A Comparison of the EC Signature Martins

Where's Eric!, Issue 19 and Where's Eric! Japan, Issue 15

"Don't get me wrong. I love my 000-42EC Martins. The craftsmanship and detail are superb. But this new 000-28EC model is the best sounding acoustic guitar I've EVER played." With this quote from Eric Clapton, Martin managed to sell me yet another Eric Clapton Signature guitar!

The 1995 000-42EC combined features of two of Clapton's Martins: a 1939 000-42 and a 000-28 modified with style 45 pearl inlay. Clapton has the first and the last of the 461 000-42ECs that were made. He played this guitar at the Royal Albert Hall in 1996.

Due to the popularity of the 000-42EC, Martin created the 000-28EC. No specific number will be made, and it will be produced for at least three years. This guitar will also be more accessible because of the lower list price - $3,500 instead of $8,100. Fortunately, some dealers discounted both guitars as much as 40%.

The first 000-42EC

The similarities are more striking than the differences. Both have the same high quality wood, including a Sitka spruce top, East Indian Rosewood back and sides, a mahogany neck, and an ebony fretboard and bridge. The specification sheets list identical measurements and bracing. Both guitars have Eric Clapton's signature inlaid in mother of pearl between the 19th and 20th frets.

Almost all the differences are cosmetic. The abalone inlay that makes the 000-42EC sparkle is sparse on the 000-28EC. Instead, its soundhole and perimeter are adorned by a herringbone pattern. The Style 45 snowflake inlays are replaced by simpler (and less frequent) diamond and square fret markers. Ivoroid binding is present at the heel cap, end piece and around the body of the 000-28EC. The 000-42EC has additional ivoroid binding around the fingerboard and headstock. The elaborate "C.F. Martin" Style 45 inlay of the
000-42EC headstock is replaced by the simpler Old Style Decal Logo. The tuning machines were gold plated; now they are chrome. The colorful interior labels personally signed by Eric Clapton and C. F. Martin IV give way to black and white labels with reproductions of their signatures. The 000-42EC included an EC pick like those on the cover of the 1996 Royal Albert Hall program. There are even differences in the black cases. The 000-42EC has red crushed velvet, a brass plate and a combination lock while the 000-28EC has green crushed velvet and a key lock.

On paper, there is one structural difference. The 000-42EC has a genuine bone saddle and nut as opposed to the corian nut and micarta saddle of the 000-28EC. Sources at Martin assure me the necks of the guitars should be identical, although each handcrafted guitar will differ slightly from all others. Nevertheless, the 000-28EC seems to have more of a "V-shaped" neck which will appeal to fans of Fender's Eric Clapton Signature Stratocaster.

The finish on my 000-42EC is flawless. My 000-28EC has a tiny piece of grit in the finish that is virtually invisible. The grain pattern on my 000-42EC top is very tight. The 000-28EC's grain becomes wider at its periphery. The division between the two pieces of wood forming the top is more apparent on the 000-42EC. The action of my 000-42EC was too high, requiring creation of a compensated saddle. The 000-42EC had slight intonation problems, being as much as twelve cents sharp at the 12th fret. This is not enough for the human ear to notice, and the new saddle corrected this. My 000-28EC has a lower action and no intonation problem that I can detect. The end pegs of the guitars were not inserted at the factory and neither fit well.

 I compared the two guitars with identical Martin M-2100 Phosphor Bronze strings. The 000-28EC has a warmer tone and more volume. Bending strings is easier, suggesting subtle differences in the frets. Finger vibrato is transmitted better. Hammer-ons work amazingly well for an acoustic. Riffs flow better, as if the notes blend together. There seems to be less transmission of vibrations to idle strings of the 000-28EC. Barre chords on the 000-28EC do not tire my hand as quickly. Some may object to the distinctly "V shaped" neck, although it feels quite natural to me.

In summary, both Eric Clapton Signature Martins are beautiful guitars that play well and sound great. The 000-42EC is more ornate and obviously more collectable. However, for those who would rather play a guitar than look at it, I would recommend the 000-28EC.

Reprinted with permission from Where's ERIC! Copyright 1997, all rights reserved. "Where's ERIC!" is published three times a year. Mail address: 3, Milverton Close, Cox Green, Maidenhead, Berkshire, SL6 3AZ, UK. Subscription: $20 a year. Also reprinted with permission from Where's ERIC! Japan Copyright 1997, all rights reserved. Mail address: 2-9-12 Honcho Chuo-ku Chiba-city Chiba 260 Japan. Subscription: 5400 yen per year.

Three of a kind:
Eric Clapton Signature Martin 000-28EC
Fender Eric Clapton Signature Stratocaster
Eric Clapton Signature Martin 000-42EC

Click the picture for more detail

More Information about Eric Clapton Signature Martin Guitars:

Martin Article
Photos 1 2 3 4
Press Release
Martin Article
Press Release
Acoustic Guitar World Article

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