Martin 0XK Concert Ukulele - REVIEW

4 Sept 2022

Martin 0XK Concert Ukulele - REVIEW

Another ukulele from the limited number of new Martin instruments that have came along in the last couple of years, this week I am looking at the Martin 0XK Concert Ukulele.

Martin 0XK Concert Ukulele

This is another that was another of those launched at the virtual NAMM event as long ago as January 2021, but has only recently started to land in the UK this summer - that's quite the lead time that Martin seem to have been particularly bad with to be honest. And if there is something familiar about this one it's that Martin previously put out a ukulele with the same specs as this in the form of the 0XK Soprano I last looked at in 2018. It's one of those 'modern Martin's' that get Martin fans is such a lather, though I wonder how many have ACTUALLY played them... And I say that because I thought the soprano version was an absolute belter. So here we are with a bigger body variant!

I suspect one of the things that irritated (wrongly in my view) the Martin clan is that the 0XK ukes are not made from wood in the body. Rather, the top, back and sides here are made from HPL (a material that is essentially Formica - sheets of paper card pressed in a resin to create a very tough resilient and thin material). My experience is that it works great with ukes and have reviewed various brands that have used it such as Bonanza, Enya and of course, Martin themselves. HPL can be patterned with anything on the outer face, which is why Pete at Bonanza offers some crazy designs, yet once again here Martin have gone with the imagery of Koa wood with a lot of stripe in it. I much prefer this example to the soprano I looked at as there is a lot more going on. I will however open this up to readers for their views as the Martin website says (and I quote).... "We hand select the finest Hawaiian Koa to give this instrument the rich grain pattern.."  Hang on.. I thought the outer image here was essentially a screen print photograph? Are they claiming there is Koa on the outside or just that they 'hand selected' some to take a picture? Not good for the customer that Martin as it is confusing. Anyway... Back to the uke..

Martin 0XK Concert Ukulele body

This is a traditional double bout shape that I think still screams Martin despite the lack of wood in the body. In fact, like the soprano version I'd bet most people would never know. Like other HPL ukes I have seen I like the natural colour on the edges which gives a 'look' of binding to the top and back. And also like other HPL, it's understandably pretty flawless as the material is so uniform - there IS no finishing as such - this IS the material. It's a single piece on the top back and sides with the back having a very slight curve. I think it looks great myself.

The bridge is a traditional Martin slot style as per the soprano made from Morado wood. It's extremely tidy and has a top slot holding a compensated cream Tusq saddle.  Spacing here is 41mm.

Martin 0XK Concert Ukulele bridge


There isn't any other decoration bar those bare HPL edges and the usual Martin black and white sound-hole rosette. The whole finish is natural satin which is the way all HPL comes out.

Martin 0XK Concert Ukulele decor


Inside is more like a regular wooden uke with notched linings and tapered bracing albeit with the grey natural colour of the inside of HPL. I must say, the quality of the finishing on these woods is somewhat 'agricultural' with a few shavings hanging off the braces, but there is no glue mess..

Martin 0XK Concert Ukulele inside


The neck is much like the soprano and another feature that traditionalists decry when they see it. I have no idea why as it's extremely smooth in the hands and I think looks great too. It's called 'Stratabond' and is made from laminate strips of dark birch wood. That gives it both a striking look, but it's also very strong down the length to avoid bending and twisting. It would be wrong to say it is 'one piece' because of this, but there are no joints in the heel and headstock, letting the stripes curl and taper out. I love the look.  It tapers to the usual flattened Martin profile at the nut and a width of 35mm with 30mm G to A. That's a pretty average overall width, but a decent spacing and, taking in the squashed back profile, is very comfortable for me.

That is topped with Sipo wood, another choice that irritates Martin fans, but on this I agree with them. It's just too pale for my tastes and reportedly quite soft too. Still, it's finished very well here and ends with the usual Martin flourish shaping at the top of the sound hole. It's fitted with 17 frets joined at the 12th, so it's a compact feeling concert. They are super skinny and whilst not edge bound are dressed very well. Position dots are typical for Martin too - small cream dots facing out at the 5th, double 7th, and 10th with extra side dots a the 3rd, 12th and 15th. Nice. Would look great if darker though.

Martin 0XK Concert Ukulele neck


Beyond the Tusq nut is the expected Martin headstock shape. It's faced in more HPL and comes with the Martin logo in a gold screen print. Why oh WHY don't they do that on their wooden ukes and choose that horrid sticker that inevitably peels off? This looks so much better. I love the tapered headstock look of Martin ukes and in particular the stripe from the neck wood around the edges.

Martin 0XK Concert Ukulele headstock


The tuners are entry level Grover friction pegs which, like the soprano, I really think they should have gone with 4's or 6's. Still - they should be a straight swap, yet for a Martin priced instrument I think they should have gone more premium from the get go.

Martin 0XK Concert Ukulele tuners


Completing the package are Martin brand fluorocarbon strings and the now ubiquitous (but very decent quality) steel blue padded Martin gig bag.  All much the same as the soprano was, bar one nice surprise. The Soprano in the UK made a lot of people choke on account of the £375 RRP. I actually thought it was worth the money, but 'value' is not the right word I suppose. Here though these can be found for about £325 or less. I'm pleased with that. A sensible change by Martin.

Martin 0XK Concert Ukulele back


So a lot of positives here and I stress that I really don't mind what a uke is made of if it plays ok and consider such complaints about materials to be snobbery. This is put together really well as all Martin ukes I have seen tend to be, and feels great in the hands. It's comfortably light at 520g, balances well and is setup with string heights that give me no cause for complaints.

A first strum and you realise that this is damn loud. It has GREAT projection. Not all brands using HPL manage that and whilst I like the concept and price of the Enya HPL ukes they sorely lack volume compared to this. It's got a great punch and feels lively from the moment you pick it up. Sustain too is pretty decent meaning a character will come into the play. All good so far.

Tone wise it doesn't sound like a wooden uke, but doesn't sound like something artificial either. What it sounds like is a nicely voiced concert ukulele and that's good enough for me. Played either way the sound is direct and very clear. If I had one slight complaint it would be for a bit more breadth of tone as it's on the 'middle to brighter side' of the scale, but I am nit picking. Strumming creates a nice fizzy jangle as the strings harmonise with themselves which helps to deliver a real character. Fingerpicking is pin sharp and I suppose where I wanted a touch more breadth, but it's still rather pretty. I stand by what I have said about other HPL ukes with this one - never mind the nay-sayers - I defy anyone to hear this in a blindfold test and shout 'that's not wood'. It sounds great. The way to describe this is a uke that aims to look like a regular traditional ukulele but uses modern materials to create something more resilient. I'm not a fan of any company changing things up like that for the sake of it, but Martin have not sacrificed the actual sound here. In fact - this stands toe to toe, if not better than many solid wooden ukes for similar prices in my view and brings in the advantage of that tough body as a bonus.

I kind of knew it would be as such. My gripes are few and include one hangover from the soprano (the premium Martin brand should use better tuners in my opinion) and I really don't like the Sipo wood neck. All else though is in order and for a cheaper overall price for more ukulele that pleases me too.

A solid sturdy build, that looks great and delivers a great punch and very pleasant tone. What's not to like? So what if it's not traditional. Highly recommended!



UKULELE SPECS ROUNDUP

Model: Martin 0XK
Scale: Concert
Body: All HPL with Koa imagery
Bridge: Morado - tie bar
Saddle: Tusq
Spacing at saddle: 41mm
Neck: Stratabond Birch ply
Fingerboard: Sipo
Frets: 17, joined at 12th
Nut: Tusq
Nut width: 35mm, 30mm G to A
Tuners: Grover (2's?) friction pegs
Strings: Martin fluorocarbon
Extras: Branded bag
Weight: 520g
Country of origin: Mexico
Price: Circa £325


UKULELE PROS

Great build and finish
Great looks despite the material choice
Playable neck
Terrific volume
Good sustain
Good overall tone
Better price than before

UKULELE CONS

Would prefer tuner upgrade
Not a fan of the sipo fretboard

UKULELE SCORES

Looks - 9.5 out of 10
Fit and finish - 9 out of 10
Sound - 9 out of 10
Value for money - 8.5 out of 10

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 9 out of 10


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