Price paid: £ 120
Purchased from: thomann
Sound — 8
The guitar has to compensate for an obvious size disadvantage to other acoustics, but with it's combination of solid woods and light strings and finish, it does this surprisingly well. The sound was nothing like I was expecting, I though it would be tinny, empty quiet, like playing through a milk-carton, but no. It is a bright little guitar which can be forgiven for it's unconvincing bass, however when strumming happily in the middle of a field or on a beach on holiday, you neither notice the lack of bassiness or care about it. This guitar is perfect as a songwriter's guitar: portable and good to strum. It is okay at fingerpicking styles but don't expect to be heard as clearly when fingerpicking to a roomful of people. This guitar packs a sound way above it's size, a much more lively sound than the Taylor baby, which I have also played. Always use ultra light picks for best sound and care to strings.
Overall Impression — 8
I play mostly chord stuff like Jack Johnson and James Blunt on this guitar but it also performs oddly well with slides and bluesier stuff. Strictly spaeking this is a travel guitar but it is so good I have rated it compared to normal acoustics, had I rated it purely as a travel guitar though, it would have to get a ten as it's the best one out there. If it were stolen, of course I would buy it again, it's the funnest guitar I own.
Reliability & Durability — 7
It's a Martin, made for travel and outdoors so it would survive Live playing, but it wouldn't be heard as it's not semi-acoustic but it would probably be funny to use one at a gig. The hardware on it is fine if not a bit underfinished at some points (all in the name of sound quality of course). The strap buttons look rather delicate but they're quite stable the only thing is that, if you even look at them funny, they go out of tune, they're too sensitive. The finish is nearly non-existant but it still looks good after a few hot holidays of playing, and that reminds me, I've never had to humidify it. The strap buttons are very flimsy, they look small even on this guitar.
Action, Fit & Finish — 7
Well, when I got the guitar it wasn't in tune, but that's forgivable I suppose. What is annoying is that the height of the saddle can make the guitar hard to play. Not that it already isn't hard to play with it's shape, for the sake of comfort use the strap and you get used to the slightly different playing position. The saddle that I mentioned is very easily fixed with a fine file so don't be too put off. the neck is very, very lightly finished for tonal quality so it isn't too smooth but if you use Fast-Fret then you won't notice as it helps to erradicate the problem (or stop your fingers noticing anyway). Also as I said it is not well balanced with the small light body at one end and the headstock and chrome tuning machines at the other. Even considering all of the above, it is still marginally easier to play than other travel guitars and half sized classical ones as this has proper sized frets.
Features — 8
My Backpacker is the newer version and was made around 2004/2005 in the US. It has a hand finished spruce top and solid tonewood back, sides and neck. Martin has sacrificed the number of frets for the size of frets (a wise choice) so it only has 15 frets. It has small pegged chrome tuners which are very sensitive when tuning and make the guitar stightly headstock heavy. It comes with Martin's own super-light bronze 80/20 strings and to be honest these are the best one's for a guitar such as this. The shape of the guitar itself as you can see is very original and space saving when travelling and has a decent gig bag with a pocket on the front that is much larger than it looks. The bridge is unique to the steel string Backpacker and is made of east indian rosewood. Oh yeah, it also comes with a Martin strap (which you will be thankful for, trust me).