Ahead of the 2015 Winter NAMM show, which runs from 22nd to 25th January, Martin Guitar has revealed its new Vintage Tone System (VTS). While that acronym might sound like some kind of electronic or computer term – it isn’t – it’s simply a guitar manufacturing system which Martin has started to employ to make new but authentically vintage sounding instruments.
So what is the elusive secret behind the new VTS technique? Martin’s Chief Product Officer, Fred Greene, and General Manager of the Custom Shop, Jeff Allen have made a video to explain the development of VTS. You can watch this below.
The guitar designers and makers at Martin looked at and analysed some old guitar tops, from otherwise broken instruments, under the microscope to see how they are different from new ones. An initial breakthrough involved torrefaction of the guitar which brought vintage flavours but resulted in sounds a little too dark. Torrefaction involves heating the wood to pretty high temperatures but not so much as to do damage the structure, certainly not to char it for example.
It was hard to find the balance between under-doing the torrefaction process to gently age the wood rather than overdo it and damage the wood. So Martin developed a gentler torrefaction process to age the wood and change tone and its outward appearance wasn’t altered so much. In early trials the process seemed to age the woods used by as much as 200 years but by adjusting parameters the team has managed to hit certain decades such as the 1930s, 1940s and so on.
The new Martin torrefaction process is not just used for the top of the guitar, it was found that the bracing also needed to undergo the process to achieve the tones that were sought.
Apparently the VTS system is working rather sweetly now and Martin Guitar seem to be very happy with the new VTZ products and the potential that they can provide to guitar buyers at much more accessible prices.