. Now they are coming out with a ukulele made the same way. A high pressure laminate body and a neck that is also a laminate. The big thing is that it is under $300 and sounds awesome.
Specs: Soprano : 17 Fret
Tuners: Grover nickel friction with white buttons
bone nut & saddle
Top: High Pressure Laminate material (Hawaiian Koa pattern)
Sides: High Pressure Laminate material (Hawaiian Koa pattern)
Back: High Pressure Laminate material (Hawaiian Koa pattern)
Neck: brown Stratabond neck with solid Morado wood fret board
Case: Padded gig bag included
Full Specs: HERE
First look: (4) When you first look at it, it is dull, average looking, and nothing special to look at, but you know that something is different about it. To me it looks like every other standard ukulele. It is not until you really look at it do you realize that you are looking at something new.
The high def printing of the top, sides, back, and head stock will fool most into thinking it was real wood. It is when you look into the sound hole to you realize that it is not wood at all, but a laminate. One thing I noticed is that the pictures that are shown on musiciansfriend.com show the edge as rounded and not black. I played another at NAMM and it was like the one they sent me with the black line around the body.
Also the neck is also kind of peculiar. It is a sort of laminate also. I personally like it, some that I have talked with are not so impressed. Since it is made of strips of wood glued then formed into a neck it has some different patterns where the glued edges kind of shine.
Fit and Finish: (5) It is a Martin, they know how to make fine instruments. I found no issues with any of it. No glue under the bridge, frets sticking out. Not a single thing to complain about. Where the top meets the side it is perfectly joined.
The specs also say that the neck is dovetailed to the body, adding strength, unlike some the others that use an alternate materials for the body, that bolt the neck on.
There is still bracing, a neck block, and a tail block. They did not need the tail block since the sides are one piece joined below the neck, but it is there so if you do add a strap button or pick-up it will support them.
Sound Type: Loud, but mellow. I was able to play a 1920’s Martin at UWC. It sounds more like that than the current S-O. Clean but held back a little. Not super in-your-face. Just a mellow nice sound, not quiet or cheap sounding.
Intonation: (5) I take all my instruments to Martin certified repair shops. Martin knows how to make an instrument have perfect intonation. Like many of the current ukuleles that are coming to market they have compensated bridges, this does not, all the strings look to be resting on the same line. This means it is made right and does not need to be fixed after the fact.
Volume: (5) I usually change the strings to Aquila, but not this time. The Martin Strings are really nice and seem to make a great sound. Why change it if it is working. For a soprano it is really loud and projects while keeping its mellow sound.
Sustain: (5) Long and loud. Fades nicely with no whine at the end.
String Height: (Medium) It is where I would want it. Not high and not really low either.
Neck Radius Depth: (3/4″) Average radius depth for a C shaped neck.
Frets: (5) Can you call frets perky? Most frets are low and kind of look like a mushroom from the side. These seem to just come straight out of the fret board. They are a little taller than some I have seen. I find that I am able to get notes a lot cleaner than with other ukes, even when I mess it up a little.
Tuning: (4) Seem like great tuning machines, but I am not in love. They stay in tune, it is easy to get to tune without going sharp and all that. It is just one little thing that I have seen on most of the new Martins. You will start turning and it will turn, then catch and start moving. I tried tightening and loosing, made no difference. A really small thing. Nothing like the Koloa
Comfort: (5) I would ding it for being heavy but it is a soprano ukulele, you don’t even notice when you are playing. The edges on the body are cut at a 45 so the it does not feel sharp at all, it may have been sanded a little too. Very comfortable to play and hold.
The neck it nice and smooth with nothing sticking out and with the classic Martin head stock it easy to get to any chord with no issues.
Sound Hole Smell: It smells like a new Martin. I have a martin guitar and it smelled the same. Like fresh cut wood and glue. Lovely.
A funny thing happened at the UWC. Martin was nice enough to express ship me the OXK so I would have it for the UWC to show it off. Since you can’t buy this uke yet, as of the time I am posting this review, no one had even seen one yet. When I got there I started showing it off and letting people play it. The reactions were kind of weird. Those who owned Martin ukes said the same thing. “I don’t like it, sounds weird” then they would play it for a little while longer or pick it up later and basically do a 180. They said they actually really liked it. Everyone else thought it was great also. One great thing about it was the fact that it never really fell out of tune due to temp changes. It was 90 then in the 70’s later that night. Held up like a champ.
I also wonder if this is a way to be more “green” since less wood is used to make it. Just a thought.
All Rating on a scale of 1-5
Click here for an explanation of reviews
|Fit and Finish||5|
|Sound Type||Loud, but mellow|
|Neck Radius Depth||3/4″|
|Sound Hole Smell||like a new Martin|
Places to buy on the web:
Elderly Music: $279 Expected arrival date 08-18-2010
Musiciansfriend: $279 Available 08-31-2010
Great review! It was fun reading this, knowing I was one of the folks who got to try that Martin! It really is a cool instrument. I appreciate how very techical you are in your reviews. You leave no leaf unturned.
Wow… I probably passed by him and never even realized it! Glad to hear such great things about this uke! You going to Winter NAMM?
I think you mean that they did a 180. A 360 would mean that they started out not liking it, and ended up not liking it, having come full-circle. 😉
Thank you 🙂
I sometimes can read something 10 times and not notice things like that.
Would you mind weighing it? [It’s a fixation of mine: wooden ukuleles above 500g sound worse than those under, and old Martins usually go below 400g]
Not sure how much it weighs. I would say that it is about double that of an old 1920’s S-O. I will see if I can find a scale that does grams and get back to you with exact weight.
It weighs 444 grams
I just weighed my 1960’s O and it weighs 314 grams
very nice review!!!
Thanks for the review, I am intrigued by this uke. How well balanced is it with the composite neck? You mention that it’s a bit heavy relative to wood ukes, but maybe more important is whether or not it’s especially “neck heavy.”
As for sound – how would you say it compares to other composite/hybrid ukes, either the Flea or the Kiwaya KS1?
Looking forward to your thoughts, thanks
It is a little unbalanced because of the heavy neck, but nothing so bad that it makes it hard to play. Sound wise it is no comparison to the other composite ukes. I think this sounds like an old Martin uke, and it is super stable to boot. If you are thinking of buying one, I would.
Thanks for the reply Tim, I wonder how many of these they’ve sold. It’s a really neat concept. Will take another listen to the sound clips for this and the Kiwaya Eco series. Glad to hear your view is the sound is richer than either the KS1 or the Flea.
I bought one of these last year, mid 2012. I was surprised to read the ukulele in this review does not have a compensated saddle because mine does! For the longest time it sounded odd to me up past the 7th fret. It was really bugging me as I couldn’t tell if it was the uke or my just my imagination. Then I discovered that the saddle was installed 180 degrees turned around from where it should be. I turned it around and it sounds great. Now life is good and I love this uke.
Here’s an update to my review. It turned out that the compensated saddle was installed correctly from the factory. The trouble with the intonation (odd sound past the 7th fret) was worn out strings. I had a luthier check it out. He put new strings on it and turned the saddle back around the way it came from the factory. Life is good now.
I got a relatively new second hand oxk recently and the top is warping like the saddle is being pulled towards the nut. The last guy had strung it with aquila reds then worth browns. I brought it to the local martin qualified warranty guy who is also a luthier. He had NOTHING good to say about the HPLs saying they all warp over time, the question is how fast do they wear and he wishes martin would discontinue all their HPL guitars and ukuleles. The solution for this particular ukulele is low tension strings and a new back compensated saddle to bring the ‘c’ string back into tune up the frets.
That’s news to me. I have several friends with them no issues
I’ve had mine for over a year. Plays like a charm! It’s not my favorite uke, but it plays great. No structural problems at all. And it is not kept in an ideal location! A lot of variation in temp. and humidity. ;^)-