New Martin S1 Announced at NAMM6
January 13, 2011 by Tim
OK, so this will not be a review but more of an unveiling of sorts and first impressions of the brand new Martin S1 ukulele. Are you excited?
So last NAMM (Summer NAMM 2010 in Nashville) I was told that Martin was working on a new ukulele to possibly replace the not so popular S-O. In my opinion I thought the S-O was not worth $300. I could go and get an awesome uke from Mainland for less than that. Well I think Martin listened to everyone and actually made a real uke that is worth the Martin name, and it is under $300.
I would think that the high end daisy and the 3K would be awesome but really they did not have a good uke for the masses, but now they do. Read my basic impressions below. I will break it down like my reviews.
Please keep in mind that I will be doing a real review in a month or two, but I will bring it everywhere I go if you want to play it.
Body: Solid Mahogany
Saddle : Bone
Nut : Bone
String : Martin
Peg : Peg
String attachment: Knot in a slot
First look: To me it looks like a S-O, but I am not a Martin expert. It might be bigger, but not sure. Nice semi-gloss finish. From a far you know it is a Martin ukulele. Nothing too fancy, but it looks nice.
Fit and Finish: This is a Martin instrument, I could stop there, but I won’t. It is light and seems really tight. I would say the finish looks rustic, not super clean but just classic like an old uke that was sent from the past. One thing I noticed that I have not seen on other ukes is how the heel is rounded into the body; it gives it a carved look. I found no issues…yet.
Sound Type: I think Martin has been playing the old Martins and decided that is what they want to capture, and I think they did it. The S-O always sounded dead to me, the S1 is very much alive and kicking. Sound sample below
Intonation: Dead on. The setup is perfect; I think it makes me sound better than I am.
Volume: Not super loud, but….It can be punchy. You feel the whole thing vibrate when you play. Has great lows and not to twangy highs.
String Height: (Low) Nice to play. With the really low nut it makes it a dream to play
Frets: One of the few ukes I play that the fret board is not bound and you can’t feel the frets. The frets themselves seem bigger than a normal soprano. Also the neck feels super wide, which I like since I have large hands
Tuning: So far pretty easy and nice.
Comfort: This thing is like an old-time uke, super light and nice edges. A little sharp but it is not that bad since it is light.
Smell: If I could bottle the Martin smell I would. It smells like wood and awesome.
Please keep in mind that this is not a full review, I received the uke a day before I left for NAMM, but so far I think Martin has a winner. It plays like a Martin Ukulele should. I hope this is the direction that they keep going, and I really hope they do a C1 (Concert size)
HD Sound Sample
From the looks of things and sound, this might be Martin’s success out of NAMM. They finally are getting right, rosewood fingerboard, bone nut, but what of the scalloping inside the UKE. You didn’t mention that. Mahogany has always been my preference over the koa. Some list the S-1 for $ 500.00 but you mention it at $ 300.00 or under. I really like the fact and collector value of numbering the Uke. Unfortunately, the sad part this is made in Mexico and I would prefer that it was made in the United States, as a purist Martin Guitar player and collector. It a pride of made in the U.S.A. and says something about our craftmanship.
Made in Mexico, sorry.
I bought the S-0 and agree it wasn’t a great instrument. I much prefer my $200 Bushman Jenny soprano. I’d be interested to hear this S-1, but I agree with Kevin that it’s a disappointment it’s made in Mexico. I’m generally not so jingoistic in my shopping, but given the legacy of those old Martins made in PA, it would have been a nice move.
Just bought an S1 yesterday, based on your recommendation, Tim. It sounds and plays great. I suspect this is the best soprano you can get for the money. Intonation and easy playing all the way up to the tenth fret. The tone is bright, warm, loud, soft and woody. It has that addictive quality, it just compels you to pick it up and play it.
Also surprised at the Martin strings, they sound better than I expected. Picked up some new Aquilas to put on, but I think I Worths or another lighter-tension string are more suitable for this uke.
Alas, it is not under $300, but at least it is under $400. I found one at the local guitar shoppe. For a lark, I picked it up and then found it hard to put down. I felt very sad when I left without the little fella. He is very bright and resonant and almost weightless. I was amazed that so much voice came from such a small package. The entire uke vibrates with the slightest touch. AMAZING ukulele!