Re: Martin lxm tenor guitar
1] I own a Merrill aluminum bowl-back, but only the bowl is aluminum. The top, which is the primary vibrating surface, is spruce. Same with Ovations; the top's wood, the back and sides or bowl or whatever you call it, is plastic. On the Martin, the top's "composition," as well as the back, sides, neck -- everything but the fingerboard and bridge.
2] I'm not trying to compare with the new carbon-fiber instruments (Rainsong, MIX etc.). Carbon fiber is not what the Martins are made from. Carbon-fiber instruments sound quite good (not my cup of tea, but I can appreciate them). They're also at least as expensive as comparable wood instruments.
3] The point I tried to make in my posting is that laminated-wood tenor guitars are available, much cheaper than the Martin composites. Here's a quote from a discussion on the Acoustic Guitar Forum regarding Martin's composites:
The high-pressure laminate itself should be pretty indestructible. I think the issue is really how the various bits and pieces are held together. That would be the weakest link. It may be that HPL is joined with different and stronger adhesives. If some components are not (i.e., if they use more conventional glues) then I would think that they are subject to the same vagaries as pieces of wood similarly joined. I'd be very surprised to see a top made of HPL crack but I have no idea how the glue joints would fare under extreme conditions.
Martin's HPL has been described (even by Martin) as essentially Formica. A friend in college worked at the Formica factory and it's essentially multiple layers of brown craft paper, a top decal, and epoxy, all subjected to pressure. There's really no grain structure and thus, no reason why it should crack unless bent, hit, or otherwise subjected to extreme trauma. Also, it has little if any moisture content, so environmental humidity shouldn't affect the material itself. Joints, as I said above, may be another matter.
Again, this is opinion, and we're all welcome to ours. But were I looking for a "starter" tenor, I might go for a lower-priced Asian plywood import. You do pay a premium for the "Martin" on the headstock, and if you can find a solid wood top for the price of Formica -- well, think about it...
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